Cameron Harvey Interview - The Hopper Prize

Cameron Harvey

Cameron Harvey on a long history of making, exploring materials in a tactile way, & work that straddles the line between painting & sculpture.

How did you get into making art?

Making has always been part of who I am. I entertained myself as a kid by drawing and making things with my hands. Both of my parents are makers (my mom gardens and cooks and my dad is a carpenter) so the idea of starting with raw materials and then putting them together in some sort of alchemy, to create something new, was a practical component of my childhood. Also, doing something physical, like walking or exploring materials in a tactile way, has been a technique I learned early on to manage my anxiety. Making is a mental health practice for me in many ways.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently focused on making large, unstretched, paintings, that have a central midline and bilateral symmetry. I think a lot about how similar the human body is to other living things in terms of shape, especially leaves. Each painting is inspired by a leaf that I find on my walk before I go into the studio. I think of my paintings as figures and I have also been thinking about how important the formal elements are, like color and shape, especially in relation to identity politics. I am interested in how the same structure (a midline with two sides) creates room for endless possibility and diversity. I have been working on this project for a year now and it still feels like I am at the beginning.

Making has always been part of who I am.

Cameron Harvey

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I have been working towards this body of work for years but it came together at the end of my graduate program at ArtCenter. It is a result of my ongoing yoga practice and it is a hybrid between the large airbrush paintings on voile, and the small colored pencil drawings, that I was making before I moved to LA to go to school. Also, my recent paintings were directly inspired by a book my friend gave me on the Italian Paintings by Marcia Hafif. It was in looking at her work that I realized that shapes with bilateral symmetry read as ‘the body’.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I do think broadly in the sense that I have clay waiting for me at the studio, some drawings I want to make, some writing I want to do etc. That said, I work full time to support my studio practice so I have to really choose and prioritize what gets done in the studio right now. Time is very limited and Los Angeles is almost prohibitively expensive. As a result, my energy has been focused on my paintings and making a couple of moves on them a week so that they can dry and I can move them forward.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I generally do computer stuff like writing and reading and admin, as well as my job as an Educator at MOCA, in the morning. I work until early afternoon and then need to get moving and get outside. I start to feel cooped up, so I take a walk in Debs Park, I go almost everyday. Walking helps me shift my focus to my studio practice. I like to work in the studio from 2pm-8pm or so without having to be somewhere in the evening, that is ideal. I go into the studio and change my clothes and put on a podcast and then I just get to work. I feel like Mr. Rogers in that once I change, I am move into another phase of my day. I leave myself notes in the studio from the days before so that I remember what I have to do. I don’t really work to work, I usually have tasks that I am going into the studio to complete like, add a layer of white, or hang and fold a piece, or mix and plan colors for the next piece, measure and cut canvas etc.. I also need a certain amount if physical energy and stamina to paint so if I don’t have it, I take a nap at the studio floor on top of the painting I am working on. I am big on trying to listen to the work and what it needs and spend some quiet time, not ‘doing’, in the studio.

Who are your favorite artists?

I am inspired by work that is in-between painting and sculpture and that pushes color and uses materials in interesting ways. I love Karla Black’s work, Katrina Grosse, and Phyllida Barlow. I also think about the body and weight and movement and love Senga Nengudi. I find my work in conversation with a lot of work from the 60s and 70s, like Rothko and Frakenthaler and Benglis and in the back of my mind, I am trying to figure out what that is all about, and where I fit in.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I go to see shows at galleries. There is so much to see and I have only been in LA for a couple of years, so a lot of the artists here are new to me, which is really exciting and has expanded my knowledge a lot. I like the program at Parker Gallery as well as Francois Ghebaly, Murmurs LA, LAXArt, and the Hammer Museum, but the list could go on and on.

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