After we summited the ridges high above Aspen in late July of this year, the artist Lorna Simpson and I finally had the occasion to speak at length. Simpson, in town to be honored by the Aspen Art Museum with the institution’s Aspen Award for Art, had taken advantage of the good weather for a day hike. Catching our breath, we talked about her life as an artist in New York during the nineties and the Brooklyn Heights high school where her daughter and I share a common history. Simpson, a Brooklyn native, still lives in the borough, where she also keeps a studio. We caught up earlier this month to continue the conversation. Here she talks about her artistic process, creative inspiration, and the joys of working without a deadline.
On Aidan Koch’s cover for our Summer issue, six panels depict a woman lounging and reading and ruminating at the shore. Each panel exists both as a discrete event—here, she looks at her book; here, she shades her eyes—and as one sentence in a paragraph about the woman’s day at the beach. The issue also features Koch’s comic “Heavenly Seas,” the story of a woman who travels to a tropical location with a man she doesn’t love. It is twenty-eight pages long and contains just over a hundred words of dialogue and no narration. The difference between “Heavenly Seas” and the cover sequence is like the difference between Lydia Davis’s long short stories and her very short ones.
Koch, a native of Olympia, Washington, is the author of three book-length comics—The Whale, The Blonde Woman, and, most recently, Impressions. She also makes sculptures, ceramics, and textiles that reinterpret the classical motifs that appear in many of her comics. Her narratives are elliptical, fragmentary, and open-ended; it seemed appropriate to include “Heavenly Seas” in an issue that is largely about translation. Last month, I met Koch at her studio, in the basement of a tatty mansion she shares with eight other artists and a corn snake named Cleopatra, in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Where did the story for “Heavenly Seas” come from?
I’d been trying to think about how to utilize the idea of traveling. I’d read a couple of Paul Bowles books, and I liked how well he captured the mindset of how foreign places can seem to the traveler and how that’s seductive but also scary. He also thought about people’s attitudes in different countries and in confronting different cultures. That’s something I’d been considering, since it’s a big part of my life. I’ve been traveling constantly for the last three or four years. I left Portland in 2011 to travel and just didn’t stop. I went to Spain and Turkey, then I was in Scandinavia and around Europe. My book Field Studies documented 2012, when I lived in a different room in a different city every month, just because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought maybe I’d figure it out along the way. Read More
I’ve twice visited Gary Panter’s studio, a large room tucked away on the third floor of his house in Brooklyn; the table at which he works—he lays his canvases flat to paint—sits roughly near the center of the room and is surrounded on all sides and from above by evidence of his many and various areas of work: painting, drawing, comics, music, design, printmaking, and sculpture. All of his art is of a piece, so in his studio it’s especially difficult to get a sense of just one aspect of it. Rather than report on Panter’s recent paintings from there, I proposed we meet at Fredericks & Freiser, where “Dream Town,” his show of new work, went on view earlier this month. Most of the paintings depict figures excerpted from their original sources and painted flatly, as though collaged, onto either monochromatic or expressionist backgrounds. The pristine walls of the gallery make it easy to focus on individual paintings and to see the connections between them. Still, in his paintings, as in much of his art, Panter converses with an estimable range of cultural subjects and styles, so, naturally, we ended up talking about far more than just painting. Read More
My first encounter with artist Hayal Pozanti was the lucky happenstance of a predetermined seating arrangement: she was placed across the table from me at a dinner celebrating Jessica Silverman Gallery, which represents Pozanti on the West Coast. We spent the evening in deep discussion on the finer points of photographic theory and discovered a shared interest in the writings of Friedrich Kittler. Agreeing to stay in touch, I found myself in New York for Frieze Art Fair and decided to pay a visit to Pozanti’s studio in Queens. She was born in Istanbul in 1983, and moved to New York in 2009. In a small, partitioned space with views looking over the East River toward Midtown Manhattan, we talked about her current body of work, which will be exhibited later this year at the Prospect New Orleans biennial and at the Parisian iteration of the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain.
With my recent paintings, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ken Price, Philip Guston, and Allan McCollum. And, of course, I always come back to Giorgio Morandi—I think about him regularly. I find that a common ground for all of these artists was the ability to create, through figurative abstraction, a world parallel to the one we live in. As a Turkish immigrant who has moved from place to place, who speaks several languages, I’m intrigued by the possibility of creating a universal language to unite my cross-cultural experiences. When I think back to my childhood in Istanbul—even to my time as a young professional there—I was always concerned with the question of acceptance and with the idea of unifying people. Read More
Encaustic means “to burn.” The ethereal quality of Betsy Eby’s encaustic paintings belies the labor-intensive process of their making—an ancient method involving heated wax, damar resin (the sap of a Southeast Asian pine), and pigment applied in translucent veils with brushes and knives. Using a blowtorch, she liquefies the wax and fuses the layers with fire.
Eby’s solo show, “Painting with Fire,” is now at the Morris Museum in Augusta, Georgia. Eby is also a classical pianist, and many of her works are titled for musical pieces; her delicate compositions often seem to possess fluttering rhythms reminiscent of piano music. Eby is steeped in the Romantic era’s exploration of the interplay of senses. In a new book, Betsy Eby, art historian David Houston contributes an essay about synesthesia in her work, exploring the connections between sound and image. He mentions Baudelaire’s idea of correspondence, “anchored in the belief that sensory experiences can correspond to common emotions.” One of the surprising benefits to viewing Eby’s work in person is the engagement of another sense—smell—in the presence of natural beeswax. Drawing from poets and philosophers, composers and visual artists, her paintings resonate as much with history as they do modernity.
I recently spoke with Eby from her studio in Columbus, Georgia, where she lives with her husband, the Realist painter Bo Bartlett, in his childhood home. (The Morris Museum is also hosting a concurrent show of Bartlett’s work, “Paintings from Home.”) Read More
I was first introduced to artist Anthony Cudahy in 2011, when I interviewed him for Guernica. I was moved by his fleeting scenes of silence—a woman pinning a boutonniere on an unseen man’s tuxedo jacket, two girls hugging in a bedroom while one stares at herself in the mirror—and amazed by the wide range of work from an artist so young (he was only twenty-two). When Adrian West pitched his translations of Josef Winkler’s novel Graveyard of Bitter Oranges for the Daily, I immediately knew Cudahy’s work would best accompany Winkler’s tales of death and phantoms in an unfamiliar country. Both invoke the Flemish hells of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder—lively, complex, symbolic, the best kind of fever dream.
I met with Anthony at his studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he is an artist-in-residence for the Artha Project. Amid the stacks of wood planks from the neighboring furniture studio and the incessant clanking of pipes, we discussed the benefits of the Internet for the art world, growing up in Florida, and his hatred of the color yellow.