When did you first discover your nominee, Sadie Laska, and how?
Trinie Dalton: When I moved to Brooklyn from Los Angeles, it turned out Sadie was my neighbor—we lived two buildings apart. Our mutual friend, Joe Bradley, introduced me to Sadie and her husband, artist and musician Bjorn Copeland. I bonded with Sadie and Bjorn instantly; we had very similar domestic scenes and ended up a lot of the time just hiding out on our block, eating dinners together and enjoying the serene company of our animal companions (Sadie has a ginormous tomcat). Sadie was doing mostly music then, playing with Growing, and Bjorn in Black Dice; I was doing more music writing at the time, seeing them play when I could catch sets here and there. I.U.D., her band with Lizzi Bougatsos, hadn’t been invented yet, and Sadie was making tiny paintings at a crammed desk in her apartment. I thought (still think) Sadie was/is a fiery gem: a rare blend of mellow, beautiful, intelligent, and hardcore.
What was it that originally attracted you to the work of Sadie Laska?
Trinie Dalton: A small painting of a banana she made; if I recall, a woman is riding the banana through a field of colorful abstract marks. (Weirdly, I was just writing a story about a banana today—some things never change.) I saw it at Sadie’s house, then installed in her first exhibition, a three-person show at Soloway in Brooklyn called Dirty Hands, in Fall 2010. I thought it was such a ridiculous image, really funny and irreverent, but at the same time explosively raucous and sexual, celebratory, and most importantly, sincerely painted. I was impressed that she managed to pull off a painting of a woman on a banana that didn’t feel Pop, kitsch, or sensationalistic, like Mel Ramos. It felt, almost… aggressive. By sincere I mean I felt this seething, angry energy there, its haphazard gestures and quick, agitated, miniature marks felt like they’d eventually have shredded the canvas if she’d kept painting. It was a painting that obviously enjoyed being made, was proud of its existence. In terms of Laska’s use of the representational image, the woman on the banana was on the verge of flying off the canvas, like a witch on a broomstick, and I related to that feeling—neither of us are huge fans of containment.
a rare blend of mellow, beautiful, intelligent and hardcore.
We love your description of your cross-genre zines as “parties on paper”–pulling together an impressive guest list of artists such as Aurel Schmidt, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Jim Drain, and Todd Cole in Mythtym. As with those involved with these curatorial parties of yours, what made the work of your nominee stand out to you?
Trinie Dalton: I feel so fortunate, constantly, to be surrounded by such talented friends, Laska especially. Sadie is a compassionate and gentle person and artist, and I find it fascinating that what she generates often has a brash, punk edge. I love the paradox in that combination, find it much more riveting than compassion breeding pictures of derivative hippie stuff. Compassion can reach much deeper places, can produce painful empathy for horror and express rage. Laska’s not afraid to go there in her creative practice. Laska’s drumming and her painting styles are wild and chaotic, often discordant, she embraces the ugly and the abject, and in her paintings she’s not afraid to honor the rudimentary and inject simple colors and gestures with emotion through dynamic movement. It reminds me of what Lou Reed can do with three chords on a guitar. Her paintings have bravado without being pretentious, and Laska doesn’t over intellectualize her practice. I think that’s an important stance in a contemporary art climate in which many young visual artists feel pressure to over-articulate, to wrap their art making in some lofty critical debate, though maybe that’s just an unfortunate byproduct of commodification and careerism. That’s not to say I’m anti-intellectual, anti-theory, or anti-conceptual; I teach critical writing in art schools! I just think Laska does what she does emphatically, with no compromise. I admire art like that, regardless of its aesthetic lineage. I feel a lot when I look at her paintings, feel like I can connect to them viscerally without needing an interpreter.
Is there a particular piece by your “artist to watch” that especially speaks to you, why?
Trinie Dalton: There are two bodies of work. First, the large “goddess” paintings (that’s what I call them, not her term) depicting female figures in debased, sorry poses, slouching, sagging boobs, faces and intestines exploded or snaking all over the canvas, loosely reminiscent of Egyptian or Sumerian art, with a hint of feminism, a la Carolee Schneeman, and a dash of 1980s color palette. Those have that perfect blend of humor and sincerity that I mentioned before. Second, the big abstract loosely geometric line paintings like those she recently exhibited at Galerie Bernard Ceysson in Paris. They’re packed with paint and brush play, color worship, so joyful, like color and line puzzle-problems Laska is inventing and solving compositionally right then and there. Taking care of business, with some grace and glamour (a metaphor for life?). Light paint application, but heavy implication, visual contrasts throughout. In these, Sadie’s color usage invites the viewer to invest more emotionally: ruminative maroon squares gridded over with cheery aqua in one; in another, a ROYGBIV assortment of squares destroyed, but still visible, behind heavy purple stripes like a woman got lost trying to apply eyeliner. These achieve, non-representationally, what Laska’s figurative paintings do, but offer truly open-ended interpretation in their abstraction. I appreciate the expressionism in these.
Tell us why you chose Sadie Laska as your nominee.
Trinie Dalton: Laska’s on the verge of something big so I think we should buy her paintings while we can afford them.
TRINIE DALTON has authored, edited, and/or curated six books including Wide Eyed (Akashic), Sweet Tomb (Madras Press), and Baby Geisha (Two Dollar Radio), her most recent story collection. Other titles include Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is (McSweeney’s), co-edited with Lisa Wagner and Eli Horowitz—an art book for which she transformed her archive of confiscated high school notes into a collaboration between fifty artists; and Mythtym (Picturebox)—an art/fiction anthology based on mythological monsters and horror. She is also a curator and writes frequently about art. She teaches fiction, nonfiction, and art critical writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, USC, SVA, and Art Center College of Design.