“My creative process is informed by a combination of personal experiences, mythology, found images, music, and movies.”
Interview by Isabel Sachs
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I grew up in a few different suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking from Wayne State University in Detroit. I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota right after graduating in 2013 and have been living and working here ever since.
I love the idea of creating a "book" which also resembles a storyboard at HAUNTED LOVE. How much of your experience actually inform your creative process? What was your approach to the concept of memory?
Thank you! Haunted Love was a booklet produced by WOPOZI, an artist run publication that was based in Minneapolis and is now working out of New York City. 1,500 copies of the book were printed and distributed. It now lives digitally on my website and on the WOPOZI site.
My creative process is informed by a combination of personal experiences, mythology, found images, music, and movies. I would say that personal experiences and found images are at the core of what I do.
The body of work that I’ve been developing for the past few years (and was included in Haunted Love) was born out of an interest in my parents’ vastly different versions of the night they met. While one version seems to be a bit more rooted in reality, the other is more unreliable, changing every time it’s retold.
Memories can be at once extremely vivid and remarkably fallible – steered by the biases, emotions, and experiences of the person who owns them. Over time, they degrade and just the act of recalling a memory will begin to alter it. My relationship with found images mirrors the way I approach the concept of memory.
Photographs are memories that you can hold in your hand. They are considered to be objective, which is true to an extent. They provide evidence of actual moments in time, but they are always frozen moments out of context. Like memories, photographs present a limited perspective that can be edited and distorted. By reinterpreting found images through painting and collage, I can explore the tension between memory, truth, and time, while bridging the nuances between fantasy, perception and reality.
In a world filled with installations and robot - art (as seen at the latest Venice Biennale), where does the art of painting fit?
Painting is an art form that has always been relevant and always will be relevant. Even when the pendulum swings to new trends in the art world, there will always be painters making groundbreaking and timeless work. It doesn’t have to be either/or. The Venice Biennale was an incredible showcase of innovative installations and kinetic sculptures, but painting, and figure painting in particular, also made a huge impact thanks to artists like Henry Taylor, Michael Armitage, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Nicole Eisenman, to name a few. Avery Singer is an artist who received a lot of attention at the Venice Biennale for her paintings of digitally rendered images. She provides a great example of how technology is pushing painting in new directions.
In my practice, painting is not only the most satisfying, but it’s also the most accessible. The ability to take an image from my head and connect it to paper or canvas with just a brush or pencil – it provides an immediacy that is unmatched by any other medium. The materials that I use are relatively inexpensive and I am able to create large quantities of work in very little time with them. This turnaround is so important to me since I’m also working full-time to support my practice and sometimes have a hard time getting to the studio. But I’ve also been thinking lately about how I can make the work push traditional notions of painting more. That’s where the collages came in; I needed to make things that weren’t just singular images on paper or canvas. They needed to better match what memories can feel like – ripped apart, rearranged, and put back together again. I think this is the beginning of slightly more conceptual painting work to come for me.
How did you first start painting and how did your surroundings inform your practice, if at all?
I see my surroundings informing every aspect of my practice: financially, emotionally, and conceptually. I found a love for painting in high school. I was initially interested in photography and decided to also take a painting class because I thought it would make me well-rounded for college applications. I quickly realized that photography was not my strong suit and painting satisfied my creative impulses more than any other medium had. My high school painting teacher helped me cultivate a strong work ethic, even letting me eat lunch in the art room while I made work. At home during this time, my parents were going through a divorce and my life felt out of control and chaotic. Painting provided an escape and gave me purpose.
Painting was also a gateway to higher education for me. Without the scholarships and grants I received for my work, I would not have been able to afford college where I had even more formative experiences that have shaped my practice. At Wayne State, I had my first real studio space and was required to make more consistent work. My mentors there made me believe that art could be a viable career someday. They helped to instill an ambition and drive that propelled my work ethic beyond graduation.
In Minnesota where I now live, there is a lot of support for the arts culturally and politically. In 2018, after struggling financially for years to maintain my studio practice, I received a grant of $10,000 from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This is one of many grants available by state agencies, regional arts councils, and private foundations that invest in Minnesota artists. This grant has made it possible to continue the work that I am creating now, while also setting me up for a more sustainable future.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
I also have a full-time job, so my weekdays consist mostly of that. I try to get to the studio after work, but usually I reserve weekends for painting at the studio and draw at home a bit during the week. At the studio, I’ll start by looking through the archive of images that I have stored on my computer. I find these images in old magazines, personal family albums, or online. I get really excited when I find a photo that feels familiar or triggers a memory, even if it’s an image from the Internet that’s full of strangers. I heavily edit these photos, lowering the contrast and blurring until I can barely make out what is going on in the image. Within a few minutes of painting, I stray from the photo and work more intuitively. I also use images repetitively, painting them over and over, using different colors or altering slightly from iteration to iteration. I make playlists for each body of work to create a mood and get in the right mindset. When I’m working, I’ll listen to the same 10-12 songs on repeat, sometimes for months on end. I’m inspired by lyrics and they guide the images, as well.
I work quickly, pumping out a few paintings or collages per session. Sometimes, I’ll just lay washes of paint on paper and use those pieces for collage later. I’m often able to find a use for paintings that I’m not very happy with, ripping them up for a collage or just putting them away and coming back to them when I’ve cleared my head. I usually find that if I don’t like something initially, I can come back to it later with a new attitude.
What do you consider when deciding on the scale for your works?
I tend to work quite small mostly for the sake of time, money, and storage space. There is an intimacy with the smaller works that I enjoy and I also feel that my hand, eye, and mind coordinate better at a smaller scale. Lately, I have been thinking of these smaller works as one large, disjointed piece and developing ideas for installing them in a space to unify them and create the same commanding presence that larger works can have.
For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to work bigger, to see how my brush strokes, stains, and figures translate to a larger scale. It’s been a steep learning curve! So far, I’ve made lots of huge paintings on paper that are pretty bad and I end up ripping them down to make small collages again. I think I’m inching closer and closer to making things at a larger scale that I’m happy with.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
After taking 6 years off of school, I’m super excited to be starting the Master of Fine Arts painting program at the University of Minnesota this fall. I’ve had so many ideas over the years that haven’t had the chance to come to life while I’ve been working full-time. I’m ready to buckle down, challenge myself, and create as much art as possible.
Publish date: 13/06/2019
All images courtsey of the artist