The artist on the beauty of found materials and where in the world she's hoping to visit next.
You originally studied fashion design before switching to study art. How do you think that initial education informs your art practice now?
My origins in fashion design had a huge impact on the art I make now. I took fashion illustration and sewing classes as a child, then studied Fashion Design at Pratt for a few semesters until I switched to Critical & Visual Studies. The way I draw the human figure is very much informed by fashion illustration techniques where the body gets elongated and poses are very exaggerated. I love the elegance and drama of this drawing style. It's all about the attitude of the figure.
I also use many fashion design materials and techniques like fabric, paper cutouts, embroidery, beading, dyeing, and other sewing methods within my works. An unexpected way my fashion design practice has converged with my fine arts practice is through the collage process. There's a lot of tracing, cutting, and measuring involved in garment and collage-making. The way I trace shapes and transfer them onto fabric or paper is very similar to how I make clothing.
I love how my lifelong interest in fashion has opened many creative doors for me. It has shaped me as an artist and as a person tremendously. I would love to get back into making and selling clothes this year, so be on the lookout for that!
Because your work is very tactile and incorporates many different mediums, people often give you found materials to use in your art. What are some of the more unusual things people have sent your way?
I’ve gotten a ton of interesting fabrics, papers, and clothing from friends, art colleagues, and above all, my dad. He goes to estate sales and constantly finds random things to send me. The most interesting thing he’s given me, as of late, is a collection of vintage priest sashes made from silk with tassels. I haven’t used them yet, but I can't wait to find a way to incorporate them into a work.
I also recently had a studio visit where I recieved an old deconstructed Louis Vuitton monogram leather bag, which I am brainstorming how to use. My favorite unconventional material I’ve found on my own is my old debit card, which got canceled due to fraud. As I was cutting it up to throw it away, I realized it would be cool to collage it into a painting. I’ve used little pieces of it in a couple of works thus far, and it always catches people’s eye.
You've been in your studio for just a few months and mentioned how difficult it is to find studio space in the city. Is there anything you'd like to see the city or art community do more to support artists who need places to work?
There is definitely a huge demand for affordable studios in NYC. I know many artists who want a studio but can’t afford one, hindering the possibilities of their practice. Residencies with free studios are often hard to get because there are so many applicants.
I would love to see more gallerists, collectors, and fellow artists offer any empty space they may have to artists who can’t afford to rent a studio. I’ve also noticed lots of abandoned buildings and empty lots around the city, which could get put to good use for housing or studio spaces. I know of one organization that makes these spaces available to artists, but it would be amazing to see more organizations and individuals help with this effort.
Of course, these things are easier said than done, but I feel that the art community is strong and can make it happen! I hope one day I will be able to open my own long-term residency that makes it easier for emerging artists to find spaces to create in.
Your studio has loads of shelf and drawer space for beauty products and supplies. How did the idea of using them in your work first come about?
The idea of using beauty supplies came from having extra braiding hair and hair charms around my house and thinking: “Hmm . . . I could use this in a painting instead of throwing it away.” I constantly change my look and do my hair, so it makes sense to recycle the materials I already have around the house. It adds a whole new dimension of familiarity for the viewer. It's almost like an I Spy book in that they find a new object every time they look at the work. I love going to the beauty supply store and finding things—not just to wear but to add to my artwork. So far, I've used braiding hair, wigs, faux eyelashes, clips, bobby pins, rubber bands, hair charms, sunglasses, press-on nails, lacefront wig mesh, hair products, and makeup as art materials.
Your art is starting to take you around the world—you're even heading to Morocco soon! What do you hope to do and see there, and where else do you hope to go next?
I’m the type of traveler who will start the day with no plan and see what happens. I usually do a bit of research, and then I ask locals for their suggestions once I arrive. It provides a much more unique experience. However, one thing I can guarantee anywhere I go is that I love to shop! I’ve heard that Morocco has amazing textiles, jewelry, and clothing, so I can't wait to explore the shops and see what I can find. I know the experience will be abundant with inspiration.
I have been lucky enough to travel to many European countries for work and on vacation, so I think it would be really interesting to explore the art scenes outside of Europe and the United States. I would love to explore other continents, starting with Africa and Asia. Morocco will be the first African country I've visited, which will be a great start.