JH: Your work is generally set in the liminal space between nature and suburban infrastructure. Tell me why and how this boundary speaks so to your imagination?
AW: That space is in-between, not label-able or categorizable, and I always felt at home in places like that, kind of outside everything, away from people, there is a sense of freedom there and possibility just because of the fact that it’s outside of other people’s radar. I can be myself and be stupid and make mistakes, all the things you need to be able to do to make art. I want my studio to be like that, like an invisible, forgotten, in-between place, where I can lose track of time. As it bears on my work, that’s why I want to paint places like that.
JH: Another boundary your work confronts is that between magical realism and realism. Because the formal structure of your art is so thoroughly developed, each image resonates with an organic and substantial phenomenology actualized enough to enmesh the viewer in a convincing virtual reality. It is here that myth is revealed quietly, in an integration, rather than in a disruption to the structure. How do you blend reality and magic so thoroughly, and is their a particular cultural heritage, myth, or story that influences your painting?
AW: I don’t really think of it like that when I’m painting. I work sort of intuitively, and make decisions based on what feels right. I think what mythology is there is something that was already in me, from childhood experiences, genetics, books, music, friendships, whatever- all the things that are “me”, and becoming an artist has been the trial and error of shedding all the things that are not “me”.
The magic realism aspect I think is a lot easier to explain. I work from imagination, and use reference material in the finishing stages, so a painting has an invented, unrealistic structure with a more naturalistic exterior. It’s something I see in most of the artists I admire, and I think most of them worked that same way. A Titian portrait for example, doesn’t look “real” in the way we think of it now that we have photography, it has this organically universal quality which, my theory is, comes from the fact he painted much of it from imagination.
JH: Why are your protagonists generally female and is their a heroic female in your life that embodies and/or influences your oeuvre?
AW: There have been a lot of powerful women and heroic women in my life, but my heroic female is more of a useful cypher for the stories I want to tell. I think women just fit into my stories better than men, especially young women at that vulnerable age between childhood and womanhood. Vulnerability is a very heroic quality.
JH: What is your art’s relationship to nature, to the tree, and to the flower?
AW: I love trees. Sometimes I’ll see a tree that’s so beautiful I just stand there staring at it, trying to understand why it’s beautiful, or at least to just experience it’s beauty. Flowers not so much.
JH: What is your art’s relationship to architecture, to the brick, and to the bridge?
AW: They usually have only a utilitarian function in my paintings, for example a bridge connects two places, and goes above another place, it’s not about the bridge. It’s hard to generalize though, sometimes it is about the bridge. I don’t know. I love modernist architecture, especially when it was made with an ideology like socialism, communism, and (though not modern) Nazi-ism.
JH: The time of day and the season of year are an important element of your art. I think I could guess pretty accurately the atmospheric temperature of each piece. How much does season and time affect your work, considering both the season you are making your art during, and the season you are setting your work within? Do they correspond?
AW: Not at all actually 🙂 The seasons and the time of day are used as the subject requires it. For instance, I don’t like to paint cast shadows, I think they are distracting. I would rather the shapes be of forms, not light. So I generally don’t paint sunny days. Overcast light is what I need to do that. Also I prefer to have the figures really stand out against their surroundings- night time, snow, or dark forests, etc. work very well for that purpose. Obviously it’s not as simple as that, if an element like a dark forest is put in, with all it’s meaning, which can be played with, the story evolves along with the graphic problem solving.
JH: Who are your biggest influences, literarily, artistically, musically…?
AW: My favorite writer at the moment is Kazuo Ishiguro. He doesn’t write a lot, but each book has meant a lot to me.
I get really obsessed with one song, and put it on endless repeat. Right now that song is “The Owl and the Tanager” by Sufjan Stevens.
There are so many artists I should list as influences, but for the sake of your patience here’s a short list of some favs: Velasquez, John Currin, Titian, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Corot, Caspar David Friedrich, Neo Rauch, Waterhouse, Bonnard, Andrew Wyeth August Sander, Hammershoi, and Chris Ware.
JH: What current projects/exhibitions/publications are you working on?
AW: I’m working on a solo exhibition that will be in November 2016 at Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York.