Briefly describe the work you to.
I am a painter working with acrylic, mostly on square wood panels ranging in size from 10” to 36”. My work is many layered, combining occasional collage and ink transfer, while juxtaposing elements of representation and abstraction with bold black and white graphics. It doesn’t get interesting until it’s been ruined a time or two, the beat-up panels becoming the narrative of my struggle. My visual vocabulary is mostly derived from a New England childhood, with influences of Emily Dickinson. But I live in 2015 so I integrate the two — the 1940s child; the 2015 woman.
I am looking for answers. I am looking to be surprised. That is the reward. If I know what a painting is going to look like, why bother to paint it?
My goal has always been to paint without thinking. I begin a panel without any thought of what I will paint. My “rule” is to honor the first thought. Honesty is most important to me. If I am totally, painfully honest, this will be recognized. Others will relate because it is honest. I believe in the “collective unconscious”. You could say that is my “target audience”.
If that first thought is to paint an elephant, than an elephant I must paint. The brain is not allowed any debate or second thoughts. It’s the same with color — if the first thought is yellow than it is a yellow elephant. And so it goes. Same for placement on the panel. Doesn’t matter where. Of course this leads to many, many “mistakes”. I load the panel up with as much crap (sorry) as I can and then begin eliminating. I go through this process of adding and subtracting many times. Paintings come and go. Some quite good, others not so good. I’ll ruin and save, hopefully knowing when to stop — but not always.’
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My earliest childhood memory is crawling on a paint spattered floor in Greenwich Village. Imprinted like a duckling, this experience was to define my life. I didn’t know this until, at the age of fifty, I stood in front of that old address and felt the closure. I’d come full circle. My life’s journey had been to find my own paint spattered floor. Albeit 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles.
My childhood picture book might have weighted more than me. At least four inches thick, and called “World Famous Paintings”, it was edited by Rockwell Kent and published in 1939.
This was a toddler’s study of art history. A three year old brain absorbing composition and palette and narratives on a nonverbal level. To this day I recognize every painting but may not be able to tell you the artist. I had my favorites — like Whistler’s Mother — and she very often appears in my work.
The concept of the artist studio has a board range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio”.
I have two studios — a 1,000 square foot high desert studio and a, maybe 200 square foot, hole in the wall Los Angeles studio. I cannot paint in the desert. I need the energy of a city and the surrounding artist community that a city provides. Having a studio outside my home, a studio I pay rent for, has deepened my level of commitment and feeling of professionalism. It is my nest, my sanctuary. It is all me. All mine. A room of my own. It is my center.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I had not expected, nor been prepared for, the business side of art. I am an introvert and the networking, openings, and social side of a successful art career are draining. I go back and forth on this — making a real attempt at “getting out there” and then retreating when it all becomes too much. I disagree with the current “art speak” climate and having to explain my work. It is enough that I have made the work. I shouldn’t have to do the viewer’s job as well. When a painting leaves my studio it is no longer mine. What it means to me no longer matters. It is what you, the viewer see. I don’t want to tell you what to see. And “sales” — salesmanship, like everything else, is a skill, a talent. I cannot sell! I cannot even decide on how much to charge. We shouldn’t be expected to be able to paint AND sell!
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
This is ever changing. I have the luxury of almost unlimited time to paint. This can be good and bad. Unlimited time can mean you waste time. Except now I am 73 and I worry about the time when I won’t be able to paint anymore.
I call the painting process “my practice”. No different than a pianist, dancer, or athlete’s daily practicing. That’s what I do. My goal is to practice daily, weekends included. Right now the pattern seems to be to get the non-painting activities (like answering your questions!) done first thing in the morning so that the remainder of the day can be spent in the studio.
My practice consists of: “Show Up”. “Don’t Leave”. I show up every day. It’s never easy. I soon want to leave. I can think of a million good reasons to leave. But if I don’t, there’s this thing that happens. I’ll sit there for twenty minutes, maybe thirty, doing nothing. Then — aha — I realize I can do this. And then that. Soon I have painted something that never, ever, would have happened if I’d left.
No matter how many hours I spend in the studio there seems to be a pattern of three hours being the most productive.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My skill set has improved, expanded. A big part of my process is asking the question “What if?”. This experimenting has given me experience that allows me more control. I now know the answers to many “What if’s?” I am working larger. I am working slower — I have developed more patience. This is a good thing and has led to better quality. Not surprisingly, my vocabulary remains the most consistent element. My palette is in constant flux — partly relating to my moods, partly responding to the palette shifts in our culture. I am receptive to cultural trends because it is important to make work not only in response to my past but to reflect the current world I live in.
I have an over-whelming sense of undiscovered paintings waiting deep inside — like when a word you are trying to remember is just there — on the tip of your tongue. I feel like I’ve snuck up closer , closer, closer. But not there yet….
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
All of the above! My parents were painters and I grew up with the smell of linseed oil and turpentine and my Mom’s figure drawings tacked up around the washing machine.
Too many artists to list but there have been many favorites. My tastes changed from the romantic impressionists I liked as a child thru pop art to some of the interesting painters working in 2015. All are influences. Music and poetry and fiction are influences too. Sometimes a line of fiction begs to be a painting. I cannot sit through live music without seeing paintings in my head.
I devour biographies and, even at age 73, continually search for role models. So many biographies of famous painters are filled with struggles, drama, problems. Reading about such lives is exciting and romantic but now that I find myself living such a life (albeit without the fame & success!) it’s not as romantic anymore. Being an artist is more than about painting. It is a way of being, a life style, a certain mentality.
The most important lesson I have learned is about working. Doing the work. Really successful people, whether Madonna, David Hockney, or Twyla Tharp, work hard — all the time. Here at the Brewery, a loft community in downtown Los Angeles, my studio window used to be across from a French painter Ariane Bazin. No matter the day or time when I’d look out that window, Ariane would be working. She was the best role model I’ve ever had.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I envied those who were so sure, who knew from an early age, exactly what they wanted to be. For most of my life I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. By age 49 this felt like a curse.
Writing came first (my mother and her mother were writers) As early as three or four I was making handmade books filled with scribbles. This year I made my first real book — Women — self published using Blurb — and I am working on my second book Birds.
I spent a decade doing photography (an interest shared with my dad). Photography was frustrating. Those damn laws of physics not allowing many desired darkroom manipulations. Today’s PhotoShop might make many such manipulations reality except that the hands-on experience would be missing as well as a certain human element in the final print.
By age 50 I’d decided that I’d chosen photography only because I believed I couldn’t draw or paint. That’s what I’d really wanted to do all along, draw and paint. I’d finally figured it out! I enrolled at Art Center in Pasadena, California and gave myself a ten year plan to learn to paint. That became a twenty year plan which is now a thirty year plan.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Wini maintains studios in Los Angeles and the California high desert.
She studied at Art Center College, California State University Long Beach, and University of California Los Angeles. She is the recipient of two Vermont Studio Center residencies.
Her current work combines abstraction with representational elements, using layered acrylics often juxtaposed with black and white graphics.
Wini has exhibited throughout southern California including Kerckhoff Gallery UCLA, Pharmaka, Coagula Curatorial, La Luz de Jesus, Crussell Fine Arts, Red Dot Gallery, LA ArtCore, Barnsdall Art Center, bG Gallery/Bergamot, and the Palm Springs Art Museum.
She is represented in collections in the U.S., Canada, France, and the U.K.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.