Artist Cullen Washington will soon be heading up north to Skowhegan, Maine for a summer Artist Residency. Before he packs his bags and leaves town we have a few questions for him. So without further ado, take it away Cullen.
What artists’ work do you admire most but paint nothing like? It seems I am instinctively drawn to and admire artists whose works have a commonality with my own. By seeking them out, I find evocative ways of informing my work, discovering new solutions and applying different uses of materials. Some artists I admire are Robert Rauschenberg, Romare Bearden, Joseph Albers, Jean Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford and Frank Stella.
If forced to choose would you be an eraser or a permanent marker? Both measures are so extreme. I think I would be a permanent marker with an eraser.
What is the most surprising response to your art you have ever received? The responses to my work are always surprising. They are what I would not expect to hear. Every viewer brings with them their own story and personal history. They apply it to what they see in my work. This is fascinating for it brings me to new paths of meaning and therefore making.
The unauthorized biography of your life is titled: “BLIND OBSSESSION, DELIBERATE INTENTION”
How do you know when your work is done? The work is never done. It is always in continuation. I look at the work as a series of solutions. Each piece is a study that is one possible solution out of many. Each one is in conversation with the one before it, as well as offering relevance to the next.
What do you listen to while you paint? Right now I am listening to Jimi Hendrix, Pfunk and London based mix tapes. The music and the music makers definitely inform the work and support intuitive decision making in the creative process. I balance this with reading forwards and introductions in art books. I scan the critical dialogue for words and ideas that resonate with me. I use the words to build a personal lexicon. I translate the words into pictures and symbols that in turn inform the work and give intellectual balance.
What films have influenced you as an artist? The film influences shift as my interest shifts. Currently, I’m interested in dystopian movies and sci-fi films. Some classics I enjoy are Blade Runner, I Robot, and Metropolis. What I’ve currently seen are Terminator Salvation and District 9. And, even though I haven’t viewed it yet, Pumzi, an afro futurist dystopian movie, is a film I’d like to add to my library.
What are you currently reading? Since my interests are centered on afro futurism and sci-fi, I’m reading books indicative of the subject. They are “The African Origins of UFO’s by Anthony Joseph and “Flame Wars, The Discourse of Cyberculture” by Mark Dery.
For more on Cullen Washington be sure to check out his Web site or attend one of these events:
CUE Art Foundation Group Exhibition of The 2009 Joan Mitchell MFA Grant Recipients
June 10, 2010 from 6-9pm
511 West 25th Street, ground floor, New York, NY 10001
950 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, MA 02125
Bridgewater State College
131 Summer Street, Bridgewater, Massachusetts 02325
Bonus track: Magdalena Campos Pons interviews Cullen Washington Jr. in the November Issue of NKA Journal of African Art
Image credit: All works courtesy of Cullen Washington.
From top to bottom:
Black Being No.1; charcoal, acrylic, paper and found object on canvas; 24” x 30”; 2008
Dyno-mite in My Room; charcoal, paper, acrylic and found object on canvas; 60” x 103”; 2008
Hulk Don’t Smash (DETAIL); charcoal, acrylic, paper and found object on canvas; 71” x 54”; 2008
The Man of Steel; tobacco leaf, charcoal, gold leaf on sack cloth; 72″ x 100″; 2009
Star Wars and 3rd Street; charcoal, paper, acrylic, tape and found object on canvas; 59.5” x 80”; 2009