Briefly describe the work you do.
Although I have flirted with painting landscapes and still lifes over the years, I always come back to abstraction. Painting non-objectively continues to challenge and excite me; it allows me to draw from my personal experiences, while keeping my focus on the formal qualities of paint. My sources of inspiration and fascination vary fr
om a visit to an aquarium at night, the glaciers in Alaska, the shapes of the machinery on Dumbo’s Ride in Disney World, Renaissance frescos in Italian churches, or patterns made by sunlight on the wall. My oil paintings are composed of fluid, organic forms which crowd together, float and overlap, creating eccentric compositions filled with color and light. These abstract shapes hover on the verge of becoming recognizable, tangible objects, momentarily throwing the viewer off guard. The images evoke stories about themselves that are just outside the complete grasp of full detection and understanding. Private, secret events are glimpsed just before they move or change. Forms surface, submerge, and press against one another as if for support, or come together as if magnetically, sexually attracted.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
Though I briefly toyed with the idea of being an archaeologist in elementary school, I never remember wanting to be anything but an artist
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in a middle-class area of Philadelphia and was lucky enough to have had an excellent art program at my public high school. I also took courses at a local art center from kindergarten through my senior year where I learned about printmaking, which in turn became my major in college. My mother enjoyed going to museum exhibitions and passed that passion on to me. I have vivid early memories of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and especially the Brancusis and the Duchamps in the Arensberg collection.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I am really interested in the associative qualities of oil paint on canvas or printing ink on paper. There is a magical transformation that occurs in the midst of a good painting session—a portal into a calmer and more meditative space, not unlike the sense of concentrated awareness of one’s body in space and time that one attains after years of yoga practice. We are constantly bombarded with images on social media, on television and in print ads that demand rapid digestion. I want my paintings to slow the viewer down—to help them find a moment of contemplation and beauty in our frenetic society.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard every day. What motivates you in your studio practice?
I am in total agreement with Chuck Close. I have only had the luxury of maintaining a full time studio practice for the past 2 years. Before that, my time at the studio competed with a part time job and taking care of my family. This forced me to always take advantage of any time I had to work—and for me the fastest way to get into the mindset of being present with my work, but not overthinking it is by listening to music, specifically yoga chanting. By listening to songs over and over again I am able to get into a focused state where the work flows.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
That’s always such a hard question to answer definitively because my influences change frequently depending on what exhibitions I’ve just seen or which friend’s studio I’ve just visited. At the moment, the books I’m looking at in my studio are Martin Puryear, Walker Evans, Francesca Woodman, William Baziotes, and Mary Heilmann. I just saw the huge Sigmar Polke retrospective at MoMA and left feeling inspired to take more chances and to work more quickly. I also saw the Mark Rothko show of watercolors dating from 1941-47 which was an epiphany. Seeing the way he developed his ideas about transparency and depth in these early works allowed me a glimpse into Rothko’s head and gave me a deeper understanding of how his later canvases evolved.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
Traveling, yoga, swimming, reading, spending time with family and friends.
Patricia Spergel received her BFA from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and her MFA from School of Visual Arts in NYC. She has been included in numerous group exhibitions nationally and had a solo show at the Tjaden Gallery at Cornell in 2004. Her paintings are included in the collections of Citigroup, Sanford Bernstein and Bank of America and she has been published in New American Paintings and will be included in an upcoming book published by Watson-Guptil on abstract painting. In summer 2013 her work was featured on the cover and in an eight page spread of The Southern Review, a literary magazine published by Louisiana State University. While her focus is on painting, she has also done extensive work with monoprints for the past fifteen years at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Connecticut. Her work can be seen at Kenise Barnes Fine Art in Larchmont, NY. She currently lives and works in Westchester County, NY.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.