“Borderlands/Summer Home”, 66″x 48″, oil on canvas, 2015

Adrian Cox is a painter based in St. Louis, making large scale landscape-based work that references both the grotesque and the bucolic.  The paintings appear lush and carefully crafted in a way that seems to be defiantly unfashionable in this decade of the squeegee and exposed stretcher bars.  Cox has a show up at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati titled Border Creatures and is giving a public talk at the gallery tonight (Friday, May 15).  Border Creatures closes tomorrow but I am sure that Adrian’s work will be on view again, hopefully soon.  See more of his work at his website.

We’ve been wanting to try out some new prompts here on the blog, looking for new and less than obvious ways to get painters to talk about the motivations and the goals, values and standards that drive their practice.  So, we are trying one today that I pretty blatantly ripped-off from a radio report about financial planning:  interview your future self, asking her/him three questions about your work as an artist.  If you wish to, provide some reasoning for the importance of these questions to you now.  (Ripped off and paraphrased a bit, the radio report had nothing to do with artists.)

What follows is Adrian Cox’s response to this challenge.   We want to thank Adrian for responding to this experiment and taking time to provide these words for us.  You will enjoy what he has to say.

What aspects of your work were you initially dishonest about? That is to say, what important parts of your art making experience did you try to compromise or hide as an emerging artist?

This is as much a question that I would like to ask myself in the future as one that I consider now. I’m fully aware of the compromises caused by the functional limitations of being an emerging artist (who doesn’t want a bigger studio?), but I’ve only recently begun questioning other self-imposed limitations. There are certain aspects of my practice that never seem to make their way into exhibitions. My studio is filled with sculpted maquettes that I use as studies for paintings, and while I’ve been using such devices for years, I still find myself uncertain of my relationship to these objects. Right now they’re a means to an end, but I increasingly find this excuse to be an easy way to separate the illusionistic world of representational painting from the weighty objecthood of sculpture. I’m unsure of whether these studies will remain a tangential aspect of my studio work, or transform into something else entirely.

Which painters have remained important to you over the years? Why have you cast aside those that no longer play such a central role in your practice?

I’ve always held that you can get an sense of an painter’s practice from the artists they love; more so from those they hate. When I think about the reasons that I’ve turned away from certain artists that were once central to me, I find myself considering weaknesses in my older work. Likewise, the painters that have grown on me over time reflect moments in which I’ve set forth in new (hopefully better) artistic paths. It’s in the space between these artists that I’m able to measure my growth as a painter. My studio is littered with printed reproductions and dogeared monographs; I can’t help but wonder which of these will stand the test of time.

Do you still feel a need to justify painting?

People constantly remind me of the weighty bulk of my chosen medium’s history, and challenge the artistic and cultural viability of painting. Publicly, I always offer my best conceptual defense for what I do, but in the privacy of my studio I find myself viewing the vastness of painting’s history as more fecund than burdened. Every time I pick up a brush, it’s as if I’m having a séance with my artistic heroes. The discourse surrounding painting is constantly shifting between more or less critical positions, but the intimacy of the medium persists. I can’t guess what position toward painting will become fashionable years from now, but I have to wonder if I’ll still feel the need to leap to its defense at every opportunity. Perhaps my words aren’t needed. The smeared, scrubbed, glazed, and scumbled surfaces that I see in galleries and museums probably offer a more eloquent argument for their own existence than I ever could.


Thomas Berding: Discard Parade, at the Painting Center in NYC, April 28-May 23, 2015.  Here’s an extended quote from the catalog essay by artist John Kissick, I really wish I read more writing about art that looked like this. “And then there is color.  Or perhaps better, there are a variety of colors, each playing off each other in a variety of collisions and embraces; optical tangos if you will.  And then there is white,” Kissick writes, continuing, “That is why Berding’s unabashed use of flat white in his paintings, sitting either on top of his color like snow on a field, or underneath like a tabula rasa for the whole world, is such a provocative and critically interesting development.  White interrupts; white obliterates; white masks.  White is the painter’s ‘white-out’, a blatant and at times wonderfully obnoxious marker of editing and erasure, assertion and distraction.  It both confuses and frustrates our natural or ‘honest’ emotional reaction to the colors around it.  Most of all, it is a vital signifier of imposition and authority on the part of the artist.”


Berding himself can make a great case for the adventure of painting these days.  Here’s a link to our great 2013 interview with Berding.

painting by Allison Gildersleeve

Allison Gildersleeve: Closer Than They Appear at Valley House Gallery in Dallas, TX.  The exhibit runs April 25-May 23, 2015.

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Kelley Johnson: Untitled 1 at Bruno David Project Space, April 25-June 6, 2015.  Here’s a link to our Q & A with Johnson, posted last year.


Turning his attention toward some quieter moments, Dmitry Samarov has an exhibit of paintings at Rational Park in Chicago.  While the still-lifes bustle with traces of hustle and human disorder, the cityscapes seem to depict a more subdued side of  Chicago than his work from Hack, which we have featured here before. See more of Samarov’s work at his website.  The exhibit runs until May 1, 2015.

Q & A with Julie Farstad

Farstad03.There'sAUnicorn… Julie Farstad, “There’s a Unicorn…”, 2014, oil on clayboard, 4″ x 4″

Julie Farstad is a painter who has worked here in Kansas City for quite some time now.  Typical descriptions of her paintings point out that they are meticulous, jewel-like and radiant, as well as uncanny and a little nightmarish.  Through some sort of impressive mental gymnastics, the work has become increasingly tender and playful over the last few years as the color has tended a little more toward harmony and the spaces have become a little more contained, all the while maintaining a subtle scent of danger.  Her 2014 exhibit at PLUG Projects was an impressive showing of new, mostly smaller paintings and work incorporating collage.

Farstad generously answered our questions at length, so I will keep this intro short.  There is a lot to read below.  Lots of substantive thoughts about making paintings, lots of good pull quotes.  You can see more of Julie Farstad’s work at her website. Please give our readers a little bit of information about yourself (upbringing, education, location, news, etc.):

I was born and raised in Elmira, New York. I earned my BFA in painting at the University of Notre Dame and my MFA in painting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I currently live in Kansas City, Missouri with my husband and our four and a half year old son. I am the chair of the painting department at the Kansas City Art Institute. I am represented by Zg Gallery in Chicago and Byron Cohen Gallery in Kansas City.

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“Howlinglight”, 2015, oil on canvas, 71″ x 84″

Stephanie Pierce showed a body of work, Wake, at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects just last summer.  Now Pierce is readying to show a new body of work at Alpha Gallery in Boston with the title Radiant Welter.  The exhibit opens April 4th.  Here is a choice bit from the press release: ” With meticulously plotted out applications of paint pushing and pulling between figuration and abstraction, Pierce’s work conveys the sensation that materiality becomes elusive the minute we try to pin it down.”  

We asked Pierce a few questions about her work, and how she works lately.  She was kind enough to reply.  

After you read the Q&A below, you know you  might want to see more  of Stephanie Pierce’s work at her website.  You might want to read more about her at the website for the Joan Mitchell Foundation (Pierce received a J.M. Foundation grant last year). or read the longer interview with Pierce that Sam King posted in 2009. 

What is the hard part of painting for you?
All of it: getting started, figuring out what to start with, figuring out what is interesting there to be uncovered, figuring out what it’s going to be about, pushing past the obvious things, breaking routines, finding something new, embracing the chaos. Finding something transcendent in observing something so mundane over a long period of time, having patience and faith that something good will eventually happen through the process. Making it matter.
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untitled, 2015, oil on canvas,  56″x50″

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