Studio Visit April 1, 2017, Brooklyn, New York
Poolside, 2017 , Oil on canvas, 77.5 x 108 inches
Where did you grow up? Is there anything about your childhood that permeates your work?
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. It’s hard to say what may have directly influenced me about that land, except that maybe it was boring enough to encourage me to seek escape in an alternate reality, an imaginary world that my brother and I invented. So I was always in the habit of going to this other place, which I invented but felt very real, which is maybe what going to my studio / painting is for me now. Also the Art Institute of Chicago was there and it was good to have access to that.
What is the driving force behind your work?
I guess it just comes from a need to be making it; to have some way to deal with internal personal things in a way that is external.
Light and light sources play a large role in your paintings, how do you figure out where they’re going to happen?
The light source is something I figure out as I go. The process of figuring out light and color is different for each painting, but mostly comes from knowing how I want the painting to feel, and then figuring out how to make it look that way. This painting “I Can’t Sleep!” was originally lit by this pink sunrise sky because I wanted it to be sunrise and the person still hasn’t fallen asleep. But then I ended up with this big pink painting and it was horrible, so I changed it to a black sky with cold moonlight coming in, and the figure is confronted with this black void, and decided to think of the figure’s back as some sort of moon surface. Light can be an important storytelling element.
Do you plan your compositions?
I make quick sketches in my sketchbook, and sometimes that provides the basic composition, but more often than not it’s just something to get me started. I’ll start a painting with something that resembles the sketchbook doodle and it evolves into something very different, either because it doesn’t work on a larger scale, or I want to emphasize something different, or just because I’m bored by making the painting I set out to make and I realize I want to push it further. There’s also the puzzle-solving element of getting an imagined three-dimensional space to work on a two-dimensional surface, which can require a lot of re-arranging.
Your surfaces have changed, can you talk about that?
For a while my goal was to gain control over the medium to the point where everything got super-smooth. Then I started getting annoyed and bored by it, and a lot of people said it looked like CGI which wasn’t what I was going for. I think that when working from imagination its easy to fall back on and perpetuate habits. Recently I’ve been using more paint, and thinking more about how to use paint differently in different areas, to create different textures and thinking more about how light hits different surfaces. One thing that helped was making these little studies from photos I took of gems and minerals at the Natural History museum. Trying to render these completely crazy looking objects forced me to use paint in surprising ways.
Do you have any exhibitions or projects coming up that you want to talk about?
I have a painting that just went to PS1, it’s a group show. http://press.moma.org/2017/04/past-skin/
It’s up through September so it will be up all summer. There’s six people in the show, It was curated very well, there’s a sound piece, some interactive stuff, and art you can sit on. This solo show just happened at Nicelle Beauchene gallery, so I’ll see what happens after this summer. Mostly, I’m just trying to build up more work.