Interview With Angela Fraleigh

"The best thing you could teach any human is to value their passion and their time."

--Angela Fraleigh

   Ghosts in the Sunlight , oil and metal leaf on canvas, 90" x 66", 2014

Ghosts in the Sunlight, oil and metal leaf on canvas, 90" x 66", 2014

Over a year ago, I discovered the artwork of Angela Fraleigh.  Her large, luscious, often mysterious paintings absolutely gripped my soul.  I was also inspired to learn that she was a mother, and I wrote her a long fan letter describing my own personal desire to be a painter, and the subsequent onslaught of conflicted emotions I felt.  She responded with incredible warmth, giving me exactly the sort of encouragement I needed at the time.  So, you can imagine the thrill I felt when I entered her studio in March, where she had graciously consented to an interview.  What followed was a stimulating conversation about art, motherhood. feminism, politics, and the links between history and our current era.  You can listen to it (44 minutes), or read it, as I have transcribed it below, to the best of my abilities.  I am so pleased and proud to be able to present this to you!  Enjoy!

Walking into Angela Fraleigh's studio, in the basement of her house, the first thing I see is this floor-to-ceiling work-in-progress.

LAUREN KINDLE:  All right, here I am, in Angela Fraleigh’s studio, in Allentown.  I’m so excited to be in this space.  Sort of a neat, basement space.  And I was looking over, I had sent you a long e-mail a year ago, and you replied so kindly, and warmly, and encouragingly, and I want to say thank you for that.  And your blog has been a real inspiration to me, just all the different materials available, and interviews of artists.  So I’m thrilled to be able to talk to you in person.  And I guess I would just like you to say a little bit about yourself, where you live, what’s your family like, just to tell people.

ANGELA FRALEIGH:  Well, I live in Allentown.  I teach at Moravian College, that’s why my husband and I moved out here about ten years ago.  He teaches at Lehigh and I teach at Moravian, and that like never happens in academia.  So we took it as a sign from the universe that we should buy a house here.  And we were living both in New York and here at the same time, and then the market crashed, so then we just moved here full time.  Since then, I was awarded a fellowship at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York, so I have a studio space there, where I do mostly my works on paper and stuff like that.  And then I have a studio here, in my home, as you know, which helps because I have a three-and-a-half year old daughter, and it just kind of allows me the opportunity to save on commuting time, and stuff like that.

One wall of Angie's studio has these windows, and the enticing debris of creativity-in-progress.

LK:  I know this is a simple question, but, how do you balance your different roles: mother, wife, and artist?  And you’re also a professor:

AF:  Well you know, it really helps to have a husband who’s an artist too, actually, I have to say.  Because he has his own passions, and I have my own passions, and we kind of understand that when there’s a deadline afoot, or there’s something going on, that we just really support each other through those processes.  It’s obviously been more complicated by having a child, because I just can’t paint until three in the morning, if I want to now.  We have to get dinner on the table, and we have to pick her up from school.  There’s a lot more that I have to juggle, obviously.  But I have to say that having a kid made me even more ambitious career-wise.  Like I’ve always been ambition in terms of my passion for my work.

But having her made me feel like it’s now or never, and I wanted to be someone that she would admire and respect also…didn’t want to have any regrets, I didn’t want to put my entire self into the thing that I care the most about, you know, career wise…  I feel like in terms of balancing, you just do what you have to do, when you have to do it, and it’s a day by day kind of thing.  We have a schedule, but you know, my schedule at Moravian is pretty much full days, 9-6, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.  So I have Tuesday and Friday.  Tuesdays are my studio days…usually I’m in the city on Friday.

LK:  It’s really only one day.

AF: Yeah…and then, today, I have a little bit of time before I have meetings at school… I just fit it in where I can.  I have a lot of help too.  My Mom thankfully lives right here.  She spends almost the full day with Tuesday (my daughter’s name is Tuesday) on Sundays, so that helps a lot too.

LK:  She lives in Allentown or in your house?

AF:  Well she lives in the house right now, but we bought the house right next door, my husband’s renovating it.  So, she’s moving in literally this weekend.  So she’ll still be right there, which is really great.  Tuesday loves spending time with Grammy.

LK:  That’s great.  I love it.  It’s a good setup.  I like it.  So then, I was going to ask what’s your average studio day like, but it sounds like it’s just one insane day.

Angie painting in her studio.  I know it's a little blurry, but I just love the paintbrush-in-action!

AF:  Well you know, I’m mean, I’m piecing it together, and of course I have summers off, from teaching.  So that is when I get a lot of my work done.  And then if there’s any breaks from school, like we just had spring break, so I had like literally all week…

LK:  Do you get daycare during the summer?

AF:  Yes.  Yes.  So, we would be nothing without daycare.  This ship would have sank a long time ago, without people we love and trust taking care of our daughter... 

i believe in you. pencil on paper. 11 x 15”. 2011.

 

AF:  The average day…I’ll try to go to the gym, or get a walk in.  I get home at like 10 am.  I do email for an hour, I’ll eat my breakfast, and then I’m literally just painting…from 11:30 until I have to pick her up which is 4:30.  So I’m just straight…you know, that’s how it goes.

LK:  That’s a long time.

AF:  Yeah, but you know, but when you don’t have very much time, you just force yourself to do it, right?  And I like it…  If I could do anything, it would be painting.  All the time.

LK:  What does the act of painting mean to you?  Tell me about your medium, your materials…time spent actually creating versus reflecting?

AF:  Well, the hardest…everyone usually asks…how long does an average painting take?  It’s such a difficult question to answer, because it’s really conceptualizing what the work will be in the first place that kind of takes a long time.  For me it really takes a long time to just give myself permission to do certain things.  Like with this last body of work, when I finally gave myself permission to just take figures from Old Master paintings, and you know, use them as stand-ins…let them be the subject matter.  That kind of opened up, and the work kind of told me what it was about.  And then I got to…go off on a crazy tangent, in terms of what I would create from that, you know what I mean?  From giving myself that permission.

LK:  What do you mean, giving yourself permission?

AF:  I have a lot of like, “Can’t Dos,” in my head all the time.  I don’t know, I think most artists…go through this.  But I have a lot of like, “No, you can’t do that, You can’t do that, There’s no way you can do that.  What makes you think that you can do that?  That wouldn’t be any good, whatsoever.  What does it mean?”  I’m always coming back to “Yeah, but what does it mean, then, if you do that?”  And that can be a stumbling block for weeks, months, even years, which really sucks.  So I finally give myself the permission to say, “Who cares?  Who’s looking anyway?  Why not just do the thing, and see if it works afterwards.  You don’t have to show it to anybody.”  … I have these two clichéd angels on your shoulder: one’s really mean, and one’s really nice.  So…the most productive artists are the ones that lean into the nice one a little bit more…

LK:  Right, hopefully!

AF:  And the ones who crumble into…who keeps themselves from making the work that they’re able or meant to make, they’re the ones that listen to the devil.

LK:  I was curious about where you find your sources for your paintings?  This rich symbolism, these narratives, seem like they’re from myths or old stories?  Dreams?

you’ll see me from a trillion miles away Oil and galkyd on canvas, 48”x 60”, 2014.

AF:  Right, so that kind of sits right on the heels of what we were just talking about.  Once I gave myself permission to use these older female characters…I didn’t want to use…for a long time I painted myself.  I was the stand-in for this metaphorical power dynamic that the work was about.  And then I was sick of painting myself, so I painted friends, and former students.  Studio assistants, and stuff like that.  But it wasn’t really kind of clicking in the way that I really wanted it to.  So once I finally gave myself permission to use these older female figures, you know, they’re from Old Master paintings.  They have a certain style, it opened up this possibility to start using painterly language in a different way.  Because if you work from photographs, you see the photograph.  The light in the photograph, they’re flat.  You see that it’s from this other space, this other kind of visual language.  Anyway, painting from paintings has allowed me to think more about materiality in terms of figuration…

LK:  But you’re not exactly copying Old Master paintings…

AF:  No, I’m kind of like, plucking the figures from Old Master paintings, and then kind of recombining them, almost like collaging them into new spaces.  Sometimes I won’t change anything about the configuration of how the figures were in the Old Master paintings, but I’ll edit out certain nefarious characters.

LK:  Like the boys.

(laughter)

AF: Yeah.  The whole concept of this last body of work is about trying to find invisible histories or dormant narratives for this cast of female characters from Old Master paintings with the idea being that, since feminism from the 1970’s—which was really kind of amazing in so many ways about kind of drawing attention to how visual culture really affects the way people move through the world and the way they even think about themselves.  So in the 1970’s there was a lot of kind of whistle-blowing on how all the female figures from a lot of these Old Master paintings were these passive females nudes, that had no agency, no sense of power, etc., etc., etc.  So this body of work actually kind of questions that notion. … My work is always about how meaning gets made.  How we construct the narratives about ourselves and others based on the stories we tell.  And so if that’s a dominant story, that story is that these characters are disempowered in some way or another.  I’m just curious can we restore agency and empowerment to these female figures just by deciding to?  Even if they’re not changing in body gesture, or pose, or even putting clothes on, can we still see them as powerful?  Does that makes sense?

 

something has already started to live in you that will live longer than the sun, oil, galkyd, acrylic, gouache and graphite on canvas, 66"x84", 2014

 

LK:  Yeah, I love it!  I was wondering, can we relate it to feminism today?  Is there any value or meaning in talking about it now?

AF:  Yes!  Are you kidding?

(laughter)

LK: I have my own opinions.  I’m curious, a lot of people think you know, this is modern times, these aren’t really problems anymore.  How do you feel about that?  How do you see your paintings fitting into modern issues of feminism?

AF:  Well, this body of work is..if that story were different, if we had decided these characters, even if they are in kind of a passive pose, or if they are nude, you know, the question is, if we had a different story about them this whole time…what would the effect on women today be?  If we didn’t see ourselves as less than throughout all history, where would we be now?

LK:  If goddess culture had just stayed….

AF:  Yeah.  (laughter)  It had never been upturned in anyway!  I guess, I mean, obviously we see these things being played out on the world stage repeatedly.  Hillary versus Bernie for instance.  It’s shocking how…misogyny is just running rampant throughout the culture, and it’s even like the dog whistle misogyny too…there’s comments that maybe only people who are really in tune to it will understand that it’s actually misogynistic, but on the service it doesn’t appear to be at all..

LK:  Things get more subtle now.

AF:  Yeah, yeah.  I think people understand that there’s a certain level of political correctness that needs to be abided by, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still have the same beliefs.  I mean, you can see it with the amount of people who are supporting Trump for instance.  And they support him because he’s saying what they can’t say.  Yeah, racist, misogynist, blasphemist stuff.  It’s not great.

LK:  And having a daughter, like I do, it’s even more crucial to think about these things.

AF:  I feel like it’s never been more important.  We’ve got momentum going too.

LK:  It does seem like we’re living in a keyed up time.

AF:  Especially if Hillary does become the nominee, and it’s Hillary versus Trump, it’s just going to be a crazy, chaotic storm of insanity.  It’s going to be a wild ride.  We’ll see what happens.

[Note: obviously this interview took place before the primaries.  But, it's still going to be a wild ride!]

"It's going to be a wild ride."  --Angie, talking about the upcoming presidential elections.

LK:  I was reading your blog this morning and you were talking about the importance of listening, trusting your ideas, trusting the process, and I was curious, what does that mean to you?  Do you come into the studio, and before you paint, do you listen?  Or do you just go for it, and you’re trusting that it’s going to happen?

AF:  Well, there’s lots of different parts to the way that I paint, that I need to kind of invite trust.  There are parts of some of my painting where I lay them down horizontally, and I pour mixtures of paint and synthetic resin onto the canvas, and I have to trust that that paint’s going to do something that I can’t do.  And I also have to trust that no matter what it does, I will be able to…like, if it destroys or obliterates a certain area in a painting that I’ve come to love, I have to trust that I’ll be able to get it back, that it was for the best.  You know?  So there’s trust in that…I feel like, I’m just now learning in my late thirties, that I do have to listen more to the impulse, and that initial kind of want to do a thing, and not beat it down….I have this habit of saying “No you can’t do it.  You can’t.  You can’t do that.”  And that’s ridiculous.

LK:  Where do you think that comes from?

AF:  Education.  I don’t know.  Growing up with a dad who was in the military.  I think we all learn it at a very early age, what the right answer is, and unfortunately I think that probably truncates a lot of really brilliant behavior in people.  Because you learn what you’re supposed to do to fit into the tribe.  I think we’re tribal beings.

LK:  Oh, yeah.

AF:  We want to fit in to whatever that is.  That’s why it’s also really important to choose the people that you surround yourself with very carefully.  There’s that saying that you’re the sum of the average of the five people you’re closest to….

LK:  You’re painting, and you’re not afraid of ruining pieces of it, because something happens during the process…

AF:  Well I always start with an idea of what I think the composition’s going to be….but you never know.  And even now, things get really frustrating for periods of time, and I just have to keep working through it that, you know, it’s not the end if you’re not happy with it.  So, just keep working, working, working…

LK:  So that leads right towards my other question.  When you have those kind of moments when you’re blocked or frustrated or not working, do you have techniques that you do to help you go through it?

AF:  I would love the answer to be like, yeah, I go for a walk, or I mediate for fifteen minutes…

(Laughter)

AF:  The answer is really “No.”  I just work myself to the bone until I totally screw it up, and then I have to abandon it, and then I will go for the walk.  I think my impulse is to figure it out.  That’s usually never the answer.

LK:  Maybe because time is so precious to you, that you don’t have time to…

AF:  Yeah, you know, but I should know by now, because it really is the answer, to get into some good-feeling place before trying to make something happen….

LK:  Do you find you need to get space from your work?

AF:  No, actually, the exact opposite.  I get really cranky, actually, I get really frustrated when I don’t have at least two studio days back to back.  Because if I’m not engaged, if that conversation isn’t regularly going on, it takes me a long time to get it going again, if that makes sense.

LK:  Oh, absolutely.  I definitely understand.  I would rather paint every day for three hours, than one day a week for ten hours.

AF:  Yeah.  It’s really hard.  Because there’s that really hard hill to get over in the beginning.

LK:  Yeah.  Maybe it’s like exercise.

(laughter)

AF:  Yeah, exactly!  Absolutely.  Because I would rather work out every day…

LK:  I don’t know.  It’s nice to be on a roll….but, you gotta do what you gotta do….if you don’t have time…

AF:  Yeah, even though I only have one or two studio days a week right now, I still come down and say hi to the paintings every day, to try to keep them warm.

LK:  That’s awesome.

AF:  …to keep that conversation warm.

so as to lose you a little less. oil on panel.6 x 8ft. 2005

LK:  So what are you working on now?  It’s the same stuff with the women…

AF:  It’s a continuation of that body of work, yes, but I have a solo show at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse coming up this fall, and one of the main charges from the director there…was that I have to work with the permanent collection in some way.  So I’ve done several site visits, and I’ve been kind of bouncing around. 

They have an amazing ceramics collection that features prominently this one ceramicist from the early 1900’s, Adelaïde Alsop Robineau.  She’s this amazing character.  She taught at SU, she had a retrospective at the Met in 1929, which is unheard of.  It was upon her death, but still, a woman artist….  Anyway she had her own ceramic studio.  She was kind of rare too that she worked from clay to finish, which most women of the day just painted, and made the pots, and she did both, and she started a magazine too…Anyway, she was really a spitfire of the day, able to do all these things.

LK:  I never heard of her!

AF:  So, I’m interested in those kinds of characters, because I think that’s also a huge problem for women.  They might even be really well known in their lifetime, and then some time passes, and they still are not somehow within the canon.  That heroicism somehow dwindles over time.  We have to resurrect them again and again and again.  But you don’t have to resurrect Andy Warhol.  You don’t have to resurrect Picasso.  These guys are like, there.

LK:  I’m so excited about the Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun exhibit at the Met.  

[Note: I took so long transcribing this interview, that, sadly, this exhibit is now over.  I did write a blog post about Le Brun, if you're interested.]

AF:  Oh, yes!

LK:  And I keep talking about it to people and they’re like, “Who?”

AF:  Exactly.

LK:  Nobody knows who she is.  Hardly, maybe, one person.

AF:  It’s infuriating.

LK:  I feel like it’s my duty to hand out pamphlets.

(Laughter.)

LK:  This woman is awesome!  She’s my hero.

AF:  That’s so great.

LK:  And she was very well known in her time.

AF:  And she was the painter of the Queen, you know.

LK:  Many queens….

AF:  So, I have a side story about that.  So, I have to work with the collection in some way, and she was my immediate entry point into the collection.  She has these gorgeous surfaces, these crystalline glazes, these weird little crystal bursts happening.  And they’re really unpredictable and rare and whatever.  It’s hard to recreate once you do it.  So I was going to make sculptures.  I was essentially going to make my paintings come into three dimensions….but they’re so hard to know if you’re going to get anything cool from putting them in the kiln…. I was like, ok, I’ll make molds.  But then molds, to do a mold of a multi-part figure like that, would be like $5,000 each to have it professionally done….so that’s prohibitively expensive….So, I’m still going to be making paintings that are in relation to to Robineau’s surfaces, I’m just going to be making them in the paintings instead.  So I’m working with Mark Golden with the Golden foundation right now.  You probably know Golden Acrylic Paints…

you weren’t haunted those two days, you were flooded with light . oil and gouache on canvas over panel. 66” x 96”. 2013.

 

LK:  How do you sustain yourself?  What kinds of things do you personally need, or you won’t be a good artist?

AF:  Time.  I need time.  And, thank God for my teaching job, because that’s how I sustain myself financially.  And it does give me time, and it’s a supportive environment.  And I get to talk about art all day with students who also love it.  So that’s a really great support system.  Obviously my family is a huge part of that.  Again, I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.  And so, as far as what sustains me creatively—

LK:  I’m just curious, do you need a lot of sleep?  Or do you need time with friends?

AF:  Yeah, you know, it’s one of those silly things, when I’m under a crazy deadline, I notice one of the first things to go are like, working out, eating healthy, sleeping well.  (laughter)

LK:  Eating chocolate!

AF:  Yeah, exactly, I start drinking tons of coffee and eating a bag of chips for dinner.  Obviously that is not the healthy way to support yourself.

LK:  Well you can’t do everything….

AF:  Yeah, in an ideal world… I feel better when I’m working out, eating healthy…Sleep is good but it’s usually one of the first things to go, when I just need to be working.

as far as a voice you can’t hear or remember.  oil on panel. 72 x 96”. 2004

LK:  What artists do you most admire, living or dead?  Or, if you could buy a painting from any living artist, which one would it be?

AF:  Oh wow!  Um…Kara Walker! … Her work is really, it’s politically charged.  She makes work about the antebellum south and slavery and racism, that has a distancing effect to it, because it appears that it’s taking place hundreds of years ago, but I think that, because of that, it speaks really well to current issues of race in our country.

LK:  Oil paints?

AF:  Well, she actually does more like paper cut-outs—

LK:  Oh, I think I know!  Black silhouettes?  She's fascinating!

AF:  Yeah.  She does painting too, and drawing as well.  She’s one of my favorite artists.  Also a friend of mine that I went to grad school with, Mickalene Thomas, I love her work…there’s so many. Michaël Borremans, Lisa Yuskavage, Kurt Kauper, these are all current figurative painters.  Anyone that shows at David Zwirner, really.  That’s my favorite gallery in Chelsea…And obviously I look at a lot of old masters.  Anything Dutch from the 1600s, like Jacob Jordaens, Rubens, you know.  Even like Dutch, moving further in time.  Like Vermeer.  It keeps going.

LK:  Who couldn’t like Vermeer?

(laughter)

AF:  I’m really into Wtetwael right now….He has these weird weird figures—

LK:  Dutch?

AF: Yeah, I think so.  Such silvery light.  Like, green, nude figures.  I mean, they’re just the coolest, weirdest paintings…he was the same time as Rubens, I think, so they’re really weird to see side by side.  Because Rubens is fleshy, muscular, really dynamic.  His are like weird little, almost maggoty…but…in a really beautiful way!

Bacchus Between Ceres and Venus, by Joachim Wtewael

LK:  Any advice you might give?  To an artist just starting out?  Or something you might have told yourself if you could go back in time?

AF:  Yeah, oh God, if I could go back in time, I would say…. I mean, again, my advice changes depending on the person I’m telling it to.  Because some people are really neurotic and they get in their own way constantly.  And some people don’t let me know, and they need more love and encouragement, and they need to chill out and enjoy themselves a little bit more.  And then there are people who are super lazy, and they think everything is going to fall in their lap, and they don’t work hard enough.

LK:  I guess you see it all as a teacher!

AF:  Exactly!

LK:  Well…what advice would you give to…me?

AF:  How would you describe yourself in your journey right now?  What do you need the most?

LK:  (sigh)  I feel like I’m still learning the craft.  I’m very excited about it, but I find myself kind of overwhelmed by the challenges of trying to fit my passion into the parameters of my already-established life, and my role as a mother, and a wife.  It’s like a new thing that I have to fit in….I feel guilty if the kids go to bed and I go to paint, and I can’t spend time with my husband.  He’s like, “what are you doing?” and I’m like, “I have to paint.”

AF:  Right, well I think that what helps for that situation, specifically, is to allot a certain amount of time a week to this thing that’s non-negotiable.  Like for me, it was really important to be like, “Well, this is my work.”  And I wouldn’t schedule a date with my husband during a time that I was teaching.  Or I wouldn’t schedule time playing with my kids during a time that I’m teaching.  So, I prioritize my studio over everything else, or I guess I should say, as much as I would any other obligation that I have.  So…between the hours of 9 and 6, when my daughter is at Montessori, that’s my time to paint or be teaching at my job, or to be working on my career…those things are non-negotiable…I can’t attach any guilt to that because it’s my job.  And also, I think I had mentioned this to you, I think the thing that you want to teach most to your kids is to value yourself, so that they will value themselves, and they will, when it comes time for them to follow their passion, they won’t put somebody else’s needs before theirs.  And you know, that’s the same thing that happens with your partner….I mean, obviously our lives are a series of negotiations and compromises, but it helps for me to have a rhythm, and a schedule set in place, that I can, if need be, adjust that, but it’s in place and it’s there, you know what I mean?  To be valued and respected for all that it should be.

LK:  Right.  Love it!

AF:  Yeah…that’s the best thing you could teach any human, is to value their passion, and their time, right?

LK:  Yeah.  It’s good.  You want your child to grow up and be able to do what she wants to do.

AF:  Would you want your daughter putting some guy’s needs before hers?  …

LK:  No, you have to be the good role model.

AF:  Exactly, so modeling the behavior is first and foremost.  And now that they’re a little older, she can come down and…it doesn’t really work very well, but for fifteen minutes she might occupy herself with something, and I can paint an eyeball or something.  (laughter)

Angie's three-and-a-half year old daughter, Tuesday, painting in the studio.  Cutest studio assistant ever!

LK:  It’ll get easier, I mean, my daughter’s 9, and she’ll stay home from school sick, and I’m like, “I’m painting upstairs,” and she’ll read a book, then we’ll come and have lunch together.  My son is younger, it’s not the same.

AF:  How old is your son?

LK:  Six.  Tomorrow…. It doesn’t last forever, they get older.

AF:  Well, and that’s the thing, you want to spend time with them, too.  But I kind of feel like, everything in moderation.  I spend five hours with her every single day.  So it’s not like I’m neglecting our time together at all.  I’m valuing it, and privileging it, just as much as I am my time in the studio.

LK:  I think what you say makes sense, absolutely, intellectually, but there’s this deep swamp of primordial guilt, that no amount of rational can overcome.

(laughter)

AF:  Right, but as far as like, training your thoughts, that’s something you have to keep, smoothing out those wrinkles!  Because it is, it’s going to come up every time.  Oh I feel guilty.  Oh I feel guilty.  You recognize the emotion, you tell yourself no, and then you go back to doing what you’re doing.

 

slight. oil and galkyd resin on canvas over panel. 72 x 96". 2007

LK:  So, tell me about how you got this idea about women helping women?

AF:  Well…right have I had my daughter, I was thinking, because my work previous to that had been much more about these…violent power dynamics that were taking place, and after having her, the feeling that I was feeling was more like…super powerful.  And abundant, and content, and kind of peaceful.  And the community that I found myself in, and the community that I needed to lean on most at that time, were women.  Women who had been through the experience of having a child before.  Women who knew stuff about babies that I didn’t know.  Women who were still functioning really successfully in their careers while having a couple of kids.  Those were people that I really needed to lean on because they were modeling something that I wanted.  And so, again, I think that’s where this idea of women helping women came from…and I looked through all these images of Old Masters.  You don’t really see women helping women very often in any of these images.  It’s usually men-and-women sex scenes, or some sort of violent war-thing…and anyway, the one myth or story that you see women around women again and again is “Diana the Huntress”…

LK:  Is that a myth that you’re drawn to, over and over again?

AF:  Well, it’s the only one where you see women together.  The other one where you see more than one woman together is “Lot and His Daughters.” … I will paint “Lot and His Daughters” minus Lot, and see what the narrative that’s remaining looks like.

these things are your becoming oil and metal leaf on canvas, 66”x90”, 2014

(These are Lot's daughters, without Lot, lifted from a painting by Simon Vouet.)

LK:  I saw that one! … How might the story have been?  A lot different!

AF:  Well, because also…I can’t imagine that ever happening in the history of the world.  Two women trying to get their father drunk to have sex with him:?

LK:  Right.

AF:  That to me sounds like a story that men tell to justify incest.

LK:  Right, or someone’s fantasy that they had that they turned into a story.

AF:  So, yeah, that’s something I have an issue with.  So some of the paintings are trying to repair narratives that I don’t think are helpful in any way.  Some of the paintings are just about revealing a different narrative.

LK:  Or, tell me about “Diana and the Huntress.”  I know the story.  She was spied on by—

AF:  Well, there’s several different parts of her story, and I probably can’t name all of them, but I just like that it’s this peaceful community of women.

LK:  There was a voyeuristic aspect, right?

AF:  There’s another one where there’s Aceton, and he turns into either a boar or a stag who is then hunted by his own men.  Then there’s another story where one of her companions, Zeus disguises himself as Diana, and so she has this lesbian affair with—it’s actually Zeus—but the woman thinks it’s—

LK:  Wow, I never heard this story!

AF:  She gets pregnant, and then Diana banishes her from the tribe.  So that’s kind of like a sad part of the tale….and of course the story changes depending on where you are in the world and what time it is…I’m just interested in it because of the universal quality of these female characters coming together.

LK:  Do you ever combine different women, different paintings of women together?

AF:  Yeah, now I’m starting to do that a lot more.  I’m suturing different…creating paradise spaces.  They’re kind of like these feminist utopias, I think.

LK:  Ooh, I like that.  Feminist utopia.

though they crowded between, and usurped the kiss of my mouth, their breath was your gift, their beauty, your life. Oil and synthetic resin on linen, 72” x 84”, 2014

AF:  So I’m still attempting to reveal these invisible stories.

LK:  You keep saying that.  Invisible stories.  I like that idea.  It really feels like something real.

AF:  Yeah, well there’s a whole other…I’m really interested in how the stories we tell create the reality we live in, or the reality that we experience.  So one story, it can go through this “telephone game” and get watered down, and changed and morphed and whatever, and it doesn’t matter what the actual narrative was, it becomes whatever it became through that filter.  And I think that’s something that repeatedly happens to women again and again and again, and that’s how the power gets lost, and so I’m really interested in recovering any sort of inherent power dynamic that may have existed…and by using female characters from the past, not only am I doing that kind of distancing thing that I think heroes of mine, like Kara Walker, might do, but I’m also kind of trying to showcase that this has always been here.  We just need to look for it.  So what we choose to look for as a culture is really important too.  Does that make sense?

LK:  My feeling is, a lot of people are so…they’re not lazy, they’re just…watching TV, or listening to the media, and they might not even be consciously choosing what stories they want to hear.  Going back to Donald Trump, he’s got his whole mythology that he’s spewing out, and, I don’t know, people just kind of passively go to it…I mean, it’s all very well for you to say, I’m going to consciously find these invisible stories, but how strong can they really be against the media?

AF:  Well, I mean, art can only do so much, right?  It’s not like going to a blockbuster movie.  You can’t pit the two against one another in terms of the size of the audience you can reach.  But I just have to hope there are other people doing their part.  This is my part.  This is the thing that I care about, this is the thing that moves me, and I’m moved by.  That’s all that really matters, right?  And I believe that when people are taking care of their own emotions, and fulfilling themselves in the way that they need to be , it actually balances out the world in a better way.  I think we all make the world better, just by being happy ourselves.

LK:  Right, I think so.  I think so.

AF:  Yeah, I don’t expect these to change the world.  Although, I don’t know, because--

LK:  I didn’t think so either, but then I started talking to you and it seemed like it was possible!

AF:  Well, I think it is interesting to think about the market.  I mean, this might not be something that you’re plugged into, or interested in yet, but as you move further in your career, you may be.  Like, women’s work sells for a lot less than men’s work does, on auction.  These are women that are incredibly well-known and respected in their field, still selling for far less than men do.  They only make up about 16% of the galleries in New York, which is ridiculous, because there’s way more than 50% of women in schools that are graduating, year after year.  I mean, the statistics do not work in our favor, and part of the interviews that I’ve been doing on my blog have been asking gallerists and curators, what do we need to change?  And they say again and again, we need to change the collector base.  Because the collectors are mostly white men.  And those white men are buying mostly white men.  So…if we can diversify who’s buying work, then that’s one way to do it.  If we could even get those people buying work that has more of a social or political agenda, that works in favor of women, and people of color.  Then, yeah, there might actually be a real shift.  I mean so much has happened in the past ten, twenty years, that it’s amazing.  You know, gay rights!  I mean we obviously still have issues of race in this country, but...we had our first black president!  Things can change, and they do….This is something I care about.  Not all art is supposed to be like this, obviously.

LK:  Oh yeah, I know.  I’m fascinated by it.  And I love the way that you can bring things from ancient times into the present, and it feels connected….

the story she told from that time on. oil and galkyd resin on canvas over panel. 67 x 90". 2007

LK:  I know with me, I’m just painting, painting things I like, or… ideas I have in my head.  I don’t have any political agenda, but there are things that I care about deeply.

A:  Well…you mentioned you’re still in kind of a learning phase, it’s totally normal, you’re not really thinking in terms of concept or series, in a real, kind of intense way.

L:  But you, that’s what you’re doing.  I think it’s neat that your work has depth and meat to it.  Very inspiring!  Thank you so much!

A:  Thank you!

Me and Angie, in her studio!

Thanks so much for reading my blog!  I will be taking a break for the month of August, after 47 consecutive weeks of blogging about art, without fail!  If you enjoyed this post you might like to check out an older post I wrote, highlighting one of my favorite interviews from Angela Fraleigh's blog:

Words of Wisdom from Krista Steinke

You might also want to listen to or read the first artist interview I did:

Interview With Kate Brandes

 

Thanks to everyone for your support in my journey and for all of the great comments people have left on my blog this year.  Have a great summer, and see you in September!!