My interest in the arts started at a very young age. My mother is an interdisciplinary artist who had my siblings and I experimenting with all kinds of mediums (quilting, writing, drawing, painting, music) as children. I was especially interested in drawing and painting, so my mother enrolled me in classes at the Currier Museum in New Hampshire. I received my BA in Art from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, FL, in 2012, and my MFA in Visual Arts from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, in 2017.
I am inspired by people, music, nature, and of course, art. To get excited before painting in the mornings, I often click through artists’ studio shots on Instagram or flip through an art book. I also listen to some good music by Frank Ocean, Modest Mouse, Vampire Weekend, Devendra Banhart, Lana Del Rey or Fleet Foxes. I also might listen to an artist’s interview podcast (I love The Conversation: Art Podcast, The Savvy Painter, Artist Decoded), or watch a documentary.
I primarily work from my own photography, which means my paintings generally represent personal experiences and people I know directly. I usually start a painting with a pretty clear idea of what I want it to look like, but I rarely maintain the same vision throughout the work. I always incorporate some painting techniques that are impossible to control fully, like splatters and scraping and sanding, so that the texture and colors can surprise me. Those elements of surprise and experimentation are my favorite parts of the painting process.
As an artist, there is a Chuck Close quote that I try to live by: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.” Basically, regardless of how I’m feeling, I get up and work. I allow myself to experiment and play in my work, so it always stays interesting and new.
When experimenting, one of my undergraduate college professors, Jason John, a badass figurative painter, really stressed how important it is to have thick skin and to be able to take criticism. Another undergraduate professor, Louise Freshman Brown, always had us work in series. By making several paintings on one topic instead of just one painting, you have to delve a bit deeper into the theme. It makes you more likely to make discoveries and to push boundaries.
With experimentation comes the worry of criticism. This is normal. If I don’t feel concerned about what others think of my work, it probably means I am not stepping out of my comfort zone. I know I am progressing (or at least experimenting and changing) when I am worried about how my work might be perceived. I feel lucky that I picked a passion that I can keep working on and improving well into old age. Here, I have to repeat the advice that has been most helpful for me: work a lot and learn to take criticism.
Sometimes, I find that looking too far into the future can be discouraging. My husband Dalton (who is a writer, and such a supportive, and positive force for me), and I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2013 (Georgia to Maine), and we realized very quickly that for it to be enjoyable, we had to live in the moment. Thinking about the final destination of Mount Katahdin in Maine was overwhelming and made our day’s progress feel unsubstantial. Focusing on the small victories and accomplishments of daily/weekly progress was much more fulfilling. I try to do the same thing with my art. Celebrating every art show/ publication and focusing on small improvements and little discoveries keep it exciting and make all momentum feel substantial.
Earlier this year, I participated in a group show at Helikon Gallery in Denver, CO. That was exciting for me because that gallery is impressive and I am delighted to be affiliated with it. Coming up, I have a two-person show at the Susquehanna Museum of Art, in Harrisburg, PA, which is a really beautiful space. I also have a solo show at Gallery 77 in Rutland, VT. I am really excited about both of these opportunities.
I have been asked what would I like to achieve with my art, and how I would want to be remembered. I have to close by saying that I want to be thought of as original, creative, driven, and adventurous. I also like the idea of my artwork being accessible. I think sometimes art can feel elitist and separate from the real world. I really admire artists who are able to bridge that gap. – GM