The art of Vanessa Prager deals in juxtaposition.The Los Angeles native recently put on her first solo show in New York, called ‘Voyeur,’ at The Hole on Bowery. The pieces in ‘Voyeur’ contrast bright colors against dark subject to create a subjective space where the viewer can construct meaning.
We caught up with Vanessa during her time in New York to get the good word on her process, the physical challenges of working with visual art, and how we snoop up on other peoples’ business in the twenty-first century.
Hey Vanessa. Just to start, could you tell us who you are?
I’m Vanessa Prager and I’m an artist
Tell us about the idea behind your current show “Voyeur.”
We put pieces together that kind of explain the idea of ‘voyeur.’ We-Cathy from The Hole and I- wanted to provide a whole experience, and play with the idea of how you find out about things that aren’t necessarily your business. How you immerse yourself in any number of things these days via the internet and information and memes in general.
Right on. Did you produce all of these pieces specifically for this show?
All of the pieces were made together ‘Voyeur’ over the last few months.
Talk about the variations in the size of your paintings. You have a few really tiny ones, and some huge ones. What does this juxtaposition do?
If they’re all tiny or they’re all huge it wouldn’t have the same impact. When you go back and forth you’re like ‘Oh, this is mad tiny,’ but then you get immersed in the super large works. You’re immersed in a face, essentially, because all of these pieces show faces. To be in that focused space accentuates distance.
Could you elaborate on that concept of distance?
Sometimes when you’re looking at something, you can only see that one thing. You can’t remember the rest of the world around you, or anything else at all. That’s the same when looking at one of these large paintings-you’re fully in it you don’t remember that there’s a ton of other things at that moment. But when you pull yourself out of it, you see completely different things. It’s just playing with that idea.
What about the color palette?
For this series I was going for a lighter hue, with more pinks and oranges and whites. Sometimes I’ve used harsher colors or darker colors, but this one I wanted to be really light and super playful. “Voyeur” is a very strong term and its got a very heavy hand to it. I didn’t want to take that to the perviest, most extreme thing you could imagine, so I put that color palette in to show the other side.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
I usually start with a rough idea of color palette or what kind of texture that I want. It’s really more about those kind of feelings, as opposed to specific looks. From there I’ll throw the paint down and form a face out of it. Some of the faces are much less visible than others, some are more, but they kind of inform me what the painting is.
What about the painting itself? Are you working from a tradition, or against a tradition, or does that not even factor into your work?
I use paint in the opposite way that it’s been classically used because it’s fun to do and plays with the idea of having a medium that you use in reverse. That’s how I feel about the modern day in general: you have all these things that have been around forever but you’re using them in a super modern way.
What are some of the challenges you face on a regular basis?
Oh my god, I try not to talk about that because I feel like they’re constant. There’e the general obstacles that I’m always dealing wit: wet paint, super thick paint that never dries. Getting that across country the is always a bit of a challenge.
What are your expectations for the show?
I really don’t know what it’s going to be like. I usually show in L.A., I’ve never had a full solo show in New York. Anything can happen, but I kind of like the idea of not knowing who’s going to come, what it’s going to be like. How the crowd reacts to my work informs my process a lot.
That’s interesting. How so?
People add their own stories to my works, bring their own history to them. What it means to you is based on your own experiences, so how that collides with my intentions-who knows? I hope in a good way.
What do you think about New York?
That’s hard. Tough questions. To not show in New York City is a crime so everyone must do it, take it or leave it. But it’s a big city with lots of art, lots of people, lots of different walks of life. There are a lot of people who work hard and have seen so many things, so…I don’t know. I’m from LA so i’ve always got that sunny day on my mind.