East Coast

Cool and Curious Wind

Dana James: A Profile

By Kelly McCafferty

Dana James is the perfect person to meet at a cocktail party. And that’s exactly where we crossed paths. It was the sort of party where you are expected and encouraged to walk up to strangers and start a conversation.

Dana comes across as clear and aware—her presence is strong. She’s assertive but also receptive. Dana feels like wind—cool and curious.

I’m almost positive Dana approached me first and we started a conversation where we discovered that we both had studios in Bushwick and we should probably be pals. Dana felt easy to talk to and we discussed the art world, New York with an emphasis on Brooklyn/Bushwick, mutual friends and her paintings.

I like to play an internal guessing game when I first meet a new artist. What sign are they? And what do I think their art looks and feels like?

Now I know the answers to both of those questions having interviewed Dana, been in the presence of her paintings and asked her flat out about her zodiac chart.

Does Dana feel like her paintings? I would say, absolutely yes.

Dana has recently moved, but when I visited in 2018, she had a live/work space in the part of Bushwick where the train runs above the street. I love seeing studios as much as I love seeing apartments, so live/work spaces fascinate me. There is a vulnerability in a live/work studio visit, both for the artist and the visitor. An artist is opening up the fullness of their life and one can see and imagine how their days and nights fill the space. The aesthetics of their life are on display.

Dana’s space is a beautiful newly renovated apartment with two front street facing rooms and a large kitchen/living space at the back. Dana has compartmentalized her art/life in the arrangement of the space. The left front room serves as painting storage and the front right room serves as active studio space. Moving towards the back of the apartment, there is a hall with closets and a bathroom and then it opens up into a sleek kitchen and combination living room/bedroom.


Dana lives there with her rescue greyhound, Veronica. I recognized Veronica from Instagram and meeting her felt like meeting a model/actress in the flesh—her beauty is otherworldly. Veronica greeted me as soon as I entered the space and stayed present in our conversation.

Is everything in Dana’s world beautiful? Dana, Veronica, the apartment, the paintings—they are all stunning.

Dana’s paintings are big. They are definitely bigger than Veronica. And they are as big as they could be in the space she inhabits.

We settled into the studio to begin our conversation. I noticed immediately that the train runs parallel to the studio window. There are constantly people on the train looking right in. It must be a strange experience to work and feel watched in that way and it must change the work somehow—there is a built in audience and the act of making becomes a performance.

I’ve never lived near the above ground trains in NYC, and staring into the train reminds me of when I lived in Chicago and how so many peoples’ apartments there looked into the train. I would ride the train and daydream as I peeped into peoples’ lives.

Dana is of course immune to the train, as anyone who lives their life looking onto it would be. And when we enter our conversation, I realize later that I’ve forgotten all about it and even stopped noticing the sound of it.

We sit with our backs at the windows. On the left side of the studio, Dana has set up three older pieces that were in her most recent solo show. And on the right side, there is a cluster of new works of various sizes.

Dana begins by telling me that she is in the middle of a transition phase. The big older works in the room with us are from her most recent solo show in October 2017. There were 4 in the show—two are in the room with us and they are all six feet tall. She calls them poured color fields. The top portion of each painting is thin and washy and the lower portions are heavy and thick with texture.

Since then she has moved over to working in the style of the paintings on the right of the studio. These she refers to as crop outs. She makes them by making big paintings and finding sections that are perfect as they are—and then “photoshoping” it in real life by combining fabric pieces. She also has some smaller pieces and collages that were the first ones she made after her show. The flow of the room progresses left to right chronologically.

Dana says that painting again after a show is always weird for her. She describes herself as a contradictory person who after going one way then must go the opposite way.

We talk about the older work first. She seems undoubtedly sure about it and it feels like the logical place to begin to understand her process and thinking. These paintings are really process minded. Dana’s palette is unusual and includes iridescence. It’s hard to see in the current grey light of the studio, but as she talks about it and I move around the paintings, I can see it. There is an inherent shimmer to the work.

I ask about the making of them and we discuss that the studio floor is covered in taped plastic. She makes her work directly on the floor. In the case of these paintings, the top is water media (ink/dye) and the lower portions are encaustic layers with fabric and collage and paint.

She begins by pouring them on the floor and determines the orientation of the piece, then the lower section is rendered with a brush.

We begin to delve into the content of the paintings and Dana says she wanted a contrast between the top and bottom of them. They are based on memories of water and Americana. She didn’t want to just pour this series—it was important to her that there was a contrast of materials and that there was a primal and child-like energy in the mark making beyond the pours.

Dana describes the paintings as mundane meets metaphysical sci-fi. They are based on swimming pools and the contrast of the air meeting man-made bodies of water. These are the vast dangerous memories of being a child and they look ocean-based and limitless but as an adult these spaces are considerably smaller.

Dana confesses to me that she is a native New Yorker from TriBeCa. These images/memories are from a childhood lost to her. They are how she imagines suburbia to be—the idea of swimming pools and backyards and isolation. She has a desire and a curiosity about these spaces/environments that were not her own. The sense of isolation and what she describes as the sci-fi twist comes from the absence of life in these imagined spaces.

I ask Dana about her astrology birth chart—I’m curious what her attraction to water is—and she tells me that she is an Aries fire sun and a Gemini air moon and a Libra air rising. She tells me that Manhattan is an island and she has always had this sense of being surrounded by water.

She thinks the pouring water element in her work comes from initiating a lack of control. She came from doing figurative work and then progressed to watercolor and then pouring. It is a trained skill, to have a controlled accident from using water media.

Dana has a strong love for materials. She speaks fondly of the poured materials sinking into the canvas. But what exactly are these materials? Is it a secret? Yes, actually. She wants the viewer to feel a sense of mystery. She is using chemistry—the essence of painting—to make surfaces that are all at once glowing, flat, waxy, thick, thin, shiny and matte. These works are about contrast. And the alchemical process that Dana concocts in her studio creates a chain reaction on the surface.

For Dana, the canvas or the paper is a light source—and once she extinguishes it, she can’t get it back. She uses these mysterious materials to bring that light source through.

Her newer work is born of the process of saving the best bits from paintings—these orphans—and sewing them together. As a process oriented artist, she has a lot of remnants and pieces left floating around and this new body of work embodies recycling. These are paintings she could never deliberately make, and that is what she likes about them. She confesses that she is the worst sewer ever and that she hates the actual process of sewing, but it gives her paintings that could never happen without the actual quilting of pieces together. The editing and arranging is what makes them beautiful. The new works are so different. Not only are they much more abstract, but they are an entirely different way of working and thinking than her previous works.

I ask Dana about her awareness of the sexuality and seduction in all of her paintings. And she says that she sees her work as both feminine and dark and dangerous. It is beauty with an edge. She likes things that are obviously beautiful. She is drawn to beauty. And she lets herself be. She describes an attraction to the feminine kind of glow of Mother Nature and her pursuit of replicating it.

I ask Dana about her style of working. She tells me that she works on one piece at a time. She is obsessive and she can’t separate herself from her work while she is in it. There are times when she has to be patient—because there is drying time before the next moves can be made. That is extremely hard for her. I can picture her, moving around the piece, circling as her mind calculates the next move.

I feel like Dana addresses landscape in a way that is inherently from the perspective of a New Yorker. Landscape for her is either man-made or not man-made. And her fascination with landscape comes in part, from growing up in a place that is completely man-made. She has a nostalgic memory of a place—a country house outside the city—that her dad built when she was a kid. On summer and some weekends, it was an otherworldly escape from her childhood. And after her father passed, the space felt heavy with family and objects. That nostalgic feeling of sad/strange/beautiful darkness is heavy in Dana’s work.

Dana has chosen to address absence in her work. There is mood and a sense of place or energy, but there is an omission of the human form. She describes it as Malibu, but weird and dark—this feeling that she is conjuring. Hearing Dana describe her work makes me instantly think of Lana del Rey and the Black Dahlia.

The absence of the human form is notable because she began as an artist focused on figuration. She abandoned the figure when she was 25. She described her early work to me as deathly dark portraits of women rendered in pencil. She says she was always such a New York girl—into fashion, make-up and body painting in her teens and early twenties. That all changed when her father got sick. She remembers seeing the loose sheets of x-rays and making abstract poured drawings based on brain forms in response. That was her first foray into abstraction and she received a lot of encouragement in response. The bleeding of the ink allowed her to be loose and open up in a way that she couldn’t find when working with the figure. I ask her if she misses the human form and she says she still makes smaller representational works and pulls out a portfolio of drawings to show me. She tells me one day she could see herself returning to the figure.

Dana tells me she was born drawing. She and her sister grew up in a loft in TriBeCa, children of two artists. Her mom is a painter and Dana grew up in her mom’s art studio. Art was “super normal” to her and she thought everyone knew how the art world worked. She was fortunate to grow up understanding the complexities of the gallery world and how it affects one’s personal life. In fact, her mom didn’t want her to become an artist. She knew it was a difficult path and she wanted something more stable for Dana. But Dana was organized, disciplined and hardworking and she chose the life of an artist. Art has been what she has always done.

For more information about Dana, please visit her website.


Kristen Jensen visited by Maria Britton

I came across Kristen’s sculptures roughly five years ago during Bushwick Open Studios. She had a teeny ceramic piece or two on display. My memory is not accurate, but from time to time, they pop up in my mind as tiny porcelain bites glazed with a little gold. During our visit in her sun-filled studio in Bushwick, we talk about her path to ceramics, sewing, collections of ephemeral items, shoulder pads, and more.

Kristen’s studio space has moved between various locations over the years, but for now is located in her apartment. One wall of her studio has shelving for storage and the opposite wall has a table and sewing machine. Kristen collects all kinds of fabrics, but her soft sculptures are mostly made of denim and used clothing. On the windowsill is a remnant of one of her broken sculptures, a ceramic vessel made in the shape of a foot. It broke around the ankle. I imagine most sculptors working in clay have unfortunate stories of pieces shattering from an accidental bump. Kristen shares a few of her stories with me. Kristen’s sculptures most predominantly consist of both fabric and clay, but she works in other materials as well as performance. She sews at this studio and does her ceramic work at a clay studio.


We start the visit looking at some spindly-legged cedar tables that support smaller sculptures. She torched the cedar tables, accentuating the texture of the woodgrain and giving them a charcoal finish. Like the cedar tables, the surfaces of her clay pieces and soft sculptures retain a memory of their histories. Her attraction to clay has to do with its relation with the body and its ability to hold marks. She says, “it remembers how you handle it. It remembers when you fire it.” Kristen takes a slow pace in hand building clay vessels as opposed to throwing pots on a wheel, which is much faster. She says that the atmospheric firing processes she prefers foil the meditative nature of how she builds with clay. Atmospheric firing methods, like pit firing or wood firing, mark the surface of the clay during the actual firing, leaving a smokey image on the clay’s surface.  

The frustrations and failures of working with clay inform her process. Kristen unwraps a large vessel from its packed up storage state, peeling back a moving blanket to reveal this cracked and put back together vessel. It broke in the firing. The shards look like they should fit together perfectly, but they don’t. Kristen says that while firing, this piece broke in dynamic ways. She put the pieces back together to create this fractured vessel. She intentionally uses clay not suitable for making large forms to make large forms, understanding the likelihood of “failure”. Clay is a volatile medium, and Kristen purposefully pushes the limits of clay’s physical properties. 

Thinking about clay’s ability to hold a history makes me think about the memory of the fabric too. The used fabrics in her soft sculptures also contain a recorded history. Kristen collects different kinds of fabrics and chooses to work primarily with denim because it is such a recognizable fabric. For her, denim is a democratic fabric. We get on the topic of the current state of denim and the difficulty of finding actual denim with the rise of fast fashion and stretchy fake jeans. She’s drawn to older items of clothing for her fabric source, including bits of fabric from her and her husband’s clothing. She shows me one patch cut from her beloved silk blouse with a faint floral pattern. The larger soft sculptures are stuffed with bean bag filler, and the smaller soft sculptures, which I see up close in her studio, are stuffed with shredded bills and papers, rocks, and sometimes tea for fragrance.  

I ask Kristen about her background in art. She went to school in Syracuse and studied printmaking and drawing. Between undergrad and grad school, she made art with a specific idea in mind, which usually led her to learning a new process or working with a new material. This is what brought her to clay. Using porcelain, she slip cast old bathing caps in a series of 12. After that piece, she moved to other materials then returned to clay towards the end of grad school. She repeated that previous mold making process, but it wasn’t working. She started pressing the clay into the molds and then moved to hand building.  

She shows me a small ceramic bowl with a leather strap that she will probably wear or include in a future performance although all of the details have not been fully articulated in her head. She opens a jar with little unfired balls of porcelain. She went on a trip with friends to Staten Island to dig up some clay. On that trip she found several different types of clay. One of the clays is too crumbly to build with so she plans on making a slip, a mixture of clay, water, and other materials that can be used in many different ways with clay.  

We shift focus to some nearby works in progress based on her collection of wire hangers. Kristen tells me that she has a real attraction to ephemeral items, garbage, and mundane things. This series of silver hangers are based on bent and misshapen wire hangers Kristen collects. The original wire hangers are bent and shaped by whatever previous forces they met. She sees them as portraits full of personality. They have distinct shapes and curves formed most likely by someone’s hand to fulfill an immediate need. Kristen recreates the wire hangers out of silver. She has some experience working in metal-smithing. She talks about the final presentation and finishing touches they need.

Kristen brings up another collection she has been amassing. 
Somewhere in her studio is a large trash bag full of shoulder pads. Although the bag full of them is tucked away, out of reach -- probably better for the sake of the studio visit -- I am thrilled to meet a fellow shoulder pad enthusiast! There’s something about shoulder pads, whether cheaply manufactured or well-designed, that makes them beautiful objects. Kristen holds onto them for a future costume or who knows what. I have certain shoulder pads that have lived mixed in with my sewing supplies for years.

Recently Kristen invested in a sewing machine intended for making sails, while it was on sale. She has worked with a Janome and an industrial sewing machine in the past. Her machine for sewing sails can handle multiple layers of heavy fabrics. Sewing machines can be so specific in their functions that people who sew a lot seem to rely on a couple machines for different needs, like sewing heavy or delicate fabrics or special stitches. Another part of Kristen’s practice includes sewing bonnets and pinafores for herself, like her own uniform. 

The first few soft sculptures Kristen made were adapted from bean bag chair patterns. Now she makes her own patterns. She says it’s an interesting process and takes some getting used to. “Even if you’ve done sculpture, it’s totally different--like reverse engineering something. This is the idea of the final form I want to make. How do I literally make a two dimensional thing that will add up to that?” Kristen talks about how the nuances of pattern making and sewing can make or break attempts at elegant forms. 

We wrap up the studio visit with Kristen telling me about her work’s relationship to the body. Looking at her work, she speaks about where a body could fit. She points to one piece and says maybe that’s a neck rest. She refers to another vessel, saying it’s roughly the size of a torso. While we don’t talk directly about the performance component of her work, her pointing out where a body could go illuminates the potential development of a performance. Her sculptures look like they are doing what they are supposed to do, and her own body and actions fit right in as a fleeting yet vital component.

For more information about Kristen, please visit her website.


Gyan Shrosbree visited by Paolo Arao 


I first came across Gyan Shrosbree’s work on Instagram. I was intrigued by her bold sense of color and curious about the materials she used to make her work. I visited Gyan this past October during her residency at The Maple Terrace in Brooklyn. During our visit we discovered several things we shared in common: moving to NYC in 2000; being at the Vermont Studio Center in January (though not the same year); working with restrictions (materially and in the rectangular frame of the canvas); and a shared interest in textiles/quilting/sewing.

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you go to school and where are you currently located?

I live in Fairfield, Iowa where I teach at Maharishi University. I attended Bennington College right out of high school. I was lucky to work with so many amazing professors in the early part of their careers there —  Amy Sillman, Rochelle Feinstein, and Annabeth Rosen were some of my first college professors.  I was heavily influenced and inspired by these powerful women.  I ended up transferring, but those two years at Bennington were never forgotten and were fundamental to my education.   I received my BFA from The Kansas City Art Institute in Painting, and my MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, also in Painting.  I am really grateful for all of the wonderful schools I attended and people I worked with, both peers and faculty, during that time.

How and when did you decide to become an artist? Do you come from an artistic family?

It was never a question.  That is due to my family for sure.  My father is an artist and my mother is a furniture designer and basically an artist.  I was raised being exposed to the life and it was almost like not an option, kind of like I was in training from the time I can remember.  Or maybe more realistically, being an artist was heavily supported in my family, and never something that was questioned.  This was the case, both regarding who I was surrounded by, in terms of family friends, and also in terms of my parents.  I was pushed and challenged, as well as encouraged and nurtured.  I feel really lucky to have had the upbringing and the kind of constant education from the time I can remember.  

I’m intrigued with your bold use of color and materials. Can you please tell me more about how you think about color and the materials used in your process?

I think about color AS a material.  So much of what I do and am inspired by is driven by color—instinctive relationships, intellectual understanding, play, absolute obsession, repulsion, emotion— all of it!  Material is as important to me as color. I use all kinds of materials, but I am always thinking about paint. In my mind I am always painting with these materials.  A new material or color is often the instigator for a new series.  They can function as a refresh button or something in my process.

You’re exploring a variety of gestures with tape. It’s such a direct form of mark-making. The tape is layered, it’s used as color blocking and in some areas the tape appears to function as “stitching.” Is there any significance to the use of this material? 

I don’t know if it is significant that it is tape in terms of a conceptual reason, but I do love the immediacy of the tape. I love the way the marks can build on one another.  I love the residue and smothering and textures that can happen. I love how it can really end up translating as “paint’ or lead you to a conversation about paint.

I’m fascinated with your use of “masculine” hardware store materials. Conceptually are you thinking about these as gendered materials? Can you elaborate?

Yes.  I like that too.  I find it sort of funny.  Like these are typically ‘masculine’ materials for the most part, and then I am kind of ‘feminizing’ them with my color choices and ‘glamorous’ moves (glitter, reflective silver, fringe, etc).  I am also bringing in references to  crafts that have been traditionally thought of as  ‘women’s work’ such as sewing, quilting, and sometimes weaving to further contradict the initial purpose  of the materials.  I am both interested in celebrating these gender moves, and also destroying the ideas that surround them with the hope that we can evolve beyond labels.  

In the works you have hanging up in the studio – you have paintings on canvas in the traditional sense – but they are incised and fragments of the cutouts are collaged onto the edges – breaking the frame of the rectangle. I love this gesture – it’s like you’re nudging at the restriction of the frame. It seems to me like you’re playing with restrictions. Is it important to place restrictions in your process?

YES.  For me restrictions lead to an abundance of work.  They allow me to get into my body and out of my head; to feel grounded in the process of getting the work out.  I love the frame, and playing off of the frame.  It gives me something to come back to in the work, something to work with and against.  I also like the way a frame directs the conversation back to painting.  Rules are made to be broken of course, but they give me the ability to treat the studio like a game and they ground me in the process of getting the job done.  

I see the canvas as a body.  Something to dress up.  With a front and a back.  An interior and an exterior.  For the most part I like hanging them on the wall, and calling them paintings.  Even using the wall to play with shadow and light and color reflectivity and glow.  They walk a line between painting and sculpture and are very much objects to me. 

There’s an obvious influence of textiles and the construction of quilts in your work – this is most evident in the large tarp-pieces. How did you first come to working with the tarp as a material? And what is it about this material that interests you?

Everything!  I like the fact that they are everyday materials.  Like you can just pick one up at any old hardware store. I like the utilitarian nature of a tarp. I like the plasticity of the materials and its relationship to the plastic nature of the acrylic paint that I use.  I like thinking about making these plastic quilts or blankets that are so heavily worked and tended to, and at the same time made with materials that many people would consider temporary or just plain shitty.  I like taking those materials and transforming them into fully worked, bedazzled, vibrant paintings that hopefully transcend the materials that they are made with, but at the same time are still recognizable and MAYBE that makes the work more accessible to a wider range of viewers, and MAYBE it gives an edge of humor to the work that I like to include in the range of emotions that are possible when viewing my work.   

These tarp pieces came from a place of wanting to integrate a more direct drawing practice back into my studio, specifically thinking about drawing with color. I was at a residency and went to the hardware store to find inspiration in a new material. The tape is a perfect partner, marrying to the surface of the tarp, while it is both forgiving and unforgiving. The materials themselves force me to continue to work the surface through the addition of marks. The buildup of the marks adds a physical weight that makes the pieces sag and slump in a tactile way. There is an inability to control the materials to some extent that I find exciting, and adds not only a sense of play to the work, but a sense of process.

You’ve done several residencies. Can you talk about how they have helped/hindered your process? Do you have a favorite residency?

Residencies are awesome!  I never realized how important they were, or how much I could get from having the experiences that they provide. I feel so grateful to have attended every single one of them, and each one was beyond valuable for both me and my work.  Many things can happen depending on timing and what your current needs are.  For me the benefits have been huge in terms of my work and also in terms of friendships.  At each one that I have attended, I have made real, lifelong friendships and made big discoveries in my work that have been lasting and set me onto new territory in the studio.  I don’t have a favorite, but both The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo were unbelievable, once in a lifetime experiences that I will never forget.  I am forever grateful for those places and their generosity.  

Do you listen to anything (music, podcasts, etc. when you work?

It depends.  Sometimes I like complete silence, sometimes music is the right mood.  The music that I listen to varies and seems to be driven by an instinctual connection to the work that I am making at the time.  It needs to be the same music for the entire series usually and then I tend to not want to hear it for a very long time after the series is finished. It is almost like the equivalent of silence because it just becomes a part of the process and is not overpowering in terms of being another element.  I like listening to podcasts, interviews with artists mostly when I am doing things that are more task related—like preparing surfaces and stuff.  

Who are some of your artistic influences?

I am, of course, constantly feeding off of artists and books and shows and films and experiences that I have had in my life. Matisse is one of those influences that has been there from the beginning.  Jessica Stockholder also an early influence.  Elizabeth Murray, Joan Snyder, Cindy Sherman, so many! The Hilma Af Klint show was a mind blower!  My friends and my family are huge in terms of inspiration and influence. 

Knowing what you know now, what piece of advice would you give to your younger artist self?

I would say hold onto the connections that you have with other artists and the people who know your work well.  Nurture those relationships, and be generous.  We are each other's support systems!  

For more information about Gyan please check out her website or Instagram.


Naudline Pierre, On Belonging

by Jenn Dierdorf

Naudline Pierre’s large-scale figurative painting encapsulates nebulous worlds where Spirit is revered and connection, touch, and belonging reign. I was introduced to Pierre’s work in 2017 at an exhibition called Landing organized by the curatorial collective Life Lessons in NYC.  The exhibition was held in a former convent in Manhattan and may have been the ideal way to view Pierre’s work. Seven different artists’ work was hung in and around the vacated bedrooms where nuns had previously lived for the past 100 years. Pierre’s work occupied one of these rooms.  A large canvas filled with luminescent figures, perhaps aiding her female protagonist, in what appeared to be a tender moment of ritual. Pierre’s large-scale figurative works run parallel to religious icon painting and have strong references to European Renaissance painting, but they are wildly different, and quite exhilarating.

Pierre is the daughter of a pastor and had a rigorous religious upbringing.  She recognized the exclusionary intent behind such institutions as art, religion and education and sought to reconcile this fracture between representation and real life. This experience has influenced her work, but even more so is her innate ability to guide herself, to move towards the direction where she will find her voice. She obtained a technically formal education with the determination to gain an undeniable level of skill in painting which she hoped would prove her worth as an artist.  Luckily she broke through that glass ceiling in the last few years, moving towards a style of painting that feels ripe with wisdom and reaches far beyond language. In many ways Pierre has created an alternate universe, replete with the compassion and love she has taken from her real experience.

I met with Pierre at her Ridgewood Queens studio on a rainy Friday afternoon.  The modest sized studio was sparse, her materials and work space were orderly and neat. A few paintings hung on the wall and some monumental unpainted “canvases in waiting” leaned against the wall. Beautiful light spilled in from an overhead skylight.  

Tread Lightly, 2017,Oil on canvas, 48 x 38 inches

How did you arrive to where you are at with painting?

I always had a connection to figurative art, especially Renaissance painting,but I knew it wasn't created for me. I wanted to see myself in those paintings.  I think that’s why I create this other world, another experience. In terms of my education, I thought that my value as an artist was going to be in the incredible skill of rendering the figure in a more photo-realistic way.  I learned “the rules” of painting and then I got to a place where I needed to get outside of the rules. I was awarded a residency in France, on the property of Monet’s gardens. I was painting a lot of foliage at the time, but before I got there I resolved to paint solely from my imagination.  It was a catalyst to creating the work I’m making now. After graduating with my MFA, I leaned into all the things I was hesitant of in grad school; my religious upbringing, my Blackness, my color sense. In order to more clearly hear my voice, I stepped away from all the feedback and critique and comments from others and locked myself in my studio.  

I’m always fascinated by how artists use their studio practice as a tool for their own intellectual and psychic well-being - you reference a problematic genre of painting, European renaissance, which you’ve adapted in ways that address those issues, can you talk about why you chosen to reinterpret that style and what you’re adding to it?

When I make this imagery I’m making the things that I want to see in the world. I tell myself that I don’t have to carry the burdens of systems that I didn’t create. I don’t have to actively think about being Black or the political climate when I paint for it to filter in, because I absorb and experience all those things. Which is why I have to be selective about who I surround myself with and who I let in - I block out certain things to be able to create this work.  With painting, I’m not trying to replace anything - but I’m simply creating a world where I hold the power and get to do whatever I want. By proxy that is political, it is adding to the narrative, adding to the greater story of Black people in general. There are many burdens I have to carry every single day - the major aggressions, the microaggressions, the experiences that I have to take on, just to get to my studio. I don’t have to carry the world - all I have to do is make this painting.  And I’m making this painting for myself.

The Thrill of Affection, 2018, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches

How do you start a painting?

I keep a small notebook and draw up tiny thumbnail drawings of different compositions that I want to explore. If I’m feeling stuck I might look at some of my favorite artists like Caravaggio, Ensor, Titan and Blake. I went to the Prado this summer and since photos aren’t allowed inside I was scribbling like crazy in my notebook looking at compositions.  One work, “The Descent from the Cross” by van der Weyden has some great moments, the body of Christ, the tears, the nubby fingers, all of it was giving me inspiration, but when I saw the figure holding Christ’s elbow from above, it was a beautiful tender moment.  That became the composition for an entire painting. Sometimes I may take directly from these historical, religious paintings, but most times it’s inspired by them. Or it may be a feeling or sensation I’m reaching for, like how the sky meets the earth or a certain type of light.  Every painting starts with her (gestures toward that female protagonist in her paintings) I’ve tried making them without her and it just doesn’t work.


I’ve heard you describe your work as “painting emotions”, which I agree describes your work beautifully.  There’s a feeling of temporality and ephemerality that your work touches on as if your imagery goes beyond language. Can you talk about what your experience is like, as an artist, working beyond the boundaries of verbal or intellectual understanding?


The place beyond the boundaries of verbal and intellectual understanding  is a very comfortable place for me because that’s where I was raised. A place where you believe in miracles and all of the stories and biblical tales of people being healed and raised from the dead and receiving signs.  It’s a place where I can have control because I’m making the images, but I can be held by the images as well. I don’t have to understand them completely and I don’t have to know what’s going on or have an answer. I’m in love with paint and pigments. The act of painting is like a prayer to me.  To move this material around on a blank canvas and produce images, it is like a miracle. It’s definitely a spiritual practice and it’s a way for me to connect to love, benevolence and God.  Painting is how it all makes sense to me.

Black Crown, Black Hat, 2017, Oil and enamel on canvas, 48 x 38 inches

Your color palette is dark but also colorful and I think serves the emotional content of your work.  Can you talk about how you’ve settled on these colors, how you chose them for a painting? Is color symbolic for you?

Color is definitely an intuitive process for me, and it’s difficult to put into words. I love the way artificially-made pigments vibrate against earth pigments. I paint with colors I gravitate to and colors that make me feel. I’m sure there is a symbolic reason woven into my color choices, like how red is a power color, but I’m fine just letting my gut take the lead, supplemented by more formal understanding of color relationships.

Additional Information:
Pierre is currently working towards two major projects in 2019: a two-person presentation at The NYC Armory in March and a solo exhibition in September in L.A., both with Shulamit Nazarian. For more on Naudline Pierre’s work visit her website or @cluvie on social media.

Eye See, 2017, Oil and enamel on canvas, 40 x 26 inches


The Uncanny Still Lifes of Amanda Baldwin

A profile of Amanda Baldwin by Nick Naber

Amanda and I met on a rainy Monday in Ridgewood. She shares her studio with another painter, and her brand new puppy. As we walk into her space, which is in the back, I am struck by the amount of work on the walls. Many in completed or close to completed states. Amanda has a day job in the neighborhood and is able to be in the studio a lot. This is evident by the number of paintings in her space. 

Amanda’s studio is bright even in the grey rain, there is a luminosity that emanates from her meticulous still life paintings. She didn’t always make this work, previously she made geometric abstract paintings. Baldwin said she began this new body a little over a year ago, after becoming bored with her abstract work. As we get to talking, something that I have heard time and time again comes up. “Why would you ever paint still life?,” or, “Why would you ever paint the figure?” A grad school classic! 

After throwing off the yoke of the “why would you paint this?” Amanda feels more free to explore the ideas that come to her. These paintings feel fresh, while giving a nod to those still life painters who came before. She’s aware of the references in her work and plays them up. As we sit down, we get into the various facets of her paintings. 

Amanda, has about 8 paintings up in her studio, some that are complete and others that are in progress. There are three medium sized works that are directly in front of us, all using the same pictorial device, a window. This is a new development in the work, something that gives these paintings illusionistic space, but not really. The window moulding is not defined, it’s reduced to a flattened symbol, but we all recognize what that shape is. The window in the space builds more of a push and pull on her canvas, previously Baldwin preferred tile, or a brick wall making the picture plane more cramped. These newer works employ many of the same elements her earlier paintings did. 

We talked about reusing of components in her work. Amanda says sometimes she will use an object or piece of fruit up to 5 times. I’m specifically drawn to the tiger vase that appears in one of her newer “window” works and in her earlier paintings. She said she wants to paint this vase to have that porcelain finish. Amanda and I then move to a conversation about how these objects are painted. Baldwin paints the objects in various ways, from hyper realism to flat, from almost collage to a sticker. These different approaches reveal themselves after close looking. Amanda, says many people when looking at the work on her website, or instagram assume that everything is handled in the same way. That’s not the case.

Ella's Edge, Oil on canvas, 42"x53"

Amanda works on 2 or 3 paintings at a time. This allows her to work out elements in one, and use that knowledge to influence the other paintings. It’s also a way for her to break up the monotony of spending too much time on one work. She’s begun to do some of the under painting in acrylics to help move the process along, and get to her ideas quicker. We both agree acrylic has come along way, but it doesn’t compare to the luminosity and boldness of oil. 

The way she handles the paint and how she decides to paint the objects adds to the mystery of these works. Sitting in her studio, I keep looking at the shadow of a palm leaf, trying to figure out if it’s in front or behind the window. She employs this play again in one of the first works that has a full sized figure in the space. Again, she plays with the shadow and where it falls. It looks correct on first glance but is a bit off when you spend more time with it. In many ways she is playing with her viewer, as long as they are willing to take the time to let the work unfold.  She also uses a neon like shadow that appears time and time again. As we were talking about a few of the works at the same time, it became apparent to me that it was a shorthand of a shadow, although at first I read it as something else. 

Lemon Lineup, Oil on canvas, 33"x42"

Baldwin is aware of this back and forth play, and she welcomes these interpretations of her work. Her paintings at first feel static, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every inch of the work is considered, even if it’s painted a flat color or shape. How these items get integrated is crucial to pulling off the work. Amanda does not do any type of preparatory work to get to a painting. She said she will get an idea and start. This has lead her to make a painting, and if it doesn’t work out, she throws it away and starts over. One time she did did this process 5 times. 

As we wind down our conversation, I can’t help but notice how genuinely happy and invested Baldwin is in her practice. Throwing off the grad school baggage of abstraction has served her well. Taking on a historical painting trope is tough, Amanda has met that challenge head on. Her work feels authentic and fresh, while playing with the past. 

For more information on Amanda please visit her website, or her instagram.

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