Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Painting Is Impossible - An Interview with Christie DeNizio

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Cradle, 2013

“When I was 8 I created my own world,” the painter chuckles and flicks ash off her cigarette, “this language that was based on pictorial symbols, laws and constitutions. I would mess up the paper to make it all seem old. It took so long but it was the first time I actually felt like I was creating something. A new reality through art making.“

Christie DeNizio’s exhibition, In Between: Parts Remembered , premieres this Thursday at the Past Life Billionaires Studio in Marfa, Texas. The young artist took some time to sit down with The Thunderbird Blog for an interview about her work.

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DeNizio, the 24 year old Jersey born painter, lacks even a hint of pretension. When asking her about her artistic process, early influences, and journey as a painter, the answers are thoroughly considered and normally delivered with a scrunch nosed chuckle to punctuate a point. Ms. DeNizio does not strike one as the artistic indoor type; tall and lean, perpetually clad in running shoes, fueled by a steady diet of soda, menthol cigarettes, and Twizzlers. Only the sporadic paint stains on her hair and clothes betray her true ambitions. An exceptional athlete, DeNizio played soccer and lacrosse in high school, as well as leading her basketball team to the county championships in 2006 and 2007. “I was interested in art but my catholic high school didn’t have any classes. I sort of tinkered with it independently.”

DeNizio’s athletic talent was rewarded with a scholarship to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. While she participated in the sports program her first semester, her heart just wasn’t in it. She knew she wanted more. “I knew when, and a lot of artists talk about it but, that one moment…” she pauses to gather her thoughts, “I remember taking my first painting class and you have all these ideas and all these artists that you study and so much theory and suddenly all of that leaves you and it’s just you and that thing you’re trying to make happen. You lose all sense of time. You escape self-consciousness and it’s just beauty and presence.”

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Escaping constraints of time, place, and reality is an ongoing theme throughout DeNizio’s work. Her thesis exhibition at Swarthmore focused on large scale works portraying the destruction and decomposition of cakes. “I was having these re-occurring dreams with cakes” she explains, “Cakes in the background… everywhere. So I went to the grocery store and bought all of them I could find.” The still lives are massive; smashed and rotting cakes on every surface like the remnants of some far gone celebration. “These things were so full of preservatives though they just became rocks.” The show was a success, Swarthmore College purchasing two of the largest pieces for permanent display on campus. Ironically, a year later, the money DeNizio would spend on canvas and paint supplies came from a part- time job at a bakery. “I never even wanted to look at cakes again.”

The next phase of DeNizio’s paintings, a sort of deconstruction of landscapes, would begin to manifest after a short stint in Italy. “I was painting a landscape in Umbria,” she recalls, “I had trucked all my stuff out in the middle of nowhere. Painting from observation, learning how to see, all that technical stuff. Then I suddenly felt very connected… to life and place and tried to translate that into the painting.”

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Fence, 2013

DeNizio lights another cigarette and tries to explain, “I began so worried about the technicalities but soon it just went away. I became less conscious of it all and it became a way to make meaning of the world.” The artist laughs, suddenly quite self-conscious about her answer, “Not in the grand ‘meaning of life’ way. I guess just how one decides to respond to the world.”

DeNizio’s “landscapes” are anything but. “I’m more interested in the abstraction of the landscape than the content of the space.” she explains. When looking at Ms. DeNizio’s paintings, recognizable physical forms may initially capture one’s attention (a rock or perhaps a cacti) but it quickly melts away into a flurry of forms and colors that leave the viewer on unstable ground. What was once familiar is now strange and alien.

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Shelter, 2013

“Painting a landscape is so complex. It’s unimaginably beautiful and chaotic” DeNizio sips from her liter of Diet Coke and grasps at the proper words for her visions, “I take a moment of a place or a shape and bring it into the studio and hopefully make something new out of disparate parts. A sort of fleeting coherence.” The landscapes of West Texas have been particularly fruitful for this process. Since arriving a little over 6 months ago, DeNizio has produced close to 40 paintings. “I grew up in the Northeast so I’ve never encountered this kind of space and light. The lack of external stimuli, like billboards. It’s brought a lot of clarity but also allowed me the space to find a slew of new problems” DeNizio begins to laugh heartily, “That will probably keep me going till I don’t know… I’m 80 or I’m dead.”

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Revolve, 2013

While she has only been painting for four years, DeNizio has developed a discipline that is conducive to a prolific output. Her apartment/studio is wholly devoted to her artistic endeavors. Only the small bed and pile of laundry in the corner reveal the presence of the outside world. “I didn’t start painting until I was 20 so I feel like I’m catching up. I’ve probably produced a couple hundred paintings. Destroyed another hundred. Once I started I just…” DeNizio’s eyes glaze a bit and she shakes her head. Her influences are vast, small Xeroxed reproductions and postcards of her favorite artists cling to her wall by little bits of blue masking tape. “It goes in phases; really into this style or that painter. The late still life paintings of Georges Braque. Sometimes it’s not even in line with my style it just speaks to me. I’m always thinking about Piero della Francesca and he’s nowhere in my work.”

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When asked where her style may lead next, what is on the horizon for this young artist, DeNizio shrugs off speculation. “Do I have to answer that? I don’t know. Painting is impossible so I figure, why not do it forever?”

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic entry, Cory! This artist is fascinating and I love her use of color. The candid photo you took of her also drew me in right away - great job on this! :o)