The artist in a dress from her Anthropologie line.
Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
My family moved around quite a bit while I was growing up, but I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in Northern California. I went to high school in the Chicago suburbs and then lived in Chicago for a bit of time after that. Now I live in San Francisco's Mission District. I moved back here 5 years ago from Chicago after I had had enough of the weather and gray buildings. The landscape and lifestyle of San Francisco suits me, and I love the weather. It's not "sunny California" but it's almost always comfortable jacket weather, and never too extreme on either end of the spectrum.
Buttons by the artist; an entry from her childhood diary.
Tell us a bit about the work in this show?
All of these works I did this past Fall, 2011. I am interested in simplicity that can still hold interest and raise questions. All of the works for Buy Some Damn Art are ink on paper, and are essentially explorations in color, balance and subtlety of shape and line in space.
You are perhaps best known for your figurative "stick-drawings" of people, cats and furniture. When and why did you transition to making abstract work?
I guess a lot of the figurative work is out there because when I first made a website and put myself out there online that was the work I was making. The work gradually started to shift more towards abstraction about a year or so ago. I was always making abstract work as well as the more narrative work, but I was putting the narrative work in exhibitions and online and it got passed around more on blogs and so forth. There was never an absolute moment where I said "I'm not going to draw people anymore." It's more that I am open to making what it is that I need to make at this moment, intuitively, and doing less second guessing of my instincts. Eliminating the figures in the work allows for a broader read of narrative and opens up more of a discussion regarding material, color, and other elements beyond, "Who is this person, what's their story?"
I think it's fascinating that your sample sheets (which I believe started as a way to transcribe color) are so popular. Why do you think people respond so well to them?
I think a lot of artists set up little projects for themselves that they maybe don't think about completely, they just do them and let them build up over time. I collect pencil shavings, stickers, and marks. When I was in middle school I used to save my AOL chats with friends on the Internet. Now I save screen shots of things I find interesting while working on the computer. The test sheets are a project like this. They are a sort of contained space to release energy and make marks that can't exist on whatever piece I am working on. Often the marks are made from cleaning the material. For instance, if I am using oil crayon and it gets ink all over it, I'll scribble it on a test sheet to wipe it clear as opposed to just wiping it on something that will be thrown out. There's something about me that can't bear to see these marks gone to waste and since they happen so often in my process it just made sense to start collecting them. I don't think at all about how the paper is looking when I am working on one, but there is a moment when I decide to date the back of it and start using another.
Your latest work takes a pretty dramatic turn. What ideas are you exploring?
I am thinking a lot about materiality in the work and what kind of work draws people in to the point where they want to touch it, or better yet, eat it. In many ways I am a very particular person, and the things that I like I REALLY like. Feelings of obsession seem to come up again and again in my life and in my work. I am thinking a lot about that sort of out of control desire. Opulence, indulgence, sweet/sick, ugly/pretty- these are some ideas of interest to me. My own adolescence as well as the adolescent experience of others, especially girls of my generation, who grew up or are growing up in America, is also something that I am investigating through my practice. Something about syrupy saccharine aesthetics, along with feelings of danger, rebellion and angst, and the great significance of relationships in my life and how important relationships are to us as we are growing up- these are the ideas in my head right now. I am thinking about formal elements of work constantly, but mostly I am experimenting in many ways and mediums, allowing myself to do whatever it takes to get out what it is that I have a need to get out.
Do you think you'll ever go back to making work in the same vein as before?
I really believe that art making is a cyclical process, and things tend to come around again without my even being directly aware as it is happening. I don't think I would ever sit down and say to myself, "now i want to make a painting that looks like this painting I made in 2009," but I am also open to changes and trying to impose less rules on myself. It will be interesting to see where the work goes from here.
One of the artist's two cats.