Loving these bright, saturated paintings by Rhode Island-based artist Haley Prochnow, who chats with me about following the creative instinct as well as carving out time to paint within a hectic work schedule, and experimenting her way out of the occasional creative dry spell. More at the links below!
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First, I'd like to know a bit about you -- can you introduce yourself? Where are you based?
I’m feeling a little nomadic at the moment. I have lived in Providence, Rhode Island for about two years. I moved here from Minneapolis for a lot of different reasons- one being my job. It requires me to be in New York City about 50% of the time. I live a totally different/ secret life when I am there. I get very dressed up and go to work in the Financial District for one of the City’s financial institutions. But, most importantly, my people and my studio are in Providence.
What first interested you in making art?
When I was a kid, I was training to be an Olympic figure skater but then my mom told me I was too tall and that I should aim for a career with Disney on Ice instead. You know, like skate around in a big Donald Duck suit? I gave up skating altogether, started listening to punk rock, and started drawing show flyers for all the shitty teen bands in town.
My grandma took me to my first contemporary art exhibition at the Walker Art Center when I was about 15 years old. It was a show of Andy Warhol and some artifacts from The Velvet Underground days and it totally changed my life. Oddly enough, I came away from that show wanting to be more like Lou Reed than Andy.
How would you describe your paintings?
Sad clown paintings gone awry / borderline Matisse rip-offs.
You've recently gotten back into painting after a little bit of a hiatus -- how has this affected your work?
I have always primarily been a painter, however, I spent a large portion of my early 20’s hating all of my natural instincts as a painter. My undergraduate art education was heavily classical and my professors tended to think my instincts were gimmick. I learned a lot about Titian and Jacques-Louis David but I could never quite see myself in their worlds. Surprising? I know.
I dabbled in collage, poetry, music for a couple of years and only recently have I come to realize that artistic instincts are really the most important ingredient in crafting anything. Everything else, technical skill, intellect, art education, is just bonus.
You also describe your work as being largely satirical, and rather a comment on Western society and ideas of wealth. Can you elaborate on this?
I think of my work as satire because I am poking fun at western society and the traditions we hold so dear in terms of depicting our status to others. I don’t want people to feel like they need to deconstruct the work to understand it. Its visual farce blended with craft.
What kind of research do you do in preparation for your paintings?
I think I probably have one of the most visually offensive Pinterest pages ever. Somewhat shamefully, I admit that I use Pinterest to look up all of the offensive antiques people are trying to sell on the internet. A large part of why I paint what I do is me trying to magnify the peculiarity that there is still a market for some of this junk.
I want to make light of the idea that, historically, humans have an insatiable need to represent themselves or others with objects in such a way that it creates a social order. I have a dark sense of humor.
What is your studio like?
I share a studio with two RISD grads in an old, probably haunted, textile mill in the Olnyville neighborhood of Providence.
Do you have any routines or rituals that help get you into the creative mode?
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Cave and trying to embody his vampiric swagger in the studio.
How do you handle creative block?
I handle creative dry spells by trying other mediums. When you feel stuck it’s important to do something outside of your comfort zone. When I’m feeling ambivalent toward painting I write or try my hand at something totally different. Last year I was feeling particularly garbage-y and uncreative so I taught myself calligraphy. I think it’s important to keep your hands moving and reap the reward physically making something.
What do you consider to be the biggest hurdle to making work or pursuing an art practice?
Personally, my biggest challenge was getting over the question of, “Is this work good or not?” I used to question myself constantly, so much so, that I had a really hard time creating anything. Once you can mute your inner dialogue you can start to finally create things that make you happy. That probably sounds cheesy, but whatever- 100% true. Plus- who cares if your art is stupid because there is likely some kind of nuclear warfare on the horizon.
What are you working on right now?
I’m pushing myself to create more large-scale works. I’ve been sketching up ideas for paintings of expansive Edwardian parlors that I am really excited about.
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