How did you get into making art?
I got into art at an early age, supported by encouraging teachers who helped build my confidence and identity as an artist. I chose my college because of its large art department and was exposed to in-depth study of art for the first time since leaving my small hometown in upstate New York. My graduate school experience was one of growth and where I learned intense dedication to the studio and found my personal voice. Through all of this, I have learned the value in be surrounded by a community of creative thinkers. Art making can feel very self-indulgent at times, but in the end, it is what makes me feel like a person. I am better able to interact with people because I have my art practice.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve recently started a series of smaller works titled Sampler. This series is a visual diary of sorts, inspired by needlework spot samplers that were commonly created in the 16th and 17th centuries to catalog a new skill or stitch on one cloth, adding a new stitch here and there over time. In this work, I have set out to create and catalog my own visual vocabulary of form, each individual piece adding to the whole (series) over time.
I have set out to create and catalog my own visual vocabulary.
What inspired you to get started on this body of work?
About 8 years ago, I began quilting as a creative side project to my painting practice. I was searching for an outlet that had no connection to the main stream ‘fine art’ world as it was known then. I wanted to create work that was not meant to be hung on a gallery wall. I was searching for creative freedom. By doing so, I found a language I felt of as my own, a connection to what women have done before me in history; create with textiles, works that were never considered for recognition. Not because they wouldn’t have wanted it, but because it/they weren’t considered valid by the patriarchy. Throughout male dominated art history, women have been sidelined from the conversation if working in traditional art forms and discounted if expressing themselves through what was downplayed as ‘the decorative arts.’ I found a renewed energy and freedom in my practice through this rejection of the medium on which art history had regaled. I became very excited about stripping off the paint and focusing on the textile (canvas) underneath as the subject and medium.
Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?
I take a broader approach to my work. There is a big picture that evolves from one project to the next, and from there I’m always working on a real or imagined future project. I’m always creating a group of works that talk to each other. I need to visualize them in space together to see how they are responding to each other. My work from 15 years ago still speaks to my current work.
What’s a typical day like in your studio?
We are now in our 8th week of shelter in place, so along with the entire world, I’ve had to adjust. Before the outbreak, I was in the studio 5 days a week, but now I am homeschooling my 5-year old while my husband, Max, works from home. I’m fortunate that my studio is our garage, and I run down there for lunch breaks and to work at night. Weekends have now become my full-time work days where Max takes over child care. We have piles of sketch books around the house, and I try to work in a lot of drawing time during the homeschooling day so I can sketch. I am ultra-focused with my studio time since becoming a mother, not a second is wasted. I’m much more aware of how precious the time is now that I’m pulled in multiple directions. This new era of living with COVID-19 has forced me to sit more, and I find myself doing a lot more writing these days, something that helps connect me to my practice even when I can’t be physically in my studio making work. I work on multiple pieces at a time, and depending on where I am in a series, I may devote several days to preparing fabric; either selecting manufactured prints or creating my own with ink or screen print if not satisfied with the selection, pinning compositions to consider layouts, sewing final pieces, or computer work researching and applying to various opportunities.
Who are your favorite artists?
One of my long time favorite artists is Laura Owens. Her paint handling is gorgeous but I think what has resonated with me the most is her freedom as an artist. She is unafraid to choose new subjects, ways of working; she too experiments. Her work has an unapologetic femininity. I am inspired by Matisse and his investigation of textiles and pattern. A show of Harvey Quaytman’s work at BAMPFA last year took my breathe away. His work with implied tension through line and form really resonate with me and my approach to many of my compositions.
Where do you go to discover new artists?
Instagram, galleries and local museums. The Bay Area has a vibrant art community where I am always coming across work that inspires me.
Stacey Beach is an artist based in Berkeley who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist: