STUDIO VISIT: BARBARA MARKS
An interview by Beth Collins, gallery director and curator, Pleat Gallery

Please describe your work.
I make small, square, colorful paintings. For my subject matter, I look to the ordinary and the local. I use color to create space.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
There’s the external world—and then there’s me. My paintings are the intersection of the two. In that respect, they are intimate and personal.

Your long-term project, “Recollection,” involves combining relatively small paintings that take on a monumental scale when installed together. Does that play into the intimate and personal part of your practice?
I don’t think so. The intimate and personal part has to do with where the imagery comes from. I’m interested in the notion that many small paintings—each of which invites intimate interaction—will, in the aggregate, have a monumental presence.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
I am mostly interested in the work of no-longer-living artists; the list of names is a long one, and it’s fluid. I learn by looking, sometimes at something very specific—Manet’s use of black . . . or comparative—Matisse’s and Diebenkorn’s depiction of space . . . or I might look only at trees, or noses, or the color blue. All of this looking gets stored in my mental vault.

You mentioned that you learn by looking. How does that change your relationship to and interaction with nature, culture, and place?
Looking in that context refers to investigating the work of other artists and absorbing bits and pieces of information from the process of looking. Observing—the natural world, the built environment, material culture, the spaces and places we inhabit and how we inhabit and behave in them—that’s a different kind of looking. It can be deeper, searching, and slow, and it can be about catching a glimpse of something; noticing a particular situation and registering it immediately. I notice little things; I notice juxtapositions; I always have.

What else inspires you and keeps you going back to the studio?
I suppose it’s simply the desire to keep making these little paintings that depict “this is how I see the world; this is how I think about the world.” I like making things.