How did you get started doing what you do?
I actually can’t remember a day when I wasn’t creating something. My fondest childhood memories are of playing with my “art box” which my mother created. It included all kinds of materials: glue, paper, and scissors. My father was a lamp designer and would bring home rejected plaster casts for us to paint. During classroom breaks, I was either immersed in a good book or obsessively drawing. In undergrad, I tried to pursue a “practical” degree in Early Childhood Education but taking a drawing class reignited my true love (which, in truth, was never extinguished) and I ended up changing my major to Art Education so I could take all the art classes I wanted. After graduation, I taught while continuing to experiment in surface design and mixed media. I moved to France and continued to work in this medium, exhibiting locally and in the U.S. and collaborating with artists back in the DC area.
When I moved to The Netherlands, I had the chance to take private lessons from a friend who is an amazing painter, Hakim Tourdiev. I painted exclusively in oils for several years and when I moved back to the States, I decided to go back to school and chose the New York Academy of Art because I wanted to understand how to better represent the figure in my compositions. It was there that I began developing my current work which is a hybridization of my previous language in textiles through the medium of paint.
How would you describe your creative style?
My creative style is fairly eclectic. I’m interested in both layers of meaning and of materials. I think the best way to describe it is to liken it to a tapestry. I weave imagery in and out of a personal, mystical narrative in a complex dreamscape of non-linear space. It is both figurative and ornamental. I’m constantly trying to find a sympathetic balance between form and flatness, looking to create meaning out of chaos. You could say this is my primary raison d’être.
What’s your inspiration?
I have a myriad of inspirations. I have a love of outsider and folk art but am equally passionate about fine art. Specifically, I am looking at mural artists from Diego Rivera to the Polish street artists Etam Cru. Byzantine tapestries and art of that period holds a quirky fascination for me. Within and without the art world, I am inspired by the genre of Magical Realism. Nature and human belief systems, rites and rituals are an ongoing source fascination for me.
What is art to you?
That’s a loaded question. The minute you begin to put parameters around art you create limitations. I prefer to see outside of these boundaries. If an artist has strength of conviction and intention then whatever they do is acceptable and valid. Whether it is something I subjectively enjoy is another matter.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day is made up of finding a balance between my two current disciplines: art making and art writing. To that end, it will either start by my contemplating a previous day’s work, assessing what works and what doesn’t, where I want to push it and what I need to change. If I’m working on an art review, I always wake up with fresh ideas that I have to jot down right away. The two are seemingly unrelated but what is the same is that I come at them both, upon awakening, with a fresh mind and sharp eye.
Since we’re talking about making art though, I’ll continue with that thread. After analyzing my next steps I get down to work setting up my materials, either arranging my palette, or preparing my drawing materials. It’s a ritual that prepares me mentally for the day. I’d be lying if I said I work in a linear fashion. I don’t think linearly so that would be counter intuitive to my nature. I get distracted. Oddly though it is those distractions that feed my creativity.
I can work steadily for hours when I am in the groove but other times I’m looking at artwork or reading or taking a walk in the park. My work develops out of associations I make from all these influences. Often times this means I’m up till the wee hours because I’m following my muse. Some days are more productive than others, but all days are spent in the creative process, whether it is making the art itself or feeding my imagination with what inspires new imagery.
What’s your process like?
My process is one of discovery. I’ll usually begin with a seed of an idea that I draw out either directly on a panel or on paper to be transferred to canvas. This is meant to be a blueprint but not a strict format for the imagery. Working in layers, I develop the composition by obliterating or revealing areas intuitively in a process of subtraction through addition. In this way I am constantly reactivating the painting and this keeps it fresh and exciting. I am constantly solving a problem, keeping it open until I reach a point where I feel it all comes together in a sort of musical arrangement. At this point I refine areas that I want to have more definition but even then major changes can occur and I might take something out or add something in to have a sense of balance. Some may say that this could be an endless way to develop an image, but I always know in the end when to stop. It is an enquiry and when I have answered all my questions, I feel satisfied that I can go on to the next painting that will have new queries and challenges to meet.
How do you keep motivated?
There is never a day when I don’t have at least ten ideas I want to figure out. I am endlessly curious and this curiosity is what motivates me. I chose art as a vocation because I would always be learning. It is this path of discovery that keeps me wanting to make art every day.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
My surroundings are always coming into my paintings. I’ve been in NYC four years now and the urban environment has really had a role to play in my imagery, the bright lights, the commercial advertisements, the people, the rhythm of life. My recent paintings have a plethora of imagery and I think that is largely due to the inescapable inundation of information that is part of city life. Recently though, I moved to a very green area in The Bronx. I’m rediscovering nature, my love and need for it, the language of flora and fauna. I find it creeping its way back into my art now and I welcome it as an old friend.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
Art is a vehicle of learning and discovery for me. I don’t really have an endgame. I expect neither fame nor fortune because those have never been my goals. It’s more about the journey. Art gives me an outlet for expression of ideas but also leads me to inquire into new forms of thought, to stretch beyond my own preconceptions. If in the process I can share these things with others through my work I am that much richer.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
I guess I’m divided on that one. On the one hand, I would say nothing at all. I see life as a gestalt of choices that are interconnected. Even seemingly bad choices might lead us to positive outcomes later. I don’t want to spend my life full of regrets. I guess if I told myself one thing as an artist it would be to believe and trust in my own vision. Oh, and draw every day. Actually, that holds true for my older self too.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Take chances and don’t be afraid to fail. Every work of art is a stepping-stone of discovery for the next one. Find ways to financially support yourself in addition to making art because art should not be a commodity. Develop your community, support and collaborate with them because no woman or man is an island. Be generous with your time and knowledge. Play.
What are your thoughts on art school?
Ah, the ongoing debate. I think in general the higher education system has become so unaffordable that it is often only available for a certain privileged class. Artists are going into ridiculous debt to achieve a degree these days. Before you put your pennies down, be very clear what it is you hope to obtain. Find teachers and mentors that will help you achieve your creative goals. Building a strong foundation of skill will set you up to do anything you want. There are many avenues to achieve that, whether through self-education, ateliers, or art schools.
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I recently finished a series of paintings entitled Vision Quest which I am hoping to exhibit this year. The paintings that you see here are part of that body of work. I have a whole slew of new ideas and panels built that I will also be developing this year for a new series as yet to be named. I’m looking forward to writing more art reviews and have some curation projects in the works.
What’s your dream project?
I would love to do a large mural somewhere. I envision this to be in collaboration with other artists and the public. Community is very important to me so giving back to the community by sharing public art in a collaborative effort seems to me to be the ideal project. And now that I’ve said that out loud I guess I’d better get cracking!