I learned to paint in Nova Scotia in the early aughts at an art school known for its Cal Arts-inspired conceptual program, which had been dwindling in relevance since the 1970s. There, I met Gerald Ferguson, an artist who had left New York to pursue painting as a pure form. He had a studio by the shipping docks among blue-collar workers, and painted using stencils and materials from the hardware store. In class, he taught us through emulation of the masters; Cezanne, Tom Thomson, Manet and Hartley were sources he approved of. Once, I recreated a Modigliani called ‘The Jewess’ and Ferguson allowed it, with the implicit understanding that I was being bratty and facetious by indulging (among other things) my personal history.
Ferguson set up a paradigm for reverence among chosen signifiers. He taught us to extrapolate meaning from basics. His conceptual leaning made a huge impression on me as I learned how to apply paint in a colorful landscape-y manner. Leaves changing color, bodies of water, and close-ups of the forest floor are subjects I return to in different forms. I cherish the beauty and values embodied by scenes of nature, how a landscape magnified becomes a still life, a personal collection.
I am influenced by Laura Owens’ early works, which were based on embroidery from the Arts & Crafts movement, Ree Morton’s painting and sculpture, Lee Lozano, Joan Brown, and the Japanese Neo-Dadaist sculptor Tetsumi Kudo. These artists deal with love and relationships, notions of health, family and care that test the limits of normalcy while appealing to mainstream devices. My family’s business was in fruit and vegetable distribution, which colored our whole dynamic. I paint broccoli most frequently, as it is my favorite and dearest subject. I hope to express that it’s a symbol of nutrition, something your caring elder would encourage you to eat, although it is also a flower.
There is nostalgia here, but I also feel that broccoli is reflective of present-day tendencies: aren’t we obsessed with juicing and yoga the way past generations indulged in music and drugs? Broccoli is a monochrome with voided stems that have been detached from its trunk. It is a commodified unit whose shape, form and function are predicted by its commercial value and transience. It’s a simple thing, a cabbage, a stinky food, but it’s also the currency of life.
Above all I wish to establish a feminist perspective. I do this in my work as a gallery director and independent curator in addition to my studio practice. Ten years after I graduated from NSCAD, my job as the Director of CANADA (odd as it seems) includes acting as the representative for the estate of Gerald Ferguson. His final body of work, landscape paintings done from memory with a 6” roller and black enamel paint, has affected the direction of my own recent paintings, the memory part if not the utility of them. I muse about how art education and painting came to this country and to Canada as an activity for women to practice at finishing school, which was the reason the institutions where I studied were founded.
It’s never a bad idea to go back to that time and think about perverting it. Like Hillary said this week at the DNC, we are planting seeds for a future generation. It is very much within our power to ameliorate our future situation. If it’s possible to express this through a painting practice, that is my greatest wish.
Born in Montreal, 1983
Lives and works in New York
2011 MFA San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
2006 BFA Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, NS
The Pit II, Los Angeles, CA (Sept.)
White Columns, New York, NY
Frog in Fence, Halsey McKay, East Hampton, NY
Pretend Soup, David Petersen Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
KARMA, Amagansett, NY (Sept.)
We Like Explosions, The Pit, Los Angeles, CA
August, Harper’s Books, East Hampton, NY
X, Lyles & King, New York, NY
So Much, So Little, All at Once, Regina Rex, New York, NY
A Short Story, Field Contemporary, Vancouver, BC
Sibling Rivalries, Torrance Museum of Art, Torrance, CA
Form is Not Different From Emptiness, Left Field, San Luis Obispo, CA
Feed the Meter, Galerie Bernard Ceysson, Luxembourg
Wind Chimes, Bannerette, Brooklyn, NY
Muscular, Kansas Gallery, New York, NY
What Was the Question? David Petersen Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
Anthropocene, CANADA, New York
William Deloitte, Alicia Gibson, Adrianne Rubenstein, Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY
Shut Up, Weirdo, 247365, Brooklyn, NY
The Fruit that Ate Itself, et al., San Francisco, CA
Galapagos, Board of Directors, Toronto, ON
Paper Trails, Board of Directors, Toronto, ON
VENUS, Los Angeles, CA (Sept.)
Maraschino, Fourteen30 Contemporary, Portland, OR
If you throw a spider out the window, does it break? Brennan & Griffin, New York, NY
Snail Salon, Regina Rex, Queens, NY
Forget About the Sweetbreads, co-curated with Joanne Greenbaum, James Fuentes, New York, NY
Roberta Smith, “Pam Glick, Annie Pearlman, Adrianne Rubenstein, Annie Pearlman”, The New York Times, June.
Maria Calandra, “Adrianne Rubenstein”, Pencil in the Studio, June.
Diane Solway, “Four Artists to Know Now at White Columns, Including an Instagram Discovery”, W Magazine, June.
Megan Burbank, “Fruit Loops: Lisa Frank, Art History Major, at Fourteen30 Contemporary”, Portland Mercury, March.
Thomas Micchelli, “More Now than Then: When Art Reaches Back”, Hyperallergic, August.
Roberta Smith, Forget About the Sweetbreads Review, New York Times, January.
Andrew Russeth, Forget About the Sweetbreads Review, New York Observer, January.
Visiting Lecturer, Emily Carr, Vancouver, BC
Visiting Critic Cranbrook Academy of Art MFA, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Visiting Critic, Portland State University School of Art And Design, Portland, OR
Visiting Lecturer, PACE University, New York, NY
Visiting Critic Rutgers MFA program, New Brunswick, NJ
Visiting Critic Hunter MFA program, New York, NY