artist interviews

5 questions with Ridley Howard

I've been following Ridley Howard's work for a while now and was fortunate enough to meet him in person during his exhibition at Koenig and Clinton, where he generously shared his thoughts  and processes, about his gorgeous paintings, with my Moravian students. You may remember a post about Ridley's  other half, Holly Coulis, a few months back?The  adorable dynamic duo share a studio where all the painting magic happens and how lucky that we get to peek through the window into that world this week. Enjoy!

Where do you live, where is your studio?

I live in Bushwick now, close to Ridgewood. We lived in 'East Williamsburg' at the Montrose stop for over 15 years, but were pushed out of our apartment in October. It's such a common story these days. My studio is in Williamsburg over by the water. Somehow I have managed to hang-on. I've had the space, an old hardware store, since 2001. There are only a few artists left over there, now it's mostly luxury living. My landlord is just a really nice guy, and an artist himself. I think he likes having an artist in the space. The rent has gone up some, but it's still manageable by Brooklyn standards. 


Who makes up your day to day world? friends? partners? pets?kids? 

Well for a long time it was just me and Holly, my wife, who is also a painter. In our old apartment, sadly we weren't allowed pets.. so with the recent move came a kitten at Christmas. Now there are 3 of us, and the cat has quickly become the center of our universe. It's ridiculous. I do see friends pretty often. Usually for a beer, or a game of some sort on tv. But that isn't a daily thing. And I typically go to openings one night a week.. can't handle much more than that. Holly and I also run a small gallery space, 106 Green, with our friend Mitchell Wright. So I see him pretty often, sometimes for gallery things, sometimes for drinks. 


What’s an average studio day like? 

It depends on where I am with my work. When I am really busy or into the paintings, I get in before 9 and stay until late. Now it's a bit more relaxed.. so I arrive before 10 and stay until dinner time. I like to keep office hours, even if I'm not painting constantly. Maybe it's my dad's work ethic... I like to go to the office and put in a solid day's work. Most of the time it's 7 days a week, but I am learning to chill out on the weekends.

In the mornings I listen to talk radio of some kind. Could be NPR, or podcasts, or maybe Howard Stern interviews. I usually do a music break for a few hours mid-day. I typically start with slow and melodic, and then go up-tempo after lunch. Sometimes sports radio, if it isn't too meat-headed. I like Jim Rome depending on my mood.. sort of a cross between Letterman and ESPN.

What are you working on now?

Well, I just finished a couple of shows. One in NY this fall, and I have a small work show up now in Miami at Fredric Snitzer Gallery. I am sort of picking myself up now, and thinking about what is next. With every body of work, or group of paintings, it seems like new problems are presented, new issues to resolve or explore. So that's kind of where I am.. reflecting on those shows. Recently I have been making small gouaches, which is really enjoyable. There is something about the medium that suits my work.. it is so flat and matte. It's both graphic and soft, and I love the range of color. I have a few more extensive 'work on paper' projects that I'm thinking about. 

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

I do a lot of drawing. Bad drawing. I make drawings all of the time anyway.. but if I am struggling with ideas or hesitating for some reason, I get a roll of cheap paper and do large charcoal drawings. Most of the time they are just cartoons.. very simple, like enlarged sketchbook thumbnails. Just to get something down and to consider images in space. I either come to terms with bad ideas.. or something new will present itself. And most of them get thrown away. I do go through periods of looking.. at films, or paintings, or just mining tumblr for random images. It feels like research, and sometimes leads to a spark of some kind.


How do you sustain your creative life? (how do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

We've been pretty fortunate to keep a low overhead for years. We were always serious about keeping expenses down, and didn't accumulate extra stuff in our lives. So I've managed to just paint recently, and take some teaching work here and there. Holly teaches part-time in the city. In the early days, I worked for a few artists.. and did typical odd jobs. But it's an interesting question now, as rents and living expenses in Brooklyn continue to skyrocket. I've always thought that the key to being an artist long-term was eliminating unnecessary costs.. but that is becoming impossible to do. 


What advice would you give a young artist just starting out? 

Well, advice.. this changes weekly, but I think now it seems really important to have a position. With your work. And I don't mean a brand, or creative inflexibility. There is just so much art being made and being seen.. Instagram, tumblr, facebook.. it's endless. I think in the blizzard of art, it is important to feel like you are arguing for something, to find a real connection to what you're doing. Even if nobody else recognizes it or cares. Otherwise you just get sucked into the tides of trend chasing. A lot of young artists struggle with that now, I think.

Also be loyal and good to your friends. I think because of corporate and academic models, young artists think they are climbing a career ladder. It's more like being on a raft at sea. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. The same is true for everyone around you. 


website/ gallery where can we see your work next? 

You can see my last new york show on the Koenig and Clinton site, and other recent work on the Andrehn-Schiptjenko website. I did a show with them in Stockholm last year.  I have work up at Frederic Snitzer right now and I am going to be part of a small group show at Alon Segev in Tel Aviv this September.. other than that I am on studio lock-down for a bit. Once again, I feel like I'm at the bottom of the hill looking up. Gotta work through it.


5 questions with Ann Toebbe


One of the best things about this blog, for me, is learning new things about friends I've known for years. Ann and I met in grad school and I've loved her playful narrative abstractions ever since. Looking at her paintings makes me feel like I'm eavesdropping, or reading someone else's mail, while reveling in the quirky, delicious color arrangements. Ann has recently received some well-deserved love from some of our favorite arts writers for her exhibition at Monya Rowe (please see end of post.)  Congrats to Ann and many thanks for sharing with us. 

Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day-to-day world? friends? partners? pets? kids?

 I live in Hyde Park, a neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. My studio is in a one-bedroom garden apartment. It’s just two minutes from our home in our condo complex. My day-to-day world is centered on my family. My daughters are 4 and 6 and my stepson is 16. The kids have school and various activities. My husband, Eric, is a lawyer so I do most of the heavy lifting for the household. I’m very involved in my daughters’ schools as a volunteer and a public school activist. We live right on Lake Michigan so we spend our summers swimming. No pets. We had a fish, Heart, for two years but she died. Occasionally I go out with a friend and, as often as possible, to an art event.


What’s an average studio day like? 

My studio workweek and day is very regimented. During the girls’ school year I work Monday -Thursday. Weekdays I wake up at 5:30/45am to run or swim. Between 6:30 and 8:10 I get my daughters ready for school and straighten up the house. I drop them off, pick up my coffee, and arrive in my studio at 9am. I come to the studio very prepared with a packed lunch and I have tea and a dessert on hand so I won’t need to leave during the workday or procrastinate. I listen to University of Chicago’s djs until noon then switch to NPR. I work until 3:10pm then pick up the girls from school. If I’m on a tight deadline I go back to the studio and work when Eric arrives home around 7:30/8pm and stay no later than 11:30. More often I eat a late dinner with Eric, burn out watching a tv series, or catch up on household stuff and emails. I work weekends when necessary and sometimes have to juggle part-time teaching. Eric and I are always negotiating our weekends to make sure I have enough time in the studio.


What are you working on now? (What are you most excited about/ confounded by/ obsessed with?)

Last year I worked on back-to-back solo shows in May ‘14 and January ‘15. So I’m not working much right now. A friend and curator/consultant is starting an online gallery and asked me to make prints from original work. I’m working on finishing several preliminary drawings for paintings to be scanned for prints. I often finish drawings after an exhibition while I decide what’s next. I’m scheduling a show with fort gondo in St. Louis. It isn’t a commercial space so it’s an opportunity to experiment and take some risks. Work larger? Make drawings? Large drawings?

Art-wise I’m confounded about how I want to approach my next few paintings. I always want to be more expressive, looser, faster but I’m not at my best this way. I’ve found ways to work process painting and looser painting into my work with collage and in window scenes. I love Soutine and Bonnard. How could I be little more like Amy Sillman or Dana Schutz?

I’m obsessed with order. I’m always organizing my house, my life, and my paintings. Only my paintings seem to reflect this, the rest is chaos.

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

Since I have a family there’s less time for things to not go right in my studio. Once I commit to a painting I rarely set it aside. Instead I fight it, coax it, curse it until it’s good. I have so much time outside the studio I tend to work out bad ideas before I have a chance to act on them. All the stress happens when I’m trying to go to sleep, cook dinner, grocery shop. This will change as my life dynamic changes. I look forward to mucking stuff up and having ideas worked out in the studio again.


How do you sustain your creative life? (How do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

 In my twenties I was a server, art mover, and art preparator. I was always with artists and dated an artist for many years. During this time I didn’t have much money, job security, or health care. Grad school took me out of NYC and I never returned. During grad school I applied for grants and a residency in Berlin. I met my husband at Yale. I moved to Chicago after a year in Berlin and have been here since 2005. I haven’t had a full time job since I lived in New York. I’ve received grants, part-time teach, and sell work. I don’t make a lot of money, but if I was only supporting myself, I would be able to sustain my art career. I would have to live on a tight budget, no frills - yet.  

My husband is a lawyer at a small firm. It was total luck or fate that I met someone who loves art and kids and is willing to be married to an artist and is not an artist! Being an artist is lonely and I only like to mix in any art scene in small doses. My daughters keep me company and give me a purpose. They keep me from myself and in the world. My role as a mother has been integral in sustaining my art career. 

What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?

There’s no recipe for success. If you want to exhibit and be in the art world, pursue every opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask, to fail or be shot down. Expect it and move on to the next thing. In the beginning make your own opportunities. Write for small publications, curate, and apply to everything. Get up early, exercise, and don’t drink too much! If any of my answers seem easy going or I have it figured out, I don’t. I’m as anxious as ever and that’s what drives me to keep making work.

Monya Rowe Gallery, New York

Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston

Check out all the amazing press Ann received for her exhibition "Remarried" at Monya Rowe below. The show is up until February 22, 2015. Don't miss it! Ann will have an exhibition in 2015 Miami – not sure which fair yet, stay tuned and in 2016  at fort gondo, in St. Louis.


New York Magazine

New York Magazine

Print Magazine

The Huffington Post

The New York Times



5 questions with Dannielle Tegeder

I love this lady. Dannielle Tegeder is a good friend, and an artist at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, where we both have a studio space. A day in the studio is always made better with a quick break to see what she's up to, sharing a joke or conversing about art over coffee. She is super smart and super fun and her interview is just delightful- just like her. Enjoy.

Who makes up your day to day world?

Other artists, my students, my husband Pablo Helguera, and our kid.

What’s an average studio day like? 

My day begins early at 6:30 getting my daughter ready for Kindergarten. I am usually e­mailing by 7:30 responding to things, and am in the studio by 8:30 or 9:00. I usually work with my studio assistant, and we begin with a list for her to work off of doing administrative tasks, including grants, e­mails, mailing our catalogs, sizing images, setting meeting, etc.

1. Instructions for Utopian Gray World Machine & Copper Inner Structure Ink, dye, pencil, marker, acrylic, gouache on Fabriano Murillo paper, 59 x 82 in. 2014-2011

1. Instructions for Utopian Gray World Machine & Copper Inner Structure Ink, dye, pencil, marker, acrylic, gouache on Fabriano Murillo paper, 59 x 82 in. 2014-2011

Depending on the day, I am either drawing or also working on other things. I finish around 6. I am usually listening to silence or NPR, and look at art books or readings for inspiration. Right now I have the Whitechapel: Documents for Contemporary Art on Networks, and Abstraction.

2. Monument to the Geo Chemistry After Structure with Yellow DISTURBANCE Code and Disaster Averter and Atomic Station, Gouache, ink, colored pencil, graphite, and pastel on Fabriano Murillo paper, 79 x 110 in. (200.7 x 279.4 cm), 2014-2011.

2. Monument to the Geo Chemistry After Structure with Yellow DISTURBANCE Code and Disaster Averter and Atomic Station, Gouache, ink, colored pencil, graphite, and pastel on Fabriano Murillo paper, 79 x 110 in. (200.7 x 279.4 cm), 2014-2011.

What are you working on now? what are you most excited/ confounded/ obsessed with?

At the moment I am working on a new series of large drawings on paper in the studio. These pieces become the framework or legend for all the installations, and on site pieces. I am also very excited to be doing my first public art piece with Percent for Art in NYC in 2015.

3.  Xanthicia, Solar System Drawing and Atomic Daylight, Installation View, Nature Interrupted, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, NY. ink, acrylic, house paint, and colored pencil on wall, 16 x 34 ft, 2012.

3.  Xanthicia, Solar System Drawing and Atomic Daylight, Installation View, Nature Interrupted, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, NY. ink, acrylic, house paint, and colored pencil on wall, 16 x 34 ft, 2012.

I am also quite excited about starting a new gallery in my faculty office at CUNY where I teach. It is called “Faculty Office.” The current show is entitled Soccer Mom” and has over 30 artists including: Jackie Saccoccio, Angelina GualdoniElana Herzog, and Alison Elizabeth Taylor among many great others. The show
was in response to Ken Johnson’s recent review of Michelle Grabner’s show where he called her a soccer mom. The show has over thirty successful women artists that are also mothers. The last show was called “Higher Learning” and had over 30 artists who also teach, it traveled to another faculty office at Hamilton College. The space is a boring no window office, but is located inside a historic Marcel Breuer building in the Bronx. The space is experimental, and is also used as a pedagogical tool­ where I bring students in to see the work. I also wanted to
see more contemporary art shown in the Bronx, and have it more accessible. It has been an exciting project.

What do you do when things aren’t going “right”? or if you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

4. Death Rock City, Wooden platforms with mirror, structures created from glass, Swarovski crystal, cardboard, tile, rubber, and paper; large drawings, 4 x 27 ft., 2013-2010.

4. Death Rock City, Wooden platforms with mirror, structures created from glass, Swarovski crystal, cardboard, tile, rubber, and paper; large drawings, 4 x 27 ft., 2013-2010.

I usually sense things aren’t right if the work is becoming to much of a struggle to make, or I am distracted. I usually just stop for a while, go see shows at galleries or museums, or work on my side practice of writing conceptual poetry.


How have you gotten where you are? How do you sustain your creative life? How do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?

I have gotten to where I am by being persistent and patient. I sustain my creative life, by keeping an organized schedule and organizing a lot of support, studio assistant, baby sitter, back up babysitter, my mother, my husband etc. I am also a professor at CUNY, and teach throughout the year. I have also taught in a number of schools, and regularly do visiting artist visits. I live through a combination of my teaching salary, grants, and art sales. I have had every job under the sun, waitress, cocktail waitress, studio assistant, gallerina, Macy’s fragrance model (those are the people who spritz you)!

5. Death Rock City, detail, Wooden platforms with mirror, structures created from glass, Swarvski crystal, cardboard, tile, rubber, and paper; large drawings. 4 x 27 ft., 2013-2010

5. Death Rock City, detail, Wooden platforms with mirror, structures created from glass, Swarvski crystal, cardboard, tile, rubber, and paper; large drawings.
4 x 27 ft., 2013-2010

What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?

There are a number of things...remember you are in a community and to be generous and give out, artists that are alone stop making work 2. Get used to rejection for grants, residencies, etc. not once but most artists apply ­10 times. 3. Apply for lots of things on a regular basis, this is how you will meet people, and sustain your practice. 4. Think of a side skill, and get your job down to three days or less. 5. Learn to write well, and do good public speaking 6. Learn to manage your money, and budget 7. Keep up with your references 8. Curate a show or start a blog. 9. Get organized with your time, and work when you can 10. Get a studio with a group of serious artists.

6. Speed Secret Grain Crash, Triangle Line Manifesto, Silver Grass Alchemy, Group Acrylic and ink on canvas, 60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm), 2013-2010

6. Speed Secret Grain Crash, Triangle Line Manifesto, Silver Grass Alchemy, Group Acrylic and ink on canvas, 60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm), 2013-2010

Dannielle has upcoming museum shows in Germany at the Kunstalle Osnabruck, the large Percent for Art installation in NYC, Seed Space in Nashville, and Real Art Ways in Hartford.
Her drawing videos are up now at the Frist Museum for Visual Arts in Nashville at the end of the Kandinsky exhibition.

7. Suspended Galaxy System, Wire mobile, Copper, stainless steel, stained glass and ceramic 32 x 22 x 17 in., 2013-2010

7. Suspended Galaxy System, Wire mobile, Copper, stainless steel, stained glass and ceramic 32 x 22 x 17 in., 2013-2010




5 questions with Rebecca Morgan

I've been following this lovely lady's work for a while now. She shows at one of my favorite galleries in NY and I'm thrilled she agreed to answer a few questions this week. Check out Rebecca's work while you're in Miami this week at Untitled Art Fair.





Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day to day world? friends? partners? pets? kids?

I currently live in my hometown of Clearfield Pennsylvania. Central Pa, in the Appalachian/Allegehny Mountains. It is a very quiet, very rural, remote and conservative place, but it is exceptionally beautiful, genuine, slow and picturesque. My day to day world consists of my Mother and my family who live in town- my two aunts and grandparents. I go to New York as often as I can for openings and errands- pretty much twice a month. (I live four hours away) I am in an intermediary zone of living- a transitional time, planning where my next move will be. This is the first “studio” I have paid rent for- it is a tiny room above the community theatre building. I have only been working here for about two months, so It is starting to feel like “my own space” which is really important to me. It has bright blue walls that I keep meaning to paint white!

What’s an average studio day like?

I usually get into my studio at around 10am. It is essential to have the internet where I can talk to others, take periodic breaks to read or look at images. I will work for short bursts, maybe an hour or two at a time and then “rest my eyes” on the internet. A lot of time is spent looking for source material on the internet and books- recently I have been looking at Greek sculpture, which provide me great figurative stand-ins. Music has always been difficult for me when I’m working- it has to be very specific high energy; It can get me too emotional and melodramatic in the studio. I love pop music/top 40 and have unabashedly been listening to T.Swift album, Run the Jewels, Kanye, Exmag, Jack White and Drake. Sam Smith has been really big for me this year; I’m even making a painting of him as a cherubic rural field nymph.  If it is not music or silent in the studio, I am listening to comedians/interviews or talk radio like Joe Rogan and Opie and Jimmy. Comedy is very important to me- it lifts my mood, as working in the studio is really cerebrally and physically taxing for me. I like to spend the whole day here, sometimes achieving a lot and other days maybe next to nothing. I usually leave anywhere from 9pm to 12, but if a deadline or show is coming up, it can be much, much later. I usually work on wood panels when I paint (sanded smooth, gessoed surface where I usually do a very thourough under drawing and build color up with layers of glaze) or drawings on very large paper. I have a lot of scrap paper on hand for smaller cartoon work. I like to work on a few different paintings at once- it breaks up the energy. If something is drying, I mess around with something else. I like to leave at a good stopping point- when I am waiting for glaze or paint to dry or if I feel particularly accomplished about a certain area, or if I am making too many mistakes or creating more problems for myself- it is time to go!


What are you working on now? (what are you most excited about/ confounded by/ obsessed with?)

I have been making ceramic face jugs and sculptures in relation to my two dimensional drawings, paintings and cartoons. Ceramics really excite me. I am really pumped about making three dimensional versions of my two dimensional ideas. Generally, I am making work about scenarios and archetypes of the wilderness and pastoral, virginal flower picking maids, witches and mountain men and the scenes and situations that they find themselves in—debauchery, trauma or repose. The work is being driven by a narrative, as it always is, but I hope to make them more ambiguous, more interpretive, maybe more mysterious and ominous. I have titles like “Pie Eater” “Love Stump” “Passed Out” “ Sleeping Maid with Creeper,” “Terror Elope,” “Smoker,” “Judith,” “Bride and Groom” that are general concepts for a painting or drawing that I will then expound upon. The image and narrative always come first. I am trying to get back to formal experimentation, as I feel like I have been somewhat formulaic in my approach to art making. I want to respond more innately and be more formally loose and take more risks outside of my comfort zone, which is very difficult for me, as my hand naturally wants to tighten things up and make things very specific. I am trying to find a good balance between all of this. I work in three modes of representation; cartooning (looser, crude, more rudimentary, less fussy) traditional cross hatched drawing and more naturalistic representation and somewhere in between, a cross between cartoonish and naturalistic representation.


I am obsessed with my smartphone/the Internet and social media—I think it is a very important tool on so many levels. Right now, it is how I stay connected to the art world and my friends, as I often feel pretty far removed, geographically. I can be in the middle of nowhere and still see studio shots of my favorite artists and people on Instagram and feel in the loop and informed. I use it as a diaristic catalogue and I like revisiting images, like a personal archive. I am constantly inspired by the images I see on social media; peers from the country posting unintentional source material, portraits, anything can trigger an idea.

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

For me, it is absolutely crucial to take breaks. I get on the internet, make a phone call, run an errand or get a snack. It gives me a little distance from the problem and helps me reassess how to solve it. Solutions can be hard to see when you are right on top of the work and too invested, staring and obsessing at the issue. Sometimes I have to abandon a work or drastically change it, or start over, and while that is a difficult thing, taking a break and getting “fresh eyes” helps me come to terms with it, or prepares me to do what I have to do. Regardless, the answer lies in working through it. Painting can be pretty stressful for me, so I sometimes switch formal modes and make something out of clay- It is a refreshing break and totally different approach.


I will say that art making is easier when you are committed to a daily practice as best you can, whether it is making something small and seemingly insignificant, or writing or reading or planning, it is all important and relative. This is something I’ve struggled with. Because the nature of the work I make can be so highly detail oriented (a self portrait needs to be convincing, figuration has to anatomically and spatially work, technical issues with glazing or reworking areas again and again) it was easy to want to avoid the studio and art making; it was hard to sit myself in a chair and physically make the work. For the past six months or so, (coming off of a three month residency at the Bemis Center in Omaha reinvigorated my daily studio practice) it has been easier to come in and be in a routine; once I felt like I was coming in to have fun and not take things as seriously or as preciously. For me, I had to find new ways to make work that made me excited yet also didn’t emotionally exhaust me in a way that was unhealthy to a daily studio practice.  I am trying to find new ways to be less critical and hyperaware of the impact of my formal decision making and trying to respond more innately to the work.  It is still a struggle to accept that everything that I make does not have to be a “masterpiece” and that is in learning to let go and not treat everything so preciously. Coming off of a show in the spring, I essentially have an empty studio, which can be a point of anxiety for me, but I feel like it is an opportunity for a fresh start, and hopefully new modes of art making outside of my comfort zone. Basically, art is hard.

How do you sustain your creative life? (how do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

Living in my hometown in Pennsylvania has a low cost of living, so I am able to exist on very little. I am currently living in my childhood home, so that also helps. To pay bills and school loans I am a substitute teacher, which allows me to take days off if I need to be in the studio or travel for openings or other obligations. When I lived in Brooklyn, it was obviously much more of a hustle and slog to make things work. I couldn’t get a job after graduate school, so I was doing odd jobs- I would prepare and gesso canvases, paint gallery walls, move artist studios/art handle- it seemed like I was driving a box truck a lot! I interned at four galleries at the same time (for no pay) I worked at a paint your own pottery place and a corporate art supply store and didn’t make more than 10 dollars an hour. I had a little savings that I used in conjunction with working, but it went away quickly to rent and living. It was difficult in that I wanted to be in the city for the cultural opportunities and immediacy of the art world, but also wanted the slowness of the rural. It is and was a daily struggle to determine where the right space for me is- somewhere intermediary is where I exist on a daily basis. I want and need both.

What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?

I would say that to expect a life of “hustling” is a stereotypical answer, but that has a lot to do with it. Very few times are artistic opportunities just given to you- you have to put in the time and research on your own to understand where your place in the art world is. If there is a gallery that you are interested in, attend the openings, introduce yourself, sign the guestbook, follow them on the Internet etc. etc. It is very helpful to be present and a familiar face.  Put yourself out there, even if it is uncomfortable. A lot of great opportunities for me came out of interning at galleries. It was not always ideal, but I met a lot of great people that way.  It is very insightful to see first hand the general energy and day to day workings of the art world. You see how things happen. It also helps you determine the kind of places that you do not want to align yourself with. You need to understand the right gallery or the right exhibition space for the type of work that you make. If there is a void, fill it yourself and take it upon yourself to make those opportunities happen. Surround yourself with the people you want to be around, not those that you think you should be, or have to be. They will not determine your success, but it is true that it is exceptionally helpful to be socially connected in the world that we exist in. Don’t get hung up on your peers success- there is not one other individual making the same work that you are; we are all running a different race. Reach out to people if you appreciate their work. You will be rejected A LOT in a myriad of different ways and you will have to learn to cope with it in a healthy way. Some of the best experiences I have ever had have been attending artist residencies; I have met extraordinary and like minded people and had the chance to make work in a new environment. They are so much fun; it is like going to adult art camp! Learn not to crumple under pressure- especially if there is a deadline or a show approaching- learn how you can use it to your advantage and work through it.

Rebecca shows with Asya Geisberg Gallery in New York, NY. You can see Rebecca's work in Miami at Untitled Art Fair December 3rd-7th.







5 questions with Matthew Shelley

Matthew Shelley is a friend and colleague at Moravian College where we both teach. He's been an incredible addition to our faculty. When I first encountered Matthew's work he was making meticulous graphite drawings of what appeared to be sublime arctic landscapes. They were mesmerizing. His new body of work has the same magnetic pull but has  since evolved into 3-dimensional collage that ultimately widens the  conversation around images, space and form. 

Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day to day world? friends? partners? pets? kids?

I just recently moved to Philadelphia.  Prior to that, I lived in New York and Washington DC.  I keep a studio at Moravian College where I work, but that’s about an hour outside the city, so I’ve been setting up a studio space here in Philadelphia for the days that I don’t teach.

My day-to-day experiences rotate between teaching and studio.  My girlfriend is also an artist, so we spend a lot of time talking about studio life and different ideas we want to work with.  During our free time, we go out on drives or check out different parts of the city because we’re pretty new here.


What’s an average studio day like? 

On the days that I teach, I work in my studio at Moravian College.  Every other workday is spent at my studio here, in Philadelphia.  I spend the first hour or so getting organized, sorting through images, and preparing surfaces to work on.  My studio work is full of different routines, so I try and follow a consistent order of operations.  Like a lot of artists I know, I have a tough time committing to one idea, and maintaining that commitment long enough to let the piece really develop.  The routine helps me work on a problem without getting overly critical too soon.  When it’s about a series of steps, I can kind of coach myself through the process without constantly changing direction.

Because I work with pre-existing pictures, I can change things a lot at almost any stage in the development of a piece.  The process is really flexible, so I can set up a goal and execute it, then evaluate it, then rework it, and try it again from a different perspective.  I try to photograph the work at its different stages so that way, I can revert to earlier arrangements if needed.  At some point, something will click and I’ll start fastening everything down. 

All of the different routines really help me be patient throughout the process, which is great because I have time to really consider what I want out of the image.  With this method, I find I can spend time with the idea, instead of rushing toward a finished product, which was a problem for me in the past. Strangely enough, I find a lot of freedom in being systematic.  When the process is ordered, you don’t always have to worry about doing it right.  You can just do the steps.

What are you working on now? (what are you most excited about/ confounded by/ obsessed with?)

Unexpectedly, I have been really into sculpture lately, which is strange because I’ve always been a 2D person.  I’m not sure what contributed to that interest, but every project lately, has been something Dimensional.  A lot of what I’ve been making over the past couple years has been sculptural in some way, but I never thought it would move off the wall completely.  At first, the sculptures were more like armatures that supported a dimensional framework, but now that’s starting to dissolve.

The realization that there isn’t a strict boundary between 2D and 3D work gave me a nice sense of freedom.  There was a turning point when I realized that a picture could be a part of a sculpture, and the two things could communicate with one another.  In fact, trying to bridge the gap between the pictorial and 3-dimensional has become a big part of my work.  I’ve been thinking a lot about different ways to soften the transition between pictures and real space.  Because the illusory nature of pictures is something that I work with a lot, it seems natural to look for ways to try to get the image to confront real space.  Recently, I’ve been folding the paper that I work with and finding ways to physically act out the geometries and perspectives in my work.  Depending on the situation, I think that the folded picture plane either extends the fiction of the piece, or deactivates it. That really fascinates me because it’s a little disorienting. 

I like working with photographs because you can make small changes to the format, and totally distort what happens inside the image.  By changing the frame, you can either compress or expand the space in the photograph.  I really like playing with moments like that.  There’s a kind of vertigo that occurs when a photograph no longer seems reliable.  I think that kind of spatial confusion is somehow relevant to our relationship with landscape and location.  Our sense of direction and orientation has become really abstract.  I don’t think I’m ever able to really visualize where I am spatially or regionally.  That’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. 

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

When things get dull in the studio, I often repeat things that I’ve done in the past.  I’ll remake old compositions, or make another version of an old piece.  At least that way I’m still making something.  It never hurts to re-examine old ideas, and sometimes that leads to a tangent that spurs me in a new direction.  If I sit and stare at a blank wall, I loose my confidence really quickly.  At that point, nothing is good enough and every direction is a dead end.  I have a tendency to get uptight about my work.  It’s pretty funny from the outside looking in, but because of those anxieties, I’ve learned to just focus on whatever steps are right in front of me.  I usually locate that I’ve been in a slump some months after the fact, when I look back at a bunch of really dull work and realize that it wasn’t going anywhere.

I also rely on the feedback of other artists to put things in perspective.  When you’re making something, you loose a sense of objectivity really quickly.  That’s one of the reasons that I like working around so many other artists.  They’ll always see something that you don’t, or help break apart some distraction in the work.  Lily is someone that I rely on constantly for feedback.  Aron Johnston is another great voice in my practice.  I think having that kind of community is really essential.

How do you sustain your creative life? (how do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

Teaching has been great because it’s really connected to my life as a studio artist. You go to class and talk out a set of principals, and then you try to stay true to that when you transition into the studio.  It doesn’t always happen that way, but I think through teaching others, you also learn to moderate yourself.  Many of the lessons my students take on are applicable to studio practice at all levels, so there’s some comradery with the students there.

But before I came to Moravian, I did all kinds of jobs.  I did administrative work at a number of different galleries, but I was really terrible at it, so I stopped after few years, probably to the relief of my bosses.  I was comically bad it.  I worked as an art handler and on installation crews, which I liked a lot.  I also did some totally non-art related jobs.  I worked in a barbershop for a while.  I also worked in coffee shops and kitchens.

What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?

Find your people.  Find some kind of community that you can be a part of.  Shows are great opportunities to present your work to a wider public, but it’s the work that happens on a day-to-day basis in the company of your peers that has the biggest impact.  As long as you have a community of other artists to interact with, then you have an audience and a conversation to be a part of. At that point, I think that you discover that it’s not really about originality, or branding the next big thing, but more about being a contributor.  If you have dialogue with other artists, then you are a part of something bigger than your perspective, and I think that’s a richer experience.


Matthew has a solo exhibition up through December 22nd at AAC in Arlington.  He'll also be participating in the Transformer Auction at the Katzen Art Museum in Washington, DC on November 22nd. 

check out more of Matthew's work at

5 questions with Bryon Finn

Bryon Finn and I met at Yale during the first few days of grad school. I've been enamored with his approach to making ever since; the way he thinks, the various applications he employs to make his dynamic paintings, all the- what ends up in a painting- and-how it gets there...  Luckily he shares a lot of those ideas and processes with us below. Enjoy!

Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day to day world? friends? partners? pets? kids?

I live with my wife and daughter in Kensington – a neighborhood sort of in the center of Brooklyn, NY. We spend quite a bit of time sitting on the front steps or leaning on the fence talking to neighbors. It’s the kind of place that when I look up I can see bagpipes being played or colorful Bengali dresses. There is a horse stable around the corner so you often see a line of horses going by.

My daughter is almost 7 years old and did not fall far from the tree. So we spend a lot of time playing strategy games, figuring out string figures, and singing old hand clap songs.

My studio is in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s the neighborhood where “On the Waterfront” is based. I like passing over the bridges and canals to get there. When you’re there, you can hear the seagulls and smell coffee and squid. When I look out my window, I can see the cranes working against the lower Manhattan skyline. I feel sensorially very lucky.

What’s an average studio day like? 

I usually get to the studio around 10 in the morning. Then, I make coffee, flip on NPR, and change my clothes. At some point I’ll put on music.

Music is really important to me. I’m a bit of an obsessive collector. Lately I’ve been pulling out all these old mix tapes. I seem to function best with a bit of noise, and the familiarity of the mixes helps me come in and out of focus and nudges my thinking at opportune times.

I usually have 4 or 5 paintings hanging up proper and a number of fragments scattered around that I’m mulling over. I work on plywood and because of the logistics of bracing the work up and that they accrue parts sometimes hung at a distance temporarily with string, tape or written notes on the wall – it’s time consuming to move them around. So paintings can be up from a month to more than a year. I never know which one I’m going to work on and rarely concentrate on more than one a day. So, I clean.

If the surface is dry, I’ll most likely trace or do a rubbing of their current state. If a painting is done, I make diagrams and take measurements, which can lead to a whole new series of drawings, often generating the next set of paintings.

Often when I’m cleaning I get carried away with some peripheral activity. I spend quite a bit of time folding or rolling material up or around the room, sorting scraps of paper and wood, looking around through a hole in something or into mirrors or through gels. All this can trigger hours of making films and drawing. This kind of playful activity becomes really informative and at some point I’ll catch a glimpse of a painting and start painting.

I don’t really keep books in the studio. I do have a few fashion magazines and some print outs of paintings that may currently be on my mind.  Of course I have that typical wall with a battery of newspaper clippings, photocopies, etc. I keep a transparency of a Breughel wood cut that I occasionally project across the entire wall.

I try to leave by 5:30. I always take photos at the end of the day. I try not to look stuff up online while at the studio. So, I gather up my notes, usually phrases from science or economic news, song titles or lyrics, and associations I’ve made during the day. I tape some around the studio and bring the rest home to look up at night.

What are you working on now? (What are you most excited about/ confounded by/ obsessed with?)

There have been a few notions floating around the studio lately. They seem subtle but have been productive. One has been acknowledging the difference between “making the work” and making the “conditions” for the work. Another has been moving away from thinking about a picture tectonically and more in the way of “condensation.” A few thoughts that keep running through my mind at different times are, “be spectral,” “be explicit,” and “be atavistic.”

I’ve been working to repurpose all this dislocated documentation that I collect over the course of finishing a painting. I wind up with all these stencils, transparencies, pounce patterns, photocopies, maps, and masking. Often these extrapolations are developed independently and worked back into their source paintings. Sometimes I’ll exchange parts with an adjacent painting. Lately I’ve been weaving separate sets of information derived from the same source but dropping the armature. Other works are developing from overlaying fragments as I mine the boxes upon boxes of scraps I’ve kept. It kind of feels like an exercise in mocking serendipity.

I’m working to expand the methodology I’m using to disorient my drawing and installation process to how I approach color design and light of the painting. 

These and so many of my recent moves (from increased carving and relief construction to an interest in reflective and metallic surfaces) relate to wanting to leave a sliver of in-between space – somewhere waiting to be occupied. I feel like I’m working around the picture plane.

This relates to the paintings I’ve been involved with lately: Stuart Davis’ “Combination Concrete,” Manet’s “Boating,” Titian’s “Bacchus & Ariadne,” Poussin’s “Arcadian Shepherds,” and Ingres’ “Madame Moiessier.”

I’ve been thinking about the marble in 15th century Italian paintings. What I’m intrigued by seems really prevalent in annunciation scenes. I’ve also been looking at a lot of camouflage, tattoo flash, and “crypto zoology” blogs.

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

I sort and inventory.

Sometimes I mess around with another material – especially if it's one I wouldn't normally choose. I’ve made plenty of drawings with bottles of nail polish I found.

How do you sustain your creative life? How do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?

I work as a Scenic Artist for T.V., movies, commercials, music videos, and fashion shoots.

I use a lot of my prior work experience: faux finishing, sign painting, window display, framing and art restoration.

I still get a bit amazed at the choreography of putting together a set on a soundstage. My jobs have also taken me to some amazing locations that I wouldn’t necessarily seek out or have access to on my own -- from the glitzy to the derelict.

What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?

Don’t rehearse misery.


You can see Bryon Finn's work by appointment, until November 16th, in:


Diagonal Triangle

a Group Show organized by Chris Joy at Artist House Party Presents - 424 East 83rd Street - 2W - New York, NY 10028. Make an appointment and go! Don't miss it.


and be sure to check out more of Bryon's work on his website:

5 questions with Krista Steinke

Krista and I met at Moravian College. She was one of the first people I met on my interview and quickly became one of the reasons I wanted to teach there. Unfortunately for us, she has since moved back to Texas, her home state, where she now teaches at Texas A&M. She's one of my favorite people and I miss her everyday. I know Houston is welcoming this great artist with open arms, as well they should.  In fact, Krista has an exhibition opening tonight, October 24th, 2014 at Sam Houston University! Check it out. Her work is incredible.

Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day to day world? friends? partners? pets? kids? 

I live in Texas most of the year and during the summer months, I live in rural upstate New York.

I am originally from Texas, and after a 20-something year hiatus living elsewhere, I recently moved back to the Houston area. Because my husband and I both commute an hour away for our teaching jobs, we have to live on the outskirts of the city, basically where suburbia meets the country. We have not yet completely figured out our living/work situation, so in the meantime, I set up a temporary studio in our garage and small office space in the house.   For us, the bad news is that we are not near the cultural hubbub of the city, while the good news is that we don’t have to deal with the busy hubbub of the city. Our master plan is to buy a small plot of farmland and build a barn-type studio out in the country. We have had this barn-studio fantasy for a while but now that we are back in Texas, it can actually become a reality.

People in my day-to-day world: My husband, Sherman Finch (also an artist), my lovely daughter, Ava, my rambunctious son, Eli, and a grouchy but cute cat named Fella.  (students, colleagues, friends, and other family members of course, factor in as well)

What’s an average studio day like? 


During the summer months, I am able to keep a very strict studio schedule.  My day starts with an early morning walk or run (this routine is important to my process – it allows me to download the daily noise in my head so that I can focus on what I want to accomplish that day.  I also scout locations to photograph, collect specimens for my project, and pay close attention to the natural light and weather). I then usually spend most of the day outdoors, I photograph, prepare for shoots, make my homemade filters, or else I am at the computer, where I edit video, scan negatives, look at test prints, and optimize images. During the school year, my schedule is more chaotic and has to be structured around teaching and family obligations.  I teach two days a week and have three full days that I can commit to my art practice. The rhythm of my studio time really depends on where I am at with a project or what type of shows or deadlines I have looming.  Because much of my work involves being on the computer, I can usually sneak in extra studio hours while at work or in the late evenings after my kids go to bed.

I love listening to music when I work (via Pandora or Groove Shark) but usually I am so focused on my work that I forget to turn it on.  I keep an “inspiration folder” on my desktop for each project that I am working on and refer to it frequently during studio time. Basically it’s a collection of anything that can help inform the work – snapshots that I took with my cellphone, scientific images of the universe, a close-up detail of a painting that I stumbled upon, maybe an unresolved project that I did while in graduate school.


What are you working on now? 

Lately, I have been obsessed with: the Texas sky (its so expansive and dramatic at times), collecting bumblebees and other dead insects, art that is made from unconventional materials, photographers and filmmakers who are breaking the rules, and the colored spots that you see after staring into bright light.

I have two main projects in the works. Purgatory Road is a series that I have been working on since 2010.  It is based on the place where I live in NY and I mainly focus on this project in the summer. My plans are to continue working on it for a several more years, with the intention of turning it into a trilogy and hopefully, publishing as a monograph.  I’m curious to see how a body of work, along with the changing nature of the landscape, can evolve and transform over a long, extended period of time.

I am also working on a new project called “Fire Ants Under the Texas Sky” which consists of photography, video, audio, and sculpture.  For this series, as the title suggests, Texas is used as a backdrop to explore the physical and cultural landscape and how it intersects with personal and collective memory. Here, I am not so much interested in telling my own history but instead, how the process of remembering can distort or influence one’s experience of the present. I have been experimenting with combining cellphone photography with other media and thinking about how technology can function or malfunction as a surrogate for memory. As a compliment to this, I am in the early planning stages of a collaborative project with my sister Rene Steinke (who just published a novel about Texas) and my brother Matt Steinke (a musician and artist based in Austin). It will be exciting when the collaboration gets off the ground but right now it is moving rather slow because we are all super busy with our individual work.

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

Because I am always working on several projects at once, when things aren’t going so well, I will switch my focus to something else so I can continue to feel productive.  As a temporary fix, I find that taking a long walk or going for a run helps to get my mind off the work.  I also sometimes will switch to working in another medium and try approaching my subject or questions from a different vantage point.  Mostly during these “falIow periods”, I try to be patient with myself because I strongly believe that incubation is critical to the creative process.

How do you sustain your creative life? (how do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

Past jobs: many, many years of waiting tables, some gallery and museum work, and other miscellaneous non-profit jobs.

Currently, I teach in the Visualization Department at Texas A&M University.  I have been a college professor for over ten years and I absolutely love teaching.  For me, it has been the perfect compliment to being a professional artist.  It offers the flexible schedule that I need, a creative and intellectual community, and I get to talk about my favorite subject everyday at work.

What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?

Here are a few mantras that I repeat to myself and often tell my students:

Failure is critical to success (we hear this a lot these days – but so true)

Embrace constructive criticism.  Its ok to disagree, but be able to articulate why.

We live in a fast-paced environment, ours is a culture of the immediate or instantaneous. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that good art takes time, be patient and work hard.

When building a body of work, not every piece needs to be a home run. Sometimes the small, quiet pauses can be an important part of the conversation.

Everyone gets rejected…acknowledge that its part of the routine and keep moving forward.

Progress involves taking risks, both small and large.

Don’t be afraid to go down the rabbit hole…go way, way down to the point of getting lost.