PW: I typically use singular domestic or architectural handmade objects and forms paired or arranged together in groupings to create visual metaphors and poetry. The objects that I create are usually minimal in nature with evidence of my hand present. Unlike the work of some of the minimalist artists of the 1970s, my minimal objects are often rough around the edges while maintaining the basic and pure form of the object. The qualities of the work, though different in material could be similar to some of Eva Hesse’s works in that even in works or arrangements of structure or grids, there are slight differences between the individual objects themselves.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
PW: I draw inspiration from my faith, personal life experiences – past and present – as well as current issues and trends that I see in our society today.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
PW: My creative process usually begins with a mental image or interest in one particular form, i.e. bricks, pillows, houses, doors. I begin by making multiples of that piece. Then, through the process of making those objects repetitively and writing through reflection, the work begins to develop along the way. In addition to sketching, I often make what I call visual sketches or maquettes in my studio using found objects to generate ideas and plan out how the objects/multiples that I am creating will fill a space.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
PW: I would like people to leave my work being challenged and asking questions about the particular issue that I am addressing in a given piece. I would like them to be challenged and ask questions in a good way though – not in a way that is condemning. I would like them to leave with an attitude of healthy reflection and of hope.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
PW: At the moment, I am in an artist in residency program at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts so my lifestyle consists of making my own work, teaching, and working for Arrowmont in the gallery and studios. As a part of my daily activities, I try to read, reflect, and journal in the morning. The rest of the day is a balance between working in the studio, working on applications for shows and future opportunities as well as exercising, eating, and all of the other things that we must do to survive. While I am a person who enjoys a lot of structure, I find it difficult to maintain a consistent structure for my practice from day to day because of all of the other responsibilities that I am trying to balance.
PW: I think this involves a balance of both. At first, my work often begins from impulse – a desire to create something in particular. However, as the impulse begins to take form as a physical object, a plan has to be made for how the object or objects will exist in the world. That’s when the set plan comes in.
PW: For example, I had an impulse to make doors. I started making the doors. Through the process of making the doors, which is my real time of meditation or reflection on how I want the objects to exist, I begin to think about (while making) what the significance of the doors is. I think about how they will exist in space and what color they will be. I am realizing that despite my efforts to try to work differently, this is the way my mind and process works. I am not the type of artist that has a blueprint plan right from the beginning. So I embrace my impulse to make multiples. My brain is able to do something unique only when my hands are working and active – it does not work the same way when I am just trying to think. I think that this is simply a result of my upbringing in rural Western TN. As a child, I witnessed my family physically working hard to get the job done. Each jar of green beans was tended to and each blade of grass was cared for. I am just a worker. So – making multiples for me is very parallel to that upbringing. I am often affirmed by quantity. Then, the plan comes later.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
PW: There is not one path way to success as an artist. I can’t compare myself to others. I just have to be myself.
PW: Well, I am not sure about that. I am always wary of being so definitive to say that something is the highest importance. But while I think that style and taste are important, I think that the concept being communicated is more important.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
PW: Creating my own structure and being good at time-management. It is a balancing act to be an artist. It is not just about making the work. Work has to be documented, written about, shown, packed, shipped, put on a website and other promotional materials, and relationships within the art field have to be maintained. The hard thing for me in all of this is that I am my own boss. If I fail to do any of these things, no one is standing over me to hold me accountable. It is also difficult for me to not be so concerned about what other people think of me because I can be guilty of being a people pleaser.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
PW: Well… to me this question can go two ways…. First, it could go in the direction of asking about what I enjoy about being an artist as a career. In that direction, while these are very different ends of the spectrum, I enjoy both the making process and seeing the finished work in the gallery. It is really satisfying to me when I can see the fruits of my labor all complete. Second, it could go in the direction of asking what I enjoy about being an artist as a lifestyle. I think being an artist for me is not about what I do, but it is about who I am.
PW: I could say that, yes, there are artists whose work I admire. Those might include, Rachel Whiteread, Tara Donovan, Anne Currier, Kim Dickey, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, and Michelangelo. But I think the artists who inspire me the most are those who I know personally; those who have mentored me. Those three are the three who have influenced me most: Lee Benson, Doug Casebeer, Lori Nolen, Nan Smith, Anna Holcombe, and Linda Arbuckle.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
PW: I think technology can be a very useful tool today. One of my current studiomates, Emily Culver is a metals/object-maker with a background in jewelry. She uses CAD and CNC milling to help her make patterns and templates for her pieces. The way she uses the program is in a way to expedite her process, but you can’t necessarily tell that the particular process was used to create the piece. I am a fan of using technology to make the process easier, but not necessarily just to make something using a digital process itself just because it is digital and hip unless it is part of the discussion that the artist is trying to have.
PW: I have also used laser cutting in my practice and it is helpful and makes certain processes easier. I am all for it if that is what it is used for!
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
PW: Yes, but I don’t say yes to sound as if seeing the world through artist’s eyes is somehow better than seeing the world through non-artist eyes. Each has their time and place. I value both.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
PW: I do enjoy traveling. I must say that I really enjoy going out west. I enjoy Colorado and New Mexico. Denver, Santa Fe, and Chicago are favorite US cities. European – Florence!
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
PW: Favorite author currently is C.S. Lewis. I really enjoy all of his writings on philosophy and faith.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
PW: Future plans would include figuring out how to make the large installation pieces that I have made in the past more manageable. I plan to figure out and plan more efficient systems for the reinstallation of my pieces.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
PW: Being an artist means being hyper aware of the elements and details of this life and our human condition. Then it means taking those elements and details and presenting them to viewers in a new way – in a way that will create a dialogue or discussion and challenge us all to reconsider ourselves and how we interact with the world and each other. (That is my answer today. If you ask me again in 3 years, it might be different. Life is a journey and my perspective on things seems to change the further along my journey I go).
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
PW: Wonderful Grace of Jesus by The Cathedrals
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
PW: I think I covered it!
PW: Thank you so much for your time and interest in my work!