Sunday, December 26, 2010

Systems: Julie Mehretu prepares for show at the Guggenheim

Julie Mehretu at her Berlin studio; prepping for a Guggenheim show.

Watch the full episode. See more ART:21.

You can see more about this show and Ms. Mehretu here:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Solstice!

Wishing all my readers and followers a happy holiday season.

I'll be taking a little break from interviews this week and next. The weekly interviews have been a lot of fun (and work). In 2011 I think it may be less often, perhaps monthly. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jeff Schaller: Pennsylvania

Lynette Haggard's Weekly Artist Interview
Schaller at work
Lynette (LH): Can you share with my readers a little about yourself? 
Jeff:  I grew up in Ellington, Connecticut. It was very rural. Our claim to fame was that there were 2 cows to every one person. I guess you can say it had some influence early on because I used to paint cows. That was until someone mentioned at an art show “hey there is the cow guy.” I knew at the age of 20 I didn’t want to be pegged as the cow guy so I stopped painting them. 

Boy toy
12” x 12”
LH: Where do you live now? 
Jeff: Funny, I didn’t stray far from my surroundings. I now live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. There are no cows but lots of horses and lots of country. It’s great, we love it. We have an acre with a house and my studio.

Conversation with Peter
36 x 36 encaustic

LH: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art? 
Jeff: My mother would tell you that I was coloring all the time at the age of 3. I think I realized it when I was in 5th grade and the teachers would ask me to design the school flyers and posters. I was getting attention and recognition for something I could do well. That’s about the only thing academically I could do well. As you read this you’ll notice that English isn’t one of my strong points.

LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist? 
Jeff: I was blessed I always knew I was going to be an artist. Like I said I was good at it why fight it. Making a living at it was a whole other situation. It seems everyone around me; my wife and mother knew that I was going to make a living at it and believed in me. I graduated college with a graphic design degree. Finally found a 9-5 job as graphic designer and worked there for about a year. Quit and went to Spain with my wife for 4 months and haven’t worked a 5 day 9-5 job since. I always had a part time job and dedicated 2 days to the studio. After having my third kid I decided to quit the 3 day a week job and do art full time. My son is now 7 years old and I work a lot more than 40 hours a week.

Summer Secret
LH: Can you describe bit about your work in general. 
Jeff: Big, bold and bright. I paint in encaustic. Recently I started to experiment with adding oil stick drawings and spray paint within my paintings.

LH: What is your media?
Jeff: I usually paint in encaustic. The majority of my fine art is encaustic however when I do murals or installations, I will use acrylic. I also enjoy silkscreening. I hate to use the word mixed media because many times it is associated with collage.

encaustic & oil stick, 36” x 60”

LH: What is your current work about? 
Jeff: I recently completed two exhibits. One of them was titled “The Pursuit of Happiness”. It was a reflection on where I am in my life. I turned 40 this year so maybe I got a bit serious… ok, not really. I did an installation piece that consisted of creating a wall that displayed a painting of my wife, a painting of my kids, a painting of my dog and a self-portrait. My other exhibit was called Palimpsest. I used my older paintings that did not work too well the first time around. The beauty of working with wax is that you can remelt it or scrape it away to start over. I enjoyed melting them and it gave me a new start. I love the idea of using a board that already has something on it and making it into something else. It is designing on the fly. It’s starting with no preconceived notion, some free thought and just seeing where the painting goes. Oh it’s so much fun and that’s what it’s about.

Schaller's studio

His yellow truck

Upstairs in Schaller's studio

LH: What is your workspace like? 
Jeff: My commute to work is about 100 yards. I built my studio from the ground up about 5 years ago. It is a bank barn with two floors and 1200 sq. feet of space. I have an area where I paint, an area to sit and entertain clients and a desk for all the stuff you need to do to keep a business running. Downstairs is where I do my silkscreening. It also has a full bathroom and a guest room that is slowly turning into a storage room.

Downstairs where Jeff does silkscreening

LH: How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues? 
Jeff: Being an artist we tend to spend a lot of time alone. Since my studio is right outside my house I have family visit me a lot. A few of my harshest critics are my 10 and 9 year old daughters. When I'm looking for a more biased opinion I go to a crit group that I started. I started this about 8 years ago, when I meet artists I ask them for their email and put them on a list of other artists. I try to get a group of artists together every month at different studios just to share what everyone is doing and exchange ideas, along with some networking. It is very casual, the way I like it. I have been involved in art groups where they are more concerned who is going to be president. I refused to call our group for a number of years, then it ended up taking on a name by itself. We still have no president, no dues and no schedule…just how I like it.
GE Life
36 x 42" encaustic on panel

LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you? 
Jeff: I would say Mondays inspire me because I know I have 5 days to do anything I want. I am in control of how I want to spend my time but it does not always work that way. Monday mornings are usually spent emailing, reading blogs and doing busy work. Wednesday is the one day when I just paint. I do not schedule any meetings or take phone calls that day so that I can just paint. I usually find my groove around mid afternoon. The music changes from classical to Jazz. As the painting session becomes more intense so does the music. When I can’t find any inspiration in the studio, I’ll usually visit a book store or look at Flickr.17.

Woman in Black
encaustic, 36” x 60”

LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this? 
Jeff: Oh boy do I ever. One of the wonders of working in wax is that when a painting goes bad, you can scrape it off. If a painting is going bad, I’ll usually put it aside for a while and come back later in the evening with a martini and take another look. Then in the morning I decide if I am going to continue. I have some unfinished paintings leaning on the studio wall that have been there for a year.

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice? 
Jeff: I always try and leave something started for the next day. Knowing where to start or finish is the best way to start the day. 

Palettes and paint...

LH: What are you reading right now? 
Jeff: That’s funny because I am always reading about six books at one time, but never finish them. Magazines are good for my short attention span. So, right now I am reading, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “The Warhol Economy”, Art Calendar and Art News. I did just finish “The Screwtape Letters”.

LH:  Do you have other jobs other than making art? 
Jeff: No, I don’t have the time for other jobs. Making art is my full time job.

LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making? 
Jeff: 10 years ago, I would have said, ”Painting full time, a new studio and a yellow truck.” I have those things so I need some new goals. I’d like to have four galleries that really promote and sell my work. I’d like to be doing more public and corporate art projects.

LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention? 
Jeff: I currently have a show with 3 other artists at West Chester University in PA. It is called “The Poetry of Craftmanship” and is up until December 17th. I am also working on a collaborative show with Robert Mars and Melody Postma at Gallery Brown in LA.

You can see more of Jeff's work at


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Amy Ellingson: San Francisco Artist

Lynette Haggard's Weekly Artist Interview 

Amy Ellingson at work

Lynette Haggard (LH): Can you share with my readers a little about yourself?

Amy Ellingson: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. I'm the only artist in the family, and the first to go to college and graduate school. All of my grandparents were from the Midwest. Their parents were farmers and shopkeepers. My paternal grandfather was a self-made man—a businessman and rancher—who could do just about anything: woodworking, bricklaying, building, ranching, hunting, fishing, etc. I learned a lot from him about building and making things. Both of my grandmothers were expert seamstresses, and my paternal grandmother was skilled at baking and needlework. My parents continued those traditions. In addition,
they were fascinated by and avidly collected antiques. From all of them, I picked up the idea that inanimate objects have power. I've always been fascinated by work—mental and physical labor, thinking through problems, etc., and with the idea of making something
tangible, lasting and meaningful.

Variation/Mutation (umber, red, violet, white) oil and encaustic on two panels, 72" x 78", © 2008
Photo: R.R. Jones

LH: Where do you live now?
Amy: I've lived in San Francisco for 15 years.

Recursions, installation
Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, 2008.  

Photo: Bill Orcutt

LH: Did you receive any formal art training? 
Amy:  I received a B.A. in studio art from Scripps College in Claremont, CA. At that time, there was a great studio art program at Scripps-- traditional in some respects, but very effective. Most of the faculty had been teaching for many years at that point, and they all had big personalities and devoted followers among the students. Also, Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University) was there, and I hung out with grad students a lot. I graduated with nearly double the number of credits required for my major—I took every studio class that was offered, many of them multiple times. After graduating, I worked for four years and then went to California Institute of the Arts for my MFA. CalArts was the polar opposite of Scripps, which was perfect for me. It rocked my world in every respect. My education represents the contrast between formalist and conceptual pedagogies.

Variation/Mutation (scatter)
 and encaustic on two panels 60" x 160", © 2009
Photo: R.R. Jones

LH: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?
Amy: I was interested in art from the moment I first picked up a crayon. I was obsessed with drawing. One summer, when I was about nine or ten, I drew and redrew the same scene again and again, trying to get it perfect. My parents took us to museums and, though I didn't always understand the art that I was looking at, I loved that it existed. When I was 12 or 13, my parents agreed to pay for private watercolor lessons. Like many kids, I was primarily interested in representation—being able to draw or paint people, nature and animals.

LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?
Amy: I always knew I was, and would be, an artist. However, when I became conscious of what it means to be a professional artist, I struggled a bit with the difficulty of that—understanding the sacrifices I had to make, the financial riskiness of the endeavor, the competitiveness of the field, and so on.

Variation/Mutation (brown, blue, red, white) oil and encaustic on two panels, 36" x 168" © 2006
Photo: R.R. Jones

LH: Can you describe bit about your work in general.
Amy: My work exaggerates the dichotomy between the lightning-fast process of digital rendering and the painstaking method of execution through traditional oil and encaustic painting techniques. All of my imagery, whether geometrically intact or abstracted and chaotic, is comprised of a vocabulary of very simple forms that are digitally manipulated. The paintings consist of many interrelated layers of repeating geometric forms—lines, arcs, and grids—that I compose on the computer. I replicate these basic elements into an increasingly complex field that I then render in discreet layers of oil and encaustic paint. Using ephemeral, computer-generated images exclusively as my source material, I create paintings that physically assert themselves through the materiality and permanence of historical painting media.
The translation from the ‘virtual’ to the ‘real’ is paramount.

LH: What is your media? 
Amy: The sketches are created in Photoshop and Illustrator, and then I render the paintings in oil and encaustic on panel with traditional chalk gesso. Since 2007, I have also been making works on paper. My recent series of gouache works on paper are based on the skeletal, or ‘wire-frame’ versions of the forms that comprise the vernacular of my paintings. These works are the result of a direct and immediate investigation of the relationship between the computer, the projector and the hand, restrained by the careful application of thin, painted lines in a reduced palette of grey tones.

Working at Civitella Residency

LH: What is your current work about? 
Amy: I'm interested in the history of abstract painting and I posit that the project of abstraction, as a philosophical position, can be advanced through means of digital technology. In my work, the digital component allows for a progression of the tradition of abstraction: the ability to develop a vocabulary of forms (as opposed to a vocabulary of gestures) that is used again and again, becoming a “signature” vernacular that allows for a hermetic yet familiar interpretation.

The forms are basic—straight lines and curved lines—that are used, repeated, grabbed, reused, manipulated, mutilated beyond recognition—I push them until they are transformed, and therefore, surprising. The basic forms often recall letterforms of various languages. Modified, they begin to resemble 'gesture'—a personal yet mysterious markmaking that is predetermined via digital processing. The digital allows the mark (particular to Photoshop and Illustrator) but also de-personalizes it. My work is not about an expressive moment, but a predetermined series of steps that hopefully result in a personal statement as well as a statement about abstraction itself.

LH: What is your workspace like?  
Amy:  I've been in the same studio for about nine years. I've outgrown it a bit, but it is very conducive to work and since I am a creature of habit, it is important to me to have a well-developed physical relationship to the space. When one works in the same room for a long time, one develops a real body-sense about everything—the number of paces from here to there, the exact location of every tool and piece of furniture, the movement of the sun and the change in light throughout the year, etc. If I was blindfolded, I would still be able to find any single object in my studio, no matter how small. Since my studio is only 800 sq. ft. or so, it means that I am often moving things around, rearranging the work in progress, and reorganizing around various tasks. At some point (hopefully sooner rather than later!) I would like to have a larger space so that I can have permanent work zones for certain tasks and more space around the work.

In the last few years, I have done three residencies (Civitella Ranieri, Ucross and MacDowell Colony) and I have found it interesting to work in a studio space, equipped only with the things I need for a particular project.

A peek inside Ellingson's studio

LH: Do you involved with any arts groups or communities? If yes, what do you gain from that affiliation and what do you contribute to it? How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?

Amy: I taught at the San Francisco Art Institute for eight years, so I have many former students and colleagues that I am in contact with. I have artist friends all over the country. It's important for artists to stay in touch with other artists-- to share ideas, to discuss exhibitions and books and to remind each other what it's all about. Interestingly, Facebook has also been a place to find community.   I believe in sharing information and in trying to be helpful and collegial with others— there's enough to go around. Teaching brought out my altruistic side. One must be generous with help, connections, ideas, etc.

Another studio shot
LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you?
Amy: I don't have a problem with motivation. I'm usually very productive and disciplined.
I never really feel that I need infusions of inspiration, but of course I appreciate the fresh mindset that comes with travel, reading, seeing interesting exhibitions, etc. For me, all of the inspiration and motivation is ever-present, in the history of painting. What can I contribute to the discourse? That's what keeps me going: the desire to contribute in some significant way. Ultimately, as an individual, I am irrelevant. But if my work is part of the continuum, part of the conversation... well, that's success.

LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Amy: No, I don't often get stuck. More and more, I find that I don't need to reinvent the wheel. Small, incremental changes in the work are actually very significant.

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
Amy: I have a very regimented routine for home and studio. I'm a runner, which helps me to clear my head. I've begun practicing yoga recently, and that seems to be helpful, too. My studio hours are very regular. I'm in the studio 40 hours a week when things are "slow," and up to 70 or more when things are busy.

LH: What are you reading right now?
Amy: Parables for the Virtual, by Brian Massumi
Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages, by Suzannah Biernoff
The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, Galen A. Johnson, ed.

LH: Do you have other jobs other than making art?
Amy: No. I taught for a number of years at SFAI and even had tenure, but I gave it up recently.
I loved teaching but it just required too much time. Now, I teach the occasional class if I'm invited to, and I really enjoy it again.

LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
Amy: Progress is inevitable.

LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
Amy: Yes, I'm currently working on an edition of prints with Urban Digital Color/Gallery 16 in San Francisco. They will be in an exhibition that opens Jan. 20, 2011

You can see more of Amy's work on her website.

Thank you, Amy!