Gina Beavers, Mondrian, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 in.
I’ve been really impressed with Gina’s work throughout the years and the way she has made so many bold and surprising moves. There’s a lot going on in her work and she’s got a lot going on lately in general.This Friday night (the 10th) she’ll be in “First Truth” at Camel Art Space, this Saturday night (the 11th) she opens “Le Sigh”, a solo show at the great Nudashank in Baltimore, and towards the end of the month, she’ll be at Fleisher/Ollman with The Art Book Club. See my interview with her below (scroll over for links):
JL: I first saw your work probably five years ago… there have been really dramatic changes. How have you challenged yourself to break new ground in this way?
GB: The changes in my work are a result of a deal I made with myself like five years ago, to make every idea that occurred to me and not pre-judge it. I guess you could call it more of an intuitive or democratic process. That meant if I could see it or envision it, I could paint it. So I ended up drawing from a variety of sources, background shots from movies, a Google search, images from books, from life, from an inch in front of my face, all weighted equally, and this led to a lot of diversity and upheaval in my work. I was also pretty relentless about making tons of stuff and then hiding it all, so I was always starting with a clean slate. While one of my rules was to finish a painting to the nth degree, sticking slavishly to the original idea, another rule was a complete open-door policy for ideas. At the same time, other painters may do the opposite, and have more conscious ideas and then allow things to happen in the process of painting.
JL: You started the Art Book Club a couple of years back. What are you guys reading lately?
GB: Well, we try to keep it all over the board, a little theory, a little fiction, biography, all relating to art. Our current read is Since ‘45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art by Katy Siegel who teaches at Hunter College. The cool thing about this read is that we’re doing it in conjunction with a show at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadephia called You, Me, We, She, opening Feb 23rd, focused on women’s collectives. We’re going to be represented in the show by a shelf of the books we’ve read, which is so cool! We will be, in a sense, ‘assigning’ the Siegel book for people to read when the show opens and then discussing it with the community at the closing. Here’s our blog where you can read reviews of the books we’ve read and see who’s involved.
JL: How do you think this dialogue has affected your work?
GB: I did a performance and a video this past summer, influenced by the Nauman book we read! It’s funny, cause I started the club thinking about really needing to talk to people about the art books I was reading, mostly about painting, and in the process I’ve ended up being exposed to other peoples’ interests, because we have a diverse mix of artists in the club.
JL: You are an art teacher. How do you think your students view the art world?
GB: Well, the only thing my students (mostly 11-14) care about is Valentines Day right now. I can’t wait for it to be over, they’ve been getting ready for weeks, and it’s just mating mayhem! But when they do see through their hormone-fueled mist to the ‘Art World’ I think it’s pretty abstract to them. The number of times I mention something, like a ‘palette’ and I get a Disney or Naruto reference back is completely off the hook. Like, ‘oh I saw that on Zach and Cody, Cody decided to be an artist, and had a palette and a beret…’ something like that. I do know that they see drawing/painting realistically as some kind of magic power. So this year I’ve been pushing them hard to develop the ability to see, and almost all of them are doing it!
JL: Your parents are both artists of sorts. How does this play in your work?
GB: Well, one of my earliest memories is of my Mom having a ‘One-Woman Show’ of her Chinese Brush paintings when we lived in Malaysia. She sold most of them, it was covered in the newspaper and that picture of her with her work is just burned in my brain. A huge scroll painting from that show hung in our house my whole life and I remember it being my favorite thing, just total perfection in my eyes, I had such awe for my Mom for having created something so unbelievable. She always had a studio in the house and is now an active painter in Hilton Head, South Carolina now. Her paintings range from landscapes to abstractions, so I definitely think I picked up some of the ranginess in my work from her. I think also going to her shows and seeing the artists working on the island keep me really open to the ‘other’ art world, the one outside major cities, which often inspires a lot of work and questioning in me. My Mom is also a retired teacher, so yeah, I’m basically her clone.
My Dad on the other hand was a faithful public servant and worked for the State Department for 30 years, which took us overseas. He only began his creative life when he retired 10 years ago, but man has he made up for lost time! He makes model soldiers and their environments and is completely obsessed and expansive. He’s done everything from the 300 Spartans (he cast and painted every single one, and joked the hardest part was the 600 testicles!:0) to Buckingham palace and the changing of the guard. He pours all the lead himself and the soldiers cover EVERY surface of my parent’s house. He also sells them on E-bay and goes to Conventions. But the coolest thing is he told me once that he wakes up every day so excited about all the soldiers he’s going to make that day—a true artist. I think his obsessiveness and wide view of history and culture is definitely a thread in my work too.
JL: Can you talk about fashion and it’s role in your work?
GB: I mean there’s fashion, like high fashion, there’s what’s in fashion in the art world, street fashion, fashion in advertising and pop culture which cycles so fast, it’s more of a kind of trendiness. That I can speak to, I have been the biggest trend-freak since I can remember. Other kids kept journals or sketchbooks, or diaries. I had a book of cut out Swatch, Benetton and Esprit ads. I remember I was obsessed with one particularly inspired Esprit campaign for their bedding line, so I had pages and pages of birds-eye-views of beds in my book. Those are kind of cool abstractions looking back. There is no question that is an element in my work. I pick things up and put them down almost immediately.
JL: And lastly, a question that I am probably going to be asking many people… What’s the state of press releases today?
GB: Well, I don’t think much of them or think of them much! Har har;)) No, I might read the first line, see if it’s BS-sounding and then give up. I always assume they are there for the Press, to write reviews or mentions. Peter Schjeldahl had some really funny comments about them in his lecture last year at SVA—I’m with him, so many of them are waay too tortured! Having said that though, I have seen some good ones lately. I’m thinking of writings that employ a more abstract or poetic form in order to reflect a sense of the work or its’ process, rather than trying to interpret it. I feel like a lot of artist-run or emerging spaces are veering onto this path.