Q: The handmade frames on your large pastel-on-sandpaper paintings are quite elaborate. Can you speak more about them?
A: I have been working in soft pastel since 1986, I believe, and within six years the sizes of my paintings increased from 11″ x 14″ to 58″ x 38.” (I’d like to work even bigger, but the limiting factors continue to be first, the size of mat board that is available and second, the size of my pick-up truck). My earliest work is framed with pre-cut mats, do-it-yourself Nielsen frames, and glass that was cut-to-order at the local hardware store. With larger-sized paintings DIY framing became impractical. In 1989 an artist told me about Underground Industries, a custom framing business in Fairfax, Virginia, run by Rob Plati, his mother, Del, and until last year, Rob’s late brother, Skip. So Rob and Del have been my framers for 24 years. When I finish a painting in my New York studio, I drive it to Virginia to be framed.
Pastel paintings have unique problems – for example, a smudge from a finger, a stray drop of water, or a sneeze will ruin months of hard work. Once a New York pigeon even pooped on a finished painting! Framing my work is an ongoing learning experience. Currently, my frames are deep, with five layers of acid-free foam core inserted between the painting and the mat to separate them. Plexiglas has a static charge so it needs to be kept as far away from the pastel as possible, especially since I do not spray finished pastel paintings with fixative.
Once they are framed, my paintings cannot be laid face down. There’s a danger that stray pastel could flake off. If that happens, the whole frame needs to be taken apart and the pastel dust removed. It’s a time-consuming, labor-intensive process and an inconvenience, since Rob and Del, the only people I trust with my work, are five hours away from New York by truck.
Comments are welcome!
Q: Your new work explores relationships to figures through the medium of soft pastel. What prompted this departure from photography?
A: Actually it was the other way around. As I’ve mentioned, I was a maker of pastel-on-sandpaper paintings long before I became a photographer (1986 vs. 2002). However, the photos in the “Gods and Monsters” series were meant to be photographs in their own right, i.e., they were not made to be reference material for paintings. in an interesting turn of events, in 2007 I started a new series, “Black Paintings,” which uses the “Gods and Monsters” photographs as source material. Collectors who have been following my work for years tell me the new series is the strongest yet. For now I’m enjoying where this work is leading. The last three paintings are the most minimal yet and I’ve begun thinking of them as the “Big Heads.” There is usually a single figure (“Stalemate” has two) that is much larger than life size. “Epiphany” (above, left) is an example. All of them are quite dramatic when seen in person, especially with their black wooden frames and mats.
Comments are welcome!
A: First, the cameras that I inherited from Bryan in 2001 were all pre-digital film cameras. Second, I can make chromogenic prints myself, which cuts down on their production cost. Third, I love working with my hands and enjoy the process of making prints in a darkroom. Fourth, I make photographs on days that I don’t go to the studio. It’s a way to take a day off and still make art, a very productive use of my time. At the end of a darkroom session I have a new edition of 5 chromogenic prints, ready to spot and frame.
Comments are welcome.