A conversation between Thierry Goldberg Gallery and Paige Beeber
Thierry Goldberg: What was your first encounter with art and when did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Paige Beeber: I think I always knew. Honestly, there are videotapes of me as a kid in diapers literally screaming “Paige the artist.” I didn’t know what being an artist was, but I knew whatever it was, that’s what I wanted to do eventually.
TG: I understand you have a background in sculpture as well. How do you translate your sculptural practice into painting?
PB: I went to Alfred University with the intention of going into ceramics. I really loved the tangibility of sculpture but I always found myself painting as well. One of the wonderful things about Alfred is that they don’t require you to focus on one specific discipline; rather they encouraged an exploration of multiple mediums. I was originally hand-building focused and then Junior year I took this painting class that really changed my perspective on what painting could be. It taught me that tangibility could be painting and that I could bring sculptural elements into works. It's not too farfetched.
TG: What is your painting process like? How do you begin your work?
PB: For me, It's about getting into the headspace. Sometimes I get there by going on a walk, listening to a podcast, or trying to make small drawings and paintings. I try to really focus on a piece every day, even if it's only for five minutes.
TG: Do you usually start your paintings from Small Drawings?
PB: It's a little bit of everything, to be honest, though I definitely think those small muscle memory works are really crucial to the big works. There’s not always a complete and direct interaction; however, one does tend to influence the other during its evolution.
TG: You often use a variety of mediums in your work. What is attractive about working in between so many different materials? How do you choose what materials to use as a focus in your work?
PB: Working with many mediums has to do with my sculptural background – you know, the everything but the kitchen sink approach. A lot of the work that I was making during the pandemic was made with materials and mediums that people were giving me as they were leaving New York. It was interesting because it gave me access to materials I never would have considered, like the gel medium that I'm now using in many of my works. That being said, I definitely have the staples that I can’t do without such as Acrylic base and oil stick. I have started to make my own tools too. I have been taking domestic items like mops, brooms, or squeegees and repurposing them to give me different kinds of effects. I destroy my tools so I don't really want to use anything that's too precious and would hold me back. I think preciousness gets in the way of experimentation and freedom.
TG: What influences you? What are the points of reference for your practice?
PB: Reading is really important to me and I often look to books on poetry and theory for inspiration. I recently got into a good conversation about axonometric perspective – the idea of how a work is built upon the surface. It's more of an Eastern perspective on art-making. Western perspective tends to concentrate on one-point perspective whereas, Eastern perspective develops little hierarchies of the storylines allowing the focus of the work to be both at the center and forward. It's really a completely different sense of how to spacially see the world.
TG: Your work seems to oscillate between controlled mark-making and serendipitous washes of color. How do you meld this together? What is your process of moving between?
PB: The work tends to builds upon itself, but there are also times when I will cut in and will purposefully collage elements together. Sometimes I’ll have a typical concept of what I'm aiming for, then something else comes in and redirects me. It goes back and forth. I really like to play with the eye and defocus the viewer, creating these different moments of vibration within the work.
TG: How long do you usually spend on a work?
PB: Months. Some even take me years to finish. I will think the work is done and will put it away for six months and then I’ll come back to it. Often I find something in a small work that may really piece together with the larger works. The works in this show took me a month to complete, but I think it was the lifestyle and headspace. What I love about residencies is you’re allowed to go into a meditative headspace. It's harder when you live in New York and you have so much competing with your art-making. When you enter into a residency you are aware of the purpose of your trip and once you find that idea, working becomes nonstop.
TG: Do you find that the Pandemic really influenced you and your practice?
PB: You couldn’t escape the pandemic. We were all isolated and didn’t have all those typical New York distractions. I think it was the first time I realized that I really no longer cared about opinion. I felt like no one was watching me and I was going to make what I wanted to make and experiment how I wanted to experiment. I think that time alone and permission brought me to this point today.
TG: Mark making tends to translate into a stitched-like quality to your work. What does the stitching symbolize in your work? What draws you to repeating this certain mark?
PB: The marks themself are tactile which comes from my sculptural background. They also pay homage to family history and tradition. My grandmother was a great knitter and sewer. Before she passed away she got me a sewing kit. I remember sitting at her funeral almost self-soothing with each stitch I made. I feel a real privilege of being able to paint these woven images on a large scale, it’s very exciting and empowering.
TG: Several of the works seem to reference architectural elements. What is it about these forms that you find compelling?
PB: The architectural elements in these works are a direct influence of the residency in Italy. The architecture in Italy is so gorgeous, so refined, and this is not something you usually get in New York City. I mean even public bathrooms are stunning. I would have to say these works are a direct response to my environment, I was very inspired by the look of the shadows throughout the day. Those small, incremental changes ended up dictating the compositional arrangement of the works.