By Elyse Derosia
Gwen is a 2009 graduate of Tyler School of Art, living in Philadelphia. She has most recently shown at Know More Games, Brooklyn, as part of a group exhibition of large collaborative paintings. She continues to make new work both on her own and collaboratively in an upcoming painting/poetry project with Alex Hampshire.
Where does your imagery come from?
What sparks a painting varies. It can come from anywhere, but I do find myself walking around at night constantly looking into people’s windows. It’s not a peeping tom thing. I’m not interested in what’s behind their blinds. It’s the arrangements that are meant to be seen by others that get me. Whatever the household has decided—plants, knickknacks, window decals—they are all unabashedly present.
In my work I try to have my own similarly autographic “stickers,” unembarrassed marks set in a space of my making. These forms or marks are a reaction to the surface. Like the window displays, some are affected by seasonal change, others by my whims and fancies, but all are in structured space that’s grounded in their original material and frame structure. It’s in the process of painting, pushing there, pulling that down, wiping down, scratching, digging over and under paint, reveling in what came before, and carving out space that allows for these stickers to appear.
The paintings I’ve seen of yours in the past, and many that you are currently working on, are keen investigations of paint on more traditional painterly surfaces. Your painting on the handbag seems like it’s taking this investigation further or to a different place. Can you talk about that piece?
I’ve had that bag for ages and have never been able to make it work. The strap is awkward and it could never fit enough. But I hung onto it for memory’s sake and the fact that its tag read “genuine Italian leather.” It somehow made its way to my studio and slowly transformed from a pocketbook into a punching-painting bag.
This summer I went to Muscle Beach and sat for a while watching people play, workout, and showoff in this sandy gym, and I couldn’t stop staring at the speed bag. I saw people start sporadic and wacky, dodging its swing back but keeping at it,hitting over and over in hopes of building coordination, strength, efficiency. I use that bag for the same thing. It gets attention when I’m cranky, over-anxious, too pleased, or bewildered with another painting and I have to spend some time working myself back into the right rhythm. Having a specific object to repeatedly ‘punch’ feels great and the fact that it had a former life as a purse has definitely made me comfortable jamming as much as possible into it!
You are part of a large studio building shared with many of your friends and artistic contemporaries. When I visited your studio it seemed like this fostered a lot of dialogue and informal critiques. How does working in this environment impact your process and your work?
The space is good for me, because it’s a messy one. There is a high tolerance for slop. It makes it so I’m not caught up in the production of art objects, but it instead lets me use material that is found, leftover for multiple years of people abandoning things in their studios. It lets me not be afraid to make a mess, which is important for painting. Being a big building with multiple studios, there are always people around that you can bounce ideas off of, or just another set of eyes. It helps me question things that have maybe become too automatic.
What brought you to Philadelphia and what keeps you here?
I’m born and raised, but I’ve stayed because it’s so cheap to have a studio and the proximity to New York makes it possible to escape when you need to see a show or shake bad Philly vibes.
What are you really excited about right now?
Halloween costumes, seeing Rosiemarie Trockel at the New Museum, learning how to salsa dance & election results!
Elyse Derosia is an artist and a co-director of Bodega, an exhibition and performance space in Philadelphia founded in 2010.