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Alumni Studio Visit: Hearne Pardee

NYSS: Describe a typical day in studio.

Hearne Pardee: I go to my studio on the UC Davis campus around 10 AM, where an array of north-facing skylights supplies me with abundant natural light all day. Since 2001, I’ve been living in Northern California and teaching at UC Davis. I have been carrying on my work in painting and collage from the everyday landscape, a practice which began in my study at the Studio School. A typical day begins for me with a walk through my neighborhood in Davis to the park at the end of my street, which provides subjects for my painting – not so different from my student routine at the Studio School in 1972, when I walked to the School through the streets that initially inspired me to paint outdoors. My work soon took me to the Lower East Side, where I found an apartment and began an enduring engagement with everyday life, with schools, athletic fields, and neighborhoods – where interior life merges with public spectacle – subjects that continue to inspire me today.

NYSS: Walk me through your process. What are some of the parameters or problems you set up for yourself within your work? 

HP: My studio remains a site of negotiation between work from immediate perception and work from memory and digital media, including video recordings of my sites. I sometimes work directly from a video – noting image fragments in passing, often going through the video again to elaborate further. I collage colored papers onto these drawings, to suggest the presence of the visual field that we constantly sense around us, without actively attending to it; this interest in color space goes back to my undergraduate experience in the Albers color course. I spend a lot of time changing and moving the papers, making use of a grid, which reinforces a framework for spatial reference. These efforts to achieve an overall view, in combination with drawing and collage, have taken me further back, to Cubism and Mondrian.

NYSS: What do you keep in the studio for inspiration? Reference material, artist monographs, music, fiction, found objects, foods etc.

HP: My studio also serves as my main storage space, so in it I have works ranging back to the Studio School and even earlier. Back in 1972, I began studying with Philip Guston, who, with his new imagery, was combining a lingering ideal of pure plasticity with immersion in the mundane and often dark side of contemporary history. He encouraged me to move away from outdoor painting and work more from memory and improvisation. Paintings I made for his class are still on view in my studio, and used for reference, along with other early works from New York, Maine and California. As the common spaces that inspire my imagination become privatized and built up, even as new media increasingly distance me from direct perception and immediate contact with materials, I go back to those paintings, to maintain a connection to everyday physicality. Working back and forth from images on the wall, in the computer, and on the floor, I extend a debate I began at the School between abstraction and representation, between high modernism and the messiness of contemporary life.

NYSS: How has your practiced changed during the pandemic? Have you had to adapt to a new way of working?

HP: The shutdown has limited my outdoor painting, but its restrictions still permit me to visit local sites and draw in the neighborhood. Isolation provides an opportunity to revisit old paintings, to sort out slides and meditate on my overall trajectory. In a blog on my website, I’ve posted a chronology of my work in collage.

NYSS: Do you listen to anything while you work?

HP: In the studio I’ve often worked with the radio on, but, perhaps in response to isolation, I’ve been trying to work more without that distraction.

NYSS: How did studying at the New York Studio School influence your current studio practice?

The Studio School’s emphasis on work from observation has been a deep and ongoing influence, especially the extension of perception into overall spatial structures, as Hans Hofmann taught. George McNeil and Nick Carone were especially influential on the abstract turn in my work from landscape. I also maintain an involvement with working in clay, “drawing in three dimensions”, which I learned from Friday sessions in the Sculpture Studio.

NYSS: Are there any upcoming shows or projects on the horizon you would like to share?! And where can people see your work digitally? 

HP: Right now, I’m collaborating with a choreographer at UC Davis, Dave Grenke, who plans to reconfigure sections of my collages in a dance performance, hanging some in space while projecting others on the walls and floor. Their ebbing and emergence will lend a temporal dimension to the images, and a performative dimension to my neighborhood walks, to my efforts to preserve access to spaces that nourish imagination and memory.

A broad range of my works can be found at my website, http://www.hearnepardee.com.










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