I'm starting a new feature here at artandeverythingafter.com. Because of time and distance, I miss talking with people about what is going on in their studios. To that end, I'm starting ONE QUESTION and fortunately I get to kick it off with Wendy White.
I sent Wendy one question that I have been thinking about regarding her work and asked her to answer it however she saw fit.
I didn't alter or change her response in any way and I won't ask any "follow up" questions. My question and her answer follow. I've also included a link to Wendy's website.
SL: Wendy, The first paintings of yours I saw were the Text Constructions. I had a really powerful reaction to them because of growing up in Detroit with that experience of signage as an extension of the building. The thing I admired most about them was even though some of the paintings are massive I never felt lost in them. In fact, I felt a tremendous sense of intimacy and closeness in them, almost like being inside a (Richard) Serra. And this is a feeling that is even stronger in the newer work (especially in paintings like "Saltire" and "Torcida."). This leads me to my question:
Does a sense of intimate experience affect your painterly investigation of space and the (built) environment?
WW: Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the back seat of my parents' car, which was painfully quiet. My whole family, except for me, is very verbally reserved. I had problems with authority (I hated teachers for one) and got in trouble at school for talking too much. Not for anything really bad, to me it was like being punished just for "expressing." I'm not going to say I was depressed as a kid, because I still don't really know what that is, but I didn't realize how much that quietness effected me until years later when I moved to the South for college. It was sunny and warm and people talked really freely. I responded to that immediately and felt like I could be myself.
Anyway, as a kid in the back seat of the car, I developed a weird habit of tracing sign lettering and graphics with my pinky finger, with my hand down where no one could see it. It's embarrassing to say but it occupied months and probably years of my life so I should probably admit it. I taught myself how to draw all kinds of letter styles as graphic outlines, not just the size and style but the architecture of each letter, so that even calligraphic styles became complicated, unfilled outlines, sort of like defining everything as contour. I don't know if that even makes sense or is unique, because the stuff you do as a kid is so weird and unsynthesized, but that's how I remember it.
For years after school I tried to make "smart" art, you know, like what I thought was conceptual or content-driven. It took me so long to realize how truly visual my thinking is, and to not just trust that but rely on it, tap into it. My concepts are visual ones driven by very atmospheric ideas, like "sign on overcast day"...not what that looks like exactly, but what it feels like and how simultaneously beautiful and depressing it is (New England winters---nothing is more haunting and palpable). Now, with the letter forms I use, I'm sure there's some embarrassing connection to my weird childhood habits---always drawing the edges of things, wanting to construct things from lines and make sense of bits of signs...both out of boredom and curiosity...always with the interplay of a bold graphic and a dirty, sooty layer like a foggy window---and probably also a ridiculous manifestation of wanting so badly to communicate really boldly and without feeling immodest in doing so. New England winters are reeeally quiet.
Wendy's work, including her writings and paintings from her most recent show, CURVA, can be seen online at http://www.wendywhite.net.