* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
When you’re working on something, you always wonder, “Can I get away with this? Is it working?” It’s the space between that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I think that when I started to make, say, a triptych that came from an observation of a little Picasso drawing, the spaces in between became as important as the three actual pieces. It’s especially true of the Wallpaper piece. But most of the changes in my own work really evolve from one piece to the next: from looking at my own work, the works of others, and things in my studio. It happens when you see something that you didn’t see previously, like those scraps of clay that became the wall pieces. It’s similar to the space that I’ve explored for years and years between artist and craftsperson, which is both interesting and challenging, and I don’t think that one thing is inferior to the other. Each has a different goal, a different function. Its my responsibility how nd where my work is viewed in different contexts.
In Conversation: Betty Woodman with Phong Bui, The Brooklyn Rail, April 2016
Comments are welcome!
Q: Another interesting series of yours that has impressed me is your recent “Black Paintings.” The pieces in this series are darker than the ones in “Domestic Threats.” You create an effective mix between the dark background and the few bright tones, which establish such a synergy rather than a contrast, and all the dark creates a prelude to light. It seems to reveal such a struggle, a deep tension, and intense emotions. Any comments on your choice of palette and how it has changed over time?
A: That is a great question!
You are correct that my palette has darkened. It’s partly from having lived in New York for so long. This is a generally dark city. We famously dress in black and the city in winter is mainly greys and browns.
Also, the “Black Paintings” are definitely post-9/11 work. My husband, Bryan, was tragically killed onboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Losing Bryan was the biggest shock I ever have had to endure, made even harder because it came just 87 days after we had married. We had been together for 14 ½ years and in September 2001 were happier than we had ever been. He was killed so horribly and so senselessly. Post 9/11 was an extremely difficult, dark, and lonely time.
In the summer of 2002 I resumed making art, continuing to make “Domestic Threats” paintings. That series ran its course and ended in 2007. Around then I was feeling happier and had come to better terms with losing Bryan (it’s something I will never get over but dealing with loss does get easier with time). When I created the first “Black Paintings” I consciously viewed the background as literally, the very dark place that I was emerging from, exactly like the figures emerging in these paintings. The figures themselves are wildly colorful and full of life, so to speak, but that black background is always there.
Comments are welcome!