Posts in Interview
Nadia Waheed: Wearing Your Braid as a Badge
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Wearing Your Braid as a Badge: Challenging Expectations and Finding Your Place

By Christina Nafziger

Through the female body and cultural iconography, Nadia Waheed’s paintings explore dichotomies present in her own life as well as those that affect the female experience, one that forces women to navigate through the unrealistic, and often contradictory, expectations from others. Originally from Pakistan, and now based in Austin, Texas, the artist has lives all over the world, with her artistic practice being the space where she can claim agency and be her true self, away from judgment. The blue, pink, and orange women in her paintings often sport henna on their skin and long braids, both strong and beautiful, nodding at her cultural roots. Recently represented by the London-based gallery BEERS, Waheed shares honest advice on how to stay focused on what is truly important as an artist. Join me as Waheed opens up about her struggles overcoming personal obstacles, and discusses the challenge of balancing the two sides of East and West in her work and life. 

www.nadiawaheed.com

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Have you always considered yourself an artist? When did you first feel like you had found your voice artist voice? 

I haven’t always considered myself an artist, actually. I hold that word and title in very high regard and I don’t think that everyone who makes “art” is an artist. Artist to me implies a very high level of commitment to a certain type of work and practice. Mentally, it is not a “part time” relationship; the thinking about the work becomes something that’s always there, processing in the background of everything you do. It’s everything. I wasn’t comfortable calling myself an artist until I realized that this really was my only purpose in life. I could’ve taken another route after graduating with my BFA, but I felt so empty without my work, it was a clear sign that making paintings is an inherent part of my identity and that I could never be a functional version of myself without it. 

I grew up drawing and that was my primary method for communicating myself artistically. When I moved to paint in 2013, I didn’t at all have the same fluidity or finesse as I did with line. I believe I found my artistic voice many years ago when I was young, but it’s been a years long process of honing it. When my mentor Kevin Wolff passed away in early 2018, his death rattled and pushed me to the brink emotionally—it was like a rebirth. I lost my apprehension and stopped thinking about painting and just did it. Everything clicked into place and this body of work is what came out; Blue Portrait (Sisyphus’s Boulder) is the painting that started it all.

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Originally from Pakistan (born in Saudi, but from Karachi), how has your cultural background affected your artistic practice? Are there aspects of your work that are influenced by cultural elements or iconography?

I think it’s affected everything - it has always been something that I’ve responded to. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere, so my sketchbook was always my sanctuary. I could be my unadulterated myself, outside the sphere of judgment from Western or Eastern culture. My practice was born from a need to belong and be understood as myself, and my studio became the space for me to do it. I am heavily influenced by the styles and themes I see back in Pakistan, and am so in love with miniature painting and Islamic architecture, but I only draw from the pieces that feel mine. The things that I’m most excited by, or scared of, are the things that you’ll see in my paintings. The weight that I see carried by women, the different weight of expectation that I see carried by others and myself. Iconography aside, I’m interested in the social dynamics of the East and West - what’s “societally appropriate,” primarily in regards to the development of young women. The difference is incredible, and balancing the two has been a challenge for me. 

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There seems to be an emphasis on hair, specifically on the braid, in your work. Can you speak a bit to this?

The braid has become a metaphor for so many things. Connection, worth, beauty, vulnerability... but maybe the simplest answer would begin with me saying that I wore a long braid similar to the women in my paintings for many years. I felt it was a tangible connection to my culture, a badge I could wear that said, “This is where I come from.” Long braids are symbols of traditional beauty in Pakistan and I pay homage to that tradition in my paintings. It’s a heavily layered symbol, a liberation and simultaneously a huge weight. It can be your pride and your greatest vulnerability; the interdependence of opposites is something I think about all the time. My grandmother’s nurse in Karachi has an incredibly long braid, down to the back of her thighs. She says she keeps her hair wound away and hidden when she’s in public because she’s afraid that her hair is going to be cut off by a jealous woman or a man who thinks she’s being shameless about her appearance. She says it’s happened before to others. I don’t think I’ve fully unpacked it, but to me, the braid says, “I’m trying to be a good Pakistani girl.” It’s totally contradicted by the nudity, but that’s my point - we can have both and still be good.  

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Can you tell me about the presence of the female in your work? Are the scenes in your paintings allegories or are they perhaps reflections on your own thoughts or experiences?

I’d say a combination of both. I love women. I love men too (I love all humans!) but I’m amazed by women every day. So much is put onto us, and for generations women have persevered, raised families under constant abuse, broken countless glass ceilings and fought for respect in society and from our male counterparts. In my paintings, all my imagery is very personal; a lot of it is a surrendering, the resignation and the waving of a white flag. Someone looked at my paintings and said that none of my figures were empowered, that this work doesn’t empower women. I still grapple with that today, but I don’t disagree. Some of these figures are not empowered. It’s because sometimes I don’t feel empowered. There is an idea of “conditional” love that I see everywhere in my world which panics me - why is our worth and value as an entity dependent on our appearance or our paycheck or our marital status? I paint women because I am a woman, and mitigating the endless layers of complexity surrounding femininity and vulnerability and whatever ideas are thrust onto us, hoops we need to jump through to be given “worth”... these are all questions I’m painting through. At this point I have no definitive answers, rather I’m more interested in the question and the idea.

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Congratulations on your gallery recent representation with BEERS London! Do you have any advice for artists seeking gallery representation?

Thank you! It was an incredibly serendipitous occurrence and I couldn’t be happier about it, BEERS has been one of my all time favorite galleries for years and I’m so thrilled to join the team. 

Advice wise, there is only one thing that matters: making a good painting. We all know it’s a very difficult thing to do, so that honestly should be the only thing on your radar. If you try to curate your authentic voice towards a particular gallery or type of gallery, you are doing yourself and your work a massive disservice. The only thing an artist needs to be doing is making the work the best and most authentically that they conceivably can. There is no timeline. There is no falling behind. The only thing that matters is the quality of the work. If you can proudly stand next to your art and say, “This is me, this is mine,” then that’s all that matters. Everything else will come. Any young artists out there who are feeling anxiety, take charge and tell yourself this, “as long as it’s not impossible to do, it can be done”. Even a 1% chance is still a chance. Commitment is key.

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Do you listen to anything (podcasts, music, etc.) while you paint?

I used to listen to music when I worked, but I’ve switched to NPR and podcasts in October 2018. I’ve placed really stringent restrictions on the music I listen to because I’m just so overwhelmed by it now. Commercials make my heart race and make me cry, any music that’s too emotive takes me too deep inside myself and my vision warps. It’s almost funny how strongly I react to it! Pretty much the only music I can tolerate without weeping is lo-fi hiphop, very calm music with few words, and nothing too emotionally charged. I’ve become a really big fan of On Point and Fresh Air on NPR, and the podcasts Philosophize This! by Stephen West and Making Sense (formerly Waking Up) by Sam Harris, and also, The Adam Buxton Podcast. I highly recommend all three of those. I deal primarily in ideas, so these are great podcasts that explore a particular idea or person in each episode, a deep dive into the nuances of a certain topic. Nothing in this world is black and white; I love being exposed to shades of grey I hadn’t thought of before. 

Can you tell me about a time where you had to overcome an obstacle, either in your art career or during your painting process? 

Things in my personal life during 2018 overwhelmed me to the point that, at the tail end of the year, being alone with myself in the studio became dangerous. I prefer working without natural light so that I don’t see the passage of time and I can just get lost in the flow of the work, but things in my life were happening one after the other and I was drowning. Going into my studio and being alone in a windowless room for 10 -14 hours a day was so isolating. My studio was slowly becoming this echo chamber for all my terrifying thoughts and feelings: of failure, of worthlessness, of hopelessness - but I couldn’t stop working. More than being alone with myself, I was afraid of not painting, I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I was afraid that one day would become two, that two would become three, and that I’d wake up one day and it had been a year and I hadn’t painted. Even thinking about it now is terrifying. My practice is about communing with myself and my deepest thoughts about different ideas, if my mind is full of fear and anxiety, it becomes intensely amplified in the studio. Learning how to mitigate the part of me that is compelled to paint and the part of me that was terrified of being alone with myself is something I consider to be one of my biggest accomplishments.

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Do you have anything coming up this year that you’d like to share?

At this point in time nothing in particular besides a group show in Toronto and my two-person show in May with BEERS! I’m very excited to make a whole new body of work for that show and to see what comes out. I’ve got some really good ideas rattling around in my noggin and while they’re very labor intensive I think they’re going to look super good. If you want to keep up with my work or get more insight into my process, feel free to follow me on Instagram at @nadiakwd.

(And thanks so much for reading!)

Let Yourself Grow: Podcast Episode with Erika Lee Sears
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On this episode, Kat has a fun and inspiring conversation with Erika Lee Sears. Erika is a self-taught oil painter who took the plunge to leave her corporate job in order to paint full time.

Learn about how to commit to a daily painting practice, get tips for painting while traveling, set up a perfect morning routine, balance family life and more!

Christian Böhmer Interview | Moniker Art Fair
Image courtesy of Christian Böhmer.

Image courtesy of Christian Böhmer.

For our next preview feature from the upcoming Moniker Art Fair in New York, we’re sharing an interview with Christian Böhmer! Christian is a self-taught contemporary artist who creates large-scale murals along with drawings and paintings. He has exhibited work around the world including in Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland among others. Most recently, he completed a mural painting for the "one wall project" curated by the Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin. After learning more about his work and process, we’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing what he exhibits at the fair!

Tell us about your background. You describe having roots in the graffiti movement of the 90's so was this the type of art that first inspired you and that you first created? 

Yes, graffiti was the kind of art that influenced me most when I was a kid in the mid-nineties. I was lucky enough to live only a few kilometers from Europe’s largest legal graffiti hall of fame at that time, which was the famous "Schlachthof Wiesbaden". Once a year, there came the world’s most famous writers together to have a graffiti jam for one weekend. I was so fascinated to see what was possible to do just with a spray can, that I decided to try this on my own. As it was a legal spot to paint graffiti, there was no need to hurry or to get nervous. I think this is why I had time enough to experiment in every direction, which included painting characters, too. I found out that I had much more talent in character painting then in writing letters....

How has your work developed since then? When and why did you turn to portraits? 

The first few years I developed in painting characters and as I got better and better, I moved towards a photorealistic style. I believe the most difficult subject one can paint in photorealism is a portrait, where there are no mistakes allowed. And when you dive into this world of painting portraits, you find out that there’s a lot of stories you can tell with that kind of art.

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Images courtesy of Christian Böhmer.

Images courtesy of Christian Böhmer.

Can you explain your reasoning behind covering various body parts of your subjects - namely their heads and faces, but also in recent work, their hands as well?

As I said, it is very interesting to tell stories within portraits. I did that for a long time, but one day you ask yourself, what will be the next challenge? What else can I add to these stories? When you think about that, the next logical step will be to transform the portrait, to paint it in an abstract way. But the abstract in my portrait painting is not the transformation of color or shape, but the paper bag. I found out that for me this is a perfect medium to use in order to transform shape, to give it a message, or to simply hide the face itself. Sometimes less is more :)

You recently completed a new mural in Berlin, congratulations! How did that project come about? How often do you create larger, public works and do you enjoy it as much as your smaller pieces? 

It was Yasha, the director of the Urban Nation Museum of urban contemporary art in Berlin, who asked me to paint this specific wall. I just began working on a new series of drawings, which plays with red colored hands, that tell all those stories that hidden faces can’t tell. This series deals with people on the edge of society, the ones nobody listens to. And the wall I painted in Berlin is located in an area where these people live. So it was the perfect match.

Image courtesy of Christian Böhmer.

Image courtesy of Christian Böhmer.

What will you be showing at Moniker in New York? 

I will be showing this new series of people with red hands hidden behind their paper bag mask. But you need to see it in person!

Do you have any additional exciting projects going on in 2019 and beyond that you'd like to share?

Yes, I will have a huge solo show in Mainz, Germany in September. I’m very glad to be there because that is the place where I grew up and where I had my first graffiti writing experience. I have not been back there for more than 15 years!

I will also have a group show in October at 19Karen Gallery near Brisbane in Australia, which I’m also looking forward to. I love the idea that people from all over the world can have the opportunity to see my art in person.

Moniker will be held May 1 - 5 in New York City at:
718 Broadway
NoHo, Manhattan
New York City, NYC
10003

Learn more about Moniker Art Fair by visiting their website.

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Taking the Power Back in Your Art Career with Michelle I. Gomez
Photo by Milana Braslavsky @milanabphoto

Photo by Milana Braslavsky @milanabphoto

On this episode of Art & Cocktails, Kat talks with Michelle I. Gomez about her entrepreneurial journey and how artists can take back self-worth and gain control over their life and finances.

Michelle I. Gomez is the founder of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

After having founded her own successful arts business, she now serves as a Launch Strategist for Women identifying Artists wanting to launch their own arts businesses by coaching her clients on business strategy and emotional intelligence so they too can do what they love (and get paid for it).

You can find Michelle at:

Coaching Services: www.artisttoartpreneur.com

Creative Unions Event Design: www.creativeunionsllc.com

Email: michelle@creativeunionsllc.com

IG: @michelleigomez and @creativeunion

Monumentalization of the Human Form: Interview with Lauren Carly Shaw

Interview by Sarah Mills

Lauren Carly Shaw (American, b.1986) is an artist currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Primarily working with sculpture, Shaw utilizes various mediums such as synthetic hair and glass to represent the female human body. Her work has been exhibited internationally, in Barcelona, New York, San Francisco, and New Jersey. She has had solo exhibitions at The Active Space, Brooklyn, NY (2013) and as a 2014 Sunroom Project Space Artist in the Glyndor Gallery at Wave Hill in the Bronx, NY (2014). Shaw has participated in residency and intensive programs across the world most recently at the Vermont Studio Center, Starry Night AIR program, and Metafora, in Barcelona, Spain. She received a BFA in sculpture from the School of Visual Arts 2009 and an MFA focusing on New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2016. 

Statement

My work investigates the nature of the human form and the monumentalization of the individual. I compose sculptures and installations in order to fully consider the body as an object. Surreal and imagined elements within the works and throughout the spaces they occupy create illusions and perceptual shifts in the way we view our own bodies. This abject and bizarre universe allows a disassociation from a pre-constructed reality, Anatomy, and emotion.

I create anthropomorphic forms to explore facets of feminism and historical unconscious. The surfaces of these fictionalized realities are representations of the thoughts, feelings, and psychology of our bodies. While alluding to a loose narrative the figures, cast replications, or prosthesis become equivocal while simultaneously paying particular attention to the uncanny nature of their human likeness. Seemingly floating, climbing up walls and floors, confronting the viewer, or interacting through digital media the objects appear to exist in an abject and bizarre alternate universe somewhere between birth and collapse.

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When did you become interested in sculpture and the human form as a subject in your work?

I have always been interested in sculpture and the human form. I started making sculptural work while an undergrad at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. I was studying graphic design and took a 3D class as part of the requirements for that program. It became quickly apparent to me that I was not interested in working strictly digitally and needed to get my hands dirty. The human body has always been my main subject of investigation as I am interested in the disconnect that happens when a human form becomes an object. When presenting a sculpture that is objectively human in its physical properties, I aim to challenge the idea of what makes a person human. Is our notion of being human tied innately to the physicality of our forms? How are these objects given intelligibility with the viewers own unique experiences?

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In your statement you talk about your use of synthetic materials and how they act as a channel for your viewer to challenge their own form, when and how did your interest in that idea begin?

I started using synthetic hair for the series Hairy Ladies as a way to further remove the sculpture from its ties to the human body. I wanted to infuse a figurative sculpture with a sense of the uncanny. I liked the idea of using something that isn’t actually from the human body but speaks to its presence. Albeit superficial, this abject element adds a life-like quality to the figures. The use of fake hair also references beauty standards, vanity and the extreme lengths people go to in order to make themselves beautiful in accordance with societal standards. These works are an exaggeration of that in some aspect. Additionally, there are a number of beauty stores in the neighborhood I live in and after walking by them a number of times I became interested in this culture of exaggerated vanity.

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How does your process change when creating instillation-based work verse small sculptures or drawings?

Installation based work takes a lot more planning and time to flesh out as they typically incorporate some of the smaller sculptural works. In the past, my installations have been very narrative and methodical in their construction. I start by making a figure and create an otherworldly environment for it to occupy. The smaller sculptural elements help to displace the viewer from their own reality. By situating a figure in an environment and surrounding it with surreal objects, I am able to disassociate our given reality and create a new, unique environment for the objects to exist in. The smaller works do take a generous amount of planning and time as well, but putting them together is much more technique based. Once I have sketched and settled on the final shape and material of the smaller pieces, it really is a question of figuring out how to make the original and mold. Mold making is tricky, it takes some time to figure out how to best break down an object for molding and casting.

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What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on a large immersive installation that will incorporate elements of sculpture, performance, video and augmented reality. I want to take the idea of installation to the next level and create an environment that makes you question the reality of what you are looking at. I've made a figure and smaller objects and have begun to create the environment that they live in.

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What links all your work?

I rely on the figure as a signifier in my work and rarely make sculptures or installation that does not have some sort of figurative element. I also typically work life-sized which helps the various projects communicate in a linear way.

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How do you run your studio practice? Do you have any advice for our readers about a healthy studio practice?

I need to spend consistent time in my studio in order to focus conceptually as well as materially. I like to work in large chunks of time (8-10 hours straight) for a few days consecutively and then take a day or two away from the studio to step away from the work. I can get nitpicky and a bit obsessive when working and I think its equally important to take the time to walk away and take a breather. It is hard for me to think clearly when I'm too close to the work. Since my sculptures are figurative and a lot of them are made from molds of my own body or in my own likeness, they easily become an extension of myself. It's important for me to remove myself from the work. I think it is paramount for artists to have interests and hobbies outside of the studio and the arts to have a healthy work/life balance. I find the hobbies, jobs, interests, and distractions I have from my studio are like palate cleansers. They end up giving me the space I need to think clearly and inform the work in the long run.

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What is the most rewarding part of your creative practice?

Without question, the most rewarding part of my creative practice is when I see someone engage with my work in a meaningful way. I did a series, Large Children Having Lost Their Heads, a few years ago that are balloons with faces on them. When installed, they look like actual balloons. I had an installation with about ten of them, and a family came through. The two children immediately went up to the balloons and tried to pull the ribbon as though it was a real balloon. They were a little confused when they realized the balloon was a sculpture and not a balloon, but then they caught the faces and started giggling uncontrollably. There is nothing better than putting a quizzical smile on a curious face.

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WK Interact Interview | Moniker Art Fair
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Create! Magazine is a proud partner of Moniker International Art Fair which will be held in May in New York City. Moniker shines a spotlight not only on young and emerging artists, but also on leaders in the urban and new contemporary art movement. For the forthcoming iteration of the fair, they will be highlighting one of NYC’s most recognized wheat pasting artist, WK Interact. Originally from France, WK Interact has been working in New York for over 20 years. Read our interview below to learn more about his work!

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Tell us about your background. Were you interested in art as a child or did you come to it later in life?

Well, I started to draw when I was 8 years old as my father was a painter. I think I became passionate about art from seeing him in his studio.

What brought you to New York?

I was first in New York when I was 13 years old, but did not have a chance to visit as I had only landed there for a connecting flight to Miami. I came back at age 16 in 1982 and it ended up having an incredible impact on me. My flight arrived late at night and I only knew the address of my hotel on 82nd street near Central Park. Of course, it was the cheapest place to stay and the worst hotel at $15 per night. I spent the next three months traveling all over the state using Greyhound buses and after this, I decided to focus on creating art ‘in motion’. At the age of 18, I came up with a process of making distorted images using a Xerox copy machine which helped me find my signature style. After placing many canvases in my hometown in the south of France illegally, it was obvious to me that the best city to create that sort of interaction with my work would be New York. I ended up living in the city for many years and became a french New Yorker. I’m still living there today!

How has living there affected your work?

Living in New York for me was important to just be there and connect with the city. For my work, I feel that it becomes part of an event or a corner of the street. Even I start to blend in with my work by wearing all black clothes.

Can you explain your interest in figures and your unique techniques to create your work?

My work is based on the following concept: First illustration, then the location, then the motion interacting with the scale of the building. My real motivation is film. I decide to use the street to recreate a story and take photos with people passing by. The interaction part of my concept and process is where I came up with the name WK INTERACT.

What are some of your inspirations?

Sculptors and photographers like Calder and William Klein as well as the film industry including French Connection, Blade Runner...and so many others.

What will you be exhibiting at Moniker?

I  will have one large work and 8 posters plus a large print directly installed on a wall.

Besides showing with Moniker, do you have any other projects this year you'd like to share?

Plenty of projects, but I can’t mention anything yet :)

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Moniker Art Fair has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting contemporary art fairs with it’s roots embedded in urban culture. Learn more by visiting their website or follow them on Instagram.

The First Love: Interview with Jenni Stringleman
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Interview by Sarah Mills


After twenty years of working in graphic design and animation, Jenni Stringleman has returned to her first love - working in oils.
 
Based in Auckland, New Zealand, she paints contemporary, bright expressionist florals, fresh, abstracted nudes and portraits.
 
“For me, painting is an expression of joy. I simply love the act of applying oils to canvas, and this has lead me to explore a heady mix of thick oils, and semi transparent washes of colour, high detail combined with gestural strokes.”

Jenni's recent pieces focus on the figure drawn from life in charcoal, erased, rotated, and attacked with brayers and solvents with slabs of flat colour finally applied to obscure and reveal. 

Jenni sells and exhibits at Gallery De Novo and Endemic World Gallery in New Zealand, as well as shipping pieces to international collectors.

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You came back to painting after 20 years of working in graphic design and animation, what drew you back to oils?

I painted almost religiously at high school, partly to get out of PhysEd but mainly because I was obsessed with art! At our school, we had hessian or paper stapled to walls and never-ending acrylic paint, and it was heaven. I wanted to be a full-time artist but decided to go for something practical - graphic design. I assumed I’d paint in my own time after work, but I never did! Instead, I worked on a bungee jump for years, in New Zealand and the UK, then painted murals and eventually ended up in graphic design in the City in London. I was having too much fun to remember to paint (or practice the flute, but that’s another story)!

Eventually, after 11 years in London, I returned to New Zealand, got married and retrained in animation which I adored, but after falling pregnant with my eldest daughter, I decided to give up work for a while. I played a domestic goddess for some years, then sadly a friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a year to live. It was absolutely tragic as she was a mum of two, and it made me reassess my life choices. I felt it was too late to retrain as a brain surgeon so instead I decided to jump back into painting to leave a legacy for my two young daughters. It was one of the bravest things I ever did, walking into a painting class under the tutelage of artist Robert Campion, however, he was nurturing and kind and downloaded his years of education and experience into my brain, and from there I had a new career!

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You work with such a wide variety of subjects ranging from florals to portraits to abstract work. What do you see as the connecting factor between all your work?

Yes, I do! I am probably like that as a person. I want to be trying new things, learning, stretching myself. Most people call me a colorist, and I do love color, it’s hugely instinctual for me, I feel what goes where and get great joy from the marks and drips and combinations. My first love in painting is the figure... life drawing, nudes, faces. But my mum asked me to paint hydrangeas for her, and they were my first sales to friends and locals.

The nudes were put on the backburner for a while. The galleries who approached me, came to me for my semi-abstracted florals, so that’s where most of my energy went. I painted a portrait of my daughter just for fun then ended up getting commissioned to paint other kids. I love the opportunity they afford me to sit down for once! I like being challenged to capture the real essence of this child, in a more classic way that will stand the test of time. They take ages, and they give me a break from the physical effort of the large pieces. Last year I studied under Martin Campos, and he inspired me to combine my love of color and paint with my charcoal sketches of the figure. A new aspect to my work developed, and now I think of myself as working happily across these three strands.

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Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?

Definitely nature, usually in the small details of plants and the effects of light. Also all of human life. I store away images from magazines and TV, fashion shows, of people on the street. There’s not enough time in my day to paint the things I want to. I screengrab so much of Instagram. Today my art hero Andrew Salgado posted a shot of himself in an orange raincoat against an orange wall, and now that’s all I want to paint! As well as the pieces I sell through galleries, I paint on A3 size Arches paper and that’s where I experiment, and they’re all stacked up in a cupboard! I need to have a sale.

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What is the first thing you do when you sit down to start a new oil painting?

So this depends a little on which one of my themes I’m working on. For the big textured botanical pieces, I almost always start with a fast, loose acrylic underpainting. I stand, listen to podcasts or music, move around and go on instinct. I may use a ref photo but often don’t. I start from a position of wanting to use certain colors or shapes, and this informs what I’m working towards. For the portraits and nudes, I tend to sit at the table and use a desktop easel. The nudes are from life or ref photos, I sketch multiple times in charcoal, rubbing out marks and rotating the support. Eventually, I will introduce a limited palette of oils. With the portraits, I dive in from a ref photo. I don’t grid up or anything. I paint the whole face at once and gradually refine.

Your paintings have a beautiful textural quality to them. What is your process like to achieve that texture?

Thank you! That came about mainly through laziness. I use so much saturated oil color that washing out my brushes each night was doing my head in. I tried a painting knife one day and got hooked! I rarely use a brush now except for the portraits. It helped me simplify, and I love the geometric quality.

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What is your favorite part about working with fluid paints?

Oh, it’s just so fun, it’s exciting. It’s a proper thrill to squeeze paint from a tube, mix it with the knife. With the washy underpainting, I love the unexpected blends. With my oils, I enjoy the thick texture and sheer glazes. The only thing I don’t like is how messy I am. Each tube is lidless, covered in paint, etc.

What advice do you have for our readers who are struggling to change their artistic paths?

My week with Martin Campos did genuinely change my life. I’d say if you can afford it, seek out artists you love and admire and try and study with them. Even a weekend will help! Give yourself permission to play, don’t feel the need to show everything. Expect changes to take time. Your audience may take time to catch up to your new style. Imagine you had a year left, what would you do with it? What is your true passion? But be practical! You need to survive, and there’s no shame in working for money to allow yourself the luxury of time to explore.

Free and Intuitive: Interview with Lauren Mycroft
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Lauren Mycroft is a Canadian painter whose abstract works reference organic shapes using complex layers and staining. Using a contemporary palette and methodical layering technique, Mycroft creates process-driven artwork that feels both fresh and familiar. The compositions are created freely and intuitively, learned through years of practice and formal art training. Inspired by memory of place, Mycroft reflects on our emotional attachment and not specific locales. Through her unique palette and fields of stains, Mycroft offers the viewer a sense of nostalgia and elicits a personal response based on their own experiences with the landscape.

Mycroft studied at Vancouver Island University and Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and now exhibits regularly on the Canadian West Coast.

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In your artist statement, you talk about how your practice is process driven. How did you develop your process?

My process was developed over years of experimentation and working towards the goal of painting without developing an attachment to the end result. I have always enjoyed painting with a fluid medium. However, something clicked for me when I started working with high flow paints. This new medium caused my process to change dramatically, as I started pouring liquid paint over the canvas rather than applying with a brush.

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What is your favorite part about your intuitive practice?

Painting intuitively as opposed to painting with a specific outcome in mind challenges my need to control small details and allows me to problem solve creatively in the moment. Although it can feel overwhelming approaching a canvas in this way, once I overcome the compositional challenges of a painting, I am far more excited by the result than had I approached it with a predetermined outcome.

You also talk in your statement about being inspired by the memory of the place. When and how did this idea become an inspiration in your work?

The process of painting landscapes is something that has allowed me to reflect upon my childhood, as I moved around a lot in my life. Leaving the imagery abstracted and void of representative details allows the viewer to create their attachment to the work. For me, each piece is very personal; however it is not based on a specific locale, it is more representational of time.

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How does the idea of memory drive and come through in your work?

I would say the idea of memory drives the mood of my work and dictates my color palette and the boldness or softness or a painting. That, combined with the indistinct forms, allow viewers to apply their memory and attachment to a piece which creates a connection for the collector.

Can you tell us a little about your color palette? Is the palette premeditated for each piece or do you work intuitively there as well?

I often start with an idea of a palette or a couple of colors; however, it changes as the painting develops.

Can you share a piece of advice you have received that you think our readers would benefit from hearing?

I don’t remember where I read this, however, the simple, yet powerful statement, “walk towards your fear” has greatly impacted how I approach creating such personal work every day and how I navigate this career. I also have a note on my studio wall reminding myself not to allow the work to become precious; this keeps it fun and experimental and will enable me to make my best work.

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What has been the best part of your artistic career thus far?

I keep surprising myself with what I’m able to accomplish as a self-employed person (even the fact that I’m self-employed is a surprise to me) who is also raising two little humans! There’s a sense of pride and newfound confidence that I’ve acquired with each hurdle I overcome.

Women Working in the Arts: Alana Voldman
Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

For our first-ever women’s issue (available for purchase here) I profiled four young and entrepreneurial women working in the arts to highlight those not only creating work, but also those who are supporting artists as curators, gallerists, educators, writers, and more! I’m keeping this series going on our blog with this mini-interview with art consultant Alana Voldman.

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Alana Voldman is an independent art consultant currently based in Antwerp, Belgium. Originally from southern California, she first relocated to Chicago to study art history at DePaul University, after which she began working with several Asian art galleries in the city. She eventually relocated to London to pursue a Master's Degree in Art Business at Sotheby's Institute of Art, with an emphasis on 20th-century art and modern design. In 2017, she relocated to Antwerp, first working as a curatorial assistant at the MoMu Fashion Museum, and now as a freelance advisory consultant and art writer for several companies and institutions. 

Choose one woman artist from history or who is working today and tell us about why she inspires you or has had an impact on you.

I have always been drawn to German-born artist Anni Albers, both for her amazing textile works and her personal story. Forced into weaving, the only workshop available to women during the early years of her art education at the Bauhaus school, she was able to transcend the medium from craft to a recognized and functional art form. In line with the Bauhaus approach to form meeting function, Albers at first explored the limitations of her materials, making objects that not only looked nice but also served a purpose.  Eventually, she became known for her distinct use of color, and 'pictorial weavings', which were essentially modernist artworks made through the process of weaving. What I really admire is her sense of persistence - she mastered something despite it not being her first choice - during a war and in a male-dominated industry no less. It is very easy to be discouraged in the art industry, especially because it can feel quite oversaturated and as if (money-making) opportunities are rare. I often remind myself of people like Albers who had to persevere under even harsher limitations.

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London . Photo is by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London . Photo is by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

The Power of Imagination with Shamona Stokes
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On this episode of Art & Cocktails, Kat interviews artist Shamona Stokes about her creative journey and how she overcame her fear of being an artist.

Shamona Stokes (b. 1980) is a ceramic sculptor from Jersey City, New Jersey. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY (2002). Her iconic sculptures explore the archetypes and imaginary figures of the subconscious.

In 2017, she presented her first sculptural collection, “hypnos”, at Allouche Gallery, NYC as one of the regional semi-finalists in the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series. In just two short years, Shamona has gotten wide exposure and has shown at venues throughout the country including art fairs during both Armory & Frieze weeks (NYC 2018) and, most recently, at the SCOPE Art Fair during Art Basel (Miami 2018) where she exhibited with MUTT Collective.

Support Shamona’s big project on  Kickstarter .

Support Shamona’s big project on Kickstarter.

The Human Side of the Marginalized: Interview with Jenn Terrell
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Jenn Terrell is a portrait and documentary photographer. Jenn’s work showcases a wide range of topics and individuals, ranging from portrait sessions to sharing the stories of sexual assault survivors, all presented with a raw, honest aesthetic. She lives in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Statement
I want to use the power of the photograph to create connections and bring people together. I aim to do that by showing the very human side of the marginalized. I want people to feel the tears of trauma, the scars of abuse and the pain that relates us all.

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What is your favorite part about working with photography?

I have a passion for people, from all walks of life. With my camera, I feel I have the power to tell stories; stories of the oppressed and marginalized in society. I feel it is my responsibility to use my privilege to address social issues, educate, and effect change.

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How has your style evolved into what it is today?

My style has evolved from bright compositions to creating darker, more moody scenes. I find it more authentic to show how things actually were. In addition, a documentary style is much more indicative of the style of my work these days.

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Does the way that you create photographs change depending on your subject?

Working with different subjects changes the way I photograph, specifically the reasoning for the shoot. Family shoots, couple shoots, and styled shoots are much more laid back and relaxed. My biggest goal with those is to make sure the subjects feel comfortable with me so that I am photographing them as who they really are. Photographing to try and inspire change is different. When I photographed victims of sexual assault for the Hidden Reality Project, it was very raw and difficult. These women were pouring out their souls to me and many of them still had not completely dealt with the trauma they had experienced, particularly ones that received no justice. I tried to be extremely sensitive to what they were going through and I paused the photographing as many times as needed to help them get through telling me their stories. I think the photoshoots were a bit of a resolution for some of the women. I believe most women have been through some kind of sexual assault or harassment and sadly we can all relate and connect through those horrific experiences. So I think for some of the women they were able to talk to me about this and I could respond with some knowledge of where they are coming from and why they felt certain things.

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What are you currently working on?

Right now I am working on finishing up the design of a poetry book by a Haitian American woman that I did photographs for as well. I am also designing my own photobook that includes stories from sexual assault survivors that I have collected over the years. I also have a few more versions of my project called "Femina" which explores femininity in the modern day.

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Do you prefer working on styled shoots and more controlled projects or events where the environment is less controlled?

I really enjoy both controlled shoots and documentary style. The most rewarding, though, is always photographing to tell the stories of the marginalized that have the potential to inspire change or just to inspire people. That can come from either a styled shoot or a documentary style shoot.

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You have three projects on view on your website, Hidden Reality project, The depression Project, and Femina project. Can you tell us a little about those projects and how they originated?

The Depression Project (jennterrell.com/the-depression-project) was the first full series that I ever completed. I started it because I was very close to someone who had pretty severe depression. I didn't know much about it so I researched and researched. I couldn't believe all of the information I was finding. I thought more people should know about this to understand what others are going through. I wanted more people to have the epiphany that I had. I thought a great way to get that information out is to have it come firsthand from a variety of people living with depression. I got a variety of firsthand accounts as well as stories of spouses and family members of those dealing with depression. The project became a sort of therapy for me too.

The Hidden Reality Project (jennterrell.com/hiddenrealityproject) came next. I kept thinking back to a night in 2008 when I hosted a girls’ night at my apartment in college. Nine women from various parts of Arkansas who all moved there to go to college came to my apartment that night. We were sitting in a circle talking and one girl starting talking about her son. We were all a little baffled that she had a son. We started showering her with questions. “How old is he? Is the dad in your life? How difficult is it to have a child in school?” She answered the first question with “He is 9.” We were all shocked. She was our age (19-24) and she had a nine-year-old!?! Is this possible? At this point, she decided to share with us the horrific story of how she lost her virginity by being raped while she was passed out at a party. She didn’t even know she wasn’t a virgin until her doctor told her she was pregnant. This story sparked stories from other girls in the circle about their own rape experiences. At one point I looked around the room and asked who all had been raped. I was the only person who did not raise their hand. Little did I know by the time I turned 24, I would be able to raise my hand too. This gathering was where I realized sexual assault was a much bigger problem than I had ever imagined. Young women from all different cities of the same state shared a similar fate when it came to rape. What a horrible thing to have in common. I never forgot that night and still think about it often. It was the inspiration for the Hidden Reality project where I also shared my own story.

Femina (jennterrell.com/femina) is my current ongoing project. It started with a group boudoir photo shoot that I did to showcase a variety of women. The photo shoot ended up being so much more than that. On the day of the shoot, all of the women came together and problem solved as soon as tiny setbacks happened. Each time we did individual shots of one woman from the group, the others would gather around and encourage her and tell her how beautiful she was. This type of love and togetherness fostered the perfect environment for this photoshoot. I never would have dreamed up this day the way it happened. It was amazing and inspiring for me to see how this group of women, who were mostly strangers, interacted and helped to produce a raw and beautiful set of photographs. This spurred an ongoing project about exploring femininity. I just finished up the second installment of the series with a diverse group of 3-7-year-old girls. They wore black dresses, leggings, pants, and jackets to foster a look of togetherness. They held hands, sang twinkle, twinkle, little star and laughed and played together throughout the photoshoot.

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What advice would you like to give to people who want to start their photography careers?

Work, work, work. Work pretty much every day. If you truly love it, it will feel natural. Focus on your craft and create. A mentor of mine, painter Hubert Neal, Jr., once said that even if he was making no money at painting and was poor he would still be a painter. This made me realize that no matter what I do, I have to be all in. Photography is my passion and I am all in no matter if that means no money or lots of money.

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Credits: 

Photographer: Jenn Terrell Photography

Hair: Giovanna Barboza

Make up: Brushed By Shae

Planner & Creator of the amazing crowns: Sonnet Weddings

Models: Destiny LaNeé, Tylr DeShae Mustin,J'Aaron Merchant, Monique Beilby, Cynthia Hernandez, Jasmine Hudson, Jessie Wagner

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Hidden Nature: Interview with Darko Vuckovic
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Talent is a good advantage, but it brings us to our goal only if nurtured through constant work.

Vuckovic was born in Podgorica, Montenegro and graduated from Faculty of Fine Arts in Cetinje in 2001, in the class of professor Dragan Karadzic, painting department.

From 1999 to 2000, he attended L’ecole Superrieure d’Art du Grenoble, France, where he started to experiment in computer-generated imagery, photography and experimental sound.

In 2012, he completed specialized studies, painting department, at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade, in the class of professor Zoran Vukovic. He has been a member of ULUCG (Association of visual artists of Montenegro) since 2002.

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The Heraldry of Nature (Imprints and Traces)

Every shape in the visible nature, the smallest as well as the biggest, is revealed as harmony. 

The Māori from Polynesia had the word “mana” for expressing the unity of things, the strong feeling that life is a unity in which not only gods, people and all living things partake, but also things that to us seem dead. “Mana” thus represents an immediate experience of the “sacred force that permeates life”. All of their art is filled with spirals as visual displays of the force. They were engraved into wood and stone, painted, or even tattooed on the body. One can find identical spiral motives in many other parts of the world, some originating from prehistoric times.

In nature we find the spiral movement in the structure of the DNA molecule, as well as in the spiral galaxies. The “murmur” of the cosmos is expressed through shape, just as fine sand placed on a string instrument makes precise geometric shapes when one plays a tone.

György Doczi, a Hungarian architect from the early 20th century, discovered the same mathematical laws at the basis of architecture, the elements of landscape, the anatomy of humans, animals and plants, the tone scale, the rhythm in poetry, prompting him to introduce the concept of a dynergic pattern“.

The displayed works have a common thread. They represent different imprints of the universal energy flow, which is visible just partly. This energy weaves tirelessly behind the curtain of the material world, maintaining it and driving it. The idea once obsessed J. W. Goethe (Essay on the plant), and later Rudolf Steiner when he speaks about the active spiritual reality, deeming it the cause of what we perceive with our outer senses. The wide field of his work and his views had a profound impact on art: the works of Kandinsky, and later Joseph Beuys, among others.

Occasionally, the hidden, dynamical and changeable nature finds its artistic expression and displays itself in physical form. That is why I consider myself only as a formal author of these works.

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When and how were you first introduced to working with ceramics?

I started doing ceramics about ten years ago. Considering I received a degree in painting, the main techniques of my artistic expression were drawing, painting, photo collages. A set of circumstance led to my sharing a studio with some sculptors. This was a decisive factor for my gradual shift to ceramics and getting to know its secrets. Ceramics enabled me to add a third dimension to the visual images I created. I was and still am fascinated by the possibilities it offers, which are practically inexhaustible.

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What inspires your work?

Inspiration is something that is in my case spontaneous, which arrives the moment I start communicating with the material, in this case with clay.

There are certain conditions that have a positive effect on achieving a required state of sensitivity when creativity can be expressed in the proper way.

Frequent trips to nature contribute to this state. The rhythms of nature and its changes are somewhat similar to the rhythms of the forms I create. My forms are organic and changeable, almost natural.

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What is your process like when you start a new sculpture?

In most cases, I don’t have a clear idea and plan about what I wish to accomplish because I want to leave open the possibility of a surprise.

I allow the forms to change by their own inner rhythm and impulse. This is probably the main reasons why the technique has been holding my interest for so long. Later, after the first round of baking clay, some additional effects are made with texture and glaze, making it even more interesting. Sculptures are often baked multiple times in a row until the desired effect is achieved.

Below is the link for my short film on clay and an ancient method of sculpture making. The film was screened at the AVI Fest - Short Film Festival 2017, where it won the first prize.

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Who are some artists that inspire you?

It used to be Hieronymus Bosch and Flemish painters. Afterward, surrealists like Max Ernst, the metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico, but also M.C. Escher.

As for sculptures, I am most fascinated by the sculptures by Joan Miro and some works by Joseph Beuys.

These are the artists whose work always leaves an impression on me.

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What has been the most challenging aspect of your career thus far? How did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge is persisting in doing what one loves. It isn’t always easy. It means not compromising what one considers truly worthy of doing. Like the moment I left my steady office job as a graphic designer so I would have more time for my artwork. It often means entering a zone of economic instability. These decisions bring many questions, doubts, and dwellings, and one needs to learn how to cope with that. It becomes easier as time goes by.

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What would you say your greatest strength is as an artist?

For me, art is something that gives meaning even at times when we cannot find it in our surrounding, in the outer world. The fact itself is encouraging and gives strength and motivation. For me, that is enough.

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Do you have a piece of advice you have received that you would like to share with our readers?

There is good advice in the tale about Aladdin. It says that if you rub the lamp long enough, a genie will appear. The lamp represents us and our unnurtured talents. This means that if we are persistent and focused, results are inevitable. Talent is a good advantage, but it brings us to our goal only if nurtured through constant work.

The Economy of Poetic Verse: Interview with Stacey Beach

Stacey Beach is a painter without paint, making two-dimensional works of fabric, both solid and patterned, incorporating hand-drawn and screen-printed elements. Inspired by the economy of poetic verse and the transgressive in fashion, she works with collage, beginning with a pared down vocabulary of shape and form. Beach allows the fabric to make its own moves once it is sewn and stretched on a panel, allowing the wrinkles and pulls in the textile to add to the composition.  The works embrace awkward and uneasy relationships, exploring the concepts of beauty and anti-beauty, construction and decay, form and void.

Stacey Beach lives and works in Berkeley, CA. She received her MFA from California College of the Arts and has exhibited in California and New York, where she worked as a studio assistant to Takashi Murakami.

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Tell me about your creative journey so far. Were you creative as a child? What made you decide to pursue art?

Art making has always been a part of my life, and from my earliest days in school, the art room was where I felt at home and felt that I belonged. My parents were always supportive of any direction I wanted to take, so when I decided that I wanted to pursue art in school, they supported that 100%. I went to both undergrad and grad school for painting and have never looked back. It has always just been what I do. This means I have worked many odd jobs, waitressing, in cafes, galleries, and as an art assistant, but have always had the mentality that these are the job but my work is my artwork. I have had my ups and downs with that balance though, and at times the 9-5 job has defeated my creativity. I feel like I've come to a place where I don't feel like I have any more time to screw around, like this is it, and my drive is stronger than ever to make the work that I see in my head.

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Where did your interest in textiles come from?

Since I was a child, fashion has fascinated me, and I love the idea of decorating one’s self. I love the drama of fashion and pattern, form and proportion. I learned to sew when I was young and it has always been a tool in my home, but never a serious pursuit. Painting was my main interest creatively. But after a few years of creative frustration after working as an art assistant in NY, I started quilting when I was pregnant with my son, and sold quilts for a time when I was feeling that I just wanted to make useful things rather than art. I quickly realized I did not find joy in recreating my quilt designs and what I was making was becoming much less quilt-like and much more like my paintings. I feel I’ve finally found a medium that is much more personally connect to my sense of self than paint.

What is your current body of work about?

I am currently working on a series that focuses on textiles and highlights the medium of fabric as the subject of the work. The craft of construction through sewing is of critical importance, the textiles are joined by a thread, not glue, resulting in pulls and wrinkles when stretched on the final panel support. The pulls create line and texture, imperfections and a tactile closeness. I am currently interested in spaces that are traditionally female like interiors and looking at objects of decoration.

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Talk about your experience working with Takashi Murakami. What were some highlights and important things you took away from it?

Working for Takashi was a once in a lifetime experience, I am super grateful to have had that opportunity. I admire his dedication to work and art, and the team that I worked with was an amazing group of artists. We were really on a crazy ride together. Painting for another artist is something that was hard on me creatively, we worked such long hours there was nothing left outside of work. I kept pulling back my hours until finally, I needed to make a drastic change to reclaim my creative life and moved to New Mexico. I took this time as a time to work with no one looking, to reassess what was important to me in art. I focused on line drawings and collage. I didn’t paint again for years.

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Describe your creative process. How does each work come to life?

It always varies, there may be an image that is stuck in my mind, like the coat in Matisse’s Woman in a Purple Coat and I really wanted to make a piece like that, that had a prominent textile as the composition. Other times there may be a pattern that I’ve designed and screen printed on several yards of fabric and keep playing with until it finds a home. Other times, pieces that didn’t turn out as I wanted are cut up and that edited form is the base for new work. I arrange and rearrange, snapping pictures on my phone like a sketchbook until it is resolved.

What is currently inspiring you?

Matisse, Georgia O’keefe’s biography, textile design, American folk art and the amount of women artists out there right now working like total bosses.

Interview with James Oliver, Artist and Owner of James Oliver Gallery

James Oliver is a painter whose precise visual language pushes the tradition of twentieth century abstraction into a contemporary context. Oliver is a conceptually driven formalist whose work is inspired by his dreams and emotional states, which he abstracts into an undetermined and subjective viewing experience by emphasizing line, color, and form. Even as Oliver turns to a figurative practice in recent series, rendering cultural icons like chopper bikes, Pontiac Firebirds, and his childhood poodle in detailed line drawings, these representations similarly evoke broadly accessible affects abstracted from his mental landscape.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your art.

I'm known as a near-minimalist painter that first got attention working abstractly. Now I'm getting known more as being a painter who delves into representational and figurative works. I have been working on a series of paintings of muscle cars and vintage motorcycles and completely enjoying it. I use minimal color in my works and am known for my line-work.

What inspired you to start your gallery? Give us a little history of the beautiful exhibition space in Philadelphia.

I have been presented a huge space for my studio practice. I quickly realized that the space was bigger than the amount I would really need. Shortly after receiving the keys to the space, I showed it to some close friends and most determined I should open an art gallery; the landlord also mentioned this. I quickly concluded with their input and my own background in the arts, that I can do this! So, long story short, JOG (James Oliver Gallery) was born. We have featured many great artists from the local talent pool to artists from near and far at our gallery that generally showcases works that may be on the minimalist and clean side, both abstract and figurative. All mediums. Over the course of the years, people have mentioned that maybe we should expand within the building at some. An opportunity arose in 2017 to take over the second floor, and we would make this a particularly unique endeavor. This all came about with the partnering through partnering up with our neighbor, Bryan Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Design Group. His company specializes in interior landscape and does business throughout the city. We decided in this partnership to "marry" horticulture with contemporary art. The artwork we feature at Hot-Bed would be a plant, animal, or science-driven exhibitions. So far so good!

Over these years I had the good fortune of working with some great interns and assistants. Most notably, Aubrey Loftus who first interned here for a year and then became staff and now is director of both galleries. She is a very talented artist and curator/director that has helped bring us into our biggest phase.

How has running a gallery influenced your own art making?

As one might imagine, being surrounded by great quality works over these months and years has uniquely inspired and driven me to create and develop my best works to date. My recent series of works was inspired not only by being around the gallery and the art scene but from input by visitors and fellow artists and their encouragement to develop the series. Lovin' it!

Sacred Geometry: Interview with Phyllis Gorsen and Paula Cahill
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Phyllis Gorsen

I have created a series of multi-canvased paintings that describe how we are all connected together by having elements of everyday life in common. I use symbols in both visual and written language as depictions of these commonalities highlighting the connections created by their universality despite varying perceptions. I use a combination of abstraction and representation in the work.These paintings explore connection in two ways: larger multi-canvased compositions that are broad symbolic illustrations of elements of common human experiences, and smaller “couples” paintings that represent two universal elements symbolically paired together in written language. These works are more specific in nature. 
My paintings are intended to move the eye using energetic patterns, movement and vibrancy. My hope is that viewer is captivated by the visual allure of the surface to allow for a slow unveiling of the meaning of the work – which is that we all connected by sharing many of these human experiences.

-Phyllis Gorsen

Tell me about your creative journey so far. 

I have been painting most of my life, primarily figures.  What I loved most about figurative work is that many times it contains the thing that is most basic to all of us. Race, gender identity, religion, etc. inform our experiences and perspectives and thus there are multitudes of viewpoints stemming from that. But, even with these differences, there are overarching similarities that we are share. That is the place that I want to put the emphasis on. As an artist, my work has always been about connection. I try to portray the human aspects that are intrinsic to all people regardless of our differences.  

When I went back to school and got my MFA in 2014 from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, I studied the figurative painters that I loved so much, mainly the Bay Area Figurative Painters like David Park and Richard Diebenkorn. It was then that I started to concentrate on figurative work that captures the patterns of everyday life, but I never made my work autobiographical. I was always much more interested in those spaces that are common to everyone. And although the figure was a catalyst for my work, between the use of color, collage, and pattern, there has always been a strong abstract component. After I graduated, I started to play around in the studio thinking more about the literal interpretation of patterns of everyday life. That’s when I took the turn into geometric abstract work.

As I delved deeper into the abstract elements, both in subject matter and execution, I began portraying components of everyday life in symbolic terms. I created paintings mimetic of the human experience without the use of figures. Most people don’t realize that my paintings contain symbols, I think mostly because I try not to make them too obvious. I prefer a slow unveiling of the meaning behind the work. I do fuse abstraction and representation within many of my paintings as long as I feel they describe the various facets of our commonalities. Some of these elements are recognizable and others are symbolic interpretations of components such as language, technology, nature, culture, etc. Often, I use lines to bridge these symbols together, illustrating how they connect us together. Linguistically, I am exploring the use of symbolism through my titles. These play a critical role in telling the story of each piece and drive the composition of some paintings. All of my work has a high degree of vibrancy and vibration that is a constant within my practice.

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What inspired you to create the work you are including in the exhibition at James Oliver Gallery?


My works in the show contain pieces that are more complex and have various visual components and meanings, as well as paintings that are more distilled and simplified. In addition to the complex paintings that are attached to multiple canvases, I wanted to include paintings that were separate but related. So I have works that are both interconnected such as “Essence and Pursuit” and outwardly connected such as “Of a Circular Nature…”- which are a set of four paintings? It was an exciting exploration in the idea of connection to depict it internally and externally. All of the work is painted on circular canvases or within circular spaces. The circle to me is beautiful in that there are no defined edges. They feel like complete bodies to me and allow me to investigate the idea of connection in a more fluid way.


What are some ongoing themes or ideas you have been exploring within your paintings?

As I mentioned before, I focus on how the commonality of shared patterns connects people together by using symbolism- both abstract and representational. I personally feel that the most powerful works are the ones that combine visceral sensory experiences with fundamental content underneath. I like making the surfaces of my paintings beautiful with the hope that the viewer is enticed enough to uncover the underlying message of human connection. In “Interweave”, the idea was to illustrate that regardless of our differences, people are internally woven together creating a society. In “Interlink #1-12”, the 12 separate canvases each represents a microcosm of a society that is linked to ones surrounding it. In “Essence and Pursuit”, there are eight canvases representing elements of humanity. From the top left panel going across and down, they are: Connection, Essence (red rings emanating outward), diverse populations of people moving together and apart (top middle), Vegetation, Geography, Technology (bottom middle), Knowledge, and Cities.


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What can visitors expect from this exhibition?  

Sacred Geometry describes the patterns found in nature from the most minuscule particles to the greater cosmos. We obviously took on the title of the show “Sacred Geometry” with some poetic license. The idea behind the show was to exhibit work that had geometric abstract elements that also incorporated the meaning behind it.

When you walk into Hot-Bed Gallery, the viewer is immersed in a room of vibrant pattern and color. It really is visually exciting due to the interplay of color and movement from our work. I was really happy to be exhibiting with Paula Cahill because I am an admirer of her work and I felt that our paintings would fit well together. Hopefully, the audience will be seduced by the luminous surfaces to want to know more about the paintings.

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Paula Cahill

Is it possible to pinpoint when straight and curved lines were invented? The contours of ancient rock paintings give us organic lines and line is evident in the motifs of early Greek vessels and Egyptian Funerary art. Renaissance artists were lauded for their invention of perspective, a system contrived of straight lines that extend to infinity. Modernists isolated and formalized gestural line as subject. I strive to extend this conversation by painstakingly mixing and repeatedly laying down up to 100 gradients of color in my attempts to contemporize line.

- Paula Cahill

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Tell me about your creative journey so far. 

I studied figurative painting for many years before transitioning to complex abstract paintings. While in Graduate School, one of my critics looked at my figurative work and told me that if I wanted to paint flesh better, I should paint a fish. So, I did. When he came back, he said: "That's a pretty good fish, you should paint another one." Apparently, my other critics also thought that I should paint fish and they told me so. I never figured out if they thought I painted great fish or lousy flesh, but I kept painting fish. Pretty soon, I became interested in the way fish were moving in my aquarium and I began tracking their movements with line. I used those lines to make my first linear abstract paintings.

Being an abstract painter was like being a kid in a candy store for me. I wanted to experiment and try every type of abstract painting. I experimented for about six years. When I decided to get serious about showing my work, I asked friends for advice. They basically told me that I was a gallerist's nightmare! I needed to settle down to create a cohesive body of work. That's when I returned to the lines and I’ve been developing this body of work for almost two years. I’m glad that I made this commitment because the work has become more precise and complex. I’ve moved beyond fish and have used a variety of catalysts for the paintings. Art historical reference, movement, music, geometry, and memories have all been sources for my paintings.

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What inspired you to create the work you are including in the exhibition at James Oliver Gallery?

To me line is everything! Line is everywhere and it has been with us forever. I often wonder if we can pinpoint when straight and curved lines were invented. The contours of ancient rock paintings give us organic lines and line is evident in the motifs of early Greek vessels and Egyptian Funerary art.Renaissance artists were lauded for their invention of perspective, a system contrived of straight lines that extend to infinity. Modernists isolated and formalized gestural line as a subject. I strive to extend this conversation by painstakingly mixing and repeatedly laying down up to 100 gradients of color in my attempts to contemporize line.

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What can visitors expect from this exhibition?  

My new 2019 paintings will be exhibited for the first time in Sacred Geometry at Hot Bed. Geometry and historical reference are heavily weighted in this work. I think that viewers will be surprised to see some color shifts and compositional changes.