In your artist statement you say that, “Painting is both a portal and something you can bump up against.” Have you always approached your paintings with physicality and tactility in mind?
I’ve always approached my own painting with that feeling, but I think I see all other paintings in that light as well. I never could quite forget the edge, the quality of the paper, whether it was painted on canvas or linen or panel, or how the paint stained the fabric or sat fatly on the surface. That is basically all cared about and looked at. The object of painting always seemed to be equally as compelling and important as the image. I remember going to the museum and studying Ellsworth Kelly’s “Red Blue” pretty often when I started painting more seriously. The edges are softly rounded from layers and layers of paint. The bulbous red form enters from the right and floats a centimeter above the bottom edge. Where the red and blue meet it is raised slightly and confuses my sense of which color was painted first. To fully understand the painting you have to look at the corners, and bend at your waist, and crank your neck. You have to reconcile the split that exists between its frontal visual intensity and subtle object-hood. I think it was around this time that my definition of what painting was started to shift. I began seeing it more as a way of looking rather than a physical thing in the world.
Crow Hunger Yearn, acrylic, fabric, shirt, tarp, nails, glues, wood, other things, approx: 9′′ x 19′′ x 3′′, 2017
What were you making before your current body of work, and how did it inform your more recent paintings?
I was making white paintings. I gave myself close to two years to focus solely on them. I had this serious appreciation for abundant color and material but didn’t see myself as having any real discipline or ability to use those things in a useful way. Some of it came out of fear of not knowing how to paint a good painting, and not entirely knowing what that meant. In my head, it was a way to develop a discipline while also teaching me how to slow down my looking and see better. I wanted to be able to come into the studio every day and find something different in the same color. Somehow knowing that I was able to continue them without losing interest gave me a strange sense of comfort in my practice going forward. It is easy to go to work when something new and clear is waiting for you, but you have to be able to go in even when you think nothing can happen. The paintings were mostly seven and eight foot squares layered feverishly with plaster, joint compound, wall primer, and matte, gloss, or satin white enamels. I would age certain paints so their viscosities would vary and the color would be slightly off. I was pouring and puddling in some, using just a tiny brush in others, sometimes focusing only on plaster. I was trying to stretch material beyond itself without transforming it in some specific visual way. I see that as a distinct concern in my current painting as well. White also allowed me to deal almost strictly in surface relationships, which I obsess over constantly anyways. That is the kind of limitation that I am thinking about today with my paintings. They might not appear as restricted as the white paintings visually, but in practice they are similar. It comes from the idea that freedom in painting doesn’t come from freedom in the studio necessarily. It is found by digging into and through a single material or thought. What I mean is that the work that I find most expansive usually isn’t that way because the painter had all the options in the world. Rather, it is that way because of lack and boundaries which necessitate a more intense investigation of just one thing.
What excites you the most about your current work, and how do you see it changing in the future?
I think that what is most compelling for me about the current paintings is that they aren’t a serial sort of thing. There isn’t some pressing feeling that I need to purge and start a new body or something because each painting has its own concerns. Somehow to me, that feels relevant. Within these pretty basic guidelines that I set with the work, there is so much room. As the paintings continue, the practice expands in a way that goes deeper rather than broader. When I first started these things, they were a mess. In a large way when they began they were completely fraught with the burden of trying to get out of the white paintings. I was using color again and respected it in a different way, but every minute in the studio was like a hurricane. Slowly things got clearer and the work wasn’t so frantic. The language of painting came to the foreground and continues to. It is sort of funny because I was just recently having a conversation with another painter about the idea of knowing where your work is moving. And I thought that if you know where it is going, or what it is supposed to look and feel like, why wouldn’t you just make that thing? I think if I fully knew what the work would look like in two years time, I would probably start to sabotage it’s trajectory so I wasn’t so certain. All that being said, lately, there is more clarity and less noise in the paintings. I assume that is because everything has been covered and softened by snow here.
Crosswalk, acrylic, string, fabric, glues, sawdust, wood, nails, other things, approx: 11′′ x 18′′ x 2′′, 2017
Your work “focuses tightly on the way a thing comes into being, like a rock or a snowball, compacted and varied, shaped and affected by the strange attractions of the world itself.” Can you talk about the evolution and process of your work? What are some of the things that you strive for in each piece?
Environment and routine are pretty critical. I like to develop a rhythm and work within that rhythm. I think about limitation and how by finding the boundaries within which you operate, physical or not, you are able to deepen your understanding of whatever is inside that loop. I try to do something in the studio every day, even if it is just standing there, or sweeping, or looking at something on my wall. I usually start the day by cleaning. I do the dishes, fold the covers, put away my niece’s toys. I start a painting in a similar way. I paint the tables and the walls, put the loose material in boxes, sweep the sawdust. I have the previous two paintings hanging on the wall, but mostly I am focusing on the last thing I made. I keep a notebook where I draw shapes, write phrases, play with color, and when I am starting the next thing I have it in the studio next to me. A painting usually starts the minute I finish one. I try to change the pace or way of making between each painting so once one is finished, I then know where I can’t go with the following painting. The shape typically comes first. I focus on how the shape can break from or relate to the last thing I made. From there it snowballs into color, surface, feeling. But the main concern is that I am looking at ways I can reset the momentum between each thing I make. I don’t want to make four orange paintings in a line, one after the other, riffing on the last note. If I am going to make an orange painting, I attempt to pack as many orange paintings into that one single object. I work on one at a time and center all thought into that thing through the entire gestation period. I aim for density and singularity and completeness, without losing potential. Painting as a kind of expanding alphabet, where there is this definiteness to their individual sound, but the capacity in a single letter is infinite, even by itself.
Night Night, acrylic, wood, drylock, nail polish, glues, fabric, nails, other things, approx: 9′′ x 18′′ x 2.5′′, 2017
Does writing have a place in your practice? I’ve noticed that you occasionally write eloquent anecdotes alongside images of recent paintings, and was curious how they tie into your work.
I see writing as an extension of the studio. Whenever I am writing, it is because of something that is happening inside a painting or because of something I saw in a painting. It helps me process time and is a way of thinking for me. Likewise, it allows me to recollect on seemingly mundane things outside of painting. If on my way out of the studio I notice that the moon is bigger than usual and the pavement looks pale green, I might write about that. It is about paying attention I think or trying to. There is some indirect correlation between outside visual stimuli and what happens in my paintings, and I am not always aware of it until I spend the time to write and suss those relationships out. Maybe I keep seeing an oil stain on the driveway every other day, and slowly it works its way into the shape a painting takes. Life is full of good and bad richness and I try not to miss or forget too much of it. However, the whole idea behind the writing is to slow down the looking and to consider time in a fuller way. Therefore, time spent inside a painting always ends up separating from life as long as I am paying equal attention to what is happening in the painting while working on it. There are these insular parts of painting that are only accessed through painting. And then there is the world outside of painting.
Hard Feelings, acrylic, hot glue, beads, wood, other things, approx: 10′′ x 17′′ x 2′′, 2017