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Interview with Artist Jaqueline Cedar

Interview with Artist Jaqueline Cedar

April 19, 2010

Emily Waldorf interviewed Los Angeles-raised, Brooklyn-based artist Jaqueline Cedar, whose vibrant new paintings are currently being shown at the Tracy Park Gallery’s new location at the Malibu Country Mart.

EW: Tell us about your current show at Tracy Park Gallery. Is there a dialogue between your work and Daniel Stern’s work or does your work tell a different story?

JC: I met Tracy about three years ago while I was finishing my undergraduate degree at UCLA. At the time her gallery was located in Santa Monica and I wasn’t ready to do a show. When I finished graduate school at Columbia last May, Tracy and I began discussing a two-person exhibition. She wanted to pair Daniel and I firstly I think because we both depict people in our work. Further, though, we are both interested in representing truncated movement. Viewers of the work are rarely provided a resolution within the paintings/sculptures. For Daniel, figures are caught literally mid-air, balancing on one hand, leaning forward on tip-toes. In my paintings, individual action is suspended as figures participate in a shared experience that is never fully resolved.

EW: How did you get started as an artist? When did you first start having creative impulses and how did you harness them?

JC: I’ve always enjoyed looking at art but it was around high school when I began to focus a good portion of my time on making artwork (mostly paintings and photographs) and studying with other artists. During my first two years at UCLA I began to get serious about my interest in photography. I spent most of my spare time teaching myself to use a large format camera and strobe lighting. I wasstudying with some incredible artists – Catherine Opie, James Welling, Lari Pittman – to name a few. However, when I decided to apply to graduate school I felt strongly that I would benefit from further education in painting. The photographic process had always come more naturally and I wanted to push myself further in painting.

EW: Color seems to be very central in your work. Do you find inspiration from the Expressionists and Fauves? How do you view your work in relation to the larger scheme of art history? Do you feel comfortable naming a few favorite artists whose work you admire right now?

JC: I take great pleasure in using color to direct visual experience. My influences range from Balthus to Paul Klee. I look at a lot of work all the time. I consider it part of my job as a visual thinker and maker. I also find much inspiration in literature and film. I’m a big fan of absurdist theater (Beckett, Ionesco, Albee) and existentialist writing (Sartre, and although I’ve heard he doesn’t place himself in that camp, Camus). I also look to film often for ideas about structure and pacing.

EW: Images of people also seem important in your work. Is this intentional?

JC: For as long as I’ve made paintings, I’ve made images of people. I’m fascinated by the way we interact with each other within a confined setting – how individual thoughts/feelings mix with a shared physical experience. Placing people together in these types of group scenarios has been one of the driving forces of the work. It continues to serve as a starting point and place for making meaning.

EW: Please tell us the story behind Trust Walk, 2008.

JC: Trust Walk is based on a type of group activity that is often used to create a sense of communal relations amongst those involved. Participants are asked to close their eyes and lead each other around via strictly physical contact. It requires trust and also implies the possibility of facilitating some sort of transcendent experience within a group. I was thinking about ways in which people will themselves toward belief in a type of group experience, ritual, or controlled behavior. So this image manifested a literal translation of that type of movement or activity.

EW: Does your approach to painting differ from your approach to photography?

JC: Yes and no. Both are organic in that I allow for much of the content to shift and develop as I work. I rarely say I’m going to make a painting of this scene and then meticulously spend the next month slaving over a direct transfer of that image. I enjoy the way work evolves over time as I make it. In both painting and photography I start with something more abstract – a feeling, a set of colors, a time of day, and the image comes out of these initial impulses. For example, I might decide that I want to make an image with three people in one type of room, or a dimly lit forest. The structure is there, however the way in which I approach applying paint, composing figures, lighting the room, changes as I make the work.

The same goes for photography, although in most cases I’m dealing with an even greater unknown as I’m working with living, breathing people. And I try to respond to that. I may have an idea going in to a shoot about how I’d like to place these people, the way in which I envision them relating to each other. However as I’m setting up I gain a lot of information about how to place them (all the photographs are posed). And I try to respond to the ways they are already moving and interacting, because this makes the photograph more believable. Some discomfort can be interesting, but regardless they are being asked to hold still so discomfort is a given.

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EW: What inspires you? Do you listen to music when you work in your studio or do you prefer quiet? Do you like to be alone or with other artists?

JC: I tend to be very private when I work. I don’t listen to music. I like background noise as long as it doesn’t have a beat to it. I spend a lot of time making decisions before I put brush to canvas so I don’t like for the beat of music to dictate the speed at which I approach the work.

EW: What is it like living and working in Brooklyn in terms of the artist community?

JC: I’m on a floor full of about 30 artists in a pretty industrial area. I do the opposite commute from Manhattan to Brooklyn and I love it. Most days it’s very quiet and I get a lot done. I tend to work in the mornings so there aren’t a lot of other artists around but it’s nice to be able to stay in my own headspace for long periods of time. I have a lot of friends from school and now from living in New York for the past three years so we spend time going to museums and galleries. That’s where I really get the most out of looking at and talking about work.


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