Category: At the Studio

At the Studio: Daniel John Gadd

At the Studio: Daniel John Gadd

Today at Atmos we’re speaking with abstract artist, Daniel John Gadd in his Brooklyn Studio. Read along for a chance to hear about his Youtube-learned carpentry skills and how he gets the mirrors in his paintings to crack just right. 

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

Atmos: Thank you so much for meeting with me today! Can you tell me a little bit about when art first started interesting you?

Daniel: I don’t know when it first started to interest me. I grew up playing a lot of sports, I was a jock and eventually it turned into baseball when I was 9 years old. I was on four different baseball teams at a time and I was playing in the winter. So sports were really important to me, but I had a grandma who I saw pretty regularly. I grew up right over the George Washington Bridge and she would take me to the skyline and I would draw it. After a while I could remember everything that was there, at least in a ten year old’s mind. So there was defiantly an underlying interest and eventually in high school I got to a point where I didn’t want to play baseball anymore. I started to listen to punk music and hung out with these kids that were the art kids, so I kind of fell into it. As a ‘I don’t know what I’m doing and this seems interesting’. In high school I had a really supportive teacher.

A: Did you study art in college?

D: Yes, I went to School of Visual Arts. But first, my parents, although they are supportive, were like “There’s no way you’re going to art school, you’re going to a well-rounded liberal arts college”. I was like ‘Then I’m not going to college’. I found out later that my mom, who is amazing, she applied to colleges for me. So I ended up going to the University of Rhode Island. I knew nothing about Rhode Island, but it wasn’t for me. I’m sure there’s plenty of great people there, but for me it ended up being exactly what high school was. I called her crying every day for a month and eventually she said, “you can go to school of your choice”.

A: Did you study painting?

D: I studied painting at the School of Visual Arts and it’s a good school to study painting. I honestly don’t remember a lot of it. But I do remember going back and it was the fourth year and they give you these studios. They basically tell you, “go make some art”. It’s more structured than that, but it’s basically that. I formed a relationship with a teacher. He introduced me to the gallery (that represents me now).

A: It’s all about those connections. What’s the gallery name that represents you?


A: How long have you been with them?

D: It was Life on Mars before and the director’s name was Michael David and then they became David & Schweitzer and I opened the gallery (with the first exhibition). That was October.

A: Oh recent! And you’ve been happy there?

D: Yeah. It’s cool because they’re supportive and this is actually Michael David’s studio that I am working in now. All of this work is for a show I’m having in November there..

A: Can you tell me a little bit about this series?

D: I come from a figurative background and I was making figurative paintings that kept getting more and more abstract. I had this break through a year and half ago. I was beating a painting to death not getting anywhere and I decided to cut out the only piece I liked. This circular shape, and I was like, ‘holy shit, this is either really good or really bad’. I kind of sat on it for a while and decided ‘I think this is really good’, so I made ten more. Eventually I decided I didn’t care if it was really good or really bad, because it meant something to me. I started to feel alive. The last show at DSC was all circles and was titled For the Moon. It’s my daughter’s name, we call her moon at home. The new work is just the progression of that starting point. I think we paint our biology, these paintings have aggression, athleticism, fragility and are painfully sensitive. If the circles where about taking what makes us most human, breaking it down and reassembling it into balanced wholes, the work in here now is a reconciliation and acceptance that perfection isn’t possible, and celebrating it.

A: When did you start using mirror?

D: I was always speckling in the mirror as the figure paintings got a little bit more abstract. They fully started to come in when I started making the circle paintings. At first the cracks were by accident, but now they’re a drawing device. The mirror is a symbol of the self reflection that happens during painting. It also talks about that fractured part of my life and being completely broken and putting it back together.

A: How long does it typically take to you?

D: It’s an athletic feat. I’m guess I’m still an athlete because these things are heavy. I break them down and put them back together over and over again. None of these paintings started as anything near this shape. So when I’m actually working it’s more like a tornado in here, pieces everywhere. Sometimes I get lucky, a week or something. But a particular part of this painting is over a year old, but it’s been stored away. So did it take me a year and half to make this painting? Yes and no, I guess.

A: How do you start?

D: Normally I take two pieces of plywood and put them on the floor and I’ll put them over what I’m working and I’ll let stuff fall on it. If I see something, I’ll be like, ‘oh it’s ready’. And then I’ll start. Eventually I back it so it can hang on the wall. I’ll make a couple cuts. In between then I’ll play in photoshop. I can decide a color or at least somewhat think of an idea. Or if I want to make a drastic cut, I can cut it off in photoshop to see. At a certain point, the mirror gets expensive and it may seem untrue, but that’s the fifth version of the mirror, because I didn’t like the way it cracked. It gets frustrating but I try to recycle it all. At first it was just slam it, but now I’ve been starting to get a little bit more particular. I want the cracks to mean something and the composition of the piece to relate.

A: How much can you control the cracking though?

D: You can get pretty good at it. You can’t control everything, but you can glue the back in certain ways. So if you hit something that big with a hammer you won’t get the same mark as if you hit something (smaller) with a hammer. There’s math involved. That’s not who I am, but I can at least say, ‘OK, this is three times larger, so I’m going to make the surface that hits it three times larger’.

A: I would have never guessed that, that’s crazy. Is it really satisfying to hit the mirror?

D: Yeah, there’s a certain violence to it. I think there’s a certain underlying anger and violence in me.

A: It’s therapeutic.

D: Oh, it certainly is.

A: You’ve been in New York for how long?

D: So I grew up in New Jersey, about ten minutes from New York. I’ve been here my whole life and when I was a kid we would come here. My dad would take me here all the time. It was funny because he’s not really an art guy and I remember we would skateboard. And he would say, “I’ll take you skateboarding, but you have to come to a museum with me”. I think he really just wanted to go to a museum. Looking back it’s like, oh he knew. I’ve spent times living in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but now I have a family and this has to support that. We live in New Jersey.

A: And you drive in?

D: Yeah, I do this crazy thing where I’ll leave at five in the morning and it takes me 35 minutes. At first it sucked, but I got used to it. The alternative is, though it’s only 20 miles away, you can’t get anyone out there to look at your work. So you’re basically in isolation.

A: It’s nice to have a home to go back to though.

D: It is! I think it’s better for my daughter. We can’t afford to do things that we can afford living there. Our parents are out there so they can watch the kids.

A: Do you have a studio at home?

D: No, just here. I like it because if I’m here, there doesn’t exist. I can be fully invested here. And then alternative, I can be fully invested there. There are times like yesterday we went to the park and out to lunch and got ice cream and maybe if I had a studio there I would say, ‘well let me put in a half day’.

A: It’s nice that it’s two separate environments. Do you like working here alone? Do you listen to music?

D: I do listen to music. I like working here alone though, it’s a pretty crowded building and I can take advantage of that. A second set of eyes is always helpful. Sometimes I’ll end up working in complete silence. But I like listening to music. These paintings are very personal, but I think they can become about some very universal themes. Especially with what’s been going on with violence and anger, but also beauty. These fractured things that are still together, for the better. But your question about music, (I listen to) top 40. Unless there’s a little bit of method acting that goes along with these and then I’ll listen to some sad emo song that I liked when I was 18. I hope no one follows me on spotify.

A: Do you title the works?

D: I do. Some of these have titles, some I’m still working on.

A: This is a question from our artcloud Gallery Liaison, Melissa Hill. What are some roadblocks when you start on a new piece?

D: The biggest one is the shape because the last body of work that I did that people saw were all circles. Then I moved to the triangle, but I want them to be more organic so I don’t have an ending point. A lot of times I don’t want to fall into the same form because it’s easy. I think that’s been a roadblock lately, to just not continually make the same painting. It’s such an organic process, so there will be ten bad ones before there’s a good one but at least I can save pieces.

A: Yeah you basically source your own works.

D: It’s a form of drawing I guess, or collage.

A: Are there any emerging artists that you’ve seen lately that you like?
 D: There’s a girl that just graduated from the Studio School, Rose Lopeman. She’s pretty good. A: What does she do?

D: She’s a builder like me. She’s more of a sculptor than I am, but definitely check her out. I used to share a studio before I moved here with Dana James. She pours onto the canvas, kind of like a Frankenthaler, but a little bit more punk. Another painter, Ben Pritchard.

A: Being in New York is amazing because you can always find someone new to like.

D: Oh absolutely. And I think you said it in one of your interviews, there are just so many.

A: Yeah! It’s really hard to sift through. At what point did you think art was a viable career option to do?

D: About two years ago. I had a studio in New Jersey and someone suggested to me that I should move out here and give it a shot and I did.

A: And it’s been working out.

D: It’s been working out and I think that in some capacity I would have to do it. So I don’t think I get to choose if it’s a viable option. I just have to do it and try to make all the other pieces work.

A: And your family is really supportive?

D: Yeah, I mean there are things that come into play like money. So that’s a big one and I’m an abstract painter so it’s hard for a lot of people to get.

A: Do you do figurative stuff anymore?

D: No, it’s all this. A lot of times when I get home, she’s four but she knows I’m a painter, so I’ll come home and she wants to paint. It’s the last thing I want to do when I get home a lot, but we’ve been drawing figures a lot.

A: Your dad used to take you to museums, is there anything that sticks out in your mind as a really big art memory?

D: The first big art viewing memory I have was much later, Jenny Saville’s show at Gagosian. It was these larger than life figure paintings, a little bit Freud, a little bit de Kooning. I was just like wow, that’s really something.

A: Do you like working in a large format?

D: Yeah, I think there are challenges that the small ones don’t have. In the small format there are challenges that the large ones don’t have. Especially now I have the ability to (work in large format) so I want to do it.

A: I find that a lot with artists that I speak to. Once they have the space and the availability to do that, they love doing it. Finding the space to do it is hard.

D: I’m lucky because the gallery has been extremely supportive with me being here, which is why I’m here. My old studio wasn’t nearly this big and I still made big work, but it was just kind of falling on me.

A: Oh, how heavy are these?

D: They can be deceiving. That (points to work) I don’t know how I got it on the wall. I got it on myself and I tried to lift it off, but I can’t. I was working on it on the floor and I lifted it up and I was just like, ‘this is going on the wall’.

A: Sheer force of will.

D: I needed to see it and I did it. After I make the final move, there’s a lot of reinforcement. I’m a good carpenter, so these may look like they’re about to fall apart, but eventually they’re structurally sound.

A: Did you teach yourself how to do carpentry?

D: I did. I didn’t know how to do anything about it. It was almost out of necessity. It was like, ‘I want to build this. Youtube, how do I build it?’. The same thing at my house. We bought a house and it was ugly so I gutted the whole thing.

A: The internet is amazing. Do you collect any other artists’ work?

D: I have a couple things from trades. I have a list actually if I came into some money, I would be broke.

A: Do you hang your own work at home?

D: Not really. I have one painting in my house. It was actually because we had my daughter’s fourth birthday party there and the wall was blank so. And then I decided I liked it so I left it. I try to keep some work for myself.

A: Are there any museums you like to visit outside of the city?

D: There’s one I go to a lot, the Montclair Museum of Art. I lived next door to it for a long time. I like walking around Storm King.

A: Storm King is beautiful, any time of the year.

D: I love the Hudson Valley. It’s my end game, although I’ll probably be priced out by then. A: It’s getting so crazy. Beacon is nuts now. There’s a new museum now too, Magazzino.

D: I think I read about it.

A: It just opened. I really want to go there next time I’m up. It’s a new spot to hit besides the Dia or The Clark.

D: I think I need to be financially successful enough before I uproot my entire family to go there. A: Do you think you would work better in the country?

D: Depends. I think it depends on space. I think if anyone has enough time for themselves…I think part of living around here you have to do 50 things to make ends meet. I often wonder as opposed to the country vs the city, what it would be like if I could just paint. I don’t have to worry about all the other aspects. But then sometimes I think it’s really good to be away from the studio.

A: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

D: I think work makes work. Just keep working hard and doing anything possible to be able to make work. I feel like aside from the lucky people who are hand picked in the beginning who are mega stars, I think it’s kind of a boxing match. You keep going, you keep getting hit. Don’t give up.


Images Courtesy of Emma Fishman (@emmafishman)

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At The Studio: Jaqueline Cedar

At The Studio: Jaqueline Cedar

Today at Atmos we’re speaking with painter, Jaqueline Cedar in her Brooklyn Studio. Read along for a chance to hear about her practice and her teaching moments at The Whitney, MoMA and Met.

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

Atmos: Thanks for meeting me today. Everyone has a different art background, how they got into this. Can you explain a little bit, how you started?

Jaqueline: Yes, from how far back?

A: Just as far back as you want.

J: I was interested in art in middle and high school but wasn’t thinking of it as a career. Even in college, I decided I wanted to go to a program that had a strong art department. I wanted to have a variety of options to pull from. I was pre-med for a couple years. I really liked science. I was always an art major. UCLA had a nice range of faculty, so I was really excited to be in a conceptually driven program where I could pull from a lot of different media.

I started there, and around the time I was finishing up at UCLA I began thinking I probably wanted to teach and finish up and go to grad school and I knew I wanted to keep making art. That’s how I ended up at Columbia and I moved out here right after I finished at UCLA.

A: Oh, wow.

J: Yes. It really wasn’t until after I finished at Columbia that I started thinking, “Oh, now I have to figure out how to be a practicing artist.” I hadn’t really thought through the lifestyle. I was just thinking, “I’ll go to school, sell my work, and that will be the end of that.” It really started at UCLA because I had such an amazing group of faculty and mentors, and a really strong community of undergrad artists.  It was a really rich program. That’s where I got invested. At the time I was doing primarily painting and photography.

A: Okay, so you switched mediums?

J: Yes. When I was thinking about applying to grad schools I was thinking should I do photo or painting? The program again was conceptually driven and a lot of the faculty had been CalArts students so the philosophy was idea first, then you choose your medium to fit the content. But even so, you end up finding a place that you sit in for a little bit longer. I was talking to a photo faculty member and he said, “Well, do you want a studio? Because if you want to do both, then you need a painting studio.”

With a lot of the photo programs you just had a darkroom. That’s how I ended up focusing on painting primarily. I’ve been sitting in this area for a while now. I feel like I could work on painting forever and not totally feel like I’ve turned every stone over. I still think about photography, sculpture, and movement a lot in my work. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to cross over. I’m thinking a lot more about collaborating lately, hopefully that’ll factor in.

A: Like mixing?

J: Yes, or working with other artists whose primary medium is performance or theater, a lot of that. Just trying to figure out how to bridge ideas and not necessarily make my own work within that medium, but collaborate.

A: Yes. Have you seen Condo? It’s a new way to do an art fair.  You take all these galleries, go to Hong Kong to do an art fair, and instead of doing one singular tent space they take over Hong Kong-based galleries and either take over the space and do their own show, or collaborate with the curator and curate a show together.

J: Ah, that’s so cool. I haven’t heard about that. I’ve been curating more recently, professionally. In undergrad I would haul my friends’ work into a room and we’d set up a show. Now in May I got to actually launch something in New York. I find that whole practice of bringing a show to fruition, researching other artists, and bringing – – I don’t know, a variety of media into one space totally inspiring. I feel like that’s so fun.

A: It’s so fun. It makes it more interesting.

J: Do you know anyone who’s been working on it?

A: It was a young gallerist who started the idea, Vanessa Carlos.

J: I feel like, and maybe this is totally old fashioned, but when I was younger I felt it was more taboo for an artist to be a curator. Now, I feel like so many artists are curating and it’s just part of the practice, visual thinking. Curating is like making an artwork, in a room.

A: Yes. Exactly.

J: I think a lot of the strongest curators think that way. It’s fun. I definitely don’t work in the same way as an art historian.

A: But that’s almost more fun, seeing an artist whose life’s work is to create versus an art historian whose life’s work is to look and synthesize and put things together to have a conversation.

J: Yes, it’s two different things but, yes, I find it really fascinating. Also the availability of work on a wide scale through – – it’s so basic but just being able to have so many access points all over. Yes, it’s really fun.

A: Do you teach at Columbia now?

J: No, when I got out of school I taught there for a couple of semesters – Beginning Painting and Drawing, and now I’m primarily teaching at museums. The Met, MoMA and the Whitney are my main posts.

A: That’s awesome. Do you have a specific thing that you teach?

J: Yes for the Met I do a lot of painting and drawing and that’s mostly with high schoolers and adults. Usually, in relation to special exhibitions. For example, if they have a Matisse show we look at the work in that exhibition and think about how to emulate his strategies in the studio.

A: I had no idea that museums did that.

J: It’s really great. The Met is unique in that way. I think that the Whitney has some adult programing as well. At the Whitney and MoMA, I do school tours K-12. That also feels like curating in some ways because you are selecting a group of artworks that will help to develop the idea and will encourage close looking.

A: Do you like teaching the younger kids more than the older?

JI love the range from little ones to seniors. I don’t know, I just think everybody brings such an interesting field of responses to the work and I find myself seeing things in new ways every time I sit down with any group. It’s really fun.

A: So you lead the tour and then do you teach them and ask questions?

J: Yes, the idea is that you are asking questions that will guide them in looking. There are a lot of interactive components especially with the younger ones.

A: That’s so cute.

J: It’s really sweet.

A: Do you see yourself doing that for a while?

J: I don’t know. I really enjoy teaching and being in the studio for me happens to be a very solitary practice, so I like the balance of having something that’s a little bit more social and public. I get really inspired by students’ work and their ideas. I feel like it’s a really nice compliment to what I’m doing in here. In terms of professional work outside of the studio I’d love to do more curating, but in terms of financial stability I love the teaching. I feel like it’s the perfect complement to my studio practice if I have to do anything outside of the studio.  It lets me look. It lets me research.

A: Yes, it is really nice compliment and you are getting paid for it which is also wonderful to get paid for doing what you like.

J: Exactly.

A: What was your first gallery show?

J: Early on, UCLA had a really nice opportunity for undergrads to curate exhibitions in galleries on-campus. I was doing a lot of that work with friends and also had a few solo shows towards the end of the program. Then I had maybe one show in LA, one small show in a tiny gallery in LA before I moved to New York. When I finished at Columbia, I had a small show at a gallery in Brooklyn that doesn’t exist any more. I’ve had a lot of really amazing opportunities to do solo exhibitions over the past 10 years or so. They were mostly new galleries that were just getting going.

The show that felt the most solid to me in terms of my beginning to enter the art world here was my exhibit at 106 Green in Greenpoint. I think mostly because the experience of working with three artist-curators felt like such a nice synchronicity in terms of the way they were providing freedom in choosing work and giving me a platform amongst a community of artists that I thought was really strong.

I feel like that was my first big solo show in New York. Since then I’ve had some nice opportunities for group shows. It’s kind of grown incrementally since I got out of school. I feel so lucky any time I have a chance to show the work because it feels like getting it out in the world and getting a response to it is really the goal.

A: Yes, totally. Is this the body of work you’ve been doing for a while?

J: Yes. You’re sort of catching me in between things. I just spent two weeks in Indiana installing a solo exhibition, which I can show you images of. That involved eight paintings, which I made here over the course of the last two months. These two paintings that are out right here were in that show that I curated at Crush Curatorial in Chelsea in May. These are the most recent finished works.

The other three that are in the room I just started so they’re not finished. This is the work I began, I guess in the beginning of July when I got back from that installation. I was there for two weeks painting the walls of the gallery so I could make more of an immersive space.

A: I think I remember seeing an image of that. They were standing.

J: Yes, standing. This is the most recent work but you’re seeing it in progress. These two are complete and then these three are just getting going.

A: I really like them. This one’s kind of dark…

J: I feel like they go between the absurd and a little bit of existential. [laughter] I like for there to be humor in them but there’s also something uncanny about the situations that they get propped up in.

A: Yes, totally. Are there a few specific things that inspire them?

J: Yes, the figures come from a lot of different places. But the paintings always start with the figures engaging in some sort of gesture or interaction. That might come from something I’ve read or something I’ve seen in a film or something I’ve just seen while moving around the city. Observing people on the train or out on the streets.

The spaces I usually build in relation to these gestures. Sometimes it’ll be something much more concrete or specific like they’re sitting in this car. Sometimes it’ll just be sort of the way that someone has moved in a space. I’m trying to capture that feeling of movement or a static and choppy quality. It just depends on the initial gesture.

A: It starts with a gesture and you build from there. What is this canvas?

J: Oh yes. I’ve been experimenting a lot with working on fabric, using a lot of different materials. This one and this one are burlap. It’s been so fun to paint on it.  Almost feels like cheating because the texture is so satisfying and it just does some really different things.

A: Yeah, I couldn’t tell what it was.

J: It’s kind of obvious but I have a lot of friends who’ve painted on burlap forever and I’ve never really thought to experiment as much in this way. Lately though, I’ve been really interested in using that color and texture as sort of a starting point for experimenting with the space that they’re in. Yeah, this was kind of fun because a lot of these things happen by chance for me. I’m really interested in allowing for that element to enter the work.

I went to the fabric store looking for more of this burlap and they only had this whole other range of crazy colors available. I was kind of moving towards the most muted I could find, which happened to be this sort of lavender, which my sister yesterday said read as grey. Colors are relative though so that makes sense.

It’s been really fun to play with. I think for somebody like me who’s totally invested and just in love with experimenting with color it’s been really nice to have something that pushes me to work with a whole new palette. I feel like if you have this other starting point that is so dominant then it kind of initiates this completely different train.

A: Yes, absolutely. How long does it typically take you to finish it?

J: It really varies. I’m trying to get into the practice of developing a group of work at once so that they all build together. If I get stuck on one I can move between them and they inform each other. I would say on average it probably takes me four to six weeks for a large work. I’m also making small paintings and drawings at the same time. I tend to build up ten large paintings over the course of the year. I don’t know, sometimes more, sometimes less.

A: That’s really cool though that if you get stuck on one you just work on another until that one comes back to you.

J: That was sort of a really important strategy that one of my teachers, again in undergrad, introduced. It was like, you need to be able to be working constantly in the studio and you can’t just stop when something’s not telling you what it needs to do. Having a lot of work going at the same time has been super helpful. In fact, before I left for Indiana I stretched all of these canvases just so I knew that I had something to go back to. I just didn’t want to break the momentum, you know?

A: Yes. Did you finish anything when you were in Indiana?

J: Yes. Basically, all of the paintings that I shipped there were complete, but the time that I spent there was really just doing this wall installation. It was a space with about 20-foot high ceilings, a thousand square foot scenario. That was what I was working on while I was there.  It was black and white paintings on the wall. That was so fun because I didn’t have a plan really. I setup the paintings in the space thinking that I would do something in response to them. The concept was mirroring, this idea of echoing  gesture or behavior. I just started from one end of the gallery and worked my way over. Every day I got to go in and invent and play with the way the figures were navigating the space.

A: Did you do sculptures too?

J: The sculptures I had made a few months prior and they were part of that show that I had done at Crush Curatorial last September, so they were part of this space. That was how the whole idea of an immersive environment came to be in Indiana. I had been invited to work in this smaller space that Karen Flatow at Crush gave me the opportunity to play around with for two weeks. And then Max Weintraub, who runs the Marsh Gallery in Indiana, had seen these images and said, “Do you want to come try something similar out on a larger scale?”

A: For the Indiana space, were you on a ladder painting?

J: Yes. There’s some pretty funny footage. They were trying to use a GoPro – – there’s a video of me getting up on a high ladder and filling in sections of the wall painting.

A: Yeah, was that so exhausting?

J: It was so fun. Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve had creatively. It was just fantastic to have that size canvas available to you, it’s really incredible. When they first put me in there they gave me a nine foot ladder and they came in the next day and saw that I had been on the top step reaching up and were like “We can get you a larger ladder actually.”

A: “It’s not a big deal.” [laughter]

J: That was better.

A: That’s good.

J: I was definitely flying.

A: Yes. Oh my gosh, what if you were afraid of heights? Can’t look down.

J: Yes, I don’t think I could do that sort of work if I was.

When you were at UCLA, was there any specific advice that a professor told you that really stuck with you?

J: Gosh, there were so many things. One of my favorite professors there was Lari Pittman. I just felt like everything he said was gold. I really connected with the way that he thought through making. I don’t know, I guess one thing he said to me was that if you let the paintings talk to you and tell you what to do, then there’s a little bit less pressure to figure out what you want. It’s just more about the work. I’ve always found that incredibly useful.

I don’t know, I felt so lucky there because there were so many incredible faculty.  Catherine Opie was there, James Welling. They would spend eight hours with us a week, just hanging out and talking about work and introducing us to new artists and ideas. It was so ideal. I really valued my time there.

A: That’s amazing. Do you prefer the LA art scene or New York better?

J: I feel like they’re so different. When I moved out here I was just totally overwhelmed by the range, and also the conversation around art here feels more specific. It feels more steeped in history. LA is on its own planet. I always feel like it’s a little bit more idiosyncratic and people are off in their own pockets, doing their own thing. I love both. I felt so lucky when I got to New York to work with the whole New York faculty artist scene and to be immersed in that end. Because it did feel completely distinct.

A: I love being here and you’re just surrounded by it all the time. If you want to go see something you can.

J: Yeah, there’s great art in LA and then there’s so much good programming there. But there is something here – – what I noticed immediately is you’d go to a night of openings and you’d run into all of your friends. You didn’t have to make a call, you just knew if I go out I’m going to see all of these artists who are part of this larger conversation. It just felt like a very strong community in that way.

A: Everyone here just wants to see and experience new pieces, and artists, and learn. Everyone’s eyes are open here and I love that about New York.

J: One thing that I’ve found now that I’ve been here a little longer and I feel more comfortable is, even just reaching out to other artists that I don’t have an introduction to, I’ve just met through the internet or whatever, is possible. People are very open to having that conversation, and letting people into their studios, and sharing their work.

A: I love that so much, and I feel like that’s very art-specific too. The fact that they just want to help show people their work. Is there an artist whose career you really admire, like the way that they’ve gone about building themselves?

J: It’s rare that I think of artists in that way, but it’s really interesting to think about. I’d just like to pause on that. There are artists whose body of work I really admire I guess regardless of their exhibition record. When I think of career I think of exhibition opportunities, and growth over time. Maybe I’m just not as familiar with that trajectory. I don’t know. I was actually looking at Rosemary Trockle today and Louise Bourgeois.  Those are both artists that I am totally enamored with. I tend to really gravitate towards artists who are thinking in a range of media, and who are really pushing themselves in each body of work to get into new territory. That’s really exciting to me.

A: I feel like Rosemary Trockle in particular, even her older work, I think is so specific to now. The fact that she’s working in a traditional women’s medium. I love her work.

J: I’m excited by both the material content and the conceptual content. That’s always amazing. Then just like what you said this idea that you could feel so relevant across a range of time periods, it’s really fun.

A: What have you seen that you’ve been liking lately?

J: I’ve been teaching at the Met a lot so I’ve spent some time at the Commes des Garcons exhibit. I’ve been thinking a lot about collaborations so I love the fashion and performance and body elements entering that work. It’s beautifully installed. The architecture in that space is like its own artwork.

A: I always love those shows.

J: Always very thoughtful about installation which I feel very sensitive to so that’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to the New Museum show but I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been researching a lot of artists who are working in theatre. Recently that’s what I’ve wrapped my head around lately. Rauschenberg did a lot of set design. They have a little bit of video footage of that work at his MoMA show. I was remembering recently that I think he did a cover for The Talking Heads. All of these fun cross-collaborations.

A: David Salle used to build sets before he was a full blown artist. In one of his series, the tapestry series and his ballet series, they’re all based on his time building sets before.

Yes, it’s just so fun to let somebody – – I feel like a lot of times what you’re doing as a practicing artist is setting your own limits in the studio, and letting somebody else set those limits it’s just so fun.

A: Totally. When you’re in the studio do you like listen to music or quiet?

J: No. I’m a total nerd about it. I’m really sensitive to sound so if I listen to anything, it’s like an interview or I’ll talk on the phone but for whatever reason the beat of music I find totally distracting.  It affects the pace of the painting for me.

A: Yes, every time I talk to an artist who listens to music, it’s really interesting to me because for me if I were painting, it such a musical thing, I really feel it would get me off track.

J: Yes, well it can be really inspirational and there’s such a wide range of artists who are guided by sound. Actually, when I’m drawing I can listen to music, so it must just be a different part of the brain. There’s more repetition there and the rhythm of the mark-making is the same throughout.

A: This question is from our artcloud CEO, Alex West. He wants to know, is there a mistake you’ve made in the past and how have you learned from it?

J: I always joke about how mistakes in a painting are assets in my mind because sometimes you just want to mess something up in order to get to a new place. I mean maybe that’s cheating on the answer but I do feel the way that I’m working is very responsive and intuitive and allows for a lot of places to go off track and then return. I kind of look forward to those moments.

A: Do you like working in the large format more than the smaller?

J: I’ve always wanted the figures to be close to life size so that the space in the painting could allow you to feel like you might enter it. From the beginning that was something that felt important, that you could feel an almost one-to-one relationship with the bodies. I do feel very comfortable working on a larger scale. I’m always pushing my students to go there. It’s funny because I feel like most people are much more confident when there’s less space.

A: Less space to mess up?

J: Yes, but more control. I do really take a lot of pleasure in being able to move across the surface in that way physically.

A: Do you have a thing with noses?

Yes. [laughs] I don’t know when that entered the work exactly except maybe it’s just close to my face or something that feels familiar. I think that they started as just this short-hand, like a quick way of developing a body without looking at an image. I wanted to figure out a way to just get a very immediate idea down in sketches. Then I realized that I really didn’t want to have to refer to an image at all in the larger work, once I had the opportunity to not pull from a photo or some other source. This sort of short-hand developed and I’ve gotten very comfortable with it.

I feel like there’s something humorous about the graphic and exaggerated quality of the figures. I think a lot of the content can be heavy sometimes so I’m having fun with that balance, but they are pretty quirky.

A: They are quirky. Do you collect other artists’ work?

J: Yes. I’ve been trading a lot lately, not technically collecting, but I’m so excited to have my friends’ work in the house. I feel like it’s so nice to live with all your favorite paintings. I feel much more eager to do that lately. When I was younger I wasn’t making small work first of all so nobody had space for my giant paintings. Also I felt more precious about saving and holding onto things. Now, I feel I make so much work and I’d rather it be out in the world. I’m always thrilled to trade work with other artists. I have a pretty nice collection going now. I’m trying to build it. I really love having all of my friends’ work around.

A: When you were growing up were your parents interested in art?

J: Yes. My dad’s an actor so they’re definitely in that world. I don’t think they thought that my sister or I would become artists. Because the lifestyle is just so insane.

A: Is your sister an artist too?

J: She’s in film. We both ended up that way and I think they were totally surprised. But very supportive. I grew up seeing a lot of theater and film. We had a lot of painting around the house and they loved going to museums. That was a big part of the conversation for sure.

A: Oh wow. That’s awesome. Then you just grew up and became what you wanted.

J: [laughs] I’m very lucky. I always tell my students when they have parents that are really supportive of them, that it’s a huge asset. I felt that and there was never a question. But I have friends who definitely had a whole different story.

A: I think it’s really common to find parents who don’t understand. They’re like why would you want to be a starving artist?

J: Yes. Honestly, I feel that naivety on my part was such a gift. My father was, luckily, a very successful working actor all of our lives. Even if there was struggle and tumult I did not see it. I was not privy to it. I really entered this world thinking, yes, this is possible. No big deal.

A: Are there any galleries in the city that you really like going to?

J: There are so many. I love what the Sculpture Center does. The New Museum is curating so many amazing shows. Luckily I’m out teaching at the Whitney and MoMA all the time so I get to see those exhibitions just in researching. But in terms of smaller spaces, I just saw the Alice Mackler show at Kerry Schuss. And those sculptures, she’s really amazing. She’s a ceramicist. And Derek Eller. I guess I’m always excited about smaller spaces. Helena Anrather’s new gallery.  I feel like I could go on and on. It’s so great to be in New York. It’s also so overwhelming. Every month, there’s just a whole new set.

J: Any (shows) you would recommend?

A: I feel like I haven’t been in the city at all this summer.

J: That’s nice. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

Yes that’s why all these shows are random group shows that they throw together. I still want to see the Rauschenberg show. I need to see that before it closes. All anyone is talking about is that. I actually didn’t think I was going to enjoy this, but what I ended up liking a lot is the Met rooftop commission.

J: Oh yes. You know, it’s so funny. I’ve spent a lot of time recently with students up there. What did you think?

A: I had seen images online and I was like, I’m not going to like this. My parents were in town so we were going to go see it. Then we were up there and first of all, that space is gorgeous.

J: Yes, did you see the PsychoBarn when they did that?

A: Yes. I hated that.

J: Oh really?

A: I hated that. So coming off of that, being like, “I hated this. I’m not going to like this one.” I don’t know. I really enjoyed it. It was like weird and unexpected. They’re not marble, what are they?

J: It’s a mix. He did these 3D scans of works and people and then re-presented them.

A: Whatever it was, it was just like taking a really, what felt like, traditional, sculptural thing and making it weird and modern. I really liked it.

J: That was a work that I felt like I was able to appreciate more once I really started getting into it with students, hearing their feedback. It’s so fun to re-enter a work a few times over and see the different ways that it presents itself.

A: Do you have any advice for aspiring young artists?

J: I guess I always like to say, talk to as many people as possible, ask a lot of questions, be curious, and mess things up a little bit and see what happens. My big thing is just to look at a lot of art and make a lot of art. Just keep making constantly.

A: Awesome. Thank you so much.

J: Oh, yes. Thanks for coming. This was so fun.


Images Courtesy of Emma Fishman (@emmafishman)

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At the Studio: Sally King Benedict

At the Studio: Sally King Benedict

Today at Atmos we’re speaking with artist Sally King Benedict in her Atlanta studio. Read along for a chance to hear about her Southern roots and her feature in Coca-Cola’s “10 Artists, 10 Bottles and 10 Stories” project.

*This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

Atmos: Thank you so much for having me today! So let’s talk a little bit about your first experience with art. How you got into this. You studied at Charleston, right?

Sally King Benedict: Yes, but I figured I would go to graduate school or get my MFA one day, but I just had the best professor there and we kind of cruised all the way through. Studio art there was bigger than I expected it to be when I first went there. And then it ended up to be a great place to cultivate it.

A: So did you go into school knowing you wanted to be an artist?

S: Yes, I think since I could remember I always wanted to do art in my parents basement and give it to somebody or let somebody experience it. It was very much a way for me to….I wanted to give it away I think. I always wanted to create something to give to someone else. I did after school art and all that. My mom worked at a gallery here in Atlanta, a contemporary art gallery with Doug Macon. He’s not around anymore, he’s down in Florida. So I got exposed to that scene really young. It’s really different from what I was used to and what all my friend’s parents were doing. It was really cool and fun. They were a big part of it.

A: It’s so important what your parents do. If you’re a visual person, most likely your parents are too. Do you have any kids?

S: I have a five year old. And he’s in here all the time.

A: Does he paint with you?

S: He does. And he’s really into it. As much as a five year old can be. For a boy, he’s really sensitive and really into color. Vs kicking a soccer ball around. So I can see it totally coming though.

A: I love that. So do you remember the first piece you saw that really stood out to you?

S: I think I would say it was in the gallery my mom worked at, Macon and Company. There were a few artists that he had that the scale was huge and it blew my mind that somebody could paint something that big that wasn’t derivative of something real. It was the first abstract experience I think, but I can’t remember exactly the piece. But I remember it being impactful in a gallery space.

A: Do you mainly do abstract work? Have you ever done figurative?

S: I think the figure comes through a lot in the abstract work. There’s definitely figurative work that I do, but they’re abstract. Very intuitive….I have a model occasionally to get me back to square one, but I love to do nudes and figurative work and actual landscapes. I like to be outside and really doing it, but most of it is more soulful.

A: When you’re painting do you mainly do it in the studio?

S: Yeah, I mainly like just being in here. I mean I do it at home too. I do it wherever I am. I’ll travel with stuff all the time with the intention of doing new things.

A: So your professor at Charleston really inspired you. How was he different than any of your other instructors?

S: Cliff Peacock and his partner Barbara Duvall. (She) was in the printmaking department and he was in painting. And so to have those two, I kind of bounced back and forth. They took an interest because they were very critical, but they were very constructive. They weren’t overly positive and I felt like everyone else in my life about artwork has always been too positive. It’s like going to a therapist who only tells you your good qualities. But they truly were harsh and they were no BS. I really needed that because everyone else in my life was just telling me what I wanted to hear. They were the two people who kept me grounded. They kept me trying harder and pushing harder. It was a personality thing. We really clicked the whole time. They watched out for me after I graduated. I check in with them a lot. I also check in with my high school pottery professor here in Atlanta. I keep in touch.

A: Right, if they’re a good influence on you why not continue that relationship.

S: They kept me grounded so it was good. I almost went back to Chicago to get my MFA. I had an apartment, but…

A: Oh you go that far!

S: Yeah, I did. I got accepted, I was going, I got an apartment. And then something just happened up there that I just didn’t think I was going to flourish in the right way and then all of a sudden was like, just because I have the opportunity doesn’t mean I have to take it.

A: Yes!

S: I think my mom had to tell me that. She was like, ‘you don’t have to do this just because it’s a great opportunity’.

A: It’s true. It’s not in everyone’s plan. Everything works out the way it’s meant to and some people who don’t listen to that inner voice or don’t have a wise mom end up doing the wrong thing.

S: Exactly. I can’t imagine how different…I mean I’m sure it would have been a wonderful experience, but I definitely made the right decision right then.

A: And Chicago is an incredible art city. I’ve never been and every time I do these interviews I swear someone brings up how the Midwest is the best art scene.

S: It really is. It’s wonderful and I really thought it would be the right move.

A: So how did you end up in Atlanta? You’re from here?

S: I’m from here, yeah. Charleston was great and College of Charleston was great. I never had a plan to move back to Atlanta but having a child changes things. Charleston did get a little bit small, just tight socially. I was ready for a change. Luckily my husband is from Long Island, I think he missed New York and missed the city and he was into the idea. So we thought we were going to just come here for a little bit and it’s ended up being amazingly different than what I remembered, in great ways. There’s just so many options and so much for me. I need options.

A: Atlanta in the last five, ten years has completely changed. It’s totally different from when I was growing up.

S: Same.

A: It’s really frustrating honestly. Now I live somewhere else and all of my friends still live here. And they’re going to Ponce and they’re going to Krog. There was none of that here!

S: I know it’s really nice.

A: It’s so nice! I’m really happy for this city. I’m nervous for when it reaches the point where everything is expensive. But for now it’s nice. How’s the Atlanta art scene? Do you go to galleries here that you like?

S: I do. I’m not as much a patron because I feel like I’m on the other side of it. I’m sort of under a rock just trying to get the work done. Sometimes too much information, too much stimulation can be a bad thing for me I’ve found. I’m definitely supportive in the arts world and I’ll go to openings. I went to one on Saturday night down in Spaldings. I try to keep up with going, but there’s so much going on that sometimes I just want to do absolutely nothing that’s art related unless I’m actually working.

A: Sometimes there’s too much that it influences you in not the right way.

S: Yeah, there’s a lot. It’s kind of overwhelming to be honest. I haven’t really found my niche outside of what I’m trying to do.

A: Are there artists that inspire you?

S: Of course. Everyone does. Everything does. There’s plenty of living ones.

A: Or even artists whose careers inspire you?

S: Yes, I love the fact that David Hockney is still crushing it on his iPad. There are things that I love about artists that are still going. I would hope that by that time in my life I’m still doing something. Carolyn Carr is huge for me. She’s in Atlanta. I just love how she can jump ship from medium to medium and it still makes sense. She can do these beautiful paintings and then she can switch to pottery. I like how she can show in various places and different galleries. That to me is the most inspiring about certain artists that can be in other spaces and it makes sense.

A: Do you work in any other mediums ever?

S: I do. I always have loved pottery. I always have loved print making. I have a ceramic artist where we might work on some stuff. But I’m just painting it. I’m not exactly doing the building of it. But printmaking I love. Photography…I worked with a photographer to add a different element. There are collaborative projects I’m doing. There’s only so much time for me to try to get good at painting. I’m just trying to get better at that. Maybe one day I’ll have time to kind of play around and experiment. It’s hard to find time to do that.

A: Yeah you have to pursue a single thing right now, I get that. I saw online that you did the Coca-Cola 10th anniversary project. How did that come about?

S: I honestly thought the email was a joke. I was like, ‘Is this real? This is from out of nowhere!’ And it was! I think the creative director was just really researching Atlanta artists. I honestly think it was one of those blind Google searches. They had never known my work before and I think they just thought it was a good fit. It was really cool. Some of the other artists I’ve known, have been around. So it was really fun. One of those things where it was like, “Oh my gosh, someone can actually find me without knowing somebody I know”.

A: I couldn’t tell, it’s a big sculpture?

S: It was a four foot foam coke bottle and they commissioned 10 artists to do whatever treatment needed to be done to make it their own, whatever they wanted to do. So we had no direction.

A: Where is yours right now?

S: It’s there. It’s on display for a year.

A: Oh my god! At the Coke Museum?

S: Yeah! In their pop art gallery. Which is really kind of neat.

A: That’s really cool!

S: It’s in their collection. It’s neat that they own it.

A: It’s really cool. I’m from here so I know that’s a big deal.

S: Being from here, you get it. So that was probably the biggest honor I’ve had. That was really really neat.

A: That’s awesome. Where do you show?

S: I have been showing at a gallery in Charlotte for probably like five years, Hidell Brooks. They’re more of a formal gallery setting. The last three years I’ve done a show locally with Spalding Nix and he’s in the same complex. I do it so I don’t have to do my own thing. I’m from here, he’s from here we have a lot of crossover. It’s been wonderful so I can just show once a year and have an event instead of taking it on myself. But then I do other projects around town. I’m having a show in Quogue, New York this summer for the first time. I’ve shown in Dallas before. It’s been pretty regional. I’d like to get out on the West Coast and up in the New York area, but I’ve been so busy in what’s going on here that someone finally told me it’s okay to be kind of niche. That you don’t have to be everywhere to feel like you’re doing something right. And that’s starting to set in this year.

A: That’s true. Art cities like New York are so overrun a lot. I was just having this conversation with Scott Ingram. A lot of times living there for me are just so constant where nothing looks good to you anymore. So it’s good that you’re not in the mix of that. So you’re offsetting yourself a little bit.

S: Right. I think it would kind of crush me. I can’t be inundated with it all the time. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to be honest. You want to be that right balance and right relationship with a dealer or a gallery but the market has just shifted. Even in the last five years. I do so much more of my direct selling. I’m good right now. I don’t want to take on too much, even if that’s ten years ago what I thought was being at Gagosian….was where I was trying to go. My goals have shifted a lot. Which is not what I expected, but you have to let go.

A: It’s good. It gives you space to work and do your thing. Galleries complicate things. Is Quogue upstate?

S: Yeah, it’s out in the Hamptons.

A: When you’re there, you should take a little time and go to the Hudson Valley. It’s gotten insane. Mass MoCA, in the Berkshires, did an insane expansion. It’s in an old textile mill so it’s cavernous. I was reading about the expansion and it’s all of these pieces that have never been able to show anywhere else because they’re too big are able to show in this space now. You need to go….Storm King is incredible too.

S: I haven’t even been there, it’s so embarrassing.

A: It’s honestly only an hour from the city.

S: Whenever I go up there….I did live in New York for six months so I miss what I miss there so I never get Upstate. There’s so much up there.

A: Any museums that you like to go to?

S: I love going out to LA. LA has been great. My brothers out there. The Getty gardens. Going up there and being outside. I love a great sculpture garden. That to me is insane. The Getty is amazing. I love DC. I love some old school…the Met obviously. I’ve spent a lot of time in Florence and everything there is just…and the Uffizi…I could live there. In Paris…the Musée D’Orsay.

A: The Musée D’Orsay is awesome.

S: I remember just loving everything there. Santa Fe is huge. Ghost Ranch is big for me. Georgia O’Keeffe’s place outside of Santa Fe, where she spent all of her time and where she worked is insane. My mom loves anything out West so we grew up going to Santa Fe or Tucson or Arizona. We would be out there and that landscape to me was really influential. I love Georgia O’Keefe so much.

A: Georgia O’Keefe is amazing.

S: When I come up I’m going to see her exhibit. It’s at MoMA.

A: I think it’s the Met. You know what you should see when you’re there too, if you go to the Met, is their rooftop exhibit right now is so cool.

S: The Guggenheim also..I mean I’ve been to a million museums but I love them all for certain reasons.

A: When you’re in the studio, what kind of environment do you like? Do you play music?

S: It’s funny, sometimes I have it so loud I feel like I can do things. And other times I have it pretty quiet works best for me. It’s weird.

A: Do you like being by yourself when you’re working?

S: I do. Luckily this (studio) is so conducive but sometimes our hours don’t overlap and I’ll have a day here. We get distracted about business stuff and it’s good to have time to just….I’ll turn my phone off and try to do that.

A: Instagram, is it helping or hurting the art world?

S: It’s a double-edged sword for me. It’s obviously helped my business but it’s like right time right place. But now I see it actually hurting me. I feel like I have to. I feel like I have to keep putting stuff out there and continue putting out the effort, but I just want to delete the whole thing every other day.

A: I feel the same way. My personal one I’m constantly back and forth between…I just want to throw my phone out every day.

S: I do too. There are so many positive things to it too. If you don’t see somebody or you don’t see your family it’s nice for people to know what’s going on your life. But then it’s like how much time do I waste just trolling before I go to bed? I mean anyone would say that.

A: It’s great because it opens your eyes to other things. Especially as an artist. If I’m on my discover page and I see your work and I like it it opens me up to you and your work.

S: Yeah and I feel the same way about anybody else.

A: As a consumer I love it, but as a producer I hate it.

S: Me too. It’s tough. It can’t be a thing forever. I’m just wondering how long it’s going to be.

A: I think that’s all I have for you. Thank you so much for meeting with me!

S: Thank you for doing it!

Images Courtesy of: Fernando Decillis

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At the Studio: Scott Ingram

At the Studio: Scott Ingram

Today at Atmos we’re speaking with artist Scott Ingram in his studio in Atlanta, Georgia. Read along for a chance to hear about the process behind his poured nail polish paintings and his incredible advice for young artists. 

*This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

Atmos: So have you always worked on paper?

Scott Ingram: Always on paper. I love working on paper. It’s such a perfect human medium for people. But I also work on a lot of found paper. My studio used to be in the old Nexus press building. Which was a press that made artist made books for [about] 25 years. When they closed they literally just locked the doors and walked out.

A: With everything inside?

S: Yeah and then ten years later I walked into the place to rent it as a studio space. Some of the things had been sold, but there were just stacks of random paper around and I just started collecting all of this crazy, weird paper from book making. So it was somewhere between art and graphic design [and] I started incorporating a lot of that material into collages and drawings and stuff like that.

A: That’s really cool. When you find source material like that do you typically save it for a while or do you use it immediately?

S: Sometimes it really sparks something, but a lot of these drawers are just paper, just waiting to be used. Waiting to kind of find that perfect use for them. But it’s fun. It’s kind of like the nail polish stuff. It has content already, just by being nail polish, it’s already this kind of feminine material, or sexually charged material right out of the gate. As a product, that’s what it’s intended for. And it was a surrogate material for me [instead of] automotive paint. I used to use a lot of a car paints. I was just in target one day and I saw a nail polish and I was like ‘that would be great to use for studies instead of car paint’.

A: Yes, it’s basically the opposite of [automotive paint].

S: Yeah, so what was interesting was that these materials had genders in my mind.

A: Absolutely they do.

S: I think it’s kind of cool… that paper that came out of a graphic design background has a different history and already has content based on its intention and its use. So therefor, you can place some of that stuff into a collage or drawing or whatever you want.

A: So you weren’t using nail polish to begin with for these studies?

S: I’ve been doing these for 17 years.

A: Wow. And have they changed much throughout those 17 years besides the fact they’re on canvas now?

S: I think the only thing that has really consistently changed is the quality of the enamel and the colors. When I first started, everything was really basic colors. There was no nuance to it at all.

A: When you’re starting out one do you lay out the colors before you do it or do you just grab and go?

S: The big ones, yes. The smaller ones, [no]. Part of it is…I start in the middle and each color is a decision based on the last color that was put down. So as you build from the middle, it has these moments where you have to stop and think about where it’s going. Do you want it to project inward? Do you want some kind of optical thing to happen? Really they’re about decision-making. I’ve always said that all the lines start the same and they end the same. It’s really the interesting things they do in between or whether they meet or they don’t meet or they touch….

A: That’s another aspect is if that [lines] going that way, it’s more likely to merge with that [line], so what color would look good with that?

S: Right. And sometimes it’s not even a matter of looking good with it, sometimes it’s a matter of what is the reaction you want? So many times it’s really about just a contrast. They all kind of have their own individual interest as lines, but how do you make that work together? And then of course I have absolutely no control over whether or not they run into each other. I mean sometimes there are three lines at a time that will run into each other and you’re like ‘how did that happen?’. Which also leaves weird spacing at the bottom in some cases.

S: And sometimes they’re just perfect. Sometimes they literally just flow perfectly. And I’ve gotten to the point now where I don’t like that as well. When you see them finish, they really read as these really lovely striped paintings. But when you really start looking at the little nuances of each color and line, they suddenly have a lot of character and movement to them.

S: They’re fun and I’ve done them as wall installations. I did one that was 12 x 30 feet. One I did over a fireplace that pooled down onto the mantle of the fireplace, which was really cool. It’s in a salon in Buckhead.

A: So if you’re doing something like that, an installation, you’re planning out the colors?

S: I didn’t actually plan that one out that much. But I had a good idea of what I wanted so when I went on site I basically had everything there and ready to go. When I went on site to pour it, it went pretty smoothly.

A: So if you do a line and you hate it on the mantle…

S: Nothing you can do about it.

A: It’s just there?

S: It’s just there. There’s not a thing I can do about it and in fact these are all pieces that have failed in some way but I like the color combinations so I keep them and I revisit them and potentially make something out of them at some point. Not out of those in particular, but I mean remake the piece. It could be they were too small. Like I loved the color combination but it needed to be vertical instead of horizontal. Or maybe they just get damaged or go crazy. Sometimes if they’re really just wrong, I just scrap them and start over. I had one a couple weeks ago and literally got to the last line and the last line destroyed the entire thing.

S: The line and the color have been this continuous thing for me, through all of the work. And I’ve been thinking about this in terms of Ellsworth Kelly. [He] used to make these really beautiful color field paintings, really simple, minimalist paintings, but then he would make plant drawings. And I’ve always loved that his whole life, his whole career, he would just draw a plant. And it wasn’t like a tulip sitting on his kitchen table or something, he would go out and find a plant and draw it on site. And I always thought that that, as an exercise, was so interesting. I feel like these for me is a meditative kind of thing that I do.

S: I’ll pour one of these things and it might take the whole day to do it if it’s just straight through, but when it gets stuck, and you really have to think about, where is it going or what is it doing you realize that…and people don’t seem to know this, but they don’t know if it took me a day to make it or a month to make it or two months to make it so its a really funny thing.

A: Typically does it take you longer than shorter to make it?

S: Typically, yeah. Well part of it is also after 17 years of making them I have this kind of idea in the back of my mind of what I’ve done before and how do I change that. How do you not remake the same piece over and over again?

A: So the difference between the ones now vs. the ones when you first started would be the change in varnish?

S: Yeah it’s funny. You can see, that one [work from 2005] just how muted everything is and dark. You wouldn’t see that kind of daffodil yellow color or this fluorescent color in 2005. They just didn’t…they may have made it but they didn’t produce a line of it. And every company wasn’t making it. It’s really interesting. The funny thing is that a lot of those colors from 2000-2005 have people that want them now. Designers want them now. It’s really strange. I’m losing all of my old inventory because they now want those colors. It’s strange. I guess they just feel like they’re coming back.

S: There’s a funny relationship between the nail polish stuff and the architectural stuff….I got interested in architecture, but I was really really interested in the lines of the architecture. I think that’s where the line and color from the nail polish stuff really plays back into…

A: Have you always been interested in architecture?

S: Yeah, I’m originally from Iowa and the Midwest is riddled with really great architecture. The thing you find in the Midwest is that there is great architecture and there’s great art. No one wants to believe that, but there are all of these huge companies and collectors and stuff out there. Some of the best museums in the country are out there.

S: From Chicago over, you end up with the Walker in Minneapolis, which is unbelievable. All of these big companies in the Midwest were funding museums and building collections. Anyway I grew up around architecture, but I went to work for the Des Moines Art Center. Soon after high school…I went to work for the museum installing art. Eliel Saarinen had created the original wing in the 40’s and then I. M. Pei had built the second wing in the 70’s. Maybe around the time he was working on the pyramid at the Louvre? And then Richard Meier built the third wing at the same time the High Museum was being built. So there’s a miniature version of the High, attached to these other two great architects. So you work your way through this building and you go from a very traditional building, into this concrete sculpture wing, into this white box that Meier built.

A: That’s awesome. You don’t see that a lot these days because people really want things to be just homogenous. People don’t want to mix materials, styles or designs.

S: Yeah and it was very interesting to me because I worked in there for about three or four years and then later I went to work for the High as they were building their Renzo Piano building. And they were trying to find ways to make them [Piano and Meier] visually cohesive as the design process was happening and I was like ‘why?’. Why not have contrast? What’s wrong with contrast? Why not have that unique voice as an architect? They did it in different ways but I still feel like they’re too similar.

A: I think that’s a very southern thing to do…

S: …to blend, yeah.

A: They really love that here.

S: And it’s fine, but it creates limitations immediately for the architect. I see that as a problem when you’re creating limitations for the creative side of things right out of the gate.

A: I agree. Things are interesting when they’re different.

S: Yeah or when they’re having to speak to one another from different vantage points.

A: So have you always been interested in art? Was it something as a kid you enjoyed?

S: Yes, it’s funny because my son is six and he draws and makes things constantly and I remember that. I constantly go back to watching him; it’s like I’m having this out of body experience. Sitting down and drawing cartoons on a Saturday morning. It’s just what I would do. I think I got away from that; I got away from the figure and the animation stuff pretty quickly.

A: Do you name the works?

S: I don’t title the works on paper, but I have started titling the works on canvas. Typically the canvases are titled based on one of the (nail polish) colors in the work because they have such crazy names for these nail polishes. There’s always these funny little slips and plays in language that come up in the colors. I like to use those, but sometimes I kind of make hybrids out of them. I’ll marry a couple of them together.

A: Nail polish names too are so gendered. There was some online quiz recently where you had to guess whether it was a nail polish name or the title of a porno.

S: Oh, absolutely. It’s hilarious; which is what makes it really fun. I had one I finished a couple of weeks ago that was called ‘Latex Dreams’.

A: It’s wild.

S: Again, it’s a charged material. By design, that’s what it’s supposed to do. I think it’s kind of great and for me, I get to the end of the painting and I….go back through and inventory the names to title the paintings. It’s hilarious. You get through and part of it is based on the composition, part of it is based on your mood that day, part of its based on where it’s going. You can flip through those [names] and sometimes it’s laugh out loud funny and other times you’re like ‘ooh that’s kinda wrong’ and then you’re like, ‘ok this works’. Typically you find the one that works.

S: It’s a fun series and it’s funny to watch people [see them]. Men really like them. In the same reason that I use the nail polish or used to use car paint, I have a lot of men that are like, ‘my first car was this color’ or ‘I had a bike that was this color when I was a kid’ or some strange visual-color relationship that they make. It’s got their attention at that point. It suddenly takes the scariness of artwork out of it. I think a lot of people don’t know how to engage in a conversation about art and they don’t understand the work, but this is a great icebreaker.

A: People connect to it on their own personal level and it’s easier to approach and think about and talk to. When you’re working, how do you like your studio environment to be? Do you like to have music on?

S: Sometimes. My studio time is really weird. I listen to music a lot at home. I have another studio at home that’s really just a small two-car garage. I work at night and I usually work on architectural stuff there, small drawings. I never take the nail polish there. I tend to listen to music there more. But here, I do listen to music, but it’s usually to get me going and then when it gets to the end of the album [I turn it off]. I like listening to albums, I don’t like doing playlists. I like to know what’s coming and then you just get into it and go. Usually once an albums over that’s just it and I’m moving and that’s where it stops. It’s really weird. I think it influences my thinking too much.

A: These are really musical to me.

S: Absolutely.

A: So I could see how it influences your choices more.

S: Yeah, when I’m doing the big ones I do listen to music because I just have to keep moving. Typically, when I’m working on the big ones, I just need something to help me power through because it’s just…it took four days to pour the paint out on those.

A: It’s probably physically exhausting. You’re reaching, you’re moving a lot.

S: Oddly enough, I have to go to a chiropractor because climbing up and down ladders and stretching and reaching on the bigger ones, I pull my back out.

A: Oh no! Any emerging artists you have an eye on currently?

S: You know… I can dive deeper into people, like Ellsworth Kelly, who have had 50+ year careers, 60+ year careers, maybe even 70. They had emerging moments too and you can find value in that. As I’m trying to move forward, I do a lot of research with older artists I’m interested in. I just noticed that Gordon Matta Clark is doing an exhibit with the Bronx Museum this November and I absolutely love him. He has nothing to do with this series of work, but the architectural work is a different place for me. He’s really just now getting the credit he was due years ago. I’m interested in that. I would rather look back historically than submerge myself in the current, because I think there is a lot more to learn from the past than there is the current. A lot of these artists we’re not going to hear about in a few years.

S: I do a lot of art fairs and I go through and I realize that 95+% of it was not for me. But I can look at material and I can look at the way things are installed and there are things that I can take from those opportunities.

A: Fairs especially, they’re so overwhelming, but it’s cool trend-wise to see what something spoke to so many people in that year. The biennale this year, so many people were using mold as a material, which I had never seen before. All of a sudden five pavilions had it, which is really interesting to me.

S: It’s funny because you mentioned Ian Davenport earlier and he’s been making his poured paintings for about as long as I have been making mine.

A: Exactly. So what spoke to you both in that year?

S: Well mine was a drawing that Ellsworth Kelly made. He did a drawing in 1954 in Paris where he had put drops of ink on a piece of paper and tipped it up. It was one of his automatic drawings. When I talked to him about it, I had asked him if he had made more of them and he said no.

S: We had a conversation about how I thought there was so much potential in this drawing and he was like, ‘Go do it. You go do it. I’m not going to’. I thought it was very liberating to hear him say that and very generous at the same time. But when I got the idea back to the studio six months later I came up with a much more formal idea for them than he had.

S: So for me, they are about this formality. And they’re almost about reading. They have margins and they have a header. But there’s this really interesting formal, almost text quality. And you mentioned sheet music, and I can totally agree with that too.

S: I think that I started these in 1999 and the first ones were just acrylic on paper and then the nail polish kind of came into it on a late night in the studio, quirky thought. Like this is a great color, maybe I should use this. And it just happened. It was a really kind of aha moment and that’s where they started.

A: Do you collect other artists work?

S: Yeah, I started collecting when I worked for galleries and museums for almost 20 years and when I left, I didn’t want to stop collecting. It was great meeting artists and working with them directly and it’s almost like I collect the art like I’m collecting the experience with the artist. I’m trying to think of an artist whose work I collected who I never really met and I can’t think of one. All of them at the end of the day, the only reason I own them now, there’s a relationship or a story or something in their work that I really like.

A: That’s really special and I think a lot of collectors don’t have that chance.

S: Right and I think a lot of collectors don’t want that chance. They don’t want to meet the artist. Artists can be difficult. I’ve talked to collectors before who have met artists and wish they had never met them. They say, ‘I loved his work before, I hate it now’. I meet a lot of artists, and even if I like them, it doesn’t necessarily mean I need their work. There are check and balances in it.

A: Last question, any advice to young artists?

S: I’ve been making work for 28 years now. And if you would have asked me 28 years ago, I would have wanted to be much further along than I am now. For me, I think that this idea of the overnight success is silly. I think that this is a long-term plan and in this get rich quick environment that we’re in, art is not the place to be. If that’s your plan, it’s a bad plan because one in 50,000 artists might blow up that quickly, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they can stay up. To me it’s a long-term trajectory to get a lifelong career of making work and to sustain myself: my whole life and not just parts of it.

S: For me it’s about building the relationships, life-long relations with collectors. A lot of collectors once they start buying will continue to buy or they’ll buy from every series that you do. But it’s about developing relationships, long-term relationships. And for me that’s what I’ve tried to do. I just don’t think there’s a shortcut. I’ve had a great time with this slow climb and I’ve learned about what I make. I’ve learned a lot about the business and I’ve met a lot of people that I like and it’s still going.

S: I think as long as you still have the energy to keep it going, it can be very satisfying. You might not make $100 million a year, but that’s ok too. I’m much more interested in the evolution of the work and where the work goes when I’m not here anymore than I am in making [money]. It’s almost more for my son at this point. To show him some kind of longevity and some kind of value system that’s set in time and not money. And I’m really interested in that right now.

A: Thank you so much for talking to me today!

S: No problem!

Images Courtesy of: Fernando Decillis


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Jane Booth: Saturday Studio Session

Jane Booth: Saturday Studio Session

We’re spending the morning watching this video of Kansas-based painter, Jane Booth, paint in her studio on a Saturday afternoon. Read what she has to say about her process below. Happy watching!


Saturdays have long been my favorite studio day.  Even though I work every day, the luxuriousness of a Saturday from my corporate days lingers.  The phone rarely rings, my favorite radio station has good music programs, and it feels free and unfettered.

Yesterday was wild – fast and furious energy, I pulled some older canvases to rework (always free-ing) and kept the camera going to watch the progression of some narrative work.  When watching them all together this morning, these time lapses seem to capture the frenzy.  Mozart’s Symphony #25 sets the perfect pace.

The work is unfinished.”

Image and Video Courtesy of: Jane Booth.

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In Conversation with Eleanna Anagnos

In Conversation with Eleanna Anagnos

Today at Atmos is the first day we are posting a piece from our series of interviews with artists in their work spaces. For our inaugural post, we were lucky enough to have the chance to meet with abstract, visual artist, Eleanna Anagnos in her studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Read along below to hear about her process and work! *This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

Atmos: Do you remember the first thing that inspired you as an artist growing up?

Eleanna: I remember the first painting. It was a very colorful painting in the foyer of this woman’s house who, was like a surrogate mother to me. I would spend hours staring at it. It was sort of this tropical motif …I don’t know where it was from, like an island painting. I was mesmerized, studying it all of the time.

A: Do you remember how old you were?

E: It was a first memory so sometime around three or four. I [know] it was before I was five.

A: It’s so interesting how something so young can affect you for your entire life. What inspires your current work?

E: I have this connection with my mother and it inspires my thinking about my work. So since I was 15 my mother somatizes my internal, emotional experience. So if I’m in conflict with another human being or even in conflict internally she will feel it in real time no matter our positions on the globe. I can be in France and she’ll be in Chicago and it will wake her up in the middle of the night. I kind of just lived with it and that was it until about 2011 when I really started to investigate it and ask questions. ‘Well what are scientists saying about this?’ ‘What are people saying about this?’ ‘What does the research show?’ There must be a name for this. So I started doing research and all I found were scientists discrediting it. But it’s my lived reality so…I don’t accept that. …The paradigm that scientists use just…doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. So there are limitations under the paradigm they’re working under. I don’t think it’s so unique what my mom [experiences].  I believe her sense is developed, but I know twins that have this experience and that sometimes a familial bond makes it stronger. But I believe that we’re all connected, each of us, in much stronger ways than we let ourselves comprehend or understand.  Our energy and our personhood goes beyond our skin. There’s so much evidence in my life that has proven this idea time and time again. Research and life experiences have all informed my thinking on this; it’s a mixture of mysticism and metaphysics.

E: …When I was giving a lecture as a visiting artist at Wassaic Projects, one of the residents came up to me afterwards and said “You must know about the Platonic solids and the Platonic elements” and I had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently Plato had created this way of understanding the universe through geometry. But then later after he made these symbols and made these explanations, archeologists found Neolithic stones that had the same drawings on them that Plato had drawn. So…obviously the Neolithic stones had come first, but it’s interesting that that had happened centuries [later]. The resident had thought that there was a connection because some of the symbols in my works sort of pick up on those geometric drawings, but I didn’t know.

E: So that was an exciting discovery. I’m interested in universal truths and what underlies our existence and I think that a lot of cultures in centuries before us use the triangle in a way to talk about some of these things.

I want the work to look old like a tablet, a fossil or something, but also firmly in the present at the same time because I want to tie in that the subject matter is the same. While we culturally think about our reality very differently than we did centuries ago, regardless about how we think about it, how we are energetically united and tied to one another remains the same. I think everyone has the tools my mom has. She’s just tapping into it.

A: Do you think when you have a child, you’ll be able to tap into it?

E: It hadn’t occurred to me that I might be able to feel my child the way my mother feels me. Maybe.

A: Do you have siblings?

E: I do and she says she doesn’t feel it with them.

A: Where are you in the birth order?

E: I’m the first

A: Maybe you used up all the juice and they never got anything. It’s so true though, the human experience will always remain the same, regardless of what time you’re in.

E: Ha ha, maybe so. I was just reading this article about medieval families and they didn’t live with their blood relatives. This idea of a home was so different. This is an example of a cultural difference that is of a time or of a place. But then there’s this undercurrent, something of our very being, the essence of our existence, and how things manifest, that remains the same across cultures, space and time. And that’s what I’m interested in.

A: That’s fascinating…. do you have a favorite piece of yours that you have created?

E: Well, I have a couple favorites. It’s hard because they’re like your children.

A: I mean there’s always one right?

E: It’s hard to really [pick]…there are things about certain pieces that I really love. I sort of have a soft spot for this pale pink one, called Temple of Ma’at. I kind of love that one. But I also really love this one (points to her work, Petra). I think it was because first of all it’s a pretty strange piece. There’s this phallic, negative space that’s breaking the square/rectangle. It’s not exactly a square/ rectangle, which I like. It’s pretty wonky, the surface is moonlike…kind of very textured in this specific way. Then the language of the polka dots, with this pointy pillow thing coming out…[with] the black sand.

I think I love that one because it seemed like it was failing or a B painting. It would have been fine, what it was, was okay, but I made it from an OK painting, or maybe a failed painting to something really special to me. I love that experience because it feels like I kind of saw it through. On all levels: on texture on color and contrast, all the things. Form and line, I feel like it all came together. I title the work by what is happening in the world or in my life when they were made. Or I’ll tie into my overarching concept. This one is called Petra, because at the time, when I made it that week, or that day, they had just discovered Petra. Which is this ancient town [in Jordan]. And the discovery really moved me.

A: And it is otherworldly, really. So, a piece like that, you consider it so successful, do you start using techniques in later works because you liked this one so much? Or is it kind of you reserve this technique for this one?

E: I like to mix it up. Often with me, you’re not going to get the same painting over and over again. I think the materiality or different ways of saying the same thing are really fun for me, so even with the works on paper, it’s still the same content, I’m still thinking about the same things and I have for the longest time. But I’m using different materials to talk about those things.

A: Do you hang any of your own pieces in your home?

E: I do, but it’s funny because they’re really old pieces, 2009/2010 which I always kind of chuckle to myself [about] that’s what’s in my house. The rest of the work in my house is my collection that I’m really proud of, and building upon. I have a couple Stanley Whitney’s and a Marina Adams, Eric Hibit, Jane Fox Hipple, Catherine Haggarty, Will Hutnick, Joshua Bienko.

A: So you collect other artists’ work?

E: Yes, usually. Sometimes I buy it but oftentimes I’ll swap my work for their work.

A: What is your favorite New York City gallery?

E: Of course, I love the gallery I co-direct, Ortega y Gasset Projects! I also admire the programs at Salon 94, Derek Eller Gallery, Johannes Vogt, Stephen Harvey Projects, On Stellar Rays and Yours Mine & Ours.

A: OK, favorite New York City museum you like to go see or doesn’t even have to be in the city, so favorite museum?

E: Well my favorite museum of all time is the Tate Modern, in London.

A: I love the Tate; [it’s] excellent.

E: It’s so good. Every time I go there, even if I don’t love the artist, I’ll go [see] the show if I’m in London. And I’ll leave the show, completely 1000% into the artist, understanding the work, and that’s the goal. The goal is to educate, to have someone understand. They do such an amazing job every time. Every time I go it’s amazing.

A: It’s incredible and I feel like the space itself is really just…I’m in awe every time I go too it because it’s just cavernous.

E: It’s so good. And they have all these programs for children and it’s just amazing. What they do is incredible. In New York I think that my favorite museum is a tie between The Whitney and the MET. And then I’d say, in the Midwest, The Art Institute. Also The St. Louis Museum of Art is pretty amazing.

A: Did you like the Whitney Biennial?

E: Yes

A: You did? It was really overwhelming for me. I went on a Sunday and the show itself I feel is very overwhelming and then I went and there were a million people. …The combination of the insane amount of people with just a really overwhelming show was just….I had to go back a second time and I felt a lot better about it the second time I went. That first time I couldn’t handle it.

E: I went four times which sounds insane. I enjoyed Carrie Moyer and Henry Taylor paintings and Samara Golden’s installation. Samara’s installation surrounded a large window that overlooks the Hudson River. The installation was so incredible that people weren’t spending time gazing out over the river. That is powerful work. Work that can compete with a river sunset is tops.

A: No it [the exhibition] is a lot, so if you really want time with it, you should go back multiple times. Anyway, any advice for aspiring young artists?

E: Yeah, I think…three things: Develop relationships with mentors and people you admire and also who care about you. [Second], I think that it’s extremely important to build a community of like-minded individuals, where you can have discourse and studio visits so you’re constantly in dialogue with others. I think that’s huge and helps you get outside of yourself a little bit. Three, most importantly, keep making the work.


I’ll pass on this piece of advice that Pat Steir gave to me when I asked her this question 10 years ago. I said ‘Pat, if you had one piece advice to give to a young, aspiring painter, what would it be?’ and she said “Keep the judge out of the studio, they don’t belong there”. It was so epic for me because I’m so critical of myself and my work that it’s inhibiting, it’s not helpful. So at that moment, when she said that, I started balling and I couldn’t [stop], it was like she had opened a flood gate or something, and I couldn’t stop for about 30 minutes.

A: Sometimes you just need someone else to tell you that. You can tell yourself the same thing over and over again and it’s not going to hit until someone else tells you that.

E: Exactly, so that was important to hear. And also when you asked [what inspires my work], I also mention Pat because… much later in life I was living in Rome and she had this retrospective [there] and my professor said to go see Pat’s work. He explained that her work got so much better when she realized her greatest strength was her touch and that it was about having distance between her hand and the canvas. I was pouring through books and he stopped me: ‘No, you need to go see work in person, go to Pat’s show.’ That was this epic turning point for me, really understanding that you have to go see work in person, no matter what.

A: That’s so true. Last question, what’s your ideal studio environment when you’re working? Do you like quiet? Do you like music?

E: I like listening to music while I work. I use music to get me into a creative space and drown out all the chatter. Although, Twyla Tharp, in her book, The Creative Habit, was adamant about learning to work in silence. I just couldn’t do it.

A: Is this your only studio at the moment?

E: Yeah this is it. I’m so grateful to have it.

A: Do you work normally during gallery hours?*

E: No, I try to come in when the gallery is not open.

A: Just so it’s your full focus. Well thank you so much for meeting with me today Eleanna, I really appreciate it!

E: Thank you!

*Eleanna’s studio is behind Ortega Y Gasset Projects, an artist collective, which she partly co-runs in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Be sure to visit the gallery for their current exhibition, Frame Work.

Images Courtesy of Emma Fishman (@emmafishman) and Eleanna Anagnos (@eleannapaints).



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