I paint to take pleasure in its results, also to have something new to look at. My oeuvre is pretty scattershot, meaning I’ll paint whatever interests me at any given time. That interest usually leads to figures, with their own strange pull—bound by walls, or rooms of some sort, the usual stuff. The result is a gravity-laden bottom-heavy thing, weighted by chiaroscuro and middle age, where mass just wants to sit down. And compared with painting anything else—like abstracted arrangements of whatnot without a beginning or an end—I paint a person and everything starts all over again, and then comes to its conclusion.
Human form is a thrill though technically not what I'd call a challenge; what’s hard is making clear what’s straining to be said, while fighting the old curveballs—much baggage, paint. After all this time I’m still surprised by the stupidity, apathy, the lapses into sentimentality, etc. I drift into states of revision that seem interminable, as a once fresh idea becomes buried under layers of afterthought. But this is all just part of the thing that needs to get done, by someone who is not very clever, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. At least it stands a chance of being better for it, with an autonomy apart from whatever impulse set it in motion. And if all this means the work runs the risk of being belabored or anachronistic, I couldn’t care less. How many other chances exist for merging qualities of attention, depth, skill, plus a little excess time on your hands—with a willingness to go for broke? For God’s sake it’s not brain surgery.
I don’t wonder too much, fundamentally, why I do this—this instead of a myriad of other things—because no answer suffices. I paint on weekends and before leaving for my job and doodle surreptitiously on the Long Island Railroad. I think it’s nice being a particle of something surreal and very old, wonderfully burdened by orthodoxy—its history can be found, it seems, beneath every rock—which still invites you to move forward. Artists really are privileged in that way.
Libby Braden was born in Detroit in 1957. As a teenager, she moved to Kansas, then New York City in 1980, where she has since held a succession of jobs, mostly in publishing.
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