JENNY DAY and BETH DAVILA WALDMAN
" In working together, I felt encouraged to be bolder with what I could offer. Today, I am definitely pushing forward the idea of landscape in my studio practice with inclusivity of the consequences our existence and actions have made on our planet.”
" In my work I flip-flop between a shared vision of utopia and hope, and then plunge into alienation and disillusionment. I ache for the world while simultaneously finding a resigned humor in the repetition of personal and environmental disaster. I strive to create playful, wounded and celebratory pieces”
BDW: Since we last worked together, I have seen an intense dive into the animal kingdom not only in your paintings, but in your sculpture. I am first curious, what turned your attention from landscape to animals and how would you describe that journey?
JD: “In undergraduate school I painted mostly rough narrative scenes. Full of figures and social interactions. During graduate school, I removed the narrative and the figure from my work. When I met you, I was painting primarily abstracted landscape paintings”...”Years removed from graduate school, and with momentum of my own, I feel comfortable reintroducing narrative and the figure in my paintings and sculptures. In earlier work, I was recreating a place from memory, building a horizon, anchoring it with fragmented trees and buildings. Now I am populating that place with objects, creatures, and human presence. This invented landscape reflects the current state of the world; fires, hurricanes, social upheaval, and sometimes, mystery and wonder”.
BDW: I have always identified you as a painter, so when you started to work sculpturally, it surprised me. Can you speak to your history with sculpture or what sparked this direction? What does the clay medium bring to your practice?
JD: “Actually, I was a sculptor before I was a painter. In my BFA I studied metalworking and welding, fabricated sculptures out of rusted metal parts and roofing rubber. Made knives.”...” Over the last few years I have learned how to work with clay”..”. Clay allows me to connect with something raw and unfiltered. It has altered how I approach painting, thinking about surface, reflection, and texture. It has given me a type of freedom, a gateway to more vulnerable parts of myself. Places that had become overthought and intellectualized”....
BDW: I have seen a lot of symbolism come into your paintings also in the past few years, such as the American Flag, landscapes burnt from fires which speak to me as a California resident, and your animals have a sort of pre-Columbian feel to me with the fierce energy coming from them. I am wondering how you are considering this more direct connections that you are bringing forth in your artwork.
“Some of the imagery you have brought up, the American flag, and singed landscapes, are from the series, Lone Star, True But Whatever from 2018 and are also present in Not Mirrors, Portals, from 2021. In my work I flip-flop between a shared vision of utopia and hope, and then plunge into alienation and disillusionment. I ache for the world while simultaneously finding a resigned humor in the repetition of personal and environmental disaster. I strive to create playful, wounded and celebratory pieces”...
BDW: After our collaboration, did you feel that you were actively carrying any specific elements forward in your work? Do you feel it still connects with your current work or does it feel like it's part of a much different chapter of your practice?
JD: “After our self-created residency at your studio in Marin, I completed a large series of paintings that embraced fragmentation and abstraction. I was already headed in that direction when we met but the approach I took in our collaboration with mark-making, erasure, and insertion, gave me the confidence to further break up the picture plane in my own work . The investigative dialogue that was created during our time together, to abandon an idea at any point in the process, to reconsider color and form, and to resolve an object for what it is and look beyond its concept, still exists within my current work”.
JD: How do you think about erasure in your work and in our collaborative process?
BDW: “That’s a great word. Looking at the root meaning, “the removal of all traces or something; obliteration”, I feel that it is too powerful for what I felt was going on in our collaborative process. I remember the metamorphosis of elements, that perhaps did not leave much of a trace of the initial markings, but to me, there was a response going on and a choice being made for the shared common goal of creating a strong piece of artwork. I trusted in the erasures in that sense that were made by either one of us, of what the other put down before. What was unique is the respect that we had for each other’s choices. I often found a wonderful surprise in the unexpected changes. I think it was one of the parts I loved best about working together."
JD: What was your decision making process during the collaborative process individually in your studio? Together? How did you decide what to add and keep? How do those choices speak to your individual practice?
BDW: “There was a wonderful synergy working together”...” I believe that since we saw each other in February of 2017, we never stopped communicating on a daily basis until after we completed the Series. However, before we were physically together, I definitely was using my visual toolbox to date without the influence of your toolbox. Form, starker colors, and the role of the image, raw in its essence, and the markings made with palette knives were all part of that toolbox. When we were together in the studio, I felt more engaged in your technical approaches such as precise line work, compositionally in your editing process and even in mixing color as a painter, all of which I still use in my practice today”.
JD: Was there a dialogue between your individual practice and the collaborative series?
BDW: “Most definitely! I felt that the collaborative series was part of the journey. In working together, I felt encouraged to be bolder with what I could offer. I was not working on other work at the same time, so there was not a parallel element I could relate in comparison, but I can definitely note that my following series continued this dialogue even without the direct collaboration. It was a gift that kept giving”.
JD: How did you connect conceptually with the collaborative work?
BDW: “When I first met you, I remember how your environmental sciences background was feeding directly into your interest in superfund sites. When we were looking for sites, it seemed like a natural direction for you to go. We looked at several superfund sites to consider in the San Francisco Bay Area. This angle at site was newer to me, but of great interest. To date, I was approaching place with a historical context, heavy with personal connection and curiosities. I was noting the changes to the terrain with my camera, but not yet speaking consciously to toxins or systematic concerns on the environmental level. I have not quite recognized it until now, but perhaps the conversations we were having did enhance my sensitivity to the impact we humans were having on landscape in a more direct way. Today, I am definitely pushing forward the idea of landscape in my studio practice with inclusivity of the consequences our existence and actions have made on our planet.”