Submission Draft

It’s hard work to let go of warp-speed, digital-age angst. 

I think physicality, sublime beauty, and emotional intimacy are vital to navigating the challenges of our time. The digital age has brought us connectivity and a vast expanse of information, but it has also created a groundless, chaotic, infinite psychological space devoid of nature’s organic grace and logic of scale.

I’m responding to the bodiless, chaotic, urgent infinity of the digital age by reaching for physical mediums and organic form. I’m drawing on what Rosenblum dubbed the Northern Romantic Tradition, artists like Turner and O’Keeffe drawn to the sublime in nature and making art-for-life’s-sake. I’m looking to nature for a sense of order and scale, to make sense of my human limits, and in doing so, reach out for something more.

When you push up against nature, it pushes back in a really logical, physical way. There is a certain resonance to that. Connection with boundaries, structure, and meaning is fundamentally important to human psychology as noted in Erickson’s developmental psychology, Bowen’s emphasis on family structure, and the developing theory of attachment. As we spend more and more time in a groundless digital space, we lose that resonance with the physical universe. This disconnect produces anxiety and feelings of worthlessness on both an individual and cultural level—making the sublime more relevant than ever.

The writing I do in my paintings is a record of the time and effort it takes to extract yourself from the insidious stress of today’s media deluge and subtle disconnection. I think a lot about: exponential unemployment as a result of advances in technology and how that affects our culture, where self-worth is tied to the market value of labor; the impact of chronic overstimulation on making visual art; global warming and public access to nature spaces; the cultural devaluing of attributes considered feminine or ‘Other’ and how that affects what is considered ‘Fine Art’; and how intersecting layers of privilege affect all these things. It’s not about escaping these concerns, but instead clearing out mental static so you can approach what matters with greater clarity. Writing to myself and also directly to the future viewer, I take this cerebral processing and make it tangible, personal. 

I paint over most of my writing. I leave enough visible for the viewer to follow along with me—stepping up close to the canvas, bending down, standing on tiptoe—just as I have, letting go of anxieties with each movement of the body. This reaching for order and resonance is for myself, but also for you the viewer. By leaving a trail of semi-visible words, I’m inviting you into your own process of letting go.

 

I work in a large range of media and scale. While I’m dealing with the same concerns, I approach them very differently in different media. This allows me to gang-up on subject matter that’s tricky and intangible, but also gives me fresh angles on something often dismissed as stale. I reach most often for clay and oil paint. Not only do these materials have a long history of reaching for the sublime, but I also love their sensuous physicality and how their time-based nature imposes itself on my process.

I would like to infuse my own work with Zheng Chongbin’s grace across media and scale. His work really resonates with me, even though he’s trying to distance the human hand from the paper just as much as I’m trying to let my fingerprints show. Camille Utterback is another installation artist I’m going to examine closely over the next year; she’s connecting with the viewer’s body and bridging the digital with the visceral and emotional. 

My next challenge is to build more cohesion across media to achieve a tighter interdisciplinary practice. I want to develop the intellectual backdrop of my ceramic process so it connects more deeply with my painting, and I want to bring more intuitive gesture into my painting. Right now, my ceramic work articulates in a visceral, intuitive way that my painting does not, but I have an easier time talking about my painting process.

I want to create and grow in a community of interesting, thoughtful, and kind people who are ambitious enough to bring their perspectives to the spotlight. My goal is to make work I believe in, show that work to a wide audience, and for that work to live a life of its own after it leaves my studio. In the long run, I want this practice to be economically self-sustaining. 

Over the past five years, I’m proud to have developed a studio practice that works with my life, and a life that works to support my studio practice. While I’ve brought challenge and growth into my studio by reaching for outside influence, I now yearn for a longer workshop, a deeper inquiry and even more conversation. I’m ready to push myself as a graduate student. I can’t wait to steep in a strong brew of exploration with fellow artists committed to long term growth.

 

Influences

I am always looking at and learning from the work of others. I have an unruly collection of bookmarked web pages, no-flash iPhone photos, museum store postcards, sketchbook notes and a mountain of books both digital and paper. I'm working on a concise statement about how specific artists have impacted my work; however, it's less about individual influence and more about the connections I make between a multiplicity of disparate sources. Here are a few:

Painters: Brian Routenburg, Wayne Thiebaud, JMW Turner, Daniel Kohn, Hiroshi Sato, Hung Liu, Jenny Saville, Kehinde Wiley, Cy Twombly, Emily Carr, Georgia O'Keefe, Michael Hall, Zaria Forman, Travis Somerville

Ceramic Work: Arnold Annen, Zemer Peled, Katie Spagg, Courtney Mattison, Ashley Lyon, Ian McMahon

Installations: Celeste Bourgnois, Camille Utterback, Ansel Adams (+Boulders and Bones), Sheela Gowda, Christina Iglacias, Ragnar Kjartansson, Christina Kubisch, William Kentridge, Yayoi Kusama, Zheng Chongbin

Writers: Francis Stark, Roxane Gay, Sarah Kay, Melissa Lozada-Olivia, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, Sarah Thornton, John Krakauer, Brené Brown, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Carrie Brownstein, John Gottman, Ed Viesturs, Michelle Alexander, Laura Goldstein, Sue Johnson

Behind the work I'm making

18,000ft - tiny, human, joyous and proud. Thin air freezing in my nostrils, warm heart pounding, boots sunk into this crunchy glittering island - the anxiety I was struggling with was nowhere to be seen, obliterated by a sea of cloud stretching pink and otherworldly past the curved horizon.

I need that transcendent glory in my life - the space that nature gives you to be human.        

Cartoon anxiety is a pacing, hand-wringing, hyperventilating creature; mine is suffocation by static - an internal hailstorm of critique.

It’s hard work to let go of warp-speed digital-age angst. The writing I do in my paintings is an untangling of that inner cacophony. Contemporary concerns about art, femininity and self-worth - oscillating between personally specific and universal. I write to myself and also directly to the future viewer.

I explore the layered relationships between art, cultural ideas of worth, femininity, mental health, and interior landscape.

Work of a simply emotional nature is often associated with being simplistic or one-dimensional. However, work that is simply detached and concept driven is often celebrated without discussion of it's emotional impact. The automatic assumption is that cerebral work must have value  - while emotion is not currently considered a basis on which to assess worth.

I dig into this phenomenon - asking myself and the viewer - why is this the case? Is this congruent with the role we want art to play in our culture?  Sometimes it looks an awful lot like a symptom of the cultural devaluing of attributes considered feminine. Do we want the art world to perpetuate these imbalanced, patriarchal definitions of value and worth?

This is an extended part of a conversation about the line between "FineArt" and "craft". Craft, being associated with homemaking and non-white cultures - is often regarded as less valuable than work associated with the privileged, intellectual institution of Fine Art.

These are complicated, layered topics of privilege and the role of art in culture and I'm not concise or short in my exploration of them. I employ questions, rhetorical and open ended, personally specific and globally theoretical - the writing I do is expansive and verbose.

I believe that the best art engages both emotionally and conceptually. I layer inquiry and criticality with expression - intimate and universal.

Large scale work can swallow the viewer, as vast landscape does. It reminds you of your body, your scale, your breath. I’m inviting viewers to experience the space I need and sharing how I got there.

I paint what quiet sound remains after I scrape out all the dissonance. Reaching past untangling for that moment of being present, reaching for the sublime.

Why an MFA? Why Fall 2018?

Even if I wasn't interested in teaching art (I am) - I would still be pursuing an MFA right now. When non-art friends ask what an MFA is, I compare it to a start-up incubator program or a project based MBA. I tell them it's not necessary, but an incredible opportunity to make connections with other motivated artists and push your limits. It's not something you sign up for unless your fledgling business can hit the ground running and truly benefit from the opportunities and challenges offered within a relatively short period of time.

"Apply when the work you're making is a freight train" someone wise advised me last year. Craving the rigor and richness of a classroom environment and energized by a new level of complexity in the work I was making, I was personally ready to commit to an MFA. The work itself was gaining momentum by the day, but I also recognized that it hadn't yet outgrown my studio. A full year later and my studio is bursting at the seams. 

I can't wait to be back in the classroom and the work I'm making is unstoppable - it knows what it's about and will continue to grow with every new challenge I throw it's way. In the next few years I'll certainly be exploring the following:

- Making my installations more interactive, increasing the use of technology without losing the physicality of material space. 

- Incorporating my abstract ceramic forms in installation, re-making interior landscape (physically and psychologically)

- Experimenting with the readability of writing in my work, increasing the specificity of content in each work

- Increase my outreach, applying for more opportunities and engaging with social-media

In 2020: I expect my art will have grown in ways I never expected, I'll have new ideas to explore and new mentors to look up to. I'll have made lasting friendships with a group of awesome artists - challenging and inspiring each other to make better work and get that work out in the world. I'll push my limits and hit the ground running - ready to continue that momentum after graduation.

 

Teaching. Yes, I'd love to.

I do want to teach. Lively class discussion is something I've always adored, but I know It takes practice to facilitate good discussion rather than simply participating in it. I've been watching great teachers teach my whole life (looking at you!), and I've been taking notes! Not just on the material they present, but how they engage different kinds of students, how they structure the class and how they build an atmosphere in the room. This is something I want to learn how to do.

I think I would be a good art teacher for young college students or older students in high school. These are moments when young artists are really looking around and comparing themselves to everyone and everything. I would try to push them toward their own best work and give them the tools to process critique in a way that is helpful to their work, not harmful to themselves. It's an important reminder (especially when you are young) that confidence is not innate or directly proportional to “success” - it takes practice to both trust yourself and ALSO learn from others. 

Lectures, or class components that have really stuck with me from those early years:

Drawing - Learning to see vs look, softening your eyes and loosening your gesture.

Ceramics - Having to throw work off a ladder was a great reminder not to become too attached, and to find joy in the making. (Although I may have negotiated my way out of actually doing this. Hmm)

Currency, Art and Value - investigating the evolution of currency and concepts of value, and how that has related to art (and other intangibles). I think this class should be mandatory for ALL students, art-majors or otherwise.

Painting - beginning with only cadmium red, cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue was incredibly frustrating, but definitely set me up to see the true value of other minerals/colors, rather than using them as a crutch.

I'm a person who just loves to learn and I know I would learn a lot from my students. I enjoy the structure of a school-semester and love being part of a school community.