Interview by Katy Crenshaw

Photos courtesy of Chainlink Gallery


What is your background—how did you begin as an artist? Where did you grow up?

I grew up making art since I can remember, mostly drawing and painting. I always had other hobbies but making art was the only thing no one ever had to tell me to do, I just wanted to make work. I went to the Wizard of Art on Hillhurt in Los Feliz when I was little and then was an assistant there in high school. In high school I took a bunch of classes at Art Center but I really decided I wanted to go to art school after attending the CalArts CSSSA summer program. 

Born and raised Los Angeles. Born into a house in Los Feliz, then lived in Silver lake for a year or two, then Los Feliz again. And I still live here haha. On my dad’s side of the family, I'm actually 4th generation Los Angeles!  

What do you think were the formative influences for your art?

I think two of my big influencers for how I think about my work have really been Henry Moore and Franz West. It’s funny to have such grandiose names but the way Moore speaks about his process really influenced me in school at RISD. Especially the way he talks about using wood and plaster. One of my professor’s senior year of school gave me a Franz West book at graduation. He had always been an aesthetic reference for me but again, learning his dialog with the work and process is something I refer to a lot. I had an art teacher, maybe middle school, tell our class to read all the artist books and biographies we can, because we will find a million different ways to make work, stay focused and determined within our practice over time. That definitely has been something I have taken to heart. 

I do think it is representative of the world that I grew up in that two of my main artistic influencer, Moore and West, are white men. I grew up without a lot of reflectivity towards the work that I was consuming. I have been trying to be more cogniscent of these type of behaviors and patterns within myself and expand my base of knowledge and influences. 

Tips on Crying+++ - Where does this originate? Is this idiosyncratic to
this series or your work? Is this a theme throughout your work?

So the title of the show “Tips on Crying” is meant to elude to the figurative element of the linear forms. I tend to anthropomorphize my work and create relationships with pieces. Their interaction between each other, staging them and observing them in my studio, seemed to be playing a larger and larger part into the essence of their character and emotionality, though when I began them, I was more focused on exploration of line and space.

The phrase it’s self is from a personal interaction I had with a friend who was very upset, but having a difficult time crying. I, being an extremely emotional person and a big fan of crying, began giving her “tips” to open up the flood gates. The phrase has kind of stuck with me and when brainstorming titles for the show, “Tips on Crying” seemed to give this group of pieces the right amount of human depth while still alienating them from “our” world. They want to cry, relate to their viewers, but don’t know how and don't have the skills because they aren’t in fact figurative at all. In the end they bring the viewer into their world. But maybe they will give others more tips? If weeping happens, they’ve done their job well. 

What is stimulating for your sculpture practice?

Definitely reading, fiction, nonfiction, helps me get outside of myself. I also keep a sketch book with me at all the times. Writing, listing everything, notes, documentation of work. I believe I have close to 40 now. Started in 2012. At first it was 1 moleskin a month, now I am not as regimented with the type of sketchbook or how often I use it. Kind of comes in waves.   

What is your approach to beginning a piece in the studio? Does each
piece begin with a visual image?

With the work that I am showing right now at Chainlink, these pieces kind of grew as a series. For the past few years I have been playing with the idea of how a 2-dimentional sketch changes space and how others interact with it when the lines are translated into 3-d. Playing with this translation took some time and I was using materials that didn’t move quickly enough to get my ideas out. When I started using armature wire, I could draw something quickly and then use the armature wire to play with the “translation”. Usually my sculptures are not formal translations or 3-dimensional replications of a 2-dimensional drawing but rather change as I play with the form in space. I try and listen to the material and not get caught up in the initial idea or sketch. It’s more of a back and forth. That material allowed me to work as quickly as I was thinking about the forms which was new for me and really satisfying.

What kind of materials do you gravitate towards using for pieces?

My material aesthetic has been kind of shifting recently, but in general I have always gravitated towards materials that don’t bring a lot of context of history to the forms. Using paper-mache pulp for the exterior of these linear forms has a “history” but also is quick to use, and not immediately recognizable so the viewer can establish a relationship to the form, the emotion, etc. to the piece before associating it with the implication of material. I have been pushed towards certain material to give me the options in the way I work. However, I recently started experimenting with bronze (which are in the show), but also wax and glass. All of these have qualities that contradict what I just said, but I am in a phase of a lot of material exploration in my studio so I am a little more open minded right now. 

Do your sculptures become interventions? Are the pieces silhouettes of
emotions? Icons?

I loved the process of installing these pieces. They definitely have a different quality installed together in a space than one-on-one and kind of bring the viewer into their world. I am reluctant to put too much weight on how people are supposed to view them. I’ve gotten feedback that they are like characters of language, represent individual emotions, are all figurative elements deconstructed. I love the idea of work standing separate from the artist and, although I feel like I have an intimate relationship with this group of work, I wan people to create their own connections and points of entry of the work. There isn’t a wrong way of understanding them once someone engages which is such a pleasurable part about the abstract. 

Where does your art belong?

In your house? Haha I’m not sure. I love when someone connects with a piece and wants to create a relationship with it. I also think they are so strong as a group. The group will probably make up their mind of where they want to be eventually. For now, this work definitely belongs at Chainlink. 

Who are some of the artists/sculpturists you find venerating?

I’m reading the Lynda Bengalis book “In process” right now which is really great and exciting. Definitely a big fan of Purifoy, love his use of space and repetition. Mira Dancy also. Right when I started making the PMS WOMEN hats, she had an amazing solo show at Night Gallery and really excited me.

Tell me about PMSWOMEN.

PMSWOMEN is a line of embroidery I started that intersects with my studio practice. I’m not really sure why I got the inclination to teach myself to embroider but I was looking at Matisse and how his figures are very linear and decided to use one of his nudes and recreate it on a hat. I got really excited by the idea of using this traditionally feminine craft and, with my female hand, depict a female nude which was originally represented by a man, and translating it onto a traditionally masculine garment.

Obviously I love the idea of the translation of line. In this case, it used that translation to point out the inherent misogyny that was rarely spoken about through years of arts education; that the male artist elevates his career through the female form while giving no value to the woman herself as well as the awareness that most classic female nudes we are familiar with are through the male gaze. I wanted a way to address that. This context may be under the surface, but not by much. 

I didn’t know what to do with these pieces for a long time because it was my first time making anything functional. I started trading them for art with friends. I have a small online store now and have though about expanding but considering the conceptual origin, it feels inconsistent to not make them by hand. It also is just nice to make pieces that feel like part of my sculpture practice but that anyone can buy because the cost of art makes it difficult for young people to collect. 

Tips on Crying+++ is the first solo exhibition of sculpture and sketches by Paige Silverman at Chainlink on Saturday, May 6, 2017, 6-9pm PST and through June 17.