Q: When I look at your work it always strikes me as something very based in process- do you start with the process and use that to hone down an idea, or do you approach it with a concrete concept that you want to convey?
I typically work where there’s a scene or a picture that I’d like to actualize. I like the formal qualities of imagery. I like making things. I think it’s interesting that art used to be about the end product, but now art can be just about process. For my upcoming BFA show I am being fairly process-oriented. It has been really interesting because it’s not how I normally work. I’ve done process, but I have an end goal -A gets me to B and I want to get to B. I’ve never actually done process for the sake of process until now. The multitude of crows I have been working on might not even turn up in the gallery. At first it really was about a narrative, A B C, and now I’m finding it’s more about a place of reflection or contemplation that still has elements of narrative. I think using process has changed my articulation of what I am trying to communicate.
Q: When you’re working with a single repeated image, say the crow, repeating it again and again over a range of media, does that image transform for you? Do you start finding new ways to physically execute the image, and do your feelings and thoughts about the concept of it start to change?
I’m usually very visual. I like to look at something to execute it. I generally always like to be looking at the thing that I draw- whether it’s a still life, a figure, and a photo. And what I’ve found, working with the crows, is that I’ve started to let go more and more of what it is that I’m looking at. I’ve gotten to know the figure so well that I’m able to take liberties; I’ve started drawing it without reference points. Then it becomes more about the line quality or the materials or the emotion.
Q: The basic storyline behind the crow imagery is something that does come from a very deeply personal place, but the crow itself as a symbol can be interpreted different ways - can you talk about where the dividing line is between being very personal and out there, and telling a more universal story?
The crow is a loaded figure. He’s unique and a good symbol to use because he does have multiple meanings; he’s a good thing to use as personal that speaks to the universal. I can use him to be very particular for me, but he’s also able to be viewed universally. The kickoff point was about death and loss, so he definitely references that, and I know that that’s obvious. In the end that’s what I am trying to say: something very obvious. I don’t think our society gives us the space to mourn very well anymore; I think other societies really include it as a cultural practice, or a ritual, and it’s very inclusive. I think it’s very institutionalized and hidden away now. Once you’ve moved past the funeral, society forgets and you can be treading water and still in a difficult place emotionally. This is my platform to ask people to step into that physical and emotional space with me. And it’s essentially a thing that we’re all going to have to face, or have faced. It’s not like I’m asking you to enter an experience that you might never touch on.
Q: It’s the one universal experience.
Q: It’s the one universal experience.
A: Right, exactly. I originally intended the crows as the messenger; now I really see them as transition, and it’s not just my personal transition of dealing with grief, but transition to the other side for the person that dies.
Q: Generally, when you’re making work – apart from this particular show – where do you fall on that line between talking more about your personal experience versus introducing something that everybody can relate to?
I always seem to be more interested, and I’m still very interested, in the formal qualities: aesthetics. I can get really interested in just one patch of paint, or a square inch in a painting. I feel like my work, generally, isn’t terribly, terribly personal – because I am so interested in the formal. This show is a departure for me. I’ve chosen something that’s far more difficult for me to try to actualize. I always thought of the BFA show as this end piece, but really I have to look at it as an emerging. I didn’t have anything else I could have done; grief and mourning tend to color everything so I didn’t have a way of producing anything else. This avenue is to ask the viewer to go there with me. It’s to say; it’s not over, it’s not done, and as a society you need to understand that it is ongoing and that we need to be more receptive to it. As artists I think we’re lucky that we get to express ourselves in various ways, but otherwise we’d all be in therapy, behind closed doors.
Q: I’ve heard you say a few times that you don’t consider yourself an artist. Is that a position you still hold?
A: I’m sort of mixed on it. I feel ‘artist’ is a responsibility; I’m not sure that I can live up to that responsibility yet, because I still feel really young artistically. But at the same time I feel I need to create the mantra, “I am an artist,” because I think that affirmation in itself might change the way I think of myself. So I’m torn. I think putting voice to things can sometimes change the way you think about something.