As often happens, artist friends introduce you to other artists, and this was the case with Linda. We were collectively forming an idea for a show together, and I was lucky enough to not only get to know her beautiful work but get a good insight into her mind and how she thinks and works when collaborating on that project together. We actually work quite similarly, and I find it fascinating our different approaches to a similar creative process, and how we often share a love for certain color pallets and combinations. I just get lost in the gorgeous layers that she produces, they seem effortless, but I know there's a long history of skill, technique and learned process in there that make them seem so wonderfully luscious. Please enjoy getting to know her work as much as I have!
One of the things I really love about your work is the wide range of mark marking, wide swooping airy brush strokes layered with these clean lines and edges and drip marks that create their own line and how they intermingle between the layers of paint. Can you tell us a little of the practical, the process of your layering and decision making when approaching your work? How you get those wonderful variations in edges, texture and transparency?
I start most of my paintings without thinking too much about what I’m doing. It’s very primal and subconscious, making something out of nothing. I am more of a spectator, watching what happens when there are no perimeters or expectations. I start a lot of things at once and only a few of them work out right away. Many are put away to be continued at a later date.
After this beginning stage, my quest is to wrestle all of the information into some kind of order that makes sense to me. I look for things like openings or opportunities where I can pull a line out of the background or gesture. I try to keep the space open. The work always seems to be going badly until I figure it out and it suddenly comes together.
When I work on birch or plywood panels in oil, I build up layers of shapes among the drips and gestural marks. I think of these layers in terms of time, almost like a narrative or archeological site. Later I sand back into the work, to reveal events from the past; some elements remain exposed while others become opaque, hiding or distracting from what is underneath.
When I work on Mylar, I work on both the front and back of the page. Working on the back is like being able to go back in time, altering or placing things in the past that change how you see the present.
You seem to have developed a language of three marks in particular, the circle, the grid or stripe and the swivel. These seem to linger, drift, halt and carry the eye around the canvas. To me they are transporters from one place to another, the eye on this ride with them so to speak. Do these have any symbolic meaning to you? When did this love of those particular shapes develop?
In my early work I was interested in representing different ways of knowing about the world: the physical, through drawings based on anatomy books and cadavers; the analytical, through charts and graphs I copied from math books, and the spiritual, which included shapes influenced by Tantric symbols. Over time, I became less interested in representing the body because in doing the work, I was the body. The analytical aspect of my work became embedded into the process and I no longer needed to copy charts and graphs that I didn’t understand. The spiritual part of my work became more personal and was extracted from my own intuition. The layers have stayed. Organic drips and gestures and geometric shapes are able to stand in for the original figurative elements without needing to commit to a specific reference. This leaves space for a wider interpretation and more universal meaning as the shapes now serve as characters or markers. With time, they have been mostly reduced to circles, lines and squares. They are tools that help me to make discoveries within the formal structures of the work.
Your work really transitions well from one medium to another, which we see through your vast choices of materials, working on Mylar, plywood, in graphite to oil and even in fabric. Is there a material you’re curious about trying that you haven’t experimented with yet? Was there ever a medium you tried and it just simply didn’t work?
Ideas for working in a new medium usually come to me on a whim. It's often when I realize there is a way to use layers with a certain material in a new way. I'm always thinking about this in the back of my mind. I have a lot of projects half started in my studio and one day I suddenly figure out how I can get them to work.
My fabric pieces were kind of like that. I have been sewing since before I was 4 years old but it was always separate from my artwork and always very practical (clothing, bags, household items, etc.). I often considered doing more work in the field of fiber arts. I did a lot of weaving when I was a teenager and some soft sculptures in undergrad but that interest eventually morphed into more traditional media. In the spring of 2017 I was invited to be in a group show with the criteria that artists work in a medium that they don’t usually work in. I was really dragging my feet on this. I decided to see what I could do with fabric because it is something I have always felt so comfortable working with. I had an idea to work with dyed silk gauze and it was a disaster (although much later I did get it to work). While I was struggling with this I saw the Agnes Martin show at the Guggenheim. The next morning I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Something I saw in her work gave me permission to really slow down. I have a hard time being minimal. I always want to add more.
Let’s chat color for a moment. Your work is luscious with color, using a lot of primary colors, yet there’s a lingering darkness, and edgier moodier vibe than that description might imply. They’re more sophisticated than a pure “primary” palette, with variations in lightness and transparencies. How did your pallet develop? Is there an emotional connection to a particular color or personal meaning behind some of those choices? Or let’s get super art nerdy, and is there a particular paint color that you’ve fallen in love with and just can’t escape using right now?
Growing up in Kansas and returning over the years (often driving across the country), I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the sky. I love using blue with pink underneath, sometimes reversed, sometimes yellows. The sky has so many layers of colors that reveal themselves the longer you stare. I like seeing how the horizon becomes a rainbow at sunset and then observing how other colors emerge when it gets dark. There is still space and layers of hidden things out there and some areas are always more dense than others.
I tend to use a lot of cadmium reds and yellows. They make everything feel very immediate and alive.
Often when I see images of your work online, I imagine them huge, yet you actually work in a wide range, getting quite small at times which isn’t as easy as it sounds! It’s difficult to go from small to large and carry that same element of scale, and you do it wonderfully! Have you ever done mural sized or public work? Would you ever consider that or is it important for you to have a life-size quality for the viewer rather than a larger than life size experience? What role does scale play to you in your work?
My small paintings are often larger paintings that have totally failed. I keep cutting them down until I can get them to work. Everything is a puzzle.
One time some friends and I were driving around the prairies of Western Kansas looking for places where we could see only land (no trees) and sky in our entire peripheral vision (and yes, we were able to find many places like that!). I'm still interested in this sense of total immersion.
I have made paintings that are 8' x 10' when I had the space, but at the moment I'm in a smaller studio and that makes it a bit more challenging. The fabric work is asking to be huge. I have some opportunities coming up where I'm planning to make some really big pieces.
Do you have any favorite female artists?
I became very interested in the work of Hilma af Klint after seeing her work in the Spiritual in Art exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1980’s. I was thrilled to see more of her work at the New Museum last year. I had totally forgotten about her, but I think seeing that work as I was developing as an artist was very influential and it has been with me over the years.
Sonia Delaunay has also been someone I’ve been interested in for many years, and as I mentioned earlier, I've become a recent fan of Agnes Martin.
Do you have any upcoming events or shows that you’d like to share?
I'm excited to be showing one of my fabric pieces with you (!) and 5 other wonderful artists at the Clemente on the LES this coming December 2018-January 2019.
I'm looking forward to a 2-person show with Margot Glass at the Readywipe Gallery in Holyoke, Massachusetts in May 2019. I will be showing my fabric installations here as well.
You can also see my work at Art Mora Gallery in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey and Seoul, South Korea.