Exclusive Interview with Contemporary Artist Gia Hendrix
What originally drew you to painting?
My love for painting began when I was in the fifth grade after my grandmother had bought me my first set of acrylics. It was the holiday season and I remember packing up my little briefcase with my equipment and hiking out to the pond and pastures that followed and doing plein air painting. Following that, once I was in high school I had an incredible teacher, Deana, who introduced us to fauvism. We did an in class project where we were required to paint from the end of two paint brushes that had been taped together to keep the painting loose. The experience taught me how to focus on the movement of the brush and the arm rather than painting with the wrist which can often keep strokes tight and rigid. Since then, I’ve learned to paint with my entire body and almost dance with the canvas which I felt was something I couldn’t quite translate into other mediums, and that is what really made me fall in love with painting.
Tell me about some of the different mediums and styles you’ve explored in your practice, in addition to painting, and if there were any in particular that have resonated with you.
In the last couple of years I’ve been primarily an oil painter, and haven’t touched other mediums like I used to, but in the last few months I started collaging again which although is enjoyable and a very unique process from painting, it’s not the driving force of my work. Stylistically speaking, when I first signed with Salt Gallery I was in a completely different phase of my work. At the time I was creating what I refer to as distorted portraits, my cubist era in a way. At the height of covid when the first lockdown began, and after spending many weeks, and even months alone- and doing a lot of self reflection, I wanted to paint all the chapters I felt I had gone through and tie them up into one individual. Breaking down the human form, and facial structure was incredibly challenging, but I think that’s why I stuck with it for so long. I had painted still life, realism, portraits, plein air, but never pushed myself out of the box in that way before and it was very rewarding. As an artist, after you feel like you’ve mastered something, it can become repetitive, and I needed a new way to express the same concept whilst continuing to challenge my artistic abilities. Around this time last year, I started a series titled “The Consequences of Reflecting”, which consisted mainly of non-representational work. Throughout that series I was consistently reminded that if something isn’t recognizable to the eye, you have to use all the other elements that make good art, good art. Whether that’s texture, composition, line weight, or color- so I had to challenge myself in each of those areas to make up for what wasn’t there. Having done both ends of the spectrum I came to what I’m working on now, these abstract landscapes. Each of them are still different phases of my life but portrayed in an entirely different way than before. Some paintings consist of full scenes while others are zoomed in versions of those, as if I'm making a puzzle out of the large pieces and breaking them down to better understand what is happening within.
You mentioned your work with color and how you’ve been leaning on that, tell me more about your approach to your use of color today
Working with color is the single-most thing that comes naturally to me in my process, and has always been the basis of my work because of that. I inevitably associate specific colors with each unique experience that I am painting about and so I think my subconscious and conscious states are often working together while painting to help me portray the story I am trying to tell from my current perspective on it and the way I viewed it in the past while experiencing it to make for a more dynamic painting.
Tell me about one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in your journey as an artist
A major challenge for me is being in this studio because it’s not temperature controlled, heavily affects what I create and when I create it. Season by season I change the studio around, moving desks, easels, canvases, and carts. In the winter time it’s incredibly difficult to create
large pieces because I just want to be bundled up since it’s so cold here. So I find myself hibernating a little bit more. Then in the springtime I start to blossom again, and by summer back in my element. It’s almost like I’m following the seasons which isn’t a bad thing - but it’s definitely been a challenge, wanting to create things but not always having it be feasible at certain points in time.
What was one of the most affirming moments you’ve had in your journey as an artist?
Definitely when I got asked to interview for a residency. At the time I was struggling with
deciding if I wanted to go back to school or not. Although I often long for the benefits school has
to offer, it just didn’t seem realistic at that point in my life. It was incredibly serendipitous having
talked about doing a residency with my friend and then spending the following week looking up
programs, and soon after getting a message from you, maybe two and a half weeks later. I think
it really put things in perspective and made me realize I was on the right track. I think it really
propelled me into the next stage of my career and helped me gain more confidence in my
decision to pursue a career in painting.
Also thank you - I was so honored that you thought of me. As an artist you just want recognition
- you just want someone to see your work for what it is, and I felt like getting that message, that
you saw that, and you saw that I was willing to learn and wanted an experience like that to help
me grow and I felt really honored.
Tell me about some of the goals you have for your art, and your practice, in the next
three years or so
Larger. That is my main goal. I want everything to be bigger, bigger, bigger, and have more
patience with my artwork. I’m a pretty quick worker when I’m in the studio, and I can bang out a
decent sized painting in maybe two sessions. However, working really large, especially right
now since my pieces have been growing in size little by little, it’s been very challenging trying to
move very dense paint around just to cover the surface area. So I think those two are
interchangeable - working large and also being patient with myself. Making art really quickly is
easy, because nothing changes in a short period of time. For example, I started this piece a
week ago, and I finished it this week, and I'm still the same person. Whereas working on a really
large piece, it could take a couple of months, it could take a couple of years, and you grow so
much as a person throughout that time period. So I’m learning how to find what I was still seeing
when I first started it, and also incorporate new elements as I grow on my artistic journey and
incorporate that into the same piece. Rather than always moving onto a new one, which is really
difficult but I think it could be really interesting both conceptually and visually- impacting the
layering that goes on in the artwork, which I’m really looking forward to.
Tell me about some of your biggest inspirations
I have always loved Joan Mitchell and her use of color and broad brush strokes. She is who
inspired the start of my non-representational and landscape work, however; lately I’ve been
loving Jadé Fadojutimi’s work since I discovered her at the Stedeliijk Museum in Amsterdam this past fall. I particularly love that she is a young woman artist making big waves in the art world. Seeing young women artists succeed is always inspiring to me. My interest in her work comes from the same reasons I love Joan Mitchell's pieces- Her use of color is outstanding, and her playfulness between abstraction and representation of nature is really dynamic. I often mix the same two elements in my own work so I inherently feel connected to her creations. Although not an artist herself, my mom is my biggest inspiration. She is the most hardworking and independent person I know and I feel incredibly proud to have grown under her wisdom and guidance. She’s really special.
What do you do in the studio to get yourself into the creative mindset or a state of flow Because my studio is not my home - having to pack up my belongings, commute here, and hike my work up five flights of stairs can be a draining process. So, I allow myself a few moments of silence before I begin working otherwise I get burned out too quickly. I spend a lot of time absorbing each painting, and it might sound a little strange, having a conversation with them, and they’ll tell me what they need. Having that meditative start and ritual has become a large part of my studio routine.
If you were to put on a soundtrack, who would be some of your top picks?
I do love instrumental music when I’m painting because I don’t get very distracted, it keeps me focused but outside of that my go to is Fleetwood Mac. It reminds me of my summers painting in my garage studio before I moved to the city.
When you think about when people are collecting and hanging your work, what is the most ideal way you would like your work to be displayed
I personally don’t think too much about where someone is going to hang a painting once I send it off to it’s new owner, but the first thing that comes to mind is any room where the painting can almost wrap its arms around you - especially when they’re on a larger scale, that’s what they’re meant to do, really suck you in. So I feel like a place that a person spends a lot of time in is most ideal.
Tell me about the current series you’re working on
My work right now, these landscapes I was talking about, they are these ephemeral spaces in time. They all come from different periods of my life, and who I was within each of those stages. If I had to describe the sort of headspace I was in during those times, that’s what I’m painting. Sanctuary, in particular, I often reference when describing what I’m working on because it’s been about a year in the making.
Six months into working on this piece, I had a moment where I almost covered the entire thing in gesso because it had me feeling stuck and like I had said too much, therefore not knowing how to move forward with it. I find myself doing this with a lot of work, going back in again and again, hopping back and forth from painting to painting to keep them all interconnected in some way.
The time period I am painting about in this piece is directly related to an exceptionally difficult time of my life where I was faced with a lot of adversity. It’s one out of the series I find to be the least inviting but perhaps the most intriguing. I included these floating platforms that could resemble a staircase, however, they’re very sporadic and they lead the viewer towards these overpowering dark archways that represent portals that pull the viewer in. This series is my way of taking people with me on a journey as I look back on it, because trying to articulate a lot of these experiences verbally often doesn’t do them justice but painting them allows me to put old versions and chapters to rest.
For more information please visit Gia's Artist Page
Or email Salt Gallery - email@example.com