Interview with artist Vanessa Prager.
photography by Jeff Vespa
Vanessa Prager’s work has garnered critical acclaim for its rich impasto, which bends and refracts light across deeply layered three-dimensional surfaces, offering the viewer a variation of perspectives. Up close, one can see the varying rhythms and nuances in the artist’s brush strokes and stratified layers of paint. There is a physicality that needs to be explored face to face in a personal way. However, pull back from the work and the light again shifts, revealing a face or a figure slyly staring back at you, as if to say “what took you so long?”
If you could describe your work in one word, what would it be?
If you listen to music while you paint, what is on your playlist?
I listen to music, James Blake, Fiona Apple, Bowie, Radiohead, Drake, Frank Ocean, Kamasi Washington. A lot of podcasts, Here’s the thing with Alec Baldwin, Hardcore History, WTF, Fresh Air. Audiobooks, The Handmaid’s Tale, Alexander Hamilton, The whole Bosch series, Stephen King’s 11-22-63.
How do you know when the piece is finished?
I just reach a point where I feel the piece has defined itself and reached it’s maximum. Some works have more or less and they can take more or less time, but there is a sort of constant chaos in the work. I’m always trying to reel it in and shape it into a lightly formed version of itself.
Describe a dream you had while creating some of the pieces.
In my dream I’m awake and full of excitement, walking down hallways and streets, reaching out to touch things. I try to talk to someone but it seems there’s a clear wall between us. They cannot perceive me. I want to lead them in my direction, show them how simple it can all be, but they get swept away down a fast moving stream towards the beginning of time and I am suddenly left floating in the middle of deep space, alone with no sign of anything ever having come or gone.
Do you have an art crush? If so, who?
Yayoi Kasuma. Her work is so fun and playful while at the same time having deep personal feeling. I enjoy when someone can create a whole world for others to step into as she does consistently. She also seems to have transcended medium which is fabulous.