Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Domenica Brockman .
Lives in Ithaca, NY
How do you describe your own art practice?
My art practice as just that: a practice. Thinking of it as a “practice” eases the approach, so that there is room for failure and also for success. Making art is an act of bravery. It’s having the courage to be willing to commit to your own vision, and trust it enough to know when what you have made is good or not. You make your own standards, so those are the only ones that matter. I think that is what makes art intimidating for so many of us. Sometimes I think it would be easier if there was some standard bearer who would say “This is good!” so you wouldn’t always have to figure it out for yourself. But then it wouldn’t be art… would it?
I made a commitment to myself a few years ago to just show up in my studio for a few hours every day no matter what. Some days are full of action and inspiration, others are not. On those off days I clean the work space and look at art books. Just sitting and admiring the work of other artists can be enough to awaken inspiration. Once inspiration appears, I try to run with it, because it can disappear if you walk away. Even so, I find that spending more than three hours at a time on an artwork usually starts to be counterproductive, and instead of going forwards, the work starts to regress.
Often I will spend days on a failed project, and then ten minutes on a masterpiece, where all the pieces fall together perfectly. I think this is a result of finally giving up and letting go. But good art doesn’t just happen by letting go, there has to be some constraint, a boundary that holds everything together.
Which question or theme is central in your work?
The central theme in my work is finding balance and creating harmony while working with very basic forms. I am seeking to create balance between shapes, colors, surface texture and positive and negative spaces. The first mark creates an imbalance, the next is made in response, to recreate balance. Harmony comes in the choice of colors, and textures, to help the piece adhere together as a whole. Finding balance and harmony isn’t just central to my work, it’s central to my life.
What was your first experience with art?
When I was six years old we were given some tissue paper to make collages with in elementary school. Most people glued the paper on flat, but I got excited about the possibilities of twisting the paper into three dimensional shapes that looked like flowers. My mother thought it was very creative and put it in a little box frame. I was so proud of myself. I think that was when I started to think of myself as a creative person.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
My greatest source of inspiration are handmade textiles from around the world. I have a collection that spans the globe, highlights of which are hand woven grass cloth mats from the Congo, and a Pulkari Embroidered tapestry from India. Both of these items are traditional wedding gifts for brides in two very different cultures. The thing that draws me to them is that these items are made by hand with great love and care, and the intention to honor someone on their wedding day. There is a lot of irregularity in the handwork, and to me that is the mark of humanity. In our ever more mechanical age, the sign of the human hand is pure gold. Even though I work with a lot of geometry, I leave room for a handmade sensibility.
What do you need in order to create your work?
I need time alone to create my work, and I need inspiration. Inspiration comes in many forms, one is the location of my studio. My studio is in a beautiful old brick Italianate building that was once a hotel, but has been a Masonic Temple since the 1950s. My space is a sunny room next to what was once the ballroom for the hotel. A burlesque dance troupe occupies the ballroom, and their piles of sequin dresses, and feathered costumes which are always thrown around add color to my experience being there.
To paint with encaustic I have a hot plate on a long table by a window. On one end of the table is fan that blows the air across my work space and out the window. Encaustic is beeswax mixed with tree resin and pigment. It is heated and applied in a molten state. The second it cools, it’s “dry”. I love the immediacy of the materials and the beautiful textures and translucency that the wax provides.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
An artist whose work has surprised me recently is Summer Wheat, a painter who makes impressive public installations, some working with colored transparencies on glass, others with highly textured, almost 3D acrylic. Her free form representational work deals with themes of empowerment. I’m impressed with her ability to scale her ideas to create and entire atmosphere in a large public space. I haven’t seen many artists deal with the public space so effectively.
Cover Image, Photo by Nina Hien