SAC ~ What is your creative expression?
Olivia ~ I primarily work in painting. Even when I’m not actually painting, I think I apply that sensibility to my work, or it translates…some of it becomes sculptural or performative, or moves into installation. I also write – mostly creative non-fiction. My writing and my visual work rarely intersect, at least not directly. When I’ve tried to mix the two approaches its felt forced, or somehow too overwhelming. I’m all for interdisciplinary work, but don’t find my writing and visual quite work together in the way I’d like.
SAC ~ What were/are your motivations? What started it?
Olivia ~ From the beginning, my parents encouraged me to create. My mother’s background is in fashion. She wouldn’t self-identify as an artist, but she’s an artist. My father was a musician and an educator. My mother has always said, “Where’s the poison?” meaning, “Where’s the tension?” That’s something I carry with me. For her it’s usually related to color, but I also apply it to form and surface texture. As a child, when I made a mistake in a drawing, I’d patch the drawing rather than start a new one, maybe an indication I’d paint. I’ve never been a perfectionist.
SAC ~ You mentioned falling in love with painting, that Italy was a breakthrough…
Olivia ~ I’ve had many wonderful teachers. Lorenzo Pezzatini, a painter I studied with in Italy has been particularly influential to me, not only because of who he is, but also because of what he allowed me to see in myself, in my own work. He gave me the confidence to paint, to believe in my instinct, to express for expression’s sake. He told me I had the soul of a painter – it needed to come out. It came at a time when I really needed that kind of backing.
SAC ~ Tell us about your process…
Olivia ~ I don’t plan the paintings, or whatever it is I’m making. Occasionally I’ll assign loose parameters, but even when I do, the paintings/works surprise me. If they don’t, then something’s wrong. I appreciate the immediacy of painting, the push and pull of it, the material on my hands, and the sense of discovery. Because I work abstractly, and because of the way I work, the beauty is in the discovery – in the pealing back and the layering.
By nature I’m physical and impulsive and impatient. I take great satisfaction in destruction – covering up entire paintings, sometimes cutting them, sometimes breaking the wood, tearing the paper. It’s satisfying in that, at that point, the painting can’t get any worse, the reversal is necessary. There comes a time when you’ve layered and layered and the paint and the line just isn’t singing in the way you need it to, or your uncertainty is manifested in a way that’s totally uninteresting and you don’t ever want to see the thing again. And then you act and it’s terrifying in a way, but it’s also a tremendous relief. Sometimes I repeat this process several times and eventually discard it, or hide it in a corner, or use it as a drop-cloth. I like the idea that nothing is precious.
The challenge comes in slowing down, in stopping, in allowing a motif to arise without making it a habit…in keeping it fresh without forcing anything.
SAC ~ Favorites in your field and why?
Olivia ~ Those who most move me: Susan Rothenberg, Eva Hesse, Sophie Calle, Antoni Tapies, Amy Sillman, Marlene Dumas, Richard Diebenkorn, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anselm Kiefer, Lydia Davis, Joan Mitchell, Miranda July, Egon Schiele, Milan Kundera, Marilynne Robinson…Rothenberg’s paintings are so physical. I love the way she speaks about her work, her discipline; that one has to spend time in the studio, or create time to make, even when you know it’s not going to lead anywhere that day, to make a mark for the sake of making a mark…that the paintings are relationships, and one must give them time. I try to apply these ideas to my own practice.
I’m attracted to the immediacy of Hesse’s work. Her works read as an extension of the body, but it doesn’t feel labored. There’s a tremendous gravity to her work…and yet it doesn’t feel heavy to me – it’s more fundamental.
I first encountered Sillman’s work at a time when I really needed it. I stepped into the gallery and I was immersed in this incredible painting show. I’d just returned from Austria and it had been a while since I’d really felt moved by painting. I hadn’t found it in Austria, and I stepped into the gallery and I was somehow disarmed. Her work is confident and subtle, intentional without being predictable. Juicy, juicy paint – I’m a sucker for paint…for being able to look at something and know what it smells like. They’re luscious but also sort of raw. She’s an amazing colorist–her work is loaded with poison.
SAC ~ What inspires you?
Olivia ~ I’m inspired by my friends’ work and dedication to their practices. We motivate one another to keep making, to hold onto the conviction that what we’re making is important, and has the capacity to connect – that it’s somehow fundamental, that it’s not so much about ourselves, or even an object, or a moment, but something larger.
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Olivia! In the meantime…get to her show!!
EXOTIC, FUR, ETC.
NEW WORKS BY OLIVIA BALDWIN
Opening Reception Friday, March 20, 6:00pm-9:00pm
On View March 20-April 6
Gallery Hours: The gallery is generally open 10am-3pm Monday-Friday, or by appointment. For good measure, we recommend calling ahead of time (845.469.9459)
Olivia Baldwin also has a solo show in Gallery 1308 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from August 7th to September 29th, 2015.
Olivia Baldwin is director at Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf, NY. She is the artist in residence and is involved with programming and the collection at Seligmann.
For more information about The Seligmann Center ~ http://www.kurtseligmann.org/
For more info about Olivia, visit her website here: http://livbaldwin.com/