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LOST SUMMER MIXTAPE VOL. 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIDE A BECCA KALLEM

BECCA KALLEM is an Alexandria, VA-based artist. Her primary medium is painting, but she also loves playing around with drawing, weaving, printmaking, watercolor, and other media. She gets inspiration from old and new: experimenting with new materials and techniques as well as from art history and traditional oil painting techniques. 

 

 

Whether working from invention or observation, Becca is interested in identity, perception and communication. She works to balance abstracted and identifiable images. Pairing hard edges with ambiguous passages, she represents how the world exceeds the language, symbols, and interpretations we apply to it.

Becca grew up in the DMV area, and currently lives with her girlfriend and a variety of rescue dogs, balancing making art with teaching elementary school art. Becca studied art at the College of William and Mary, the Chautauqua Institute and the University of New Hampshire. She held a Fulbright fellowship in Spain as well as residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the VCCA, and the Arlington Arts Center. She has exhibited locally and in Boston and New York, and also curated several painting exhibitions in the DC area.

From the series Sign Over the Sky: Clockwise from top left: Land and Oval, 2015, acrylic on fabric mounted on panel, 6.5×9″; Pleach, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10"; Untitled (Concentric Triangles with Fire), 2017, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10″;  New Hampshire, 2017, oil on panel, 14×16″

 

Nocturne with Sign, 2016, acrylic on panel, 5 x 7"

 

 

 

I have some vivid memories from childhood that might not play into my work explicitly but are key moments of awakening to my senses: to light, space and art. I have flashes of early visual and tactile memories. One intense memory I have is walking into my sister’s room one day when the window was wide open and the sunlight was brightly pouring through. It seemed so bright in that room that I couldn’t even see my own arms and hands, or distinguish window from wall from floor. This is the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience; feeling like I transcended my small self and was enveloped by this feeling of light.

                                                  Green Skull X, 2012, acrylic, oil and spray enamel on canvas, 14x16

When I was in pre-kindergarten, I loved the water table full of toys. It seemed amazing to me to have this little world or space inside the space of the classroom. For adult me, painting feels this way: an arena, a world, a place where anything could be built within bounded and framed parameters. I also have vivid memories of my kindergarten classroom and its large tent in the corner. This somehow blew my mind: a space in a space, a room inside a room….These places inside places were beautiful and magical to me — places to escape into, as into the space of the imagination - or to feel safe in, since I was a shy and hesitant kid.

My recent work draws on the history of art to remix and combine paintings I love in my own painterly language (below). In “quarantine” I’ve been revisiting my favorite art books as a source of imagery. Working from “masterwork” paintings gives me more confidence to play with paint and brushstrokes and abstraction.

When I’m starting to paint, I make myself some very strong black tea. I go to my home studio and start out by cleaning, organizing a bit, or re-arranging my in-progress paintings to see how they look all together. I get nervous about starting to paint, although I love the energy of starting a painting with impulse, intuition and speed. Continuing a painting is – for me – more deliberative and difficult. Every now and then, a piece will resolve itself in a quick way. But more often, I’ll paint and repaint. This makes the work richer, but in the back and forth, it is always hard to decide when the work is done! 

Lately, I’ve been listening to food podcasts while I’m working. I also go through phases when I’m not painting, but I’m looking at art and just letting things steep. When I’m looking at art by current painters whose work I love, I often get super excited to paint. I start seeing everything around me as a potential painting! Other times, I get  jealous. I fear I’ll never make paintings as good or compelling or honest.

When painting is especially hard, sometimes I take some time to try weaving, or model-building, or another creative activity that reminds me how fun it is to be a beginner at something with no self-imposed pressure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIDE B
BECCA/ART ENABLES

The mix below features Becca’s work alongside work she chose by our resident artists, Jay Bird, Calvin “Sonny” Clarke, and Dennis Quillin. Notes from Becca on each artist:

Jay Bird: I love Bird’s unique sense of shape and line. He combines abstract shapes and symbols with images of people and places. I especially love the piece “Flight of Light” (great title!) and “Eyes on the Martini.” They are like little poems or stories that are playful and really serious at the same time.

Calvin “Sonny” Clarke”: I really admire how energetically he fills each canvas or sheet of paper. There’s this balance of big and small marks and shapes, and beautiful layering that makes the pieces so rich! 

Dennis Quillin: Dennis’ work has beautiful, subtle color and figure/ground relationships. I wish my work had more of this elegance and calm!

Click on images below for more info about each work.

Calvin "Sonny" Clarke

Becca Kallem

Calvin "Sonny" Clarke

Jay Bird

Becca Kallem

Dennis Quillin

Becca Kallem

Dennis Quillin

Becca Kallem

RECOMMENDED READING

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

“Ersilia”  (Invisible Cities excerpt + art by Colleen Corradi Brannigan)

Richard Morphet, Encounters: New Art from Old

“Memory Palace,” a performance show featuring the theater group La Fura dels Baus at Art Futura ’92, Barcelona, with words contributed by William Gibson

 

“When we were only several hundred-thousand years old, we built stone circles, water clocks. Later, someone forged an iron spring. Set clockwork running. Imagined grid-lines on a globe. Cathedrals are like machines to finding the soul; bells of clock towers stitch the sleeper’s dreams together. You see; so we’ve always been on our way to this new place—that is no place, really—but it is real. It’s our nature to represent: we’re the animal that represents, the sole and only maker of maps. And if our weakness has been to confuse the bright and bloody colors of our calendars with the true weather of days, and the parchment’s territory of our maps with the land spread out before us—never mind. We have always been on our way to this new place—that is no place, really—but it is real.”

– from “Memory Palace” by William Gibson

PLAYLIST

My playlist is an eclectic mix of uptempo music - to pump me up and keep me painting - quieter, more reflective songs, and pieces that, for me,  touch something sublime, ineffable. I’ve always liked all kinds of music. I was even obsessed with world/folk music when I was in middle school.

Sometimes, I envy musicians the collaborative nature of their work, when being a visual artist can be so solitary. Thank goodness for the joy, self-recognition, and connectedness music can give us.

 

[If playlist doesn't load, click here ]

 

INSPIRATION

El Greco: I could draw “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” over and over again and never get bored. It’s all triangles and like a bas relief of light and dark, showing life and death, earth and heaven, like a Marvel movie with different realms

Vermeer: Perfect feeling of light and matter as one,  it’s like the physics of photons  or religion: the way he shows the visible world to be so multipartite, differentiated and yet unitary

Vuillard: Paintings are like walls of pattern, with such ochres and slates and rust colors, an amazing palette. The way he paints colors in a lamplight like butter

Felix Gonzalez Torres: Mourning loss facing injustice and holding on to love for the beauty of this world. His work is brilliant, essential poetry.

Howardena Pindell: Her work is everything: political, material, color, cosmic. Every object/painting/performance she makes is packed with so much meaning. She says her work shows the “metaphorical processes of deconstruction and reconstruction.”

Lois Dodd: Her paintings are like fresh air, you can feel her brush on the panel and see with her singular balance of abstraction on the picture plane and representation of the world

Current “art crushes” of amazing contemporary painters include: Rema Ghuloum, Clare Grill, and Ellen Siebers.

 

 

 

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SECRET TRACK

I love weaving because it’s all about things being connected, holding together. Colors and textures and threads are distinct, but they come together as a whole. I love how painter Gillian Pederson Krag speaks about this in terms of painting:

“[W]e live in a world of apparently separate objects, but under this separation, everything is part of a larger whole. I actually feel that I, like a lot of painters, am attracted—indeed, addicted to the studio experience—because the process of describing separate objects on the canvas, and then finding some way through the craft to unify the surface, is a wonderful metaphor for this great truth… a deep sense of connectedness with everything.” – Gillian Pederson Krag, interview with Painting Perceptions

 

Pictured: in-progress and finished weavings by Becca.