Adrienne Kaplan’s new show at WSG, Home Range*, is a collection of acrylic paintings focusing on what surrounds Kaplan in her daily life. What follows is an interview with her about her process and ideas behind the work. Read on!
V: One of the things you notice right away with your paintings is the joyous brushwork. It’s just so loose, yet it describes something of the soul of, for instance, the person you’re painting. Or it describes the wind or the sunlight hitting the surface. Have you always worked so loosely?A: I think so….I was looking at some of Martha’s (Keller) paintings in the back….I think we come from a similar education. Or something was similar in the way we learned to paint. She was older than me, but we have a similar loose approach. I started painting with oil….but I think I used it similarly (to how I use acrylics).My mom had a painting I did in which I tried to be like a Renaissance painter. It was a still life, complete with candle sticks, brocade fabric, fruit, ….but that definitely wasn’t the way I painted.I had a big interruption in painting…I painted in college, but then I studied printmaking in grad school the 1st time, and lithography in grad school the 2nd time. I got back into it in some of Ted’s (Ramsay) classes at U of M. I started painting and he just let me go!I’ve always been looking for a workshop….and I’ve never really found one that suited me….until I found your (Valerie Mann) watercolor class!I’ve always been looking for a critique group….but, again, never really found one.EVOLUTION OF HOME RANGE PAINTINGSA: Through this body of paintings, it’s really interesting to me how it evolved from where it started. I started sort of cautiously…..I decided to put off my hip replacement and decided to go for the show.I had these drawings I had been making of things in my house, things that were part of my life – my rooms, chairs, flowers. I moved from the drawings into painting …and in the painting, I kept learning stuff. I kept following the lead and it became so much fun!I was at the gym and decided that this is part of my life, too. I asked folks if I could take photos of them and do portraits of them. With the portraits, the painting changed along the way. But I became more and more certain that I love figurative work and love drawing and trying to integrate it all.V: How do you choose your subject matter?A: I choose from what’s around me in my life….it’s small, it’s not like the paintings are grandiose, epic thoughts. But political thoughts do come out as I’m working…for instance, I’m very aware of being an older, white middle class woman in the U.S. and the privilege that I have because of that.One of the things I like about the gym is you meet people from all backgrounds. Pri is Nepalese, Blanca is from Madrid, Lou is African American, 95….she comes to the gym with her son, Adrian, and she walks the track. What has her life been?I’m aware there could be controversy regarding white middle-class women painting people of color.Every face that I’ve painted …I’ve learned about the people. I like hearing about their lives. I like humans!V: Okay, Adrienne, what about the Roadkill series? I know people will have questions about that, too.A: Roadkill is part of my life, too. Living in A2, I’m surrounded by living critters all the time.Just Friday morning there was a large garter snake outside our front door. It was about 3 feet long and an inch diameter.Saturday I was in my studio, putting the finishing touch on some paintings, and I walked over by the basement stairs and there was the snake…..in my house!Where I live is right by the Arb, so we have a lot of wildlife –life and death….I’m old…….and it’s close!The road kill is part of my life too, it’s part of the reality.V: So tell me about the large canvas – the purplish house portrait.A: It was the last painting I did before delivering the show. Harold (husband) said you have to have something about the house. It’s titled ‘June 2017’. It’s a plein air painting. The shadows and sunlight coming across the patio and house….they changed quickly, so I would try to go out every day the same time in the morning. I started with the cube form of the lavender house and the rectangular form of chartreuse of woods. It was a new, interesting way to work and I learned so much!I often ask myself, “Is it okay to paint like this …like no one else?” And the answer is YES! I don’t do the same thing over and over. They don’t all look the same because I’m learning and changing!