Where are you from and where do you reside?
I am originally from Massachusetts. I grew up in a small town south of Boston. I’m currently living and working in Brooklyn, NY—Crown Heights to be exact.
When did you begin your current practice?
I’ve maintained a painting practice since I graduated from school in 2010. I had a lot of hodge-podge studios along the way in bedrooms or closets because my goal after school was to travel as much as I could. I finally felt grounded once I reached New York. I had a studio in Bed Stuy last year and now I’m working out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Having a studio to go to every day and work makes things feel much more official.
You’ve mentioned before that your works are like maps of stories or conversations you’ve had - can you elaborate more?
For the most part, I paint in order to preserve memories. I’m not very good at telling stories verbally, so I put them down in paint. I carry around a sketchbook and if I find myself at a dinner party or a bar and people are swapping interesting stories or there is a moment that feels wonderful that I want to remember or share I’ll write it down in my sketchbook and bring the memory back to my studio to paint. Certain colors come to mind when I recall memories or people and I use those colors to retell the moment. The captions at the bottom of my pieces are a little window into the memory of the painting.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
Spontaneity is a factor that comes into play more in my daily life. I try to be open to wherever the day pulls me and look forward to accidental interactions. These spontaneous moments serve as inspiration for my paintings. The paintings themselves are usually planned out.
I think more about color as a way to display feelings and define moments, and less about the concepts of how we define elements of color.
Have you always worked with oil on paper? What do you like about the medium?
I started out working on large canvases with a lot of medium. I loved the texture of paint and how syrupy it could get. It was a full body experience then. I just played and tried to figure out what I liked best about paint. It turned out that color was the most important element. I could achieve the cleanest and most precise colors by mixing with a palette knife and applying directly to a surface. I used paper as a means to get ideas and colors down quickly and felt less precious about it than my pieces on canvas. But, because the pieces on paper were more raw and intuitive they became the stronger work. So, I stuck with oil on paper because, when I have an idea, I like to put it down immediately and have it be permanent. When I was working on canvas I would rework a piece until it disappeared completely. I could never finish a painting when I worked that way.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Thematically, my work has stayed on the same path. I have always been interested in exploring different aspects of time and memory through painting. I use color to retell stories and preserve memories. In the past, I would chose a topic and create small paintings that would add up to a larger idea, often in the form of a timeline. Currently, I’ve been working larger and bolderreflecting moments that are not so buried in the past which help me to remain present. I’ve also been exploring the idea of interpreting other people’s memories. Friends and strangers alike come to me with memories that they want turned into paintings. So, I’ve been enjoying making these “memory-maps” for others. I love hearing other people's stories.
Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work? Where do you feel you create your strongest work?
Yes. Depending on where I live and what time of year it is my palette is directly influenced. I spent a month this past summer in Martha’s Vineyard. Surrounded by the ocean, I noticed I was using a lot of blues in my paintings. I like to move around in order to gather new colors. When I was abroad in Florence, I was drawn to golds and siennas. Sometimes it’s hard to find color in New York in the winter. So, I take the winter to reflect on past memories and just buckle down in the studio. New York has more of an influence on how I work—trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?
Definitely. My good friend Wil Sideman is a sculptor, and while his work is very different from mine we have very similar themes, so I love talking “art” with him. I’ve met great artist through residencies and visiting galleries in New York. I’ve sent many email to artists that I admire and it usually leads to a studio visit and a friendship.
Have you ever collaborated, or would you?
I love collaborating. Give me anything and I’ll color on it. I’ve worked with the letterpress company Of-Note Stationers painting on their cards. I love adding color to my friends’ etchings or prints. I also worked in a studio with a lot of photographers for a bit, and when they staged shoots, I found inspiration in the colors they put together for photographs.
How solitary is your art-making process?
When I am working on a project or series of my own it tends to be a very solitary process. In order to translate the essence of a memory I have to be in a state-of-mind where I’m almost time-traveling to the subject of the painting. It’s like being in a trance. I usually have a song on repeat and I get really lost in whatever I’m making. Ultimately it’s all about balance. I love making art with others, but I also need my alone time.
You share your studio with a letterpress company - has that influenced your work in any way?
I haven’t noticed an effect on my work but, I think it helps my work ethic. The letterpress printers are there during the day and the humming of the machines and twinkling of metal make me feel like I’m in a factory of workers. It’s encouraging to have people around you working and I get in a good groove being there.
Are you influenced by any author or non-visual artist?
I love reading. I tend to read the same books over and over again. Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Salinger I love for their dialogue and how they develop characters. I’ve read a lot of Ray Bradbury because his short stories are so colorful. I am drawn to any writer or artist, no matter what the medium, if they have some message about time, memory, or color.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
Not having enough time. I make ambitious “to-do” lists every morning and I typically only make it halfway through them on a good day.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
Good light is essential—natural light ideally. My set-up consists of paint, a number 44 palette knife, usually paper, and a flat surface.
What’s special about the number 44 palette knife?
The shape of it allows me to lay down crisp colors next to each other, cut, and scrape edges of color once it’s laying on the paper. I’ve tried other knives, bigger smaller, different shapes. But, I just have about twenty of these #44s. It’s like my conductor wand.
How do you choose your materials?
Color is very important in my work and the way I communicate ideas. Oil paint allows me to create complex colors because it stays open longer. I usually warm up my palette by mixing paint that comes right from the tube together, and then from those mixtures I make more colors. I never use paint right from the tube. Any color that I lay down at least has four different colors in it. Even if it looks white, it has a slight hue of some other colors in it.
How do the different elements of color come together in your works?
I’m drawn to subtle shifts in color so I tend to mix mostly soft colors that are kind to each other. Once in awhile, I like to feel the vibration of a saturated cool next to a saturated warm color. I try to find the balance between the excitement of contrast and the beauty in paying attention to quieter parts of paintings. I think more about color as a way to display feelings and define moments and less about the concepts of how we define elements of color.
"I’m not very good at telling stories verbally, so I put them down in paint."
Are you formally trained?
I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2010 with a BFA in painting. I loved school. I still have such a great community from MassArt. I’ve attending some residencies in the States and abroad as well.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
When I was very young I was fascinated by realistic paintings. I would immerse myself in painting books trying to imagine how in the world these classical painters could create something so close to life. John Singer Sargent was my first love, especially since I was attending school in Boston and surrounded by his paintings at the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts. I worked at my school’s library and would look through the books that people would return, and that’s how I found Richard Diebenkorn. His work has been a big influence and his colors are what encouraged me to move to San Francisco for a while.
Do you see your works as unique or as part of a series?
I usually work in series. I feel like they are all pages in a book. They can work together to tell a longer story or stand alone as separate moments.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I love dialogue. If I can ever get a direct quote into a painting I try. Some people have such interesting ways of speaking and telling stories, so in addition to painting their colors, I like if I can catch a specific quote or saying too.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
I have a small claw from a bird that I’ve kept for about five years now. I was staying in Florence alone for a month after I graduated. There was a man named Luca who lived in my building that I always saw smoking cigars in the courtyard. One night he invited me to dinner at the home of his friend. His friend was a renowned Spanish chef who was teaching a Japanese chef a new recipe. The Spanish chef only spoke Spanish and Italian. The Japanese chef only knew English and Japanese. Luca was their interpreter. I got to sit and enjoy it all. We listened to opera very loudly, and passed around these little glass jars that contained scents that were meant to strengthen your nose for wine tasting. It’s one of my favorite memories. The claw I kept came from the bird we ate. Luca cut it off and saved it for me.
Is there any artwork on display in your home or studio? Whose is it?
I have xerox copies from old library books of artists with their work including Eva Hesse and Klaus Rinke for inspiration in the studio. At home I have some pieces from artists that I know and love. I have paintings by Ky Anderson, Abel Macias, T.J. Kelly, Vicki Sher, and more. I wish I had more walls.
What’s next for you?
Just working hard in the studio. Planning an adventure or two to the West Coast and hopefully somewhere new.