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creator/curator/designer: Violet Shuraka
A Few Words From The Editor
Dear Friends and Fellow Art Enthusiasts, Happy 12th issue everyone, Cheap & Plastique is
almost a teenager now!
artists: Don Doe Kelsey Henderson Samuel Jablon Jesse McCloskey Anthony Miler Jessica Peters Salman Toor Frank Webster Friederike Von Rauch
In Issue 12 C & P features artists who hail from
interviewers: Heather Morgan Violet Shuraka Visit the cheap & plastique blog: cheapandplastique.wordpress.com Or to peruse old issues please see: www.issuu.com/violetshuraka www.cheapandplastique.com For more info and/or if you would like to be considered for a feature or a studio visit with Miss Shuraka please contact Violet Shuraka at:firstname.lastname@example.org
Front cover image by Jessica Peters Convergence, 2015, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 49 x 35 inches
Germany, Canada, Pakistan, and NYC. Issue 12 features multiple studio visits with some of C & Pâ€™s Brooklyn neighbors, who were nice enough to let us into their studio spaces to photograph them and see what they are currently working on. Thank you for your continued support of the arts, Cheap & Plastique, and all things extra fancy! Cheers, Cheap & Plastique
4 Photography Friederike Von Rauch
12 Painting / Studio Visit Salman Toor
18 Painting Jessica Peters
26 Painting / Studio Visit Anthony Miler
36 Painting / Studio Visit Kelsey Henderson
44 Painting / Studio Visit Don Doe
52 Painting / Studio Visit Samuel Jablon
60 Painting / Studio Visit Jesse McCloskey
68 Painting / Studio Visit Frank Webster
From In Secret
From In Secret
Friederike Von Rauch Q and A with Violet Shuraka You live and work in Berlin. How long have you been working there? My whole life, I grew up in former West Berlin, but I work wherever my projects take me. Where do you photograph your various series? Is each series shot in a different location? Most series include a variety of different locations. Within the series I often switch the place. So for example for my series Sleeping Beauties I selected museums in Europe. The Transept series deals with churches of postwar modernism in Germany, Ash on the other hand is shot only in Iceland. What inspires you to make a body of work about a particular space/place? Are these
spaces that are accessible to all or do you seek out permission to photograph certain areas that are maybe hidden/off limits from public view? Most of the time I have seen a location and keep it in the back of my head until suddenly it seems exactly the right time to base a project around it. A public and well-known place can generate this sort of fascination, if the particularity of the architecture or history of the place creates a special atmosphere. I think this one moment of enchantment is what it takes to pique my curiosity. Many places you can simply visit, but many require painstaking preparation and permissions to gain access to for a photography project.
From Neues Museum
Is there any architectural space or place that you have always wanted to photograph? There are still quite a few, most of the time my creative work only starts after tedious process to gain permission. For it to even happen at all, you need a certain amount of patience. So, really, everything is still possible! Many of your photographs capture light cascading down a wall or in a corner of a room, various abstract details within an interior, details that many may not notice when passing through a space. What interests you about architecture and the small details that emerge when a space is looked at in a certain angle and with certain light? Are you more interested in the details rather than a place as a whole? ...I am not sure since it is only through the whole architecture of a building I’m there at all. Then, however, and especially lately, it pulls me into corners, walls, and little details that I seem to notice. But initially I have to free myself of all stimulatory sensations, which can take awhile. When I do see my motive, I recognize it straight away, and then its meaning becomes clear to me—even more if it has been sitting there right in front of me the whole time. For example: I find something that seems interesting at first, but that is not worth photographing. Then, something changes unexpectedly—the light, perhaps—and it might just happen that suddenly I am mesmerized by the whole setting. There is a certain mood evoked through light and shadow in the spaces you choose to photograph. What draws your eye to these minimal, abstracted, geometric, compositions? It is as if I am not looking for it, but just find it. I then feel a moment of relief. Reduction and pureness is what attracts me. The light in your images is very beautiful. Do you ever use artificial lighting or are all your images shot utilizing only natural light? I use the given light which can be natural light, but also artificial. What I never do, however, is to light the setting myself. I am infatuated and surprised by light and its effect on me. I love to observe the light on nearly invisible and subtle areas. Do you shoot on film or with a digital SLR? Do you use the computer as a tool when creating your images? Do you ever edit an image in Photoshop or are we seeing a print of what is created in a negative? I work analogue, so classic on negative, but then I switch to digital, I scan my negative and print digitally.
Certainly I change little things, but the real work is, however, while taking pictures. You often shoot concrete walls and concrete structures. Many find concrete to be ugly and brutal, however, your images of concrete are quite the opposite. What attracts you to concrete as a surface? Frankly, I never had difficulties with concrete, I find the material very beautiful—from very coarse to very fine. I love the gray color and the aging process. Maybe concrete is underestimated? You have some photo series that are shot in Iceland. One series consisting of Icelandic landscapes, Ash Iceland, is especially beautiful. Did you travel to Iceland specifically to make a body of work there? Have you developed a special relationship with Iceland, as many photographers do, because of it’s extraordinary natural beauty and magical light? Yes, I actually applied for a residency in Iceland, because it has attracted me so much. Since then I have made 2 big trips there. The country has an unseen sky and an infinite emptiness and otherness. The light is really out of this world. Which part of Iceland are the Ash Iceland photographs shot in? Directly on the volcano in Iceland, the one responsible for the large ash cloud over Europe in 2010 (Eyjafjallajökull Volcano). Many of your image series seem like fading dream sequences. Would you like the viewer to develop a narrative when viewing your photographs or would you prefer the images to be looked at individually as abstract compositions? I see them as a independent, not a narrative composition, the images also work in isolation from their series. How one looks at them, is up to the viewer. Generally there are no humans in your photographs. Is there a reason for this absence? Have you ever photographed people? Would you ever consider including people within the frame of one of your images? The fact there are hardly any people in the photographs has to do with my devotion to places and my wish to dedicate my full attention to the space. Practically, I prefer to work alone and in complete silence so, when possible, outside of public opening hours. So far it does not interest me to integrate people in my work, but their marks you can see very well.
Could you describe the process of working on the series In Secret? The Neues Museum Project from 2009 has kicked off this series. Two years later, I followed an invitation to Dresden where I was working for one week, totally undisturbed in the old picture gallery. By then I was infected. The majority of these images were taken in museums: places that preserve, reflect and exhibit Europe’s cultural history, such as art galleries, sculpture depots, restoration studios, archives, and other similar spaces—The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, BOZAR in Brussels, the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden, and the New Palace in Potsdam, as well as the Academia di Belle Arti and Palazzo Grimani in Venice—are all featured.
Sieveking Verlag published a book of these photographs titled In Secret in 2013. Was this your first book? Do you enjoy the process of creating a book? This is my 3rd book. My first book Sites was published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, showing works from Berlin, Brussels, and Rotterdam, my 2nd book features images taken of the New Museum in Berlin. The 3rd book, In Secret, brings together the work of the Sleeping Beauties and the Transept series with a few other images. Making a book is always a big challenge for the artist—the selection of images, design, papers, text, and printing is pure stress—and it is very important to find a partner who you can trust. I was very pleased with and felt supported by Sieveking Verlag.
From Ash Iceland
There seems to have been a reemergence in the popularity of the photo book in the past few years. Do you have a preference to which way you view photographs, do you prefer seeing a photographer’s prints in a gallery setting versus reproductions in art book form? That’s not a equal comparison. I work very long and hard until I produce the perfect print on just the right paper. I do find the photo book a wonderful independent medium to show my work. However, the offset does not correspond to the original and that’s a good thing. What are your thoughts about photographers utilizing Instagram? Do you have an Instagram account? I do not have an Instagram account, nor an opinion about it
You exhibited photographs in a 2 person show at i-8 in Reykjavik, Iceland in December, what work did you show? And how did the collaboration with this painter come about? It was a show of my work along with the artwork of my friend, Eggert Pétursson. Eggert paints, I photograph and the collaboration was really new and exciting for me, several works from the past 5 years were on display. What projects are you working on currently? I’m working on a series with monasteries. I am, of course, searching out the monasteries according to their architecture, but the ability to live and work there at the same time while completing the work is wonderful, this allows me to respond directly to light and atmosphere.
Rickshaw Driverâ€™s Dream, 2013, Oil on linen, 48 x 59 in.
Salman TOOR Q and A with Violet Shuraka
I’ll always make pictures of the body in some sense. I didn’t choose to visit the subject. I was always drawing in school notebooks for fun then I became very good at it, making pictures of the body became almost a ritual for me.
You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally? I’ve been here for almost nine years now. I came to NYC for school and to look for a job at a gallery in Chelsea after graduating from Ohio Weslyan in 2006 with BFA. I ended up doing marketing for a magazine called NY Art Magazine (that recently died down) and knew for sure that I never wanted to work in an office environment again. You have maintained a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn since 2011, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood over the past few years? Oh yes. It’s like a creeping self conscious American Montmartre, spreading trade in a new disguise: Art. You also spend time in Lahore, Pakistan (where you are from) every year. Do you have a studio there as well? Is there a big art community in Lahore? A small, tightly-knit community, yes. It centers around government run school with a gorgeous colonial building. It’s called the National College of Art or NCA, where new talent is fostered and where most teachers are ambitious artists who have at least a local cult following and sometimes international recognition. I do have a studio in Lahore. Space and time are cheaper there so I have a cavernous, light-filled set-up there. The current body of work in your studio consists mainly of figurative oil paintings. How long have you been painting the figure? What first interested you in painting a subject that has been revisited again and again throughout art history? I’ll always make pictures of the body in some sense. I didn’t choose to visit the subject. I was always drawing in school notebooks for fun then I became very good at it, making pictures of the body became almost a ritual for me. You painting technique calls to mind the old masters of Europe, could you talk a bit about your decision to depict the figure, generally a subject of Western art, through your nonWestern eye in this Old Master style? I think that was the result of me, as someone from the Third World, arriving in a museum of the First World, which was filled with an unfathomable number of gorgeous pictures. I was overwhelmed by this experience and felt something akin to rapture, totally inspired by the largely Christian pictures, which made me want to compete with the hundreds of dead aesthetes!
Does your work inform a certain kind of audience or do you think your work can be seen, understood, and appreciated by anyone? The more specific narrative pieces work with certain scenarios and kinds of people that are very local to South Asia so I believe the paintings create more magic when they are shown there. Otherwise I feel the pictures are totally accessible to everyone, because, in the end, they are about the yummy-ness of paint and surface. Who are the people in your paintings? Do you ever paint from a live model? Or do you utilize imagery of figures from advertising, film, commercials, and photography as your subjects? Do you feel that a painting created by observing a live model differs greatly from one painted using photographic or collaged sources? Yes, I think the kind of figurative painting I like, whether its Realist or Expressionist, is better achieved with a live model. A photograph is already two dimensional (and don’t even get me started on the uselessness of Photorealism). The object and the eye keep shifting slightly from one glance to the next with a live model. Though I’ve now moved on to a kind of painting in which I don’t use any source material at all. Do you ever paint self portraits? I have in the past. At this point I’m so used to my own features I have to struggle to paint faces that don’t look like mine. Is there a narrative running through your work? Yes. There are several narratives: a) the idiosyncrasy of being from a Post-Colonial culture, having the added baggage of being from a culture that is perceived to be in a state of decay or turmoil, the baggage and profound understanding that comes from imagining myself as a kind of representative of that part of the world and mingling the best of what’s happening in Bushwick with that of Lahore and Karachi. b) making fun of the wish to be a painter (in the European sense) from South Asia. Toying with the idea, the need to be progressive, the need for beauty/ aesthetic. c) the boredom and excitement of being an artist, and working in Bushwick and living in the East Village. Your show “The Happy Servant,” at Aicon Gallery in May of 2013, was the first body of work that I saw of yours. I really enjoyed the humor in these paintings—glamour and poverty co-existing side by side, everyone depicted wearing large smiles. Do you think your sense of humor or satire regarding the
Girl and Boy with Driver, 2013, Oil on canvas, 53 x 58 in.
Girl with Beggar, 2013, Oil on linen, 18 x 24 in.
Driver and Maid, 2013, Oil on canvas, 24 x 29 in.
class-divides in the region is something shared amongst South Asians in general or is this more of a subversive way of handling the subject that could possibly be upsetting to some people? It isn’t shared at all. it’s completely ignored because it’s useless (profitless) to most people. For those pictures I wanted to mine the haunting qualities of a smile to allude to a darker sensibility.
Totally. Both fantasies are informed by South Asian fiction/ literature, contemporary novels like Daniyal Mueenuddin’s Other Rooms, Other Wonders and Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke. A lot of the little vignettes I pick up are from books when they are not autobiographical. I consider the resulting paintings to be fantasies, ideas, not related to the real objective world.
Your paintings from this series seem to be about fantasies, both as lived by well-off individuals and as dreamed by those of the lower-classes. What cultural forces do you think inform these two sets of fantasies? Do they come out of Bollywood or Western-centric advertising marketed towards South Asians? How do they differ from one another and do they go both ways? That is to say, are the servants and those they serve both projecting things onto each other that may not be their actual realties?
Spending as much time in Pakistan as you do, could you talk about the violence and social and political deterioration there that seem to be getting worse every week? Do you think there is still hope for open discussion and secularism or is the country reaching a tipping point from which it might not come back for some time? What do you think this entails for the future of visual art, specifically in a city like Karachi? Will there be a point where artists are the next voices under threat of being silenced? Everyone is under threat there. But all is made myopic and confusing and beside the point with
the all pervasive desperation of poverty . There’s a new tipping point for violence every two years in Pakistan and I think this will flounder for a decade before anything becomes concrete. This should be a good time for artists to show ambition, and compete and debate and bring different kinds of people together to create the kind of classless and heady atmosphere which fosters debate about contemporary art, resistance to tyranny, liberty. I don’t think artists will be in any more danger than any other vocal person in the public domain. Cartoonists and satirists are people always in danger there. In general, contemporary art is usually too subtle, or too clever, or nonsensical to offend a hundred-and-fifty or so ignorant people or the sharp-eyed intelligence agencies. Could you describe your process when beginning a new piece? Do you create a preliminary drawing(s) first or do you begin working directly on the canvas?
Portrait and studio shots by Violet Shuraka
Salman in his Studio
At the moment, I approach a primed canvas which is under-painted with a usually olive green acrylic with tubs of different colored oil paint. I have a vague idea of the picture I want to make. I draw with the brush without a preliminary drawing on the surface of the canvas. Sometimes I have separate preliminary drawings on paper. Currently you have a bunch of medium sized works in your studio and one very large piece. How did you decide to work on this larger canvas and how is it different working at this size rather than at a more human scale? Do you feel that your painting style has loosened up when working so large? Do you think you will eventually do more work at this size? On a larger scale I use my elbow instead of my wrist to draw and paint. The decisions made on this scale are definitely more impromptu. I like the risk and excitement of that. I think I’ll always oscillate between large and precious scale.
Describe a studio day. Is there a certain time of the day when you work best and are most productive? Do you have certain habits that you stick to in regards to your art making schedule? I kind of meditate with iced coffe on the train from my place in East Village to my studio in Bushwick, thinking about what I’m going to do, what it will look like, what will the 20 or so paintings look like together up on walls, what feeling will they evoke when they’re done. I’m a morning person so anything I do in the morning is the best, most efficient thing I do all day. After lunch it slowly goes downhill. I haven’t spoken to my parents in too long, or I have to run to the bank. The best studio days are when I have a stretch of at least 10 hours of complete freedom from rent, errands, and especially phone calls.
Do you feel more influenced by looking at the work of other painters and artists or do you feel that you are more stimulated by the massive amount of visual information you are exposed to on a daily basis in the city, through advertising, the internet, television, etc? I respond to both, I feel. Who are some painters you admire whose influence might not be readily apparent in your work? I really like Jules de Balincourt, some of Hernan Bas and Ahmed Alsoudani’s pictures. What projects are you working on now? Where can we see your work in the near future? I’m working for a show of paintings at Aicon Gallery this fall. The ideas are still building up so let’s see where it goes.
Photography of artwork © Guy L’heureux
Triade, 2014, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 63 x 57 inches
jessica peters Q and A with Violet Shuraka
Réflexion #4, 2014, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 51 x 57 inches
Where did you grow up? Did the environment you experienced as a youth influence your decision to become an artist? Or influence your work at all? If so, how? I grew up in the same town that I live in now. I did not know that I would become an artist. I have no artists in my family and I didn’t really know any when I was younger, it was only in my last year of high school that I decided to start taking art classes, instead of dance classes, and my teacher at the time really encouraged me to keep on studying art in college. I really didn’t know what I wanted to pursue at the time, so I decided to continue on the path of discovering my new passion. The small town that I am from has always been an inspiration for my work. I was always fascinated with old buildings and barns and the rural style of architecture found in these small
country towns—any building with texture was something I desired to paint. You live in the Lower Laurentians, outside of Montreal, Quebec. What do you like most about living there? Least? Does being in this location inspire your work? What I like the most about being in the Laurentians is the calm and beauty of the nature I’m surrounded by. Most of the subjects I have painted over the years are all places from the Laurentians, most specifically my hometown, but even if it is a large and endless source of inspiration, the fact that I’m further from the city makes me an even more solitary artist than I used to be. My studio is in my home so it’s difficult to have regular contact with the art world and to engage in discussions or receive feedback from other artists.
Tell me a little about the process of creating a new work. What inspires you to begin a picture? Every painting usually starts with a photograph that I have taken myself, as a record of a place or just an image of something I find interesting. I’ve always been very fascinated by architectural structures, there is great history and many stories in a construction, some more interesting and significant than others. Houses, buildings, barns, and other structures provide us with a lot of information about the way we live and evolve and therefore have always been very relevant subject matter for artists. What I’m looking for in the subject is something ambiguous, whether it is in the physical structure, the history of the place, it’s evolution, or something more personal to me. This is what brought me to working with optical reflections, the complexity of this
Lieu Innocupé, 2013, acrylic and spray paint on wood, 6 x 8 feet
Réflexion #8, 2016, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 24 x 30 inches
ImmaculĂŠ-Conception, 2012, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 60 inches
phenomenon and diversity of images it produces makes it a fascinating subject. What is a day in your studio like? A day in the studio for me is never the same. I work in the daytime, evenings, or at night, sometime full days, sometime only a couple of hours. My studio is in my home so I can go in to work easily, whenever Iâ€™m inspired and have time. I always work on multiple paintings at once so the works in the series have something binding them together. Working on multiple canvases at once also helps to stimulate me while painting. Do you begin sketching out your ideas by drawing something first? Do you ever work out a composition as a collage or on a computer before you begin to paint? I usually sketch a little using the photo or image of the subject. The subjects I paint are simpli-
fied, so I like to sketch to help me organize the compositions, but I like to keep it spontaneous as much as possible. The images I use mostly serve to start, once the composition is set then there are no rules. Do you paint mainly with acrylics? Do any other materials find their way into your artwork? My main material is acrylic paint, because it makes it easier to work in layers, but I also use spray paint on some parts of paintings. Architecture is present throughout your work (for example: Immaculate Conception and Metro, both from 2012) and in your latest work (such as Specular Reflection, 2016) various architectural elements are taken apart, abstracted and then reconstructed, sometimes combining with or reflecting natural elements. Could you talk a bit about this play between the built environment and nature in your
work? Are they getting along harmoniously? Or is there a bit of a struggle between the two? Like I said earlier I like to represent a subject in an ambiguous way, sometimes it implies putting aside the realistic aspect of my subjects. In 2012, I started working with old pictures of locations in my hometown, which have now been transformed. This work was about the evolution of society and the changes in the way in which we live. Churches becoming condos and sports clubs, a supermarket becoming a daycare center, a train station turned into an office building, etc... I combine a representation of how the building was in the past with its utility currently within one canvas. This kind of duality has always been something I liked to play with in my paintings. In my recent work, about otpical reflections, natural and architectural elements are confronted in what seems to be an almost abstract composition. These elements are complemen-
AltĂŠration #3, 2013, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 24 x 24 inches
Réflexion Prismatique, 2016, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 51 x 57 inches
tary in my work, but there is also a struggle between them that is more and more present because I am now working with both interior and exterior spaces in my recent work. This confrontation is more about not knowing where we stand regarding the subject. In certain works (such as Place 2 Innocupé and Lieu Innocupé, both from 2013) you present a complete environment, such as a village scene—which might include some buildings, a bridge, a landscaped area—but in your newer work you hone in and paint a part of the scene in a very detailed manner (in works such as Untitled, 2016), reconfiguring the architectural elements into more abstract constructions. You seem to be exploring the surface more in the newer work as well. What led to this shift in your subject matter—from a recognizable landscape to an emphasis on the fragments that make up the scene?
Its true that over the years my work has become less about the significance of the building itself and that building’s story and more about a conceptual idea referencing architecture. Working with different reflections has made my work more and more abstract because the reflection represents a fragmented reality. I am now exploring different aspect of this subject, because it makes us see reality differently. It often feels like there is another dimension we can access through observing reflections. New spaces appear and disappear, transforming themselves throughout the day. I like to address this transformation in my newer work. In my past work I didn’t use fragments of a landscape to rebuild a composition, now the subjects I paint are already deconstructed by the visual effects of reflection. I work with the juxtaposition of the planes, I find there is a lot more depth than there used to be, even if its now a more realistic representation.
Are the scenes depicted in your paintings actual places/buildings that you have observed around you or are your compositions constructed from many different parts of multiple places, real and imagined? Like I said earlier, the majority of my paintings represent places from my home town, this is especially true when I worked with a larger environment or a particular building and its surrounding. My recent work is more abstract as the subject matter is built up of of reconstructed vantage points and reflections— however, even if a particular building is not recognizable in these newer paintings they still do represent my daily environment. Its become even more intimate over the years, representing my own home, both as I remember it in the past and as it changes over time.
RÃ©flexion Speculaire, 2016, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 63 x 57 inches
Left: Lieu Innocupé, 2013, acrylic and spray paint on wood, 6 x 8 feet; Above: Métro, 2012, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 72 inches
Are the structures in your work abandoned or are they new constructions popping up in the rural, wooded landscapes of the Lower Laurentians? Or a combination of both scenarios? Is the landscape of this area currently undergoing a change and becoming more developed? When I started painting I was really into finding old buildings with lots of texture—the paint itself was always, and still is, as much of the subject than what is represented. Over the past few years there have been lots of changes in the part of the Lower Laurentians where I live and these changes have definitely influenced my work a lot. Lots of business have closed down, lots of jobs have been lost, the economy was not doing well and as a result there were all these empty commercial spaces, churches closing one after the other, and many houses for sale throughout town. However, even with all of this evidence of an economic downturn there were still multiple new construction projects underway, with many new homes being built. It made me question the way we live and it became a subject of my paintings over the years. Geometric lines and patterns often repeat from one canvas to another, utilizing various painterly techniques. The surface of the painting is sometimes flat, sometimes rough and scraped, and sometimes overpainted with thin washes, revealing multiple layers underneath. Have you always painted in this manner, mixing various textures and techniques within one canvas? I have always worked this way. The main reason I work with architecture as my subject matter is because I like the contrast of the geometric lines and the possiblity to create many effects with the application of paint. I have experimented with a large variety of techniques and
effects since I started painting, and its been very relevant in the progression of my work. Some techniques are used to represent more organic subjects and others to emphasize the roughness of the concrete, and others for the blurriness and the transparency found in the reflections. Mixing all these different textures in one painting brings about a very interesting contrast and without the layers I feel the paintings might feel incomplete. Do you utilize the geometric grid to structure the work? I like to keep it very intuitive. I rarely calculate anything in my painting, except for with one or two works that really had to be symmetrical, and even then I would permit myself to cheat. It’s very interesting, because I was often asked if I had any architectural background, but actually all of my perspectives and constructions are truly unrealistic. There are rarely humans depicted in your paintings (at least in the ones that I have seen). Have figures ever appeared in your work? Is there a reason why your pictures are void of people? The only human figures I have used in my work so far were used in my series about the past and present, from 2012. I only painted silhouettes, these figures were included to be a reminder of the foot traffic that used to be present in these places, places which are virtually empty now. In general with my work, I find that the structures have so many details themselves that humans would only bring in an additional narrative that is not significant in my work. How do you personally know when a painting is finished? To be honest, its very hard for me to decide when a painting is finished, there is always something I could change or modify. The fact
that I work in layers makes it hard to stop because I can always come back to almost any part of the painting and add. I guess in order to stop I need to ask myself if the intention of the painting is well defined. Which artists inspire you? Which artists would you cite as influences? There are so many artists that I like and/or have been inspired by such as Peter Doig, Trevor Kiermander, David Hockney, Matthias Weischer and so many other younger artists. I also had a strong cubist influence in many of my paintings from 2010-2011. What projects are you working on currently? At the moment I am working on a series of paintings of windows which reflect the inside of my home. I’ve only just started, but its more of an in-situ painting project. When this body of work is exhibited in a gallery there will be paintings hung on the walls, as well as elements traced directly onto the flloor, refering to shadows and room delimitations, like you see on an architectural plan. The idea is that as soon as you enter the exhibition space, you enter a reproduction of my personal home, but with only information selected for the spectator by me. There will be more information and pictures on my website, www.jessicapeters.net, coming soon. What could you imagine doing if you did not create art? I think creating art is part of who I am. I never really wanted to be anything in particular. Being an artist is not something you decide to do its something you are.
Portrait and studio shots by Violet Shuraka Anthony in his Brooklyn studio
Anthony Miler Q and A with Violet Shuraka You live and work in Brooklyn, NY. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York? I’ve been in NY for 10 years now. New York brought me to New York, grad school paved a way for me to arrive here and stay for a bit.
stay in closer physical contact with this place for many reasons? In terms of feeling inspired, I’ve never believed much in inspiration. Not sure why, but I suspect that notion is on some other side of a luxury of boredom.
Can you imagine leaving NY for another place at this point in your life? What might tempt you away? Do you feel inspired by New York City itself? I always want to get away, but just for a bit. Wouldn’t most of us be tempted away to a Mediterranean climate if we didn’t still need to
Have the places that you grew up (Toledo, Ohio and Adrian, Michigan) influenced your decision to become an artist and/or your work? Did you know that you would be involved in the arts from an early age? I don’t think so, and no.
Maybe the isolation felt in those places effected the person, which in turn must effect the social and political positions. At an early age I didn’t know what was what. I drew a lot because I loved it. I didn’t know what an artist was. I’d like to think some of that can be preserved, doing the thing because one loves it, and so far it seems possible. You have an amazing studio in Bushwick/Ridgewood and have been there since 2011, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood over the past few years? The first year was pretty desolate, which I loved. Gradually it’s been getting busier, more art kids seem to be moving in. Last year it must have doubled. And now a new studio building is opening on my block. Hmmm... Do you predict that more NYC galleries will move out of Chelsea and the Lower East Side to Brooklyn? Can you envision the NY art world being centered in Brooklyn eventually? I think galleries that aren’t centered in blue-chip work will have to move out of Chelsea eventually. The rent must be going crazy. I heard the Luncheonette is closing, which is sad. But I don’t see Brooklyn becoming a center. Sadly, it looks like permanent physical space may be less important for staging exhibitions, as fairs and online platforms keep growing at the present rate. Maybe a rigorous approach to pop-ups could be interesting, if done well. I think Brooklyn will keep growing as a place to spend time and money on good food, despite the gross overproliferation of mediocre ‘approved’ murals...
The work I saw in your studio consists of a mixture of figurative oil paintings—ranging in size from very large, over 10 feet in height, to much smaller in scale—drawings (lots and lots of them!), and some mixed media works. Has the figure always been the main subject matter in your work? Not always directly. But in some way perhaps the figure has always indirectly been involved. Over a decade ago I was making these minimal, fluid, process based paintings with biting conceptual attitudes about them. These were very much oriented around and involved the body, both in how the fetish object oriented itself to the viewer, and in how they were made. So, body/figure even in its literal absence... These days it is more of a pictorial use. Could you describe your process when beginning a new work on canvas? How do you decide at which size you will work? What are the different stages you go through before you know a painting is complete? How many pieces might you be working on simultaneously? I don’t know where to begin here. Which may be similar to the process, so I just begin. Using whatever resources are there. I don’t predetermine rhyme or reason. In fact I go out of my way to avoid pre-emptive controls too rigidly described in textual language. Although it’s still important that I’m aware of much of what is operating functionally or materially in overarching ways, things that I’ve agreed upon with the work. When starting a new painting do you reference your drawings or do you begin working directly on the canvas without any reference point? Does it vary from piece to piece?
This varies. And the success of it varies as well. I like to live with things for a long time. This way you see it like someone else who will live with it. You see it in so many different mind states, and it has to be able to stand up to these different states. As far as sketching before hand, it’s becoming more and more part of my process, but I still keep it at arms length in different ways, because the images must be alive, there cannot be a feeling of stasis from copying. Collage has become for me a form of planning shapes and lines that often end up being attached instead of re-drawn. You sometimes work on the floor (and maybe move the piece onto the wall at some point or vice versa) and you do not mind your work “getting dirty” by being walked across by humans (and kitties), whereas many artists treat their art as if it is very precious and have a “no touch” rule in place for others besides themselves. Are you making a statement about process and/or the art world by treating your canvases in this manner? Yes, I’m consciously aware there are many things in operation here. I’m glad some of these are noticeable. These are the very things that are precious, no? Your work combines abstract forms with expressionistic, child-like, sometimes cartoonish, painting/drawing of the figure and of faces,
with a gritty application of a variety of mediums. The energy you expel while creating the work shows through in the aggressive scribbles and gestural brushstrokes, which combine to form your subject matter. It seems that you are very active while creating, many of your canvases look as though they have been assaulted. I don’t imagine you sitting still, painting in small details with tiny brushes. Is this a realistic description of how you work? Do you consider the creation of a work a performative action? It’s a pretty accurate description of process. I might slightly disagree with certain aspects of the visual description. And at times I definitely do my share of sitting. As a counter-narrative— I remember recently contemplating covering just a square inch on one part of a painting. This contemplation went on for a few days and then finally on the 4th or 5th day I applied the mark with the drying brush that still lay on the floor from a painting session days before. It took maybe 10 seconds, but those ten seconds changed everything, at least to me. Those 10 seconds, though hardly an assault, embodied all the fulfillment of a successful day of painting. It was a feeling of solving something. But yes, usually it’s much more active. I think in dedicated consistent practice, action can reveal a different and in some ways more poignant intelligence, with cautionary layers peeled back or abandoned altogether. Your works range from extremely colorful to monochromatic. A lot of
the larger canvases currently in your studio are black and white. Do you go through phases where work tends to stay within a particular color palette or does your use (or non-use) of color depend on your mood on a particular day? I don’t know about mood. I think reasoning is faceted, sort of knit like a fabric through and through. It must be, no? I remember times when I worked mainly in black and white because of monetary cost, on both sides—having no money for paint and the also having plenty of paint so wanting to abandon the obvious. What helps you to develop your ideas? Working, looking. Do you feel more influenced by looking at the work of other painters and artists or do you feel that you are more stimulated by the massive amount of visual information you are exposed to on a daily basis, through advertising, the internet, television, etc? More influenced or more stimulated. I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it’s the same question. I actually don’t feel like I have a massive amount of stimulation from media. Its presence is there, sure, looming almost in threat, as an option, but I spend a lot of time alone, or away from it as well. I spend more time watching the sky than I do videos, ads, social media etc. This choice makes me happy. Who are the characters that appear in your paintings/drawings? Are they your friends, lovers? Are they self-portraits? Are these characters based on strangers you might have seen in the street?
Do the figures mostly come from your imagination? Or some combination of all of the above? Lovers are, at times, a large part, and are the only way I can make any sense of the word ‘inspiration’. Rarely friends. Never strangers. Never monsters. Never aliens. I’m firmly engaged with humans. I’m firmly engaged in making paintings. Not interested in fantasy. But most often these characters are simply made through the circumstance of shapes. No matter what the figure is, even if it’s clearly an animal, such as a dog or horse, I think they exhibit emotions that are clearly human. Sometimes almost apologetically so... Many of the figures also possess both male and female sexual characteristics (a figure might have breasts and a penis with long hair). Do you consider the gender of your subject or are the figures assigned sexual “parts” randomly? Not random. Is there a narrative running through your work? Some individual images can be narrative-like in ways, and as a side, I am cultivating a visual language over time, which then has aspects of visual vocabulary so could in various ways construct narratives and metanarratives, but this isn’t a primary focus. A lot of care is taken in deciding certain overarching aspects of the work as a whole. I don’t know how to explain this at all clearly in a brief setting like this because I don’t want to name something and give people the opportunity to run with it singularly, simplified, or generalized. Reality is too faceted and cultural work too
important to generalize and wade around in language like this wetting our feet, and again there are so many risks even in saying this. These paradigms between action and question are always present, wondering how many doors we close with the force needed to make meaningful headway. Have I gone off track already? Whatever, I think a lot about what it means to me to be painting at this time. What appearance of meaningful participation in culture might look like at this moment. I think the terms I’d like to use would be alarming to many, but I think it’s necessary, and at the same time I’m not yet prepared speak accurately in words about violence, protest, cultural abrasion, desperation, etc..., and I’m still mining ideas about positive uses of existentialist thought. This is some of what I think about, or talk about with friends. Narrative? I don’t know. I’m interested in our functional narrative as humans, and the possibilities of painting’s material narratives in the many faceted ways it may operate synonymous to weaponry within its means. I don’t mean to fancifully try and claim more territory for painting or for artists than their due, but I of course want to maximize its agency as well as my own. Is there a certain time of the day when you work best and are most productive? Do you have certain habits that you stick to in regards to your art making schedule?
No, except that I try to work every day. Accidentally waking up at 4am and working are sometimes the most productive days, but more often I work in the afternoon and evening. In the mornings I often work on small drawings by a window. What ultimately do you want people to walk away from your work feeling or thinking? If they walk away feeling and thinking then that is enough. It seems too many things have me just walking away. You told me that you were going to start working more on sculptural work. What sort of materials do you envision using in this work? I’ve been working with cardboard for awhile now, and used to work with plaster and wood some a few years ago. I’d imagine some combination of these, and clay. I’ve been really wanting to get back into clay for quite some time. Haven’t worked with it since undergrad. What projects are you working on now? Do you have any shows up currently or in the near future? Yes, currently working on a small book of images, and planning a solo booth at NADA this May with the Bushwick gallery ART 3. Quite excited for these next few months.
Portraits and studio shots by Violet Shuraka
Kelsey in her old Williamsburg studio
GrimmFest Poster, 2012, Acrylic on Paper
kelsey Henderson Q and A with Violet Shuraka
You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally? I moved here in 2006, so in September it will have been 10 years. Wow. I moved here knowing I needed to be around driven and motivated people. Wanted a dose of healthy competitive drive to keep me going and not complacent. Your studio has been located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 2011, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood over the past few years? Of course, it’s constantly changing but I hardly focus on that stuff till it hits me in the face like now—losing my studio of 7 years and realizing how messed up the price of studios in the area are. Charging apartment prices for commercial spaces shows a lack of appreciation for the arts and that the primary focus is on money, which really bums me out.
I used to only work from life since that’s how I was taught to work. I think it was a good practice when I was in school to create a strong relationship between my hands and eyes, but once I started becoming more conceptually focused it wasn’t necessary. Now I work from photos that I take or found photos. Whether or not I know the person directly in the paintings I want to make sure that it’s more about the message I’m making with the image vs. a formal portrait painting.
Much of your work consists of figurative oil paintings. How long have you been painting the figure? What first interested you in the figure as subject matter? All my life I’ve focused on people. It’s my natural instinct and one of my favorite things to do. If there’s something that draws me in about someone, I like giving myself the time to look at and study them. Plus I find it to be challenging technically, which I enjoy. It’s good to do things that aren’t easy.
The figures that show up in your most recent work have shifted from portraits of friends/ people you know to paintings of imagined ‘zine covers, which include both figures and text. You have said the images of people in this series are taken from old video cassette covers, hardcore music videos, punk magazine layouts and the text in the paintings is from various vintage pin up/erotic magazine covers. What inspired this change in the subject matter of your work? That’s not all true... Most of the figures painted in this series are found by searching through 70-90s subculture images. Some being famous people, others who are not. Mostly just from photos taken from people involved in the scene at the time. And the layout and the text comes from old porn magazines. I’m pretty much making fake magazines that I wish existed, that I’d love to buy. Creating a different sense of idealism or desire than what the mainstream suggests.
Who are the people in your paintings? Do you ever paint from a live model or do you utilize imagery from pop culture (or unpopular culture) as your subjects?
Some titles of the current body of work in your studio are Teenage Extreme (tagged with Hot Straight Edge Boys), Pleasure—Number One In Excitement, Punished, Suck, Teenager in Action,
which are all quite sexually suggestive. The figure that is matched up with the various title is usually a punk/hardcore/skinhead boy or girl. What draws you to the denizens of these particular underground subcultures? Do you think the underground is particularly sexually liberated? I’m more focused on shifting the sexual read of the text and giving it a different reading. Which is why I don’t want to use any old porn magazines that blatantly say “SEX” “PORN” etc... I like the double play on the text... But if the painting says “Teenage Extreme” and it’s and image of a hardcore straightedge younger guy singing as hard as he can... then that text is more about a kid being hard. On the flip side, clearly, I do want to play with the fantasized aspect of the porn magazines. These are forms of beauty that I’m drawn to, that I’m sincerely attracted to... I’m also aware of our culture’s (especially in fashion) detached rip offs and pulls from these subcultures as well—which totally turns me off. So I’m playing with a lot of different aspects with this work and I have a lot to say about it all, which is why I know it’s important to make. You mentioned Bruce La Bruce as an influence. His film and photography work also eroticize skinhead and punk subcultures. He was involved in the punk scene in Toronto in the
early 90s, producing underground fanzines, making manifestos, and expressing his politics through a do-it-yourself style. What do you think draws you both to politically incorrect imagery and to and society’s “outsiders”? I don’t think I said that. I had only recently (tho I’m not proud to admit) seen a couple of his films or looked into his work after starting my recent work. I was actually relieved I hadn’t seen his work before because it felt similar to my Crocodiles video that I made... and it may have influenced me if I had seen it prior, but I’m happy I’ve seen it now. I love outsiders because I think a level of rebellion is important in life. The world and the people in it can’t grow without being challenged and aware that there are things beyond the norm. Your painting technique on your most recent work calls to mind artists such as John Baldessari and Gerhard Richter, with your reduced palette and the inclusion of text. Are you responsive to these artists? I mean I always loved Gerhard Richter, but with this particular body of work it feels very personal and sincere so I’m kind of stuck in my own bubble right now. I’ve always loved text and words so it’s been a really satisfying moment for me to combine these loves.
Music seems to play an important role in both your day to day life and your artwork. Are there certain bands that you will listen to for inspiration while painting? Has music always been so important to you? What I listen to when I’m painting depends on my mood. I usually try to stick with something upbeat or dance-y to keep myself in the zone and energized. I don’t want to end up crying or anything while I’m working (ha ha!) When I was a kid music wasn’t as important to me. I liked it but it didn’t hit the deep chords in my body and soul that it does today. I think the shift happened in high school when I listened to the widest range of music I’ve ever listened to—from requiems to jazz to classic rock to electronic music etc, etc... That’s when it became incredibly important to me and strongly instinctual to knowing what I liked. A lot of people claim that New York is “dead” artistically and musically but I emphatically disagree. Do you feel that there is still a vibrant underground scene in New York City? 100%. I think anyone who says it’s dead has stopped going to shows or stopped checking out scenes they didnt know about. There’s A LOT of amazing music being made right now in New York that isn’t well known.
You recently directed videos for the band Soft Moon and Crocodiles. How did the collaboration come about? How did the bands approach you to direct? Is directing something that you’d like to do more of in the future? It was a nice trickle effect. I had been working on my own video projects that I’ve previewed in brief clips on Instagram. Then I was approached by my now friend Brandon from Crocodiles about using what he had seen for a video and I felt it best to create something specific for it and luckily both he and Chuck were both kind and trusting enough to let me make whatever I wanted with some discussed themes in mind. And from that I got the attention of Marco Rapisarda, who is The Soft Moon’s manager, and was asked to make a video for them. I’ve always wanted to make music videos, I daydream about them all the time when I’m listening to music on my own—creating visuals in my head—so it was a wonderful experience. Would love to make more in the future. Tell me a little bit about your “Yearbook/ Yearfuck Class of 2015” photo project that I see you have started on Instagram. Is this directly related to the music video projects you have been working on?
That project is more connected to my newer paintings that I’ve been making. Creating false realities and showing subcultures as the mainstream way of life. Ultimately showing the rest of the world that within a subculture, we are the norm and the rest of the world is on the outside? Showing my reality, etc... I’m intending, and hoping, to show all of my recent work in one large show and also putting it all together in a book. The idea came from being inspired by my friends and the people around me but knowing I had no time to paint them all. So I created the fake yearbook idea as a time capsule and spoof on the world we grew up in, creating the dream Class of 2015. Describe a studio day. Is there a certain time of the day when you work best and are most productive? Do you have certain habits that you stick to in regards to your art making schedule? When I’m on a role, I’ll get there in time for a late lunch (getting to order food from places that don’t deliver to my apt., ha ha) and then usually leave no later than 10 PM. I’ve got a pup so I always have to schedule my days around her but it’s not too much of a hassle and I like
having my nights to be social since I’m alone all day. I mostly just go in, put some music on and get working. Are you more influenced by looking at the work of other painters and artists or do you feel that you are more stimulated by the massive amount of visual information you are exposed to on a daily basis in the city, through advertising, the internet, television, etc...? If anything I guess random internet rabbit hole searches are the most inspiring and then would come my daily life... Taking what I see and experience and then romantically reflecting on it all and trying to show what’s in my head in that light. I do love looking at other artist’s work but in honesty I don’t do it very much. (someone should slap my wrist for that, ha!) What projects are you working on now? Where can we see your work in the near future? I’m still working on the fake magazine paintings, videos, and photos. It’s a big project I’m trying to make, connecting all of those things so it will take some time. The best place for now is Instagram @pallidspell and from there I’ll announce any shows etc...
Portrait and studio shots by Violet Shuraka
Don in his studio.
Don Doe Q and A with Heather Morgan Your watercolors are peculiarly evocative, I get a whiff of history, pulp, and the mythological bound together. What stories and sources of imagery attract you most? I am partial to heroic gender bending busty chicks, wearing low cut shirts and cargo pants held up by belts with huge buckles, swinging swords, and bottles of rum, especially on fantasy galleons. However, I also like stories where I can reverse gender roles most often associated with men. They can involve a messed up but essential journey where some desperate or obsessed soul in the course of it makes a discovery. Eroticism is inevitable and if I were to pin it down I say it owes something to the depiction of ecstatic disarray in savage Pirates movies from 1950s, and unsettling
films like Antonioni’s “Blow Up” or Milton Moses Ginsberg’s “Coming Apart”. And I cannot forget Greek Myths and what an updated personal context for them might look like. I watch old film noir for the images of detectives with self-esteem issues seeking out answers yet trudging through the sordid back streets of fringe society. My series of Redressed She Pirates is very successful, whose imagined freedom in domestic settings is razor sharp and worn at the hip. Stories with situations to yearn for, yet prudently not be allowed to engage in. My subjects are meant to suggest strangers or casual acquaintances. Imagery for these stories are in my head but are cobbled to life in my photo sampling collages from
collected sources in fashion magazines, 70s Sears and Sotheby’s catalogs, nautical books, how-to photography manuals. It is not always obvious here; odd family vacation snapshots found adrift of their context at flea markets or eBay. I collect all these, as needed, for what has an appeal to my thoughts for rendering; often the best of these photos are someone’s snapshots of just an instant. Same can be said of vintage British 1970s pinup magazines with pretense to a costumed story line or an aspect of an interview with a model that always undresses her; my goal is about fusing historical and contemporary styles to create challenges that tend to find and tie a metaphor for art towards gender bending and back again towards art history. Your studio is a paradise of yellowed and curling paper, bits of old wood, stacks of vintage mags, and your copious drawings and watercolors. Tell us about your process for constructing images and how found material informs your work. My artistic process begins when photo snapshots pile up in my studio. There is a photo pile scattered all over the floor around my table, gathered over months. I think the foundation of my paintings and sculptures rest on the anxiety of this uncertainty in photos adrift of
their contexts. I am working on several works at once: there might be as many as half a dozen works in various materials and stages of completion around the studio. However, everything has a meticulous cut photo collage that it proceeds from. I find old and new photographic references on eBay or on recycling day in the neighborhood. I gravitate towards photos that have a juicy specific source and time that is evident as soon as you see them. It could be just the style of the paper, the lighting, the haircut, the interior, or clothing. When I have stacked up a couple dozen finished collages, I stop and sort out those that offer exciting feverish, or off-kilter compositions. The collages are only stepping stones, yet some become exciting artifacts when I finish. These, I draw from, for the next week or two, using charcoal on paper. The style is loose and traditional; I like the dusty powder barely clinging to the paper. This rendered rapport with the collage distills the separate photo sources into a distorted complexity with palpable intensity. I love this drawing part; it feels good, actually, and psychologically like a life drawing session does. It homogenizes and frees the figure of the collages’ identity. As I transfer the selected compositions to canvas or sculpture the tension between the
egos within the sources emerge, the period of the photos falls away, something is lost and something else enters imparting on the whole a visceral proposal. Somewhere in that the idea of the sculpture will be. All nonessentials fall away with this process. I often find funny combinations that poke fun at cubist formality made up entirely of female body parts reassembled and about to engage in some unknown physical act; simultaneously sexual, revelatory, or most funny if generally alluding to an unknown skilled labor or trade. Then there are the sculpting materials I work with to speak about; the found objects for the bases that the clay sculptures are mounted on; here I am trying to make a plinth with just a few words—a table, chairs, book, stool, turntable, dream catcher, etc. I am letting the base become a setting for the modeling with out modeling it. It is in this effort limited to just a stacking process until the sculpture feels like it is complete. The sensuality of oil paint is used to enticing effect in your lascivious imagery of female nudes and semi-nudes. How do you feel about the different effects as you work images across various media—collage, drawing, painting, and sculpture? Do the materials present differing interpretations to the viewer? Which is your preferred medium?
I prefer watercolor and oil paint up until recently as it just came so easily for me. The collages are the most anxious and conceptual maybe because I am a little repulsed that they are least removed from their sources; oscillating between cut parts and fetishist visions of women’s reshaped form. However, for the moment, the clay modeled sculptures, which I am having the most success with, allow me to display an ambiguity in the figure and Her being observed as shattered cannot be resolved completely, the reason I like it might be it is yet strangely organic and cannot be so neatly understood. I am trying to perfect this as a volatile talisman like image. It has interesting kinship with public statues; the phantomic aspects of public statuary that seem to want to step off the pedestal and take part in the sidewalk procession.
Your recent work is populated by women who embody a broad array of characteristics (pardon the pun!), from the powerful to the fragile, the self-questioning to the self-assured. Men appear less frequently and often as a foil for the women. Tell us about these characters and what makes women the perfect symbol for the struggles that your figures are experiencing? I don’t often know why I am doing something or why I like it. I want it to tell me something. There’s no one-to-one correspondence between any kind of inner experience I’m having and the women are having; whatever I sculpt or draw, the woman as a fashion symbol allows me to ask the viewer to question whether or not the ideal body is worth aspiring to. The use I make of the symbol subverts the assumption that the ideal body is inherently good and perhaps as a castrative Medusa the
ideal is both severed and severing. In our world, the woman form is at once sexist and feminist, real and surreal, unsettling and seductive. She can be used to represent me. It is crucial that it is a woman, for its symbolic quality much like the pirate is; as a murderer, a thief, a colorful hero of adventure stories, she is a deeply fractured symbol. The longer I make art, however, the more mysterious I find the relation between the objects I choose and lived experience. There is always a male foil within the works as either an object, a parrot, the sea, a pistol, a case of beer, framed picture on the wall, or a distant ship, The male body is just not as visually interesting a form when it is not muscular. When it is muscular it projects too much simple machismo that as yet I have nothing to say anything about.
However, if she is not me then I am the guy detective in the noir film seeking the truth and the girl is at once the answer, the trigger for the menace, and the unattainable beauty emerging from the shadows. So thatâ€™s a perfect symbol of a problem to be solved. Your drawing is very fluid and playful, a sly cover for the almost monstrous transformations taking place in the figures in your recent work. How do you describe what these figures are going through? They are wrestling within simultaneous egos from divergent moments in their timeline. They are being cobbled together like a Frankenstein bride; bits salvaged from yet corpses of art history and contemporary culture. They feel for and are expectant for the spark of life waiting to ignite upon them. And in this shape shifting entropy they mirror the current ever-stranger versions of virtual reality as related to the human body. You have a keen sense of the absurd. What kind of interplay between whimsy and heavier themes is at work in your work? Where would you ideally like to fall, if this were a spectrum? I like the tragic but I cannot get there, so I opt for humor to find it. The current work is partly an absurdist Hogarthian analysis of beauty. In
our world there is an oppressive demand for idealization that is projected upon the female form; a body impossible to achieve in reality yet brutally tangible in the symbolic spirit. My first aim is to find a tension between drifting elements of source materials that suggest a story. And to then follow that storyâ€™s formation, until I can jump to working out a complimentary formal or color narrative that carries the whole to a satisfying conclusion. Where I would like to end up is to release myself of fears and what my emotions need at that time, which is usually on the side of humor, as it is a bit like a role playing game. We have talked about our shared interest in providing an experience which can be provocative and unsettling. What relationship do you envision between the viewer and the figures in your recent work? Where the unconscious rolls with the tide, face down. I want to help people come to terms with their instincts. Go back and forth between yearnings and discomfort signaling newness in the romantic pursuit; a rejection of accepted social mores in figures concerned in a different world without belonging or defining an actual place or time. I want to get an engagement as identification,
with or without sympathy for the image, a recognition of the memory, and then see the offering is sensually empowering but necessitates accepting the formally naughty grotesque mess as a liberating journey again and again. The work as a metaphor for making art. The historical figure (classical) is present, yet the mythical, spiritual and exuberantly naked (that initially seems escapist) overwhelms. I am not interested in apolitical nostalgia or kitsch, instead I connect to the more transgressive gender identities. I like to think of art as mischievously toying with old romantic equations, Classical mathematics, and realist skepticism, a pastoral alternative, memories of my deepest child hood. What are some painters you admire whose influence might not be readily apparent in your work? Maria Lassnig, Giorgio de Chirico, Daumier, Gustave Moreau, Hans Balding Gruen, and Reg Butlerâ€™s sculptures from 1968! Occasionally, The Artist appears in your drawings, jovially toiling before an easel. To what degree do you see yourself in these ironic and romantic depictions?
I see them as a witty self critique of the art world, myself and as a vehicle for charting the “artists” path from private to public life that often ends in obscurity. I think I am converting my own selfconsciousness into the viewers as an accessory to the crime. They double as my pit crew and cheer me on as the instigator manifesting the trouble with subject insularity that preceeds me in the search for a subject to paint about. Tongue in cheek homesickness for art school and its insularity that these works pine for. We talked about your facility with various materials, are there other media you are interested in exploring, such as film or installation, in conjunction with painting? Installation and short films were apart of my past and I dream of another opportunity of
pursuing it within a show yet have not had the means or momentum yet. Perhaps this year I will find the venue. Your work contains distillation of a variety of imagery from Rococo painting to porn and comics, it seems almost timeless. Do you think you would be making similar work if you lived in another time or place, or do you think there is something that connects you very directly to New York City in the present day? I don’t think gender-bending work can survive in many places like here in NYC. Nor do I think irreverent work would either. The more emotive methods we employ in our works still need the context of this big city to support us because the attitude here is one of strength. I could not do this art anywhere else. The
stimulation of the art of my friends here and the cities’ close-knit cultural fabric is causal in ways I don’t understand but this work emerged, soon after I arrived, from work that was previously imitative and less connected to the world. But I don’t know, my biggest collectors are in Germany; a place I have never been. What is on your easel right now? Two things: a canvas with a jazz musician pausing in his music while a woman serves him a John the Baptist on a platter. And on the sculpture stand a clay work of a two headed woman, with one smaller and short haired blonde head looking off in contemplation while the other head, long haired and black, yells into her own crotch.
Beckett, 2014, acrylic, glass tile, mirror, fused glass, 14k gold tile on wood, 62 x 52 inches
studio visit Portrait by Violet Shuraka Samuel in his Brooklyn studio
Samuel Jablon Q and A with Heather Morgan You live and work in Brooklyn, NY. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York? I’ve been living and working in Brooklyn for about 5 years. I came here from Colorado partially because this poet Bob Holman convinced me I needed to be here. I don’t think it took much convincing though. I wanted to be in a community of creative people, and Brooklyn really seemed like the place to move. Do you feel a connection to artists such as Jenny Holzer and Lawrence Weiner or any other artists creating language-based works? I like both Holzer and Weiner a lot. They both
declare things in their work, and I think their work needs to be clear and concise. I am not that interested in making declarations. The poetry tends to get lost, I like things to stay a bit more elusive. You are both painter and poet, in the traditional sense of sheafs of paper with hand- and typewritten verse. Which medium came first for you? How did you end up incorporating words into your abstract paintings? Words have always been important to me, they are something I’ve always believed in, because they are definitive yet remain elusive. Painting came first. I grew up in mom’s painting studio, and was always surrounded by paintings. I really didn’t find
Get Dirty, 2014 acrylic, glass tile, and fused glass on wood, 40 x 30 inches
All In, 2014, acrylic and glass tile on wood, 24 x 30 inches
poetry until I went to Naropa University for college. I incorporated everything into one practice because I felt divided, like I had a poet life and a painter life, when what I wanted was an artist life. It really came together in grad school at Brooklyn College. I wanted to push myself to really create a flexible practice that was rooted in poetry. Everything for me starts in poetry and evolves from there. Your work is loaded with contradiction, in visual terms (the gritty versus pretty) and in terms of your statement (“I can’t go on/I must go on.”) The effect is a sort of cheery anxiety. What is your feeling about the power of these juxtapositions? Do they reflect your worldview or speak to a general condition? I like the tension that these juxtapositions create. I think there is a world view of opposites represented in my work. I don’t think it is always a conscience move, but it’s something I do often. There is a power to the tension between black and white. Everything can exist between. I’m most interested in possibilities and creating work that offers this. The legibility of the text in your paintings varies, sometimes the writing is backwards or upside down. Is a certain inscrutability part of your message? I don’t want people to get the work too quickly, a large part of the work is sitting with it, and seeing what’s there. The more difficult they are to read the
longer people stay with the work. If I can hold someone’s attention through a painting for a minute or two I tend to think it’s successful. There is a very street feeling to your work. You spell out words with glittering tiles like a subway mosaic; the scrawling shape of the letters and your saturated palette also refers to graffiti. Is this the distillation of your life as a New York City painter or do other influences come into play? I walk a lot in the city, sometimes I’ll just spend a day walking. I wouldn’t say my work is a distillation of my life in NYC but living and working here has influenced my work. I do love the subway mosaics. I also probably spend too much of my time hanging out with poets, but I find them really refreshing, because poets don’t become poets to have a career, they are just poets. It reminds me that there is a lineage and a world that isn’t about one’s career. Sometimes the artist side of the art world can feel overwhelming careerist, poets kind of balance me out, and remind me why I wanted to be an artist in the 1st place. Tell us about The Poet Sculpture. Does performance add a dimension to the painting as well as to the written word? The Poet Sculpture is a performance and a sculpture. It is activated by the poets who interact with it. I invite poets to perform on the sculpture and ask them to move the individual boxes around, and to stand on them.
Boom, 2013 , acrylic and glass tile on wood, 12 x 9â€?
THINGS, 2014, acrylic, glass tile, dichroic glass, fused glass on wood 60 x 48 inches
What Chu Hiding, 2014, acrylic and glass tile on wood, 20 x 16
Nowhere Bus, 2014, acrylic and glass tile on wood, 48 x 60 inches
Each “soapbox” was designed for a influential writer who has passed away. So there is a thread of lineage that connects the past to the present. In a way the sculpture creates a large visual poem that is very related to the paintings, but at the same time it is the “soapbox” for the poet. The sumptuousness of paint inlaid with glittering tile—these objects are disco beautiful—which is used very playfully to extol exuberance (“Light up the night”) or to mask our dread (“everybody’s got something to hide”). What do you think about the effect of beauty on the viewer in interpreting these different ideas? Good question! I think beauty is intoxicating and usually lies, but at the same time we all want to believe the lie. You can’t always trust what’s on the surface. I like playing with that tension. What’s beauty and what’s a lie, what’s too good to be true. I think the viewer instantly loves beauty, but then starts to question why, and that’s where the poetry comes in. Your piece Boom naturally calls Basquiat to mind. Your work often seems to allude to the bright and frenetic, to action. Tell us about some of the other sources for your text. Basquiat and I both like words. The text comes from all over the place. Sometimes I simply appropriate a text, for example, in Simple Country Girl all the text came from Taylor Mead. He passed away a few years ago and I
made a painting for him, I took two of his poems as the text in the painting, the underpainting actually spells out his name, but it’s impossible to read, and the title of the painting is the title of his last book. So if you knew Taylor there are little clues to figure out the painting was made for him. Other times I write a text from scratch, an example would be America Dreams. What projects are you working on now? Will we be able to see your work in person anywhere in the near future? I have a solo exhibition this fall at Freight and Volume and a performance project coming up this summer at Storefront for Art and Architecture.
Q and A with Heather Morgan
Portrait and studio shots by Violet Shuraka Jesse in his Bushwick studio
You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally? Actually, I live in Manhattan and paint in Brooklyn. I’ve had a cheap place on First Avenue forever. I came to New York in 1987 to attend graduate school at Parsons, where I got my MFA. You have maintained a studio on the edge of Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn since the nineties, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood since you have been in this location? I got my first studio in Williamsburg around 1995, I think. It was on Lorimer and Bayard, facing the running track across the street from McCarren Pool. But they sold it for
condos so now I’m at my current location on Grand and Morgan. It’s also changing rapidly, with new billboards for “Eyewear” nearby so I think I’ll have to move again soon but you know we’re survivors so I’ll come up with something hopefully! You make darkly romantic paintings by layering and drawing, sometimes carving back into cut shapes of paper. The first time I saw your work I was blown away by not being sure of what I was looking at, how it was done. How did you arrive at this process? I remember my teacher Ben Martinez at the Swain School of Design, telling me Giacometti would draw and erase so much that he would rub holes into his drawings. I
wondered why he didn’t just glue on a patch of paper and keep going. I make paintings by cutting out painted paper shapes then adhering it to a canvas, I often paint on top of that, making changes until the picture comes together. Sometimes I use knives, digging down into the floorboards of the work to see if I left something useful down there. On occasion it reveals a helpful color or form. (Sometimes it’s best old decisions remained buried.) I didn’t plan on making pictures this way, but the surface had become dead from over working so I added a slab of paper and then I had a patch over as well as a new shape and color to deal with and I just went with it. I think it’s important to have the “Fuck It” moment. Where you don’t give a fuck about
another fuckin’ painting so you just fuck it up and it forces you out for what ever pretense you’ve talked yourself into. Your work presents a world of witches and demons, seductive and tormented figures. Sometimes it feels like you are tapping into powerful, ancient myths, and sometimes it reads as allegory for the artistic process. Tell us about the characters that are inhabiting your work, what they mean to you. I remember a few years ago a Christian conservative was losing a senate race in Maryland. In a last ditch effort, she said in a campaign ad, “ I am not a witch.”.It confirmed what people from New England, like myself, have always known, that our superstitions are so close to the surface. It’s only a steady supply of food, water, and electricity that keeps us from burning people or pressing scapegoats to death with field stones. I don’t know who shows up in my paintings. They are the acting company of my desires and anxieties. They change costumes and masks but it’s the same group in different
garb. My job as an artist is to make them a comfortable place to rage. I know you to be a relentlessly driven painter. Talking with you about your progress on individual paintings, it almost sounds as though you are battling them. Does this passionate approach to producing the work inform the narratives within the paintings? I love that Johnny Cash song, “I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.” My process is always the same and it’s kinda awful really, I start out on a tear with all the hope and expectation that I finally know what I’m doing, only to find that I don’t. The painting is alive! Then dead, then dead but not without hope, then yes, it’s hopeless. Then not! It changes and changes mask after mask until months later it suddenly snaps into place and the picture is at a point where it can’t get any better or worse. I do not change them for the sake of changing them, but I am obsessed with getting them right. It does inform and build the narrative, in that
if I believe in anything it’s this, that if I make a painting, drawing, some kind of art, whatever, then I destroy, not for the sake of destroying it but by pushing it until it’s a mess, then I really own the work/process. I gotta make it, kill it and bring it back. I might be terrified, like so many artists in New York, of losing my studio but I’m not afraid of making a mess in there. Forcing the painting come to me as much as I come to it. I heard your still life once described (by me) as “a Cezanne if you set it on fire.” Describe some of your influences and how your use of these materials pushes past those influences. The Italians like Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto and De Kooning really are my most important influences (mainly how De Kooning, himself, processed the Italians). I love the muscle car paintings they put together with such an economy of means. Everything in these artist’s pictures has a purpose to the greater whole. I believe this comes from building and pulling apart each element in a composition
until it works for the greater good. Certainly its how De Kooning made pictures. I remember you and I talking about how great artists don’t show you how to make a decent painting, they show you how to arrive at one. The materials are built for speed, I can and often do change a picture drastically in one evening. It’s thrilling really, the material and it’s application become extensions of my visual mind and I think my dusty dead friends would approve. Did you always know you wanted to be an artist when you were growing up on a horse farm in Massachusetts? Were themes of New England—the gothic landscape, witches and hapless sinners—always present in your work? When I was 4, my mother bought me “The Christmas Mouse” It’s a coloring book that tells of a little mouse that makes his own Christmas by stealing from the people whose house he lives in. Kind of an odd message for a child now that I think of it. Then again the only advice my mother ever gave me
was “Never live within your means, you’ll never have anything.” Well, the coloring book looked great, so off I went to be a painter. Yes, my work has always been drawn to the dark. The Satanic tint to New England fueled my early visual imagination. And the demonology and superstitious slant of late medieval early Renaissance painting formed a seamless link in my mind to Italian painting and beyond. There is a very gleeful and mischievous quality to your work. When taking on themes of death, sex and the torment of the soul, do you think it is important not to be too serious? For me I do think it’s best to sit on the fence between humour and alarm. That’s why I’m drawn to the classic New England witch. It’s both comical and alarming. It the Blair Witch as well as a consumerized pop culture symbol. Used beautifully, if unsuccessfully, both ways by would-be senators from Maryland.
Your female nudes are erotically charged and quite self-possessed and the males are usually trapped in struggle or have the grotesque face of a rascal-y demon. As a woman, I really enjoy this about your work! I get the sense that no one is really winning though, in the struggle for power in your world. The great painter and my friend and teacher the late Paul Georges was painting one day when he was asked what he wanted for lunch, he didn’t hear the question so he was asked again and again each time a bit louder and with more annoyed insistence. Finally he was asked “What do you want?!” He raised his arms and head to the skylight above and with brush in hand said “I want to be free!” Me too. I would describe your palette as “stained glass”; you don’t shy away from primary colors and your compositions are illuminated and accentuated with heavy black lines. Does your work comment on the sacred?
De Kooning spoke of “The sexuality of doubt.” What a spectacular phrase! I understand it as the erotic charge of uncertainty. If my work contains a vein of the scared it’s in being clear in uncertainty. That regardless of the endless possibilities, clarity of conviction in painting is the difference between being artistic and being an artist. While we are on the subject of religion, your personal pantheon seems to begin and end at Mick and Keith. Their lithe bodies take center stage on door of your studio. What do they represent to you and to your painting? The public image of the 70s Mick and Keith have been fascination from my earliest memories back in my little home town of Plympton, Massachusetts. I was drawn to the gender bending bone thin bodies and what
I saw as it’s demonic power. It represents freedom to me, a glimpse of another world, another place where misfits were revered and sexual roles not clearly defined. And yet my love for the image of Rolling Stones is deeply personal, I don’t wanna know anything about their private lives, it’s none of my business. It’s the illusion I’m drawn to. I wont talk to someone if they wanna impress me with detailed knowledge of Stone trivia, I’m not interested in any of that. I feed on the dark lyrics of “Sway” and “Memo From Turner” to turn me on. Remember that passage in “A Death in Venice” where the narrator writes about how if the public knew the true inspiration for so much of the art they love they would confused, horrified and repulsed? Some stones are best not looked under.
What is on your easel right now? Are you killing it, or are you laying on the floor beneath it with a bourbon soaked rag? As you know all to well, Heather, our old brick studio building heats up like the pizza ovens on the Lower East Side, it takes days to cool down. The painting being yanked around is of a blond wig that morphs into yellow pumps with snakes and a palette. As well as a Tudor rose and some other stuff. Today It’s a mess, I am not killing it. I only have some Vermouth so that’s no good. My next show was cancelled, my gallery dropped me, I don’t remember the last time I sold something. But ya know, whatever, I’m gonna attack this painting again and it will give it up.
Frank Webster Q and A with Heather Morgan
The Misunderstood Rainbowbird, 250 x 200 cm, oil, acrylics, spraypaint on canvas. Collection of HR&O Rotterdam
Portrait and studio shots by Violet Shuraka Frank in his Brooklyn studio.
Frank Webster is a Brooklyn based painter, and all around sharp guy. We visited his studio on a balmy day in December. It was a great place to reflect on the apocalypse. You live and work in Brooklyn, NYC. How long have you been in the city and what brought you to New York originally? I’ve been in New York for about 20 years. Most of it has been spent in Brooklyn. I originally came to the East Coast from Chicago to get my MFA at Rutgers. I attended Skowhegan right after graduation and moved to the city shortly afterwards. You maintain a studio in Fort Greene, have you witnessed a drastic change in the neighborhood since you have been in this location? I’ve watched a pretty dramatic change occur in my time here. The building I have my studio in was just sold to a group of investors for over $160 million dollars. I think it’s unlikely I will be in this space much longer. It’s a fairly common story New Yorkers of all walks of life face as we try to deal with the phenomenon of gentrification. When I first moved to Fort Greene the area near the Navy Yard was a dangerous no man’s land with a reputation for crime. Now it is part of something called the “tech triangle” in real-estate-speak. Scarcity has made it in
demand as office space despite the lack of amenities and poor transportation service. Your work definitely has an “end of the world” feeling to me, whether you take the city for your subject matter, or you are out in nature. Do you think we are doomed? That’s an interesting question. Existentially of course as individuals we are—we all have about a 70 year expiration date, if we’re lucky. As a species I think we have a lot better prospects. Most of our current problems regarding our environment are the result of human ingenuity. If I didn’t think that ingenuity could be used to correct these problems I’d probably pass over conditions in silence. So contradictorily, I guess I’m really a bit of an bright-eyed optimist. Infer irony if you like.
landscape of the modern built environment at its most vernacular level. “How had America been altered by the great wave of suburbs of the later half of the last century?” for instance. More recent work has started examining a natural landscape without architecture, a place with a highway but without strip malls. It is in a northern region (the north Atlantic) where some of the most dramatic effects of climate change are beginning to be seen. It also is a place of unearthly beauty—fascinating geologically and historically, the wellspring of European colonization of the New World with a rich and influential literary legacy. I find it satisfying thus far but really feel like I’m at the beginning of something with a lot of loose ends to tie up and questions to answer.
Your earlier work seems to draw comparison between nature and the objects and architecture we have built, to melancholy effect. Your current series seem more wholly immersed in the landscape (in Iceland). What prompted this shift, and do you find it satisfying to work in this way? I tend to see my work as a long running project so it all seems as part of a greater whole to me. The architecture work always had a topographic quality about it—a sort of catalogue of the
The Iceland series is connected to your earlier work by a deep sense of solitude. Even in Tokyo, your work is free of humans. Why is that? I have been a long time fan of the romantics who were the first to really grapple with a non-anthropocentric view of the world, communion with nature and the beauty of solitude. When I get this question I always am reminded of one of my favorite paintings: The Wanderer above the Mists by Caspar David Friedrich. This painting is significant for coming up with the
Various studio views
A Volcanic Crater, 2015, watercolor on paper, 9” x 12”
compositional device of a figure with his back turned to the viewer to communicate contemplation of the sublime. In my paintings I think of the figurative subject as being the viewer who is placed in a scene by yours truly (the painter) to contemplate said scene. So my paintings all have a human as part of their compositional mechanics—that human just happens to be you. This isolation seems to be the emblematic of our civilization. Do you consider your work political? Certainly alienation is one of the most well documented hallmarks of postmodern society. I personally think that sense of isolation has paradoxically increased in this period of constant contact and social media. I see a general rootlessness and sense a growing insecurity and a feeling of economic disenfranchisement. Of course the great danger here in the United States is political apathy in the face of this larger social alienation. It’s important to combat this tendency. So yes I think my work has political undertones even if it isn’t of the banners and barricades variety.
The earliest work I have seen of yours goes back about a decade, very minimalist paintings of strip malls and other suburban horrors, rendered purposefully, cheerily lifeless and geometric. Tell us about your connection to minimalism. Have you always had a minimalist sensibility? I have a bit of a love hate relationship with minimalism. I recently visited Marfa and was really taken with the grounded-ness of Donald Judd’s vision. But I also see how that aesthetic has been applied or misapplied in consumerism and it’s tendency to erase eccentricity and cultural nuance. (Post minimalist/feminist art nailed that second point pretty well, in my opinion.) Personally I try to keep things as simple as possible. But of course the world is a complicated place and complexity has it’s way of creeping into the most straight forward situations… Your paint seems to be heightening the drama in more recent work, exploring the surface more. How does the sublime fit into a dim worldview? The sublime is interesting because it is not
necessarily beautiful. Burke’s original concept of the sublime included what was most definitely NOT pleasurable, what was awesomely terrifying or downright ugly. As an idea it has been a powerful tool to free artists from their role as interior decorators. Any art that assumes a more conceptual attitude ultimately draws it’s strength from the stance of the sublime as a counter to the merely beautiful. It is definitely oxymoronic to present a lush, beautiful painting that depicts barbed wire and an ugly, hulking tower block of a building. Is beauty important? Is it there to console the viewer or to lure them into a nightmarish hellscape? What sort of journey do you ideally wish for viewers of your work? Beauty is of great importance and ultimately there is nothing wrong with beauty. And yes, of course, it can be a tool to seduce a viewer into confronting some experience they’d rather avoid. A spoonful of sugar? Maybe. I’d avoid prescribing an experience for a viewer of my work, but I’ve always felt that catharsis was one of the most powerful emotions evoked by any
Apartment Building, Tokyo, 2013, acr ylic on canvas, 60” x 44”
Plastic Bags, 2009, acr ylic on canvas, 60” x 80”
work of art. Think of a late Rothko… that unspeakable beauty, calm and sadness... “Nightmarish hellscape?” Thank you, I’m flattered. We met in an art show at a strip bar and had a funny conversation about Jean Rollin and exploitation cinema. Rollin in particular creates some stunning visuals. Do you draw on film as an influence? I LOVE Jean Rollin and his goofy post-surrealist, gothic comic book universe. I think his movies have had a lot of influence on a number of contemporary artists. He was able to find the freedom to deal with taboo and out-there subjects as long as he just tossed a sex scene in the flick to guarantee distribution in porn theaters. Georges Bataille was his godfather. But yes, his visuals are amazing. He was a real poet of the eye. He is interesting in that his mise-en-scéne is often the most interesting things about the films. I’ve made a few paintings based on transition scenes in his movies. I feel like I’m saying I read Playboy for the articles but I really enjoy his pornographic horror films for the landscapes he
sets them in—that might be the most decadently subversive thing I can say about his art. (Sort of like going to a strip club to look at paintings.) There are a lot of filmmakers I look at as influences. Michelangelo Antonioni comes to mind as someone I was inspired by early on in my career and still holds a special place in my heart. I’m also very interested in the off-beat auteur films of the ‘70s, when the director was considered an artist and low budget films were still the norm. When painting the landscape, you get a sense of the infinite by virtue of expansive space or endless tree branches. How do you personally know when a painting is finished? It’s tough. I like to work on large paintings slowly so there is a temptation to say something is done prematurely. But ultimately a bit more time pays off in better results. I want a painting to have that infinite and expansive feeling but to also feel that somehow it just accidentally happened. Sometimes it can take forever to find that happenstance moment.
What are some paintings that you like to revisit, in museums or collections? I have a lot of artists I look at, but a recent discovery I made when visiting Vienna was Richard Gerstl, the proto-expressionist. Unfortunately, today he is probably more famous for his youthful suicide and affair with Arnold Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde but I loved the directness and urgency of his landscape paintings. His self-portraits are chilling and among the best of the first half of the 20th century. He is under appreciated today so I’ll mention him now. What are you working on right now? I’m playing around with oil paint after a long period of working exclusively with water-based media. Right now I’m making small oil studies which I hope to develop into large-scale works. Studio or not, I’m a wily artist and will figure out a way to make my vision happen—whether an army of “international real-estate investors” likes it or not.