Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m from New York, born and raised in Chelsea, went to Brooklyn Tech, then moved to Austin to go to architecture school at UT. After graduating I stayed in Austin, and I’m still here. My art education has been largely informal, and comes from my dad, peers, books, etc. Architecture school was great for developing good studio habits, iterating, being critical, but ultimately it’s design, which I think is the opposite of art. That experience helped clarify my need for something more, and so I would keep making art in the architecture studio or at home but I couldn’t really find enough time until afterwards.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I don’t think I ever discovered art. My dad is an artist, so our home was always full of art and art books. Making things was always a part of life, whether watching my dad, or trying to do it myself. I think because of this I took art for granted, I don’t think I considered it to be a special thing, just an unavoidable part of life. Often I would groan as my dad dragged me to museums or galleries yet at the same time I would be working on my own stuff, drawings mostly. I no longer avoid seeing art but my interest definitely comes more from making than from viewing.
I remember a moment during elementary school, sometime after I had learned about the looming inevitability of growing up and getting a “job”. I was drawing in my room and I thought it would be really great if this could be my job, whatever that meant. I just knew I had this compulsion to do these things and I was going to do them no matter what, so it would just make sense if it was my job. Things are a bit more complicated in real life but I think that moment was when I decided art was more than just something to do for fun.
What do you like most about working where you do?
Something that’s really great about my current set up is that all the essential places in my life are in within short biking distance. My studio, my job, my home, art spaces I frequent, the food store, friends, etc.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
Generally my work relates to ideas of growth, adaptation, chance, ritual, time, fate, and things like that. Over the years I have become less prescriptive and tried to leave more room for spontaneity. I’ve tried to move away from rigid geometries. I’ve become more interested in developing composition and less of a slave to process.
What is your process like?
My pieces are not planned, I like the surprise, for better or worse. Usually before starting a new one I’ll spend some time looking at old ones for unresolved territory or moments where they could have forked off differently. Usually I’ll be working on a piece for 3-4 weeks, with maybe ten of them going simultaneously. I used to start and finish a batch at the same time, but I’ve learned that I prefer them to be staggered.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I’ve been reading some sci-fi lately and some anthropology. I’ve been slowly getting back into color, which I’ve been taking a break from. I think it’s going ok so far.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
Pretend I like people that I don’t really like.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I do have a day job. I work at a furniture company specializing in custom woodworking. The job is all about using my hands and making things in real life, which is also an essential part of my art practice. I think that the presence of the hand, muscle memory, and general physicality must be legible for my pieces to be successful. I spend a lot of time thinking about craft, how something is made, and how that process can help inform a body of work. And while I hope that the result feels handmade, it is less important to me that the viewer understand the actual process.
With all that being said, it is important for me that my job is not involved in the art world, and that I don’t consider what we’re doing there to be art.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
A professor I had, Larry Doll, would say that a good drawing is simply one that generates ideas for more drawings. In retrospect maybe this was just one of those perpetuators of the unhealthy workaholic environment, but I still like the idea, even if maybe there are a few more things that make a drawing good. I’ve always felt that it’s never about a single piece, but a body of work, so I think this idea resonates with my iterative approach. One way it has influenced my practice is that I never (or rarely) throw away or paint over a piece because those generative properties may not reveal themselves for years. Also, sometimes people want to buy a piece that I hate, and even if I’d rather throw it out… I’ll take the money.
My dad is definitely a mentor. Through him I’ve learned how to nurture a studio practice, ego-management, and the necessity of having a day job. He also warned me not to be an artist, and I think I’m glad I didn’t listen, but we’ll see…
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Don’t quit your day job.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
I think my particular art community influences my ambition and general art intelligence more than it influences my actual art. I feel like my work is a bit lonely in Austin, there isn’t very much art here that speaks to mine. Still, it’s important for me to be around other artists. Art is a religion, and even though we practice very differently, it’s good to be around others of faith.
What is your studio like?
My studio is a rickety shed behind my house. One wall is transparent corrugated plastic so it gets a good amount of natural light. It is uninsulated and fairly porous (although no roof leaks yet!) so the climate is a constant presence. Most of the year feels ok, three or four months are amazing, and August is almost unworkable. I have two large tables that are loosely split between india ink/cutting/framing/drawing and acrylic/pastel/watercolor/whatever. My studio also kind of bleeds into my bedroom, which is where I keep my flat file, frames, etc, and the carport, where I gesso/sand.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I usually try to leave the studio at a time when I’m in the middle of something so that when I come back there’s an easy way back into work. I work at any time of day. I really enjoy working in the early mornings but I rarely do it. I would say each week I probably get 30-40 hours of studio time. If I get less than that I feel anxious. My younger self would be proud, I used to think that any good artist surely has an unhealthy addiction to the studio… If only it were that easy!
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I did not attend art school, so I can’t really say. MFAs seem pretty important for an art career proper, but I’m not so sure they are very important for making good art. They’re also expensive, so I probably wouldn’t do it, but who knows.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
We make surprising sacrifices to pursue art. We sacrifice normalcy, financial comfort, relationships. For instance, it sometimes upsets me to think about all the people that have passed through my life as mere acquaintances, who would have actually been great friends if I had more time to invest in friendships. This feeling started in architecture school, but doesn’t really go away.
I think it’s really important to disassociate quality of art from accolades and then disassociate both from self worth. This is a constant challenge.
How would you define “success” in art?
If Terry Winters asked me to trade, I’d say ok, and consider that success.
But really, back to that disassociation idea, I think true success is only based in the work. Any external successes like awards and things feel nice but can have no bearing on the success of the work. If they did then the reverse would also have to be true, which is that no external success means the work sucks. And I don’t believe that. If the work is evolving, surprising, compelling, generative or whatever metric you use to define a successful piece, and you can keep that going, then that’s success.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
About a year after school I was finally able to lease a large warehouse space. I think that finishing the renovation and getting settled into my new studio was one of the most exciting times, and defined the next four years of my life.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I just closed down a gallery I ran for four years called Not Gallery (www.notgallery.net). For now, I’m enjoying the additional focus on my own art, but maybe I will do something similar in the future, maybe not.
What are you working on right now?
Just working in the studio, nothing really glamorous.