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Aja

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating?
I know this is the "expected" answer, but my mom says since I was about 18 months old. I do remember this, I just didn't realize I was so young. My mother's hobby was toll painting, and to keep me busy she would hand me scrap wood, a small brush, and a dixie cup of water and I would "paint". I could go for hours like that - swirling the water onto the wood and watching it disappear only to do it again. I was easily amused.... In Elementary school I would spend recess in the art room. Sometimes I wouldn't even go to lunch if I was excited about a project. When I was in the fifth grade I was one of two students from my school chosen to attend a field trip to Opus 40 in Saugerties, NY. Two students from each surrounding elementary school were chosen for the retreat - two students dubbed most likely to benefit from the artistic intensity that was the late Harvey Fite's creation. I remember admiring Fite for literally putting his life into his work, and it was kinda comical cause from then on I took on this kind of persona that I imagined Fite had - creating with this brooding intensity (even when I was coloring My Little Ponies in a coloring book with some crayolas.) Goodness I was hysterical.
What is your medium of choice?
I prefer to work in oils cause they offer me the sort of textural effects not allowed by the vast majority of media. I don't use brushes (although I have like, twenty of them - several unused...) and rarely do I incorporate mediums or terpenoid either. It's all palette knife and pigment. Layer upon layer of pigment. I was once told by an instructor in college that I "wasted paint". I couldn't understand what that meant and it really actually bothered me that someone would say I was "wasting" anything when creating a work of art. Sure, it can get expensive and can take months to dry, but I guess every artist pays a price for their craft.
What are your motivations for creating?
Honestly? I feel I am not "heard" any other way. On my 14th birthday I was diagnosed with a peptic ulcer. I had missed 36 days of school that year, all before December. It was a tough time for my family and I - my step dad was an abusive drunk, and I didn't have any friends at the school I was attending. I was in this downward spiral, and I kept it all bottled up inside. The doctor told me point blank "If you don't let some of these emotions out, they could end up killing you." So, I guess to a degree my motivation to create is to survive.
What other artists and movements inform your work?
Cecily Brown's creations and personality have turned me into a new person artistically. I read an interview once where she said "It is kind of a sad thing that we can't necessarily look to a woman artist from the past and say I want to paint like her." Well, I want to paint like her... I found so many similarities in what she has done and what I was working on through pure unaffected creation and visualization. I had been working with abstraction for a while - but never had it entered my mind to include anything but abstraction for the sake of abstraction. Just capturing an emotion or mood through color that I would try to infuse into the viewer as they gazed upon my work. I wanted them to feel something; be it anger, confusion, serenity....I wanted the viewer to get lost in my pieces, and in doing so get lost within themselves. I had been working (or struggling...) with life drawing and rendering the nude in more traditional charcoal and oil pastel drawings. I was kind of on this "face obstacles head on" kick and decided to include the one thing that scared me the most - depicting the nude - in every single thing I created. And so it began - nudes, as far as the eye could see. During a trip to NYC I picked up a new contemporary painters book called "Vitamin P". It became my bible, and that was where I discovered the genius in Cecily Brown. Writhing, twisted body parts, nudes in extremely sexual poses, all emerging and drowning in swirls of pigment. She was the first artist to truly excite me, and it felt good because what I saw in her work that she had worked so hard to master was in it's infancy in mine. I'm gonna thank her someday....
What do you find stimulating right now? How does this influence your creative process?
God, anything really. Even a blank wall can be stimulating visually if you give it a chance. When I need a little inspiration I will usually hop online and surf for a while, seeing what others are creating. I am more fascinated with the art of my peers than with the art of the masters, so if I need some stimulation I just come here, browse the forum, and see what everyone else has going on. The works in progress section is a wealth of inspiration for me.
Read anything good lately?
You had to ask that, didn't ya. I hang my head in shame - the last book I finished all the way through was "The Good Earth" when I was in high school. The problem with me is I will pick up a book, read some, and get inspired to do a painting or something. I'll totally visualize this masterpiece and put the book down. The poor book never gets picked up again I'm afraid. Other than that as stated above, the contemporary painters compilation "Vitamin P" is never far away.
You work a lot with abstraction and colour--what keeps it fresh for you?
That's such an interesting question - you got me there. I guess I never thought about it cause it always just seemed "fresh" to me. I have never gotten bored with what I do. Every piece has this overwhelming sense of opportunity, like I will look at a new canvas and think "This could be the best piece I have ever painted." I don't think about what I am going to do before hand - I just pick up a color and my knife and go to work, letting the color lead me. I liken it to disassociative writing, only I am holding a palette knife instead of a pencil. I do, however, put a lot of thought into the figures. Each figure I paint has to have her own personality and emotion. They do not confront the viewer head on - I create them to inhabit their own reality, and we as the viewers look into that reality to start to understand our own world. If I had to pin point what keeps it fresh I'd have to say pieces like "Anahita's Sisters" and "Lamentation I". Sometimes I can't believe I painted them. I see so much in my work, from start to finish, it's really a roller coaster ride through the creation of each new piece. I don't think I will ever get bored with it.
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
I guess I would want everyone to know that they will be seeing a lot more of me...

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