Last Thursday, we headed down to Em & Co to check out Vanessa Prager's new show, “Love You Too,” hosted by actor Michael Pena. The project was a merger of art and music, featuring Prager's ballpoint pen drawings on vintage sheet music and a performance by Ali Helnwein's string quartet, The LA Contemporary Ensemble.
The ink and paper pieces in “Love You Too” differ from Prager's paintings, like those seen in “Little Dream” last October. We asked her a few questions about the new work.
What was your inspiration for this series and how do you feel it differs from you previous work?
Music was obviously a huge inspiration for the series and the show concept as a whole (I had a string quartet play both the private and public openings). I always listen to music while working, but have no musical skill at all, and without thinking about it, this turned into a great way for me to include the medium into my own.
Besides the fact that these are drawings as opposed to my usual paintings, I feel my work is always evolving and this series reflects what I'm feeling right now.
Do you find that you approach drawing and painting in different ways?
Not really. My method is pretty much the same in both my paintings and drawings, well as much as it can be for them being different mediums. I start with a kind of general concept, usually some reference material, and then from there I work with layering and building up the image until I'm happy with it.
But still, to get from initial concept to done in drawing is faster. Drawing helps free up and clean out the idea section of my brain, any little thought I have can be indulged in drawing, without too much loss of time or supplies, so really I can go nuts and try anything! But, I mean that in the best way, it's a good exercise for the painterly side of me, helps me refine and smooth out all the thoughts in there and make them come into reality. They are really good counterparts in my studio is what I'm trying to say. And other than the fact that they are different mediums and look different in the end, I treat them the same way, meaning I don't save some ideas for paintings or some for drawings, they're pretty much interchangeable to me.
You used very ornate framing for the pieces in the “Love You Too” show can you talk a bit about that?
When I originally thought of doing this show, I planned to have mismatched vintage frames for all the pieces. When I show my paintings I don't usually frame, but I feel like it is necessary with drawings, it really just finishes them off. And I just liked the vintage frames, it works best for the style of my drawings. I went yard sailing and thrift storing for all of these.
I was intrigued by how you left portions of these drawings “unfinished” can you explain your motivation for doing so?
I don't consider it unfinished, but I know what you mean. It's actually the basis and whole underlying theme of this series, as well as of my current unreleased paintings. I have been trying to work with the concept of not using objects or things that imply too much of their own individual meaning, but while still working to create a narrative– mainly with light and darkness, energy, emotion, etc. Also, I think there's something about the way a person's mind works that if you give it just enough information, it will fill in the rest. Like in music, played well, with rhythm and beats, if you skip a beat, it only serves to draws the listener in closer. It can be magnetic. So the “unfinished” parts were me trying to relay that using only ballpoint pens and paper.
Similarly to the “Little Dream” show at WeSC, “Love You Too” was held at a retail location Em & Co. What do you think the benefits are of showing at retail locations like these?
Well, basically they have allowed these shows to happen! Everywhere I have shown, there has been someone who was excited to do the show with me, and really just allowed me to make it happen. Any artist needs a place to show his work, and if a gallery isn't happening, you've got to figure out another way. This has been part of my way, it's worked for me.
It's amazing the support you can gather when you try a little. I much prefer working with people who are as excited as I am. I very much dislike working with somebody who's not interested. It can easily suck the fun out of things, which at the end of the day kind of makes me wonder why do any of this at all.