Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I am a 36 year old visual artist living in Portland, Oregon. I earned my MFA from the University of Oregon in 2013, where I continued my studies in printmaking. I can’t believe that was 10 years ago; funny how school becomes less relevant over time. I don’t really make traditional prints anymore, but I make and think like a printmaker and I do implement plenty of lo-fi image transfer techniques in my studio. I make multidimensional works on paper and am starting to dip a toe into the mural and public art realm. I am interested in light and shadow, and sometimes it feels like my work is moving towards installation. Even though I have my MFA, I have never really pursued teaching art professionally, or in an academic sense. I instead have had a variety of part-time jobs that ultimately give me the most access to my studio, while still enabling me to pay my bills and save some money. These days I have three jobs that orbit around my studio practice; I kind of love having a lot of pots on the stove at once. I am also a co-director at Well Well Projects with some amazing folks, which is a member based gallery in Portland. We host monthly art exhibitions as well as workshops and lectures.
Creatively, I feel like I’m on the tail end of a pause. I experienced a lot of burnout after the pandemic, but couldn’t take a break until summer 2023. Even though I lost my jobs and felt destabilized at the onset of COVID, I made so much art and had a number of shows. It was pretty incredible when my unemployment finally kicked in and I felt like I was being given a barely livable stipend to be an artist. I produced so much during the pandemic, be it because my juices were flowing or because I was trying to stave off feelings of aimlessness and anxiety, but I did need a break so I took one. I was also really tired of the work I was making and wanted to see some change in my practice. I’m not sure if I feel this way anymore. Time and distance can do a lot! With a two-person show on the horizon, I’m getting back into the studio and hoping to find a good rhythm. I’m looking forward to making some larger and more fleshed out versions of some smaller pieces I tinkered around with during the summer. I have been really into collaboration in the past couple years. It feels like such a nice way to connect to another person and grow as an individual. I am at a place where I am looking to my peers for inspiration and it feels good to make something with them. I like seeing myself in the work of people I love. I’m excited for the future and seeing how rest has served me.
What catalyzed your interest in art?
I grew up drawing. I wasn’t a big coloring book kid – my mom gave me blank paper instead. I always had a knack for it and loved the problem solving aspects. I didn’t start taking drawing seriously until my junior year of high school, and at that point it was serving me in two very pragmatic ways. Drawing helped me focus and it enabled me to spend time alone without anyone freaking out about it. I’ve always been kinda solitary, but parents get worried when you do it too much. My interest in art was catalyzed when I began to realize that my brain felt best when I was drawing, even if it was confusing or the drawing was ultimately a failure. This was probably the beginning of my addiction to flow-state and getting caught up in the process of creating. My interest in art catalyzed again when I took my first contemporary art history class and started learning about all the women artists that had been hidden from me; I think this is when I really started seeing art as a place of expression. Like many other women, artists like Tracy Emin, Nan Goldin, and Shirin Neshat really spoke to me and let me know I was in the right place. I was a feminist from an early age, but lacked any real role models to help guide me on that journey. These women are unapologetic, extremely smart, hard working, and encouraged me to stop seeing my presence and body as not my own, or for someone else. Maybe we can say that overall, my interest in art has been repeatedly catalyzed by showing me the path to my personal freedoms. For me, “catalyzation” is just synonymous with self actualization. I’ve always been an artist and I’ve just needed to step into my own evolving identity over and over again.
How do you describe your practice?
My practice has always been rooted in drawing and I often describe it as such. The opening essay in the first Vitamin D book from back in 2005 really set me free in terms of what drawing can be – it can be anything and everything. That being said, my practice is also deeply rooted in collage and printmaking, and I seem to have some interest in “objecthood”. Lately, I have been playing in a space with images as objects, or vice versa (?), I can’t really tell. I jokingly say that my art practice exists in “dimension 2.5”, but it’s not really a joke anymore because it’s mostly true. A lot of me is disinterested in completely understanding my practice, because I don’t ever want to stop surprising myself. So much of the joy of my work is in the process, discovery, and problem solving.
Right now, I am making collage-based images/objects that use light and shadow to become a moment, something to stand in time with or reflect on. I really love collage because it lets me pull from so many interests and bring them together in a way that feels intentional, be it images or materials. I have a very liberal and encompassing definition of collage–it’s literal and figurative for me. I even consider collaboration a form of collage. I take a mixed media approach to building my work, with process and intuitive decisionmaking at the forefront of my studio practice. My drawings are composed of deconstructed images mined from the internet, manipulated through software, and translated to a physical substrate via lo-fi printmaking techniques. These image transfers result in a variety of marks and colors that defiantly resist control. From an incoherent mess of texture, the drawings are completed by refining a composition through color, collage, and extensively cutting out the paper. The act of cutting reveals the final transformation of the work. All elements come together in various combinations, creating worlds in which light, shadow, form, and color coalesce into a stable equilibrium.
My work meditates on duality, beauty and its many inverses, the perception and creation of reality through images, and the jumbled mess of the subconscious collective. Currently my work is becoming more installation focused, using light and shadow as tools to evoke meaning beyond the reach of working two dimensionally. Working in this manner enables me to craft an ambiance and contextualize my work in a sensation. In the English language, emotion can only be described using adjectives, becoming a pileup of description with no definitive noun. With an understanding that thought and feeling are spectral phenomena, my goal is to arrive at something that feels more realistic because it is nuanced. I like how things can change based simply on their approximation to something else.
What are the overarching motifs in the art you make?
Flowers, trash, glitch textures, TV static, fences, water, and butterflies spend a lot of time in my work. Sometimes the figure makes an appearance, but it’s so rare and doesn’t last long. I draw a lot of texture that references materials under a microscope as well; minerals, human tissue, hormones, and rust are all in rotation. I think another thing that makes my work recognizable is the neon color. Sometimes I’ll start a drawing and say something weird like, “this time I’m not using fluorescent color.” But the thing about neon is that it simultaneously goes with everything AND also acts as a moment of dissonance, and I love that duality. I feel the same way about having a buzzed head – my hair compliments everything by being absent. Genius.
What/who influences your current work?
My work is heavily influenced by music and food. I also really love art history and feel that it is more important than ever in this weird era of misinformation and AI. I listen to a lot of lyric-less music and find myself translating sound as texture or color. I love how music feels more free than art, like musicians are given permission to make whatever they want; no topic is off limits. Of course that doesn’t mean the music will be good, but sometimes I feel stifled by the art world and its categories.
Food is such a fascinating realm for me. For a bit, I worked with a chef in Portland and we would often talk about the concept of “eating with your eyes”, and how people consume in that way. I think about this all the time. I really want my work to be more than just a visual experience, something that maybe taps into synesthesia or triggers other senses. I describe the process of making my work to be similar to making a salad. I build a composition with something crunchy, sweet, salty, an acid, and an umami flavor. Cutting out the paper is the ranch dressing that unites all the flavors together. The palette doesn’t necessarily taste all these things at once, or combine them together. Each thing is experienced as its own entity, however in approximation and not without influence from something close by. Food is also such a place of cultural appreciation and without that crosspollination we would not be excited for dinner. I hope that one day soon the internet calms down about cultural appropriation, because to me, it often feels more like cultural appreciation. I know the difference and I’m not suggesting we cut losers any slack. There is such honor in referencing another culture and doing it with respect and genuine curiosity. It can be wholesome.
People that influence my work are my mom, Bell Hooks, Helen Molesworth, Jonathan Van Ness, my professor Charlene Liu at the University of Oregon, my partner, Young Pueblo, Hattie Molloy, Matisse, Aldous Huxley, Sophia Coppola. This list is more reflective of people that influence how I see the world or see arrangements of color and objects. People that contribute to my life and vision with constructive ideas are where it’s at, which is why I would vote for Jonathan Van Ness for president – we need more people like them. My work is better when my life is better, and I’m devoted to banishing the myth that artists need to suffer in order to make good work.
What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work?
I really love having no control over what people see in my artwork. Some artists are torn to pieces over this issue, but I think it’s liberating; it really helps me implement less petty control in the work. I am honestly more interested in what the viewer feels, and the thing I am most concerned with is that the viewer feels seen or that they can see themselves in the art. I want people to feel kinship with other earthlings on this floating rock, and I really believe that art can do that. I think in order to get there I need to be radically honest and authentic, so that the viewer feels safe enough to do the same: wave your freak flag. In our culture, lots of people are intimidated by art or feel othered for “not getting it”. I want anyone to be able to look at my work and for it to elicit a variety of feelings. Maybe someone just finds it aesthetically pleasing or cool, or maybe someone really taps into my interests in fractals or the mind-body connection. I also really appreciate it when someone tells me something new about my work. This happens the most often with my sister, who is not an artist but clearly vibes with me on a subconscious level. I’ll show her things I’m working on and her comments and insights ring true in ways that make me smile real big. Kids also have an amazing ability to read artwork. Once at an opening, a friend’s child was telling me that it’s really clear that I care so much about the color yellow. I want people to feel what I care about. It’s a very simple concept, but not one to be looked over.
Describe your current studio or workspace.
I have always been a home studio person and I currently work in my beautiful basement. Portland is land of basements, but a lot of my past basement studios have been a little questionable. This one is immaculate and I’m never leaving. I tried having an offsite studio once in this huge brick building in southeast industrial Portland. It had all the hallmark “cool” studio things: freight elevator, weird heating, yucky sink, chic exposed brick, but I felt so restricted by it. At home I can have a lot of things going at once and access to unlimited snacks. If I feel stuck, I can water the plants, putz in the garden, or play my guitar. I love being able to move in and out of it with ease and not have to deal with things like parking, or my safety getting to and from a building at night. I also really love having my two cats in the studio with me. They are really old now and just nap on my chair, but I love their energy. Cats are mystical beings and I feel so lucky to have them in my workspace. Sometimes I need to take a kitty break and go give them an obnoxious hug. I find that it immediately re-centers me.
I make a pretty big mess when I’m working, especially in the cut out phase of the work. It’s like a giant confetti explosion. The perk to having the space to myself is that I clean up on my own schedule and I have pretty high tolerance for mess. The one drawback of the basement is that the ceilings are a tad lower than normal, but I make do. It’s an easy compromise to make and a fun challenge to solve. The basement has a DIY ethos that I’ve always been really into. Someone once told me that all the best art in Portland is being made in basements and I think it’s true; Chris Johanson works in his basement studio and that’s all the evidence I need.
What is one of the bigger challenges you struggle with as an artist? How do you cope and how does it inform your practice?
I deal with all the normal challenges that artists deal with – finding decent part-time work, the mysteries of gallery representation or lack thereof, grant writing, and the constant fluctuation of health insurance are all logistical things that can be cumbersome. The challenges that really get me down though are spiritual or philosophical in nature, and there’s no tier of health insurance that can combat existential dread or malaise. Many of these feelings arise from reading the news and I’m sure that reading less of it would be good for my mental health. The current global humanitarian crises are the literal opposite of inspiring. Needing to make the choice between being informed and feeling ok (just ok) should not be a thing.
I struggle with the relevancy of my work, and even personhood, in a world of ongoing injustice, war, negligence, and systemic oppression. My voice seems so much less important than the voices of those who are targeted by systemic abuse, by the government or maybe even their families. Politics have been rotten for a long time and no political figure has risen to the occasion to actually try and change our lives or try to stop abuses rooted in capitalism or neoliberalism. I have quit making art a couple times; some days I just don’t always see how anything I make could be as important as social or political activism.
The reality is that I cope by making art – it is the tool and the medicine. Art is how I ground myself. It’s where I do research, entertain alternative opinions, and try to break the code in the matrix. I read somewhere that disconnection is a symptom of abuse, and that being connected with others is the truest way to fight. Keep connecting. Working alongside other creatives is helpful. One of my jobs is curating art for a couple coffee shops in Portland, and I literally get to lift up young artists, many who have never had an art show before. I am also part of an artist collective that supports local artists through shows and workshop programming. This is the type of connection I want to be responsible for. This is how I want to ward off the malaise. Some days I cannot cope. There’s not enough serotonin in my brain, my planets are out of alignment, or maybe I’m just exhausted from working too much. Rest is important medicine and it is necessary. Leave the studio, pet the cats, eat a fatty meal, go to sleep. Wake up, have coffee, and try again.
What excites you about being an artist?
Even though it’s stressful sometimes, I’m really excited to watch my life unfold. I also really love seeing all my artist friends grow up too. Anyone who’s been crazy enough to stick with it for this long is really making strong and beautiful work. For a culture that’s obsessed with the alleged genius of youth, I think maturing as an artist is so radical; we are all steeping in ourselves and re-becoming our most interesting iterations all the time. In times when I’m going through creative lulls, I know that I will feel moved to make work like my hair is on fire soon. I live for that feeling. Being an artist, I have given myself permission to ask whatever questions I want. I really love designing my own life to be what I want it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard, but the freedom to live a life centered on creation is what I desire.
What have you been reading and listening to recently?
Books: The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard, The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin, Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit, Hood Feminism by Micki Kendall, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
Music: ML Buch, Szun Waves, Roy Montgomery, Pavel Milyakov, Methods Body, DjRum, Dean Blunt, Not Waving, Eola, Astrid Sonne, Arthur Russell, Collin Stetson, Mabe Fratti, Bardo Pond, Radio Alhara
What’s your hottest take?
Ok for real though, I had to look up “hot take” because I wanted to make sure that I got the definition right. In my mind, hot takes are for people like Alex Jones, who’s thankfully going bankrupt for all of his hot takes. I wish it wasn’t considered attention-seeking to have an opinion that goes against the grain, and I’m not talking about bigotry, oppression, and hate disguised as opinion. Differing opinions make the world more three-dimensional, and we all need to learn how to communicate with those that feel differently. I strongly agree that many things can be negotiated, and that conversation about topics is important because truth usually requires a lot of talking to arrive at. I am also not an advocate for cancel culture, because I feel like it contributes to the silence that surrounds perpetrators and silence only serves them. Curator Helen Molesworth states it well in that the phrase needs to be renamed “consequence culture.” Putting people to silence by canceling them doesn’t actually hold them accountable for anything. And just to be clear, things that cannot be negotiated: human rights, human dignity, bodily autonomy, and freedom to live with or without religion. Gaslighters will not be tolerated.
Even though you can go back and reread my response above (“What/who influences your current work?“), I don’t think I’m saying anything about the appropriation for the sake of getting a reaction. When I say, “the internet,” what I’m referring to is social media, clickbait news, and skimming headlines. At this point, anyone that cannot see that social media is an insular vacuum that is complicit in misinformation, cyberbullying, distorting reality, and driving conformist mediocrity must be dead inside. I am also not blind to the fact that all unrepresented artists must use social media as our marketing platform, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cursed. I have a lot of “hot takes” but out of context and without preface, so many of those ideas could fall totally flat or put me in internet jail, and I’m disinterested in both of those things.
No gods, No masters, No daddies
All images courtesy of the artist. Interview conducted and edited by Natalie Toth