Entries in painting (2)


Interview - Cassie Marie Edwards

Summer Gallery Night in Milwaukee is coming up on July 25th. Our next featured artist, Cassie Marie Edwards, answered a couple questions about her upcoming show.  


"Shadow Horse" oil on canvas, 12x12", 2013Your current work explores the boundaries between landscape, portraiture and still life. Tell us a little about the evolution of this body of work and how you became interested in these intersections.

These genres seem to hang in the air above all representational paintings. I’m interested in quietly breaking down the ability to quickly categorize and pass over artwork. I hope it slows people down a bit when looking at my work and helps them to question how these categorizations affect our viewing of paintings in general.

I became interested in exploring these boundaries in my work in part as a natural progression away from traditional painting, and in part due to researching art history for my day job as an adjunct art/art history instructor. In my experience, teaching has pushed me to re-evaluate Art History in much more depth than learning about Art History as a student. I find the transitions between art historical movements so much more interesting than the gaps of time in-between where people are following the already successful modes of working.

I also often think about my work as a reaction to representational and hyper-realistic painting. I want to see what I can get away with under the context of ‘representational’ painting while not really playing by the rules. I see many of my paintings as more abstract than representational, playing just outside the lines.

Can you tell us a little about your background and how that influences your studio practice?

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and developed a love for art from a young age. As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa Bob who is a self-taught artist. He would spend hours sitting with me patiently and teaching me how to draw flowers with pen and ink. It stuck, and since then you’ll rarely find me without drawing or painting materials stashed in my bag.

We moved around a lot as I was growing up, and naturally art became my solace of sorts. It was a tool that I used to overcome my shyness and meet new people. It was also therapeutic at times when it was tough to make friends. I’d decided I wanted to go to school for art at a young age, and never strayed from that path.

I earned my undergrad degree at UW-Oshkosh and worked with a wonderful group of faculty and peers. I was constantly pushed to work harder, to make better work, to put in the hours by my insanely dedicated instructors. I went on for my MFA at Northern Illinois University, and continued to be pushed to create while diversifying my studio practice. I am deeply indebted to the wonderful faculty whom I’ve had the privilege to work under.

Immediately after earning my MFA my husband and I moved to rural South Dakota to teach at Dakota State University where he and I have been working for the past 5 years. The quietness and lack of distractions in our small community have given me the opportunity to focus and really ‘find’ my artistic voice. I’ve also found a great community of artists and makers out here in South Dakota. It is a unique place – people here are willing to put their neck on the line and aren’t afraid to live life their way. It was definitely something that surprised me about moving out here and it has encouraged me to be a bit more daring in what I do as an artist.

"Cloud and Mountain" oil on canvas, 11x14"Do you have a specific routine in the studio?

I put in 20-30 hours a week in the studio in addition to my adjunct teaching responsibilities. I schedule my studio hours each week and stick to them. I have an ongoing list of things I need to get done, and I try to tackle the largest projects first. I sit in my studio and make myself work even if I screw up a project or if I’m feeling off kilter. I’ve had some of my best breakthroughs while lying on my floor in complete painting-induced-anxiety.

In regards to my studio work, I usually have about 10 things in progress at once. I am a maniacal planner. I sketch out multiple concepts for a piece, I build a model out of various materials and light it many different ways to see how it will look, and then do a few preliminary sketches to get the composition right.

After this I decide the size of canvas I’ll be working on and build it – from routing the wood, to stretching and priming the canvas. Then I draw out my compositions from life and start my under-painting. I usually add at least two layers of paint on top of this to get the colors flat, smooth and opaque. In order to keep color mixtures consistent, I have a journal where I log all of my mixtures and paints used for each painting. As you can imagine it is a little bit time consuming.

Does your process relate in any way to your conceptual concerns, and if so how?

Yes – it is in many ways a meditative process; I have a lot of time while making work to think about the conceptual implications of what I’m doing. While putting together the models for the paintings, I think a lot about how we communicate visually. I think of this series of work as ‘faux landscapes’ – similar to what you see in a natural history museum when they paint and decorate the backdrop to an animatronic dinosaur. I also think a lot about how far removed we are getting from nature in general – from looking at agribusiness, to the idea of the perfect manicured lawn. I try to reflect this by adding various layers between the viewer and the subject: Viewer, painting, model, landscape(subject).

In addition to creating work, I also photograph, edit, and share my work via social media. I think doing this adds another layer of removal from the objects my paintings represent. It also gives me the opportunity to share my work in-progress and gives people insight into my thought processes and decisions.

When I’m documenting my processes, I often think about this time-lapse of Picasso’s painting process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEKumfGP5W8 Watching this in undergrad was one of those pivotal moments as a student where I felt like I had seen how someone’s mind worked. When I begin to build a model, I start with a large amount of materials, and slowly arrange and rearrange them and swap things in and out until I am happy with a composition. Even when I begin painting, I often rearrange things or edit things in/out of the image. I want to share that process and experience with others because I think it enriches the way viewers understand and experience paintings.

"Rainy Days" oil on canvas, 24x36"Who are some of your personal painting heroes and how do they make their presence known in your work?

Wayne Thiebaud: He paints objects with such a reverence for color, composition, and observation. He’s also a lifelong educator, which I find really inspiring especially with the struggles I sometimes face when balancing teaching as an adjunct, studio work, and paying bills.


Georgia Okeefe: Her still life paintings and plein air paintings are a huge source of inspiration for my work. She can use very few elements to create hugely impactful compositions. She also wasn’t afraid to have a really dynamic (in terms of subject matter) group of paintings. She transformed the objects and places she painted

into so much more than the sum of their parts. I also admire the depth, breadth,and success of her work as a painter in a male-dominated market. Her voracious appetite for making and creating is something I strive to emulate.

Josef Albers: I’ve been thinking a lot about Albers’ ‘Interaction of Color’ in the context of my work a lot lately. Being as he was an educator in the Bauhaus and then later at Yale, I think his thoughts and theories have filtered down through the Post Modernists and Contemporary art. I use many of his exercises in the courses I currently teach, and his work is always in the back of my head. For him, painting was truly a practice – a breaking down of paint into its simplest form – pure color. He was an instructor at Yale when one of my painting professors, Ron Weaver, had been a student there. I feel like a part of a lineage of his school of thought, hopefully I’m honoring it in some way.

Morandi: I admire Morandi’s focus, and his ability to create such strong feelings through such subtle changes. This is something I didn’t really understand until I really started to give his work more of my attention. He has the ability to make me laugh or depress me by simple compositional paintings. He isn’t about shock value or pulling in every viewer, his work is quiet and unassuming – and the viewers who take the time to explore his work reap the benefits.


Interview - Patrick Earl Hammie

We're incredibly psyched to have Patrick Earl Hammie's work as our first painting show here at greymatter.  Read all about Patrick and his impressive work here.

"Night Watch" 68x96" oil on linenI’ve always found it interesting how different artists gravitate toward specific mediums.  Is there anything about your personality that you think attracts you to painting?

I’ve drawn constantly from an early age, so maybe that oriented me toward 2D. At first, painting seemed like a natural extension of drawing. Now it’s use is tied to my content in terms of questioning and celebrating its history. Recently, I’ve begun experimenting with 3D objects. I’m not sure how those experiments will translate into my vocabulary, but my practice has always been a place where I’ve felt free to evolve.

Could you please tell us a little about your background and how you think that influenced your work?

I was born in New Haven, CT in 1981. I was raised in West Haven, CT, but moved back and forth between there and Hartsville, SC until graduate school. I did martial arts when I was younger, and participated in concert choir and athletics until college. I earned my BA in Drawing and Psychology from South Carolina’s Cooker College and my MFA in Painting from the University of Connecticut. Many of my interests from childhood to now such as comics, science fiction, religious studies, philosophy and music have influenced my work. Many things I’m drawn to engage with universal humanistic plights revealed through personal narratives.

You choose to paint on a very large scale; some of your canvases are 8 feet long.  Can you explain how scale relates to the meanings behind your work?

My decisions regarding scale tend to be driven by content and context. For example, historically there’s been a type of chest beating amongst male artists, manifested in heroic canvases that would reach mural-like proportions. I’m a fan of big works and spectacles like many others, but scale does function as a visual symbol of masculine expression, usually reinforced by the content within the frame. With those narratives in mind, I dialogue with those histories by positioning my canvases within that context, while re-presenting examples of women and men that question constructions of identity, history, and gender politics.

It always impresses me when an artist can use traditional media in very conceptual ways.   How do the processes specific to oil painting relate to how you are questioning representations of race and gender?

Perhaps more than any other form of image-making, figurative painting is often read as a mirror of the time in which it is made; the canvas might be uniquely valued as a type of sociohistorical document. When one goes down the road of representation in paint, particularly the figurative, and more specifically the nude, there are certain histories and responsibilities to be navigated and acknowledged. What’s at stake here is representation. Painting has been a forum where these conversations have lived the longest. Utilizing the medium to critique its practice, I adopt body language, narrative and scale, to participate in this discourse, and to reinvent and remix ideal beauty and heroic nudity.

"Untitled" 42x60" charcoal on paperIt is very cool that you use traditional painting to critique Western Art History.  Would you elaborate on how you accomplish this through how individuals in your work are depicted, situated, etc.?

When one thinks of figurative art as a contemporary endeavor one may take a skeptical position as to its relevance. For me, figurative art has relevancy. While I deeply respect and appreciate historical uses of the nude form, the ideas and context in which they developed are no longer in accord with our modern understanding of gender, race, sexuality and mythology. While many contemporary artists have made great strides to relocate this ancient and personal form of human expression, the critical mass of uncritical examples by artists trying to capture those past ideas populates the current collective consciousness. We’re left with associations of the “nude” in art equating to female, white, young, thin, shaved, full breasted, and vulnerable or hypersexual.

With my current project Significant Other, I move towards aspects of figurative representation that have been historically skewed, are contemporarily taboo, or underrepresented. For centuries, male painters have historically presented women as static objects represented in a serpentine pose that recalled Eve’s original sin. The male nude has been cloaked in allegory, which aimed to provide forums for culturally sanctioned looking for an understood heterosexual audience. In the absence of allegory, the penis became mostly un-representable as its presence would make vulnerable to critique the idea and signifier of male power. Subsequently, the black male body has been subject to grotesque exaggerations ranging from abject physical features to hypersexual endowment, all of which reinforced white male normativity and command.

With Significant Other, I suggest the two figures as halves of self. They operate for me as individual female and male figures, symbols of feminine and masculine institutions, as well as forms of self-portraiture. I work to present the woman as a doer who is active and agent. She embodies a strength not derived solely from a masculine-centric understanding of strength, but a strength that also valorizes traits such as care and empathy. With the man, I situate him in a vulnerable position where he has relinquished allusions of power. Lighting and paint colors play an important role in regards to race. The light democratized the complexions in such a way as to challenge easy or rhetorical reads of ethnicity. Realistic representations of persons of color by persons of color have been greatly absent in the narrative of painting, particularly nudes. I strive to make room for alternative depictions of race and gender. Drawing from my history as a son, a male and an African American struggling to synthesize past adversity, my paintings symbolize my shadow-selves, and represent an effort to transcend typical masculine ideals and yield to new realities that require constant compromise and change.

These paintings definitely have an intellectual basis, but also have a deeply emotive quality that comes through quite intensely.  How do you think these two qualities interact and reinforce one another?

As cerebral as artists can become, I equally love when artists, storytellers and musicians tap into their personal experiences and pain to make art that’s visceral and conscious. My ideas have always started with my personal experiences, questions, struggles, and interests. Events like my father’s death when I was 17, singing John Rutter’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall in college, or witnessing a milestone in American presidential history, all vibrate in my gut first, then my head. I want to make work that engages people in that way as well.

One last question I like to ask our artists now and again:  If you could witness any moment in history firsthand, what would it be?

I think the most important time in history is now. It might be interesting to witness moments in history such as the first American woman casting her presidential vote, or the circumstances under which my African and European ancestors first stepped onto American shores, but I’m most excited to experience what’s happening right now, and imagining what will be in the future.