Alison OK Frost is an artist who takes troubling social and environmental images, and transforms them into delicate watercolors and post-apocalyptic scenes. These haunting and beautiful paintings help her and those who meditate upon her work to process the trauma of our times.
There's The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. They made a movie out of it, which is actually pretty good. If you like zombie movies. It's a post-apocalyptic, post-disease world that's crumbled.
New Orleans is a beautiful city that I have a lot of really great memories of and it's still there. I can go up in New Orleans, but for how much longer? I would save New Orleans, if it was up to me, but that's because I value culture and art and weird ephemera over capital. If they put me on the committee, I would be like, "Let's get rid of Houston and save New Orleans."
I've been showing a lot of Jordan Casteel to students for a couple years. She had a show this year at the New Museum, and usually for a show that I'm that excited about, I'll fly to New York. Stay with friends and spend some time with it. And then, right when the show opened in March, the whole world closed down. I haven't actually seen her work in real life but I love showing her work.
[Jennifer Packer]'s drawing with paint, which I think is really interesting because I think that paint is really about this lusciousness and this viscerality that's rich, in a way. I think that drawing is a little bit more like stripping things down, almost like peeling the skin off and getting to the bones and the guts, the viscera, and I feel like she's really doing that with her painting. She does. You can see the underpainting coming through. She does oil painting so you can see where the turpentine is dripping down through the oil paint and making it crack and then some parts will be more built up, but she's doing a lot of scraping and a lot of wiping away.I believe she is, for me personally, just the best painter working today. And I love sharing her work with students even though it's a little bit more difficult because it is so much about the media and about the paint.
For me a real saving grace this year has been Instagram. I'm not a huge proponent of social media. I think that it can be really dangerous in a lot of ways, but I love being able to have access to people's studios all over the world. When I see beauty in paintings, when I see people doing the work to get vulnerable in their studio, and then putting it out into the world, I feel really connected in a way that I don't feel with anything else.
I work a lot from photographs, so often a big part of my process is just collecting. I mean, we live in such a great time for fetishizing photographs. Because if you're looking for a picture of people in hazmat suits, you can find seven hundred very easily. And then cull them down to your favorite twenty-four. And then, test them out and find like the two or three that are going to make exactly the painting that you want.
When we started we would just get together a few times a month and make burritos. You know: get rice and beans and everything from the food bank, mostly. Because a burrito is kind of a perfect meal, you know? We would make burritos and then pass them out at different encampments. This year we ended up hooking up with World Central Kitchen, which allowed us to actually buy restaurant meals.
I still remember seeing Cindy Sherman film stills for the first time at the Hirshhorn in Washington, DC and just being totally blown away, like "What is this?" and thinking about the idea of using tropes and transplanting them into some kind of self-expression.
If you go back, for example, to the 1950s, there was a genre of movies called Weepies or women's movies. And the real master is Douglas Sirk. He was a really serious filmmaker in Germany before the war and then he was only able to get work after the war in the United States making what was considered a lesser art form, these Weepies, but you watch them, and the women don't say much, as it was the 50s. Everything that these women were experiencing, had to happen in facial expressions and in the lighting and in the way he's using colors. That was so hugely instructional to me. I recommend anyone who's a painter should watch Douglas Sirk's whole color catalog, if possible. And that's what I like to show students as well—not so much middle schoolers, like I'm teaching now, high school. I just show Douglas Sirk, a scene from maybe All That Heaven Allows, and just break it down. Like, "Let's look at the warm colors. Let's look at the cool colors." If you just look at the scenes for warm colors and cool colors and press mute . . .
I have a painting up at a wonderful show, which is called 10xTEN at Faultline Artspace in East Oakland, it's one hundred ten by ten artworks by a hundred Bay Area women artists. There's an absolutely fantastic online version of the show, or you can make an appointment to see it.
I have these careful petri dishes all over any given painting where I'm letting the paint do what it's going to do because that is a lot more authentic to me, to the experience of life: stepping back, knowing when to force it—and what that feels like—versus stepping back and letting it unfold.