Kelly Worman is an artist and curator and a graduate of the Pratt Institute MFA program. Based out of New York and London, she was recently selected by Schneider Museum of Art Director Scott Malbaurn to curate the facilities upcoming "Shapes of Curiosity" exhibition — a show which will have a strong emphasis on, according to Malbaurn, "(improving) our arts ecology by bringing artists and curators in for critical dialogue and to expose our talented artists here in Oregon to those beyond our borders." I caught up with Worman to hear something of her own work and her relationship to the job of curating.
JG: Kelly, in your own work you speak of making art that "investigates the gaps in your personal, narrative memory." In the "Land After Time" show that you curated in New York, the work existed in a "space between the familiar and the imaginary." How is the space between concept and creative execution important to your work?
KW: Funnily enough, that exhibition had to do with memory in a cultural sense. In both my painting and curatorial practice, I am interested in the gaps or “in-betweens” that sometimes we can’t find the verbal language to describe, or may even go overlooked altogether. Conceptual ideas inform the process, of course, but while my painting process is not completely driven by concept, curatorially I find that the concept and aesthetic narrative within a particular space and time seem to drive the train, so to speak.
JG: Your paintings also appear to show an ongoing theme of monolithic solidity in an abstract environment. Is that a deliberate concept?
KW: It is not a deliberate concept, although certain formal qualities seem to emerge naturally in different bodies of my work.
JG: Do you approach your work as a curator differently from your work as an artist?
KW: Formally, my painting practice is mainly intuitive, and while my approach to installation is very intuitive and narratively driven, my curatorial practice is slightly more steeped in writing and research. Although, both practices naturally inform one another, and with both I aim to have multiple levels of entry for the viewer.
JG: Tell us a little bit about how you work and approach a new painting.
KW: I used to have a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for many years … and had to designate time for my studio practice, which pushed me to approach a painting differently (sometimes feeling forced or rushed). I recently moved into a live/work space in Tribeca which means that I approach painting in a more relaxed way, taking time throughout the day to work on multiple paintings at once. I have time to sit with a painting. I see them all the time. But I have always begun painting with the aim to visually describe an energy or feeling within the context of memory, whether that be personal or cultural memory, that I cannot sufficiently communicate with verbal language.
JG: Who were your early influences and what in particular drew you to them?
KW: My favorites have always been Cy Twombly’s sculptures and Agnes Martin’s work. There is a certain kind of quiet I find in Martin’s work. I have also always really enjoyed the work of Hans Haacke, Daniel Buren, Mary Heilmann, Philip Guston, Rebecca Morris, Hanne Darboven, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Walid Raad. I suppose it is a bit all over the place, and I am sure there are many that I am forgetting!
"Shapes of Curiosity," a Southern Oregon University Creative Arts Faculty Exhibition opens on Thursday, Jan. 26, and runs through Saturday, March 11, at the Schneider Museum of Art, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.