Posts in Issue VIII
Sexuality From a Woman’s Perspective : Interview with Lily Brown

Lily Brown graduated from Tyler School of Art in 2015 with a BFA in Painting. Since graduation, she has continued to live and work in Philadelphia. She works with children by day teaching art, her way of helping to ensure a creative future for the next generation. By night, she returns to her studio. Oil and Gouache are her primary mediums, each used for different outcomes. Oil allows for a more complex range of emotion and technique, offering a more complicated result, while Gouache allows her to render a specific emotion with more precision and clarity. 

Using these mediums and techniques, Brown aims to investigate the gender roles in American society with a focus on the female experience. While painting these images, she is closely examining the moments when these roles are being utilized or abandoned. If the subject is leaning into these influences or fighting against them. Or possibly trying to understand them, trying to figure out where she as a human begins and these overwhelming and sometimes detrimental outside expectations end. Examples of the repercussions of gender roles pop up in all forms of social media, sexuality, anger, motherhood, our education, and every other facet of our being. Lily is questioning the foundation of being a woman and attempting to shift how we treat and view them. This drives her to search for moments and images that portray women who are encountering rules that were written by society, and enforced by our own insecurities.

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Tell us about your interest in painting the figure. When did you first begin exploring this subject matter and how has it progressed over the course of your art career?

I have drawn and painted the figure since a very young age, people in general just interest me. Before committing to art in college I started my education as a psychology major, this was before realizing I just wanted to paint people, not necessarily try and solve them. I could just stare at them for hours, imagining where they’ve been, who they are, what they're going through. Maybe subconsciously I started painting them since starring is considered rude.

Not much has changed for me in the sense of the subject matter, but I guess I go in and out of different themes. I know that when I graduated from college I became obsessed with painting highly sexualized images. I was completely infatuated with two bodies crashing against each other and I felt too self-conscious to pursue those thoughts in school. Now I have kind of moved out of that phase, although it definitely shows itself at times. I think my work reflects where I am in my life in some way or another and now I'm at a point where I feel more at home in my practice. I no longer question why I want to paint the things I do, I just act and reflect on it later.

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Exploring sexuality from the female perspective is important, especially given our current political climate. Talk a little bit about your approach to painting the female nude.

This is a subject that is forever changing for me and so incredibly important. Sexuality from a woman’s perspective it still somewhat of a mystery to American society, I find this deeply upsetting. I remember growing up and ingesting all of this information from movies, magazines and yes porn, which was all mostly given to us from a man's perspective.

When I’m painting a woman, and people in general, I just want to paint them as authentically as possible. I want to catch every unique part of them. I am so sick of seeing women in paintings being depicted as these otherworldly creatures. I'm sick of seeing perfect skin and “perfect female bodies”. That ideal should be crushed, and I'd like to think that every time I paint myself or some other woman the way they truly are, stomachs, uneven boobs and all, I'm helping myself shed these ridiculous insecurities that should have never been there in the first place. And if I’m lucky, I get to help someone else feel a little more at home in her body as well.

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Who are the figures you choose to paint? Where do your references and inspiration come from?

I paint my close friends, myself, and draw inspiration from old playgirls and nudist magazines from the 70’s.

How does the art community in Philadelphia impact your studio practice?

If I'm being completely honest, I am a very solitary worker and it is very hard for me to branch out and speak to others about my work on a regular basis. But when I do get out to see the shows and talk with people in collectives they are all nothing but welcoming and inclusive. I'm lucky that when I need a critique I have a couple Philly artists that are always happy to come speak with me about my practice.

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What should artists and creatives be doing to contribute to the change in how we perceive female sexuality as a society?

I think we need to destigmatize the female form, we need to stop viewing it solely a vessel of sexual pleasure, yes it can be that, but it is SO MUCH more. Just as everyone is more than their sexuality. But for the most part, artists who are dealing with this subject matter are already doing the work. Exposure is key, there is no reason female sexuality should stay behind closed doors or be seen as a subcategory of art. It IS art, just like any other subject matter. What I hope is that curators and collectors will stop viewing sexuality as a taboo theme without any real meat or importance. I hope that this type of work will start to be viewed with more consideration instead of being overlooked as crude and two-dimensional. I want to see female sexuality in galleries and shows without the label NSFW.

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What's currently happening in your studio and what should we be looking out for this year?

I'm in an in-between area right now. But I have just recently started a painting of two women wrestling that is really exciting me. I plan on starting a new body of work that focuses on physical female aggression. Usually, when people think of women fighting we imagine them saying nasty things behind each other's backs. And I love the idea two women just throwing punches instead. (not that I endorse female rivalry) But that idea is fun and full of juice for me.

Isolation and Female Empowerment: Interview With Emma Repp

Emma Repp is best known for illustrative, bright, and highly patterned portrayals of monotony and adaptation. Originally trained as a printmaker, she employs a similar calculated process and layered aesthetic to create whimsical images out of a combination of handmade and digital elements, but chooses to create with whatever she can find.

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What is your story as an artist? When did you first decide to pursue printmaking and illustration?

When I was a kid, I did draw, but it was after I filled up notebooks writing stories about what I was drawing. I also made my own clothes, a boat for my guinea pig, some really weird baked goods, a lot of deep holes in the dirt, a series of giant stick puppet structures in the woods, and plenty I only remember when my mom reminds me.  My grandma was a painter, my dad went to art school, and my mom was a freak who loved that I was also a freak. I definitely had the kind of environment that pushed me to be a maker.

But as it happens, I wound up confused about what being a human meant, and super driven in areas unrelated to making. Luckily, though, after a lot of wiggling around and crying, I fell into printmaking. I made heavily patterned copper plate etchings, which eventually translated to heavily patterned ink drawings, which eventually translated to what I'm doing now. I keep calling what I make now "drawings," but maybe they are something else. Maybe they are lizards.

The weird thing is—I didn't feel like I was allowed to call myself an artist until... maybe last week. I think I called myself an artist last week. I've just made things because I felt like I would stop existing if I didn't.

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Tell us about the inspiration behind your work:

Everything I have made in the past year or so is working to capture a feeling of loneliness and isolation in a state of excess, or female empowerment despite the environment. Those seem like two separate things, but they really came out of just being a female identifying human breathing in the world—and watching other people try to breathe in the world. 

Honestly, a lot of my inspiration came from riding the bus at rush hour after spending the day trying to convince humans (primarily men) that I am also a human. Existing is so bizarre right now, (and I know I've had it easy comparatively) but I want to capture that bizarreness.

I also love slurping up old photographs — the pictures we took when we couldn't see what they looked like until they were developed — I get a lot of visual inspiration from what we thought we wanted to see.

The colors and patterns are mostly just inspired by Nicki Minaj. I mean, maybe there is some kind of divine force telling me to use chartreuse, but I need to be listening to Nicki Minaj to hear it. If I ever meet Nicki, I would love to tell her how much I need her.

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What is a piece of advice or a personal motto that you carry with you?

Don't fight your flow! It's flowing for a reason.

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Tell us about a typical day in the studio.

My process has a few steps, but I have something going at every step so I can work according to my mood. The pieces start with line drawings on layers of tracing paper and watercolor paintings. When I get the paper substance finished, I scan and layer the drawings in Photoshop. I do a lot of coloring and crying at this point.

When I complete the image digitally, I transfer it to wood, and it gets its final details with paint. This is a new part of the adventure; I had been leaving my work in its digital state, previously.

Having a multi-step process came out of the printmaker in me — but it also came out of having big ideas in a little apartment while I had a day job at a tech company. For now, I still don't have a dedicated studio space, but I love that I can work on a piece on an airplane. I carry my notebook with tracing paper with me everywhere.

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In your statement, you mention that you create with anything you find. What are some of your favorite materials to use and why?

GLITTER.

But what I really meant by that is that my process just sort of happened with what I had access to. I think because my grandma was a painter, I thought I probably had to use oil paint for someone to tell me my art is art (although, she never would have wanted me to feel that way). I didn't have space or ventilation for that, but I still wanted to make 2-D art objects, so I made some work-arounds. It has taken a lot of self-help books, but I love the final result. I can get so much detail and depth.

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What are some things you hope viewers take away from your work?

I want it to feel like you are dancing really hard alone to your favorite song — in your underwear — while eating a salad with your hands (and not choking on the salad).

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What do you have planned for 2018?

It'll be my first full year where I am allowed to call myself an artist! I have a couple of shows lined up, and hopefully some illustration work, but I'm most excited about exhibiting during the Frieze Art Week in New York with Superfine! in May.

 

Julie Crews

Julie Crews is an oil painter. She grew up in Asheville, North Carolina and received her Associate of Arts from Brigham Young University in Idaho. She moved to northern Louisiana in 2008 and lives in Ruston with her husband and five children. 

She paints what takes her out of the studio: the life it takes to nurture a family. When she is in the studio she escapes domestic tethers. Yet, on canvas, there remains before her the scenes and remnants of her life: candy rewards for visits to the doctor, shopping in second hand stores, weeds presented as flowers, and travelling the roads in and around her town. How areas of the home are treated, the traffic and landscapes encountered while running errands, and the moods of people engaged in banal tasks influence her life, and therefore, art. Recreating these scenes give permanence to the undervalued.

Lucas Stiegman

When I first began to wear makeup and gender affirming clothing, I felt beautiful. When my mother and father saw me, they told me I looked disgusting. In much of my work, I have been reflecting on how society often views me versus how I view myself. Many of my photographic tableaus work to ambiguate a subjective perception with a more objective reality. Within the current political climate, sharing experiences through social media highlights the impact that communication has on altering our perspectives of each other. These photographs represent my perception. 

For the images that arise from intuition rather than direct intention, my large collection of props is a source of my inspiration for many of my strongest photographic tableaus. When I become the model for these scenes, I often work with an assistant, allowing me to adopt a directorial process. The grotesque as well as the aesthetics and narratives seen in my photographs have been heavily informed by my childhood experiences. The Scooby-Doo cartoons and innovative Nintendo’s games I enjoyed as a child exposed me to colorful dramas, where a protagonist overcame fear or monsters through humor and objective examination. I am privileged to have the opportunity to be attending Illinois State University (ISU) to study Arts Technology and Photography (BFA). My college experience opportunity to make connections and gain insights on social justice issues through direct involvement. My exposure to these various narratives throughout my life shaped the ethics I hold my work to today. As an adult, sadly, I still see the narrow ideologies that once caused me mental tension pervade through normative society today. 

The colorful aesthetics and subject matter within these sociologically charged tableaus combine to enable a sense of comfort within the discomfort. Expressing my thoughts through the lens of a camera is the language I’ve learned to use when my words fail me. My subversive photographs seek to start a conversation on these uncomfortable issues we are never taught to navigate. 

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Mark Mann

Mark Mann received his BFA degree from the College of Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upon relocating to New York City, he continued an artistic career and gained first-hand experience through assisting a number of accomplished, New York artists, such as Petah Coyne, Carol Hepper, and Donna Dennis. From 2001 to 2010, his artwork was represented in New York City by the Laurence Miller Gallery. Projects with the gallery included two solo exhibitions of photo-based prints, Wish You Were Here (2001), and Are We There Yet? (2003), as well as the publication of the limited-edition portfolio Last Resort (2005). His artworks have been exhibited in various US and European galleries, as well as such art fairs as Art Basel, Paris Photo, ADAA, ARCO and Art Miami, and has been purchased and collected by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, Florida, The George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, and the Sir Elton John Collection. Mark Mann currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. 

O Uncolored People is an ongoing series of paintings depicting burnt sunbathers as a means to express a side of the American character weary from excess and leisure and instilled with a dark sense humor. As a group, these people of Anglo descent are over-exposed and vulnerable to a changing world where American superiority is challenged. Each painting's title is based on popular boys’ and girls’ names from1930s Social Security records, meant to reference an older generation—tough, stoic, but now questioning their status. My goal is to bring qualities of both the strange and sentimental in these pictures—in much the same way the most miserable of vacations can, over time, become the fondest of memories.

Martin Swift

Martin Swift is a Washington DC based painter and illustrator who focuses on contemporary figurative realism and absurdist narrative. Through oil paintings and detailed pen and ink drawings, he investigates compelling ideas of gender, sexuality, childhood uncertainty, and science fiction. He graduated with a BFA in Painting from Carnegie Mellon in 2012, and has shown internationally in Berlin, London, New York, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh. 

Statement

My work explores the nuances of masculinity in America. Due to unhealthy societal pressure to exhibit traditionally masculine traits like aggression, strength, dominance, courage, and honor, males in the United States not only objectify other genders, but themselves as well. This creates something that I refer to as the Paradox of Manliness. 

Objectification is presented in a range of symptoms. From body image issues and eating disorders to unhealthy competition, harassment, and violence. Pressures to adhere to a specific physical and intellectual aesthetic leave men feeling inadequate. The expectation that men confront the world impulsively and aggressively contributes to a cultural rejection of male empathy and compassion. My work depicts a spectrum of masculinity and emotional transparency. The paintings celebrate flesh, body modification, stretchmarks, and scars. 

This work is a direct response to this Paradox, an acknowledgment of what lies beyond manliness.

Kris Rehrin

Kris Rehring is a figurative painter. She works primarily in oils with emphasis on the human figure, urbanscapes and still lifes. Currently residing in Knoxville, Tennessee, she is a member of the National Association of Women Artists, has exhibited in national juried shows and is the recipient of several awards. Born in Chattanooga, she was raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and earned a BS from the University of Miami, Coral Gables. She earned a MFA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Most recently she was a participant in the JSS Summer Art School and Residency's Master Class program in Civita Castellana, Italy.

Statement

I am drawn to the visual logic of strong, repeating geometric forms. Like building with blocks, I paint the shapes of color layer upon layer to convey the essential elements of the motif that attract my eye. I construct abstracted passages and rhythms within representational form. This gives the viewer different impressions when looking at my work either from a distance or up close. My interpretation celebrates the unusual and the unique. These motifs represent a reality that is hard to find in today's prefabricated, franchised, and box-store kind of American development. 

I admire individualism in my figurative work. I am particularly drawn to painting someone within a large environment where the figure inhabits a relatively small portion of the composition. This sets a distinct psychological tone of otherwise often overlooked moments in a person’s life. 

My still life paintings are like quiet contemplations, a pause from longer studio sessions where I explore mark making and tone in a more direct and intimate observational setting. 

Spiritual Realm: Interview with Lisa Ostapinski

Lisa Ostapinski is a painter and art educator based in Oakland, CA.  She works with unusual materials and processes including metal leaf gilding, encaustic painting (beeswax), sgraffito and oil paint marbling.  Her work juxtaposes archaic media with modern forms producing a fresh, contemporary take on these art historical techniques.  Lisa’s imagery pulls from a diverse array of sources including textile and jewelry design, architecture, modern painting, the natural world, scientific illustration, religious painting and occult symbolism.  She chooses lustrous, visually rich materials such as gold leaf and beeswax for their natural beauty as well as their historical use in European religious painting to evoke the divine.  Lisa’s work is an exploration of the potential for abstract forms and luminous materials to communicate ideas about the spiritual realm.

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Tell us about your journey as a painter. When did you first start using symbolism in your work?

Years ago I started out painting illustrations from vintage science textbooks from the 60’s that I found in thrift stores. I was interested in how cultures interpret and respond to biology and the natural world; how we make sense of the world and our place in it through visual imagery. It was a natural connection to explore the ways in which humanity visually represents ideas about the spiritual realm. I was really drawn to traditions of mystical symbolism from many different cultures and its distillation of form in the service of representing something as abstract as spirit or the idea of God.

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What would you say your current paintings are about?

My current work is about light and form; my images are a culmination of everything I encounter. I get inspiration from everywhere: the shape of a doorway, quilts, the floor on the bus, a flower, something my son drew, the curve of a wall, a design from an old handkerchief or a necklace. I like how these things are completely random and then in another way they’re not, how everything is connected.

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Is there a significance of the materials you use in your work? Explain how you choose what to include in each piece.

I am working with light and so I use gold leaf which is extremely reflective as well as encaustic and oil paint. These three things reflect light in different ways and I have been playing around with figuring out where I want the gold to show, where I want the white paint to cover and absorb light and where I want the soft glow of the beeswax. I choose these materials because they are natural and beautiful. My work has a certain dynamic energy in person because of the aliveness of the materials.

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What are your favorite activities outside of the studio?

I work full time as a teacher and I’m a mother so that doesn’t leave much else. Spending time with my family, hiking, growing food, sleeping if possible

What do you hope the viewer experiences when looking at your work?

I don’t think I hope anything, I make my work for me, because it’s what pleases me and what I think is beautiful. It’s not sophisticated or conceptual but more craft or design oriented, and I’m comfortable with that. I’m older and I’ve been painting my whole life, decades now, I’ve learned not to try to please other people. But it’s always a great feeling to have someone else get it, you know?

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Name a few living artists that inspire you.

There are so many, it’s really hard to just name a few. Kiki Smith, Nick Cave, Eamon Ore- Giron, Anish Kapoor, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Olaffur Eliasson, El Anatsui, Damien Hirst, Kehinde Wiley, Wangechi Mutu, Ai Weiwei, Olga de Amaral, there are so many more

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What are you currently working on and what should we expect from you in the coming year?

I don’t know what to expect from me but right now I’m working on plenty of new pieces, also commissions and collaborations with other artists.

Kelly Crabtree

I'm Kelly Crabtree from Jacksonville, Florida. When I'm not painting, you can find me at the beach, gym, or local coffee shop. By day I'm a public school art teacher and by night I'm an MFA of Visual Arts student at Jacksonville University. I've always been drawn to old, weathered buildings. They have a story, a life all their own. There’s much to be found in places of destruction and far more beauty in the rubble than we assume. With destruction, there is growth. With growth, there is renewal. This is essentially our beautiful cycle we call life. 

This is The Destruction Series

The work’s key element is the human response to trauma. Inspired by the natural disasters that have affected much of the Florida coastline, the trauma caused by these events has been devastating. The work focuses on creating a contrast between pure destruction and underlying hope. I want the viewer to decide if they see they devastation or if they see the possibility for a new start.

The Figure and Power Dynamics: Interview with Kirsten Valentine

Kirsten Valentine is an autodidactic painter, living and working in Chicago. 

My work ranges from paintings as small as 2"x3" to as large as 6'x8', from intense and personal portraits to voyeuristic and vague suggestions of bodies interacting. What remains consistent is the depiction of the human figure and the exploration of power dynamics. Sometimes the character portrayed stares out confrontationally or the viewer is offered a glimpse of a scene suggesting violence or domination. Figures and faces are left incomplete - a single eye and a nose signifying a face, a head and a foot a person. The finished composition is complete in its incompleteness, calling on the viewer to fill in the blanks.

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Tell us about your work. When did you first start painting the figure? 

I have been fascinated by the figure for as long as I can remember, the human form is beautiful and alluring and frightening and sad and endlessly complex. When I was in grade school I would get my classmates to sit for portraits or draw my dolls when I couldn’t get a live model. I started painting in oils in high school and I was constantly trying to get friends to pose for me. After high school, I worked as a life model. One atelier allowed models to attend classes for free. It was a wonderful opportunity and I took full advantage, going several times a week. The skills acquired working from life are irreplaceable and having that understanding, I believe, is essential if you want to work from photography, as I do currently. You have to be able to see around the figure even when you’re looking at a two-dimensional image.

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What is your art about? What do you hope to communicate to the viewer? 

Figurative painting is inherently narrative, but I don’t really believe in making art with a message. If you can clearly articulate an idea in a language then I don’t believe there is any reason to paint it. I leave much of my work seemingly incomplete, large areas are left white and unpainted, an eye and a nose are all that makes up a face, limbs appear unconnected to a visible form, the environment is unseen. Humans are pattern-seeking animals and if something is left out our minds will fill it in. I like to give the viewer the sense that they have discovered something no one else sees, something unfamiliar but personal.

In my most message based work, I have approached the topic of the Holocaust. My father is Jewish and as a child, I spent summers with my grandparents in a Jewish retirement community in upstate NY. My grandparents were Americans but I saw numbers tattooed on people’s arms there, and it had a lasting impact on me. The drama and emotion of the Holocaust are visceral and it’s easy to provoke a cheap, automatic response. I needed to make something nuanced, to get away from the images that are so familiar. I chose to focus on Resistance Fighters, people who are largely forgotten by history and present them as individuals. I did not paint a crowd of wraiths behind barbed wire, I painted intimate portraits, I painted a towering Jew with a gun.

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Where do the references and inspirations for your paintings come from? 

I like other people’s trash. I like finding some piece of detritus and extracting my own meaning from it. I collect old letters, postcards, photo albums, yearbooks, and these are my source material and inspiration. My reference material is central to the meaning of my work. If I show an old photograph that I’m obsessed with to someone they might see a boring picture, they won’t see what I see. I seek to isolate and highlight the things that make the image intriguing to me, whether those details are actually a part of the image or part of my imagination. 

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Describe a perfect day in the studio. 

A perfect day for me is when I can wake up, take the dog for a walk, and get straight to work without any distractions. I like to listen to documentaries more often than music in the studio. I always have several projects going and I will move back and forth between them. I don’t wait for inspiration, I have force myself to get to work and sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t. 

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Name several artists you admire that have influenced your work. 

There are so many. I adore Picasso, Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, Barkley Hendricks, Peter Doig, Manet, Gaugin, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Toulouse-Laurec, Anselm Kiefer and Kerry James Marshall, but my style is probably more influenced by Adrian Ghenie, Gerhardt Richter, Alexander Tinei, Julien Spianti, Michael Borremans, Wilhelm Sasnal, and a number of artists I discovered on Instagram, like Daniel Segrove and Lou Ros, contemporary artists who play with the interaction of realism and abstraction. As well as photographers like Muybridge and Dianne Arbus.

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How do you feel playing with scale affects the impact of your paintings? 

The impact of scale has a direct correlation to the environment of the painting. I did a 6’x8’ wheat paste and when it was on the wall in my studio it seemed enormous, but pasted on an outside wall in an urban environment it seemed almost undersized. I worked for years on traditional 18” x 24” canvas and switching to very large or very small paintings really opened things up for me. Small paintings are intimate. Most of the small paintings I do I can finish in a day, they are quick, instinctive and experimental. Large paintings require much more planning. I never begin a painting with a perfect vision of what I want it to be, but if I’m climbing a ladder to work on it I need a clear sense of what the completed piece will be. 

The image determines the size I will paint something, is this something that needs the impact of size or something that should be more delicate? But, I am aware that so much of art today is viewed online, on Saatchi or Artsy or Instagram. The online environment removes the impact of size, and everything fits into the screen of a cell phone.

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What is something you are proud of in your career so far? 

It may sound cheesy but I'm most proud of not giving up. I wasn't able to finish my degree for financial reasons and without that education, you miss out on exhibition and employment opportunities, as well as networking and the ability to form a peer group. I ended up making my living in restaurants, not in any art-related field, and today I am a Certified Sommelier. Keeping at it without encouragement or success is difficult and even if you love art it’s all too easy to art it takes a backseat to work and social obligations. 

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Vaguely Familiar: Interview with Painter Dan Huston

Dan Huston is an abstract artist from Ramsey, New Jersey. In 2014, he graduated from Bates College with a degree in Studio Art and Environmental Studies. He studied Japanese art history and traditional ink painting at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan in the fall of 2012. He is based in New York City. 

My paintings combine natural excess with nostalgia. The world is made up of organic shapes and movements on every level, whether it be viewed through a microscope or from the window of a space station. The magnitude of these forms can appear excessive, but unified. I cram these shapes of different colors and textures into my paintings in order to create a bigger, seemingly alive, abstraction. 

In my series Subtle, I merged my physically abstract paintings with the abstract concept of nostalgia by linking the compositions to subtle, but lasting moments in my life. Most of the inspiration for my paintings comes from nature’s forms, but they are always based in my own consciousness.

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Tell us about your background in the arts. When did you initially know you wanted to be a painter?
 
I’ve been drawing since I can remember. I used to obsessively doodle with pencils and pens which eventually turned into charcoal and ink. My doodles were usually abstract and helped a lot with my anxiety growing up.  I didn’t start painting until 2013 though. I took a painting class my junior year of college and instantly fell in love with the colors and textures.

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What inspires the color and moving in your abstract works?

The movement in my work is inspired by nature, and specifically microorganisms. I see the movement in my paintings as slow but ubiquitous, like cellular organisms under a microscope. The colors I use are often completely absurd though. Sometimes they’ll be inspired by a nostalgic moment from my life, but usually, they are the color combinations I want to use at the moment.

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How has your work evolved over the years?

When I first started painting, I made large figurative paintings of plants. There were certain abstract qualities to the paintings, but overall they were something real. I shifted into only working in brush and ink for about a year before starting my current abstract paintings in 2016. My work has changed a lot over the past few years, but I’ve always been inspired by the same movements and shapes of nature.

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What kind of experiences do you hope to convey to the viewer through your paintings?

I want people to see something organic and vaguely familiar. The same natural forms repeat throughout the universe (including within ourselves!). My paintings help me understand that everything we know is connected on a micro and macro level, and I hope others see that too!

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Tell us about your art community in New York. How do you feel it influences your practice?

The magnitude of creation in New York influences me more than anything else here. At any given time of any day, there are so many different people making different things. There’s almost a tangible energy to it! New York also has a rhythm of commotion that has definitely changed my paintings. They have become more alive since I moved here.

Describe a day at the studio. What kind of things do you think about when creating your work and how do you begin each piece?

My work involves a lot of layering and drying, so I’m often working on a bunch of things at once. My studio itself has always been my (small) bedroom, so I can only fit so many paintings. When I start a painting, I think of a general composition and color scheme, but I never fully stick to my original plan. I always want to keep an element of something unpredictable and impulsive. I look at each brush stroke and palette knife mark as an organism with a mind of its own, and how it would interact with others in its environment. Sometimes they violently clash, and sometimes they form symbiotic relationships.

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What are you currently working on and what should we look out for this year?

I’m currently working on a new series called ‘Collection’, which is composed of large paintings inspired by similar organic forms but on a cosmic level. However, I’m always working on smaller studies and paintings no matter what series I’m currently undertaking. I’m always looking for new ways to go bigger with my art, so I’d expect that this year too!

True Expression: Interview With Yuko Kyutoku

My life’s passion is creating visual art. Specifically, I love printmaking, painting, and drawing. 

Printmaking allows me to combine many techniques with many mediums, such as watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, ink, and colored pencil. In addition to printmaking, I also enjoy painting. I have used acrylic, watercolor and soft pastel. I have been able to explore painting people and landscapes in these mediums. In addition to these traditional subject matters, I also enjoy creating abstract pieces. My third interest is drawing with pencil and charcoal. I thoroughly enjoy that I can erase and create depth with charcoal and pencil. Regardless of the medium, my work is incredibly detailed and passionate. Each piece has a clear message. My artwork reflects my universe: hardships, sufferings, hopes and dreams. 

As a child, I read many classic books and cartoon magazines. I also watched many movies and listened to many kinds of great music. I was always fascinated by these masterpieces. I found these classic masterpieces opened my mind. I could think and dream about many things. The way I produce my art is by taking other art forms, such as books, music, and movies, and convert them to my prints, paintings, and drawings. I carry a sketchbook with me, so I can put ideas on paper anytime. Then, when the time is right, I can sit down with a piece of charcoal or a paintbrush and express myself. My artwork is a reflection of my universe as I’ve experienced it through others’ art. It flows from my experiences in the world into my life and then onto the paper. 

My path that led me to artistic expression has been transformational. It used to be difficult for me to show my opinions, beliefs, and my thoughts. What I came to realize, though, was that I could express myself very effectively through my art. I came to New York to pursue my passion for art. Originally, I did not have confidence in myself, but I found that I had a gift for art and am able to offer hope to others through my work. 

Ten years from now, I see myself creating art that opens people’s minds to something positive in life. I would like to create the kind of art that will stay in people’s heart and heal people’s suffering. I believe there is no barrier in the world of art. Great artwork transcends language and cultural barriers. Through my art, I want to improve the lives of others. I want to create the kind of artwork that gives hope. To me, the purpose of my art is to make people feel something deeper, just like I felt from the masterpieces that transformed my life.

www.yukokyutokustudio.com

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Briefly describe your creative journey. When did you gain an interest in visual art?

Since I was young, I  have always been fascinated by art of all kinds like Japanese cartoons, anime, movies, music, and books. I suffered from depression, anorexia,   and bullying when I was in elementary school. These difficult experiences brought me closer to the spiritual world. I always daydreamed of traveling to another world which I created and I also sometimes painted the world onto papers, which still influences me today. Those experiences, although negative, were formative, and led me to realize that “life is only one time. and follow my heart to live without regret” At the age of twenty years old, I volunteered in Mother Teresa’s Church in India, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, and visited  London to attend a language school for 8 months. During my stay in London, I visited museums and saw great masterpieces. I traveled to some European countries and visited local galleries and museums, all of which transported me back to my childhood when I dreamed of becoming an artist. 

After my travels, I officially decided to pursue art and left for the United States in 2013 to do so.

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What is your work about? What are some themes and subjects you love to explore?  

The central theme of my work focuses on the treasures, moments of an impression  in everyday life. Every country or city that I visit inspires me, especially  New York City. and music, movies, poetry, and Japanese literature all contain a wealth of influences. I am especially influenced by Elvis Presley, Carpenters, and Japanese pop music.”

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Describe your creative process. Where do the references for your works come from? 

I was born in Gifu in 1991 and raised in Aichi, Japan. I lived in nature and traditional, historical places. When I was younger,  I read many classic books and cartoon magazines. I also listened to many kinds of great music and watched many movies. These classic masterpieces are major impacts on me (again, be more specific; give actual titles for books and films, otherwise it seems like you’re lying. 

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How do you balance studio time with other life responsibilities?

It is very important for me to secure the time in the studio. Creating art is the most important thing in life for me, and everything else is secondary. I focus on concentrating things to do as smoothly as possible every day and trying to secure the time of the studio during the daytime, especially during the night when I become productive.

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You work in several different mediums. How do they relate to each other or do you keep each one separate? 

I make works using various materials, but they are all connected by the same theme of treasures within the everyday.

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Share a favorite quote or piece of advice. 
If you're born without wings, don't do anything to stop them growing.- Coco Chanel
My art must be devoted to improving the fate of the poor people. - Beethoven

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What are you currently working on? 

I am currently working on silkscreen based paintings and creating a series of works on the ancient Greek and Roman sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Katelyn Ledford

Katelyn Ledford is an artist currently living in Providence, Rhode Island and attending the Rhode Island School of Design in the Master of Fine Arts program in Painting. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree focusing in oil painting at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her art has been featured and exhibited along the south and north-east regions in galleries such as the Baton Rouge Gallery, Birmingham Museum of Art, Wiregrass Museum of Art, and Dacia Gallery in New York City. Her work creates a sense of the surreal and bizarre through distortions of the human body and skin. The viewer is left to question their notions of reality and unease in relation to the human form in its bare condition through microscopic, technological, and observable modes of representation.

The Cycle of Life: Interview With Jennifer Nieuwland

I am an emerging artist living and working in London. I am fascinated by the concept of time and the cycle of life we all go through. In my recent work our older and younger selves are merged to create an ambiguous ‘other’, portraying our physical change through time and hinting at the connection between past, present and future. 

The figures are suspended, floating in space and time and there is a sense of solitude and transience about them. I have painted them the actual size of a baby to give them a delicate and intimate feel. Some are cocooned or suspended in what looks like ethereal matter, suggesting an otherworldly space. I am trying to convey a sense of the mystery and fragility of life while also trying to capture an ‘eternal essence’. The narrative is about the power and inevitability of time but also our beauty and resilience. 

My work has been selected for the Emerging Women in Art exhibition and the National Open Art exhibition in London this year. I have also exhibited at the Wallace Collection earlier this year. 

My desire to add depth and intensity to my work was inspired, in part, by the works of Freud, Alice Neel, Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon and their ability to transmit a deep and unique psychological narrative. I am also interested in the Dutch Masters, their use of chiaroscuro and dark backgrounds. 

I am primarily self-taught. I took Art A level and got offered a place at Central St. Martins but at the time I decided to pursue a different career path until recently. I have attended short-courses at various London art schools and have been working with oils in my studio for the last two years.

jennifernieuwland.com

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Tell us about your artistic background. You mention that you are self-taught. When did you know you wanted to become a painter?

I had a great art teacher at school and deep down I knew I wanted to be a painter but I gave up a place at Central St. Martins to study at the London School of Economics and then pursued a career in branding and traveled the world for a while. I picked up painting again after 12 years or so and started taking short-term courses at various London art schools after which my passion for painting was truly re-ignited and I decided to practice it full-time. 

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When did you develop an interest in the human figure and the aging process? 

I have always been inspired by people and I love painting portraits and the figure. Through life/portrait classes in London, I developed my technical skills and I became fascinated with older people due to the wrinkles/lines and more complex pigmentation of their faces, lending them more depth and character. I began to contemplate the effect of time on our physicality and wanted to capture the shift from the baby skin to older skin, both being quite translucent and fragile. I had been working on some 'hybrid portraits' of family members and I decided to transpose the idea of the hybrid onto the aging process, creating ambiguous beings where the baby's body is merged with its older self.

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What do you hope to show the viewer through your recent paintings?

I am trying to capture a sense of the fragility of life but also the beauty of it through the passing of time. I am experimenting with different representations of figures; some are floating alone in darkness to reflect the solitude we experience, especially at the beginning and end of life, their delicate white dresses add an element of fragility but also luminosity. Some are 'sheltering' on what looks like the ethereal matter to give them an otherworldly feel and a sense of transience. I have started to introduce symbolic elements such as the moon, butterflies, and stones to add depth to the narrative. My backgrounds are often dark, representing fear, emptiness and the unknown but the figures are luminous and somewhat 'angel-like' representing life and light.

How do you decide what figure to paint and which portrait to place on the bodies in your work? Describe your creative process.

I tend to pick the face first, it has to transmit something meaningful to me and have intensity, something soulful about it. I work with people from life and also from photos and images. Often there is both an inner strength and a sense of melancholy about the faces I choose, the latter links into the narrative of nostalgia and time. I am hoping to go beyond physical mortality and capture an eternal 'essence'.

The figure comes second and the pose depends very much on how it fits with the face, it has to look like the body and face belong together. The pose also has to contribute to the message and narrative, some are in an almost fetal position cocooning themselves, others in more 'cherub-like' poses.

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Name a few artists that influenced your work up to this point. 

My desire to add depth and intensity to my work was inspired, in part, by the works of Freud, Alice Neel, Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon and their ability to transmit a deep and unique psychological narrative. I am also interested in the Dutch Masters, their use of chiaroscuro and dark backgrounds.

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Share a favorite quote or piece of advice. 

I have a lot of favorite quotes but one I like is "The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art." When I paint it is the only moment where time stands still.

What do you have planned for this year?

I have a group exhibition coming up 21st-25th March where I will be exhibiting some of my work at Burgh House in Hampstead London through Ecclestone Art Agency. I have also sent my work to quite a few competitions that I am waiting to hear from so fingers crossed!