Anthony Hawley & Kirstin Lamb, moderated by Alex Priest
A Hex, A Hoax, A Guest, A Ghost // April 23 - June 12, 2016
Alex: Thank you Launa and artists. So I just have some like six causal questions--that we met for lunch earlier this week and we chatted for a while about random things, not really art related, so... First one to start out with about is with this being the inaugural exhibition at Darger HQ, here on Vinton St, how is it working in this space?
Kirstin: This is beautiful. It’s really coming into a white space with a tin roof with kind of a beautiful history and also even I think the angular shape of it too has been really exciting for us. But when we first walked in, it was like a white cloud. The floor was gleaming. When you do work on the floor like both of us do, it’s really nice to be able to get a kind of context where you can kind of float something like this and have it really be visible. And that’s a lot of fun. It’s like you can see the edges of everything.
Anthony: With it, just pulling up to the space with all of my stuff, I was very excited to work with Kristin, but I opened the door and there was just a massive amount of paintings in here and I got so energized, and the process was so exciting, and it’s was just this very comfortable conversation back and forth arranging things. And I think that Launa makes that possible too. Sort of paring people and bringing communities together.
Alex: Well, during our first meeting we talked a lot about ghosts and haunting practices and perceptions. And I was hoping you could elaborate a little bit on that. Especially in context to the title of the exhibition, “A Hex, A Ho-“ I can’t even say it. “A Hex, A Hoax, A Guest, A Ghost”
Kirstin: [to Anthony] I’m going to let you start with that.
Anthony: We talked about this for so long yesterday too, right? So there…I think it started really simply. I saw her post her work in progress and she tagged Pennsylvania Abduct--Hex signs. Right. And I had been for a while...I had these… I’m working with these little, we call them “ghostessess” in our house. Kinda half man shaped ghosts that travel throughout the work. And they, you know like this, and sometimes they come just in a little echo. And I think it just kinda…I wanted something, the title, that felt like it was creating a way for painting to move out of painting, in a sense. So like into things that felt like objects and into other paintings. In a words, not necessarily like a finished thing on a wall, but it’s…it could be a rug, it could be a flag, it could be a system of paintings or a team of paintings, and there was something about this, the rhythm of that title. The title is almost like a system itself. You know, you sort of move between the hex signs. And then painting in some sense, for me, I think about it sometimes like maybe it’s actually a hoax. It’s all made up. But then the spell the sort of like magic, every day magic, of making paintings too, and letting there be space for people to go in and out of it, if that makes sense. [To Kirstin] You take the word from there.
Alex: [Phone rings] That’s my mom.
Kirstin: My mom does that too. She picks really good times. [laughs]
Anthony: She isn’t a ghost? [laughter]
Kirstin: Well we’ll have to ask her. We were actually really enjoying the idea as being [inaudible] teams. I think that’s one of the largest parts of the overlap in our work; and also one of the kinda strangest parts where you put something together that has this kind of alchemy that you really can’t predict. And I think that’s something that painting does really, really well. And that’s part of this kind of haunted, talismanic thing that we were kinda looking at. And that’s why I kinda gravitated toward hex signs too; cause they have this kind of symbolic language, frequently good luck or a blessing to a farm or space where things grow. And I feel like paintings function that way, and to be able to like grab that language and take it with us and then to be able to interact between the two of us with the same kind of symbolic language was really exciting. And also, Anthony is a wonderful poet and he gave us that title. And I’m crediting him entirely, cause it’s really beautiful and I feel like there’s a poetic painting that we’re kind of exploring here.
Anthony: That came from the work too. And I think it was also the element of craft too, right? Sort of American craft and ritual, you know, from like shakers to Pennsylvania Dutch signs and all of that, right? But then it’s also like painting is a dinner party.
Kirstin: Like a crafty dinner party? We were sitting on the floor, right in the front here, and making these collaborative drawings just because, because we could, because we were two artists in a space. And this space has this really good energy where we could kind of like pass things between us and make our own symbolic marks and have them respond to one other. And it was like being kind of enclosed in this lovely little world of mark.
Anthony: And then also…sorry. That really was good.
Kirstin: No it’s okay [laughs]
Anthony: You were also talking about portraiture too, right? And we were saying that like in a way that some of these are everyone’s self-portrait or no one’s self-portrait. And we can go in and out of them and identify with a familiar trope or a character, right? They’re sort of haunted by certain things in that way too.
Kirstin: Well, I feel like you got this kind of like haunting cypher of the face that kind of coalesces in each piece is something that immediately drew me to your work. And you favor this kind of portrait format. Which when I discovered that you could make something abstract and put it in a portrait format, then all of a sudden it would read as a portrait, was this like really wonderful moment, then I saw his work and was like, “Oh, it’s done. Ok we’re good.” [laughs]
Anthony: There’s also--we’re just gonna give you a tour of each other’s work—there’s also this great line here, in this one, “Painting’s dead. Painting’s not dead, she’s sleeping.” And this sort of like, this act of the quiet character, you know, has someone just moving throughout the paintings, I think.
Kirstin: And I do like to talk about the portrait itself, because I feel like these are kind of self-portrait and portrait of kinda like every woman. So I hope that they function that way. I was really inspired by Kiki Smith a couple years ago, when she said, “I wanted to make woman stand in for human”. And if you’re familiar with Kiki Smith’s work, she has this kind of totemic, delicious woman figure, sometimes haunted, or horrific, or crone. And for me it’s like the opposite. She’s all dressed up, she’s kind of presenting, and sometimes just presenting, just appearing. And I want to kind of represent that, sort of question that and ask a lot of questions about what that might mean in a portrait format, but also in craft format. So the craft can be a sort of portrait of the woman.
Anthony: Its funny that there’s a piece by Kiki Smith that got me working in unstretched linen. And it’s a painting of hers that was on canvas with (gromits) and it was a snake made of beads and glitter. And I was like…it was so powerful to see something like that, that has this kind of quickness about it, but very physical, tactile quality to it.
Alex: What’s one thing that you notice, that you hadn’t noticed in your work before, that now in concert with another artist that you hadn’t previously meet, that you notice in your own work?
Anthony: You said to me, you asked yesterday, when we were sitting on the floor if I traveled a lot, and I like to travel. And I said “Yeah, absolutely.” And you pointed to that piece with the stick and the painting on the ground and the painting on the wall and you said, “Well there’s almost kinda hobo, tent-like quality to this. Like a sorta trying to build a quick shelter.” And I hadn’t thought about that, but then I suddenly wanted to title everything ‘Travel’. So, that was huge.
Kirstin: I’m so excited. I feel like sometimes I read some of your signs as kinda like hobo signs too. And I don’t know if that’s maybe just throwing that cypher onto you, because they kinda like camouflaging colors or triangles. I love triangles. And I think that, for me, in terms of like what Anthony’s work has pulled out for me is the improvisational and the grits of all things. So Anthony’s process is incredibly improvisational. He’s like putting things up, taking them down, and moving them around. And that all happens for me back in the studio. And I have this like rigid design, I was in like visual design at Macy’s. So it’s like “The window is done.” And he’s like “Now I move this here, and I’m going to move that there, and I’m going to move this there.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, I can still move things.” [laughs] It’s not fixed, its modular. And his stuff it’s like, if you kinda think back and you start to get a new vocabulary for modularity just watching you work, which is very cool.
Alex: Speaking of Anthony, I have a question specifically for you. According to Facebook, it says that you’re interested in “Space where fiction blurs its reality.” Where do you see this taking place in this exhibition and then outside the gallery as well?
Anthony: I have to think about that. I just did a big project in Houston, where that was like the answer was very clear. It was sort of a performance and it dealt with a car. You saw videos and live performers acting parts of a story, that just follow the strand of the narrative of the stranded car. And it’s kind of like sometime you identify with every day. But it was a little unclear what was real and what was staged. I’m thinking in this space, you know in this show…I guess that my best answer would be, like for a long time I’ve been looking at Shaker Gift drawings, from you know the Shakers who did furniture in the Northeast United States. They also did drawings that were instructions for things; instructions for dances and religious ceremonies. And I like the idea of, like in a work, that looks it could be used in some way. Like it could be a set of instructions for a dance or maybe something you could put on like a cape. So I guess the way in which paintings for me are always paintings, but they also look like they might come off the wall and come into our space, in a different way than just flat images. And then your work is for me, if I can speak, there’s something I really admire about your fearlessness with putting finished objects in front of other finished objects. [laughs] There’s something, I think that speaks to that. So I don’t know. I don’t know. Like we should both honor the painting in front and behind, but then be wary of that too.
Alex: Kirstin, I was scrolling your website and you identified as a “Hoarder of Images”, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that. Or how you see that being articulated that in the work that we’re seeing right now.
Kirstin: Absolutely. I think it actually is kinda born from a lot of my work, derives from (P) gray ephemera, vintage paper ephemera. There’s a lot of folks who immediately seen this body of work, just gauche on paper on board, they think of it as a collage, and it really is derived from a lot of the same materials that a lot of folks make collage out of; penny arcade cards, vintage cookbooks. I tend to favor a very particular time period. I love 1950s, 60s, and 70s print quality. Sometimes you’ll see a kinda de-saturated palette or something that tends towards orange. But I just have piles and piles of these vintage paper objects. And in the digital age it’s really funny as an artist, cause you can’t access a lot of these things online. People have scanned them in, a lot of them are really pedestrian kind of things. Penny arcade cards got BIG circulation, even the really beautiful ones, like the famous actresses likeLana Turner. You can still find one for like $1.50 online. But there’s something about working with the thing, from your hands rather than from a screen that makes a huge difference to me. And then the logical of that, I started hanging all of these objects, mostly paper objects sometimes fabric, in the studio and that actually created this kind of salon style situation. I was just painting from my studio of my studio as a kind of practice to generate the work and it became kind of like an interior, but it developed from this kind of practice of hoarding, arranging, and putting up paper ephemera. And I find that the work is, so much of it now, I’m getting more towards this kind of textile area, cause everything folds. [laughs] And also I can follow patterns, and vintage patterns are extremely difficult just as objects. I make my own kind of contemporary patterns, but I also find—first of all this is just a straight up pattern that could be embroidered, could be a cross stitch, and I’m painting it and so it’s a faster process. But it’s also something where I think you kinda lose a little bit of the direct connection to the fiber work in a way that’s slippery and more contemporary for me.
Alex: I just have one more question. There’s a lot of secrets and patterns and colors hidden, and not hidden, within this work; How does that relate to both of your interests in cliché and narrative?
Kirstin: That’s a big one. [laughs] That’s a really good question.
Alex: Maybe just cliché art.
Kirstin: Well for me, if I can get back to working for a second. The work…I became interested in still life in graduate school and for me I started by kind of hoarding and piling painter’s clichés. So deer. You see a lot of painters with deer, deer heads, taxidermy. So it was like what are other painter’s clichés are there? Well painters like to paint meat and flowers. What else do painters like to paint? Then I found the history of painting by looking through this clichés and trying to kind of figure out what would reinvest it with a kind of contemporary feel. So pilling 30 steaks verse a kind of sole…one steak or three and kind of arrangement of the thing sort of became this kind of vacuum. So for me cliché was a way to work through my fears that painting couldn’t sustain a continued practice. People like to talk about ‘death of painting’, ‘painting’s a dead medium’ especially in face of digital. But certainly camera didn’t help either. But I think that being able to kind of work through all of those, even just painting from photography as a kind of cliché and finding out how to kind of work around that as a kind of game almost, or a kind of way to making painting relevant again.
Anthony: I think for me part of the interested pattern just came in this tug of war that we have with pattern and maybe it’s sort of the habitual and the repeated and the patterns in our everyday lives, but like what are those things that we’re shuffled through? That we sort of just became too accustom to and turned off to a little bit. And then what’s beneath those patterns? Like if we start breaking that apart what’s kind of hidden underneath the monotonous? And also…I think…I find something kind of communal and collective about the pattern too, because it’s something that’s’ dominated, you know, American folk culture and folk patterns for a very long time. But then we have it in screensavers and these feeds that are digitally kind of consuming us as well. So it’s a need for a kind of a refusal of that cliché, I think too. And trying to break it, but also work it in because it’s what we have.
Kirstin: And just to the side on pattern, a lot of my education was deeply inflected by pattern, partially because the school I was trained by was setup to create American fabric designers, because there weren’t enough. So Rhode Island School of Design and a couple other really major art schools, so a lot of the art schools inform the kinda…what an art education might look like, were set up to create textile designers. And I feel like a lot of American painting; the hard edge, the repetition, interest in all-overness, actually has a lot of interesting roots and ties to textiles. That I love to kinda peel back and try to figure out.
Alex: Thank you. Does anyone form the auction have any questions? Well thank you Launa and thank you artists and we’ll be around for a while.
Anthony: Thank you.
Kirstin: Thank you.
Audience question: Are these…are those swatches all the paints you use to make a--? Okay. So just for each kind of installation you…for some of these, there’s all the different shade you use for these?
Kirstin: I have kind of an indexical relationship to color, so I do like to keep little catalogs. And this one is actually a copy of another one that I made just for my wall. A lot of painters store colors and—