Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I grew up in north NJ and I’m actually based out of there now. I was the last person to think I’d ever live here as an adult, but my partner and I both found good work and life opportunities, so here we are! I did my undergrad at UPenn in Philly, and lived there for about 5 years afterwards. I also did some graduate textile design work at Philly U, and now I work as a designer for commercial wall coverings.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I’m not sure exactly when I discovered it, but I’ve been drawing and making things for as long as I can remember. I specifically remember that drawing representationally just made me feel good. And I knew that I wasn’t “good” at it when I was starting out, but I always wanted to be better at it, so I kept doing it.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I live in a nature preserve, so I’m surrounded by trees and not much else to do without driving for 20 minutes or so. I love the city for its art and things to do, but there’s not much distraction where I live, which can be a good thing for working. My place is also about an hour from NYC which is pretty easy to get to on the weekends. I try to do a monthly pilgrimage to see shows. I sort of feel like I get the best of both worlds being where I’m at. It’s just very beautiful and scenic where I live. I won’t lie though, I wish I had easier access to good ramen.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
For the past couple of years I’ve been exploring the mundane and the familiar in life. It’s so easy to gloss over and take for granted the everyday, so I want to make work that re-enlivens and re-imagines the day-to-day. To make it into something to pay attention to. I’ve been making mixed media paintings since college, but only within the last year or two have they started feeling really narrative, since I’ve been digging more into the idea of everyday life and shared experiences that people have. Last year I started introducing sculptural elements into my work as a way to make the pieces more dynamic. I started creating framing devices around the pieces that act as extensions of the space.
What is your process like?
I almost always feel like a chicken with my head cut off. I don’t do much planning in advance, other than thinking about a kind of narrative, story, or shared experience as a jumping off point. I’ve always thought of the process as sort of stream of consciousness. I start cutting up shapes from fabric, paintings and drawings that I have on hand to start building a space that conveys the experience of what I’m thinking. Sometimes I paint or draw new elements in order to make it work, sometimes I can use a lot of what I already have made. I create compositions and make a shaped work before adding the framing part. I usually work on a couple pieces at once, but not too many. Maybe 2 or 3? Otherwise, I feel overwhelmed. This way or working still feels sort of new, so I’m still making small and medium-sized works, but I’d like to scale up eventually.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I recently learned about Émile Durkheim’s “collective effervescence” while researching the idea of shared experiences. I wanted to learn more about the feeling of solidarity and electricity between individuals that can happen during participation in a certain action. In my experience, it can happen at a show, in a yoga class, at a party, in a chorus, or in a religious setting. That feeling of connected-ness with a group of strangers seems to need the right conditions. I’m wondering whether these conditions can be orchestrated, or if they are the result of chance – basically, is there a formula for collective effervescence?
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I work 9-5 as a wallcovering designer. It’s basically wallpaper but for commercial spaces, and I design prints and patterns for that kind of product. I also do freelance print design for residential home decor outlets. It’s all just patterns on surfaces when it comes down to it. I have always been drawn to pattern and it’s featured heavily in my art since college, so in that way, it makes sense that I went into surface pattern design for a job. I love making art objects, and I want them to be seen, but it doesn’t pay the bills yet, so I have to support myself financially in other ways. In my experience, I have absolutely no patience for work that’s unrelated to creating some kind of visual something, so I eventually found my way into textile design. Working at jobs unrelated to my interests were inevitably soul-sucking and unsustainable for me.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I had a professor once who used to say, what’s the worst that can happen? You make a bad painting. No one’s life is at stake. Whenever I get too serious or stressed about what I’m making, whether or not it’s interesting, or it’s working, or whatever, I have to remind myself that no one is going to die if it doesn’t work. Except me if I give myself a heart attack stressing out about it. Those questions are worth pursuing, to a point. But worrying is also a way to stall, so I think it’s better in the long run to not obsess, get over the uncertainty, and keep making.
What is your studio like?
I work out of my home, in a fairly large bonus room with crappy tiled floors and lots of shelf space. It’s not the most glamorous, but it’s a place I feel comfortable spreading out and being messy, which is very important to me. Since it’s in my home, I have no excuse for not working when I’m there and have the time. The only downside is how cold it is! The space doesn’t heat up well and it’s sort of halfway underground, lower than the rest of the house. I have to keep a space heater in there so I don’t freeze.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I usually start by tidying and organizing the mess I made the last time I was in there. I am scared almost every time I’m faced with the question of what to do next with a piece. Organizing or cleaning is an easy way for me to trick myself into getting over that hurdle and starting the work. Eventually it leads to actually making things. I work weekdays which leaves evenings and weekends for working in the studio. Ideally, I try to get a few weeknights and at least a full weekend day in the studio. I’ve also recently started to squeeze in an hour of studio time in the morning before work. I like the change. I’m realizing it’s more important for me to get some studio time in every day, even if it’s only that hour in the morning. It keeps the momentum going forward.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I have a BA in Fine Arts but I don’t have an MFA, and it’s something I’ve gone back and forth on a lot. For me, the reasons not to go right now, or maybe ever, outweigh the reasons to go. There’s the practical – mostly the cost and the amount of time I probably wouldn’t be earning money. There’s also the fact that I don’t necessarily want to teach art. I also think the things that make people successful professional artists, like consistently working, putting yourself out there, networking, etc., are not things that you have to go back to school to get. There is part of me that totally wants to go back just for the chance to be immersed in art-making and in a community of artists. But, you can also get that from residencies.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
I kind of hate to say it, but it’s definitely all the applications, money invested in those applications, and subsequent rejections. I honestly think that if it were just rejections, it wouldn’t be as frustrating, but I sink a lot of money into applications for exhibition opportunities each year with a small acceptance rate by the end of it. There’s usually a time after a slew of rejections that I start to question whether I should keep applying to things with fees. I’m lucky that I can afford to apply to more things now, but it wasn’t always that way, and I know artists who can only apply to opportunities that are free or that are willing to wave the fee. Sometimes it feels unfair to artists who just don’t have the funds, and I’m not sure what the solution is. I’ve started getting asked to participate in more shows by people or groups I’ve showed with before, which has been a welcome change. I hope it starts to happen more, but as an emerging artist without tons of connections, I feel locked into the application fee game because I want and need to show my work in as many places as I can.
How would you define “success” in art?
Part of it is showing work in places I respect and admire. And showing regularly. I also think building a community of other artists and getting feedback from people you respect is its own kind of success. Another part of it is having people engage with my art. You can have work up in a show but everyone could breeze passed it without a word or a thought, and that’s disappointing. When someone stops to consider the work or, if I’m there, engage me in a conversation about it, that feels like success.