Women Artists is an annually released publication profiling upcoming and established women working in the visual arts through interviews, studio visits and essays. Volume 4 was edited by Tricia Gilbride and Caroline Knowles. The cover design and titles are by Naomi Elliott. Find more of Naomiâ€™s work at naomielliott.co.uk.
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Aidan Koch Studio Visit by Caroline Tompkins 6
Lora Baize and Annie McLaughlin A Conversation 16
Nakeya Brown Interview by Yohana Desta 22
Tamara Valdez A Portfolio 32
Alice Tippit Interview by A\M Collective 48
Danielle Romero Interview by Caroline Knowles 56
Anna Valdez Studio Visit by Tricia Gilbride and Caroline Knowles 64
Anny Crane An Essay 72
Lora Baize is a self-taught painter & sculptor living and working in Portland, OR. She had her debut solo show at Nationale in March 2015. Baize has also shown in group exhibitions at Nationale Gallery (Portland, OR), Good Mother (Oakland, CA), Open Gallery (Portland, OR), Big Umbrella (SF), and the Moma Design Gallery (NYC). In addition to her dedicated painting practice Baize founded Open Gallery in the summer of 2014 and continues to curate innovative exhibitions for OPEN as well as various other galleries. Anny Crane was born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Florida. She grew up amid palm trees, sprawling roads, and strip malls, with the air smelling of citrus and sea salt.Her work focuses on navigating existence through memories, loss, and human connection through handmade paper, embroidery, textiles and process as storytelling. Anny also lends herself to the artistic work of her community, curating showcases and events for friends and community members. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with herpartnerand their two cats. You can find her work at annycrane.com and follow her on Instagram @annycrane. Yohana Desta is a staff writer for Vanity Fair. Her past work can be found in Mashable and USA Today. She can also be found on Twitter @yohanadesta. She’s very fond of ice cream and Kanye West. Naomi Elliott is an illustrator and designer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her process involves combining stencils with hand drawn elements to create a rich and multi-textured final image. Tricia Gilbride is a culture writer living in Queens, NY. She writes about celebrities and music for Mashable and edits this fine publication in your hands now. She is also the author of a zine and countless tweets about the Air Bud franchise. Caroline Knowles does a little bit of everything, including editing this publication. Originally from Florida, she’s currently based in Austin, TX. She enjoys luxury fabrics, small scrappy dogs and collecting old art catalogs.
Annie McLaughlin is a multi-disciplinary artist from Long Beach, California. Currently based out of Portland, Oregon, she is a curator for Bay Space and a recent graduate from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her work has been exhibited locally at Nationale and Open Gallery as well as internationally at Steinsland Berliner Gallery in Stockholm and David Risley Gallery in Copenhagen. Michael Milano is an artist, writer, and curator living and working in Indianapolis. He received an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BA in Humanities from Shimer College. He has shown at Elmhurst Museum of Art, IL; DBQ Project Space, Pittsburgh, PA; Dorsky Gallery, New York, NY; Devening Projects, Chicago, IL; Roots & Culture, Chicago, IL; threewalls, Chicago, IL; Peregrine Program, Chicago, IL; Adds Donna, Chicago, IL; and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago, IL. Milano has written for Surface Design, Textile: Journal of Cloth and Culture, and Bad At Sports. He is a founding member of A\M, a curatorial collective in Indianapolis. Elisabeth Smith is a curator and arts administrator based in Indianapolis. She currently works at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Elisabeth received a dual MA in Art History, Theory, and Criticism & Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, and a BA in Art History from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011. While in Chicago, Elisabeth was a member of the curatorial collective Third Object, and organized exhibitions at Roots & Culture, Fernwey Gallery, The Franklin, Studio 424, and ACRETV. She is a founding member of A\M, a curatorial collective in Indianapolis. Caroline Tompkins, originating from Ohio, received a BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, and her work has been featured on Vice, Al Jazeera America, BBC, and The Fader among others. Caroline currently lives in Brooklyn working as a freelance photographer and photo editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. Tamara Becerra Valdez is an artist living between Mexico and Texas. Through her use of repetition and excavation in archival materials, Valdez explores the preservation of memory, the recovery of personal histories and the sharing of familial narratives. She is a co-founder of LOS LIBROS DEL FUTURO, a small press in Mexico City that utilizes a combination of visual, ethnographic approaches to construct stories of people and places that have been overlooked in the transnational identity of the Texas/Mexico borderlands.
Aidan Koch Aidan Koch is a multi-media artist based in New York. She is the author of graphic novels The Whale, Impressions, The Blonde Woman, and After Nothing Comes. Photographer Caroline Tompkins visited her in her studio for a conversation about fashion as a creative outlet in her youth, travel and unreturned letters. Interview and images by Caroline Tompkins
Tell me about where you’re from.
would get back to me.
I’m from Olympia, Washington, which is between Seattle and Portland at the very tip of the Puget Sound.
Punk Heaven. Yes! Well, Riot Girl more than anything. What were you like as a kid? Wild, weird, crazy. I was doing a lot of art projects all the time. I drew a lot as a kid. I only ever wanted to play with dinosaurs or I had dollhouses but inside were all Calico Critters. Those were a top fave.
Yeah! Not so nice. We got to dress ourselves very, very early. The only outfit I remember specifically was this one I thought was really smart – I had this crazy top, it was covered in green checkered flowers, that I got from this store Metro, and I wore one blue and one yellow sock with it, because they make green. [laughter] It was really progressive color theory at a young age! Lil Josef Albers But it looked wild.
Who were your allies growing up?
What did the parents say?
My sister is only two years older than me, so she and I have always been really close, and then growing up we had two best friends who were also sisters who lived down the street. We lived in the forest on a dead end and had free rein over the whole neighborhood. It was just safe and quiet and wild there, so we spent a lot of time at the marina or on the beach.
My friend would say, ‘ooh! My mom said this about you!’ Just really bitchy. I would be like ‘uh! I thought I looked good!’ I guess lots of big t-shirts. I had one giant Farside t-shirt I wore a lot. Me and my sister got t-shirts from my dad too. She may still have it. There was this one t-shirt that our dad brought back from Japan, that was like that bleach-died? In Kanji it had ‘Oni’ written on it – which is like a demon. She and I both were obsessed with it. We knew what it said and that was so cool.
It is an enjoyable experience for you to go home? Yeah. It’s really beautiful there. Really beautiful. The weather is dark and dismal most of the time. I was home in July for ten days and it was probably gray and rainy for eight of those – and cold. Do you have a room? No. My room disappeared a long time ago. How did you dress differently from now? Oh – strangely, I specifically remember I had friend’s parents who made fun of how I dressed or they would say catty things that
What about when you got older? As a teenager things got different, I was obsessed with FRUiTS Magazine. It’s a Japanese magazine that shows street style from Harajuku in Tokyo, so it’s like really wild, wild styles. Like baby doll to crazy hyper Goth looks, just everything to be extreme. So I was really into that and vintage. So you’ve just always been cool? I’ve always done my own thing! I think that’s more appropriate, it definitely didn’t look cool
when I reflect, but I think the passion behind it was cool! Like really naïve, eccentric – I was like ’this looks great! I want to wear it! wow!
like gold a lot. When I’m able to, I’ll invest a little.
Can you tell me about your daily rituals?
Well now it’s casting. Whenever I have been able to, I’ll get new earrings or chains or things, but now I can get stuff cast in whatever carat. I’m working my way up. I really want a bunch of 20 carat rings. It makes so much sense to me because it’s small and has a permanent value to it. So it is like an actual investment. Otherwise, I really only spend money on supplies and food. That’s how it works. I guess traveling, but not that much anymore.
I have none. You have none? Well, I drink coffee and I cook breakfast every day, that’s really the extent of regularity. What for breakfast? I go through phases, it’s usually just some type of scramble and toast.
In jewelry or casting?
Why not as much?
What’s your relationship to your body? Do you see it as a utility or something else? I mean it’s there. It’s functional for the most part. I don’t think about it that much. When my boyfriend moved in he brought this full length mirror, and that’s been a thing. It’s strange because now I have to confront a physical being every day as myself. I’ve lived in the middle of nowhere a lot, and that helps you detach from ever thinking about what you look like. If you don’t see people, you don’t think about it, it doesn’t matter. Even if you have mirrors around. You’re not as conscious. What do you enjoy spending money on? Ooh! Anyone that really knows me knows that I
People keep flying me places! Oh, wow! Which is great – amazing. I used to save up tons of money and go on trips for months, but now I’m traveling too much to do that. Taking a trip like that now would make me go crazy because I have to work, and I’m already gone all the time. What are they flying you out for? It’s mostly comics-related stuff. Like next month I’m going to Bogotá for ten days for a festival down there, and then in October I’m going to the UK for five days for a festival there. Who’s flying you out?
The host of the festivals. It’s interesting, people will often ask me to do fests, but it’s just too far for me to travel. At what point did they start offering to pay? Yeah, both of these are not sit-and-sell things festivals, which I think is a big difference, where I am expected to do things. For one of them I’m collaborating with a Colombian artist, and we’re putting together a show, and probably doing some other thing – maybe a workshop, a talk. For the UK one, it’s going to be at least a workshop and presentations. So it’s definitely that they are asking things of me. I am so happy to be there, I’ll do anything…
really, really long letter back. All the romantic people that I’ve written to have never, ever, ever reciprocated! Which is pretty funny. I guess one boyfriend maybe started it all a little bit – he was a package sender, not necessarily a letter writer. That was so exciting. What are you learning about sex at this point in your life? I don’t know – you can always have more, leave it at that. Ok, last question – what should be better by now, but isn’t?
What is your love language?
Well, I don’t know, I don’t expect much from anything. So if you don’t have expectations it’s hard to ask for things to change.
I mean, I’m a letter writer, like really, extremely long letters regularly.
Do you feel like you’ve always been that way?
Do you feel like your work is segments of that? There’s things that have been, but not regularly. I think people maybe would say the opposite, but I don’t think my work is very romantic actually. People would probably tell me I’m wrong. To me, it’s more analytical. I give gifts too, or I try. Probably not on the verbal affirmation spectrum. I’ve always kept things a little confusing. I don’t want to be too direct or give too much away. What’s your sign? Taurus. Is there an expectation (or at least a hope) that your letter will be reciprocated? Well no one does it! That’s the thing. It’s almost exclusively a one-sided activity. I think there’s a few best friends who – it might take them two months – but eventually they’ll write me a
I’m pretty good about it. There are certain things that just make me tired because it’s like ‘Really? Still?’ That definitely requires optimism or expectation. When I think things are generally getting worse for everything on like a global spectrum. For things to at least not get too much worse, that’d be cool. Well, that’s it! Alright.
Lora Baize & Annie McLaughlin Annie McLaughlin and Lora Baize are two friends and female artists, collaborators and curators in Portland, Oregon. The following is an excerpt from a conversation they had in August 2016 sitting outside of Stumptown Coffee after not seeing each other in about a month and a half. To bring context to the visit, Annie had spent the previous bout of time on a Western America road and research trip, while Lora had been working, traveling, and just celebrated OPEN galleryâ€™s two year anniversary, which she founded in 2014. They met to catch up and discuss life plans, creative practice, curating future shows at OPEN, boys, and the art hustle. Words and editing by Annie McLaughlin
Lora Baize and Annie McLaughlin
Note: The original conversation was approximately an hour and a half long. This transcription has been edited for clarity and legibility, which mostly includes the omission of the term “like” used for every other word in the original recording.
ANNIE: Oh man, that girl’s so cool I was looking
at her outfit earlier. LORA: Jean suit? ANNIE: Yeah, she looks amazing.
LORA: Whoa, you’d look cute with short hair. ANNIE: The last six inches are totally dead. LORA: [laughs] Chop it!
LORA: She kinda looks like May.
ANNIE: Dude, I’m waiting til my trip is over then I’m gonna chop it off.
ANNIE: Yeah, she does. Dude, I have to cut all
LORA: You should throw it into the Grand
my hair off.
LORA: What, why?
ANNIE: That would be beautiful.
ANNIE: Because it’s so fucking dead it just tangles immediately.
LORA: Burn it in a forest fire in a field.
Previous page: Portrait of Annie by Lora This page: Portrait of Lora by Annie
ANNIE: That would smell really good.
Lora Baize and Annie McLaughlin
LORA: Or really bad. ANNIE: Yeah or really bad.
ANNIE: I really wanna make some big
awesome paintings and sculptures. Maybe some carved wood painted sculptures. Something that looks like they could be folk art and I really wanna— oh man, I had this idea recently. I wanna make something, I’m not sure what yet, out of those wiggly wooden snakes.
Seattle and I’m doing mostly sculptures, which I haven’t done in so long! But I feel like I work with paint as an object already and I’m excited to combine a lot of new materials I have been working with. ANNIE: Definitely. LORA: All of the pieces talk about conspiracy
theories and social issues, which I’ve also haven’t… well, I’ve been working with abstract painting so much that just don’t have any basis in reality. Like this is my nonsense, mentalLORA: What if you crazy-thought about found the curvy wood like, this color and and carved a snakey? black and white and blah blah blah, in my ANNIE: I know how brain but like actually to make them, but it having a conversation would take so long, I from the object has might make one big been making me think one, but I was thinking a lot more and makes it would be super sweet what I’m doing seem to make a chandelier more valid? In a way? out of them or some Even though they’re weird big object out of still gonna be pretty smaller snakeys. [laughs] , but they’re LORA: That sounds Boo Boo (2015) by Lora Baize talking about some rad. hella dark shit. ANNIE: Yeah, I went to this exhibition in
Houston that was all self-taught painters at the Menil collection. It was like the most beautiful show I’d ever seen. I would love to show some work inspired by this trip somewhere in the Midwest, maybe Houston. What were you saying about your show? LORA: Oh yeah. So JD [Banke] and I are
having this show in December at Glassbox in
LORA: I wanna see you skateboard. ANNIE: I have a good one of me falling. LORA: [laughs] Hell yeah. Have you been
skateboarding with George?
ANNIE: Yeah, he’s the one who initially taught
me but then on my trip I’ve just been going by myself. This is my skateboard.
LORA: I know, it’s scary when you like someone
LORA: Whoa, that’s sick where’d you get that?
so much. ANNIE: That’s where I’m at, I’m like, not letting
ANNIE: Uh, from Cal Skate.
myself like anyone because I’m so afraid of it.
LORA: How cute, that’s a funny one.
LORA: Yeah, it’s fucking scary but it makes
ANNIE: I have a million boob pictures sorry if
sense because you got the fucking shit—
you saw that.
ANNIE: Kicked out of
me, yeah, bad.
LORA: Haha, I didn’t
LORA: Bad bad boys in
ANNIE: Everytime I
come back into town I end up having a million boob pictures on my phone then I delete them.
LORA: Did I tell you
BOTH : [laughs]
ANNIE: Whoa hell
that JD and I started fishing? yeah, that’s awesome. Fishing is fun.
ANNIE: That would
have been a funny thing to have recorded.
LORA: Dude, yeah. ANNIE: It’s just like a
chill thing to hang out and do with someone for a while. What kind of fishing?
LORA: I’m recording. ANNIE: Oh shit, you’re
recording. LORA: [laughs]
Carnations, Marigolds, Lillies, Peonies (2016) by Annie McLaughlin
ANNIE: Um yeah, boys. LORA: Yeah boys. I’m like, I like JD so much
that last night we watched The Sixth Sense and I cried so hard — realizing your own mortality as you get older is the scariest part of that whole movie. ANNIE: [laughs] Oh my god. That’s sweet
LORA: Trout, we
haven’t caught anything yet though but we’ve been going a lot. I don’t even think it’s trout season, but its really fun. ANNIE: Yeah. LORA: And experiencing country life. It’s so
hard thinking about going to LA or thinking about getting some land in the country. They’re such drastically different things but
Lora Baize and Annie McLaughlin
I feel like I’d kind of rather just be in the country and do the gallery than go to LA like everyone else. ANNIE: I’m in the exact same torn place as
that, on this trip I’ve been thinking the whole time, “Do I want to live out somewhere on some land or do I want to live in LA? I can’t decide because they’re so different.” LORA: I feel like it’s just too much of a scary time
to move to a city like that, like what if fucking Donald Trump is president and there’s like a wall and a war and people getting deported and fucking military trapping you in LA? ANNIE: Part of me is going to Scotland
tomorrow and thinking that I’m gonna see what’s up with art school there, because I’ve heard Scotland is very chill compared to England, and Glasgow School of Art looks pretty cool. And I’m kind of thinking maybe this will be my plan if Donald Trump becomes president, just move to Scotland and go to grad school like, in the way people moved to Canada to avoid the draft. LORA: If Donald Trump becomes president I’m
definitely going to try to become more selfsustaining away from a city, cause we’re all gonna die and starve and be poor, and I just want to grow my own food and survive outside of the reality of America.
not a shitty horrible Republican man like he leads you to believe, but he needed to get the vote of uneducated America so he has preached to the choir for a long time. So he’s like, “Yeah, make America great again, we hate all brown people and whatever,” and that he’s just pushing that rhetoric because that’s what the people want to hear. As fucked up as it is he knows that that’s how he gets higher ratings, and then the theory is that actually, maybe he’s not such a bad man after all and like, he’s all just doing it for publicity and maybe he won’t carry through. I know it’s totally not about to be true, but I really like this idea. Maybe he’s really an okay guy who’s just taking advantage of all the uneducated assholes in America. LORA: They are all evil, but dude the thing
I’m excited about if Hillary Clinton gets voted for president is she wants to release all of the Area 51 secured documents. All the top secret documents she wants to make public so we’d all find out about aliens, did you see aliens on your trip? ANNIE: Ok, so there’s all this weird alien shit
all throughout the Southwest, when I was coming into— LORA: Look at that butt. ANNIE: Wow that’s an amazing butt.
ANNIE: Dude, yeah. When I was in Austin I
LORA: Dude hell yeah girl.
was talking to these people that had this really amazing theory about what Donald Trump is potentially up to.
ANNIE: Those jeans look so good on her.
LORA: What? ANNIE: Best case scenario, this is an amazing
idea and I hope it’s the case if he does get voted into office. The thought that maybe Donald Trump is like really fucking smart, and
Nakeya Brown Nakeya Brown’s work is surrounded by a soft, pastel-colored halo of nostalgia. The D.C.-based photographer, whose work has been shown in exhibits all over the country, focuses her artistic eye on capturing narratives of black female existence. In works like Hair Stories Untold, she features objects like hot combs, rollers, and bonnets. In one photo, a model holds a lighter to a box braid, sealing the ends. The backdrops and color coordination are lush and specific; the baby blue lighter perfectly matches the wall behind it. In another photo for the series If Nostalgia Were Colored Brown, a small purple label on a white hairdryer matches up with the purple wall, upon which hangs a pink-accented Stephanie Mills record. Everything syncs up, her photographs stringing together to present a world of visual harmony. Today, she’s working on a laundry list of lush projects. There’s the ongoing series girls in the studio (in collaboration with the Coalition Zine), which is exactly what it sounds like: girls striking contemplative poses in a muted studio. She’s also curating an exhibit for Gallery 102 in Washington, D.C., titled After-Facts, which aims to present photographs that are “riddles, metaphors, and hints towards ideas that occupy the artists’ mind.” In between it all, she’s currently pursuing her M.F.A. at George Washington University in D.C, and taking care of her 3-year-old daughter Mia. In a phone interview, Brown talked about all of this and more.
Interview by Yohana Desta
Your work is focused on black people, black women in particular…and also very focused on beauty. Has that always been your focus in art? Or did you evolve to that place? When I first studied as an undergrad in photography [at Rutgers], LaToya Ruby Frazier was one of my professors, and her school of photography-taking is…really grounded in a tradition of social engagement and making works that really are a reflection of what’s happening to people and what’s happening to society. So as an undergrad, I was doing more street photography and I actually focused pretty heavily on men. I would do a lot of street portraits of guys. I did this whole series in New Orleans called Becoming Home with another really talented female photographer of color named Mariana Sheppard. I was doing more social documentary work. And then always engaged with the black experience and trying to apply a narrative to: “What is the contemporary black experience? What is the urban experience? What are the rural experiences like?” There’s a fullness, so I was sort of doing all of that as an undergrad, and then graduated, started working full-time, and ended up getting pregnant by surprise. I was sort of like, “This is life and you will adapt and you will move on and you will grow and you’ll make your art.” I read a book, a really important book. It was edited by Qiana Mestrich. It’s called How We Do Both, and it’s a collection of essays by women artists who are also mothers. Before [becoming a mother]…I could fly to Louisiana for a weekend and just shoot and fly back and it would be good. But after I gave birth to my daughter Mia, I really needed to sit down and think about my approach…I was like,
“I wanted to make work that my daughter could look back on one day and be like, ‘My mom made this whole body of work around black women’s bodies and their experiences growing up and I still relate to it.’” “All right, you only have so much time and you want to keep making work.” Around that time, I started to notice a shift where I started to replace subjects and people, and I started to play around with the objects and the things in my house. It was just a really different way of making work… it sort of happens naturally because I had to readjust. Also, I went natural in college and that was always something — I wanted to make work that reflected on transitions from wearing my hair processed to wearing it natural. How I was received differently, how I viewed myself differently, how others viewed me differently. There was this change. It was like the natural hair movement was happening in, like, 2008 …at the same time where I was just thinking about, you know, what do I want my work to do? What do I want my work to say? What is the best way for me to accomplish that now as a mother? And my work is sort of like the
Previous page: Art of Sealing Ends (Part II) (2014) from Hair Stories Untold Facing page: The Art of Sealing Ends (2014) from Hair Stories Untold
product of all of those things. Readjusting how I create, readjusting my mission. I wanted to make work that my daughter could look back on one day and be like, “My mom made this whole body of work around black women’s bodies and their experiences growing up and I still relate to it.” I want my work to also serve as a place where you can start a conversation or learn a lesson. Your work looks very of the past, but is also extremely of the present. One of the things that really struck me – there was something that reminded me of Stereostyles by Lorna Simpson and The Kitchen Table Series by Carrie Mae Weems. I was curious if those women were inspirations? You definitely hit the nail on the head with my inspiration. Carrie Mae Weems, definitely, the Kitchen Table Series. The first work of Lorna Simpson’s that I had seen is when I was an undergrad and she did this series of lips [Easy to Remember]. She did this close-up series of mouths. I really appreciated the way that they’re able
Facing page: Sid (2016) from Girls in Studio Series This page: Fabi (2016) from Girls in Studio Series
to convey really heavy and complex and complicated ideas in ways that are really minimal and conceptually driven. They’re sort of open-ended so, as a viewer, you can bring multiple stories into the work. It’s not always mapped out in a simple way, you know what I’m saying? Some artists work and they think of the pieces that they make as answers or as solutions to some sort of idea or politic or question. For me, my work is less of a solution or a definitive answer, but it’s more of a response. And it’s like an open-ended response. Your work is also just so colorful. How do you decide the color palette? In the Refutation of Good Hair, I was thinking about color as sort of a symbol for femininity, and it was a subtle use of color. I sort of used purples and pinks and yellows and blues and I used a lot of satin as a material, so I was also thinking about not even just color as a representation of femininity, but also thinking about material. Thinking about satin and also thinking about fibers of hair as being feminine and trying to sort of complicate the ideas behind soft hair and femininity. It was in If Nostalgia Were Colored Brown, and also Hair Stories Untold…I was using a lot of dated objects of the past, working with vintage hairdryers, working with vinyl records, working with sort of, like, house plants and domestic
objects that are tied to spaces that women traditionally have been sort of limited to, or owned as our own. I was working with the objects to sort of dress my image, like the palette of my image. So I was working a lot with available palettes based off the objects that I was staging each image with…the photographs really come out of the objects, it’s not the other way around. So I would gather and collect and everything would sort of sit in my house and then I would arrange and play and compose and make my composition that way based on what was available. Colors have this way where they can really evoke emotion and that was also something that I kept in mind as I was making the work. Like, how do these colors make me feel? Do they make me feel tingly? Do they make me feel warm? Do they make me feel love? Do they make me feel safe? I was really using color formally within my work, obviously, but it also has these other underlying meanings that that you can tease out of it.
secondhand shops. I’d like to think of it as sort of rescuing and excavating these things from the ruins because people buy things and then discard them all the time. But I find value in things that people forget about. I find value in anything that is sort of a commodification of the black body, the black female body. So all of the records that I chose, they were 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s records, like R&B and soul records, again thinking about how these objects can evoke an emotive feeling and how they can represent a particular time. So the records are really important…it also creates this intergenerational conversation between me as a 20-something-year-old millennial who has this undying love for celebrity black images of females on vinyl. I’m really drawn to that. This interview has been edited and condensed.
I wanted to ask about the objects too, because I assume you have to hunt for some of these things, like the pink rotary phone. I was wondering if there was one object in particular that you found that was really special to you or that has an interesting origin story for how it ended up in your art? Yeah, you mentioned the pink rotary phone. A good friend of mine, who is also an artist — she’s a furniture designer, she collects vintage furniture and then reupholsters it with her own artwork — she actually gave me that phone. So that was a gift from a close artist friend. And she always sends me stuff in the mail. That actually came from someone who’s near and dear to my heart. A lot of the records came from Salvation Army,
Previous pages: Sem (2016) from Girls in Studio Series Facing page: Chirstine (2016) from Girls in Studio Series
Archive of Absurd Collected Papers and Feelings The Archive of Absurd Collected Papers and Feelings originates from an obsession with collecting gifted papers and their memorable traces. The collection is sentimental. It is a gathering of feelings that no longer occur in my present everyday. However, the rememberance as recorded continues to live in the archive through my written support. Initially, I collected the blank pages of old notebooks and drawings on paper. Then, the collection grew into that of which reflected my interest in the behavior of archival impulses. What do we choose to accumulate or discard? How do we store something fragile? What constitutes an archive? Along these interests, the collection grew towards including the paper or material that wrapped or stored a precious or fragile object, like the yellow bag with roses that held a ring box or pink wallpaper that I had used to wrap a note. This collection is a part of a personal history with no physical evidence remaining but the few traces and testimonies here. Everytime I look at these papers, there is something revealed. Introduction and portfolio by Tamara Becerra Valdez
Alice Tippit This conversation was conducted in July 2016 between A\M and Alice Tippit in advance of her solo exhibition for Syntax Season. Curated by A\M and hosted by PRINTtEXT, Syntax Season is a longform exhibition series that brings together eight artists whose practices engage in various kinds of language games. Interview by A\M Collective
Slip (2014), Oil on canvas
Drive (2015), Oil on canvas
A\M : Hi Alice! As you already know, we have
been big fans of your work for quite some time. Of course, we have our own way of talking and thinking about your practice, but wanted to start by giving you the floor. So, when someone asks what kind of artist you are, how do you answer? ALICE: Ah! I dread this question for some
reason. I usually try to keep it simple. My stock answer is “I make paintings.” I’ve never liked saying that I am a painter, somehow this feels like a misrepresentation of what I do. Inserting “make” between me and the painting adds the appropriate amount of distance. My hesitation to embrace myself as a painter stems from the manner in which the paintings are made. The magic already happened somewhere else, painting for me is mostly a matter of execution. Of course, after this question comes the equally dreaded what-kind-of-paintings question. At that point I will say that my work is very graphic in its sensibility, using simplified forms, clean lines, and a reduced palette to produce an image that appears to operate as a sign or signifier, a simple stand-in for something else. I manipulate the legibility of the sign by creating confusion between traditional figure/ground relationships, or using shape and color to suggest divergent interpretations of the image. My interest lies in the slippage of meaning not only within the image itself, but in relationships between it and other works. All said, I find it really difficult to give the elevator pitch without visual aids. A\M : Can you say more about the “magic”
and where that happens? How do you go about choosing which signs and images to manipulate? There is certain imagery that you seem to return to — the human body, vases and candles, just to name a few — we’re interested in hearing more about these choices and how you go about setting up your compositions
pre-painting, but hopefully not at the cost of revealing all your secrets! ALICE: I’m a big daydreamer. I make time for
it, actually. It is very important that I access some kind of non-logical thoughtspace — a lot of ideas start there. Drawing is also key; I make it my business to draw whenever possible. Most paintings start out as quick thumbnail sketches. I work out the composition in this manner, then scale up a bit, using colored pencil to work out other decisions. Over time I have accumulated a visual lexicon rooted very much in the history of painting — primarily still life and portraiture — but inspiration comes from weird places as well, like product photography. I’m always looking for elements that are “off” in images, where the figure and ground become confused. For example, while riding the bus one day I happened to glance at an open magazine in the lap of the woman next to me. At first take I thought I saw a close-up of a naked woman from knee to waist, legs slightly spread. A second take revealed it to be a photograph of a sleek, steel lamp against a peach-colored wall. This became a painting. I don’t mean to imply that painting is a dead activity for me with no magic whatsoever. Sometimes the process of painting itself leads to a change in how I had conceived the image. For the most part though, it really is an interim activity between the process of conception and the other exciting part for me, which is installation. I’d like to drop magic as a term at this point in favor of poetry. At the point of installation, looking at the relationship between works is a kind of poetic process that does not bear too much explanation. Suffice it to say that an individual image is changed by its proximity, or lack thereof, to others. I’ve also been known to use objects that I have collected to add context.
At a recent show I used a conch shell, a book by Ed Wood, and an old newspaper clipping. A\M : Yes! In fact, lately we have been thinking
of your work in almost an aphoristic sense. That is, the individual paintings can stand on their own independently, but they also accrue additional meaning in aggregate; they begin to construct something like a worldview when hung together, due to their visual grammar and shared lexicon, as you said. In this way, an exhibition becomes more like a set of collected poems or short stories, rather than something to be read in a linear way. Reading actually seems like an appropriate verb for experiencing your works. There is something very legible about them, probably due to their graphic and iconic nature, and maybe the ability or act of reading is part of what is at stake in the works. By confusing the figure/ground relationship and inverting pictorial logic, your work invites viewers to be self-reflective about how we read your paintings and how we read images more generally. Is this a fair assessment? Is the legibility of images and perhaps even the plasticity of pictorial space part of what motivates you in the studio? ALICE: The activity of reading
images is super interesting to me. Humans are meaningmaking machines, forever assembling and sorting data in wonderfully imperfect systems of our own creation. Way back when I used text in my work, I was struggling to undermine the dominance of text in relationship to the image. Eventually I tired of how this often caused viewers to treat
my work as a kind of game that they could win, and so I began to drop the use of text in favor of images that retain the legibility of text using simple pictorial strategies to push the connotative possibilities. Text retains its importance in titling, which I see as another dimension to the work. It should never, never explain the image. I still encounter viewers who try to solve the image, but it does not bother me as it once did. I love hearing the great variety of solutions. I try to weed out unwanted associations as I work through an idea, but I gave up long ago on the notion that I could control everything. And the image once rendered into flesh often surprises even me, which is a fun thing. A\M : While some might approach your work as
a game or puzzle, there is definitely an element of play that we appreciate, a subtle sense of humor, that assists in allowing for these multiple readings and interpretations. Is the deployment of humor, if that’s even the right word, a conscious strategy or method? ALICE: I am definitely more
appreciative of those who are willing to play, and not arrive at a singular answer. Humor is almost an inevitable element for me, and I am very conscious of its use in my work, by degrees. If you consider some images as me telling a joke, it’s definitely one that I start but don’t finish. I’m certainly reliant on the visual versions of humor grounded in wordplay. Puns for instance, I definitely make visual puns. I’m also appreciative of the role that humor plays in easing the awkwardness of social
Facing page: Mass (2016), Oil on canvas This page: Spare (2016), Oil on canvas
Monitor (2015), Oil on canvas
interactions. When used in an artwork, it lets the viewer in. For this reason I do not like to deploy it in every work. There needs to be a range, or the dynamic relationship that should exist between works becomes too concrete. Does that make sense? A\M : Absolutely, that makes perfect sense. It
would diminish their impact if all the works were merely jokes or one-liners. So, selectively deploying humor allows for multiple speeds in reading your work — some function like quick puns, and some require a little more time to unpack. Turning now to more formal issues, can you talk a little bit about your palette? How do you arrive at your color choices? Also, can you speak to your decision to work nearly exclusively in small or medium scale? Is this a conceptual constraint or, perhaps, a way to allude to the size and dimensions of a piece of paper, poster, magazine or other human-scale media? ALICE: Color has given me trouble at times
in the past. I thought about color in terms of the associations it might bring, or whether it needed to be pleasing. It wasn’t until graduate school that I really began to think about the interaction of color, in large part thanks to Barbara Rossi. She helped me to become conscious of color, form, figure, and ground; that they are part of the language of painting and their manipulation adds depth to the question asked by the image. Usually there are three colors used in a painting, sometimes more, but it is a rare thing. These days I work color out well beforehand. If I am thinking about the associations that the choice of a particular color might bring, I work out whether they are desirable or not. I still think about this aspect the most, but now it is informed by other concerns. Legibility is one.
Do I want the image to be plainly stated or do I want there to be more confusion between what is the figure and what is the ground? In the case of the latter I might choose colors of equivalent saturation. Size for me is an issue of intimacy. I want to whisper, or tête-à-tête. I don’t want to yell or lecture. I prefer to think about scale within the confines of the small to medium format painting and mess around with expectations on that level. A\M : If only more people would whisper rather
than yell or lecture right now. Okay, we’ve talked about legibility, interrogating images, and the relationship between language, images, and objects — so, finally, and this is a big question, but hopefully you’ll humor us: we’re curious to know, in your words, why you are making the work that you’re making right now. Or, said another way, how would you contextualize the work that you’re making in our current moment? What is it about the larger social, economic and technowhatever conditions in which we are living that encourages you to make this work? ALICE: I make art because I can’t help it,
and the art I make is the result of years-long dialogues I’ve been having with other artists, myself, and painting itself. It is difficult for me to explain how I arrived at this place. For this reason I don’t see my work as a reply to the current moment per se. I can’t bear work that holds up a mirror as if that were enough. That said, I make paintings, and I think painting as a genre continues to be relevant to the current culture, at least in part because it is such an inefficient method for manufacturing images. Not fast, not easy, it cannot keep up with our ability to make and consume images by other means. This out-of-stepness is very appealing to me, because I value the slow read it provokes.
Danielle Romero Working under the name ‘Flora + Form’, Danielle Romero creates abstract compositions and ceramics out of her home in Miami, Florida. Evocative of her coastal surroundings, her bold forms and calming palettes bring to mind the landscapes of O’Keeffe and compositions of Arp. We spoke about integrating a creative practice into a busy schedule and our shared home state. Interview by Caroline Knowles
Desert Mountains No. 3 (2016), Ink on archival paper
CAROLINE: How long have you been based in
Miami? What do you love most about being based there? DANIELLE: I was born in Miami, so I’ve been
here for 31 years. From a very early age I wanted to leave Miami, but I think fear has always kept me from it. My family was fortunate enough to travel quite a bit when I was a child, and perhaps that played a major role in forming my desire to leave; seeing so many other beautiful places with incredible natural areas, I always took Miami for granted. As I get older though I appreciate South Florida for the unique beauty that it also has to offer.
Do you keep a sketchbook or take photos while exploring? DANIELLE: As a native Floridian, I used to
think I knew everything about the landscape and thus felt as though there was nothing more to discover and be in awe of. Painting really changed that as it created this awareness in me to attempt to see every possible detail of my surroundings. And while I still refer to my imagination of far away places like deserts, which I am incredibly inspired by, and mountainous regions when I paint, the intricacies of the Florida landscape that I continue to collect and keep in my subconscious always make their way onto the canvas in some form or another.
My perspective on Miami really began to change when I moved about an hour outside of The main way I record inspiration when I’m the city to the agricultural zoned area called out exploring is through photos. I prefer this Redlands. This is where I have been able to method because I can take a quick picture and develop a deep go back later and admiration for the try and delve further native ecosystems into the details of here. I live about what I was initially 10 miles from inspired by when I Everglades National took that photo. I do Park, which I explore keep a sketchbook, often and feel very but I mainly use blessed to have easy that while at home access to. If not at to sketch ideas I’ve home painting, you’ll already formed in my usually find me there head from my various or in the Florida inspiration. The Keys swimming in the sketchbook for me ocean. That is my is basically further Desert Mountains No. 3 (2016), Acrylic on archival paper favorite thing about down the line in the living in Miami; the accessibility to these two process from inspiration to finished work. very different but equally beautiful natural CAROLINE: The name Flora + Form speaks areas to immerse yourself in. literally of your work, as you often explore CAROLINE: Your love of the Florida landscape organic shapes and forms, but you also is so evident in your work. What’s the process describe it as an homage to your parents. Can like to turning your surroundings into a work? you speak to the name “Flora + Form” and your
Desert Mountains No. 3 (2016), Ink on archival paper
Longest Day (2016), Ink
Desert Mountains No. 1 (2016), Acrylic on archival paper
decision to work under it? What brought about your decision to work as Flora + Form versus your own name?
parents play in my life. Now, the name just feels like home. But I always sign my work with my legal first initial and last name.
DANIELLE: The name Flora + Form is an
CAROLINE: I try to stay active on our
homage to my parents in the sense that ‘Flora’ represents myfather’s love of nature, specifically plants, in which he instilled in me at a very young age, and ‘Form’ describes my mother. Aside from being an interior designer, and someone who educated me on the great creatives like Noguchi, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eames, etc, my mom is also one of the strongest people I know. As such, to me she embodies form in every way. The decision to work under the name Flora + Form was purely organic.
Instagram to keep myself accountable for new Women Artists work...it’s also been invaluable for networking and connecting. What was your artistic practice like prior to starting your Instagram account? Have you noticed any changes in your work habits — or even style — since using social media as a tool?
When I created my Instagram account I didn’t have any intention what so ever to sell my work. I had just begun painting as a creative outlet, and decided to create an account to keep myself somewhat accountable to paint, as well as a sort of journal; a way to go deeper into finding myself through a collection of images I’m inspired by and a chronicle of the progress I was making with my painting. I created it with the name Flora + Form because that is what I felt described my interests best (nature, plants, design, architecture, art, etc.). It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized I had subconsciously named my account after the major roles my
DANIELLE: I began my Instagram account
about six months after deciding to pursue painting as a creative outlet and hobby. My purpose was to attempt to keep myself accountable to this hobby I wanted to integrate into my lifestyle. I honestly never imagined it would transform into what it is today. With a 9-5 job, the time I can dedicate most to my work is on the weekends. So in that sense my practice is the same as it was before I began using social media. The main changes have come in the effort spent somewhat curating my gallery. A big part of my personality tends to like things orderly, and then there’s that opposing part of me that craves just a touch of organic disorder I guess you could say. These opposing forces are always pushing and pulling when I curate my posts. CAROLINE: So many of us struggle to balance
a day job with our creative work. Any advice for maintaining an artistic practice on top of a full-time job? DANIELLE: Working a typical Monday through
Friday 9-5 job and attempting to grow a creative or any side business is really tough. Personally, I have come to terms with the fact that I am not motivated at all to create anything in the extremely short amount of time I have left on weeknights. I have an hour and a half long commute to and from work, so by the time I get home, make dinner, shower and spend time with my boyfriend, there is just nothing left in me to paint. So I dedicate almost every weekend to painting and/or my ceramics practice. This schedule has meant more often than not saying no to hanging out with friends and family, and missing out on some events, but personally I haven’t found it very difficult to make that sacrifice. I actually really enjoy being alone, and working a typical day job where I regularly interact with a lot of people leaves me craving that solitude to create by the time the weekend comes around, so it really works out for my personal situation. That said, the only advice I can really give is to first and foremost find what works for you. I also very much believe in just showing up. What I mean is that there have been many occasions where Saturday arrives and I don’t really feel inspired/motivated to create, but this is where sticking to some kind of a schedule and just showing up works for me. I force myself to simply start working, and more often than not I end up pushing through to create something I’m really happy with. CAROLINE: What projects are on the horizon? DANIELLE: I have a lot of personal creative
projects swirling around in my mind at the moment. Aside from finishing a ceramics line,
I am also working on putting together my first pop up shop spring 2017 in Austin, Texas. At the pop up I will be selling prints of selected works, ceramics, and the product I’m most excited about — limited edition silk blouses from a collaboration between myself and the clothing line Sunad. CAROLINE: Which women artists should be on
our radar? DANIELLE: Two of my absolute favorite women
artists are Helen Frankenthaler and Georgia O’Keeffe. The depth Frankenthaler achieves in her minimalism always grabs me immediately, and is something I am constantly striving for in my own work. And as someone who’s work is almost entirely inspired by the natural world, I adore O’Keeffe’s interpretations of the landscapes and flora she painted, they feel very dreamlike... as exciting as it is to study women artists from the past, there are so many current women artists that I enjoy studying as well. Satsuki Shibuya is one in particular that drew me in at first sight of her work. Her paintings exude a tremendous amount of peaceful energy to me, and I love her choice of color.
Anna Valdez In August 2016, we were invited to participate in our first artist’s residency at Little Paper Planes, an artist run shop/ residency/publisher in San Francisco. During our week in the Bay Area, we interviewed several women artists including Anna Valdez — a painter, gardener, and enthusiast of all things handmade. Much like her large scale still lifes, Anna’s studio is filled with plants, bright light and an enviable collection of art books and flowers. We spent the hour chatting with her about balancing her passions outside of painting and keeping community a creative career. Afterwards she invited us to a beer next door and let us tag along to the opening of 4%ERS, a group exhibition of all women’s work at Athen B. Gallery in Oakland. Studio Visit by Tricia Gilbride and Caroline Knowles
CAROLINE: Do you have any women who you think whatever they’re doing is awesome? Or anybody where you really like what they’re doing right now. Or something you’ve come across that you’re excited about — a really cool project. ANNA: Hmm, that’s hard to narrow down. I’m honestly in my own little world painting all the time. In this moment, I don’t know. There’s definitely painters where it it’s like, they’re in their 80s and still making amazing paintings and everything just gets better and better. CAROLINE: It’s sad how sometimes you only hear about them when they die and they finally get that New York Times feature on their whole career and you wonder where this was before. ANNA: That could be the case for a lot of artists though and I feel like if they’re known within their community and arts scene, they get a museum retrospective and then it blows up. Or somebody writes about them. That’s anybody now. Yes, with women it happens more. I feel like that’s the art world in general. You’re only special when your work’s become rare. Or if something’s happened to you. Or you have a complicated story. All that plays into the romanticism of your work. CAROLINE: Nobody normal or well-adjusted. ANNA: That’s boring [laughter] People don’t care
about that, ‘Oh you paint plants and patterns? That’s nice.’ I get that a lot. CAROLINE: The internet loves plants right now, ANNA: Yeah...I was like ‘alright’! That also concerns me because I feel like people are needing that and not getting that in their life. Why is that such a trendy thing? It’s a plant. It’s always a part of my environment. I garden and that’s my reality. But a lot of people freak out about it and they’re like ‘that’s so cool! I don’t understand how you can make that grow!’ and it’s just water and soil. CAROLINE: The light in here is really good though. My apartment doesn’t get any light. So my plants die real fast. You can one little sliver a day. [sees dog calendar] Oh, that’s a cute dog calendar! ANNA: Oh thanks, I took it from my mom who took it from her vet. CAROLINE: We’ve been freaking out about dogs all day. TRICIA: I have an orange cat who I miss terribly. ANNA: I love orange cats. TRICIA: We used to be roommates. When I first got him as a kitten we were roommates. ANNA: I love really fat cats and I can’t wait to have one. I’m going to name him Chairman Meow
CAROLINE: So did you grow all these flowers?
CAROLINE: That’s what’s missing here. Some cats.
ANNA: Yeah, so these are fern and cattails. I have tons of zinnias and sunflowers. Lots of succulents. Lots of tomatoes I’m growing. You’re welcome to take one for the road. They’re very delicious. I’ll also be making bread tonight. I’m staying in Oakland today so I have to take my sourdough starter everywhere because you have to beat them every day. So it’ll be baked in the morning.
ANNA: Or dog. A dog would be cooler. CAROLINE: They’re more of a conversation piece. You can take it out and walk it and meet people. ANNA: Also, a little bit more loving instead of just jumping on everything. TRICIA: Dogs don’t carefully put their paws in paint and then knock it over as soon as they know you’re watching them. Cats do that. ANNA: They’re little trouble makers. Dogs are but not intentionally. They’re just stupid. Stupidly cute. Yeah, it’s lot dogs and plants. And cats. I have another Instagram feed called ‘Cats & Paintings’ so it’s just all these paintings that feature cats. CAROLINE: How many Instagram accounts are you running? ANNA: So those and then my fermentation one I like doing, my baking and gardening. CAROLINE: How do you time for it all? Painting and gardening? ANNA: It’s a necessity. My dad was a farmer and we always had a garden growing up so it’s a part of how you live. I like having flowers and I’m not going to pay $50 a week for store flowers.
It’s also Northern California — it’s very much a part of being here. I also went to UC Davis which is also an agricultural university so it’s just a part of my social circle. We do that. We’re foodies and grow stuff and ferment things. Some of my best friends run a farm in Davis, and I’ll go there regularly and do cook nights. They’re still working outside and one of them is building their own house out of mud. It looks awesome. It’s still being developed. They just put in some flooring. CAROLINE: It makes me really want a hands on activity. ANNA: You can find anywhere. We become very disconnected from a lot of our things because they’re generated industrially. I make most of my paints from just pigment and oil and I’ll stretch canvas. People think that’s odd. CAROLINE: That would be so expensive to buy. The stretched canvas.
ANNA: You’d be surprised, a lot of people do. It’s much easier to make yourself. CAROLINE: Do you keep a regular schedule in the studio? ANNA: Yeah, you kind of have to. I try to get here by 11am every day. Coming from the North Bay, there’s not as much traffic then. And then I’ll leave around 9 or 10pm. CAROLINE: A long day. ANNA: Yeah, but I’m not sitting here painting the whole time. I’ll read, I’ll go get something to eat, I’ll hang out. I’ll take breaks. Go to the art store. CAROLINE: What were you doing before you were able to do this full-time? ANNA: Just a lot of odd jobs — admin things, working in galleries. Part-time wherever and a lot of freelance design. It’s really hard to have a 9-5 every day, for me. CAROLINE: I wouldn’t mind it if there wasn’t traffic on either end. ANNA: Yeah, that’s really what I don’t like [laughter] CAROLINE: When I leave work, I just want to be home. I don’t want to sit in traffic for an hour. ANNA: I’d be fine if I got up, walked down the street and I was at work. That’d be awesome. CAROLINE: I was in Portland last month and went to OLO Fragrance [Milk Milk Lemonade] — it’s a beautiful space they also live in. I saw it on Apartment Therapy and they live on top with the store and studio on the bottom. That’s a dream situation. And they’re really nice — it’s impossible to be super jealous. ANNA: I’m happy for people’s successes. It’s hard sometimes because you’re like ‘oh man, I want that for myself’ but whenever I see artists that are
making it I think ‘I wish that was me but I’m happy for you and I want that for you.’ There’s a lot of negativity around. CAROLINE: It’s nice to know it’s a possibility. Somebody did it. ANNA: It’s also hard too because some people think ‘oh that person isn’t deserving of it because their work isn’t good.’ It doesn’t really matter if the work is good by whoever’s standards. There’s a lot of paintings I don’t like but I respect they’re doing exactly what I’m doing and I like being in dialogue with them if they’re interested. I’m really interested in the community which is why I want to be in places like this versus at home alone working in my garage. When you’re doing something that’s creative and you’re by yourself...some people are introverts who are painters or makers or whatever. I’m actually an extrovert so I need to have people around. It’s funny, I can paint and have people around having a conversation. I just opened my door because I needed airflow, and they come in and that’s fine if they’re okay that I’m still painting. They’ll tell me about what’s going on, we’ll have our therapy sessions of complaining or encouraging each other. I like that. It’s productive. You need people who get your struggles in life.
Lunar Feelings An essay about living with and navigating depression Words by Anny Crane
My partner and I left New York at the end of 2014, heading back to Florida with a hope that it would hold something good and new for us. Unfortunately, in the two years that we have been here, it’s become increasingly apparent that this is a catalyst of my depression. At the end of my depression I want to say that I have something to show for it. I will have a room full of work, of books read, of nights slept, of reflection and an energy to move forward. I want to show everyone I am happy we left New York, I am happy I quit my job, I am happy we are back in Florida. But I’m not. And I wonder, sometimes, “is it me?” Is it me that can never be satisfied? Does the problem lie within myself? I want to want to be happy here, but I am not. I feel disconnected and out of focus. My body hurts all day long because it has no purpose anymore. I often wonder, perhaps if I can just snap out of this depressive episode, I will finally be happy here.
But I don’t think that is the case. Truthfully, it has been difficult writing this piece. I thought maybe it would be easy to pull from my own experiences and put it on paper, so I could share how I exist with depression and anxiety as a person and as an artist. I have tried writing this piece many, many times before. I have tried to write blog posts, or journal entries to myself. I tried writing an essay that I would keep to myself or share with others. I just couldn’t find the strength to enter that part of myself I worked so hard to overcome this time around, which was only a few months ago. Early in 2015, one night I woke up with my partner over me. He was wiping sweat from my chest and neck. I woke up gasping, tearing off the blankets and tugging at the neckline of my t shirt. My partner fetched a cold cloth for my forehead while I lie there shivering.
There are moments when I feel so much all at once and there isn’t a way to fully comprehend and process all the emotions and thoughts. I’ve built walls around myself, because I feel so disconnected from everyone around me, both physically and emotionally. I constantly worry about becoming irrelevant. I feel alone, and yet I want to pull the blinds closed and sit in my dark house for days on end. When I find myself in a deep depression, the whole house becomes drenched in an impossible sadness. It tends to manifest through my anxiety, obsessive compulsiveness, paranoia, and a little bit of agoraphobia. Some days, when I am closer to feeling okay most of the time, I can dispel the negative feelings and work my way out of it. But it’s an ebb and flow, and the deeper I sink into the depression, the more it becomes like tar, locking me in and refusing to let me escape. As I think over my life, it just seems like one long fight to remain above the surface of the tar, a constant struggle to keep myself from sinking any deeper. When I sit in my studio, trying my best to find the motivation or really, anything, to draw, to create new work, the weight grows heavier. I convince myself if I just start using my hands, just start making something, then it will snap me out of this state. Looking over my studio I see an incredible amount of unfinished pieces. I see sketches that only amounted to strokes on a paper, and ripped half embroidered pieces. I honestly don’t know why it’s so hard for me to find myself in my work while soaked in a depressive episode. It seems so obvious, making art will work out of my thoughts and feelings, and I will just feel better. But I get impatient. My hands feel too big and my thoughts aren’t really ideas. I make a mess. There are days that I try to dedicate myself to my work and I end up with nothing to show for it, just more episodes on Netflix under my belt and an even heavier weight on my shoulders.
My body aches when I lie down. Instead of finding comfort in our bed, its familiarity causes me pain. My hands crack and bleed because as my anxiety and depression grow, my obsessive compulsive disorder and paranoia drive me to wash my hands to injury. I become afraid to leave the house. The bones and muscles in my hand ache from checking the doorknob again and again after I locked it, because something inside has convinced me it will unlock the moment I stop checking it. Nothing is rational when it comes to those feelings. There are days when I look into the mirror, when I touch the extra weight that has been collected over these months, when I look at my withered hands, and I just don’t recognize myself anymore. My partner pleads for me to go outside, telling me if I just go on a walk or just phone a friend to spend some time with, then maybe it would help shake me out of it. I would often find myself sobbing into my hands because I just couldn’t go outside. I tell myself if I just sit down at my worktable, if I pick up a pen, start sewing, or make paper, I can work through these overwhelming feelings and find myself again. Because it’s so obvious, if you just do the thing that makes you happy it will make you happy. But depression is a virus that prevents you from enjoying the things that make you happy, in turn tightening the grip of depression, adding fodder to my guilt and continuing the cycle. When I am so far down, I wish I wouldn’t realize how irrational I am being. I wish I could just wake up because the answers are sitting right in front of me. I retreat within myself and I just don’t deal with anything because I can’t. When I reach that point, I become so afraid, I become so afraid of doing anything, so afraid of communicating with others, and so afraid of confronting myself and my sadness. I am afraid that I have put off everything in my life to the point of risking relationships both personal and professional. I am afraid and ashamed that after all this, all I have to show are half written letters, emails that I have never sent, and shirked
responsibilities. It is so hard putting these things into words, because how do you explain to people who don’t already understand how it’s like to look at yourself in the mirror or look at your hands, wrinkled and cracked with blood from washing them under scalding hot water for forty seconds at a time, that you just aren’t you? How do you explain to anyone and make them understand when you just can’t do anything no matter how much you want to want to? It takes time to find myself in a place in which I’m able to cope. Usually, at the beginning of my depressive episodes, I can only make lists. But I can never really check anything off. Slowly I am able to find one or two things I can accomplish, relatively easy things like taking a shower or putting on fresh clothes. I find it a particularly successful day if I am able to go out to the grocery or even wash the dishes. This past winter, I started baking simple loafs of bread as a way to work through my thoughts. It was a simple task that produced something. Over the years, I have kept journals, mostly to-do lists, grocery lists, and makeshift calendars, but this past March, I began a new daily practice of journaling what I eat, how I sleep, and what I am
thinking. I started pulling tarot cards and using those as a source of thoughts and prompts for journaling. This practice is incredibly centering and it has helped me rediscover my relationship with myself. When I start working in the studio again, I slowly build my practice back up, mostly drawing in my journal, writing out lyrics or poems that inspire me or what I am thinking of in the moment. I try to open myself up to new music and to even old music that I listened to in high school, and I bring that into the studio as well and just let my hands dictate where I would go. It’s a constant struggle, but the biggest thing I have learned through all of this is to be kind, to be gentle, and forgive myself.
On March 7th, 2016 at about 9:20 in the morning, there was a shift. I was standing on the shore of Lake Michigan, there was melting snow, grass peeking through, and the waves gently washing away any trace of our footsteps. At my back, my friend danced in the sand with only the sound of the water and faint giggles as her soundtrack. I closed my eyes and felt the crisp air enter my nose and fill my lungs, and with every breath that I exhaled a weight was being lifted. Everything felt so right and so light. It was the most liberating feeling I had felt in two years. I
am very lucky to have been able to fly about 1150 miles away for a week. I was out of my house, out of my town, out of the state, and outside of myself for the first time in over a year. I was surrounded by wholesome people, women who were active in their community and had a strong love and support for one another. I found what I needed, I rediscovered a lightness of existing. Since being back home, even though I feel so much hope for the future, I know it’s always looming under the surface. I try to give myself what I need every day, to remember that self care is the most important, basic thing I can give myself. I make it a point to journal everyday, with intention to be present in the moment. I know that it makes me happy to spend quality time with my partner and with my friends. It’s Florida summer, so it’s mercilessly hot always, so instead of taking walks I have started swimming at the community pool. These are easy things I can accomplish. I am loving myself, my body, and my life again. I know this is something that will always be apart of my life. There isn’t a cure; just ways to cope and
keep things from swelling up and overwhelming me. I am a lucky person with a loving and understanding partner on my side. I am lucky that we were able to scrape together a little money so I could leave town to visit with friends in other states. Every day I try to be honest with myself, with my friends and family, and in every part of my life. The world is shifting. I am tired of feeling guilty when that makes me sink even further. Even if I have one thousand leagues above me, I am swimming towards the relief and lightness of being happy, every stroke is an open and honest reminder to take care of myself. There isn’t much to show for the year long depression I went through. I don’t have much new work, but I am happy. I have a job now, so I have a reason to leave the house. My bed comforts me again and I am slowly making new work. I am finding my way back to myself again after feeling especially lunar this past year. It takes time, and there are moments where I slip, but these are just more lessons in loving and forgiving myself.
Portfolios and Additional Info
Lora Baize lorabaize.com
Nakeya Brown nakeyab.com
Anny Crane annycrane.com
Aidan Koch aidankoch.com
Annie McLaughlin anniemclaughlin.com
Danielle Romero floraandform.com
Alice Tippit alicetippit.com
Anna Valdez annavaldez.com
Tamara Valdez tamarabecerravaldez.com
Women Artists Four features Lora Baize, Nakeya Brown, Anny Crane, Aidan Koch, Annie McLaughlin, Danielle Ramero, Alice Tippit, Anna Valdez,...
Published on Jan 30, 2017
Women Artists Four features Lora Baize, Nakeya Brown, Anny Crane, Aidan Koch, Annie McLaughlin, Danielle Ramero, Alice Tippit, Anna Valdez,...