Zeitgeist: Your current Zeitgeist show, Split Ends, represents two bodies of work. Are you still working on both of them? Which came first?
Douglas Degges: I am still working on both bodies of work. The props for pictures work came first, but both projects share overlapping conceptual concerns. Both groups of paintings explore the relationship between the painted image and the painted object. The image, the immaterial thing we can hold in our mind, is both separate from and part of the physical material that contains or supports it. It is this complicated relationship between the skin of a painting and its bones that I am most interested in. The monochrome paintings, the making stuff like pictures works, approach this idea, as well as the nature of depiction in painting, from a more sculptural place. These works attempt to both depict some thing, object, or surface while, at the same time, being that object or surface. With the props for pictures works I’m interested in how the physicality of the support can be set at odds with the painted image. These works are highly textured and the top layers of paint rarely and only incidentally acknowledge the surface they sit on.
Where did the idea to work with gypsum come from? What do you like about it as a medium?
The gypsum material is really just Durham's Water Putty, a water mixable powder that has a number of different applications. Mostly it's used as a casting material and wall patch. I enjoy working with this material because it allows me to build up the surface of my paintings quickly while suggesting the opposite. With the props for pictures paintings in particular, it is my hope that the physicality of the surface is mistakenly read as the accumulation of many layers of paint. I'm interested in how this causes the paintings to look heavily worked, both in terms of time spent and accumulation of material.
What is your process like? What time of day do you work best?
I work best during the day but I don’t really have a schedule. I try to get at least a few hours in every day while there’s plenty of daylight and then I often return to the studio a second time late in the evening. I enjoy having my studio at home because it allows for this to happen. I can work in fits and spurts and pop into the studio at any moment. I can begin something, walk away from it, and return again later in the same day and all without needing to commute from home or work to the studio.
What are the benefits of an arts education? How do you use what you learned in school?
There are so many benefits to an arts education. An arts education helps us find value in things that challenge us or exist outside of our own interests and known conventions. Of course, skills and tools are taught too. These are important and help us learn to give physical form to our ideas and interests with an increasingly aware and complex understanding of the context within which we make. An arts education opens up so many possibilities and connects an active studio practice with a much larger community.
Are there any ways that your students have inspired you?
I am inspired by my students all of the time. So many of them are hardworking, open, and eager to more fully and thoughtfully engage with the world around them. I’ve been teaching Foundations courses for the past year and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with first year college students. It’s so rewarding to guide them into the world of art and art making. I enjoy helping them discern what they want to say about the things they care most about.
Who are your favorite artists? Recent influences?
I look at a lot of different artists’ work but a few have consistently loomed large. The varied work of Amy Sillman and Michael Krebber have been major influences on my studio practice. I also worked as an artist assistant for Catherine Murphy and Thomas Nozkowski for a short time after finishing school. They have both greatly affected my work and taught me the importance of protecting your studio practice as so much of life conspires to keep you away from it. Recently, I’ve been looking at the work of Jutta Koether, Albert Oehlen, and R. H. Quaytman. I appreciate the way these three artists move seamlessly from figuration to abstraction and back.
Douglas Degges' show Split Ends will be on view at Zeitgeist through June 24.