Tag Archives: painter


Sara Wolfe, Oh Mickey, 2009, oil on canvas, 23 1/8 x 24 1/8 inches

Sara Wolfe: Boom Boom Boom 

Opening Reception: Friday, September 5, 2014, 7—9pm  

Hamilton Square Condominium
232 Pavonia Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Exhibition on view in the lobby from September 5, 2014 to December 31, 2014

“I’m really interested in associations viewers have to colors and form. I’m fascinated with how little visual material we need to trigger a memory or physical reaction” — Sara Wolfe

SILVERMAN AND MAJESTIC THEATRE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION present “Sara Wolfe: Boom Boom Boom,” curated by Brendan Carroll. This exhibition is a mini-survey of the artist’s painting from the past ten years. For more than a decade, Wolfe has produced vibrant abstract paintings on canvas and paper, which range in size from modest to large-scale. Her work may vary in style and execution, but it is united by her no-nonsense approach to painting. It’s as playful and offbeat as it is serious and substantial.

Bringing old and new work together can often prompt new insights for artist and audience alike. Surveying her work, Wolfe is not so much surprised, as she is aware of a continual interest in color and motif.

“I’m drawn to more geometric works from the past, as my current work is more minimal… Layers and expressionistic marks have made way for what is hopefully a nuanced play between shape and the illusion of space,” says Wolfe.

“Color continues to seduce me, and it’s interesting to see it explode out of earlier work. I am still distracted by the variety of the art store paint shelves and want to try each one. The newer work attempts to be conscious about color choices without losing the intuition of choosing color spontaneously.”

Sara Wolfe, Untitled, 2008, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 1/8 inches

Sara Wolfe, Untitled, 2008, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 7/8 inches

Wolfe creates a seemingly infinite variety of work that can be viewed simultaneously as pictorial and abstract. More often than not, her work is derived from her daily visual experience. From cerebral to intuitive, she explores line, value, color, and texture. Each piece, however minimal, reveals the touch of her hand. Paint, in all its plasticity, ranges from opaque fields to translucent patches. Application is casual, but informed. Color tends not to be stable; rather, it is contradictory and unpredictable.

Sara Wolfe, Untitled, 2008, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 1/8 inches

Sara Wolfe, Untitled, 2008, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 1/8 inches

Of late, she paints organic and geometric forms in cosmic space. These forms twirl, tumble, and play peekaboo. The feel is as unfussy as it is buoyant. There is an infectious joie de vivre about Wolfe’s geometric abstractions. For the artist, paint is a means to an end, not the end. She is compelled by paint’s inherent physicality, especially in contrast to the virtual imagery that bombards the public on a moment-by-moment basis. She is fascinated by how the mind stores and remembers information.

At first glance, it might be easy to dismiss her work as slapdash or unassuming. But to view her paintings in this manner would rob you of a rewarding visual experience. To appreciate this work requires time—minutes, not seconds. In light of today’s hyperdigitized era, which inundates us with a relentless cycle of images, Wolfe’s paintings can offer the viewer a meditative refuge.

Sara Wolfe, Untitled, 2013, Oil on Canvas, 24 1/8 x 23 1/8 inches

Sara Wolfe, Untitled, 2013, Oil on Canvas, 24 1/8 x 23 1/8 inches

Sara Wolfe is a New York City based painter who has exhibited in venues including the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, the 92nd Street Y and Exit Art in New York City, and, most recently, The Center for Contemporary Art and Arts Guild in New Jersey. Solo shows include the Jersey City Museum’s Majestic Theater in 2006 and Gallery Aferro in Newark in 2009.

Wolfe has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, including those from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Residencies include Yaddo, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Centers and the Association of Independent Schools of Art and Design. Wolfe holds an M.F.A. from Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts and has studied painting in Florence, Italy and at the School for Visual Arts in New York City. She has taught painting and drawing at Rutgers University, Middlesex County College, New Jersey City University and at SUNY in New Paltz, NY.

This exhibition will be on view at Hamilton Square Condominiums through December 2014. For further information, please visit us at SILVERMAN or call number (201) 435-8000.

Sara Wolfe: Boom Boom Boom is the twenty-first exhibition that Brendan Carroll will organize for SILVERMAN.

For additional information on the artist, please go here:

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Shauna Finn, Anne Percoco, Melanie Vote, Paul Lempa, Fanny Allié, Michael Meadors, John A. Patterson, Charlotte Becket, Roger Sayre, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, Tom McGlynn, Margaret Murphy, Valeri Larko, Tenesh Webber, Glenn Garver, Jennifer Krause Chapeau, Michelle Doll, Tim Heins, Megan Maloy, Laurie Riccadonna, Thomas John Carlson, Tim Daly, Ann Flaherty, Scott Taylor, Jason Seder, Sara Wolfe, Beth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi Kumagai, Tom McGlynn, Victoria Calabro, Asha Ganpat, Darren Jones, Ryan Roa,Laura Napier, Risa Puno, Nyugen E. Smith, Amanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

Transportation Directions from Lower Manhattan to Hamilton Square Condominiums

Transportation Directions from Lower Manhattan to Hamilton Square Condominiums



SILVERMAN and Majestic Theatre Condominium Association present
Shauna Finn: Possession

Opening Reception: Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 6–8 p.m.

The Majestic Theatre Condominiums
222 Montgomery Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Exhibition Run: July 9, 2014–October 31, 2014

Shauna Finn, Liminal, 2013, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Shauna Finn, Liminal, 2013, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

“Painting is a constant battle between restraint and spontaneity” — Shauna Finn

SILVERMAN AND MAJESTIC THEATRE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION present “Shauna Finn: Possession,” curated by Brendan Carroll. This exhibition includes approximately seven oil paintings on canvas and wood from the previous 18 months. Each canvas depicts a young woman in an elaborate gown set against a flat and nondescript background. The work is an engaging combination of straightforward realism and the fantastic.

This series started out with Finn’s simple desire to paint her wedding dress, an Art Deco-inspired gown embellished in tulle, satin, lace, and beads. “The dress has a lot of razzle-dazzle…it’s all about sparkles, adornment, beauty,” notes the artist. On the surface, the idea to paint her wedding dress may appear sentimental to some viewers. It’s not.

The dress, with its rich array of visual components, provided Finn an ideal opportunity to challenge herself as artist. Finn, by nature, is a direct painter, who, on occasion, is known to slap paint onto canvas with the speed and improvisation of footballer Lionel Messi. This type of headfirst assault would not work. She would need to use a more tactical approach to convey the waiflike material of the dress.

To achieve the level of realism and luminosity the artist desired, she needed to rein in her instinctual drives as a painter. Like the old masters, she uses very thin incandescent paint layers, which do not hide the drawings below. These translucent layers are supplemented by direct, descriptive brush strokes in thicker paint on top. 

Finn uses these techniques not only to sculpt and model three-dimensional form, but also to create a curious radiance that borders on the ethereal.

“I am very consciously trying to make a brush stroke and leave it, or wipe it off if it doesn’t work. I think the key is having a vision and following it. You have to hold that vision in your mind, and each brush stroke has to be deliberate.”

In Liminal, time seems to stand still in the languid setting. A young woman lies prone on a sofa inside an empty room. She is wearing a sumptuous wedding gown, which includes a luminous veil that is unceremoniously placed beneath her head. In her hands, she clutches a crown to her breast. Oblivious, she does not make eye contact with the viewer as she stares off into the distance.

This painting stirs many questions: Who is this woman? Is she a bride, a princess, a prom queen, or a corpse? Where is she? Is she in a bedroom or a tomb?

“I like that each viewer can play a part in finding meaning. I don’t set out with a narrative or concept in mind.”

Finn received her BFA from California College of Arts (1998) and her MFA from New York Academy of Art (2005). Sotheby’s, Mark Miller Gallery, Kraine Gallery, Sloan Fine Art, and The Getty Center, among others venues, have shown her paintings in group exhibitions. She has been the recipient of numerous residencies, including Eden Rock, St. Barthelemy, French West Indies and the Prince of Wales Foundation in Château de Balleroy, Normandy, France. She is from Southern California. She lives and works in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The exhibition will be on view at Majestic Theatre Condominium Associationthrough October 31, 2014. For further information, please visit us at SILVERMAN or call number (201) 435-8000.

“Shauna Finn: Possession ″ is the twentieth exhibition that Brendan Carroll will organize for SILVERMAN.

For additional information on the artist, go here:

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Melanie Vote, Paul Lempa, Fanny Allié, Michael Meadors, John A. Patterson, Charlotte Becket, Roger Sayre, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, Tom McGlynnMargaret MurphyValeri LarkoTenesh WebberGlenn GarverJennifer Krause ChapeauMichelle DollTim HeinsMegan MaloyLaurie Riccadonna, Thomas John Carlson, Tim DalyAnn FlahertyScott TaylorJason SederSara WolfeBeth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi KumagaiTom McGlynnVictoria CalabroAsha GanpatDarren JonesRyan Roa,Laura NapierRisa PunoNyugen E. SmithAmanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

Melanie Vote, These Apples, 2013, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches

Melanie Vote, These Apples, 2013, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches

Melanie Vote: Looking Back Moving Forward: 2004–2014

Opening Reception: May 6, 2014, 6–8 p.m.

Hamilton Square Condominium
232 Pavonia Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Exhibition Run: May 6, 2014–August 31, 2014

“I am trying to reconcile the balance between reality and just painting … My challenge is to take the cuteness or irony out of the work, but at the same time to make work that is compelling—exciting for myself and hopefully for the viewer” — Melanie Vote

SILVERMAN AND MAJESTIC THEATRE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION present “Melanie Vote: Looking Back Moving Forward: 2004–2014,” curated by Brendan Carroll. Vote is known for her paintings of gargantuan toy figurines that dominate sunbaked rural plains. Though they play a major role in her oeuvre, they represent only a fraction of her output. This exhibition includes roughly 25 pieces from the past decade, which include large-scale oil paintings on linen to small graphite drawings on paper. The subject matter ranges from straightforward realism to the grotesque to something hovering between the two.

Bringing old and new work together can often prompt new insights for artist and audience alike. Surveying her work, Vote is not so much surprised, as she is aware of subtle shifts in tone and temperament.

“Ten years ago I felt a need to prove myself as a straightforward realist, often editing out any tangential or spontaneous activity in fear of being labeled as something other than a realist,” says Vote. “At one point, I just got bored and began to be more playful  . . . I need to feel I have the license to do something spontaneously. I have little drive to just paint a natural image.”

In the past decade, Vote has moved away from indirect painting (layering and glazing) to direct painting or a combination of both styles. She has painted forthright domestic interiors, tawdry pin-ups girls, and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Though her subject matter has changed, Vote is steadfast in her aim to create psychological narratives. What is appealing about her newer work is the evolving relationship between observation and invention, spontaneity and premeditation.

For example, These Apples (2013) presents a close-up shot of apples on a branch, which are set against a flat blue sky. At first glance, the treatment of the subject is objective. The apples have depth, weight, and color. (They are ripe for the picking.) However, on second look, a vertical pink and white checkerboard band divides the composition. The effect is jarring. What makes this seemingly straightforward painting more evocative is Vote’s handling of the leaves, which alternate between naturalistic and abstraction. One leaf, in particular, is white and marked by polka dots.

The artist admits to being afraid one might undo or over the other.

“Oh, yes, I am afraid, and that is what is exciting for me. Taking chances, exploring, changing things from how I initially imagined them to be. . . . But there is a balance I am aiming for, almost like walking a tight rope. I hope not to fall off into the pit of absolute ridiculousness. With realism, if you deviate at all from nature, you take a chance of being labeled a surrealist, or worse. It is a difficult balance; one can easily go down a slippery slope of sheer cheesiness.”

Vote’s approach to picture making, in the artist’s words, is a “mixture of daydreaming and pragmatism.” She is a visual scavenger—culling images from the Internet, direct observation, family photos, old paintings, imagination and memories. At first, she begins with a clear notion of what the image should be. That said, she is does not allow herself to be tyrannized by the original idea.

“I let a [picture] steep for months, sometimes years … Then I have a pivotal moment of ‘Yes, this is how it has to be!’ Subsequently, I have to work in a very focused manner to finish, and that takes as long as it takes.”

The exhibition will be on view at Hamilton Square Condominiums through August 2014. For further information, please visit us at SILVERMAN or call number (201) 435-8000.

“Melanie Vote: Looking Back Moving Forward: 2004–2014” is the nineteenth exhibition that Brendan Carroll will organize for SILVERMAN.

Vote earned her BFA in Craft Design from Iowa State University (1995) and her MFA from the New York Academy of Art (cum laude in 1998). She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, including group exhibitions with Sloan Fine Art, DFN Gallery, Flowers East Gallery, The Lodge Gallery, and Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, among others. Recent exhibitions include a solo exhibition at Hionas Gallery, NY. Additionally her work was featured in “Hyper-narrative” in Seoul, South Korea, at the Hangaram Art Museum, and at ADAH, Abu Dhabi, while in residence.

She was a recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2007 and has been awarded various residencies, most recently ADAH, Abu Dhabi, in 2013; Jentel in Banner, Wyoming, in 2009; and the Vermont Studio Center with a full fellowship from the Dodge Foundation in 2002. For three weeks in June 2015, she will be in residence at The Grand Canyon. Vote teaches drawing painting and foundations at Pratt Manhattan and New Jersey City University.

For additional information on the artist, go here:

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Paul Lempa, Fanny Allié, Michael Meadors, John A. Patterson, Charlotte Becket, Roger Sayre, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, Tom McGlynnMargaret MurphyValeri LarkoTenesh WebberGlenn GarverJennifer Krause ChapeauMichelle DollTim HeinsMegan MaloyLaurie Riccadonna, Thomas John Carlson, Tim DalyAnn FlahertyScott TaylorJason SederSara WolfeBeth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi KumagaiTom McGlynnVictoria CalabroAsha GanpatDarren JonesRyan Roa,Laura NapierRisa PunoNyugen E. SmithAmanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

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Directions from Lower Manhattan to Hamilton Square, Jersey City, NJ via PATH

SILVERMAN and Hamilton Square Condominium Association present
Laurie Riccadonna: Whisper and Scurry of Small Lives
Opening Reception: Friday, June 3, 2011, 6 to 8 p.m.
Curated by Brendan Carroll

Hamilton Square Condominium
232 Pavonia Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07302
Exhibition on view in the lobby June 3, 2011 to September 2, 2011

Laurie Riccadonna, Latitude 44.5, 2008, oil on canvas, 84 x 57 inches

SILVERMAN is pleased to present Laurie Riccadonna: Whisper and Scurry of Small Lives, a new exhibition of paintings and related pieces for her first solo show at Hamilton Square Condominiums.

In 2005, Laurie Riccadonna attended the Fundación Valparaiso, an artist residency, in Mojácar, Spain. This residency, which serves as a retreat for artists, proved to be a seminal moment in her creative maturation. She had time to paint, draw, and ruminate over the valley and surrounding olive groves; she traveled to Seville, Málaga, Córdoba, and Granada, and a variety of small hill towns and villages along the Mediterranean coastline. As she journeyed from city to city, she had the opportunity to see countless examples of Spanish and Moorish architecture, design, and ornamentation. The architecture of the Andalusian region—specifically the ceramic mosaic tiles covering mosques, citadels, and palaces—left a profound impact on the artist’s imagination. Although she was familiar with Moorish design from books and museums, when Riccadonna experienced it up close—standing before the tiled prayer niche inside the Great Mosque or walking down the narrow alleyways of the Albaicin quarter—she gained a more complex understanding of pattern, space, and rhythm. Riccadonna made dozens of studies from these mosaics, drawing and re-drawing their abstract floral and geometric forms.

Laurie Riccadonna, August Fence, 2009, oil on canvas, 29 x 24 inches

Riccadonna identifies similar motifs and patterns in the natural world. A summerhouse in the Adirondacks allows her time to meander along mountain trails, exploring floral and fauna indigenous to the Northeast. No step is for naught. No moment goes unnoticed. A bunch of honeysuckle she walked past in May could eventually reappear in a painting made in December. Lincoln Park in Jersey City plays a vital role in her studio practice too. In particular, she is drawn to the wetland “reclamation area” in the back of the park. This area is nestled beneath the sprawling behemoth of the Pulaski Skyway, and the contrast between the natural world and the industrial landscape is an influence on her work. “Last year on a particularly gray day, I was in the wetland area and saw a gorgeous white swan in the water. It was so stunning in the landscape, and I think of it often when I am working,” she says.

Riccadonna’s paintings predominantly consist of stylized abstract and naturalistic vegetal forms. Her orchestration of vegetal patterns is reminiscent of the Islamic mosaics and Persian illuminated manuscripts that she saw in southern Spain. She places these organic patterns and forms in compact sections that bob and weave throughout the composition. Colors and patterns advance and recede in a never-ending ebb and flow. The common motifs punctuating her imagery include cherry blossoms, lilies, violets, and roses, to name a few. Vertical and horizontal bands, which resemble the bark of a tree, restrain the explosion of plant life.

Laurie Riccadonna, Broken, 2009, oil on canvas, 25 x 15 inches

Moorish architecture and the natural world are not Riccadonna’s only source of inspiration. She also finds motivation in literature, in particular, magical realism. She says: “Sometimes it’s just a sentence from a single story which inspires a painting.” For example, this passage from the novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy informed her painting Latitude 44.5:

“The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat.  The walls, streaked with moss, had grown soft, and bulged a little with dampness that seeped up from the ground. The wild, overgrown garden was full of the whisper and scurry of small lives.”

It is easy to understand why Riccadonna enjoys Roy. The author’s prose is definite, concrete, and evocative; it creates an imaginary world in broad strokes and gemlike detail. As a reader, you can envision the powerful hands of nature strangling the “old house” in a slow-motion death grip, crushing its larynx under the weight of moss, dampness, and overgrowth. In her paintings, Riccadonna employs the same attention to detail to paint the knobby skin of a tree that Roy uses to describe the fetid condition of a house. The style of the prose is not the only characteristic Riccadonna appreciates. This passage also “beautifully articulates aspects growth and decay” that is a central theme in the artist’s current work. Riccadonna knows nature can bequeath life as quickly as it can extinguish it.

Laurie Riccadonna, Dragonflies I, 2009, oil on canvas, 29 x 24 inches

Riccadonna works on a painting one at a time. The work is labor intensive: a large painting may take up to six months to complete. She typically draws the lattice and overall structure of the painting first. After she arranges the patterns and imagery on the canvas, she begins to work more intuitively. She admits to being methodical, but she does not allow it to stifle her creativity. The imagery usually changes and evolves as she works. Riccadonna says: “I use the canvas as a record of my thoughts as I make the painting. Typically each painting is referencing a particular time of year, place, or memory, so although I am very specific with the imagery, I also try to allow the painting to evolve and change as I work.  I provide myself with a structure and then allow myself to deviate from that.”

Color is an essential component in Riccadonna’s work as well. Some ideas for the imagery are based on the palette that she is using at the time of painting, but the overall color scheme of a painting grows and changes over time. For example, she may brush in a broad expanse of color on a section of the composition in order to determine what color to use next. One other characteristic to note in Riccadonna’s paintings is her use periwinkle blue. She reserves key sections of canvas for this hue. These oases of pure color serve two functions: They offer a brief respite amid the symphony of patterns, and they sparkle alongside a brown/gray palette.

Riccadonna earned her Master of Fine Arts in Painting/Printmaking from Yale University School of Art and her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting/Drawing from the Pennsylvania State University. Riccadonna shows her work regularly in solo and group exhibitions, and her work is included in a variety of private and corporate collections. Currently a coordinator/assistant professor of fine art at Hudson County Community College, Ms. Riccadonna has been the recipient of numerous awards such as: Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship (3), NJ State Council on the Arts Fellowship, and Yale University’s Ely Harwood Schless Prize.

~ Brendan Carroll, Curator

The exhibition will be on view at The Hamilton Square Condominiums through September 2, 2011. For further information, please visit us at or contact Liz Dempsey, Executive Assistant, at 201-435-8000 or via e-mail at This event is part of JC Fridays.

Laurie Riccadonna: Whisper and Scurry of Small Lives is the second exhibition that Brendan Carroll will organize for SILVERMAN.

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Tim Daly, Ann Flaherty, Scott Taylor, Jason Seder, Sara Wolfe, Beth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi Kumagai, Tom McGlynn, Victoria Calabro, Asha Ganpat, Darren Jones, Ryan Roa, Laura Napier, Risa Puno, Nyugen E. Smith, Amanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

Work Samples:

laurie riccadonna, at the edge of silver lake, 2010, watercolor

laurie riccadonna, dragonfly study, 2009, watercolor on paper

laurie riccadonna, gardenias and ladybugs, 2010, watercolor and goauche on paper

laurie riccadonna, jasmine trellis, 2010, watercolor and goauche on paper

laurie riccadonna, newt study, 2008, goauche on paper

laurie riccadonna, september frost, 2010, watercolor and goauche on paper

laurie riccadonna, star flowers, 2010, watercolor and goauche on paper

So Yoon Lym, Anthony, 2011, acrylic on paper, 22 x 30 inches

After eight years of photographing the hairstyles worn by the boys and girls walking through the hallways in John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, New Jersey, artist So Yoon Lym began to paint them. (The hairstyles, not the students’ faces.) She paints what she sees, employing an aerial perspective to portray her models. We see the complex geometry of the braids, and her meticulous portraits exude a religious gravitas. I recently caught up with So Yoon Lym to discus her life and work.

Hi So Yoon. Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

I was born in Seoul, Korea, but lived in Uganda and Kenya for 7 years.  My parents were both surgeons working in Uganda during the time of Idi Amin.  We came to live in northern New Jersey when I was 7.

That is such a difficult question to answer:  “Who are you and what do you do?”  I am still not completely sure who I am.  Through painting, I think I find out who I am.  I’ve done many things over the years, but right now I am trying to be a full-time artist.

When did you begin to paint and draw?

Growing up, art had always been my favorite subject in school.  And I was lucky to have been able to take art every year that I was in elementary, middle and high school.  During my junior year in high school, when I was 15 and told my parents that I wanted to go to an art college, they encouraged me to go to France for the summer to participate in the Parsons Pre-College to Dordogne and Paris two-week Painting and Drawing program.  Following the Parsons program, I stayed on in Paris for a week and then went to Normandy for another two weeks to study traditional sumie painting with one of Korea’s greatest painter, Ung No Lee.  My parents helped arrange all this for me.  I will always be grateful to my parents for their encouragement and support in my interest to be a painter.  To this day, all my artwork hangs in their house, in every single room and hallway.

I got my BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and my MFA in Painting from Columbia University.  After Columbia, I worked as a textile colorist and designer in New York City for 7 years.  I then became an art educator in Paterson, New Jersey for 9 years until I was laid off last year in June 2010.

So Yoon Lym, Jhonathan, 2010, acrylic on paper, 22 x 30 inches

How does painting enable you to learn more about who are you are and what you do? Is it the act of painting which provides this uncovering or is it the end result? Do the insights hit you like a thunderbolt from the sky or do they reveal themselves slowly, overtime?

I have always wanted to be the kind of artist that can just start sketching, drawing or painting anytime and anywhere.  It still takes me a really long time to mentally prepare to sketch, draw or paint.  This is what the whole process of grinding one’s ink in sumie painting is about.  I have to straighten up my surroundings and clear all the physical as well as mental clutter.

I think the learning more about who I am is really about coming back to what I already know about myself, which is something I forget from time to time.  By that, I mean that I love being quiet and working on whatever it is I am working on and not looking for or chasing things, events, opportunities or people.  This might sound odd, but even after 30 years of painting, I still can’t believe when I am just about to put the last brush stokes down on a painting.  After I finish a painting, I always step back, take a huge breath, and feel grateful that I am able to see something I’ve made.  I think a lot about painting even when I am not actually painting so, I would say that all my insights about what I want to work on come slowly over time.

I love your Dreamtime series. I first saw the work online and then had the opportunity to see a selection of the paintings in the Hair exhibition at the Jersey City Museum. Tell us about the series. What is it, and why is it important?

I started photographically documenting hair and braid patterns and hairstyles I saw on students from 2001 until 2010 at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, New Jersey where I had worked as a full time art educator.  But I didn’t begin painting this hair and braid pattern series until the summer of 2008.

The hair and braid pattern paintings didn’t become titled, The Dreamtime until 2010.  The Dreamtime was the title for my Paterson Museum solo exhibition in October-November 2010.

I wanted a title that would reference many different layers of meaning to what I felt the hair and braid pattern paintings were about.  The Dreamtime is a reference to the Dreamtime of pre-colonial aboriginal Australia.

These paintings are important, at least for me, because they were all based on actual hair and braid patterns as worn by actual students that I knew at Kennedy High School.  When you ask why are they important, I can’t say why and if they would be important to the viewer and to which viewer.

So Yoon Lym, Quay, 2010, acrylic on paper, 22 x 30 inches

I see these paintings as portraiture. However, you chose to utilize an aerial perspective, opting not to portray the model’s face or body. What led you to this decision?

I chose an aerial perspective for several reasons.  I was taking pictures of students while I was employed as an educator at a public school.  For legal reasons, I wanted to obscure students’ faces.  I had thought that these hair and braid patterns were like fingerprints and wanted to present a painting series of designs, patterns and symbols seen from a vantage point that would not readily identify these paintings as ‘portraiture’.  I also decided that painting from an aerial perspective would highlight and showcase the hair and braid patterns in the most abstract and contemporary way.

Your aerial portraits present men and women who wear cornrows, a traditional style of braiding hair close to the scalp. Each portrait presents a single model, who has a different pattern of braiding. The hair is braided in parallel rows, complex geometric patterns, swirls, zigzags, and curves. The depiction is objective, detached, and clinical. When you present the series in its entirety, it is reminiscent of botanical illustrations. Did you have this approach in mind when you began the series?

The hair and braid patterns originated with the wearer.  And I want to point out that they are really of young adults, teenagers for the most part.  This is where the second layer of meaning to the dreamtime comes in.  Having experienced life as a teenager in an American public suburban high school and then having worked as an educator in an American public urban high school, I recognized that this was a “dream-time”, an unreal time period of learning, as if what is taught within school is all real and true.

The hair and braid patterns I painted from reference photographs were chance photographs.  They were taken because I was attracted to and interested in the design that the wearer already had, without my interference or decision-making.  And so, I feel that I am finding that which already exists in nature, much like how Karl Blossfeldt documented botanical plant life through his microscopic photographs.

I have a great love of things that are handmade, handcrafted and all natural.  All these hair and braid patterns were handcrafted and designed by women and girls that the wearers knew and not necessarily done in a commercial hair salon.  There were many hair and braid patterns that I saw that I did not choose to document or paint.  Every work of art is in some way a personal self-portrait, whatever the nature of the artwork.  Each work of art is the sum total collection of decisions and aesthetic choices of a particular artist.  So, in this way, I don’t feel that the depiction is objective, detached or clinical.

So Yoon Lym, Jonathan, 2010, acrylic on paper, 22 x 30 inches

The cornrow patterns are as beautiful and intricate as the markings on butterfly wings. Actually, the grid arrangement of these portraits reminded me of the placement of preserved butterflies within glass collector cases. Does that association resonate with you? Do you feel that your subjects endangered in some way?

The hair and braid pattern paintings are a documentation of a moment in the time span of the wearer’s life.  It is a passing glimpse into the part of the whole of the infinite range and variety of hair and braid pattern design possibility. These hair and braid patterns exist as designs that are chosen and often altered by the wearer depending on their cranial structure, length and quality of hair, personal design preference, craftsmanship of the braider, etc.  There were many students who dramatically altered their hair such as getting a close-cropped haircut, never to wear a hair and braid pattern again, at least in high school.  I don’t understand that question about the subjects being endangered in some way.  Hair design and hair styling will continue as it has continued from the beginning of time.

The grid arrangement you are referring to is from the brochure/poster layout that I had commissioned by Everythingstudio in NYC.  The printed brochure/poster, which included text by Rocio Aranda-Alvarado was meant to serve several functions.  It was the text accompaniment for The Dreamtime exhibition, an instant portfolio, a collection and archive of the paintings in this series as well as an art poster.

The braids have a presence, physicality, and weight. As soon as I saw your paintings, I wanted to sink my teeth into them as if they were plump ropes of licorice. Is there a particular response you are hoping to provoke in the viewer? Or is it about something else?

Painting for me is a spiritual practice.  The act of disciplining my mind and quieting my thoughts while painting gives me direction in the larger scheme of life.  I don’t really think about the viewer when I make art, which is not to say that I don’t have a vision in mind of what I would like to achieve with a series.  As I have gotten older, I see that the appreciation and also response to art is very much a subjective experience.  I don’t think it is healthy to have expectations as far as how people will respond to your work.  I think this has parallels to daily life, and not having expectations with events and/or with people. This is something that I have to re-learn daily and painting helps me to do this.

With this particular hair and braid pattern series, I envision that the viewer will see the hair and braid pattern paintings the way I do.  The quiet and bowing heads are like heads in meditation or benediction.  There is no race identification, but a recognition and eternal connection to humanity and timeless nature.  That is what I understand to be the pre-colonial aboriginal Australian way of life and their belief of The Dreamtime, before the Aborigines were colonized, subjugated, defined and viewed from the outside.  A passage that I think of often in life and while I paint is from the William Blake poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

So Yoon Lym, William, 2010, acrylic on paper, 22 x 30 inches

From Cold Crush Brothers to Eric B and Rakim, Eazy E to Snoop, hip-hop artists have worn cornrows since the genre’s inception. What is your relationship to the art, music, and culture of hip-hop?

I feel that there is something overly trendy and commercial in relating cornrows to the culture of hip-hop.  I view the hair and braid patterns more along the lines of crafts in a global sense.  It is every culture’s love of pattern, design and of making things.  Cornrow braiding has been documented on Greek and Roman art from 490-485 BC, while the modern origins of cornrow braiding originated in West Africa and pre-dates contemporary hip hop and rap music.

Hair braiding and cornrow braiding exists around the world for many as a daily beauty ritual much in the way women and men all over the world and throughout time have tended to and styled their hair.  But in this country, it also has a history that spans the beginning of slavery to the Black Pride Movement and onward to a hairstyle, that today is most closely associated to urban American music, style and culture.  The voices coming from rap and hip-hop in America have re-directed meaning and re-contextualized how cornrow braiding is perceived and understood.

I believe that when stylistically related elements in art and music are presented together, insightful observations can be made on commerce, contemporary trends and interests as well as on ‘culture’ at large, although this is not necessarily an interest of mine with this particular painting series.

Who are the subjects portrayed in the series? How did you get them to sit for you? What was the relationship between artist and model?

Some were students of mine, some were friends of students that I would allow to hang out in the art room and some were students that I saw in the hallways.  I just simply asked students if I could take their picture and they allowed me to do so.  Since I was always either teaching or prepping for a class, I had to take these pictures often within the span of a minute as I didn’t want to take time away from what I was supposed to be in school for: teaching art, not collecting reference material for personal art projects.  Plus, I was always concerned about being questioned by administration, so I tried to be as quick and discreet as possible.

So Yoon Lym, Thinking Beyond the Pattern, Gallery Korea

I am curious about the models’ reactions to your work. What do they think of it?

As far as subject matter, they have seen it all and more.  My hair and braid pattern paintings, imagery-wise were not that unusual to them.  They lived it and saw it everyday and everywhere in their daily lives.  Most people automatically think that my students would be extremely interested in my artwork.  Aside from the naturalistic or detailed quality of the hair and braid pattern paintings that they may have had some interest in, the paintings themselves were not anything “new” to them.  They are pretty straightforward as paintings in composition and technique.  They are what they are.  It is only in one’s imagination that they might become more.

What is next for you?

I would like to paint 10 more of these 22” x 30”, acrylic on paper braid pattern paintings then close this series.  I am currently doing research, organizational and preparation work now for a new body of work that I have been thinking of working on for the last 15 years years.

Now that I am not teaching full time, I will be able to build this body of work both as a recent Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder resident and in May-June when I go to the Vermont Studio Center on a full fellowship award.  But, I would like to continue to exhibit my hair and braid pattern series that I am calling The Dreamtime.  I will have a solo exhibition of these paintings at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA this August-September 2011.  And will have another solo exhibition of this hair and braid pattern series next year in April 2012 at the Hall of Fame Gallery at Bronx Community College in Bronx, NY.

Margaret Murphy | Courtesy of Jersey Journal

Margaret Murphy was born in Baltimore, MD. She is a painter, curator, and professor.

Margaret earned her BS from Towson State University; and she earned her MFA in Painting from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 1992.

Margaret’s work is in the collection of Deutsche Bank, Jersey City Museum, Hudson County Community College Foundation, Hunterdon Museum of Art, The Brodsky Center at Rutgers University, and numerous private collections. She now resides in Jersey City, NJ.

Margaret, I’m intrigued with the way you juggle your professional life. You are a visual artist with gallery representation; you curate and organize exhibitions. You also teach art on a collegiate level. I think you’re a great role model for a lot of artists who want to follow a diverse practice. So, I’m curious about some of the realities of that. For this profile, I want to concentrate on your experience as an artist. What do you do, and why?

I paint and make art because its how I process the observations and questions I have about life. I also enjoy the “craft” of art making. I like working with my hands. Painting has always been the medium of choice for me, creating illusions and being in the world of ideas feels right for what I speak about in my work.

Why? That has changed over the years. I was one of those kids who always got positive feedback about my drawings and paintings. I knew early on that I wanted to work in a creative field. As I matured I realized that my interests would best be expressed through painting.

MARGARET MURPHY. American Family Triptych, 2008.

You have a successful career: gallery representation, numerous awards, and critical recognition. What’s your secret?

“No secret, just hard work.”

Being a professional artist is a lot like being a small time business owner. How do you manage your career, and what skills do you need?

That is a good point. To be a successful artist it helps to have a good business sense. You have to be organized because you have to juggle many hats. I spend months painting then take a few months just to market the work (send out grant applications, apply for residencies, shows etc.) On top of that you have to make money so you teach, curate -whatever works best for you.

What’s your favorite part of being an artist?

“My favorite part is making the work. When you are in the studio and in a zone its great- the ideas flow, the process is exciting. I also enjoy always learning new things.”

What’s your least favorite part of being an artist?

Not being in control of your career. You are ready to work non stop but if the opportunities are not there that can be frustrating. Also the lean economic lifestyle can be difficult. An artist needs financial backing to work.

MARGARET MURPHY. Mother and Child, 2007.

What three pieces of advice would you give to an artist just starting out their career?

“Hmm, first – make good work. I think younger artist can come out of school now with too much of a business sense and not enough willingness to experiment and take risks with their work.

Second, try and connect with likeminded people and take charge. Curate shows, start a blog, be part of an art collective… You need to take the reigns of your own career and not wait for other people to give you opportunities.

Third, be patient. Work hard. Help others.”

You hail from Baltimore—home of John Waters, Anne Tyler, and The Wire. What’s the deal with Baltimore, and why does it inspire such great art?

I love Baltimore! Its quirky, charming and has a real sense of its own culture. It’s about crabs, orioles (and now Ravens), Edgar Allen Poe, John Waters…its great. I think it’s the whole Mason Dixon Line thing. It’s a little bit southern and a little bit east coast, it’s a nice combination. It doesn’t take itself too serious either. It’s a safe place to find your voice as an artist.

MARGARET MURPHY. girl down, 2010.

If Baltimore and Jersey City were to get into a pillow fight, whose side would you fight on, and why?

“I am a Jersey City girl now. This is home. I think what I like about JC is that is has a little bit of Baltimore in it – just closer to NY!”

What’s next for you?

We’ll see. I am working on a new body of work at PS122 in Manhattan. I do have a solo show coming up at Pentimenti Gallery in May. Also, my work will be included in a catalogue of 100 Mid Atlantic artists that will be published by Schiffer Publishing.

The original post may be found here.