Artist of the Week

Amy Feldman

February 14, 2012

Amy Feldman received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from Rutgers University. She has recently been included in exhibitions at Sue Scott Gallery, New York; Bronx River Art Center, Bronx, New York; and Participant Inc., New York. Feldman has been a Visiting Artist at Virginia Commonwealth University, Lehman College, and Wave Hill, and received a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Grant. She also was awarded fellowships from VCUArts at Plant Zero, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am an abstract painter, working in New York.   Right now, I am interested in confusing figure/ground relationships using an economy of forms on the surface. The work that is most exciting to make is large in scale, ranging between seven and eight feet.   These paintings consist of bold, sturdy shapes and appear quick, casual, and off-the-cuff.  They feel very much in the present tense—-often under-constructed or seemingly half-built, yet confident in their completion.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I use acrylic paint mixed with self-leveling clear tar gel on canvas.  I use Golden paint and sometimes Nova colors.  I mix all my colors, use cheap brushes and I also spray mixed-colors with a pre-val spray gun.  When I get to the studio, I have to eat something right away.  I then make drawings to get my energy flowing.  I sift through the drawings, trying to decide where I should begin and what image seems important to make.  Once I have a loose vision for a painting, I decide on the scale.  This is something I agonize over, because if the scale is wrong then the painting could be a total failure.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? I think of paintings as psychological objects and in the good ones, the vibe is uncanny and perfect in its weirdness.  My paintings are tweaked in such a way to make the forms feel strange, and yet relatively familiar.  They bring up multiple associations and mix formalism with humor.  They hug the rectangle in odd places or are purposely misaligned with the edge.  Sometimes, I build the supports in wedge shapes to exaggerate the verticality of the painting and change the viewing experience.  In “All or Nothing”, for instance, the form feels like a drape flung over the top edge and the wedge shapes on the surface mimic the actual construction of the support. As the big “V” shape melts, the solidity of the whole thing becomes questionable.  I would like the viewer to have a genuine sensory experience when looking at my work, as I am completely indulgent yet totally sincere in my pursuit of painting.   I think paintings operate in a way that goes beyond words and I am very much in tune to that—-when walking into a room with one of my big ‘O’ paintings or ‘V’ paintings, I hope it feels very real and present and perhaps a little funny and extreme.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? I say something like:  I make very large abstract paintings that feel wet and drippy and are composed of bold geometric forms and semi-recognizable shapes. The shapes found in my paintings are a by-product of my drawing process and I translate the same casual attitude from drawing to painting. I paint very fast, in a blunt and muscular way, but my work is also subtle and sensitive.  When you look at the paintings, they feel awkward and, at the same time, refined.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I am doing a residency at the Abrons Art Center in the Lower East Side and being in a shared studio environment is shifting my perspective.  It’s been wonderful to exchange ideas and engage in a critical dialogue with my studio neighbors. The space is open and the public can look down on the artists situated below at any given moment.   There is a large skylight in the studio in the shape of a circle.  Since I think about architecture in my work, I’ve decided to make a couple shaped paintings that refer to the oculus in the room.

How has your work developed within the past year? My work has become more confident and direct. The possibility of failure is always present in my process, and I have become comfortable with that.  Abandoning a painting at the right moment is conceptually interesting to me.

What artists are you interested in right now? Coming to mind first: Hans Richter films and Duchamp’s circles, along with Jean Arp and Ellsworth Kelley’s forms, Kimber Smith’s casual mark, Mary Heillmann, Joyce Pensato’s gesture and pop iconography and Suzanne McClelland’s black and white abstractions combining language and material.

What’s your favorite thing about New York? Hands down, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? The Anonymous Tantra Paintings exhibition at Feature is great—-I went to the opening with my friend and artist Anna Kunz who had told me a bit about Tantric art when we were at Skowhegan together.  The basic geometry in the Tantra paintings and the relationship between figure and ground is so simple but, complex and profound.  It is a powerful show that will resonate with me for a while.

Another highlight was the DeKooning show at MoMA.  I had never seen the black and white paintings before, and naturally, was floored.

What do you do when you’re not working on art? When I’m not working on art, I’m generally looking at art—-going to openings and seeing performances. I like to read and goof around on the internet and I like TV.  I spend the very early hours of the morning doing yoga and walking my doggies.  I also love being at Court Street Grocers.  I try to stop by everyday to eat and flirt with the owner.

What are your plans for this year? I am in some shows this year and plan on doing a little bit of traveling.  Although I am continuing to make my work, I plan on getting out of the studio a bit more to just take things in.

What are you really excited about right now? I am really excited about taking a trip to New Orleans.  I am working on a series of paintings for a two-person show there with Ilse Murdock.  A number years ago Ilse began making these incredible paintings she called “one-shots”.  I loved the idea of making a painting in one painting session and later adopted this practice for some of my own works.  It seems like there is so much risk to get it right in a day, but it’s also freeing at the same time.   The various decisions made in the act of painting become fixed, and you are forced to reconcile that without amending anything.  It’s like you have to give it everything you’ve got the whole time or the energy will be off and the painting won’t work out.  It takes a lot of confidence, actually, and the paintings show it off.  The successful ones indulge in a particular instance, summarizing the whole process in a succinct moment of visual pleasure.

In the works that Ilse paints outdoors in one session, she uses the bottom edge of her painting as a palette, leaving the remnants of the palette there in her finished paintings.  In doing this, she displays the paintings’ construction, and a quick compression of materials and image happens on the surface.  Similar to my work, abruptness mingles with sensitivity as the process unfolds, and image is revealed.   I am looking forward to seeing our work in the same space and think there will be an interesting juxtaposition between my abridged use of form and her abbreviated landscapes.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? I can’t even imagine anything else.

If you had one wish what would it be? World Peace, man.