Friday, March 23, 2012

Featured Artist - Doreen Baskin

A recent call for submissions brought us in contact with an amazing, vibrant and totally badass (in my opinion) artist from Brooklyn. Teeming with ambition, primitivism, Doreen's characters bring on a stormy dissonance of color and expression and demand a reaction.  Getting to know Doreen a little better has had the interesting result of setting her work to music in my head. Smokey, bloodshot Lou Reed characters come to mind.  Yeah, I know, it's getting loud in here. Step out on the fire escape, have a drink, get to know one another.

What is your typical day to day like? 

First of all, I can’t start any day, typical or otherwise, without a huge cup of coffee, in a ceramic mug, of course.  I have three kids; my older son is 12, and the other 2 are my 9-year-old twins (boy and girl).  The first hour of any day is spent feeding them and getting them ready to go to school, sporting activity, etc.  On school days, I walk my twins to school, then go home, pour myself another cup of coffee, and head downstairs to the basement, where I have my studio, and work.  I work until I have to go pick them up from school.  This should mean that I have five hours straight to do my work.  But often, household chores, grocery shopping, errands, hunger, etc. interrupt the day.  Two days a week, I teach a children’s ceramic class at an after-school program at my twin’s school.  I also teach on the weekends.  

Apart from making things from clay, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to make things in clay.  Apart from that, I love to doodle. I call these my drawings. I don’t draw every day, but often enough, for my drawing to share space with my ceramics on my website.  When I’m not doing the things I’ve already mentioned, I could be found reading or watching movies.  I enjoy most genres, but my favorites are sci-fi, fantasy, action, mystery, and horror.  Lately, I’ve been reading and watching the “Walking Dead” series.  That’s why I was drawn to the show, “Pirates vs. Zombies”.    

Other things that I like to do are swimming in a lake in Vermont (my mother-in-law has a house there.)  I also love to go sledding in Prospect Park, the biggest park in Brooklyn, where I live, but we don’t seem to get snow anymore.

Describe the moment you fell in love with clay.  Have you ever cheated on it? 
To be honest, I can’t remember.  I’ve always loved clay, but I didn’t take it seriously until my second year in college. I’ve cheated on my white clay with terra cotta.

Who has been the most influential instructor in your life?
I’m going to be vague here, too.  I don’t recall any one influential instructor, but was driven by the punk rock music of the seventies.  Since I had no musical talent, I released all my teenage angst by doodling.  My doodles were found by an art teacher at my high school (I don’t even know his name) and he encouraged me to take art classes.

How much of your own ceramic pieces do you use in your own home?  Other people’s?
A lot.  I make work whether I have a place to show it or not.  My studio is also filled with unfinished work.   Back, before I had children and still had the energy to do retail shows, I used to trade with other artists.  I would trade my ceramics for jewelry, but mostly for other people’s mugs.  We live in Brooklyn, and don’t have a lot of space to collect larger pieces.

Do you tend to collect deep from one artist or style, or broadly across many artists and looks?
See above.  When I made a trade, it was mostly because I liked the person.  Usually, if I like a person, I will like their work. I have a collection of mugs of various styles.  One day, I’d like to have everything in my house be hand-made, and not commercially produced.  But that could be expensive.  I’ll wait until my kids are out of college.

Have you had any fun experiences eating or drinking out of your works?
Last New Years, we had a small party and served scotch in my drinking vessels (shot glasses, mugs, and even the tops of candle stick holders.)  Some of these vessels were functional, and some were definitely more sculptural.  It didn’t matter because after a few shots, the folks drinking out of the vessels with flat, even rims were dribbling just as much as those drinking from the sculptural ones.

What would be the title of your biography? Who would write it? What would the NY Times reviewer say? 
“I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone”
The New York Times would say that that title is already taken so I’ll get back to you on that.
I, of course, would write my own biography so I could embellish the truth…and that’s the truth.

Where does your inspiration come from? 
Joey Ramone.  Well, as I said before, as a teenager, I didn’t have anything but angst until I heard Punk Rock.  Punk Rock didn’t change my life; I still had a lot of angst.   The music just happened to be there when I was coming of age.  I loved the energy, anger, etc.  My version of releasing my creativity was visual, instead of musical.

As an artist, how do you feel about mass production?
In a perfect world, nothing would be mass-produced, especially food and art.

Who is your favorite artist not working in ceramics?
Frida Kahlo, but for a woman to say she loves Frida Kahlo is as ubiquitous as an artist saying she/he is inspired by nature.

Does the change of seasons affect your pottery? 
Yes.  Over the summer, when my kids are not in school, I have way fewer hours to work in clay.

If you could visit the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be? 
Maybe Robert Arneson.  He’s famous, and he lives in California. 

Do you ever get potters’ block?
I have the opposite problem.  There always seems to be too many things going through my head, which causes me to shut down because I can’t focus on one thing (or two, or three.)  When that happens, I paint an unfinished piece that has been lying around for years until I can focus. 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for potters and ceramic artists just starting out on their own. 
Don’t stop.

If you could live in any time period other than this one, what would it be?
The future.  I’m dying to know what’s going to happen to the human race.  Also, I’m too afraid to go to the past, fearing I’d disrupt the space/time continuum.

What book or movie have you read or seen recently that rocked your world? Lately, I’ve been reading the books my twelve-year old recommends.  One of the more recent books is “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.  I love depressing, post apocalyptic novels.  Anyway, I’m taking a group of twelve-year old boys to see the movie on the 24th.  I hope I’m not disappointed, just depressed.

Doreen's work can be seen in the upcoming Pirate vs Zombie exhibit at MudFire Gallery, and in shows across the country.  Go Brooklyn!