Colors Without Names

Header Image: Studio view of Sarah Peoples’ work with appearances from “The Meaning of Everything Part I” and “Plastic Rainbow, Incorporating Thomas Doughty, Morning among the Hills

Interview with Sarah Peoples

October 30, 2016

HIWP: Can you describe how you composed the thesis for your newest in-progress endeavor, currently known as The Paint Chip Project” to be featured in the Fleisher Wind Challenge next winter?

SP: The Paint Chip Project grew out of an intense personal experience which completely changed the way I see the world. Both literally and metaphorically. Throughout the time of this experience I began to see vivid colors as I had never seen before in real time. It was a little mystical, a little out of body and all brutally confrontational.

These vibrant colors have allowed me to organize my memory of an event, and tell a story. Storytelling has emerged as an overarching theme in my studio. For some reason it is hard for me to admit that my work is highly personal, because I want the work to be relatable. But, I must remind myself that my mere actions make the work personal and yet there’s a lot of room for influence, inspiration and audience.

Original paint samples. Names and colors created by Sarah Peoples.

HIWP: As indicated in your thesis for The Paint Chip Project, your perspective changed a great deal in recent years. For example, since I followed your project, Brood Maker: An Inflatable Baby-Making Machine, it shifted form quite a bit, and in the end was a collaborative project between yourself and another artist, Aimee Gilmore, at Metropolitan Gallery 250. Do you think that your artwork also has changed in nature?

SP: There are times in art when it is necessary to just do something; to simply make, do and show in order to move forward. Ultimately, whether or not I think the piece was a success is moot. I am happy I did it because it motivated me with purpose at a time when I needed a push. Does that sound sour grapes? I don’t mean it to come off like that, I just think some works are a means to an end.

Besides, I detest the idea of perfection. It’s an unfounded ideal that inspires nothing but procrastination and fear. Procrastination sucks. And, while fear can be a motivating factor in making, it is not a healthy avenue for inspiration unless you have gotten so close to the fear that the fear has become your friend.

The Baby Making Machine will definitely be a reoccurring theme/piece as it lives on in many different incarnations. It’s very possible there will be a return at some point in the next few years.

HIWP: While I did enjoy the work that I saw, I am excited that you plan to revisit it. I have seen it take different forms, and so I know there is a lot going on there. When you first started making it, you were not yet a mother. When you exhibited it, you were. And now, your perspective is inevitably different. (Motherhood can be considered a taboo subject in contemporary art. People judge the concept as being too sentimental.) Motherhood is a shared human experience. Even women who are not mothers are still “potential” baby-making-machines! Haha! Can you elaborate a little on your relation to that piece before you were a mother vs. after you became one?

SP:I really don’t think of motherhood as being sentimental. It’s down and dirty, nitty-gritty, deep-end, scary stuff. I mean, yes it can also be warm and fuzzy, too, because babies are warm and fuzzy. When I first made Baby Making Machine for my thesis exhibition it was a prelude. When I revisited the piece in drawing or form after I had become a mother it became an anthem and I’m sure it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like going forward. Who knows maybe it’ll be a swan song.   

HIWP: What is your interest in machinery in your art?

SP: Oh! I love machines. I mean, I’m fascinated by the conductive domino effect which takes place. And, the more complicated and Rube Goldberg-ian the better. A few years ago I began to think of the human body as the original machine. Since then I’m somewhere in the realm of biomechanics, which is at least the partial thesis of a large scale on-going piece titled The Meaning of Everything, Part I. I showed an in-progress version last fall at Automat Gallery for the exhibition Stand In.

Things We Mine (Drawing for The Meaning Of Everything Part I), Pencil and pastel, 18″x24.”

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[Study I] for The Meaning of Everything Part I. Mixed media on paper 18″x24.”

The Meaning of Everything Part I. Mixed media sculpture and found objects installation. Image courtesy of Automat Collective.

The finished work will be a large-scale diorama or perhaps a tableaux vivant in which I am searching for meaning in, and understanding of, life by systematically simplifying natural, extraterrestrial, mystical events using objects both found and constructed. My interest in biomechanics fulfills an intense curiosity, but often times, as a lay person and not a scientist, it abstracts answers to questions, too, which lends itself beautifully to visual art. 

HIWP: Indeed! These non-functional fantastic machines evoke wonder, as well as trepidation. The beauty of the thing being not the result, but the object itself. This is an important shift of focus from the scientific to the poetic.

SP: Hopefully my work evokes wonder. Moreover have you ever seen a venus fly trap!? That thing has it ALL goin’ on.  

HIWP: Can you describe your making process? Where does the drawing come into play, and where does the sculpture come into play? Where do you decide to “contract” an aspect of a work, have it made for you, and where do you decide to make it yourself?

SP: Drawing is a very, very important part of making. I seem to work a lot of my ideas out on paper before beginning to work in three dimensions. Sometimes the drawings are sketches, sometimes they are light and airy and sometimes they are mechanical in style. Drawing is something I thoroughly enjoy. It’s probably one of my favorite things, ever. And, I’m a sucker for beautiful objects.

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Studio view 4, with mixed media material tests, color samples, and drawing by Sarah Peoples.

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Studio view 5 with original drawing by Sarah Peoples.

And so, I love a professional, ya know? If I need something done that’s beyond my abilities I am ready to reach out to someone who is able. I love an expert and a specialty. I think I’m drawn to the esoteric nature of a specialty. Lord knows I am quite specific in talent and know-how. I also have others fabricate works in which I would like to visually drive home a generic or mass-produced feeling.

And, that’s probably my simplistic way of making my work visually universal. I try not to get too hung up on universality though. It’s ok to be an acquired taste. It’s ok to be niche.

HIWP: Your work has an extremely whimsical overtone for me. Where do the works depart from being social commentary, for example in the 2013 two-person exhibition Who Say It BE with Adam Lovitz, at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and where do the playful and the social come together? Does the personal come in, in the case of that exhibition?

SP: Hmmm, “extremely whimsical”…well, I guess putting stickers on reproduction paintings of the beloved Hudson River School greats might infer whimsy. I play a lot. And, I do not think that’s a trivial endeavor. Playfulness and entertainment (not hedonism) are very valuable. I do not have a political agenda, in that, I am not a political artist. I mean, I leave things open because I think interpretation is powerful. Interpretation can connect a person to a work of art.

HIWP: Perhaps whimsy is not the right word. Maybe giddy subversion?

SP: I like subversion and I do get pretty giddy about things. I want to be clear though, when I use the term subversion I do not mean it in a passive aggressive manner. I am sincere in my approach. I am impish but the trickery is not deception. Maybe I just think that highly-polished distraction is a good representation of reality.   

The personal is all over Who Say It Be, simply because of how a person is able to relate to poetry and art. I can only make work from my place and my vantage point. That’s what’s in me. Take the piece Leaves of Grass from “Song of Myself,” for instance, that was in that exhibition:

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(Flanking) Leaves of Grass: Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Paint. (Center) Tree: Wood Chips, Glue, Paint and Nylon Flocking, 2013. Photographed by Max Grudzinski.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?

Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,

You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes

of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,

But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

-Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass, 1881-82

It’s an immediate thing. One of my goals is to transcend myself and resonate with people in order to connect but I guess I always begin with myself in the world. Doesn’t everyone? maybe not. Either way, I don’t think that’s anything revolutionary. I’m kinda getting bored talking about myself. I feel obsessed.

HIWP: I find your work sophisticated yet cheaky, both humorous and heartbreaking.  It is always crafted to polish, and contained. I feel invited, yet when I approach, I find I must confront topics I want to ignore.

SP: That’s nice to hear. Thank you. I love that type of push and pull in art. This is similar to what we were previously discussing about representing reality. Life is full of duality. I feel it’s a direct reflection on the way life feels. The joy and pain.The bitter sweet. I didn’t know I was such a realist, my Dad would be so proud.

And, I love clean-tailored shit. I am working on a piece called “1:01:49″ (The Suffer Blanket) wherein I had a factory-made woven photo blanket fabricated using a still from the Brazilian movie City of God. The film-still depicts a child who has just been shot in the foot by a peer, and the precise moment that he is being threatened with a gun pointing towards his head. The child is facing death and pain and betrayal and confusion. I chose that specific still because I believe it best exemplifies hopelessness; an emotion that I feel is a large part of suffering. The finished piece will use a classic La-Z-Boy style recliner as its armature. As the title suggests this piece explores duration as it relates to intense suffering and the solitary experience therein, but it’s materiality is a cozy snuggly blanket.

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1:01:49 (The Suffer Blanket). Customized made-to-order woven blanket, 2016.

Sarah Peoples is a sculptor living and working in Philadelphia. Peoples keeps an extensive archive on her website and also tracks current projects, pieces, and works in progress on a dynamic Tumblr blog, Sarah Peoples’ Studio.

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Study for Plastic Rainbow

Labyrinthine Garden Project

Installation and performative visual artist Marie Manski is partnering with Broad Street Ministries Garden Initiative to create a Labyrinth art work in the MEEP (Mercy Emily Edible Park) garden space in South Philadelphia. Manski and I met with Rev. Samantha Evans of BSM last Wednesday to survey the space and talk about the needs of the garden and the community. The garden, originally a project of Philly Food Forests, is a unique neighborhood space that is open to anyone who wishes to participate, at no cost. The space has gotten an excellent start and just needs to be a bit revitalized so that it can really continue to fulfill this vision.

Currently, the garden has significant horticultural and management needs. Growing seasons have already started to be more organized and harvesting is getting under control. Community solidarity and involvement are the next and most important concern. Ideally, the space would be self-sustaining through an infrastructure of neighbors and congregants working together. Some of these needs can start to be attended through a permanent functional art installation that will serve as both a meditative guide and a functional, organic pathway.

Over the next months, we will be collaborating to carry out Manski’s labyrinth design, gather resources, and develop programming for the ongoing use of the structure. Through artistic influence, the work will be built and maintained by congregants and community members alike, and will be inaugurated by a Dedication celebration in the Spring of 2017.

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Panoramic view of MEEP Neighborhood Garden of South Philadelphia. Image by Marie Manski.

 

Beneath You

A personal reflection on art and living

Interview with interdisciplinary artist Jes Gamble

 

HIWP: What is a garment to you, in terms of having to do with your work as wearable?

JG: In relating with my artwork, a garment is a piece of your exterior that might serve to protect you. So in using nylons, I suggest a “second skin,” something that people cocoon themselves in for protection, so as not to reveal everything to other people. They put forth this alter-ego, a physical manifestation of their identity that encapsulates their emotions and experiences. Like a scar, the physicality of an experience or an emotion that someone is going through. This becomes like a garment they wear on themselves so that people would actually be able to see this physical manifestation of some of their experience.

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Jes Gamble, detail of adornment [Work in progress], hand-stitched “skin.”

HIWP: So not just the shape of the external body, but then also the shape of emotions or internal life…?

JG: There’s this aging process that this second skin goes through. I take that and bring this into my concepts concerning the human psyche and the human vessel. Just being a human, you get scars, scratches and scabs. Living life is hard so you get physical scars as well as emotional scars like battle wounds of going through something and coming out triumphant. Pantyhose are vulnerable to time. When you have a pair of pantyhose you wear them, they get scars and they start to rip, tear and run. You mend them by using nail polish or stitching them back together to try to keep them around. Eventually people discard of these pantyhose. There are fragments of them that are dispersed throughout the world. They deteriorate and ultimately disappear. Just as our physical selves don’t last forever.

HIWP: How do you begin a work?

JG: I begin with a connection and I proceed intuitively. It’s one of those things where you initiate with a somewhat formed goal in mind, but you also allow yourself to listen to the artwork itself. A lot of my ideas come from personal experiences and then I expound off of that. A lot of art work starts when I’m in my studio in my head or in my bed in my head. When you’re working with different materials, there’s all these different ways of pushing media and pushing concepts.

There’s the matter of allowing yourself enough time to experiment and develop your ideas and I think a lot of times people expect you to be like a machine, where if you’re not uploading an image every day, you’re not producing artwork. But as with my life, my art is organic and imperfect. There’s also a lot of work that goes into surviving and then making art work.

I have wanted to compile my experiences into a book. So a lot of my sketch books don’t contain exclusively drawings, but sometimes also writing, my processing experiences. It has really helped put a greater perspective on things and it is really a big part of the art process, for example finding words for titles.

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Jess Gamble, [Work in progress], nylons and mixed media on paper.

HIWP: When did you introduce photography into your practice?

JG: When I was in high school. Art is usually something people start out on very early in their lives. Art was always a past time that I enjoyed and I started getting a lot of attention for it early on. I really started with drawing from magazines, especially Vogue magazine. I was inspired by the compositions of photography as those in paintings. But making your own artwork instead of copying someone else, was always really important to me. I know a lot of people are of the opposite belief system and they say you really need to copy other artists if you want to be good, you really have to learn from the masters and I guess that is true…but I wanted to make my own content and be original and I wanted to create something that no one else had ever created before, which I know is really hard to do!!!!!! I knew as early as high school that I was really captivated by the body. I am a figurative artist and I love the body. I was lucky enough to go to a high school where they had really good art programs. They had photography classes with darkrooms and graphic design classes with all the equipment. Mr. Robert Baumbach was a fantastic teacher and a really fantastic person and the dark room was one of my – where art can be that place where you go and meditate and forget your troubles and focus on something – the dark room was that place for me. I meditated, developing the film and the prints and seeing these images emerge from the paper, and I loved it. So I decided I would go all out in a personal way, and I started taking nude photographs of myself. They were not always completely nude but there was a lot of skin. I think because at the age where you’re developing and trying to understand what your body is going through, and you are being introduced to your sexuality, this process was very formative. And I often used the photographic compositions in my paintings and drawings I was making in my other classes.

HIWP: And that was before you were stitching and using fabric?

JG: I had been taught to sew when I was very little, and I had taken home economics, so I had been exposed to it. When I started working with pantyhose and hand stitching, I was in Undergraduate school, maybe second or third year. A friend of mine who I met in school, her mom would go to estate sales and she had bought many boxes of pantyhose. My friend was inspired by BDSM. She and I both wore a lot of pantyhose. I was was inspired by the history of things like garter belts and stockings. She asked me to please take a box of these pantyhose. Once home with the giant box of panty hose I was looking at them, touching them and feeling how soft and supple and stretchy they were. When you feel them you start to think on these other levels, associating with flesh and skin. I started cutting them apart and thinking about skin and cutting into it, stitching and mending. Making these big giant mosaics of different ones that are different colors of flesh. I made this giant mosaic that I strung up in a tree and I watched this thing moving back and forth in the wind. I made a wooden box and I attached some pantyhose legs which I kept intact and people could push their own limbs through the box, out inside of these intertwined pantyhose. It reminded me of how people are always trying to break out of this box of imposed or perceived containment, and trying to understand their physical and psychological realm.

I also started doing oil paintings, figurative with the person’s flesh ripping off and blowing away in the wind. These were some of my path of investigation. My mom has a really bad back which she’s been through 4 back operations. My sisters and myself were witnessing her physical body breaking down in different ways. My thesis for Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts spoke of the skin as a barrier. Like scratching your skin and digging deeper and deeper. The concept of digging into your own body and your own mind and seeing what you find there.

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Jes Gamble, [Work in progress], mixed media drawing.

HIWP: Do you know the final form before the work is finished? How do you know if the final form will be an object, a performance, or photograph?

JG: I will have a vision that I set out to follow. Speaking in terms of my material process, I love sculpture, fashion, textiles and fabrics. Ever since I was little I was looking at Vogue magazine. I love fashion and design but also the more traditional fine art mediums of photography and painting. I love all these different art forms, so it makes sense that I am making things in both fine art and practical everyday materials. They all help to manifest my concepts. When I am working with pantyhose and nylons and hand stitching this talks about the act of mending and orchestrating your own protective device. Kind of like automatic writing and allowing your subconscious to become exposed on paper. A lot of the surrealists focused on tapping into your subconscious, so the stitching allows me to create things using both conscious and subconscious guidance. A push and pull. And then there is adornment in which I am going to wear a work as a performative element. And I’m also making a record of this using photography. And then I am engaging with the audience in an interactive element.

But then each way you display it has a concept as well. How do you allow someone who experiences your art in a performative space, to take something home with them? A big part of making art work is so that people can connect to it and not feel so alone. When you feel alone, you start to push people away, and you feel like it’s you against the world, until you start to communicate openly with people, realizing you are actually not alone. A big part of being an artist is breaking down barriers in subtle or not so subtle ways, allowing people to feel things that they weren’t able to express in the way you as an artist are able to express yourself.

HIWP: Do you feel like then those forms that are easier to take away, like editions of photography, are more important than the actual art object in the installation? Do you feel like those help you connect with your audience more?

JG: I’ve been receiving emails recently from someone who’s been following my work for a while. And he sent me back some of the images of my self-portraits with the hand stitched head adornments. He told me that when he is feeling alone he looks at my artwork and it helps him.

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Jes Gamble, 2 views [Uninstalled state], “Buried So Deeply,” hand-molded tulle.

HIWP: When does movement come into play in a work?

JG: The pose within a photograph is going to communicate a lot and frame the feeling of the art product. Because I am a figurative artist, this is so important to my work. But it still translates across different art forms, like for an abstract painter, movement of the paint across the canvas is going to communicate very particularly. Our minds are constantly moving, our emotions are constantly moving. Moving can be all kinds of things, the way someone subtly arranges their body in ordinary movements, or choreographed within a dance. Movement helps to explain emotions, and it is another favored medium that helps me extend my concepts. Dancing and movement have saved my life in a lot of ways. Being a human is just really psychologically heavy at times.

With the photograph of Ariel where she has her foot in the air and the fabric is sweeping and flowing, the movement of wind is very important. That piece is a very triumphant piece of a person progressing and getting past negative things. At first in the performance she was cocooned inside this protective interior space she had created for herself and making small, restricted movements, and she eventually emerges and is free and triumphant is making big, open movements.

HIWP: I like how you refer to disease in terms of describing the concepts in your artwork. A lot of times diseases are manifest on your skin. Diseases have a physical form, they are often microscopic, but they do have physical form even though you don’t always see that. That is definitely another aspect in your work in terms of the shapes and the forms.

JG: Seeing what my mom has gone through and my sister, I mean psychologically, from the abuse we have all undergone, trying to figure all that out and to understand it, is a huge endeavor. My sister was very angry as a child. And my mom went into this great depression. She was somewhere inside the shell of herself. I would just see this shell of my mother sitting in her rocking chair. And after all the abuse that she had gone through and her daughters went through, she didn’t know what to do and she just checked out mentally. I have had these first-hand experiences, and I want to tap into these bigger concepts across being a human. I want to communicate how humans go through some of these experiences. And also specifically, trials as a woman.

HIWP: Can you talk more about the shape of things of emotions, the things that don’t really have physical shape? Your work proposes a very loose shape…

JG: If you can’t physically see something, you cannot understand it. So if someone says “I’m sad”, how can you see this and understand what they are going through? Or even for physical pain, someone can say “my hand hurts so bad” but from an outside perspective, just looking at it, you cannot see the manifestation of this necessarily. You question how intense something is or how truthful something is. The mind is an interesting place but it’s also very powerful and also very scary. The solo exhibition is very much going down the path of someone else’s mind and what you find once you’re there.

HIWP: When you are stitching things together, is that a meditative process for you?

JG: Yes, it is definitely meditative. I sometimes plan it. Sometimes it is kind of like an automatic writing thing where I allow my subconscious to come out and go where it may. I look at images of veins, and I look at my own veins through my skin and the patterns that they make. In looking at the exterior world, these patterns keep being repeated over and over again in trees, roots, rocks, mountains and streams. Right now, the hand stitching I am doing  is more vein-like. I have also made the stitching more close together and bumpy where it starts to look tissuey or fatty — I’m trying to communicate with these shapes, understand them and make connections with them. I am using my methods to explore thought patterns and the shapes that they create. An unseen physical language that presents itself in forms other than letters.

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It has been my privilege to work with Jes and to see her art in its various stages of progress. Jes will be exhibiting a solo show at Kitchen Table Gallery in the Fall of 2016.

 

Special thanks to Yamna Matin Afridi, Jes’s assistant, for her help with the photoshoot.

 

Header Image: Jes Gamble, detail [Work in progress], nylon and mixed media on paper.

A Rising And Falling Of Lights

Header: Philippa Beardsley, [Work in progress], acrylic on wood panel, 18″x27.5″, 2015. Image: Jenna Buckingham.

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Installation shot from Philippa Beardsley’s studio.

Image: Jenna Buckingham.

 

Mad Libs Artist Statement by Philippa Beardsley…

My work is both an investigation of and lack of geometry.

Can a horse see color theory? I don’t think so. She doesn’t care.

Surreal is a place? I am into the surreal.

Sticks are very important. The many shapes they have helped me flesh out a surface.
Fire usually brings to mind orange and reds. The fluidity of ink and the taste of salt keep me going.

I wear earrings in the hopes of never and sometimes losing them.

Lovers, an image that has invaded my work.

I think about the ground and press it with my feet.

My goal is to remain or return to being an animal when I work. I have my doubts. Dissection of small frog sized paintings? I prefer an open ended conclusion, or I thought I did.

Shaving gets in the way of painting. I always order french fries because I do not eat them at home.

Telepathy is only one way of communication.

I believe in migration. While running, I prefer the smell of the woods and to think about birds.

If I could do anything, It would be surfing on the moon.

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Philippa Beardsley, [Detail of Fence], acrylic and mixed media on wood panel, 6.5″x11″, 2014.

Image: Jenna Buckingham.

Interview with Artist Philippa Beardsley April 19, 2016

HIWP: How do relationships (or relating) come into play in your work as an artist? How do they come into play in the process of making?

I try to have relationships come into play without imposing too much on them. That’s what I go for, meaning I’m looking for something fresh or a connection between things I didn’t see before, or wasn’t obvious to me. The goal lately is to find new relationships, or unexpected connections, as a means of investigating a subject. I usually go back and forth between an idea or image in mind, to letting go of it and responding to the materials. I guess a painting to me is finding new relationships between things that maybe don’t make sense on one level. I absorb information that I am interested in, like parts of buildings, how someone walks, scenes that are in a movie…other paintings, and then going to work and making something that is a bunch or a few of those things reshuffled or collaged. So taking in and putting back out.

HIWP: How would you describe your relationship with paint, mediums, and surfaces? What is the significance of the physical contact (the application of paint)?

With surfaces, either with the cigar boxes or with the wood, I take those apart, and then I used the top or the bottom, I play with the frame of those and then have the wood panel to go on top of that. So I am working within a frame on that surface. I like to do that and I like to work on something that is less of a frame. And that would be more so with paper where I am making drawings were I add onto them, and I am not confined to edges or corners. It is a reverse of what I do with the wood. But I mostly work on the wood right now. And I like to cut out my own shapes and tack those to the wall.

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Philippa Beardsley, [Study], charcoal on wood, 9″x10″, 2016.

Image: Jenna Buckingham. 

HIWP: Do you have an idea of what will be painted, like the top painting, when you are making the shape? 

Well, sometimes as I am making the surface for it, I think, well I want it to be this big, and yellow. But that’s pretty broad and it usually goes on from there. Only once in a while is it like, oh this is it and that’s what I want. More it is wanting to play with different shapes inside of other ones and then see what kind of images come from that.

HIWP: Are the figures presumed, assumed, or do they invoke the “instances” in your paintings?

All those things. For a while I kept drawing and painting separate from each other. Sometimes you don’t want people there and sometimes you do. I think when I have them there, they are very much part of the space, but then they sometimes come out of it. They are not necessarily fading away all the time. I also like to play with what a figure is. I am interested in disappearing and reappearing figures, or point of view: like something that feels like a figure but could also be a pair of binoculars or foliage around the edges of an opening landscape.

HIWP: Are any of the relationships, when the figures are relating with each other, is that having anything to do with things that you recall? Interactions from your life, or things that you’ve seen?

Yes. Sometimes personal, sometimes like from watching people on the subway. I guess I look for things that might look the same or feel the same in many different situations. Some things could be from personal experiences, or from watching from a distance. I think its about getting interested in some sense of space, and then looking for that interaction.

 

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Philippa Beardsley, [Untitled], children’s school book cover and green binder, 11.6″x8″, 2014.

HIWP: Do you feel like screens, such as computer screens, come into play? I know in your MFA thesis critique they talked a lot about that.

I definitely feel like I’m influenced by photos taken or movie shots. I look at a lot of that. And I like that type of cropping. I guess I don’t really ever freeze the screen and look at it. I just sort of watch a movie and then, from memory, think of a moment that gets focused on. But its still something that’s been put there by a lens or a screen. It is a position or an interaction you wouldn’t experience in the real world.

HIWP: Still a cinematic moment.

 

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Philippa Beardsley, Grass Eater (work in progress), acrylic on wood, 14.5″x21.5″, 2016. Image: Jenna Buckingham.

 

Yeah, that type of image exists because of a camera.

HIWP: I also always think of how much the colors remind me of photography. I guess because of black. 

Yeah, black and its flatness is part of photography.

HIWP: I was thinking about the Internet while I was taking pictures of your work. Because of the way you have things set up, it is a lot of looking at many images and receiving so much different information. But I don’t have the same anxiety as when I’m on the Internet.

Sometimes they give me anxiety and I take things down. When I feel like I can’t see what I’m looking at. But I group things in particular ways. None of these are done, and would never be shown in this arrangement here. Sometimes I can’t even look at something anymore and when that happens, I turn them around. I like them, but they’re not quite there yet, so I don’t want to make any decisions because I don’t understand something yet.

Or because I have some idea of what a painting is and that interferes with what I put down. When everything’s considered, it’s an idea of finish. I think: how are you getting the most from it? It doesn’t always have to be a finished product, but something that is going to be useful to you later on. You do something, and you think, there’s something about this that I didn’t do before and I don’t know what it means, and you aren’t going to finish it off, but you’re going to keep it and look at it for a while. Like you are keeping everything, like in a laboratory. Or maybe like a desk, with papers and drawings and plans.

HIWP: It feels like, for artists, there is always something you’re after. It seems like it just takes a lifetime to get there, or longer! You are just always after something…and are going after it in different ways…

…and learning new things about it, making new connections, expanding.

HIWP: A workshop?

Yeah a workshop, I think that’s a good word!

HIWP: I realize the other reason I think of photography is because sometimes I’ll glance at a work really quickly and I’ll think that I see a photographic image. And then I’ll look back and see that its a very organic image.

Sometimes I’ll look at a painting and think that its very sharp and in-focus. And then I’ll look at it again and if feels like the whole thing is disintegrating. I guess you just have to ask yourself what it is that you want. And I think I do want conflicting things to be happening. I think about perception, and how things change. I think that’s what I like about memory, how its always changing. Even if you are walking down the street, and you aren’t paying a lot of attention to the world, and you see the sun and you see a street light and there’s no difference because you’re not differentiating the objects in your mind. And size too. Like with shared memories: for one person something wasn’t that big, but for another, it was huge. It doesn’t matter the size, it’s just how you remember it. So that means, that is how you are understanding it.

 

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Left: Philippa Beardsley, [Work in progress], acrylic on wood, 20.75″x28.5″, 2015. Right: Philippa Beardsley, [Work in progress], acrylic on wood, 23″x23″, 2016. Image: Jenna Buckingham.

Because your memory is always affected by so many other things, but you do remember how it was – to you – at that time. But then I heard somewhere that every time you remember something, the memory gets farther and farther away. It changes. I think it is because you change. If you’re changing and and you remember something, it changes as you change.

I like to think I can be objective. But I don’t know if it’s even helpful to be objective.

HIWP: I feel like if someone is emotional or upset, I think they certainly aren’t seeing things clearly, and I trust them less.

I think I can trust someone if they are emotional. I think what I don’t trust is when everything black and white. When nothing’s gray. If someone says: this is all bad, and this is all good…I have a hard time trusting that.

 

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Philippa Beardsley, [Detail of Please Take Me Home], acrylic and mixed media, 7.5″x11.5″, 2015. Image: Jenna Buckingham.

Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting…our commonest deeds are set about with a fluttering and flickering of wings, a rising and falling of lights.

Virginia Woolf Orlando