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ArtSake - Mass Cultural Council

Ilana Manolson paints the landscape

Published May 15, 2009

Ilana Manolson (MCC Painting Fellow ‘08) took a few moments to talk with ArtSake about her work and life.

What artists work do you admire most but paint nothing like? I really like Joan Snyder’s work because I feel like it is deeply personal, rich, and extremely brave work. And in my studio I have written on the wall, simplify, focus, and be brave. Her work, although I feel like it is nothing like mine, does that in a very personal way.

What is the most surprising response to your art you have ever received? The response wasn’t to my artwork, but to the way I identify what I do. Recently I went to a doctor because I was concerned I was having an allergic reaction to a tick repellent I use when I am out in the woods and swamps preparing for painting. When I explained to the doctor that I was working outdoors because I am a landscape painter, she asked, with complete seriousness, What color do you paint the landscape? It reminded me of the gardeners in Alice in Wonderland painting the roses for the queen.

How do you know when your work is done? Great question, and one I ask myself every day. It varies with each piece, which is why I spend as much time subtracting as adding. I often have to let a piece rest, and be what might feel initially a bit underdone, so that it doesn’t suffer from being taken to the point where one more mark turns the whole thing over fussy. I haven’t always managed that - my studio storage area is full of work that has been overdone.

What do you listen to while you paint? I’ve been working very hard preparing for a show in New York and so I’ve needed a lot of music which keeps me dancing. Recently I’ve been listening most to Jane Goldman’s The Jane Gang.

What films have influenced you as an artist? Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was fascinating because it gave such a strong sense of the vision of a paralyzed man, and for me, it is very meaningful to be able to step into someone else’s vision in some way.

If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil? I would be all of the above, and more, because my work is about different mark making and it’s sort of a dance, as I let each mark become its own expression and interweave with the others.

What are you currently reading? I have a mountain of reading growing next to my bed, and one of my current favorites from that stack is Swamp Walker’s Journal by David M. Carroll. And I’m looking forward to reading Tracy Winn’s (MCC Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Fellow ‘08) stories in Mrs. Somebody Somebody.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled: Finding the Fixed in the Fluid

Do you live with any animals? Three birds, two teenagers, and a whole lot of squirrels who think they would make better use of my studio than I do.

What has the MCC Painting Artist Fellowship meant to you? I’m sure I’ve spent the money more than once it’s encouraged me to choose art materials more freely, to explore more. And it’s connected me with other artists, across disciplines, through events and lectures that I wouldn’t otherwise have been invited to participate in.