Exploring the mind and habits of an artist in twenty-five questions
by Stephanie Cassidy | April 5, 2021
At what age did you decide to become an artist?
Very young, I decided I wanted to be a painter. I think I had the idea because my father, an architect, my aunt, and especially a family friend (he seemed the coolest) all painted.
How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be an artist?
They always encouraged me and were very happy with my choice.
Who are your favorite artists?
Hard to say, but my favorite still life painters, who are among my all-time favorite painters, are Chardin, Cézanne, and Morandi.
Who is your favorite artist whose work is unlike your own?
Art book you cannot live without?
Right now I don’t think there is one book, but the book that had the most influence on my work was Ernst Gombrich’s Art and Illusion.
What is the quality you most admire in an artist?
Work that is very personal and therefore unique and at the same time informed by our collective history of picture-making.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
No, I wish I did. I always think I will start. I was so inspired by the David Hockney show I saw yesterday at the Morgan library, but I probably won’t.
What’s your favorite museum in all the world?
The Art Institute of Chicago and The Frick Collection.
What’s the best exhibition you have ever attended?
Yikes, so many: one I can think of offhand, The Genius of Venice, 1500–1600 (catalogue) at the Royal Academy of Art in London in the eighties.
If you were not an artist, what would you be?
An art historian or historian.
Did you have an artistic cohort that influenced your early creative development?
I was lucky to have not one cohort but a group of painter friends. For six summers after graduate school, we rented a house in the country in Italy and painted together. We had studied with different people, and painting together all day and talking together all evening was an invaluable experience, and great fun!
What is one thing you didn’t learn in art school that you wish you had?
I wish I would have done more observational drawing.
What work of art have you looked at most and why?
I have looked at and at times been inspired by everything from ancient Greek and Roman art until what I saw yesterday in Chelsea. I constantly mine different periods of art for inspiration. I aim to straddle traditional painting and modern painting. (I especially love early modernist painting).
What is your secret visual pleasure outside of art?
Walking in a beautiful landscape is one of my favorite things to do.
Do you listen to music in your studio?
I tend to listen to political podcasts, WNYC, and audio books.
What is the last gallery you visited?
I saw a beautiful show yesterday of still lifes by Edward Praybe at the First Street Gallery.
Who is an underrated artist people should be looking at?
What art materials can you not live without?
My Blockx’s Cobalt Blue and a primed linen from Sennelier.
Do you paint/sculpt/create art every day?
I would say, most days. I often take a day off each week and paint less when I teach, but I agree totally with Luciano Pavarotti: “If I don’t sing for one day, I notice, and if I don’t sing for two days, the audience notices.”
What is the longest time you went without creating art?
When I was sick once, I did not paint for six months.
What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?
Go to art museums and galleries. Or I go see something different, a new neighborhood, a new market.
What are the questions that drive your work?
What does a painter do to deeply engage a viewer?
What is the most important quality in an artist?
I think drive, perseverance, and the ability to be self-critical so one can put one foot in front of the other, year after year, is essential.
What is something you haven’t yet achieved in art?
I am always trying for a visual synthesis of the sensual realism in Baroque still lifes and the cerebral structure of cubist still lifes, not quite there yet, but I am reconciled to the fact that painting is about striving rather than arriving.
What is the best thing about art in the era of social media?
I am not a big consumer of social media, but I do like being able to find any artist’s work online, and especially when teaching on Zoom, I appreciate sharing these finds with students.