STUDIO VISIT AND INTERVIEW
September, 2021, Philadelphia, PA
Libby Rosa moved to Philadelphia shortly after completing the MFA program at Cornell University, and just before the global pandemic hit. During this time she managed to establish a personal studio practice and start a project space called Peep, which utilizes her first studio space in the building as a gallery. Last month we sat down for an interview in her Philadelphia studio.
Conversation between Libby Rosa and Amy Boone-McCreesh
A: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN YOUR CURRENT STUDIO AND PHILADELPHIA?
L: Just over two years. I moved here right after getting my Masters at Cornell. I have family in the Philadelphia area, so I grew up coming here. I was in New York City for about two years before my masters and thought I’d move back but changed my mind. I wanted to find a city with an Art scene that was also an affordable place to live. I wanted to be able to participate in an Art scene that wasn’t New York.
IN SIMPLE TERMS, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK?
I’m interested in creating visceral, emotional work that hopefully communicates a place, thing, or feeling in a new way.
IN YOUR WORK THERE ARE MANY REFERENCES TO INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SPACES. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE IN DEPICTING SPACE AND SPATIAL INTERVENTION?
I’m almost making humor out of paintings of windows as these things to another world. They’re in a space and I don’t want to ignore the space that they’re in. Actually going to Cornell helped me think about the architecture within a room, where my paintings are seen and in what context–especially with these new embedded wall paintings – where the wall becomes part of the canvas and frame.
This current work is the first iteration so they’re kind of studies. They’re like inserts or altars, or things within a room that mimic the space. Illusion is also interesting because you figure out what is a shadow from the architecture in the space vs what’s a shadow within the painting and the play between the two.
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH CHALLENGES IN YOUR STUDIO? DO YOU HAVE ANY TRICKS TO KEEP MOTIVATED?
People think being an Artist is all fun, but it’s hard. It’s a job. I give myself bribes, so I treat myself like a child. For example, I’ll work for a couple hours and then I’ll get that iced coffee. Then 5:00 comes around and I’m like okay I deserve a glass of wine. So things like that help me break up the time.
Talking to other artists helps a lot. I’m always looking at Art books for references, but I also need to know when to put those away and sit in the uncomfortableness of being in my own head.
YOU ALSO RUN A PROJECT/EXHIBITION SPACE, PEEP PROJECTS. HOW HAS THAT DIALOGUE IMPACTED YOUR PRACTICE?
Peep opened in December 2020. I was moving to a bigger studio in the same building but still had the lease on my old studio so I got the idea to do a show in that space. And then it spiraled into something more. I also got a lot of support from friends to just go for it and make a permanent space.
It’s affected my practice, especially in these new embedded paintings. I basically redid all the walls of Peep. It was crappy sheet rock just nailed in, no taping, no seams and tons of holes. So I learned from Youtube how to tape and plaster–and walls became demystified. You literally just punch a hole in a wall and fill it, so why don’t I just fill it with a painting?
I also enjoy being inspired by the artists who show because I get to know their work in a more intimate way.
DO YOU FEEL RUNNING A SPACE HAS CHANGED THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT THEMES IN CONTEMPORARY ART OR THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT OTHER ARTISTS WHEN IT COMES TO CURATING?
I’m interested in artists who want to make work for a space and who are excited to experiment with installation v just making work independently. That might be the architectural influence I was talking about before. When I walk into a show that I am excited about I think okay, this show had to be shown here.
I also value work that isn’t so easily experienced on social media with one square image. I want you to want to physically be in the space close to the work.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE USE OF COLOR IN YOUR WORK?
I was a teaching assistant for a couple of Carl Ostendarp’s Intro to Painting courses at Cornell and learned a lot about the importance of color interactions. We had the students read “Chromophobia” by David Batchelor and I remember a discussion about fear of corruption through color. One part of the book analyzes how color was used in the Wizard of Oz – a contradiction to our world – Dorothy only sees color when she dreams.
I think about color a lot and color relationships to other colors. You need a neutral to make something look vibrant. A color cannot be a color in a void. I use purposeful and more efficient color choices now to achieve certain feelings in the work. Less color can be more if used correctly.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO PROMOTE?
I have this idea for an outdoor sculpture that I’m working on getting publicly shown in Philadelphia, but nothing has been determined yet. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll stick it in a courtyard somewhere. It will be a large cloud made from plywood with embedded, cutout raindrop paintings. I want it to feel like time stopped when a heavy cloud fell from the sky with little worlds preserved inside. I’ll have to weather-proof it because I’d like it to be up for about a month outside. I’ll be working on that for a few months.