Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I’m a female artist originally from the South (Alabama, specifically) but now located in Boston, MA. I recently graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with my MFA in Painting.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I’ve been practicing Photorealism since I was a kid, so that interest has always been a part of me. I didn’t start learning about contemporary art until I was in undergrad, since Alabama doesn’t have hardly anything by way of contemporary art (or even appreciating it). My undergrad wasn’t that great in teaching me about it either, so a lot was learned through the internet, artist friends, and mentors.
What do you like most about working where you do?
Working up North as opposed to the South has just given me so many more opportunities to meet other artists and see current contemporary art in person. It’s refreshing to have access to many galleries in Boston and then be a bus ride away from New York to visit a plethora of galleries. The North is also much more willing to support fine artists and the work they make rather than the South’s common practice of buying a painting of a rooster from Hobby Lobby.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I’m interested in how online images, including ones of people, lose their context or personhood by moving through virtual space. Lately, I’ve been considering the role of digital technologies and images in shaping the curated portrait of women at large and individually. Our curated virtual selves float between being authentic and fake all while being consumed by outsiders, especially more so for women. Everything I come to revolves around the notion of portraiture and what that even is in contemporary, digital life.
What is your process like?
I do most of my sketching in Photoshop. I have collected a mass of online images of really anything that has given me a gut feeling, so I’ll pull from there and create multiple rough sketches based on a couple images (they’re usually female figures) with an interesting dialogue. Every sketch ends up becoming a portrait, even if it is completely de-constructed. Once I find the portrait from the images, I’ll draw out certain elements on the canvas and start basic groundwork. I work in many layers, so my paintings change quite a lot through working on them as I find more fruitful dialogues between certain visuals and try to push them further. I use various speeds and methods of painting, such as meticulous oil painting, spray paint, and collaged materials, so things get covered up and destroyed constantly. I’m not precious about time spent on a specific part of a painting. I play with materials and their physicality along the way since those moments usually can’t be planned and provide a foil to Photorealism. Like most artists, my paintings are finished once I have sat with them for some time and decided the portrait is there.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Craig Taylor, an incredible Brooklyn-based artist, was the graduate program director for my last year at RISD and he always encouraged me to get weirder with my paintings (along with a ton of other great advice). Now when I’m working on a sketch or painting, I like to ask myself, “Could it be weirder?”
Is there any advice that you’ve received in the past that you’re grateful you chose to ignore?
A visiting artist in graduate school told me I needed to give up Photorealism because it wasn’t interesting anymore. I’m glad I’ve always had a death grip on using Photorealism.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I like to start my time in the studio by mixing paint first because it’s so relaxing. It gives me a moment to gather myself for what I’m about to work on. An unintentional routine for me is to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while working. I’m really not sure why I prefer them to music. I think I’m a sucker for a good narrative and story.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
Graduate school at RISD has been the best experience of my life. My professors, colleagues, and friends helped me pursue my vision and practice while opening and pushing it further. There were only 19 of us in total between the two years so everything was intimate and created a sense of camaraderie. I was sad to leave after two years. Graduate school isn’t for everyone, but it gave me what I needed to break out of stale habits and become excited about my paintings again.