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 Maine Curtis: Shadows and Shapes

What first inspired you to get into art? 

MC:  My parents are artists so it was kinda like second nature to just kinda do that.  But they were sculpture and painting so doing photography I felt like I was doing my own thing while still having the roots to pursue it.  


Did you ever compare yourself to your parents as an artist? 

MC:  I do in some ways, I still do some paintings and sculpture, mixed media work.  I do focus more on photography because I do see their influence in my other work that it is hard to feel like it completely my own.  But it is cool to see the past within my present work in a way. 


What was it like growing up with parents as artists? 

MC:  It was good, I feel like they really make space for you to explore and that is the same with  a lot of kids that grow up in an artistic family.  I really loved going to museums all the time and exploring what I wanted.  My dad built my mom a studio so I got to fuck around in it.   

Which museums did you like going to? 

MC:  I went to Glenstone, it’s not so much a museum even though it feels that way.  It is a private collection in this guy's house.  He has work from basically every major influential artist, but mostly modern and contemporary artists.  I am more drawn towards abstract and contemporary art because that’s what I saw. 


Were you parents abstract artists?

MC:  Yeah for sure, I never saw a realistic painting until later. I was majorly exposed to that [abstract]. 


That’s kinda the reverse for a lot of people, they are exposed to figurative and then get exposed to abstract. 

MC:  Yeah I really noticed that in school because we would draw a horse for example and I’d be like oh I thought we were gonna draw circles, just stuff like that.  


So are getting back into figurative now or are you just gonna stick with abstract?

MC:  Oh for sure I’m getting into figurative.  At art school I’m talking figure drawing now and exploring different things.  A lot of people have to work their way into abstract work and I have to work my way into understanding and appreciating realism.  


Do you think you have a different perspective on the art world coming from that abstract background?

MC:  Maybe, I feel like it’s easier to see formulas or like formulaic stuff in abstract work.  A lot of people just see dull colors and go with that, but it’s actually way more conceptual than that.  Realism I really just thought it asn[t impressive to draw something that already exists.  I had to work my way into understanding and appreciating it.    


That’s super interesting because so many people are like, “so what you drew a bunch of circles”

MC: It happens both ways I feel like.


So doing photography is representational of what you’re seeing, so how do you work abstraction into photography? 

Basically I have been doing this less so recently, but when i started out i was really interested in light and the absence of light.  I was so into high contrast and you can still see that.  The shapes that are made within high contrast work you can see shapes like squares and I liked that compositionally.  


So the light itself creates the abstraction, so through figurative you are creating the abstract? 

MC:  Exactly, that’s where I bridged my way into that. 


When did you first get into photography? 

MC:  When I got instagram because social media I think is making everyone a photographer which I think is great.  So many more people are pursuing art now and the world is becoming way more visual.  I just always had my camera for instagram and I wanted my feed to look nice so it kinda just happened. It was very fluid. I think it happens to a lot of people.  


So what about Visco? 

MC:  I didn’t have Visco until later, but I do use Visco now.  It’s kinda embarrassing but it’s still how I edit some photos now.  I was just an I-phone photographer up until this year which is weird because everyone here does film and I’m trying to bridge my way into film because obviously it’s beautiful and I wanna learn it.  It’s funny how you have to work backwards into analog and the world keeps creating digital tools.  


Have you had experience working in a dark room? 

MC: I work in my school’s dark room as a job.  I’ve developed photos and film before, but not in depth.  It hasn’t consumed my work yet and I really want to go there.  It becomes more fine art in a way because it’s more hand art.  Yeah you’re hands on with your phone, but it’s just different.  


Do you have a different artistic process when you work digital than film in terms of how you go about it and subject matter? 

MC:  I feel like I’m more inclined to do portraiture with the film camera I don’t know why. 


Do you photograph your friends and do street photography? 

MC:  I like street photography, but it’s just hard feeling a little bit of exploitation and I don’t like to exploit people obviously.  If you ask someone to take their picture it can sometimes ruin the photograph because they become forced, aware and unnatural.  I would also say I work closely with the people closest to me.


Do you work mainly in black and white or color? 

MC:  Black and white for sure.  I wish I didn’t because a lot of my favorite artists do color photography.  I feel like it documents light better and that’s the main reason. 


What would you change if you went into color? 

MC:  I think I would be more focused on keeping the things in my photograph limited.  I like simple photographs and when there’s less color it’s less busy.  Not always, but focus more on the shapes.  In my color photographs now there’s like five colors maximum and it's definitely close up to simplify it. 


Do you share a similar process to your parents or do you try to have it be more your own? 

MC:  I definitely feel like it’s rubbed off from my family a little bit.  Not so much the process but what I make.  My little sister is pursuing photography right now and my dad is getting into it.  Actually her photography looks wildly similar to mine which I think is funny. 


So you can see how your parents influenced both of you. 

MC:  Yeah, for sure. 


So when you’re painting do your paintings resemble your photography or do you use that as a different form of expression? 

MC:  I use that as a different form of expression.  I’ll draw my photographs sometimes, but they’ll never be the same level because my drawing is so weak.  With my abstract paintings and sculpture it’s its own thing, no similarities. 


Have you wanted to try to put them together or keep them separate? 

MC:  I haven’t really thought of that, but that question is cool, makes me want to consider it.  I’m so into mixed media, but more with material and projection.  I have never thought of a physical photograph in the context of a sculpture. 


What does your mixed media look like? 

MC:  I work a lot with transparent surfaces.  I’ll make just a box and it’ll be transparent.  Now in transparent you’ll see that other people have done that before and you have to take a step back and see how you can explore a material in a way that other people haven’t done yet.  Most of my work is transparent and i[ll put watercolor on glass. 


So seeing other people doing similar stuff to you do you feel this sort of pressure to be more unique in a way? 

MC:  In terms of a career yes, but personally no.  Personally I just like to make what I like to make.  Since I’m pursuing a career in art I should try to contribute more to the growth of art and see what art can be.  I don’t feel like you can intentionally do that though.  I think it has to form naturally and it’s hard to force growth. 


Career wise what do you see yourself doing? 

MC:  Hopefully do something with art.  I want to do something with art for as long as I can and hopefully forever.  Preferably just work in a studio and just do art but I’m also down to direct photography and film.  Moving film doesn’t come as naturally to me as photography, I’m hoping to work on that.  


Have you tried doing film before? 

MC:  I’ve been working on clips of one thing, not sequencing yet just like people walking.  I recently directed a music video so hopefully that will work out. 


How was that experience because it’s pretty different from abstract.  

MC:  That experience was interesting.  I’m working with music also because you have to be in tune with what you want in context with the sound.  We referenced some music video Kanye made where he was just in a misty field and Coldplay walking on a beach.  


I think it was called yellow? 

MC:  Yeah! He was like i literally just wanna do this and it was heavily influenced by other artists.  Making a video is cool and I definitely wanna do it more.  


So going back to social media, there’s definitely a huge saturation of images on instagram, how do you make your work stand out? 

MC:  I just try to do things I like taking pictures of.  Let the world influence my work in a way.  It is hard to see people doing it and it's so good and there’s such a vast amount of it.

Richard Prince is an artist and he took pictures of people's instagram posts and said that was his art and showcased it in a major gallery.  What are your thoughts on that? 

MC:  Was that him commenting on it or was that his show? 


He takes pre-existing photos and then re-crops and then claims it as his art.  As a photographer what is your take on it? 

MC:  I feel like as long as it's about the concept and has nothing to do with the photo.  I mean it does have to do with the photo, but I feel like it has to do more with commenting on use and fair use.  It’s definitely a tough one and I’m sure I would feel different.  I would have to be there and experience it to really know. 


Do you feel like concept is as important as the product? 

MC:  I feel like in terms of what I just said yes.  I don’t want to contradict myself, but I feel like the final product is just as important as the process. Ideas have worth and art is about ideas and communicated.  I also like formal work, like Richard Serra’s work is just about material and volume, his work is just incredible.  


Figurative is more about the image and abstraction is more about the feeling you get and the idea.  Does that play into it? 

MC:  A lot of my work is formal and I’m trying to make it more conceptual and a lot of galleries are like why should we sell your work if it doesn’t have meaning.  


Have you tried getting your stuff in galleries so far? 

MC:  I haven’t been in a gallery, but I’m trying to do that more.  Galleries are weird because it's more about selling than showing.  It’s more of a business and I don’t know how I feel about that.  I want to make money as an artist and have my own show.  I also feel like especially at art school they think craftsmanship should be finished and well crafted.  I think that’s more of a marketing point.  I just don’t always like making my work look super neat and finished and I think a gallery would like to see something finished. 


Has being in New York changed your art than being in Maryland.  

MC:  It definitely has.  The thing for me when I came here I realized hella people have done and are doing what I’m doing.  I have to be comfortable doing what I’m doing and just keep doing it.  New York has changed my work in terms of who I work with.  I’ve just been hitting people up and dm-ing on instagram.  Instagram is everything, building a network for yourself.  It's a network as well as a community that’s the way I look at it. 


So you mentioned going to museums in Maryland, are you able to go to a lot in New York? 

MC:  Oh yeah for sure.  I see so much more art now that I’m here.  I’m trying to go to galleries that like Gagosian, I went to Marvin Gardens in Brooklyn.  The only problem is they are way out there and Ghost gallery is one I’m really into.  Everyone they show I really fuck with and it’s all really young and emerging artists.  I think they have a satellite location on the Lower East Side.


Do you find more of an art scene that suits you in Brooklyn than Manhattan? 

MC:  For sure, there’s more of a youth scene in Brooklyn than Manhattan.  All the art shows by young people are there and I want to be there.  You go to the Whitney and everything was made in the 60s and how do I know what people are doing now? 

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