|Joe Wardwell, studio view|
BR: Hi Joe. I like to use these visits to people’s studios to have a chance to talk to the artists about their process making and developing their art. So what are we looking at here in your studio?
JW: This is all stuff that I'm thinking about for the next show, so it kind of helps me to kind of have them all out like this too - you know - so I can think about pairings, or the way things are done - so a lot of times I'll just kind of add -- the 'Rebel Souls' painting right there -
|Joe Wardwell, Rebel Souls|
BR: Which One?
JW: The really messed up one kinda - 'Rebel Souls - We are Called'
BR: The one that's kind of hard-edged with double text overlaid?
JW: Yeah, yeah. It reads Rebel Soul Deserters We Are Called. So that was just We Are Called for a long time and I didn't like it – and then I added Rebel Souls and that wasn't enough – and then I added the Deserters and that wasn't enough – so then I went back over top of it. So a lot of times they sit for a long time and then something kind of bugs me about it and I'll change it.
|Joe Wardwell, studio view|
BR: What's the choice to begin between each one (abstract or landscape)?
JW: Mostly its for variation. The original idea is that I would have a group of paintings in which half would be abstract and half would be landscape so that I can keep fluid with what I'm doing in the studio on a day-to-day basis and then the idea would be that they flip - so that then some would go to be a landscape and others to an abstract painting so that I wouldn't be doing too much of one thing in my head at a time. But you know some pieces have varying degrees of length and it changes.
BR: Is sometimes the image difficult to obstruct or waiting for the right kind of lettering?
JW: I think its a little bit of both - there's a normal kind of adoration, or I'd say there's a certain level of satisfaction. The landscape or abstraction gets to a certain point of satisfaction – and then that satisfaction begins to erode – and it kind of starts to nag at me. Ok, ok, I want to change it. And it takes time for me to know what I want a painting to say, and I keep lists of stuff. So then I put it up and so then I slowly single out a phrase or something for the painting and then I create a stencil for the painting. Its a long process to figure out what a painting is going to say – sometimes I don't care, I'm just going to make a statement, not over think it – sometimes it takes a really long time.
BR: I can imagine that there must be a certain kind of threshold you have to reach to obstruct the first part of the painting with lettering?
JW: I also like the idea that there's an inherent nihilism in the process – where other than people that I invite in, no one really gets to see the two states in completion, you know? So there's always this sort of fragmented existence that you know that something has been destroyed because of the whole creation of the stencils – either the abstract or the landscape painting has been leveled, so I think that its kind of has that implied. The paintings are hopefully clear enough that you can tell that the paintings were painted completely 'up'. It wasn't like I painted spots of them. You can sense that it was a complete painting, you know what I mean? That they are not spot painted.
BR: In looking at them, there is a sense of a process of excavation – that you build them through layers.
JW: In my process you can't see what’s under the stencil layer - you can’t see what's underneath there, so it's not like you can tweak it - you know what I mean? At some point you're blind to what happens in the painting.
BR: Right, so with the stencil you've actually obstructed that part of the painting, not completely because you can see some bits of it?
JW: No, actually you can't. I block it out completely. So when the stencil layer goes down, I put another ground layer on it. It's like you can see this layer in the painting - see this yellow color popping out here around that edge? That's all the ground color. So it goes down to the point that I really don't see the under layer.
|Joe Wardwell, studio view, paper portfolio|
BR: Have you kept all the stencils?
JW: Some of them, some you can't - some get destroyed in the process and some of them I have like that and stuff - - - I'll show you some works on paper that have used the left over bit. I started making drawings out of the leftover bit. And that's actually been pretty nice. It's kind of moved in the more recent months to, from where I use the term 'half loss' --- where I was losing half of everything --- to now I'm like, everything is used.
BR: Good - it's like 'up-cycling'?
JW: Yeah, yeah. So these are some drawings I'm going to show you. So here's a work on paper - and it has the stencil right on it - and so this is actually the 'Party Over' stencil right on the paper - so they're half the painting. If that makes sense? And here's another, with spray paint on paper and the stencil. This is a new thing, I haven't figured out how I'm going to show these – separately or right next to each other.
BR: So we where talking earlier about how you choose either landscape or abstraction to use in your process of painting, I was wondering where do you take your landscapes from?
JW: They're all from my own travels and photographs. Either here in New England or from back west where I'm from, but when I'm looking for images, I'm usually trying to get some kind of archetype image that somehow evokes the Hudson River School.
BR: A penultimate, a kind of that is ‘it’?
JW: For example this is a place in western Mass that I go camping with a waterfall - and I'm trying to sort of channel Asher B Durand as much as I can. So I kind of look for that Hudson River School aesthetic with different archetype images – I don't ever have any people in them and I don't have any roads in them either. I'm looking for an archetype image that is evoking a national spirit, you know what I mean?
BR: So how much do you think about the transcendental aspect?
JW: I guess I think about the transcendental in the scope that those ideas gave rise to a kind of nationalist spirit – and I think that got built into a sort of calling card of the United States as a nation when it started becoming more and more independent in terms of both culture and economic forces – I think it's relationship to landscape is inseparable in the way that we as a country define ourselves – and I find that it still is and I find that at this point in this country's history completely fascinating.
If you go from the Puritans, they were terrified of the wilderness, to the Romantic Sublime kind of coming in from Europe and then the United States with Thomas Cole being the sort of pinnacle of that kind of Romantic wilderness sort of experience, and then you have Thoreau who basically rejects, you know he says 'the more I see of the civilized world, the more I want to push into the wilderness' and that really is the birth of the spirit – that gives way to Manifest Destiny and now its like the landscape is shrinking.
|Joe Wardwell, studio view of Worried Now|
BR: Which one is that? The geyser --- I mean the waterfall? I feel like that must be a really famous one if its like that tall.
JW: That one's in Multnomah Falls in Oregon, just outside Portland. You might recognize it better, but I edited out a bridge that goes across here, a footbridge. I just edited it out so that it only has natural space. I like the idea of editing these things out. If you go out there, there's three gigantic parking lots, bike paths and what not.
BR: And so how are you developing the texts that get overlaid?
JW: I listen to music all the time and I just pull out the things that have the right feel – that antihero or apocalyptic kind of feel or has that sort of reverse propaganda feel to the way you would normally associate the way something like a Budweiser ad trying use the landscape to sell you beer – and I find something that kind of subverts that or questions that or there's an oblique aspect to that. And I keep lists of stuff, and a lot of stuff never gets used. And lot of time they change over time.