Casey Baden Interview - The Hopper Prize

Casey Baden

Casey Baden discusses a recent residency in Portugal, finding ways to combine painting & textiles, & a deep interest in the inherent natural element of textiles.

How did you get into making art?

I’ve sort of always been into it. My mom wasn’t into toys when I was young, so she encouraged me to entertain myself in other ways. That meant making up a game or scenario, playing outside, or doing art, be it drawing, finger painting, using chalk on the driveway, whatever. By high school I was taking multiple art classes, going into the studios on my free period, and seeing museums, galleries, and art shows whenever I could. As a junior, I applied to RISD’s summer pre-college program. Spending 6 weeks with 50 other young artists creating and talking about art all the time really solidified things for me and made me realize art was something I could really pursue.

What are you currently working on?

I just returned from a residency in Portugal at PADA Studios, so at the moment I’m focused on bringing people into the studio to look at the new work. I’ve been working in painting and textiles sort of alongside each other for the last 3+ years and now I’m really interested in finding ways to combine these mediums. For example, I’ve been weaving fabric on my floor loom while simultaneously making paintings, and then cutting both up and sewing them together into an integrated work. I’ve also been painting on fabrics other than canvas, and am really liking the results of acrylic paint on raw silk. Other methods include making paintings and then cutting them into strips to use as the weft – or horizontal component – of my weavings, or prepping and image I might have normally painted but instead creating that work with thread through a rug-tufting process. It’s a lot of experimenting both materially and conceptually.

I also got interested in the inherent natural element of textiles – the food material you can make dye with, the plants and animals that various fibers come from, etc.

Casey Baden

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

I started working with fabric in 2019 and sort of got swept away with it, learning new techniques, exploring its tactility, experimenting with new materials, and thinking about what meaning, metaphors, symbolism, etc. could be captured through these mediums and processes. I also got interested in the inherent natural element of textiles – the food material you can make dye with, the plants and animals that various fibers come from, etc. Prior to this, my work had been primarily figurative, or dealing with the body and its representation. Now that I’ve sort of gotten my bearings with fabric, I think I’ve wanted to find ways to merge the body with tactility, the natural and the synthetic, and to reclarify what I’m thinking about as I make a new body of work.

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

I think I take a broader approach to making. I have a lot of ideas jumbling around in my brain at once and I’m always wanting to try something new. Also, because I work in a lot of different mediums for one piece, I jump between working on paintings, sewing fabric together, prepping new warps for the loom, doing the actual weaving, building stretchers and frames, taking photographs and creating digital compositions to work from… Then, if I have a show or a deadline of some sort, I start to narrow down the chaos into a cohesive concept or theme. I start to make connections and even develop a narrative among the works once a few of them already exist and are in conversation with one another.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

Like many artists, no day is really “typical”. My personal studio space is inside a larger warehouse that we originally rented for Full Service (a small arts fabrication business that I co-founded in 2020). I share the warehouse with 5 other artists and the space is subdivided into 4 sections – the metalwork area, the woodshop, the more traditional studio area, and an outdoor work area. Once I get to the studio, I might spend the day in the shop building stretchers and drawing out ideas for new installation mechanisms. Or, I might spend the day winding a warp for my loom which lately averages about 576 threads at 4-yard lengths. Other days I spend painting, drawing, making cyanotype prints, and working with my digital compositions and a projector. The most fun days come when I have a bit of material done in various mediums and then I go about collaging them. Sometimes I’ll make stencil-like shapes with one fabric and then back the window of the stencil with a woven piece, or I’ll start cutting shapes from the various weavings, paintings, and cyanotypes, then sew them together only to paint again on the patch-worked surface. I also naturally dye a lot of my fabric, so on dyeing days I have hot plates, 5-gallon stainless steel pots, mason jars, food scraps and plants all over my studio brewing various liquids while also soaking materials. Lately I’ve been having a lot of studio visits, so on those days I mostly make sure things are tidy and spend the day talking about my ideas, shows I’ve seen recently, the books I’m reading, and discussing art in LA in general. I’ve also been visiting other artists in their studios when traveling and at home in LA. I love to see other artists in their space with works in process and to listen to them talk about things as they are evolving.

Who are your favorite artists?

There are so many! When I was in school, I gravitated toward iconic female artists like Tracy Emin, Sophie Calle, Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, and Francesca Woodman who have all been seminal for me. I’m constantly look at art, going to shows, listening to artist podcasts, reading artist interviews… it’s kind of all consuming, so I’ll just write a long list of who I’m excited by: Carmen Argote, Cindy Ji Hye Kim, Tschabalala Self, Christina Quarles, Laura Owens, Andrea Zittel, Sam Falls, Nicole Eisenman, Gahee Park, Meg Lipke, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Tomashi Jackson, Anya Kielar, Naotaka Hiro, Robin F. Williams, Elizabeth Glaessner, Sophie Larrimore, Naudline Cluvie Pierre… Also, there are so many great textile/fiber-focused artists like Deidrich Brackens, Christy Matson, Billie Zangewa, Christina Forrer, Julia Bland, Laura Schnitger, Oona Brangam Snell, Tau Lewis, and Sarah Zapata who I can’t stop looking to. That is a lot of names, but a few artists who’ve made a lasting visual impression are: 1) Cy Twombly because I’m originally from Houston and the Cy Twombly gallery there has been one of my favorite places since I was a teenager, 2) Robert Rauschenberg for his collage/tabletop construction, his prolific body of work, and his incredible 1/4 Mile installation that I was so happy to see at LACMA, and 3) Matisse whose sensibility, color, patterns, and figurative style is seemingly all over my work.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I’m pretty much an art junkie and most of what I do revolves around art. I love going to residencies because I get to leave LA and meet artists from other places. I’m also a subscriber to several arts newsletters which often include interviews are articles about new artists. I listen to art podcasts like “I Like Your Work” and “In Other Words” which are super informative. CARLA is a great arts magazine/online journal that writes a lot about artists in LA or who are from LA exhibiting elsewhere. I go to show as much as possible, sometimes for openings but also just on a random afternoon which sometimes feels like a better time to actually see work. Of course, there is Instagram which is a never-ending source of new artists, and I find out about new artist through my friends. I love when someone I know mentions an artist I haven’t heard of and then I get to go down the rabbit hole discovering new work and often meeting them in person whenever possible.

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