Kris Chatterson: It seems that over the last few years you have been removing elements and reducing your vocabulary that has led to abstraction playing a larger role in your work. What were some of the key moments in your work that led you in this direction?
Tamara Gonzales: I began spray painting through lace which gave me the baroque excess and decorative elements I like so much but with an economy of surface. Abstraction has alway played a part in my work, though I believe we met when I was going through a particularly heavy collage faze. Early on I made big messy installations with my paintings in them. Then I put the materials I used in the installations onto the surface of the paintings. These tended to get clunky and hard to stack. Objects constantly falling off or getting crushed etc. After repairing a hole in a canvas with a doily I instantly thought of Judy Pfaff's work so I spray painted it. Then it fell off and I liked what I saw. It was a breakthrough moment for me.
Plastic Fantastict, 2011
spray paint on canvas, 62 x 50 inches
Fell to the floor, 2011
spray paint on canvas, 60 x 48 inches
KC: Now the doily has become an iconic part of your paintings. Is the doily just a stencil for you or does it carry more meaning and if so what?
TG: Ha, the humble doily. There must have been a muse conspiracy that afternoon. I was working outside with this painting propped up against a shed. It was spray-painted rays. I was riffing on a technique that I had watched artists do on 42nd street. They were painting small NY landscapes and cosmos scenes. They used all sorts of mad tricks but when they needed a straight-line they would spray along a piece of cardboard. I isolated that one technique and used it on a larger scale and with more layers. I jokingly referred to it as instant cubism. Anyway the ray painting was leaning on the shed, the doily was laying on the ground in front of the painting with the hole in it and it was like one-plus-one equals two. I started using the doily to make a mandala pattern. It was great but not large enough so I went into the shed and dug around for a bolt of lace I knew I had. It worked great because by wrapping the painting up I could cover much larger surfaces than moving a doily around.
With regards to meaning, I think lace does bring up lots of associations.I went to Catholic school in the sixties so I had to wear a piece of it on my head. There was a whole ritualistic dressing aspect to putting on special clothes then adding a lace veil as a mini mantilla before going into church. At the time the masses were said in Latin so the whole event was really fun and full of mystery. Once the church switched to english I was so outta there. Anyway as I looked at the patterns that showed up in the paintings more and more story lines seemed to appear. Some tablecloths where comprised of small geometric mandalas stitched together. They ended up revealing a whole cosmos full of stars. Curly-que designs looked like French Rococo ceilings. Flowers were woven into labyrinths. Leaves climbed up columns. There were Gothic Rose windows and designs that seemed like eastern yantras. I even have a small square with a geometric cat in it that I'm waiting to use. By far the most prominent flower used is the rose. I'm still finding things. I feel like I'm painting on the shoulders of many hours of womens work even though now most lace is machine produced.
There is also such a strong history of lace in western painting. The Dutch masters really showed their chops off with lace collars. I could go on but with regards to meaning I feel like there is just the right amount of ambiguity in the work to be evocative of story without adhering to a strict narrative. I try for a dreamscape kinda thing.
Ultra-powerful Gamma-ray Burst, 2011
spray paint on canvas, 60 x 48 inches.
acrylic & spray paint on canvas, 65 x 57 inches.
KC: I love the idea of a muse conspiracy! Now it seems that you have taken the stenciling idea and have run with it. I see strange cut out shapes now floating in the paintings and a push pull with positive and negative space. In some of the newest work there is also this framing of the edges. With regard to the newest work, what got you there and what were you thinking about, looking at or feeling that got you excited to make the work?
TG: In simplest terms my mother died. My sister and I spent last spring taking care of her. It was a shock that she went so fast. Now looking at the newest work I can clearly see that it has to do with relationships. First two or three pieces of a puzzle shape, totem figures or twin shapes, appeared in the work. I used my favorite cardboard box for these shapes. Tracing & painting around them then taping around them before I sprayed. Sometimes I drew jigsaw pieces into the underpainting. These eventually became a block-head man. The framing is a tendency I've had since I first started making art. Here it is using the scallop pattern in the lace which shares the same decorative roots as a Baroque frame.The whole group was made last July and August and honestly it surprised me. I hadn't consciously been thinking of a dramatic shift in palette. I kept moaning about it all being beige, and brown, or bruised. There was a flat cartoon figure coming up. Wasn't sure if I should suppress it. Towards the end of the summer I deliberately made the Fade-to-White pieces as counterpoint. Anyway now it seems to make more sense. After such a big life-time event how could it not be reflected in the work.
Fade to White #2, 2012
spray paint on canvas, 65 x 57 inches
The Sun Goes Down, 2011
spray paint on canvas, 88 x 60 inches
KC: Wow, yes I agree with you about life experiences being reflected in the work. I think it keeps the work personal and evolving. What is art if not reflective of the human experience? I have one more question for you regarding some of the installation work that you have done. In your show at Norte-maar the paint continued onto the wall and kind of turned the painting on the wall into a painting within a painting and the piece “the sun goes down” at Nurture Art the painting comes down the wall and out onto the floor of the gallery. Even though you are mostly working within the traditional confines of painting (paint on a rectangular support), theses other ways of working suggest an experimentation or questioning of those parameters. How did that come about? It seems you want to see how far you can stretch your painting vocabulary.
TG: I have always done installation work. I used to say "I make painting based installations." The installation work came about when I was invited to move one of my personal altars into a gallery space. These personal altars always started with setting up an environment for a painting. The act of futzing (is that a word?) with the painting, dressing it up, arranging it with other objects, moving it around, helped me look at, and ultimately finish the painting. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up Catholic in a small town with no access to museums. At home we had cardboard printouts from Sears Roebuck. At church things were more visually interesting. Paintings were seen behind statues and flower and since we had to kneel in front of them there was plenty of looking time. In any event I think there has been a natural contraction in the displaying of the work as I've been able to communicate more within each painting. The dense arrangement of objects is once more a private affair. This may be a long winded way of saying that painting a wall, or a non-traditional hanging, isn't really my way of questioning painting parameters. Funny, I don't think I've ever consciously asked that question. I mean I know it has been asked. In any event the hanging at Nurture Art is a way a lot of textiles are shown in store windows. The "sun goes down on" is on un-stretched canvas so it was suggested by the curator we hang it like that. When I saw it sliding down the wall I was like "Yes." Totally fit the title too.
Installation for Tamara's solo show Untitled, 2012
Norte Maar, Brooklyn, NY.
Installation for Tamara's solo show Untitled, 2012
Norte Maar, Brooklyn, NY.
- Kris Chatterson 01.31.13