Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m originally from a small town in rural Vermont, where I grew up on a dead-end dirt road overlooking the Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains. I attended Ithaca College for my undergraduate degree in both Art and Culture & Communication and received my MFA in Painting from Indiana University. I am a woodland critter at heart but spent last year in Chicago teaching at a Indiana University Northwest, just south of the city. During this time I was a member of ARC Gallery, one of the oldest women cooperative gallery spaces in the country. This year I have been fortunate enough to participate in several artist residencies, having spent two months in Southern Spain a month at the Vermont Studio Center with another residency just around the corner at Ragdale, outside of Chicago.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I began painting in high school but I think growing up in such a rural place without access to museums or galleries limited the way that I understood art as a critical form of making. In college I signed up for art classes every semester and spent much of my free time painting, but it wasn’t until close to the end of my college career that I realized it was something I could and should pursue more seriously. I’m grateful that I had a professor in college who helped me to see that I was part of a larger conversation and that my work had value beyond the physical act of creating. Once that realization locked into place I couldn’t imagine any other way to engage with the world around me.
What do you like most about working where you do?
This year has been spent working in myriad work places; a studio in Chicago housed in a warehouse building full of working artists and makers, a loft in a barn in Vermont where I would teach painting to high school students in the open floor plan below, a repurposed workshop in Southern Spain that I shared with 2 other painters from India and Ireland, respectively, and most recently, a big, bright private studio in Northern Vermont at the Vermont Studio Center. I feel fortunate to have these different, stimulating environments. It is certainly a challenge to be working in short segments and I hope soon that I will find a spot to land, but for the time being I have loved finding ways to work within the different contexts. The spaces have been quirky and I have had to make adjustments in each location, but each has also had a built-in community of compassionate artists and makers that soften the discomfort of summer heat in Spain, or walls that wouldn’t accept nails or screws.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
My painting practice and research focuses on projecting possible communities of women by drawing from both a historical and imaginative past, present and future. In an age where the role of women continues to be examined, I am interested in challenging tradition to champion the full humanity and nurturing rationality of successful communities of women. I utilize imagery and ideology from the Women’s Land Army and female separatist communities, as well as inspiration from literature and contemporary culture.
With this theme as a constant in my work, I am currently developing a new series of paintings that I have titled, for the time being at least, ‘Women Like You Build Bowers’. With this series I am thinking about the idea as nests, and specifically the bowers of Satin Bowerbirds, as spaces that are both domestic and wild and could be occupied and constructed by communities of women. In the last few months I have really begun to think about how I can bring different voices into my work and I have begun collaborating with fellow artists and writers. It is exciting to see the ideas manifested in my paintings begin to take a shape in the communities of women the world outside of my paintings.
What is your process like?
My process is ever-evolving, but does involve a substantial amount of research. Specifically, I look to the Women’s Land Army and the Lumber Jills of World War I and World War II, as well as female separatist communities throughout history. I read a lot of fiction and find that short-stories written my female authors are an incredibly important aspect of my practice. I also turn to children’s fiction and imaginative play to offer a playful alternative and influence. With this current body of work, I am watching all of the David Attenborough clips I can find and researching bowerbirds and other nest-makers in the natural world.
I work on several paintings at once and prefer to have both large scale paintings and smaller works growing alongside each other. This year as I’ve been moving around I have been working more quickly, allowing the residency timeframe to dictate the amount of time I can spend on any given work. I usually start with a general image that has been pulled together from various sources. One of my favorite parts of my practice is taking my groups of friends out on photoshoots. I’ll have them dress in their finest overalls and we will go out into the landscape and work together to create images that then become catalysts for my paintings.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
I feel like I must be missing some strange thing I’ve done–but I think the most consistent strange thing is self-timing myself and getting into all sorts of strange positions to get source imagery for my paintings. It’s great when I have friends around but sometimes I’m all I’ve got!
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
Before this year I was teaching and I found that to be an incredible important aspect of my practice. I genuinely love to teach, and as grateful as I am for this time to focus completely on my practice I am looking forward to finding a balance again in the future where I am able to do both. I learn so much from teaching and find that the social engagement counters the amount of alone time I spend on my own paintings.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I have had so many incredible artists and people along my artistic journey that continue to provide varied perspectives, support, and encouragement. I think the best part about having so many people to look up to and surround myself with is that I can see that there is no right way to move forward, as long as I’ve moving. The best pieces advice I have received are those that encourage being kind to myself, being vulnerable in the ways I share myself and my work, and of course there was the more practical and much appreciated advice of not paying too much for graduate school.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
I suppose I would pass along the advice that I’ve received. Be gentle with yourself along the journey-lean into the discomfort of participating in a inevitably vulnerable practice, and engage actively with supportive communities of people.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
Community is one of the most important aspects of both my artistic practice and of my work. I actively seek out people that I find inspiring and feel fortunate to have grown into as many great communities as I have. It feels much healthier and more fulfilling to reject the potentially individualistic and competitive culture, and instead support and be supported by those I admire.
What is your studio like?
Messy! (but in a productive, lived-in way)
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I’m a day-time painter. As much as I romanticize and pine over the idea of working through the night, it’s just not conducive for making good work. Before I paint I always do a little writing and like to read a few short stories. I’ve found it’s a good way to open the day. I usually listen to Podcasts while I work. It’s helpful to have the language part of my brain a little distracted so I can be less verbally critical of myself as I work. It helps me move into a more intuitive place. I love all of my NPR podcasts, particularly Invisibilia and This American Life…Right now I’ve been listening to On Being and The New Yorker Fiction Podcast.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I attended my MFA soon after graduating from my undergraduate program at Ithaca College. It was important in that it gave me two years to seriously focus on my own practice and access a new framework for making.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Wrapping my mind around the fact that I am going to collect many more rejection letters and emails than one would like to imagine possible is challenging. But also figuring out how to continually engage and continually apply and continually put myself out there has been one of the more empowering lessons of my life.
How would you define “success” in art?
For me, success is being able to share my work. It is building communities of people from different walks of life with similar goals of using a practice to actively engaging with the world. Success is teaching and sharing and learning new things every day. It is about connecting to our broader history and critically engaging with the way of the world as it is today and how we could imagine it to be.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I’m really excited about the past few months that I’ve had. I spent two months outside of Seville, Spain at AiRGentum and a month at The Vermont Studio Center. I’m feeling energized from these different opportunities that have allowed me to focus on my painting in entirely different contexts.
What are you working on right now?
At this very moment I’m working on a fun collaboration with a friend turning some of the imagery of my paintings into ‘strong lady’ stickers. The bigger project is the series of paintings, ‘Women Like You Build Bowers’.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for the opportunity to share!