Interview by Frédéric Caillard, May 2017
Can you describe, in your own words, your practice & your work?
I make art in relation to a particular object in its environment: a window, a tree, a contraption. For the last decade, I’ve worked from observation, painting on-site in various areas, both urban and rural. Through paint and color, I transcribe my perceptions in real time. My paintings describe both the physical appearance of what I’m looking at, as well as what is invisible but nonetheless felt: place, time, history, and emotion. My artistic practice foregrounds attention and experience, taking the form of painting and also sculpture, printmaking and drawing.
How does your work relate to abstraction? Do you recognize yourself in a fully figurative approach or do you reference abstraction is some ways in your work?
There’s both too much and not enough to say about abstraction and representation. Maybe they’re two sides of the same coin? Because I am interested in making art in real time and place – setting up an easel in a particular location and making a painting en plein air during daylight hours – I find that the resulting painting is a literal reminder of its own making: all of my reactions and decisions are recorded and in plain view on the surface of the canvas. The experiences of the day are congealed through the mediumistic nature of paint. But when the painting leaves the conditions of its own making, it becomes another object in the world for someone else to encounter. In this sense, the practice is one of both realism and abstraction, where I translate lived experience to material object and back again.
As for whether my paintings resemble abstractions, I think that has more to do with the time we’re living in and what viewers want to see. Today I see a lot of American painting that appears to be dealing with its twentieth century legacy, one of large chromatic gestural paintings made in urban studios for white walls. Oddly enough, this is not my primary inheritance as an American artist. I’ve always been interested in the margins, regionalism, the politics of representation, history and other art historical strains, such as the readymade, land art, and nineteenth century painting – both American and French.
Do you know the work of Alex Hay, that has similarities with yours? How do you think your approach differs from Alex’s?
Alex Hay’s way of thinking as an artist resonates deeply with my own. Most recently I saw an exhibition of over fifty years of his work at Peter Freeman in New York. It included zipped “collection bags” from the late 1960s. Containing sand from the American southwest, they were large, rectangular canvas bags which literally contained place and time. This is what I strive for within the frame of a own canvas: that the painting is a record of, and a catalyst for, experience. In Hay’s more recent dry, quasi-monochromatic paintings, Hay represents physical surfaces as well as flickering light and shadows. Despite being painted in a matter-of-fact, almost “objective”, style, they are not static. His work is so alive to me.
Main illustration: Josephine Halvorson, Porte Bleue, Câble, 2014 / oil on linen / 160 x 91,4 cm (63 x 36 inches). © Josephine Halvorson, Courtesy Josephine Halvorson & Peter Freeman, Inc. Paris. Photo: Florian Kleinefenn.