Coming this December 10th to the Last Rites Gallery in New York, is a new solo show from Genevive Zacconi. A new series of works will be unveiled, and while Genevive is frantically working to make this new show as amazing as we all know it will be, she took some time to answer some questions for the Creep Machine. I know that the site will also be getting some exclusive images of the new works in the weeks to come.
CM: You went to the School of Visual Arts in New York, as well as the Academy of Fine Art in Pennsylvania. What was your experience like at art school, and what was your art and themes like before school?
Genevive: The themes before art school were much the same in many aspects, but I actually only attended both of these schools for one semester. So in a way, I am primarily self-taught. I found myself cutting class to stay home and work on my own paintings and consequentially decided that formal art training wasn’t for me, but continued in my independent study. The first place I attended, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine art, is the oldest art school in the country. So needless to say, was extremely traditional, with it’s primary focus being on classical portraiture. I grew tired of being reprimanded for changing elements in my paintings to that which didn’t exist exactly true to life, and the overall attitude against modern art. So I decided to go to a more “progressive” art school, and picked SVA. Once there, however, the opposite problem occurred. I’d spend hours on tight, detailed oil paintings, only to have my instructor suggest I do things like fling paint onto it or glue photocopies of insects overtop of my image. Perhaps I was just too immature at the time to take in these different approaches and outlooks, or I just had bad experiences with particular instructors- but looking back on it I think that had I found some sort of middle ground I wouldn’t have lost interest in school so soon. I’ve been lucky, though, to have spent time with incredible artists who have taught me a lot. I worked as painting assistant to Ron English for a year; I would say I took in more from that experience than anything else. Though, I realize I still have so much to learn and feel like I discover something new with each painting I create.
CM: What are some of the biggest influences in your art, this could be artists as well as music, films, and so on?
Genevive: When I first really began studying art history, some of my favorite artists included Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. Also, this might sound silly, but I’m sure some of the kids movies with a darker, ethereal look that I obsessively watched growing up have had an effect on me. I suppose the music I’ve listened to has had some influence as well- I was heavily into the goth and punk thing in my teens, so I’m sure that has shaped my aesthetic. In the past, I have found myself naturally gravitating toward certain imagery, that I don’t consider particularly dark or offensive, only to have it be viewed as such by others… so perhaps I have a skewed perspective as a result of some of my interests.
CM:. Much of your work contains symbols of blood, cutting, but there also seems as though there is importance put on the flesh itself. Can you tell us a bit about your symbolism?
Genevive: While I do have certain symbols that are recurrent in my work, and always carry a similar meaning, for the most part the images I employ change dependent on what the particular piece is about. For me, the artistic process begins with reflecting upon my own thoughts and experiences, then transforming them into a concept for a painting- a visual metaphor, of sorts. I have, however, noticed a difference in the imagery that my ideas manifest themselves through. I took a while off from painting to direct, and now coming back into creating art, it seems as though my symbolism has become more subdued, with less of the “blood & cutting” you’re referring to. I can definitely see a divide in the work I created in my early 20’s, before my hiatus, and the work I am making now in my late 20’s. I suppose it could be maturity making my sense if aesthetic more refined, also being around such beautiful, well-executed art while at Last Rites was probably an influence in this shift. I used to consider the visual aspect of a painting as simply a vehicle for the concept, and only chose to paint in a more realistic style because I thought it illustrated the idea clearer and was more relatable to the viewer. Recently, though, I’ve made more of an attempt to focus additional attention to composition, color and lighting. I still struggle though, with keeping true to my initial idea, while making the painting visually pleasing, but not adding arbitrary objects simply for how they look.
One of my main goals right now is perfecting ways to harmonize these elements; to me, some of my favorite artists who are working right now are those who are successful in achieving both. I most enjoy paintings where I feel like I can dive into another world, exist within there, but am also left thinking, questioning what inspired the work, and what the artist is trying to say. Basically, if you can make the right and left side of my brain work at once, you’ve won my admiration. I think content in art is important to me because right now, more than ever, we see pretty images all around us. Everywhere we look there are appealing images in ads, illustrations, designs, digitally animated movies, etc. God, many artists couldn’t paint one frame in a Pixar movie, no less doing thousands of them. Visually, painters have competition right now that was never seen by the likes of Michelangelo. To me, where fine art still maintains it’s strength, is that it is one of the few visual vehicles left that is simply one human being connecting to another. In a painting, there is no big company running things, no marketing team or demographics analytics, no censorship, no advertisement or commercialization. This act of directly plugging into another individuals brain is what I love about fine art. So when I look at a painting I want to view more than an attractive surface, I want to get into someone’s headspace, experience an emotion, a feeling, what someone has been through, what they think. In much the same way, it’s a strange act to be at an art opening, in public, in the midst of polite conversation, and have some of the most personal aspects of one’s mind hanging on a wall for everyone to see (if they care to really look). It’s a pretty amazing thing.
CM: It looks like you started curating shows before exhibiting your own work. What does curating fulfill for you in opposition to creating art?
Genevive: Actually I was exhibiting my own work before curating, and that is what led me into showing the work of others. Despite the fact that I stopped directing to return to my own art, I absolutely love working for galleries. I have found it hard to return to painting in some ways, as it is situationally opposite to directing. In many ways, curating is a very social job, whereas painting requires many hours in solitude- which I have definitely had a hard time re-adjusting to! I do miss the constant interaction with other artists, bringing together interesting people, thinking analytically, the satisfaction you feel when a show you’ve organized has done someone’s work justice, and being in such close quarters with amazing art. At the risk of sounding juvenile- one of my favorite things is when a show gets delivered, it’s like Christmas to me. I get to unwrap boxes of some of the most remarkable objects in existence. Then I get to spend time alone, without distractions, just looking at great paintings, examining each brushstroke in detail… in a way no one ever will get to at an art museum in years to come. Not too many jobs are cooler than that. However, I believe that you cannot run a gallery and make/ exhibit your own work at the same time. Because of this I decided to retire as director of Last Rites, but I still continue to guest curate occasionally. The next show I am putting together is at Copro Gallery in July 2011: Ewelina Ferruso and I have a two-person show of our work in half of the gallery and I am curating a group show in the other half.
CM: You were the founding director of not only Trinity Gallery in Philadelphia, but also of Last Rites Gallery in New York. Can you tell us how your involvement with Last Rites Gallery came about?
Genevive: When I was directing at Trinity Gallery I curated a show for Joe Capobianco, a very well known and respected tattoo artist. He was acquainted with Paul Booth through the tattoo community, and when Paul was looking to open a gallery, Joe suggested me. I had been an admirer of Paul’s art for quite some time, and felt as though he and I hit it off almost immediately, sharing the same vision of what Last Rites should be.
CM: Your work has been shown on the West Coast as well as in galleries on the East Coast. With galleries such as Last Rites being in New York, have you noticed dark art being looked at differently between the two regions?
Genevive: I haven’t noticed my work being received differently in LA than NY. I’ve been in attendance at openings I was in on both coasts, but with the way the broader art scene is, it’s the same circle of artists and buyers. At least in my experience, it seems as though it’s all the same pool of art aficionados.
CM: Why do you think dark works of art get overlooked, or brushed aside as opposed to the more mainstream works of art?
Genevive: Historically, there have been many well known artists who’s work could be construed as “Dark”, such as Goya, Bacon, and Bosch- so I don’t know if I can totally agree that it’s been overlooked altogether. Also, my answer to this question might vary slightly dependant on what facet of the art world you’re referring to with the term “mainstream”. But in general, perhaps it hasn’t been embraced quite as much because for anyone buying art merely as house decoration, often times it just doesn’t fit. The term “Dark Art” does not just imply a darker color palette; instead, much of this work forces people to face uncomfortable feelings, repressed emotions, and societal taboos. This generally isn’t the type of thing you buy simply to match your couch.
CM: This current scene of art has switched names a few times now, but as a curator and artist can you tell us your views, positive and negative, about this rapidly emerging scene?
Genevive: I think that the reason this scene is growing so quickly in contrast to those past is because what we’re witnessing is one of the first movements in art to be nursed by the emergence of the internet. On the positive side, it’s easier than ever for artists to self-promote and gain exposure to collectors; likewise, movements happen in a more global and diverse way because we can all see each others work immediately, despite geographic differences. It’s also totally changed the way in which galleries operate. Many collectors don’t even see a piece in person anymore before they purchase, the majority of sales are made via internet. I’ve had collectors who lived less than an hour from Last Rites, buy work from the website, have it shipped, and never come into the gallery. Often times with the way things are, buyers must act faster- With an artist in high demand, it’s a mad dash to get a piece first when the online preview is released.
But on the negative side of the additional exposure (and I suppose things have always been this way to some extent)- while the vast majority of collectors I’ve worked with genuinely love the art they buy for it’s intrinsic value, sometimes I get the feeling that there are people out there buying certain work like it’s collecting baseball cards. They need to have a piece by each of the “key players” in this scene, without really valuing the artwork for what it is. In those cases, they generally want to have what they consider the quintessential piece from that artist: meaning the one that they feel is recognizable because it looks most like the artist’s other work. This trend sometimes stifles artists, as they are basically forced to re-create the same painting repeatedly and cannot grow and change. I have heard many artists complain about this. Looking at the career of someone like Picasso, who had phases in his art like his cubist period and blue period- I wonder if this environment will produce an individual with such an epic and diverse body of work, or if this interference is forcing artists to make a consistent product instead of encouraging them to create in a more genuine, intuitive way.
CM: You’ve been the subject of a few paintings so far, can you tell us the feeling of being immortalized by fellow artists? Are there any artists you would love to pose for, living or dead?
Genevive: Yes, I’ve been lucky to have been featured in the work of some extremely talented artists, it’s an honor. I also find it really interesting to see how different artists perceive the same individual- what features become most prominent, the expression they capture, the emotion the work exudes. Just last month I had the pleasure of modeling for the incredibly talented Natalia Fabia, so that will be the next painting I’m in, very much looking forward to seeing the finished product. As for who I’d like to model for… I’ve actually never thought about that before now, and had you asked me this a few years ago my list would probably include some of the artists that I’ve since posed for. Of course it would be astounding to have a portrait by Ingres, it also seems like it would be fun to model for David LaChapelle.
CM: You have a new solo exhibition opening at Last Rites this coming December. Can you give us an idea of what these new works were inspired by?
Genevive: I started sketching out some of the work in this show quite a while ago so some of the paintings that have transpired represent different phases of bigger situations. Overall, I guess the themes on this one are attraction, love, deceit, and heartbreak. The mood of the show is particularly melancholy, and it’s titled “Dysphoria”. However, as I am now finishing up these paintings, I find myself in a different state of mind than when I begun. I am happier now than I have been in a while, so it’s taking a lot out of me to force myself to be back in the headspace I was at when I conceptualized and started some of these pieces. I think my next body of work will feature a few paintings that are less downtrodden and instead have more spunk and attitude, but I have found the past few months to be a great catharsis.
See more of Genevive’s work here: Genevive.com