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BSDA Artist Interview: Amy Fleming

July 14th, 2015 · 3 Comments

Amy Fleming is the latest artist to be featured on Buy Some Damn Art. Her series, Our Lady of the Salvage Yard combines religious iconography with junk yard finds. My Q/A with the artist is below:

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Tell us about the subject matter of the Our Lady of the Salvage Yard series. What are the objects that surround the figure? What are the source materials (if any)?

I was looking at traditional religious iconography, mainly Catholic and Russian Orthodox, and was fascinated at how they portrayed faces and figures encapsulated in an encrustation of gold and jewels. I wanted Our Lady of the Salvage Yard to have the same sense of beauty and authority but with items found in automotive junk and salvage operations. She has a halo of transmissions and radiator hoses, and a gold collar of nuts, bolts, radiators, disc brakes and hub caps. She is crowned with head lights. Sometimes she has a welder’s helmet, torches and gloves, other times a respirator mask or protective goggles, all tools of the salvage trade.


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To me your work feels distinctly American and appears to raise questions about some of our deeply- engrained ideas by way of appropriating iconography. Does that jibe at all with your conception of your work?

A few years ago I did a series of drawings of junk and debris filled landscapes. They grew out of a combined interest in history and archeology: in an archeological dig, finding a trash scatter or a dump site provides a motherload of information about the people who produced it. When I lived in what used to be a semi-rural part of Virginia, there were automotive junk years several acres in size. They are mostly gone now, due mainly to stricter environmental laws. It’s mind boggling the sheer amount of stuff we produce and throw away. We are in danger of drowning in our own debris.

Regarding using iconography in my work, I grew up surrounded by images of saints and other religious symbolism, so it seemed natural to fold this into the discards. The idea of the work having an American sensibility is an interesting one. The debris that ends up in my work comes from an industrialized society, with thrown-out vehicles, washing machines, refrigerators and other stuff that were once seen as representative of America’s high standard of living.


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Why print making?

Well, I just really enjoy all forms of printmaking. For one thing, it allows for a lot of options in image making. Take any one concept or image and make it into a screen print, a woodcut, etching, lithograph or what have you, and see how each process changes and expands that concept. I love that. Plus, you get multiple originals of the same image, which I used as a jumping off point for the Our Lady of the Salvage Yard series.




Your assemblages, which are not in the show, are made of the remains left from hunting season where you live in North Florida. Do these works relate to your feelings about the sport of hunting?

They are more about telling stories about this region. Deer and turkey hunting are popular here, and the hunters I’m familiar with hunt for food as well as sport. I do generally stay out of the woods until after season is over though for safety reasons. Besides the animal remains, I frequently come across major appliances that have been dragged out and then used for target practice. Some of my assemblages and dioramas imagine the stories behind for example, a full size refrigerator found deep in the woods. Who hauled it all the way out there and why? There are all these bits and pieces of people’s lives scattered among the pine trees. I’ve found large metal desks and typewriters half buried in vines, like an office being slowly reclaimed by the outdoors. It’s strange and fascinating.


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BSDA Interview : Marleen Pennings

June 24th, 2015 · No Comments

Marleen Pennings, who also goes by the moniker Stroke a Bird, is the latest artist to show on Art Hound’s sister site Buy Some Damn Art. Marleen is based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands where she is a visual art, illustrator and stylist. Her lilliputian paintings on scrap wood depict the perfectly imperfect living space – just the right mix of old and new, static and living.


What do you paint on and where do you source these materials?
I paint on canvas, paper and wood. I really like to paint on scrap wood. I source it on places where people renovate their houses. When I pass a construction site I always pause to see if there is a beautiful piece of wood lying around. It already has had a lifetime when I find it, you can see and feel that. The structure has mostly softened during time and the old paint has turned pale. I really love these old pale colors and use them in the artwork.
Are your paintings always so small?
No, I also paint on big canvases or big pieces of paper and wood, it depends on my mood and ideas in my head. But I do like to paint small, it sometimes feels like you can bond better with the painting, because it’s so small.

How did your career evolve from a degree in Fashion Design and Styling to illustration and fine art? Why did you take up painting?

After I graduated I worked in Fashion Design for a while, but it didn’t really fit me. So I concentrated more and more on my illustration and one day I just started to paint, because I was curious. The next step was that I quit my job in fashion and concentrated fully on developing my painting skills, because I liked it so much. 




You describe your work as a “subtle translation of a mix of city and nature.” Tell us about that idea. ‘Subtle’ mostly because of my use of colours, I rarely use very bright colours. The colours I use are mostly a bit pale and powdered, I like that. The wood I paint on is a natural material used to build houses in the city. And most houses and buildings have plants for decoration. The indoor landscapes in this series are like a snapshot of daily life where nature and city are combined and mixed up.

The interior scenes you paint are beautiful. Are they inspired by your home city of Rotterdam?

The scenes are a translation of what I see around me and what inspires me, a coloured wall in a waiting room, a kitchen chair and a beautiful fern I saw someplace else. I collect them in one scene and try to capture the feeling of the three together when painting them.
Rotterdam is a great city for inspiration, but I would like to have a little more nature around me sometimes. So I paint them both.


BSDA Artist Interview: Rachel Stuart-Haas

June 16th, 2015 · 3 Comments

Rachel Stuart-Haas is an artist based in Louisiana who paints enigmatic portraits of women that I’d describe as both playful and soulful. There is unabashed femininity and playful sensuality in Rachel’s portraits, but beyond that there is also sadness, mystery and longing. Six of her paintings are now featured on Buy Some Damn Art. Check out Rachel’s show and read the Q/A below.

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How long have you been painting portraits of women? ​

Since my senior year at art school (Kansas City Art Institute). For my thesis I created three large images around The Black Plague and they all featured these long, lanky women with smudged eye makeup. I’ve just sort of kept up with that theme ever since. Maybe one day I’ll branch out, but honestly men just don’t really do it for me artistically! Plus I kinda suck at painting them.


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There is nudity and vampy playfulness in some of your paintings. Does sexuality play a role in your work?

Absolutely! It’s one of the best parts of being a woman. I just love the whole burlesque and pin-up theatrics of it all, without being too obvious and blunt.




The women in your paintings look very young with their huge doe eyes. Why that particular look?

Truly there is no real conscious reason for that, but I wonder if they’ll start looking older as I age too. A little crow’s feet here, some varicose veins there… A lot of people ask if the girls are self portraits, but they’re not. At least not intentionally anyway. But the eyes are the MOST important to me. I LOVE big eyes. Unfortunately, I do not possess these.


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What kind of people respond to your artwork?

Really all kinds. You would think it would be mostly women, but I don’t always find that to be the case. Honestly, I’m thrilled with anybody who responds to it!


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How does symbolism play into your work?

There’s actually quite a lot of symbolism that I throw in, but it’s usually not very overt. Or I hope it isn’t. I get bored if I don’t try and incorporate some layers in here and there. And they usually happen during the progression of each piece. I just try and let that evolve as I work.


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BSDA Artist Interview: Sophia Flood

May 7th, 2015 · 1 Comment

We launched yet another great show on Buy Some Damn Art by Sophia Flood. I was lucky enough to visit Sophia’s Brooklyn studio (on foot) – a luxury I don’t always have. The great thing about studio visits is that you always walk away with a slightly different impression of the work. You’re also more likely to be influenced by outside factors – the locale, how well the AC works, how the work is displayed, the artist’s stuff! Upon seeing the work in person I left with the impression that these paintings had a very unique, slightly unsettling quality: the colors were at once deep and bold and faded. The artist aptly describes this quality in the interview that follows as “a dark light”.

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Your Fountain

Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

I grew up in Ipswich, Massachusetts. I moved here to Brooklyn a few years ago from Wisconsin, where I went to grad school for painting.

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Glass House

You work out of a shared studio space with a few other artists in Gowanus, Brooklyn. What’s the studio experience like post-art school?

It took some getting used to—I came into my current studio after years of working in solo spaces. I’ve always been somewhat private about my work, and really valued my four walls and door as both a mind set and spatial set for an evolving activity. But here, I’ve found studio mates are indispensable. There are no guaranteed visitors and it can feel oddly isolating to live in a huge place. We’re all close outside the studio so there is a built-in ease working together, yet we tend to keep different hours and everyone respects the need for solitude. It forces me to clean up after myself, too. That’s probably good for me.

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The Bottom

There are a lot of deep blues and greens in these paintings. What was the inspiration or intent behind this color palette?

My understanding of color has been changing, moving from working with found color (in found materials) to mixing color in paint. The selection process now has less to do with pointing to a color, declaring my affection for this peach or that blue, and more to do with relationships between colors that create an atmosphere or world. Specifically in these paintings, there’s a dark light that I want to articulate. A friend called it dusk; when something is visible yet slipping away. It’s an emotional space reverberating in the physical world. Other reference points include the shuffled shapes of my apartment at night, empty nightclubs, objects in a neon-lined window, and the back-lit, lifted-off darks in certain Vuillard paintings.

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Your work is mostly abstract, but not completely. How would you describe the kind of paintings you make? Does it matter to you if they are considered abstract or figurative?

It’s funny, I really don’t think of my work as abstract, even though I recognize it reads that way. I guess what’s important to me is that it sits on the line, it can shift back and forth. When I begin a painting, I have a certain image in mind, but I have to lose track of it in order to find anything interesting. And I never set out to control what a viewer sees. What excites me is when a painting reveals itself slowly, within the picture plane but also in the mind or memory. There is something specific or palpable and you might never know what it is for the painter, but the unfolding process can create a parallel experience.


You sometimes show sculpture along with your paintings, pieces that are fairly amorphous and ambiguous. What are these pieces and how do they fit in with the paintings?

Sculptures and sculpture-painting hybrids actually predate these paintings. I’ve always had a strong interest in materials; even in my painting, before the imagery is imagery it is often an experience with a tangible space or object. My current sculptures are both outlets for this material investigation and elaborated parts of the paintings. I try to work on both at the same time, figuring out color and form in these two separate yet connected planes. When shown together, I hope for the sculptures to act as markers. Like signposts, headstones, rocks, steps, or stumps they grow up from the ground and delineate a space.


Read / view more about the artist on Great Big Iceberg.

BSDA Artist Interview: Polly Shindler

December 23rd, 2014 · 1 Comment

Today we launched a new show on Buy Some Damn Art by Brooklyn artist Polly Shindler.

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Fabric on Navy ( detail )

How did you end up making these mixed-media pieces with all the fabric scraps?

I used to TRY to make quilts but my favorite part was shopping for fabric. That was years ago. I have been trying to create dimension in my work, to see how far I can push the surface of my paintings. Fabric just came to me one day as a means to change the depth of the painting’s surface while employing pattern which is also interesting to me.

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Fabric on Gray ( detail )

Do you start with an idea of what a piece will look like or do you just let what happens happens?

I typically go in with a concept but once I’m into the painting,  many other things come up that change the outcome. Someone once told me that our ideas are far ahead of our practice-sometimes years, and I have come to believe that. I have ideas and materials that I may want to try but I first need to get some things out of my system. That usually means finishing a series I’m working on, then i can go forward with an idea I had months ago. It’s like you have to be mentally prepared to move forward.

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Sleep Rugs

You mentioned that you enjoy making art and want others to have fun with your work too. Can you go into that a bit?

I love humor in art. It’s what can draw me into a painting. I think I begin with a lighthearted approach, an sensibility that appeals to me  when I see it in other artists’ work. When you can relate to another artist’s methods or subject matter, it can have a greater impact on how you perceive the work. It works on several levels. And it can give you the feeling of being understood.

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Black with Fabric and Horn

What’s it like being an artist but also a curator? Do you think about your own work any differently based on your curatorial experience?

I thank the internet for my interest in curation. I see work online and want to see it live in my own personal space or the space I’ve been given (as a curator in residence) at Trestle Projects in Brooklyn. I put no limitations on what I put in a show-geographically. That’s really just the first step. Once I see work that I have to see in person, I’ll set up a studio visit or ask to see different pieces. And getting into peoples’ work spaces is inspiring too. When I get all the work hung together, it’s like having a dinner party with great friends. It’s also as if I make a work of art out of all these different pieces living together. And sometimes I’ll stand back and try to think of how the work is like mine and how it’s different. That can only inform my work.

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What the Cat Sees

You work out of a studio in Bushwick and go to a lot of shows. What’s the most exciting thing going on right now that people might be missing?

I try to get to as many shows as I can, but it’s never enough.  The most exciting thing to me is Instagram and Tumblr. There’s no way to see all the shows happening in Brooklyn,  let alone NYC.  And nothing beats seeing a favorite artist’s work in person. But the sheer quantity of work you can see  online in one afternoon can’t compare. Especially if you are working in your studio.  You have to multi-task–making and seeing work are pretty much equally important.

BSDA Artist Interview: Mary Laube

December 9th, 2014 · No Comments

Mary Laube makes beautiful paintings of living spaces that are methodically-conceptualized yet askew, disjointed, abstracted. Laube’s new body of work, Props, is now on Buy Some Damn Art. My interview with the artist is below.

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The Burying Place

KATE: Your paintings play off of architecture and the interior. Why these themes?

MARY: My personal living space has always been a site for creativity. Since I was a child, I have been a collector – of rocks, shells, keys, coins, and other trinkets. Over time I developed a ritual of rearranging various objects around my home into piles, stacks, and lines, based on formal relationships rather than symbolic narratives. In doing so, I inadvertently spend a lot of time studying the architectural forms of my surroundings. In many ways, the continual augmentation of my own personal space– whether that is my home or studio– has become my primary drawing practice. I have never been one of those artists who can fill page after page in my sketchbook when I am not in the studio.

After my mother passed away in 2008, I became obsessed with my memory of her and the changing perceptions of my childhood home. The work I started making at the time referenced specific interiors from my childhood. The images were conceived of through a mix of memory, observation, and invention. I wanted both the process and outcome of painting to represent the imprecisions that result from trying to pin down the past. Embedded within the larger expanses of flat color are smaller regions of specificity, intended to slowly draw oneʼs attention, similar to the way our brain seems to fixate on specific details and completely abandon others. I was using the domestic interior to represent the ideologies we create when confronted with loss.

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Autumn and the Snow

KATE: Some believe that spaces (i.e. house, room, church) have certain impregnable moods or energy. Others would say this is purely a result of memory and association. What do you think?

MARY: I think domestic and sacred spaces have the ability to conjure emotion through memory and association, not due to an inherent soul that they possess. However, I don’t think this makes these places any less meaningful. This relationship between environments and inhabitants is what I am most interested in addressing in my work. The associations, relationships, and memories of places affect how we construct our surroundings and in return, our surroundings can generate very powerful emotional currents in our daily lives.

Earlier this year I completed a project, Roses and Rue, which was an opportunity for me to install a show in an historic landmark, the Old Brick Church in Iowa City. It is one of the few surviving pre-Civil War structures in the city, built in 1856. I made a series of 6 altar-shaped paintings that lined the walls of the interior of the church. I first became interested in sacred spaces after learning about architectural designs of ancient Egyptian tombs that use the dramatic contrast between sunlight and complete darkness to trigger spiritual experiences. Western examples of churches or cathedrals have vaulted ceilings that produce an atmosphere with specific sound qualities, akin to Japanese meditation rooms. These spaces are manipulated and constructed by humans to elicit very specific sensations. However, this does not make any moods or energies that flow through these spaces any less real.

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In Heaven They Forget

KATE: Does the name of this series, “Props” allude to the stage?

MARY: Yes, the title refers to my interest in the act of staging, which has roots in the history of painting. I think a lot about paint as both a physical substance and a material employed to represent something other than itself. The facade of painting, similar to the facade of stage sets, museum backdrops, and dollhouses have varying degrees of believability. Museums and theater productions are platforms for sharing knowledge. Museums never just present raw data; they are curated and composed to tell a story just as a play is a self-contained narrative. I am specifically interested in the visible awkwardness and even crudeness that is evident in the attempt to represent history, to share scientific knowledge about the physical world, or to recreate events that have either already taken place or were completely invented in the first place. In the series, “Props,” I wanted to reference miniature stage sets that echo the appearance of folding and flatness associated with small-scale constructions.

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Woodbines Peeping Through

KATE: Some of your paintings are quite large. Does size enhance the illusion that the paintings are real interiors?

MARY: A couple of years ago I went on a road trip and came across the House on the Rock, a quasi-museum/ tourist attraction located in southwest Wisconsin. I decided to work on a much larger scale after visiting an exhibition within the museum, called, The Streets of Yesterday, a close-to-human-scale construction of an outdoor street block. It is lined with window displays that are slightly smaller than an ordinary storefront, yet the objects displayed within the windows are of a normal size. This subtle miniaturization produces a very uncanny sensation for the visitor. Working large gives me more room to experiment with this kind of abstraction.

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Shady Garden

Over the past several years I have experimented with dramatically shifting the size of my painting supports. While my current work is rather large, I am looking at dollhouses for source material (specifically the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago). While visiting these constructions in person has been a key part of my research, I am more interested in the photography of miniatures. They are framed as if the viewer is actually standing within one of the doorways. At first glance, the rooms appear to be human-sized spaces. As time passes they slowly unhinge, and the believability of the room dissolves. It isnʼt necessarily a sense of “realness” that I am trying to achieve in the work, but a tension between flatness and illusory effect. The large scale of the work has the ability to envelop the viewer, producing that uncanny sensation that I experience when moving through a manipulated space.

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KATE: You move back and forth between work that is more architectural at times and at other more abstract. Do you think you can achieve the same goals in your art working in abstraction?

MARY: Abstraction occurs on a million different levels. In my work I find it more useful to consider abstraction a process or formation of relationships, rather than the state of being. With that said, I think all of my work is deeply invested in abstraction, even though various projects employ different levels of objectivity. I have recently returned to making work that is more representational because many of the ideas. I am gravitating towards are founded in specific research goals that call for this kind of imagery. However, in smaller studies, such as “Props” I can isolate moments that exist in the larger works to satisfy my itch to focus entirely on formal relationships.