In the Studio: Laura Sellers Harrison

Laura Sellers Bio Image in front of Felipe Pantone NYC 2017Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to creating the work you are today.

My name is Laura Sellers, and I live in Asheville, N.C. I’ve been a painter all my life, and I’ve always been extremely inspired by our environment.

 

What does your work aim to say?

Some of my more minimalist and geometric pieces don’t say much; they are more like color experiments and tests. However, the abstract highwayscape series tries to illustrate how constant movement in automobiles is causing the warming of our environment.

 

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?

Currently I am inspired by mural artists like Felipe Pantone and Okuda San Miguel. I believe they are fracturing the picture plane, and they are creating murals that are for the greater public rather than just gallery or museum audience. I’m also in love with Yayoi Kusama and her infinity rooms. Her experimentations with light and fully wrapped rooms of polka dots are fascinating.

 

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

External factors would probably include my commute to work and having a visitation with my divorced parents who lived in different states my entire life. I’ve always been on the road, so that inspired the road paintings. Internally I sometimes paint colors that correspond with the temperature outside or my mood.

 

Laura Sellers Bio Image Western Carolina University Studio NC 2015

How do you know when a work is finished?

The highwayscapes are finished when the wood panel has been filled with shapes of color all the way to the horizon line, but then I push this a little further by adding bridges and the drips that fracture the strict geometry in the painting.

 

I understand that you are teaching at the college level while trying to keep your own studio practice going. What are some of the biggest challenges in being a working artist? What parts are the most rewarding?

When I’m teaching, I have to put my own studio practice aside to make sure that I’m doing my job by making lesson plans, answering emails, etc. I also find teaching to be very inspiring however, and I like being constantly surrounded by students and educators interested in the arts. I also feel like passing on the tradition of painting is extremely important to keep it alive. I try to make work in the morning, then I drive an hour and 15 minutes to school, I teach at WCU at night, and drive back. It’s definitely a struggle, but summer and winter break help.

 

Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum is about to have their Faculty Biennial exhibition, and I’ve been invited to participate. I’m not sure which paintings are going in yet, but I get pretty excited about any exhibitions in museums. When I show in galleries, there is an expectation to sell some of the work, but museum exhibitions take the stress and commodification out of it for me, since museum exhibitions only show the work.

 

What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

I had a critique right before my graduate school defense with an artist named Jamie Adams. He told me that I didn’t need to be worried, because my work was strong, and that I should be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I feel like it’s very hard to value yourself sometimes as an artist, and his pep talk led me in to my defense with my head held high. And I passed! I’ve tried to take that same sentiment and apply for things that I don’t think I’m good enough or ready for.

 

What is the role of the artist in society?

When I was younger, I thought it was enough to make art that was beautiful. Now I know there is power in art, and it should be used to help people and the environment.

 

Where do you feel art is going?

I believe art is becoming highly political, and I think that female artists are finally getting some time in the spot light. Art is also becoming outrageously over priced in the world art market, and there’s a strong division between the social status of the artist and the social status of the collector. It’s definitely an interesting time to be an artist, and I feel something big is going to happen with the art world in the future.

 

If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?

Michelangelo from the ninja turtles. He lives in the sewer, does ninja stuff, and eats pizza. He also has a famous painters name. What more could you want?

 

 

 

 

In the Studio: Kieran Riley Abbott

IMG-09381. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? (A little bit about yourself)

I grew up in Minneapolis, MN, and lived there through college. Since then I’ve been hopping around the east coast, living in the Hudson Valley (at Women’s Studio Workshop), Vermont (where I was a staff-artist at Vermont Studio Center), and Cape Cod. I just moved to Philadelphia and I’m hoping to stick around here for a while.

 

2. Please describe your work and tell us a little bit about your creative process.

In my recent work I’m interested in the flexibility and fallibility of geometric forms and linear perspective. I explore this through printmaking, drawing, photography, sculpture – and recently, these optical tools which very directly warp our field of vision in surprising ways. My process involves experimentation with materials, and a balance between control and chance. For inspiration I spend a lot of time in libraries and on the internet researching scientific diagrams, vernacular architecture, maps, puzzles, and optical illusions.

 

3. I understand you recently started a new apprenticeship with the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia. What are your ultimate goals for your time at this influential, dynamic space?

The apprenticeship has been amazing so far. I’m considering pattern and scale within my work in ways I hadn’t before. Creating a repeat pattern is creating a puzzle – the pieces have to lock together perfectly to produce a successful illusion of continuity. The idea of repetition and multiples is something I’ve had to consider a lot previously in relation to printmaking – creating editions of a print, for example – but it’s different when the multiples are all being seen at once on a big piece of fabric. When drawing the pattern, you have to remember that any mark, gesture, image is repeated dozens of times, and how does this change how the mark, gesture, image is read? For me it’s an exercise in seeing the parts and the whole simultaneously. Technically speaking, the process of printing repeat patterns onto fabric is fascinating as well, and it’s highly collaborative – just to pull the squeegee across the silkscreen requires at least two people! We apprentices rely on each other to complete our work.

 

4. How has social media influenced your practice?

In more ways than I’d like to admit! Instagram has been an extremely useful tool for discovering new artists and keeping up with people I’ve met in school and at residencies. I have made good friends, received exhibition opportunities, interviews, and artwork sales all as a direct result of Instagram. While I am grateful for these connections and opportunities, I also acknowledge the downsides of social media, such as the priority on aesthetics over content, the reliance on likes for validation, and the superficiality of seeing everyone’s successes and not the failures and struggles that got them to that success. I’m learning to not get caught up in the fantasy of social media and keep a healthy balance of real life and virtual life.

 

5. What is the biggest challenge in being an artist today?

I think it can be difficult to feel valued as an artist, especially monetarily but also culturally. Making sure you are receiving enough time, energy, space, and money to function as an artist is so important, and you have to be very intentional in making these things happen. The first step (and a big hurdle for me personally) is internal – respecting yourself, being nice to yourself, valuing yourself as an artist.

 

6. Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?

In November I’ll have work in a retrospective of Bohemian Press, the printmaking club at the University of Minnesota. I was super active in BoPress during college and it provided a real sense of community and friendship while I was figuring out what it even meant to be an artist (not that I have that entirely figured out now!!).

 

7. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific piece of advice right now, but I recently read Your Art Can Save Your Life by Beth Pickens and it was very affirming and motivational.

 

8. Ok, the most important question: Is a hot dog a taco or a sandwich? & why?

This question is breaking my brain, so for my sanity I abstain from picking a side. Get back to me in six months after I have properly mulled this over.

 

In the studio: Georgina Campbell

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-01 at 9.29.22 PM(1)1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? 

I started out planning to be a film maker and realized I prefer working alone rather than waiting around for others to get their part of the job done. I had to do still photography as part of my course at university and realized I enjoyed it more because you can just get on with it. I am from Australia and I am answering your questions in Iceland about work I did in Russia. I have always taken photographs and I consider being an artist to be my main job but I have always had to have a real job at the same time. I eventually trained as a teacher, partly so I could travel – I moved to London (where lots of Aussies are teachers) so I could try to see more of Europe and work on my art in a more stimulating environment.

 

2. Please describe your work and your creative process.

Because teaching really takes up so much mental space and time I ended up not getting much photographic work done on a daily basis. I am constantly thinking about ideas and ways of working but at this point in time, I aim to travel to places with the intention of photographing the places. I do this mostly in the form of artist residencies. The work you see here is the result of an artist residency in St Petersburg, Russia earlier this year. I was there for a month and I really had no ideas about what I would do there or what would inspire me. I just wandered around and shot lots of different things. It was very new for me to be in a city but free to shoot. I live in London, an amazing city, but I don’t feel free there as much because I am always on my way to work or elsewhere. I know that seems crazy but I just feel different when I am in daily life mode versus artist mode.

 

3.Majority of your work seems to be related to travel and “daily life/routine.” How you capture life as a local but as a visitor?

When I am traveling or doing an artist residency somewhere my job becomes to do nothing but take photos or create in some capacity. I often end up just documenting daily life or scenes of an ordinary nature because as a visitor its all new to me. A street sign or building may seem very uninteresting to a local person who sees it everyday, but to me, everything is new and different and a lot of photographers in particular feel this way. Most places are captured or documented in the most compelling way through the eyes of a foreigner – the things we notice about a place are often the most mundane for the local but prove most fascinating to outsiders. While I was in Russia there were many examples of that – things looking very much like any other European city but also like a parallel universe at the same time. Things being slightly magical such as snow (which is still magical to me being from Australia) really appeals to me. Like seeing snow flakes so large and perfect you could see their detail with the naked eye, architectural details and just the way nature makes itself present even in the urban landscape – bird footprints in the snow, big winter clouds competing for space with the industrial smoke clouds on the horizon and most fascinating to me, the ancient glass windows in many of the buildings create these magical polarizing effects through the camera lens creating a view you can truly only see through photography.

 

4. What internal and external factors affect your choices on what to capture?

I do just photograph whatever catches my eye most of the time. I do always hope to find something with that element of magic by which I mean things that can only be really seen through the camera lens – lighting and effects that are a result of reality and the camera working together. On a more practical level, however, time and weather of course affect my choices. I have done a lot of work in Iceland in both winter and summer. I find in summer, ironically, I don’t get enough of the right kind of light and in winter it can be painfully cold to be outside for long stretches. In Russia I found it very cold but if I’m really getting inspired I just keep going until I cant feel my toes or fingers!

 

5. What do you want your work to say or do?

I think my work is ultimately biographical, it shows where I am physically and some might argue there is a hint of my inner psyche laid out in my images too. All images are viewed through the filter of the viewer’s own experiences, for better or worse, so people can read the images however they want. I have always said I am simply pointing out things that take my fancy and photographing them is a way of saying “look at that!”

 

6. How has technology changed your photographic work process in a way you did not expect?

I was strictly old school analogue for ages. I use a lot of Holgas, Lomo cameras and home-made cameras but I switched to digital practical purposes when i started traveling more often. Digital is easier when you don’t have access to darkrooms and film processing equipment. I miss the darkroom but digital allows you to do everything easily on the go and experiment without breaking the bank. I also do use a lot of other technologies in my work. I’ve gone back to film making in a small way now that digital cameras are so high quality. You don’t need a team of people anymore to make video works so I have been able to experiment without pressure and material costs. I do a lot of coding and computer related stuff too so technology has allowed me to try other things and in a funny way, get back to the things I was first interested in which was the photograph as object, building cameras – almost as functional sculptures and making moving images in the form of video works and gifs.

 

7. Which current art world trends are you following?

I try to avoid trends in art – if it’s a trend then it’s probably not good art! I don’t even use filters on Instagram! I think about this kind of thing a lot though, I often find myself inspired by new materials or ways of presenting work but I try to ensure that my work and the way I present it has some kind of link – I don’t think its useful to use a new printing process or presentation medium just because its available and the latest thing.

 

9. What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?

Actually getting work done! There is never enough time or money. Like most artists, I have to have a “real” job and it takes up way too much time and energy on a regular basis. Doing genuinely good work that I am happy with also is a challenge and then getting that work seen by the right people. I wish I knew how to make that happen but I’m working on it.

 

10. Where do you feel art is going?

Art isn’t going anywhere! Its here to stay!

 

11. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

A well known photographic artist I knew said once that if random viewers told her that they really liked her work then she knew it wasn’t good enough. She meant that if too many people liked the work enough then it wasn’t really breaking new ground, it was not challenging enough. We both agreed that we didn’t want to make art that matches the couch!

 

12. If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?

I really don’t know! A time traveller – just a generic behind the scenes one!

 

View more of Georgina’s work here.

In the Studio: Xiaofu Wang

Xiaofu-Wang-13

1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? 

I was born in Wuhan, China and lived there with my parents for 18 years. Wuhan is a big city located in middle eastern China. The humidity in the air is always high, so the weather is sweltering in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. I didn’t speak my hometown dialect nor did I live in the downtown, so most of the time, I felt I was an outsider.

Then I got accepted by the Central Academy of Fine Art, and moved to Beijing. That was the most crucial time of my life. I studied photography at that time, but I didn’t connect to this media very well. However, I met my best friends who are artists, designers, directors, and models. Together, we had the experience of being strongly impacted by art. With their encouragement, I started to paint after I graduated. Two years later I got accepted by the Le. Roy Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

I moved to Baltimore in the summer of 2015 with two suitcases and started my life in the U.S. I met many talented people there, learned about painting, art, America and myself. After graduation, I moved to Brooklyn, New York. This time I had two 20 feet long Uhaul trucks of belongings. One was filled by my paintings.. I rented a small room as well as a studio space. At the busiest time, I was an assistant for two artists and I also interned for a gallery in the Lower East Side.

It’s been a year since I moved to New York. I’m still trying to make new friends and figure things out. However, the farther away I am from my hometown, the more I feel at home.

 

2. Please describe your work.

In my painting, I try to create a place where one layer allows another to escape its origin. This idea came to me while I was listening to a piano album, but I immediately realized its application to the visual arts. I am attracted to art that makes you doubt – to which your response and your feeling is never certain. In which sense need not follow the obligations of representation or of the subject, but rather improvises: adapting and extending personal history (the range of experience, value) as compelled by one’s proximity to art. For as it is with the way of the world, you are never certain of life’s meaning, but you have the freedom to form opinions from self-knowledge.

So I invite uncertainties, lacunae, discordances—contradictions, even—into my paintings. They form an open system. Their exuberant abstractions restore an invisible and immaterial perception of the world to appearance, unfolding the inevitable ambiguities of the contour of existence. These ambiguities sometimes adhere, and sometimes fracture. This exciting uncertainty is the heart of my painting, emerging dynamically in its layers, their structure of interplay and exclusion. These spatial relations are encountered as kinesthetic haunting, as a mixture of restraint, excessive, airy openness and almost claustrophobic compression—landscapes of suggestion.

 

3. How did you start making art & why do you make it?

Since I was four years old, I have been drawing. There wasn’t a turning point when I suddenly decided to make art. Instead, it has been a long process. The idea of art unfolded in my mind gradually. During this ongoing process, I have never stopped making images. My interpretation of what art is has constantly shifted, as well as what I need from art. It’s a process of building my categories and vocabulary which, in turn, shaped the world around me through my perception.

At the beginning, making drawings and paintings was just a spontaneous thing to do: recording memories, mixing colors, expressing myself. Then it became a way of thinking — What are surfaces? What are materials? What is perspective? What is art? And what do all of these have to do with the rest of the world? It gives me access to myself and to the world, moments in which my thoughts have their new body.

 

4. Would you please talk a little bit about your experiences as a Chinese artist living in the states? Why is it important for you and your work to be in the US?

I feel the distance is inescapably contingent. As a nomadic Chinese, shifting from country to country, observing the transition of behaviors, of opinions, and feedback of all sorts, I feel myself suspended. Suspended between cultures and forced to suspend judgment. Forced to become the outsider—indeed in China too, as always with my unpretty darker skin, and ever more, the more I Westernize—I must wait to conclude, watching instead, hanging in political suspense. But this waiting is Chinese too, for we have written the world’s longest history (which remains unended) in the emotional poetry of our beautiful language. This is a legacy from which I can never be truly free.

It is important because it doesn’t matter where the artist is coming from, what matters is where he or she is going. This is the freedom of being human. I am a female Chinese artist painting in America. So I am human. I am part of the human. And I do not know the destiny of the human. Still—what I paint is human being.

 

5. What is your creative process like?

Painting is a mind game. It’s not just an action of making images, it’s more about how my mind reacts with my instinct. It’s a negotiation between my knowledge and the unknown.

When I make the very first few marks on a white surface, I’m digging a hole, opening a window, building a wall inside a space. Then I make bridges to connect the holes, windows, and walls. However, they are not holes, windows or walls, they just have shared functions. It’s a game played by the shadows and lights. They are also a metaphor or a suggestion. It’s a moment right before their action.

Then I have this space, and the structure and the system. They are paused as images, but the action can be extended by the viewers’ imagination.

And this will be an open system.

 

6. Which current art world trends are you following?

I don’t follow a specific art trend. I follow whatever interests me, and art is all over the place.

 

7. What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

The dilemmas.

The dilemmas were born when I started to measure the distance between the world and myself. Because there is a question: what world? And what distance? The world is a technology of divergence, it is material and spirit, it is the diversity of apprehension. It is good and bad: a toxic joy. It overwhelms, dominates—unless we retreat outside, to view its beautiful traps.

 

8. What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?

The most challenging part is also the most exciting part for me. When I make paintings I see my limitations and by continuing to paint, I extend the boundaries. Since moving to New York, I now make smaller scale paintings (from 77”x 96” to 36”x 48”). When the scale changes, the capability of how much information the surface can contain changes too. I currently am trying to find the balance between my intensity and the smaller scale surfaces.

 

9. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

I’m working on a group of colored pencil drawings, trying to read one book a week (currently Wittgenstein’s Mistress) and write something everyday (to practice English). I have been following the news a lot, thinking about what I can do, what images can do. Thinking about the structure of history and the world. I’ve also been listening to Olafur Eliasson’s and Timothy Morton’s lectures, and studying Bonnard (color) and Kandinsky (form).

 

10. What are you most proud of?

I’m proud that I’m still alive and able to create.

 

11. Where do you feel art is going?

Before answering this question, I think I need to figure out what’s the meaning of human beings living on the earth.

Art is a human activity which represents, reflects, and reveals the world. Where art is going depends on the position that humans locate themselves, their relationship with their mentality, politics, the environment, technology and so on.

 

12. What is the role of the artist in society?

Tarkovsky said one time in his interview “Artist would not exist if the world were perfect.” However, human beings tend to aim for perfection, and society holds the illusion that “tomorrow will be better.” I think the artist plays the role of negotiator between reality and appearance, both physically and spiritually.

 

13. What advice has influenced you?

“to express what one feels exactly as it is felt — clearly, if it is clear; obscurely, if obscure; confusedly, if confused.” ——- The Book of Disquiet , Fernando Pessoa, Penguin Classics, p.81

“The problem is not to make political films, but to make films politically.”

—Jean-Luc Godard

 

14. What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?

All the news about China since Thanksgiving 2017.

 

View more of Xiaofu Wang’s work here.

 

In the Studio: Jillian Marie Browning

instudio

1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today?

I was born in Ocala, Florida and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Photography from the University of Central Florida in 2012 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from Florida State University in 2015. Some of my favorite things are puppies, comic books, the color pink, and radical feminism. I currently work for The School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida.

2. Please describe your work

Through the use of video performance, multi-media sculpture, photographic imagery, and spatially engaging installations, I explore the concept of feminine identity through the lens of the contemporary black experience. My work often deals with the intersection of feminism and race, and how the two are constructed through the investigation of social, familial, and gender roles. Additionally, my work considers the way in which personal identity is assembled through one’s body image and racial identity.

3. What does being an “interdisciplinary artist” mean to you and your practice?

Interdisciplinary to me just means not letting a medium dictate how I make my work. I think it’s very important to let the work tell me how it wants to be presented. I pull a lot of influence from several different kinds of art and I just think its more important to focus on what is the best medium to get the message across instead of trying to fit the message into one type of medium. My background is in photography, so a lot of my work usually uses that as a jumping off point but hardly ever stays there. I like to think of myself as a “lens based artist” but I don’t know, it doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well as interdisciplinary.

4. What is your creative process like?

My process is all over the place. My work is pretty politically driven, so much of the time I’m pulling from current events and everyday experiences. I write notes down in my phone of potential ideas or words or song lyrics that spark something. I am not the kind of artist that sits down and goes “I am going to make art today”. I find that I don’t work well when I force it, I just let it all come out kind of whenever it wants to. I like to work with intention.

5. Which current art world trends are you following?

Honestly the stuff I am loving the most right now is just ‘the weirder, the better’ I like things that are non-traditional and interdisciplinary. I am also loving artists that are finding new and interesting ways to display their work outside of a traditional gallery setting. I think making art accessible to everyday people is the most important thing we can do as artists. So talking about social issues and making that work available for people to see is crucial.

6. What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

Every time I make something I think about what I am trying to say with it. Yes, bringing attention to a subject is important but so is having an opinion about it or telling a story with it.

7. A lot of your work has an autobiographical aspect. Was there been a shift or change in your life or work that led to what you’re making now?

When I first started making art I thought I wanted to do commercial photography. After doing that for a while it really wasn’t fulfilling. I couldn’t think about doing it long term and being happy with myself or my future. Too many things were happening in the world that I couldn’t ignore and I felt like I could do something better with my life and my art. So many of the things I wanted to talk about and make art about were things that were affecting me as a person and it felt more natural to me to use my physical body and personal experiences to show that.

8. Can you speak to your own relationship to risk and sacrifice, and what risks have you taken.

I think a huge risk for me was finally deciding to make art for myself. So much of what I was doing and worrying about was if other people would like what I was making. I had to reevaluate why I was doing what I was doing and why it was important to me and I decided that being true to myself was more important.

9. What are you most proud of?

Honestly I am most proud of the confidence I have gained by making work. I am quite introverted and shy but my way of stepping out of my shell is making the art that I make.

10. Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? 

I have some things in the works for next summer but I’m always making things and trying to show them.

11. What are you listening to at the moment?

As far as I’m concerned Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” is the only music that exists right now.

12. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

Just being told to stop worrying about what other people think of my artwork. Its less important for me to impact 10,000 if 10 people really got what I was trying to say. For me, my art has always been about the concept and the message and sometimes that message is only for a certain audience of people.

13. If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?

I would absolutely be Lunella Lafayette! She is a 9-year-old little black girl from the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur comics, (she’s Moon Girl), and the smartest person in the Marvel universe! She doesn’t take crap from anyone and her best friend is a tyrannosaurus rex. So like, like goals.

View more of Jillian’s work here.

Re: -flect, -vise, -set

First off, we want to extend a huge, heartfelt thank you to Peter Manion for being the first artist exhibited in our alternative space. Also the biggest thanks going out to everyone who has supported us through these first two months. We are humbled by the response and support of so many wonderful artists. And It’s been fun!! We are so thrilled to bring you so much more in just a few days!

During the last two months, we began reflecting and asked ourselves, what distinguishes our space from other online galleries. It was a difficult question to answer. Sure, we are highlighting gifted artists and bringing inspiration to others. But we want also gallery to send a strong message in a time when, we feel, art is what the world needs. We want to be a part of the spark and drive that promotes change and empowers those who need it the most. And perhaps in our eagerness to bring you all the beautiful, moving entries we received, we lost this focus – even if our hearts were in the right place.

With all of that being said, it’s time for us to announce some BIG changes!

First off, we believe that the two month time slot limits the opportunities we are able to offer other artists. We also would like to keep the interest of our audience by being able to feature more artists, more frequently. Therefore, continuing forward, we are offering one month per artist.

However, the biggest change we are going to make is we have decided that we are only going to feature women and minority artists moving forward. Even with so many women and minorities in the arts, we all are still an unappreciated, undervalued and under showcased as a group.

Art is a strong force for encouraging change and what better time than the present and in this political climate to highlight the strength and power of women and minorities!

Another exciting, little addition is that we will be offering an online exhibition ebook with each exhibition for our viewers. This free resource will highlight some of the work and the interview with our featured artist for the month as well as enhance the overall viewing experience.

We hope you will continue to support us as we make these changes in an effort to enhance your viewing experience, bring inspiration to all and fulfill a much-needed vacancy through our tiny corner of the internet.

Stay tuned as we will be announcing our featured June artist & exhibition tomorrow!

In the Studio: Peter Manion

Peter-Studio

1. Please describe your work.

My works are process-driven and deal with the transformative force of art making. I use a variety of non-traditional materials, including Vaseline, vinyl stickers, plaster, and felt, which allow my work to have a bold, frenetic quality completely open to interpretation by the viewer.

Though traditionally a painter, I have expanded my visual and conceptual literacy; experimenting with sculptural materials and surfaces, I am moved to create works that can exist outside of the traditional studio walls. As this body of work has evolved, my practice has shifted from canvas to felt and plaster – and has a much more minimalist feel. The process still commands an action-based approach, similar to my 2D work, but the application of plaster to felt, color spraying, and the rolling and tumbling of the piece once dried is sequential, but not systematic.

Concepts of decay and senescence, and the preciousness of art are challenged with these works. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the sculptures, to reconfigure their placement on the floor or reposition them on the gallery walls.

My sculptures bridge the gap between 2D and 3D. Each is transformative, yielding to the notion that art can move and be boundless without the fear of losing its place.

 

2. What does your work aim to say?

I try to convey the ideas of perception and the preconceived notions the viewer brings with them when encountering my work. For example, my sculptures look heavy and hardened like rock. But once the audience interacts with the work (which I encourage), they see that they are pliable and movable. It imparts the question, “How do we get past our own biases when encountering something we see or experience?”

For me, being an artist is the journey of finding new forms of expression, while at the same time not blocking what another person may find in their own story in it.

 

3. Who or what are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?

I’ve had many artistic influences throughout my life. As a kid, it was the big names like Matisse, Picasso. Then Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns, Pollock, and Rauschenberg – very much the western European/American artists. These influences very much had a connection to my mother’s sensibilities. She was a painter and collected artwork herself. So I was also exposed to the Spanish and French painters, such as Goya and Delacroix.

Now, I’ve moved away from the traditional artists and look to mostly contemporary artists that use materials in a different way and have a different point of view with image-making. I’m drawn to Sam Gilliam, who I feel has similar work to my own, and Kara Walker, whose work I love for the storytelling and duality of beauty and horror in her subject matter.

 

4. How has social media affected your studio practice?

So much! Social media provides an awareness of other artists – what they’re doing, how their work is similar, what they’re doing differently. Seeing others’ work helps me grow tremendously as an artist. When I see similarities in another’s work, it validates my practice – feeding my energy and giving me the confidence I need as an artist to keep pushing my own creative envelope.

I believe that social media has also kept me authentic in my practice. I don’t try to alter my images, and in doing so, I’m presenting to my audience – and myself – my work in an honest and very self-baring way.

Like all tools, social media can be overused and abused, but by showing my work and snippets of my works-in-progress, it helps to shape and develop the creative landscape and connect with the art community. Seeing art in this unexpected aspect keeps things exciting and, I feel, can open the door to opportunities that wouldn’t be available without this medium.

 

5. What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

A common thread that runs through my conceptual choices often happens when I’m installing my works in a show. Working and talking with other artists and curators. I’ve been very open to any and all opportunities and where this path may lead, which is sometimes very random. It’s as if something has been set in motion a very long time ago, and it affects the work as I’m doing it.

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6. How do you know when a work is finished?

I just know. I live with it. I have other people see it. However, I never know it’s done the day that it is finished.

Experience has helped me with that. I’ve learned from my mistakes of overworking a piece. I also make a lot of work – in a way, I flush out the creative crap to get to the good stuff and know when to stop.

 

7. What are you listening to or reading at the moment?

As far as reading, I tend to read more blogs and art criticisms than fiction or more non-traditional nonfiction. I’m a big fan of The White Pube (thewhitepube.com), which is a collaborative identity of Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad. They write criticisms and publish podcasts, mostly exhibition reviews that take away the overly academic/boring/white male nonsense that we see too often in the art world.

I’m also working my way through Glittering Images : A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars by Camille Paglia, which explores visual art from ancient to modern times.

With music, I listen to anything and everything. Jazz, rap, latin. I’m studying Spanish, so I listen to a lot of Spanish blogs and podcasts. There’s a great one called Slow Spanish News where they speak slowly so it’s easier for the learner to understand.

 

8. Can you speak to your own relationship to risk and sacrifice, and what risks have you taken?

A huge sacrifice for me was giving up art and starting a new career (years ago). At the time, I needed to put my family first, which meant sacrificing my own dreams of the future and my identity as an artist. To say that art is over was a huge sacrifice.

Now that I’ve been back, there’s no risk or sacrifice. Risk and sacrifice was early on, with the pain and agony I sustained in those early years. But now, I’m taking on new challenges and doing it on my own terms with a fresh eye.

Being an artist is a wonderful career to be in. I don’t take things too seriously – failure is part of the game. Someone I worked with during my residency in Vermont gave me great advice, “Aim high and you’re going to go high. If you aim low, you’re going to get low.”

 

9. What is the role of the artist in society?

The role of the artist is the filter. We filter what’s happening in society, what we don’t want to see and the subjects that many want to censor – the politics, sexism, misogyny. Artists must stand firm in shining a light on these issues.

When I was young, my mother took me to the Mapplethorpe exhibition in Cincinnati, and it changed my life. To imagine that anyone would want to censor such breathtaking work is bullshit. Thinking about that exhibition still gives me chills with its beauty and powerful presence.

Artists must work to keep the conversation going with current events, and use it as a way to push the artistic limits.

 

10. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

1 – Don’t ever approach a gallery. Let them come to you.

2 – Be in the studio and make work.

3 – Be a nice person. Treat everyone with respect. You never know what you can learn from them and what opportunities may arise from your relationship with them.

 

11. What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?

The differences in trees based on climate and geographical location. Leaves are like the skin of a tree, releasing and holding the water they need to survive. In the Southern Hemisphere (where it’s very humid), the leaves need to be very large to release the water the trees have. And in the Northern Hemisphere, the leaves are very thin (think of pine trees). They’re thin to help them retain their water.

 

View more of Peter’s work here.