Is there anything specific to say about women and abstraction?
Abstraction really requires a modest, searching approach these days. The simple grand gestures were done already. The early abstractionists, as well as the founders of the New York School and Color Field painting, worked experimenting until they discovered their way. The art world called these artists, mostly males, great geniuses, and they became myths, which often wreaked havoc on their lives and sometimes on the work. In more recent decades, the “ambition” to be the next important painter, usually by coming up with the next “style,” has tended to be a male game; I'm not sure why. But over the last forty years, women have been painting wonderful abstract paintings, without the myth, as have many men.
In the past decade, there have been a lot of women painting powerful works at a modest scale, which have been recognized within the art community as better than much of the larger work getting more art-market star acclaim. Some of this smaller work has been debunking the art star modern master mythos and has felt especially honest and fresh. (Mary Heilmann is a well-known instance.)
I think some women painting abstractly came of age with some really exciting and/but somewhat ironic women mentors. The irony has had to do with the art star mythos, which women see with a knowing laugh. There's been a lot of serious painting done in a quiet way that has kind of cleared the air and cleared a path for larger work.
The younger women painting big and powerful paintings have a bit of a wry smile as they turn to working on the scale of the New York School. Right now, some women (and men of color, who share the wry perspective) are doing especially strong painting, deeply engaged with the meaty painting issues that make for exciting painting. Enough time has passed and enough serious work has been done for painters to work large again without the tired myths. I think this is a new time in abstract painting, after irony, cynicism, appropriation, and other ideas have just worn away, and women are there with the ambition to make things new. It might not be totally sincere, it may be impure or hybrid, but it's incredibly experimental and strong. And there are women, especially in this show, who are taking their experimental work with paint to a new level.
Are your paintings gendered?
I don't know. In some ways they are, in some ways not. I follow my physical sensations, and these are a woman's, but I don't like to think in terms of images, so I'd prefer not to think about how my paintings might relate to my body. I don't mind beauty, but I hope I stay away from prettiness. I don't think accepting beautiful color makes the work gendered female, but maybe there are some things I allow in my work that most male artists would not.
What, if any, is the role of women in contemporary art?
I think I answered this above. For the first time in decades, serious abstraction that doesn't hide behind a defensive stylistic attitude is acceptable, and a number of women have embraced this opportunity and are working with brilliance and power.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I don't think in terms of feminism much these days, though I did when I was young. At this point I feel that so many political terms have caused rifts in our social fabric, and I tend to look for a common language whenever I can. But I have benefitted from the feminists working in the art world, so I must say that I am very grateful. I think the Guerrilla Girls made a difference in the art world that's really been for the good.
What is your next project? How do you prepare for your next project?
I don't want to make bigger paintings than those in the show just to make bigger paintings, but I think that I can discover more on a larger scale. I'm not sure, but this is what I'll be trying next. I prepare by doing studies, and when I come up with a study of relationships that need to go bigger, that's when I'll go there.