Hermaphrodite Brig 1 (2006), 84" x 108"
I recently saw pictures of Kimberly Trowbridge's latest painting. At 7' x 14', it's pretty dang big. I wanted to ask her a couple of questions about her scale and symbology. Kimberly is an instructor at Gage Academy of Art and had a beautiful show at Grey Gallery last year. You can read more about her here and here.
Kimberly's latest painting is a giant at 7' x 14'.
I know that you use objects (mirrors, boats, etc) symbolically in your paintings. Does size represent anything? Your most recent painting is a giant! Does that mean it's more personal than a smaller painting?
Yes, size is crucial. It is intimately, inseparably linked to meaning. How the canvas, the container, is situated in the world as an object sets-up specific questions. For me, it is a stage, and I enter it with an almost 1-1 relationship with my own body. The larger the canvas, the bigger the set and the possible inclusion of a larger cast. I feel very comfortable working large. The new one is 14 feet wide, by about 7 feet tall. I feel like I could easily approach a canvas 2 or 3 times as large. And I want to. My smaller works often feel like models, little structures or parts: a stage (as in Theatre Box), a box, or a hand (Shuffle), but almost never small figures. This comes back to the body, my body, and so yes, the largess of the work feels intimate to me, I get to go inside there, it encompasses my studio and is part of the larger space I am working in, making my images. It is epic, and I am drawn to things of epic proportions. The small ones are nouns. I pick them up and move them around and rearrange them in the space. Sometimes that arrangement offers insightful clues for the larger paintings, is able to say it in a different way...
The painting in her studio gives you a sense of scale.
In your artist statement, you explain how in your paintings, "The figures are at once playful, and soon at great risk. They are containers and contained. They help and hurt each other. They are up against great forces beyond their control." As you build this tension, does it relate to your personal life? Are you using the canvas to work through your own daily struggles?
It is interesting for me to hear those words of mine read back to me. They were written at a time when I was painting the large nautical/figurative paintings, such as Hermaphrodite Brig I, 2006. In that painting the figures are fucking and joyous in spite of, or because of, imminent death- the deluge. A similar tension I think runs parallel to the newest work-in- progress. At first the scene appears seductive perhaps even erotic in nature, but I think that really changes as you keep with it. Something else is going on. It isn’t clear what is happening, although there is this sense of the arcadian tradition—the pleasure having that is conscious of its own brevity. Often my paintings are pushed along by words, working titles, that hint at the meaning. Every once in a while a painting offers no words, and it waits, it keeps changing, trying to understand itself. This new large one is such a painting. All of the decisions I am making are based on the purely visual elements—color, shape, movement, enclosure. It is ahead of me. It knows something I don’t yet know. And the way I prepare and listen for this message is to pay acute attention to color relationships- it is a kind of call-and-response. That is the most direct (unexplainable by words) route to content for me. And this is very personal and very much tied to my internal and external life. I look for clues daily. Painting is the poem I write so that I can see, celebrate, and face my deeper mythologies. Painting describes human experience so specifically and expresses things that cannot be expressed in any other way. That's why it is so important.
Mirra Mirra (2008), 67" x 90"