Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I was born in Alaska and grew up in rural Ohio. Now I reside in Lincoln, Nebraska.
You relocated from Brooklyn, New York to Lincoln, Nebraska, two very different cities. Have there been any surprises about living in Lincoln, Brooklyn or both?
I moved to Brooklyn soon after college and stayed there through graduate school and beyond. Living in New York was excellent in so many ways. I spent a lot of time in museums and galleries, which was (and continues to be) a major part of my education as an artist. I also love music, comedy, lectures and weird performance- I attended as many events as I could. These were the kind of surprises I sought out: new information and ideas. I try to return to New York twice a year to get my culture fix.
Lincoln is an entirely different experience. It is a much more interior existence, which has been very productive for me in the studio. A small but supportive community of artists exists and I was happily surprised to find several artist-run gallery spaces. It makes sense- commercial galleries are absent and so artists fill that void by creating their own spaces. It has immense importance to the community, though I’m sure there is little (if any) financial return. I’m tempted to start a gallery some day.
How did you come to paint books as a subject? What did you paint before books?
My paintings before this series were figurative. I painted from reference images found in old books and magazines. Each image was chosen for it’s potential to contain more questions than answers. I was looking for psychological moments open to multiple meanings.
In two paintings from 2008, the figures were located in libraries. This was the first time I painted books, and I felt there was more I could do with this idea. I kept it in my mind but didn’t approach it again until 2011. By this time I was ready for a change from figurative painting and looking for a new subject. I had purchased some old books with fantastic dust jackets from the junk shop. They were stacked in my studio, and it was suddenly so obvious that it should be a painting. I took a photo and that became “Who Cares”.
Your compositions are very thoughtful. How do you approach the process of developing a composition?
Choosing the composition is an intuitive process, though I am sure my intuition has been formed from years of looking at art. I make an installation in the studio of books on a surface with some kind of backdrop. I take photographs of the installation and then use the photographs (alone or collaged together) to make the painting. Throughout all of these steps I am thinking about composition and framing. The painting process allows me to edit and alter the image and this sometimes includes small compositional shifts. Recent compositions emphasize compressed spaces and precarious stacks of books.
Could you elaborate on this quote, "The book covers move between abstracted forms and painted text, which can act as small poems"?
The paintings are made through a process of editing out information and abstracting what remains. Some of the books I work from have detailed illustrations on the covers. I love the process of distilling the imagery in the illustrations down to abstracted shapes and blobs of color. All of the books have words printed on the covers, and though I discard much of this information, I often select several words to paint. Taken together, and out of their original context, these grouping of found words make tiny poems. Poetry can be as much about what is not said as what is said- the space between the words. By leaving out so much information on the arrangement of books, meaning is hinted at and can remain mutable.
Lately, I have been adding words and phrases that are not part of the original titles; this is a new direction for my paintings.