Studio Visit: Cindy Stockton Moore and Mark Stockton
By Jacob Feige
Cindy Stockton Moore and Mark Stockton share a studio at home in Northern Liberties. I spoke to them in December about their studio practices, intertwined personal and professional lives, and finding time in the studio as parents.
Cindy Stockton Moore’s work has recently been shown at Artspace Liberti in Philadelphia and at the COOP gallery in Nashville, TN. She is a member of the artist collective Grizzly Grizzly. Mark Stockton’s work has recently been shown at Vox Populi, where he is a member, and at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. Their work was shown together in a two person exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster, NJ.
What role does repetition play in each of your practices?
CINDY: Repetition is important in the early stages of my work. Sometimes I’ll do twenty studies to get one painting out of it; they build and break down facility and help me get further from the source of the image. The last four years or so I’ve been working in aqueous media, and the paintings are best when they are spontaneous… which, oddly enough, takes a lot of preparatory work. Past projects, like Actum Agere, have used that multiplicity in different ways – to cue the cinematic, build up a visual rhythm, or discuss image-making in general. But I don’t think my latest crop of studies will ever be shown in groups – it might dilute the impact. Right now they are a working-out stage that I find necessary to keep things fresh… ink calisthenics.
MARK: My work also employs levels of repetition, but my process is more linear, particularly with working towards mimicking the resolution of an image. The hatching and drawing techniques are more graphic. This repetitive mark-making often requires long durations of time to accumulate. A lot of my work repeats through building bodies or series—where a single work is made up of numerous images or a larger work made up of multiple drawings. I also use re-occurring subjects in different bodies of work. I often return to these characters (or archetypes) to compile various identities based on actions or categorizations.
How long have you shared a studio? What has that been like, as a couple with a relationship outside the studio?
Mark: We have shared a studio since leaving graduate school from Syracuse in early 2001. Since then, our studios have both been in and out of our living spaces, and they ultimately have become evolving negotiations of time and space. We are actually in the space together less than you would imagine these days. We usually work out our schedules to have isolated times, which means we don’t have to wear headphones while working anymore (we both avidly listen to audio books, podcasts, or music)
On the good side of sharing a space, it is inspiring to be let in on someone else’s formative stages. It has allowed us to establish and become aware of our strengths in how we approach both our materials and bodies of work. One general rule that has become crucial is not speaking too soon, especially when new work is forming. We generally agree to wait until we ask for the other’s opinion. At the same time, there is something reassuring about having someone to bounce ideas off when you are struggling through those early stages, and they have silently seen what you have been working through.
CINDY: We met through a shared studio space and have been following each other around for almost fifteen years now. It’s an extension of our relationship, so it’s not without its inherent struggles, but we’ve learned to negotiate the minefield pretty well at this point. Most days. We are both pretty aggressive and (in some ways) competitive with each other, which makes for some negotiation in dividing up work-time and work-space. But this is also a good driving force to get us into the studio on a daily basis.
My favorite studio situation was when we shared a space outside of our apartment in Brooklyn –that was a real luxury. But with the baby now, the in-home studio is pretty necessary. Our time slots are shorter and we work around our son’s schedule, too. With an infant, many things are in flux!
Cindy, what is the relationship between people and nature in your work?
CINDY: That relationship is a tenuous one –my figures are almost always outmatched by nature. It could be the native Floridian in me, where nature always seems to find a way to win despite man’s encroachment (or sometimes because of it). Some of my work implies an impending natural disaster, while other projects just give a general sense of unease. I try and tap into the inherent danger in the landscape to counteract ideas of safe, scenic or sanitized experiences out-of-doors.
Mark, what roles do notoriety and celebrity play in your work?
MARK: Celebrity and notoriety are a big part of my decision-making process when choosing subjects to draw. Famous subjects let me use recognition as a way to establish a first impression in my work. They attract wider audience engagement in the beginning, but they often pose the difficulty of that interest remaining on the surface.
I gravitate towards notorious subjects where there might be a more tragic dimension to a character. Much of my work deals with individualism and ambition in America and how our culture celebrates both the rise and fall of its most talented. I think there is an exchange that occurs when someone becomes famous. The individual loses something in that exchange—everyone has a piece of it.
How have each of your practices changed in the recent past, and do you foresee changes in the near future? Are these changes rooted in your studio work alone, or in your lives more broadly?
CINDY: The last couple of years I’ve been doing projects that are more ephemeral by nature, watercolor wall paintings or temporary sculptural installations. Those site-specific works have definitely influenced my approach in the studio–but so have life changes.
Our move to Philly in 2008 brought us more space than our Brooklyn studio, so I have been able to work larger. I had been moving towards water-based media at the time, and being pregnant directed me away from some of the more toxic practices of my recent past—no more powdered pigments, encaustic or oils for the foreseeable future. Having the baby has affected my time structure in the studio. The series of small studies is a result of that. With spurts of time, I need to have laid a solid groundwork before starting the larger pieces.
Our lives – in and out of the studio – are so intertwined at this point that it’s difficult to tell which one is influencing the other. I bring back images from travel that serve as source material, but where and how we choose to travel is also affected by my imagery needs. The life/work divide is pretty permeable.
MARK: Because I often conceive works together in the context of an exhibition, I have become increasingly stubborn about projects remaining as a single body of work. One work might include multiple panels containing numerous portraits or even an installation made up of a set number of drawings. Another thing that has slowly developed over time is that I have become very specific with my subjects in regards to where my work is shown (e.g. drawing an image of Nixon from 1972, the year of his visit to China, for a show in Beijing.)
Now that our son, Otto, is an active part of our daily schedule, the large amounts of time in the studio have become smaller durations. So far, time seems to be flexible in the schedule when work needs to be finished.
Because some projects might have the arc of an entire year to execute, I do take considerable time before I commit to a project. I go through phases of research: reading, material studies and vast image gathering before fully committing. My shows seem to be getting more elaborate in this research phase, particularly in how I am combining my subjects. I am currently building a body of work focused on late 1960’s California and the parallel activities of author Ken Kesey and Charles Manson.