STUDIO VISIT, OCTOBER, 2022
Interview between Casey Baden and Amy Boone-McCreesh
WHERE IS YOUR CURRENT STUDIO AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE?
My current studio is in Commerce, CA, a part of LA, east of downtown’s Arts’ District. Most buildings around here are industrial – meat packing plants, recycling, chemical production, and so on… but I share a 4,000 sq ft warehouse with eight artists and our building is flanked by two additional artist buildings on either side. We have a big wood shop, metal/car shop, and many individual studio rooms. One of the artists I went to CalArts with is now working full-time as a mechanic so we have installed a full car lift in the space. This building used to be owned by a trucking company, so it functions really well for us. I personally have two rooms in the front of the warehouse as my studio. I’ve been in this current space for about a year and a half, and we have a three-year lease. We were super lucky to find this building, especially because it’s less than a dollar per square foot, which is almost unheard of in LA.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR CURRENT GEOGRAPHY OR SURROUNDING CULTURE AFFECTS THE WORK YOU MAKE ?
I went to grad school in LA and it definitely affects the kind of artist I am simply because of all the great artists here that I’m surrounded by and sometimes in conversation with. The grad school experience definitely impacts the type of artist one becomes. In my work, I use a lot of bright colors, natural fibers from the local landscape, etc., but It’s also kind of bizarre that I went to CalArts and ended up making textile work when they have no textile program, classes, or resources to speak of. CalArts is super concept-heavy and doesn’t put much emphasis on material practice. For me, the influence of other LA artists is really strong because I do a ton of studio visits, either because I’m working on curatorial projects, simply because I want to connect with artists when I see work in exhibitions, or as a part of a project I co-founded called Textile Resource LA. I also have an artist dinner series that I started this year which emerged out of some studio visit conversations. There are so many great artists in LA and sometimes we get stuck in our own cohorts and it’s hard to meet people so I’m always trying to break that construct. I don’t want to have just virtual relationships; I really want to meet people.
WHAT ARE SOME RECURRING SOURCES OF INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK?
I’m always thinking about the body, pattern, texture, and scale. I used to make cyanotype exposures in which people would lay down on the surface and I’d capture the imprint of their shape. I also trace body forms in order to create patterns to sew from. Weaving books also have great images of patterns so I’ve been using those in my paintings. Recently, I was in Portugal for a residency and they have a lot of tiles in their architecture, so I started using tiles as well. Anything that stems from the grid as its formation is a big part of my work. Architecture itself in terms of scale also comes up a lot in my work. For example, I just completed four pieces that take the size of a standard doorway as the framing size for those pieces.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SHIFT FROM PAINTING TO TEXTILES OR HOW THESE EXIST SIMULTANEOUSLY FOR YOU?
What’s kind of surprising is that I started mostly focusing on Photography and Printmaking. I was a Photo major at RISD pre-college, then got a BFA at NYU, where I had to take all the intro classes for Painting and Sculpture. At that point I started developing my painting skills. After I got my BFA, I realized the reality of having to set up my own dark room was not something I was equipped to do. It was around the dawn of Instagram and around the time everyone wanted to be a band or fashion photographer. Photography was exploding as this commercial enterprise and was exploding in a way I wasn’t super interested in. I continued making cyanotype as a way to continue my work without a dark room. I loved that cyanotypes look a lot like indigo dye, but I kept thinking that I couldn’t only have blue in my studio. Cyanotypes can sometimes be kitschy, so I started using them as underpaintings. My photography was usually figurative, so I used those as photographic underlays. I took five years between undergrad and grad, and when I was ready to go back to school, I applied to some Photography programs and some Painting programs and kind of asked the world to narrow it down to me.
I was mostly making paintings at that time, but then I went to CalArts, and CalArts kind of notoriously hates painting. They kind of make you feel bad for having aesthetic concerns rather than conceptual concerns. No teacher pushed me toward textiles specifically, but textiles felt like they connected to a lot of the content and meaning I was working with in terms of domestic spaces, your furniture, your clothes and their tactility, the relationship between your body and your space. I felt that textiles were the best way to fill in some of that content in a material way. I also just fell in love with the process of it. I really get joy from dying, sewing, or weaving. All the technicalities of it are somehow less intimidating than a blank canvas where you have to invent everything. With textiles some things are sort of already figured out for you or built-in. There can be more experimentation, color theory with weaving and the way the threads intersect for example can be nice and surprising. Textiles kind of checked a lot of boxes in terms of how my brain works.
So, in the summer of 2019 I did two residencies – one at Haystack Mountain School of Craft and one at Vermont Studio Center. Through those experiences I learned to weave and I taught myself to dye. In 2020 during the pandemic, I was still kind of underdeveloped with textile techniques. I finally got my own loom around that time and most of the pandemic I was just learning. I was teaching myself by making functional things like place mats. I started playing with different materials like paper and various fibers, as well as exploring structural elements of how rigid or not rigid a textile surface was. I was also still making paintings at that time.
This year (in 2022), the goal was not to continue keeping my textile and painting practices separate, but to find a way to integrate both into a single practice. I have many different kinds of work right now and I’m constantly thinking about how to combine these two mediums.
SUSTAINING A LIFELONG ARTISTIC PRACTICE IS BOTH DRAINING AND REWARDING – HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE ASSOCIATED STRUGGLES OF A CREATIVE LIFE?
Truth be told, I love being in the studio. If it were financially viable, I would be here all the time. Earlier this year, I sort of had a lucky/unlucky thing in that my car got rear-ended and I got some insurance money. I didn’t spend all the money on a new car, but instead bought an old Volvo from 1990. I had also recently sold the trailer I lived in during grad school. So for a time, I had some extra money where I spent about four months as a full-time studio artist. I did a residency in Portugal which was very productive, but ultimately it was also not sustainable. So now, six months later, I have about five jobs. I manage our studio warehouse, I have my studio practice, I teach at Mount St. Mary’s University, I do remote bookkeeping for an accountant, and I also work at a pub called Golden Road.
Switching from job to job is a lot, scheduling it all, doing studio visits, it’s really busy and hectic. I’m glad I have a partner who is also an artist so it doesn’t bother him. I’ve been making a lot of friends who are older than me and they were making fun of me sweating it about turning thirty last year. I was being tough on myself, so it’s an ongoing battle. We work really hard, we’re committed, I have the type-A perfectionist streak thing in getting validation when you work hard, but it doesn’t work that way as an artist. No matter how hard you work, it’s a crapshoot. You put in all this work, you meet people, you apply to stuff, you do residencies, you try to get into group shows–but it’s not actually an upward trajectory. It’s not a “overnight” change until someone offers you a solo show, but even then people who have it say it’s not how you think.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU HAVE COMING UP YOU WANT TO PROMOTE?
I participated in Spring Break Art Fair this summer with Abby Cheney and there are still links for the work available here
Beyond the Decorative in Irvine, CA at Great Park Gallery is a group show I am in that just opened and will run through December 31 of this year.