How and why did you select paint as your medium of choice?
There was never any other option for me really. I wanted to be a painter since I was a kid—something about pushing color around with a stick. It was the only kind of making that appealed to me.
How did you develop your style? How do you find your style has changed over time, and how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I guess my language developed from the basic problem that most painters have which is what to do with failed paintings. I didn’t have a ton of money and if I ran out of surfaces, I would just reclaim old paintings by painting over them. One of my earliest paintings like this was of a row of uniformed standing women superimposed on top of a roughly done image of a tennis court. Neither subject made sense together but the painting became all about how to integrate the two spaces to create a new reality. Of course, I eventually ran out of old paintings but this way of working led to constructing a painting from partially formed things that are open enough to include the space in which they are embedded.
What makes a good painting?
I like Stella’s definition—a painting where space can live.
You have had quite a few exhibitions—what makes for a good show?
I don’t think I’ve figured that one out yet. I like exhibitions that present cohesive ideas but where the artist doesn’t repeat solutions. For me, the most interesting shows are the ones where it feels like the artist is making discoveries in the process of making the work. It’s exciting to see the artist make a leap from one piece to the next without knowing entirely where they are going. You can always tell when the artist is just executing an idea rather than working out the thought through the making of the object.
You’ve moved from figures to structures in the last year. What precipitated this shift?
I had been toying with the idea of using the gate as a subject for the last couple of years as I liked the idea of the painting as being both of a gate and a gate itself. In fact, I had let go of a distinctive subject entirely and was making watery abstractions for awhile. None of them felt finished. I sat with them for about six months before deciding they needed something to close them off. And suddenly the gate made complete sense.
Your use of color is intense and has an abstract feel—some works feel almost as if the figurative elements are emerging from an abstract work. Can you describe to us how you approach color choice and how you use color?
At this point, color and spatial relationships drive the work more than the subject. But color is difficult to write about because it’s all intuitive. Many people tell me my use of color is jarring or challenging or just barely off—using things that shouldn’t work together but making them work anyway. I start with a basic premise of a color palette for a painting and then try to interject something into it that doesn’t make sense or that interferes with the established logic in just the right way as to give me some kind of tension to respond to.
Could you talk to us about the structure and content of your paintings? How do you create the structure of your works? How do you use space? And how do you decide on content?
My painting concerns have always involved creating space through the negotiation of color, line, and form. In the past, this has included direct figurative content. In my most recent body of work I considered the subject of the gate as an architectural substitute for the figure. I begin the paintings by approaching them as abstractions of landscape and use the gate as a conceptual device to close off the painting, proposing a metaphor for the psychological barrier one has to enter through to access a larger territory or field of vision. I chose the gate because it was a subject whose form inherently offers a division and organization of the field of vision, asking the viewer to look at it and through it simultaneously. In the paintings, I exploit the visually open properties of the wrought iron structures by letting them recede in areas and resurface in others, intervening in the spatial ambitions of the viewer.
What advice do you have for readers who are struggling to sell their work and to find an audience?
I really believe being an artist is a lifelong practice and cultural mindset. It’s as much a way of being in the world as it is about participating in the art-market machine. Basically my theory is keep making work no matter what and outlast everyone. Never count on art to make you money because when you need the work to generate an income you will have a harder time taking risks that the work will sometimes demand.
Thank you very much to Sarah Awad for sitting down with us! Be sure to keep a close eye on her site for new works!
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