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Art Sync: Fast Release of Style, Slow Release of Subject

Art Sync: Fast Release of Style, Slow Release of Subject

A conversation with Howie Lee Weiss by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

November 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: In the “Style, Process, Perfection” part of your website, you describe beginning a charcoal drawing: "My fingertips coat the paper gray first, and then I draw loosely and freely, searching out my characters. Once found, decisive black lines are added as accurately as possible so that there is no mistaking what kind of image was intended.” Few contemporary artists work exclusively with charcoal. Besides its workability, why do you gravitate to it? Do the traces of previous attempts help you find your subject? Or are you always starting over with a blank slate after erasing?

Howie Lee Weiss: The image grows and develops. I may like a tiny bit and build around that, or I may continue to wipe away the sketch marks until the images that are necessary gradually appear...

Art Sync: Something About The Place

Art Sync: Something About The Place

A conversation with Ted Walsh by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

November 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: Studying your work, I feel a strong pull toward surrealism, movies, and dreams. What inspires you to put a composition together? Is there a story or mood that gets things going?

Ted Walsh: All kinds of things inspire my compositions. Things I happen to see. Things I’m inspired by, literature, music, other art. A technical painting idea, an abstract compositional idea, a theme from an older painting I want to revisit. A story, a mood. ––It could be any mix of these. Anything really...

Art Sync: Through Light And Shadow

Art Sync: Through Light And Shadow

A conversation with Larry Francis by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

November 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: In John Thornton’s video, Larry Francis Is Philadelphia’s Most Enjoyable Artist, you mention growing up among model trains and planes. Do you think that makes you see reality as a sort of toy world? A place to play?

Larry Francis: Perhaps all art is a toy representation of real life. We lived over my dad’s bicycle shop. He built model airplanes (some of his own design) and train platforms with houses, landscaped hills, and bridges. My mom was always making centerpieces or other crafty projects. I drew things and took art classes in high school. Between 11th and 12th grades I sold my motorcycle to attend a summer art camp, where I did my first oil painting with the teacher’s paint. My parents bought Time Life books for me on American art and world art. My favorite thing was watching black and white movies on The Late Show. I think all this mixed together with the craft of making things...

Art Sync: People Are in the World to Be Seen

Art Sync: People Are in the World to Be Seen

A conversation with Leigh Werrell by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

October 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: In the Gross McCleaf statement you mention "approaching the communal through the personal" and the "seemingly contradictory feelings of being lonely in a crowd and feeling a sense of community among individuals." Were the pandemic years especially meaningful for you since we were together in our loneliness? If so, how did the pandemic affect your work?

Leigh Werrell: The pandemic has really changed me as a person––as I believe it has many people––and I think it has certainly changed my work. Throughout the last few years, I have been grappling with personal ideas of how I want to live, what is important to me, and what my studio practice means to me. I have realized two things: without a community to show my work to, I find it very hard to create; and to feel fulfilled I need to be making art...

Art Sync: Nature As Muse

Art Sync: Nature As Muse

A conversation with Thomas Paquette by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

October 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: Your website bio mentions that you dropped out of your freshman BFA studies and traveled the country for six years. What did traveling touch that book learning did not?

Thomas Paquette: During my “hobo years," I went on several adventures by freight train and hitchhiking that lasted anywhere from a week to several months. But it wasn’t a full-time gig: I always gravitated toward further education. When I wasn’t enrolled in colleges (I attended five), I used public libraries to follow my own curriculum.

EJ: You seem to value surprise...

Art Sync: An Upside-Down World

Art Sync: An Upside-Down World

A conversation with John Greig, Jr. by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

September 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: Does your experience as a welder, cabinet maker, foundry technician, mold maker, and tombstone setter/cutter dovetail with studying at PAFA, and with your art making today?

John Greig Jr.: My basic understanding of various tools or processes certainly has influenced my work, and pushing these abilities drove a portion of my artistic exploration. With Subterranean I’ve been less tool intensive, more direct and simpler. Much of the work is done with just a sanding block and a straight chisel. My building mind still solves technical problems, but the making is more of a playful process...

Art Sync: A Way, A Direction

Art Sync: A Way, A Direction

A conversation with Celia Reisman by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

September 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: In your statement on the Gross McCleaf website, you state that you are inspired by certain details in suburban landscapes. Does working from preparatory drawings of compelling details forestall succumbing to new enthusiasms? Do you ever relax your focus and follow tangents? 

Celia Reisman: The initial detail/object/subject that inspired me to sit in my car and draw from the location is incorporated into the drawing as a focal point. I compose as I draw, selecting aspects of the place, assembling parts for the foreground, middle ground, and background while incorporating the main subject. As the painting develops, I try to stick to that initial detail. If the painting starts to shift for various reasons, I’ll use another organizational format...

Ed Bing Lee in his studio

Art Sync: Heaven's Eye

A conversation with Ed Bing Lee by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

July 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: In an interview with Glenn Holsten when you were a Pew Fellow in 2007, you said that early in your career you made "knottings" that depicted Georges Seurat paintings. In an interview on artmobia.com, you named Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Bathers at Asinières as sources. Your sculptures such as Burger 4, Popcorn I, Mocha Ice Cream Cone, Trophy Cake and Edo celebrate birthday parties, baseball games, movies, tea ceremonies––the pleasures of life. Was the pleasurable, restful subject of Seurat's work as important as relating knots directly to pointillism? Do you feel like you pick aesthetically and emotionally pleasing subjects in general?

Ed Bing Lee: I draw heavily on art history for many of the subjects of my work. In my compositions collectively titled Picnics, I juxtaposed Seurat with contemporary food images to renew art history by linking it with the present in a humorous or even unsettling way...

Art Sync: Creating The World

Art Sync: Creating The World

A conversation with Val Rossman by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

May 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: You and other viewers describe your work as lyrical, whimsical, lush, archeological, personal. Both you and Julie Courtney state that it is a “chaotic blend of chance and careful planning.” When you finish a painting, would you say that you prefer achieving balance or landing slightly off-balance?

Val Rossman: I think it is a combination of both . . . I definitely want balance, but there also needs to be some element of surprise. If it is too balanced, then it seems boring. Sometimes it is a gesture that achieves this and at other times it is a surprising color or shape in an unexpected place. It can’t be too disturbing, just a bit awry. The combination of chance and careful planning is a major theme in all of my work regardless of media and even series. To me that is a metaphor for life . . . we all try to plan our life, but often unexpected things happen which we have to deal with. My art mimics this and I love using a visual medium to expand upon it...

Art Sync: Seeing And Feeling

Art Sync: Seeing And Feeling

A conversation with Penelope Harris by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

May 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: In Bill Scott’s essay about you on the Woodmere Art Museum website, he recalls that your parents, Audrey Buller and Lloyd Parsons, both studied at The Art Students League of New York with Kenneth Hayes Miller. Scott says that they “were among the most prominent of realist painters, exhibited at top galleries, and saw their paintings acquired by the Whitney Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Scott continues: “Early on, however, her parents never encouraged her to follow in their footsteps for, as artists themselves, they had experienced the many disappointments too often encountered by a life in the arts. They feared the instability of such a life might lead their daughter to a wildly sad existence. Perhaps worse [. . . ] they worried she might move to Greenwich Village and live a life of ‘sin and debauchery!’” Did your parents invite you to paint or draw with them when you were a kid?

Penelope Harris: My parents were older when they had children. They weren't like the Wyeths, they didn't take us under their wing and teach us. They were so busy with their own careers, and they did commercial work for money...

Art Sync: An Excuse To Paint

Art Sync: An Excuse To Paint

A conversation with Mickayel Thurin by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

April 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: Did you start painting portraits when you came to PAFA? Or did you enter school already drawing and painting people? 

Mickayel Thurin: I've always loved portraiture. I used to draw from family photographs when I was six or seven, and I’d also draw people when someone would take the time to sit for me. Some kids like drawing animals or sunsets, for me it's people and their faces that sparks my interest, closely followed by color and pattern and texture. It has to do with the personality within a face. There’s so much going on with a person, and I understand them better through portraits than through conversation...

Art Sync: Potential Images

Art Sync: Potential Images

A conversation with Michael Gallagher by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

April 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: In your statement on the Gross McCleaf site, you use the term “slippage.” Does this reference Jacques Lacan’s theory of the unstable relationship between signified and signifier?

Michael Gallagher: I’ve been using “slippage” for decades. It’s not informed by any postmodern thinking, which I find mostly befuddling and obtuse on purpose. How I use the term relates not only to subject matter but also issues regarding space; the idea that a shape/form can occupy multiple spatial conditions and potential readings keeps me engaged in both making and looking.

In the ’80s I was painting on X-rays and black and white photographs of artworks from PAFA’s permanent collection...

Art Sync: The Baobab Tree

Art Sync: The Baobab Tree

A conversation with Benjamin Passione by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

March 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: The press release for All the Sauce, your 2019 show at Gross McCleaf states: “Passione’s paintings benefit from a vitality born from the means of their finding: handmade, felt, visual, and free from singular meaning.” Has your process of “finding” changed since then?

Benjamin Passione: The paintings from that show were a little bit opaquer and denser, very bright and immediate with the color. They were a little darker and acidic. The newer works are a little lighter, sketchier, and scumbley, a tad bit more playful and less serious. These paintings are my quarantine/Covid pictures. They are escapism for me. Hopefully, they are calming and fantastical...

Art Sync: Rhythmic Velocities

Art Sync: Rhythmic Velocities

A conversation with Thomas Paul Raggio by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

March 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: Your work seems to build on the color-focused branch of abstraction or formalism that springs from Piet Mondrian and Joseph Albers. I sense echoes of Sol LeWitt, Al Held, Frank Stella, and Dorothea Rockburne, particularly because they approach drawing and color as you do. Who were your influences?

Thomas Paul Raggio: Barnett Newman, Morris Louis, Roy Lichtenstein are the major ones that come to mind. During a studio residency in Australia, I studied with Jenny Watson, Julie Fraser, and Mostyn Bramley-Moore...

 

Art Sync: The Sky in Your Pocket

Art Sync: The Sky in Your Pocket

An interview with Jeffrey Reed by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

February 2022

Elizabeth Johnson: I grew up on a farm. Open green spaces dotted with farms equates home, security, and privacy to me. What does rural beauty mean to you?

Jeffrey Reed: I grew up just north of Annapolis, Maryland, in a small community on the Magothy River. It was a rare day when I wasn’t outside on or near the water. Nature has always had a strong pull on me and being outside is where I feel most alive and curious.

Being on the water made me keenly aware of the weather and the relationship between the sky, water and land. The skies were always of special interest to me. Skies can be dynamic, beautiful and unique while offering a sense of the moment and the anticipation of change...

Art Sync: Color and Space

Art Sync: Color and Space

An interview with Kurt Moyer by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

January 2022

Elizabeth Johnson:  Realistic landscapes of farmland, forests, and streams were formerly your subject.

Landscapes from 2017 and 2018 seem to mark the transition to abstraction, especially the outliers Vista and Creek Walk. What entices you to paint abstractly?

Kurt Moyer:  From the beginning, I’ve wanted to make something beautiful out of my experiences, something to share with other people. For many years this meant painting landscapes and depicting the nuances of light and color. These new abstract paintings still concern the light and my experiences in particular places. But now, without realism, they’re free to become something new. I feel I’m building a painting in real-time instead of making a recording of the past...

Art Sync: The Seen and the Unseen

Art Sync: The Seen and the Unseen

An interview with Dale Roberts by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

December 2021

Elizabeth Johnson: You work in several difficult mediums: encaustic, casein, egg tempera, pastel, silverpoint, ink, and gouache. You mentioned that it took ten years to get the hang of encaustic––a big commitment. Is it still the most pleasurable medium?

Dale O. Roberts: Encaustic seems to possess the most unique character and range of possibilities. However, each medium has its own appeal. My fascination with ancient mediums began long ago when I was a sophomore in a graduate seminar on egg tempera...

Art Sync: Everything Matters

Art Sync: Everything Matters

An interview with Scott Noel by Elizabeth Johnson, edited by Matthew Crain

November 2021

Elizabeth Johnson: In our telephone conversation, you mention John Berger’s book, “Steps Towards a Small Theory of the Visible,” as being useful in thinking about painting. Berger states that “something as small and at hand as a pebble or salt-cellar on the table” might open access to the heaven he calls “invisible, unenterable but intimately close.” How would you describe why quotidian subjects or everyday people elicit your desire to paint? Is it generally by chance that you get interested in a particular subject? Is story a part of your interest from the beginning?

Scott Noel: I became interested in pictures, photographs, comics, illustrations, and reproductions of paintings at an early age and began to draw on my own. Pictures awakened me to the look of things and inspired the activity of drawing. Images of animals, airplanes, battle scenes, crucifixions, whaling scenes, cars, and basketball players were a preoccupation. Eventually, my hunger to make pictures coalesced around the challenge of drawing people...

 

Painting Perceptions, Elizabeth Geiger In Studio

Painting Perceptions Elizabeth Geiger

Larry Groff Interview

December 2020

I am very pleased to be able to share this email interview with Elizabeth Geiger and I'm grateful for her generosity to be able to hear about her experience and insights into her process and intense engagement with painting.