Artist Announcement: Tessa Greene O'Brien

Tessa Greene O'Brien, One of the co-founders of Portland Mural Initiative will be one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Tessa was born in a small coastal town in Maine, and grew up surrounded by woods, fields, ocean, and artists. The landscape and the people continue to inspire her work.  She graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in studio art, and spent the next 10 years traveling the country and painting sets for music festivals. During this time she fell in love with large-scale painting and collaborative projects.

Tessa paints primarily on wood panels and walls. Her work explores themes of place, architecture, humor, water, and text, using layering, drawing, erasure, and color to convey her ideas. She often combines several mediums in a painting, including oil paint, latex, ink, watercolors, and guache.

Today she lives and paints in Portland, Maine, where she is working on an MFA from Maine College of Art. 

Here is an Interview we conducted with Tessa:

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Tessa O’Brien and I was born in mid-coast Maine but also spent many years living in Montpelier, VT.

What did you want to be growing up?

So many different things! Highlights would have to be professional figure skater, marine biologist, and author of detective novels.

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech?

I am a painter that is currently using traditional methods of oil on panel to explore themes of contemporary life, memory, and the formal properties of paint.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

I am influenced by many of the Abstract Expressionists. Lyrical Abstraction, Neo Expressionism, and The Bay Area Figurative Movement also resonate with me. I appreciate the work of many Minimalist artists, such as Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, and Sol Lewitt, despite the fact that my work rarely reflects that interest.

What is inspiring you right now?

I just returned from a whirlwind NYC art trip, where I visited the Met, MOMA, the Armory Art Fair and a few others, and several galleries in Chelsea and the Lower East Side. It was far too much for a 5 day trip, but exciting to see what many other artists are doing. I was very moved by the installations and paintings of artist Subodh Gupta, and the draped paintings of Sam Giliam at MOMA. Outside of the art world, I am inspired by love, and the small ways that it is made visible in our daily lives.

What kind of envoirnment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

My studio is a wonderful haven for me. I like to keep it hovering between messy and organized, with a comfortable chair to sit in and lots of books, for when I need to take a break from painting. I recently saw the artist Sinkane play at SPACE, and have had his latest album on repeat ever since.

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

I love the mural culture in San Francisco. The city seems to have a lively mix of official commissioned murals and also some beautiful, unofficial pieces. You never know what you will come across.

How long have you lived in Maine?

I moved to Maine in 2004, fresh out of college, and have called Portland home ever since. I traveled frequently for work for the first 8 years that I lived here, so I really felt like a full time resident for the past few years, and have really been enjoying getting to know the community more.

What do you like about the art scene here?

I like that there are so many talented, creative people living and working in the area. Many of the local business owners and residents are supportive of creative projects, and new ideas are often welcomes. While Portland is not an inexpensive city, it is relatively easy to navigate and live comfortably in, without making great sacrifices in quality of life.

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

I would like to see more contemporary art galleries open and active, as well as more non-traditional art spaces. I hope that our mural project can be a part of this growth, and be another positive opportunity for artists.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

I will be showing new paintings at The Oxbow Tasting Room on Washington Ave later this spring, and will be part of a group show at Engine in Biddeford in July, called Ode to Letters.
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Check out more of Tessa's work on her website here

Artist Announcement: Will Sears

Will Sears, one of the co-founders of Portland Mural Initiative will be one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Will was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he began making art at an early age. He received a BFA after studying painting at Syracuse University. He now lives and works in Portland, where he runs a successful sign-painting business. You can see his hand-painted signs and advertisements adorning the facades of several local businesses and restaurants. He worked as a gallery assistant at Aucocisco, where he met many great Maine artists, and gained insight into the contemporary art world. Sears maintains a regular studio practice, and is an active part of numerous creative projects around town.

Sears works primarily in assemblage, drawing upon the rich tradition of assemblage artists such as Louise Nevelson, Bernard Langlais, and Robert Rauschenberg. His work utilizes imagery of hand painted typography and abstract geometry. By cropping and rearranging the painted words, the viewer’s focus shifts from the associated message of words to the physical composition of the letters as form. Sears carefully selects materials for their meaning, using found wood and ephemera of daily life. Often the artwork samples a variety of unique cultural aesthetics, most commonly focusing on Americana.

Sears uses the visual chaos of deconstructed and rearranged signage, found materials, and painted elements to comment of the overwhelming nature of contemporary visual culture. His thoughtful compositions and restrained color palate are evidence of his desire to break up the daily barrage of sensory input and find beauty in the outcome.

Here is an Interview we conducted with Will: 

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Will Sears. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I’ve been living in Portland, Maine now, coming up on 5 years.

What did you want to be growing up?

At first I wanted to be a grocery store, ( like the store itself, not a clerk ). Then pretty quickly after that I knew I wanted to be an artist.

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech?

My work is typically in the form of an assemblage. It utilizes imagery of hand painted typography and abstract geometry. By cropping and rearranging the painted words, your focus shifts from the associated message of words to the physical composition of the letters as form. Often the artwork samples a variety of unique cultural aesthetics, most commonly focusing on Americana.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

Stuart Davis, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Bernard Langlais, Margaret Kilgallen. I know that’s 5 but it was hard to take any of these artists off the list. There are so many more as well but that conversation can go on for quite some time

What is inspiring you right now?

I’ve been really drawn towards simpler compositions – often times it requires a lot of restraint to stop at a point where a piece has a dynamic feel but minimal content.

What kind of envoirnment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

Typically I like to create while I’m in my own little world… peace and quite are good for contemplation and planning, but when production is underway I like to have music playing and as long as there is no precision lines being executed, I find myself dancing a lot when things are going well. My latest playlist has included music from; William Onyeabor, Sinkane, Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Boi, Mndsgn, Jay electronica, Jay Dilla, Action Bronson, Beanie Sigel and Sean Price. Again, I could go on forever with this list but these have been the heavy hitters as of late.

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

Two more recent projects that have blown my mind have been Maya Hayuk’s mural in Wynwood Walls compound. The looseness of the hand made strokes put into the tightness of a well thought out composition really excited me. Also, although it’s a series of 50 murals, not 1, Steve Power’s Love letters to Philadelphia. I was really drawn to the fact that it was such a big project and was executed well with the blessing of a major institution.

How long have you lived in Maine?

Coming up on 5 years in June of 2015.

What do you like about the art scene here?

I like the pace of life here. I like the fact that it’s not yet impossible to live here on an artist’s budget. I think there are a lot of really strong artists here. Space Gallery is a really nice contribution to the art scene here. They do a terrific job.

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

Besides seeing more public contemporary art (obviously), I’d love to see more Galleries open up that exhibit work that extends beyond the conversation of traditional landscape paintings. (that’s not to criticize that side of things, but Portland does a good job with that so there’s no real need for improvement there). Also, I'd like to see an establishment that is willing to work with more emerging artists rather then exclusively mid-career/ established artists. Obviously Portland would need people to support these galleries as well, so seeing a market more interested and willing to spend money on these types of contemporary works as well.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

  •  I'll be in a group show this July called Shapeshifters & Sharpshooters at 886 Geary in San Francisco curated by Sven Davis. 
  • I'm Co-Curating and participating in a show at Engine in Biddeford, Maine called "Ode to Letters" which will highlight work from letterpress artists, sign painters, and graffiti artists. The show will run from July 31st - Sept 19th, 2015. 
  • I'll be doing a sight-specific installation at Montserrat College of Art in October/November, 2015
  • Lastly, more work to further the Portland Mural Initiative

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Check out more of Will's work on his website here

Artist Announcement: Greta Van Campen

We're very excited to announce that Greta Van Campen is one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Greta Van Campen is a painter from Thomaston, Maine known for her contemporary hard-edged style. She comes from a family of artists and grew up painting beside her mother and father. Greta continued her studies in visual art at Bowdoin College. In 2011 she kickstarted her career with several cross country trips during which she painted all 50 states. She now lives and works in Portland, Maine.

"In my hard edge paintings, I strive to inhabit the space between representation and abstraction while also preserving an authentic experience of every place I paint. Each piece begins as a puzzle. Using tape and acrylic paint, I build up layers of color, shape, and line until I have found a harmonious solution." -Greta 

Here is an interview with Greta that we conducted: 

 

What is your name and where are you from?

 Greta Van Campen
I grew up in Thomaston and now live in Portland.  

 What did you want to be growing up?

 An artist and a doctor!

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech? 

I go to the studio and use tape and acrylics to make hard-edge paintings from photographs of places I've been and things I've seen. My work has abstract qualities but is also recognizable as where/what it really is.

 Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

 My parents, Susan and Tim Van Campen, definitely both influenced me a great deal. I grew up hanging out in their studios and learning the ups and downs of life as an artist.  My mom does watercolors and oils and my dad does abstract geometric paintings and computer art/design.  My style is pretty original, but it's definitely a combination of their sensitivities.   Other artists whose work has really moved me through the years are Calder, Matisse, Vermeer, and Morandi (and many others).

What is inspiring you right now?

 Thinking about spring and summer!

What kind of envoirnment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

I like peace and quiet.  In my old studio, I worked from home and our house was on the Kennebec River.  I loved listening to the sounds outside - birds in the summer, and ice cracking in the winter.  At my Portland studio, I mostly hear cars going by.  Once in a while I'll put some music on or listen to a podcast. 

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

 I studied abroad in Italy and was completely awestruck by the murals, scale, and masonry every time I visited a cathedral. 

How long have you lived in Maine?

My whole life - apart from some time in Italy and the Netherlands and a couple years when I lived in Chicago.  

What do you like about the art scene here?

 I like that Maine has always attracted artists of all ages and that it's not pretentious like the New York art scene.  I like that there isn't really a "scene" here.  There are just a bunch of artists working and living in a beautiful place. 

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

 I'd like to see another contemporary gallery or art center pushing boundaries. I'd like to see more connection between southern Maine and the mid-coast and even farther north.  I think CMCA (Center for Maine Contemporary Art) should do a pop up show somewhere in Portland.

 What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

I'll be spending the entire month of May at Brush Creek Arts, a residency in Wyoming.  Between now and then I'll be getting some new work to Dowling Walsh in Rockland that will be on display this summer. 

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to check out more of Greta's work, check out her website here