Untitled, 2015. Acrylic, spray paint, collage on canvas
BELLOWS' paintings, digital drawings and collages are saturated with
color, texture and pattern. Within the frame of the page, canvas or
screen, she expertly flattens numerous layers into one dimension without
sacrificing visual complexity. Nash earned her BFA in 2012 from Sonoma
State University and recently completed her MFA at San Francisco State
University. She was a recipient of the Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary
Art Award and the Martin Wong Painting Scholarship. Her work has been
included in exhibitions throughout California, including shows at SOMArts (San Francisco), Arc Gallery & Studios (San Francisco), Berkeley Art Center, Sanchez Art Center (Pacifica), Huntington Beach Art Center and Martin Wong Gallery at San Francisco State University, where she now teaches drawing. Nash lives in San Francisco.
OtherPeoplesPixels: What came first for you as an artist: collage, painting or digital drawing? How did one lead to another?
Nash Bellows: I actually started off as a printmaker, but usually used collage to create my imagery prior to etching it. I was always translating collages into drawings, so transitioning between mediums has always felt natural. I like to have a loose plan in place.
Untitled, 2015. Digital
OPP: When did digital drawing enter your practice?
NB: This is kind of embarrassing actually. About two years ago, my cat broke his hip. I couldn't leave him alone unless he was in a cage, and I felt really badly about that, so I spent about two months on the couch with him and an iPad.
I had always made goofy sketches on my iPad but at that point I had to find another way to make work, so I developed a system for making the digital drawings. When only certain sections of the drawings were successful, I cropped and merged pieces together with one of those photo collage apps until I came up with a composition that I was happy with. Afterwards I would draw on top of it again.
Untitled, 2015. Digital
OPP: You’ve said, “My process-based paintings are formed
by set parameters and various instructions I have created for myself.”
What parameters do you set? What kinds of instructions? Does this also
apply to digital drawing?
NB: The parameters are usually theme or process-oriented. For instance, some of my collages are created with found imagery of fabric being draped over an object. The digital drawings have a different approach. They're a combination of two drawings combined together nine different times.
OPP: Would you say your process is more systematic than intuitive? Does surprise or discovery play any role in this process?
NB: I try to make my process as balanced as I possibly can. I like an element of control, but I also love happy accidents. Sometimes parts just don't work the way I want them to and the paint takes over from there. Sometimes inspiration pops up and I ignore most of my systems. It really depends on my mood and the best choices aesthetically. But I am a planner and prefer to start each piece with at least a loose sketch!
Shirley Kaneda, 2015. Spray paint and acrylic on canvas
OPP: Could you talk generally about your relationship to color
in life and how you use it in your work. How does having a digital
palette, as opposed to one you have to mix, affect the work?
NB: I've always been crazy for color in all aspects of my life; there's always a veritable rainbow that extends from my closet to the decor in my apartment to my art.
Using a digital palette is easier for me than mixing paint actually! You can adjust colors faster and with more ease. Since I'm drawn to colors from 1990s cartoons, I think that the illumination from the computers' color palette is actually closer to the color I'm thinking of than those I can mix with paint.
OPP: I’m curious about the final form for the digital drawings. When I encounter them online, they are exactly as you made them. I don’t worry that I’m missing something in terms of texture, as I do viewing photographs of paintings online. But scale is flexible for every viewer based on the screens we have. You can’t control that as one can control the scale of a painting. Are they intended to only be viewed online? Do they ever take tangible form?
NB: I've had my digital drawings printed, but they are missing the glowing screen, which I think is essential to interacting with them. . . Ideally, I'd like to show the digital drawings digitally on large flat screen televisions someday.
Girl Power, 2014. Digital. 2014
OPP: Collage is a fundamentally different
process than painting, in that collage reorganizes existing forms and
images that are tangible and visually available. Painting may also be a
rearrangement of existing forms, but those forms are mediated through
the conceptual space of the mind. Thoughts?
NB: When I make a painting, it usually comes from a collage or collage of my drawings. So in essence, I'm always using and re-using existing imagery and forms. Even in paintings where I've experimented tabula rasa, I am re-using imagery that I've been saturated with all my life: design elements, fabric patterns, etc. etc. Intuition comes from experience, and my more intuitive paintings are just collages of my visual experience.
Untitled, 2014. Acrylic, spray paint, thread on canvas. 30" x 48"
I want to distinguish the physical process of collage from the concept
of collage. I was thinking about the experience (and then resulting
work) of having a table full of cut-out pieces of paper, touching them,
riffling through them, turning them in your hands, placing them down and
moving them around in a very physical way. There’s immediacy in the
process that doesn’t exist in painting. Digital collage, on the other
hand, has the immediacy and the additional benefit of copying and
pasting, but it does not have the same physical experience.
NB: Yes, it really isn't physically the same as collage! I love the physical aspect of cutting, pasting and re-arranging; it really forces you to make choices that you wouldn't ordinarily make and use imagery that you wouldn't typically use. My strongest work comes from collage, even though I love working in a variety of media. Viewers respond most strongly to my collages because they are familiar with the imagery but can't quite place it. They are forced to look in a different way, just as collage forces the artist look at imagery in another way. It puts viewers in the same place.
Seastripe, 2015. Digital Repeat Pattern
OPP: As you mentioned, your collages of draped and folded
textiles are the origin/inspiration for some of the abstract shapes in
your paintings. Are textile processes an influence for you? What about
your digital repeat patterns. . . are these intended to become textile
NB: I've always loved textiles, especially quilts because they are essentially collages. My great-grandmother was an excellent sewer and taught my mother her talents, so I grew up with lots of vintage fabric and quilts around the house.
The repeat patterns aren't fully resolved yet, but I couldn't resist posting them because I love them so much! In the future I'd like to make blanket forts printed with my patterns. People always tell me that my personality is very similar to my work in that it is very playful, but most of my work is not something you're supposed to touch or be too close to. I want to start pushing playfulness in my work and stretch the boundaries beyond the canvas. Making blanket forts with my patterns would disrupt the seriousness of the "white cube.” It would be sort of a three-dimensional incarnation of my draped fabric collages and paintings, but more interactive and relatable.
Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia created site-responsive installations for two-person show Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work was recently included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.