Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m based in Brooklyn, NY currently, and I graduated from Bard College in 2016 with a BA in Visual Arts. I absolutely loved Bard! It was rigorous, dynamic, experimental, and open-minded. I felt pushed by all of my experiences there. The art department is as supportive as they are tough, and was full of some incredible stand-out artists like Jeffrey Gibson, Lisa Sanditz, Laura Battle, and Judy Pfaff. If you’re any sort of social deviant and want an intellectually stimulating, intense, and liberal education then I’d recommend checking out Bard. They also have a fabulous, low-residency, MFA program.
My undergrad thesis at Bard was all about mediumship, esoterica, death and dying, and mourning and I was advised by both Jeffrey Gibson and Laura Battle. They’ve both had a profound impact on not just my work, but how I’ve developed as a person and an artist. Jeffrey pushed me to be critical of my work and to define my actions, and to not shy away from my identity as a Queer but rather embrace it, and to be comfortable with camp and kitsch. Laura would always remind me to clean up my studio from time to time, and to always be working, even if working meant taking a nap or grabbing a meal with friends.
Nowadays my work is focused on the pursuit of love, queerness, chronic disease, and my nonconforming body, but spiritualism and the occult still sometimes creep their way back in.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
Being an artist has been the most consistent thing about me, I was always trying to make something from as young as I can remember. When I was 3 years old my parents had left me home alone in front of the TV while they ran to the local deli (the 90’s were a different time). They were only gone for maybe 15 minutes, but in that time I had managed to find my mom’s markers and draw the “Hungry Hungry Caterpillar” on the kitchen wall. My parents were so impressed that they left the marker drawing on the wall for years, and actually cut the drawing out to keep when we eventually moved out years later.
What do you like most about working where you do?
My day job is situated in a building full of artist studios and a couple gallery spaces, so I frequently get to interact with so many wonderful creative people. Everyone in the building is incredibly supportive of one another, sharing artist opportunities, posting about shows, and opening their studios to others. I think my favorite time of year in Brooklyn is Bushwick Open Studios, because nearly every artist and gallery in the neighborhood opens their doors to the public. It’s a special time to meet artists making amazing work, and if you open your studio you get the chance to share your work with the thousands of visitors who come out to see the studios every year.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
My work has shifted away from content about death and dying, mediumship, and esoterica to Queer love, chronic disease, and technology/digital space. Originally I made work in large-scale oil painting, video performance, installation, and ceramic sculpture but primarily I’ve been working in small-scale ceramic sculpture the last couple years. I’ve changed scale overtime to accommodate my lack of space in Brooklyn, but also because working on an intimate scale yields well to the type of work I’m making now. Personal experiences have always been a guide and a starting point for all of my work, especially the ceramic pieces.
In 2016 when I found my grandmothers body, just minutes after she had passed, I made a piece to cope and to process my feelings and love for her. I sculpted her in the same position I had found her in, and in her favorite color – purple. More recent works depict lovers I’ve had, often in positions I’ve seen them in with colors and expressions reminiscent of both them and my feelings about them. So maybe the one thing about my work that hasn’t changed is how emotional and personal it is.
What is your process like?
I work on several pieces at once and at every stage of completion from hand-building out of wet clay to the final glaze firing in the kiln. Each piece takes about 4-6 weeks to be completed, but a bulk of that is the time each piece spends drying before being bisque-fired. Working directly with my hands on wet clay makes hand building each piece pretty quick for me, but I make up for that with brushing on multiple glazes in fine detail.
I really don’t do much planning in advance, but occasionally I’ll make a quick sketch before I start making a ceramic piece. With each piece being so personal and emotionally raw, I tend to work very intensely on the piece and pour my feelings into the clay. Clay has that special property of soaking up whatever you imbue into it, a sort of memory. Because of that every piece is a catharsis, always relieving me of the burden of what spurred the making of a piece in the first place.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I work as an executive assistant to an artist and real estate developer, which is largely uncreative. I do a lot of proof reading, some legal work, a little bit of real estate, taxes and tax credits, and lots of other mind-numbing administrative type work. My boss has two spaces used as “pay for play” galleries, but when my work load slows down a bit I’m able to curate shows in the galleries and give opportunities to emerging artists in NYC which makes my job feel really, really fulfilling.
I can’t speak for other artists about the best type of work to do, but because I don’t use much creative energy at my day job I have an abundance to spend on my own work. So in that way it feels healthy to me. Also, having a job that provides some degree of financial stability makes it way easier to pour both time and resources into the work I’m making. I’d always love to have more time in the studio or seeing shows though, so for me the dream would be a flexible part-time job that is art world adjacent, pays well, and provides some kind of benefits.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
It probably sounds like a cop-out but my advice is figure out what works best for you and stick to it. That said I do think certain things are especially helpful, like finding or creating your own community and consistently making work.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
Community is pretty vague and hard to define, but it is essential for me, and I feel that’s likely the case for other artists too. Personally, my immediate community is made up of close friends and artists who all push each other and share our work, ideas, open calls, and other opportunities with each other. Instagram provides a sort of digital community, where space isn’t a limiting factor in forming supportive groups. I think that’s so special. You can have artists cheering you on and supporting you from other continents!
It is critical that artists support other artists, by sharing their work with others, pushing each other, and being beacons of positivity. Community has helped me continue making work when I’ve felt dejected about my career or work. The great thing about community is if you can’t find one, you can always make one. It’s really as easy as finding a couple good people (and there are plenty!), holding on tight, and supporting one another. So yes, I think community is essential.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Most of the time I find the emotional weight of making work can, at times, be exhausting or painful and I worry about sadness or bitterness being too much of a driver for the creation of a particular piece. Although, as heavy as feelings are, making work about my personal experiences, often in the pursuit of queer love, is a genuine catharsis. I always feel so much lighter after making something about heartbreak or loss.
On the other hand a bigger challenge for me might be my introversion or privacy. While my work makes a lot of my personal life public (particularly when it relates to sex, my health, and love), my actual nature is much more private and introverted. I’m really not as socially exuberant as many people, and I worry that might sometimes be a problem in the art world.
What are you working on right now?
I’m really excited with these ceramic cell-phones I’ve just started! Most of them are taken from verbatim interactions I’ve had on queer dating apps like Grindr and Jack’d, but also taken from iMessages, Tinder, instagram, and xxx pics. They are as much a way for me to process and navigate digital queer space as they are for me to take a step back and look at myself with tenderness and humor. I’ve also started a series of magic 8-balls with quippy responses like “that’s gay” and “fuck that”, which feels both nostalgic and strangely grown-up to me.