Artist Spotlight: Mishael Coggeshall-Burr

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery loves promoting dialogue with our artists to get to a better understanding of the story behind the work. We had the chance to hear from Mishael Coggeshall-Burr about how his studio practice draws on inspiration found in his travels, photography, and even in the routine of tending to his gardens:

Mishael Coggeshall-Burr and his youngest son, Nazar, in front of his latest work,  Gare du Nord.  Photo courtesy of the artist, 2019.

Mishael Coggeshall-Burr and his youngest son, Nazar, in front of his latest work, Gare du Nord. Photo courtesy of the artist, 2019.

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: What made you want to be a painter over another medium?

Mishael Coggeshall-Burr: It is the best way I have found to express how I see the world, to let my experience of the world flow through me into something new. The act of drawing while simultaneously creating color and form, the control and the freedom of creating from basic ingredients. Oil paint is the best medium I have found to translate the rich tones, colors and contrasts of life from photographs into something so real and yet so strikingly new.  I like to work wet-in-wet, mixing color on the canvas; oils generally have a long working or open time, and they continue to look wet when dry which makes the painting more alive and fresh, and easier to work on over an extended period.  Oils also have a unique smell/flavor/creaminess rooted in antiquity, a romance and history that I am drawn to.

AOG: Which came first for you: film photography or painting?

MCB: They gradually grew alongside each other.  As a student, painting was taught to me in the studio by observation, but I felt drawn to the outdoors: what was happening outside the studio, real life.  Photography was a way to step into the role of artist-in-the-wild, snatching up glimpses of reality that would then launch longer studio experimentation. I started to take blurry, cinematic photographs to capture moments in time in a way that mirrored a memory.  I noticed how light effects in a blurred photo had shapes that reminded me of brushstrokes, so combining photography and painting into one process felt like a natural step.

AOG: We are suddenly in this age where the photo has such a strong presence in painting. How important is it, for you, to take your own reference photos?

MCB: Essential.  I have to have been there, have my own memories of that experience, that is crucial.  My creative process is rooted in that sense of adventure you get exploring on foot with a camera, poking into back streets and alleys, country roads and thickets.  Each photo becomes a memory, defined by both its physical existence as an image and the emotion it stirs when you see it. Each photo is a coiled spring of ideas, a present to be opened in the studio.  I might shoot a hundred frames of one moment and just one might carry the essence of that moment within it--the light, movement, even sounds and smells.

AOG: What is the significance of using the blur to break down these familiar spaces?

Mishael Coggeshall-Burr, Pompidou Graffiti, Oil on canvas, 30 x 48 in., 2019; On view in PICNIC at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery June-August 2019

MCB: For me, a blurred image concentrates the act of seeing into a kind of “key”, a thumbnail for that experience of seeing that can be saved, carried, put away and rediscovered.  The process of painting from that “key” is a reawakening or reanimation of the experience of being there. “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know,” (Diane Arbus).  A blurred image, (and the subsequent painting) might be viewed as a greater secret still; but it is this same loss of detail that makes the image more relatable, induces a sense of déjà vu, so the experience ends up being more like sharing a secret, which I think is fantastic.  Blur, like dreams, lends itself to interpretation.  Sometimes people say things like “I feel like I’ve been there before” even though they have never physically been in that location.

AOG: After you've taken the photos, how do you pick which ones will become paintings?

MCB: Out of a few hundred images I might print two or three photographs with the right balance: inky blacks to near whites, a sea of chromatic grays with flecks of tantalizing color, a dynamic composition.  I like to work from the physical object of a 4x6 photograph, almost like a talisman with some mystical quality beyond the chemistry and paper. Like a visual memory, it should be an optical play on reality, indistinct, flawed, and compressed--but beautiful, like a human thought.  I love the process of painting from an imperfect image—a translucent layer-cake of memory preserved inside that smooth glossy paper—into something made with my own hands, something with distinct marks that show process but retains the original spirit of the photograph. Working from the defocused photograph is intriguing, challenging.  I don’t always know exactly what the objects are that I am painting. Separated by time from the experience the photograph records, I may know it is a scene outdoors, or some sky peeking through trees, but I may not be sure if it’s a leaf, or a person, or even a building. Forms separated in three dimensions have been brought together in two, their forms carved and blended by the lens.  Painting in this way takes a degree of faith: it can be a very abstract process until the very end of the work.

AOG: Your work seems heavily influenced by your travels. Does the location of your subject influence the way each painting is made?

MCB: It does during the photography stage.  Arriving in a city--for example, Hong Kong--I look for interesting angles to capture the buildings, the light falling or bouncing between them, the city folk going about their day; but this is also a south Asian city built on a rock island, so I look for the intermingling of nature in the nooks and crannies, a mini rainforest in a forgotten alley, a lichen covered buddha unobtrusively placed, bamboo scaffolding, architecture or forms that signal “this is where you are” without giving too much else away.  With nature scenes I look for a more diffused feeling: touches of bright color you have to hunt for amongst browns and greens, occasional man-made objects standing out with their orderliness and symmetries, the interesting visual mingling of the wild and the manmade. I majored in physics as well as painting, and my science side loves the camera work, but also the philosophical implications of the blur, the ephemerality of matter, the function of memory. Back in the studio, I approach the photos all the same as my inner critic emerges to examine the treasures I’ve collected.  This temporary detachment lets me begin by seeing the images purely as promising visual starting points. Then as I switch back into a fully creative mode and work the paint, it slowly grows on the canvas and in my mind into something different and bigger.

AOG: Do you have a favorite place you have traveled to?

MCB: I grew up in a stilt house built by back-to-the-land parents in a New Hampshire forest; we had no running water, no electricity.  The differences with my peers I felt growing up are mirrored when I am traveling--of not belonging, but seeing clearly.  Perhaps travel is natural for some artists, those that see the world in that new way that others do only when they step beyond their borders.  For me, the most worthwhile travel involves a sense of being off the grid, offline, both vulnerable to--and guided by--serendipity. Walking down the miles of snowy no man’s land road between border outposts of Tibet and Nepal; exploring hollow cement ruins in a Caribbean island jungle; walking the length of Broadway or across Paris in a day.  Travel brings out an awareness of details in the mundane, the contrasts and signature elements of a place, a perspective that helps to frame the scenes I am out to capture.  

AOG: On average, how much time do you spend on one painting? Do you work on more than one at a time?

MCB: I work on one piece at a time, usually spending anywhere from 10 to 30 hours depending on its size.  Once I have started painting a piece it has an energy, a momentum that I do not want to disturb. There is a wonderful quote by Alfred Sisley, “Every picture shows a spot with which the artist himself has fallen in love.”  I prefer this, to focus completely, to let the painting take over.

AOG: What do you do when you're not painting?  

MCB: My wife and I are raising four young children, renovating an old farmhouse, and tending the gardens, all of which makes life quite full.  I also support a college physics department, troubleshooting experiments and building demonstrations: work that I find complements and supports my time in the studio.

View Mishael Coggeshall-Burr’s work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery on view through August 18th, 2019.

Blog credit: Sigourney Schultz, June 2019

Mishael Coggeshall-Burr in his studio. Photo courtesy of the artist, 2019.

Artist Spotlight: Richard Keen

Our gallery Director Allyson Boli sat down with Richard Keen to learn more about his creative process. Not only is Richard both a talented painter and sculptor, but he also has three studio dogs! Read our interview below to learn more about him:

Allyson Boli: What was your initial spark to be an artist?  

Richard Keen: I can remember drawing and tracing a lot as a child. Throughout school, I also gravitated to art and music classes and fortunately went to a public high school that had a solid art program with four art faculty who were very supportive.  After high school, when it came time to decide between moving to LA to become a “Rock and Roll Star” versus going to college for art, something inside me must have known I would be a better visual artist – that plus a heavy parental urging to go to college.   

AB: What is your creative process like? Do you begin with an end result envisioned?

RK: My creative process generally starts with turning on music and looking around at what I did last. I often have at least 10-15 pieces happening at once and paints mixed up ready to go so that I can jump right in and get messy. Most of my work starts with putting down some light ground colors with acrylics to block out some simple shapes. Then, I start building up lines, shapes, colors and textures with my oils. Sometimes I have a sense of a basic direction that I want a painting to head in, or I try to capture elements of other paintings that I’ve completed, but I don’t typically have a vision for an end result. 

AB: So it sounds like you’re working on multiple pieces at once, how does that play into your overall process?

RK: Yes, I find that working on similar but different bodies of work at the same time keeps my work moving in interesting directions. I often find that one painting, or group of paintings, informs the other and helps me with color choices, textures and generally keeps me from getting stuck in a rut. 

AB: What inspired your sculptural and shaped paintings? 

RK: My current sculptural and shaped paintings come from within my “Form Singularity” paintings and through finding shapes that resonate with me. I’ve been exploring three-dimensional work as far back as I can remember, but I think that I would have to say that making shaped paintings could be directly attributed to my appreciation for Elizabeth Murray’s work. I can also say that walking through a boatyard in the off season, and seeing how boat hulls get sanded and repainted also stimulated my urge to make shaped work. I think I saw a rudder laying on the ground half sanded by the yard crew… that was a moment of inspiration for me too.

AB: What made you move toward the more minimal style of the Form Singularity series?  

RK: I’ve leaned towards simplifying, reducing, and minimizing the amount of information that I put onto the canvas all along my path as an artist. As far back as high school, I remember working with simplified shapes and amplified colors. My “Form Singularity” Series is, in a sense, my natural state of being, while my other series act as bridges for viewers to cross over into the way I see the world.   

AB: Are there any artists that inform your work?  

RK: Oh yes… I love so many fantastic artists. I mentioned Elizabeth Murray earlier, who I was lucky enough to meet a couple times. I’m a fan of Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler and so many of the late greats. A few contemporary artists that I admire greatly are Julie Mehretu, Cadence Giersbach, Chris Ofili, Gary Hume and David Tremlett.  

AB: What are you currently working on? 

RK: I’m currently working on new “Form Singularity” paintings, new “Island Geometry and Sea Geometry” paintings, and several new sculptures while balancing out the demands of a couple upcoming three-person shows here in Maine. I’m also working on a Public Art Project through Maine’s Percent for Art Program. The multi-panel mural is an 8’ x 8’ abstraction made up of 6 geometric panels linked closely to my “Island Geometry” and will be installed in June of 2020.

View Richard Keen’s work in our exhibition Almost Exactly on view through June 16, 2019.

Artist Richard Keen in front of his work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: Form Singularity No. 165, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 72 x 64 in., 2019

Artist Spotlight: Daisy St. Sauveur

One of our favorite things about contemporary art is getting to know the artist behind the work. While the work itself tells a story, the artist’s background further paints the picture of where they came from and how they got to where they are today. We sat down with our artist Daisy St. Sauveur to learn everything about her - from growing up in New England to navigating her artistic career:

Abigail Ogilvy: Tell us a little more about your background.

Daisy St. Sauveur: I grew up in Cohasset, Massachusetts- it's a tiny ocean town in the South Shore. My mom is a graphic designer/painter, and my dad works in music. I knew I wanted to be an artist my whole life, but until 2015 I thought I would study illustration (I was obsessed with anime and cartoons growing up!). I ended up declaring as a printmaking major at MassArt and I've been studying it ever since.  

AO: So what was your initial spark to be an artist?  

DSTS: Since my mom is an artist, I was lucky enough to be introduced to art at a very young age. We would see all kinds of artists- from Miyazaki to Thiebaud- I was introduced to many different styles at a young age. Making art was the one thing I could focus on when I was growing up (I probably went through five sketchbooks a year!). There was definitely a period of time in middle school when I was fascinated with anime, and I think that interest inspired a lot of the shapes and colors I currently use.

AO: How did you choose your medium? 

DSTS: While I was a freshman at MassArt, I wandered into a student printmaking show one rainy morning. The work was so fresh and interesting, it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Being the impulsive person I am, I decided on the spot that I would study printmaking instead of illustration. Print allows me to work in a layered, collage-like way, and I can easily make variables and play with the piece until I'm satisfied. 

I've also started painting a lot more- primarily acrylic. Painting has taught me patience, I can't be as impulsive with it, but I've learned a lot about creating unique shapes and spaces.

AO: What is your creative process like? When you begin a new work do you have a vision of the end result?  

DSTS: I always have a vague idea of what I want a piece to look like but I never know for sure. I'll start with a sketch and then realize 'You know what? I'm bored I'm gonna scribble on this.' Or I'll cut it up, collage it, paint over it, etc. I love to push my artwork as far as I can. I try to make things as chaotic as possible while staying along the lines of the original composition. Whenever I mess up, I'll paint a big square or scribble over it- kind of like white out. I always like the pieces I "mess up" better than the ones that go exactly as planned.

AO: We love that organic chaos in your work! With that in mind, what themes do you pursue? 

DSTS: Recently I've been interested in branding and advertising. The idea of interruption seems to be a common theme in my work lately. I love working with pop culture, social media, and the visual relationship between architectural and organic forms. As a young artist, my experience is a little different from those who grew up in the 90s. The 2000s fascinate me, and I take a lot of my subjects from that era.  

AO: What are you currently working on?  

DSTS: Right now I'm working on a series of screenprints that have advertisement-like interruptions. One of the pieces I'm most excited about features a pink and yellow jungle-like pattern with a vintage Sandals Resort ad in the middle of it. I really want to explore that frustrating feeling of interruption and obstruction. I'm constantly being bombarded by commercials- from Youtube and Instagram to the radio, billboards, or even airplanes. What would it be like if fine art had advertisements too?

AO: Are there any artists that inform your work?

DSTS: There are so many artists I love, but my favorites are Jonathan Lasker, Henri Matisse, Nona Hershey, Cy Twombly, Takashi Murakami, Ricardo Bofill, David LaChapelle, and Leroy Neiman.

Check out Daisy St. Sauveur’s work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery on view through June 16, 2019!

Daisy St. Sauveur, Side C, Etching with screenprint, 22 x 18 in. (framed), 2018

Daisy St. Sauveur, Side B, Etching, 22 x 18 in. (framed), 2018

Artist Spotlight: Clint Baclawski

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is thrilled to officially represent the artwork of Clint Baclawski, a Boston-based artist working with photography, technology, light, and space. Working out of 35 Wareham Street studio, Clint transforms his landscape photographs into 3D light installations. He separates his photographs into sections which he wraps around LED light tubes and sets vertically across plexiglass sheets. The result is an interactive and compelling illuminated landscape whose dialogue with the viewer renews and refreshes as the viewer moves along the composition. We recently sat down with Clint to ask him questions about his background, process, and recent work. Check out our interview below:

Photograph of Clint Baclawski by Tony Luong

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: How has your upbringing influenced your work? What was the original spark that drew you to study photography?

Clint Baclawski: Growing up, I was a Montessori student so, even from a very young age, I’ve always been encouraged to explore my creative interests in the greatest way possible. My older sister, also an artist, attended MICA, originally for photography before switching to painting. She was a constant source of inspiration for me to pursue a creative path. However, it was really my father, a veteran and former state police officer, who inspired me to pick up my first camera at 12 years old. He was a photography hobbyist and invited me to join him for one of the photography darkroom classes he was attending. Since that day, I’ve essentially not put my camera down for the last 25 years.

AOG: Fast-forward several years later, and you’ve graduated with a degree in advertising photography. Why the shift towards fine art? What lessons from advertising have you held onto?

CB: The impetus to major in advertising photography was simply my desire to learn everything I possibly could about cameras and lighting. However, it was never my intention to go into the field of advertising or editorial work as I’ve always been drawn more towards fine art. Despite the early rise of digital photography, I was fortunate enough to be attending an institution, Rochester Institute of Technology, that had such a strong connection to The Eastman Kodak Company and film. The school instilled in me a great love of positive E-6 film, which is the basis of why I continue to shoot exclusively with a large-format camera. My early fascination with light, without my conscious knowledge, was developed during critiques. Instead of presenting images on the wall, we presented our film transparencies on a light table, in order to better develop exposure, technicality, and knowledge.

AOG: What is your creative process like? How do you start a piece? Do you have a vision of the end result?

CB:
When I’m conceptualizing my next work, sometimes I start a piece with the photograph, and, other times I will start a piece by considering how I’d like it presented, then hunt for an image which will best align with that vision.

Even with the rise of digital photography during my undergraduate years, I’ve always been drawn to film photography and these days my large format camera is often mistaken for a video camera when it’s on the tripod. The most unique aspect of my process is that I typically only shoot one frame. I either capture the image or I don’t.

I am interested in making each piece uniquely different from the previous one. I’ve enjoyed playing with multiple sizes of lightbulbs, spacing between the bulbs, and the pattern of those bulbs. Also, I’m very loyal to my camera. Everything I’ve shot in the past 15 years has been with the same Horseman camera with a standard 150 lens.

Clint Baclawski, Oasis, 2017. Glossy red Plexiglas and red mirrored Plexiglas on Dibond, archival pigment backlight prints, clear polycarbonate tubes, 2′ LED bulbs 44 x 80 x 3 in.

AOG: You’ve previously spoken about the serendipitous moment of a piece of film draping over a blub and inspiring this new exploration. How do light bulbs differ from your light boxes? What does this medium offer you?

CB: Yes, I entered graduate school in 2006 at MassArt, presenting rather traditional 2-D work. Then, for a few years, inspired by Canadian artist Jeff Wall, I presented my work in custom-built lightboxes. One night, in my studio a piece of discarded photograph fell onto a light table, setting off a figuratively lightbulb in my head, which lead me to begin wrapping my images around them.

On the most basic level, my current light bulb pieces are a deconstruction of the light boxes. As a medium, the lightbulb offers me endless of options of size and scale, which is a departure to the more confined nature of the lightboxes.

AOG: Much of your current photography explores landscapes and architecture, whether it be a houseboat, wind turbines, or a home. Why this theme? What kinds of subject matter are you drawn to?

CB:
In the last few years, I’m drawn to photographing places that are generally solitary in nature and were often inhabited but may no longer be. I then use the lightbulbs as a representative symbol of former advertising displays. More recently, after living here for almost 13 years, I’ve finally turned my camera to capture subject matter in New England. Previously, most of the imagery I exhibited was far outside of New England.

2017, ©Clint Baclawski

AOG: Last fall, you showed Zephyr, an immersive installation in a shipping container for Boston’s HUB week (and recently sold, woohoo congrats). How has this harmony between technology and art, electricity and film, defined your work?

CB:
I wouldn’t exactly say defined it but when HUBweek asked me to propose artwork for the shipping container I was intrigued by the concept and felt confident that I already had an image, Zephyr, that strongly represented their theme. Zephyr at HUBweek was really about viewer engagement. The scale allowed the piece to be viewed from different angles, producing a different viewer experience for each person. Some HUBweek viewers preferred the upclose nature of the work, which produces an abstract image, but most prefer to walk along the image until it comes together as one. And, quite honestly, the children who viewed the piece simply loved the lights. As a father, I took particular delight in young people interacting with the work.

AOG: What types of pieces are you working on currently? Do you have any goals or experiments you’re eager to try?

CB: Lately, I’ve been working on a few large-scale site-related proposals and one I am particularly excited about is entitled Fringe. The installation includes new materials and a slight departure from my other image concepts and I look forward to presenting it in the gallery as part of a solo exhibition opening on Friday, September 6, 2019.

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Clint Baclawski’s solo exhibition locations include San Luis Obispo, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Boston, Massachusetts; Edinburgh, Scotland; and group shows at the Chelsea Art Museum, Danforth Museum, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, San Diego Art Institute, and others. His work has been featured in: FRAME magazine, The Boston Globe, The Creator’s Project, Boston Home magazine, Designboom, Take Magazine, and The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Volume II. When not in his studio or behind a camera, Clint is a staff member, and teaches Installation Art to graduate students at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.