Regina Scully interview with artist Christina Massey

Regina Scully

September 23, 2018

I first “met” Regina through Facebook. Her posts of her paintings kept popping up in my feed and grabbing my attention and I was so happy to finally meet her in person last year. Her work sits in that really lovely space between abstraction and representation where at first glance it can appear one or the other, and you’re left spending time visually navigating the space, enjoying each brushstroke for just that, in addition to how it has created this alternate world for you to get lost in. Really beautiful, I hope you enjoy learning more about her and her work as much as I have!

  • I believe I had read somewhere that at some point in your early career you had sold work on the sidewalks of NYC, is that true? What did you learn from that experience or do you have a great story to share? Do you remember your first art sale? Can you share a little about that experience?

I like to remember that experience metaphorically as an important step in saying to the Universe that I wanted my paintings to be out there and to be seen. The best part about it was meeting other artists on the street and talking and getting to know them throughout the long day. It was a lot of work. I was a temp agent 9-5, Monday through Friday, and I’d go out one day a weekend with this huge heavy wooden folding screen that I built, along with all the paintings, all wrapped in a big drop cloth and tied with string. I attached some wheels to the bottom and would roll this thing down into the subway from Brooklyn to Prince and West Broadway. Sometimes I made a sale but overall, I don’t think I made any money doing it. The best experience was when I met an art teacher from the Midwest who had been sent by her school to check out the art in NYC and report back. She’d been given a little cash to bring some small things back with her and she bought a 15 x 15-inch painting for $65. We talked for a while about how important art is in the school system, and it was pretty uplifting.

  • Did you grow up in an artistic family? What was or has been your experience with support from your family on your choice and career as an artist? 

I grew up in a mostly artistic family. My mother and sister are both writers and my other sibling, my brother, is a musician. My father is a chemist, but he’s pretty creative and loves art. I’m grateful to have grown up with support. When I was five, my parents were still starting their careers and didn’t have much money but they could see how much I loved art, so my Mom would drive me down to the YMCA on Saturday mornings for my first drawing class. I still vividly remember learning about perspective and being fascinated when my teacher drew train tracks in my sketchbook and showed me how they became smaller in the distance until they reached a point.

  • Your work can feel both effortless, speedy and in the moment as well as well thought out and planned, each brushstroke having a purpose and intention. Can you describe a little about how you typically work, do you finish in one sitting, or build over time? Piece by piece or on multiple works simultaneously?

I’ve always admired the way a great tennis player or a strong violinist, or anyone with an in and out knowledge of their craft, can make it look so easy. I want it to look effortless so that the eye can flow and feel confident in following the labyrinths within the painting. If there is an area of struggle, it would be intended as a place where one has the opportunity to reflect on the struggle, though I have not done this before. Everyone knows there is struggle beneath the appearance of ease, but the ease allows the eye to dance through the painting. The paintings take a long time and I work on a number of them at once. This allows me the choice to work on the pieces I am drawn to that day, while I can turn the other ones around and get a fresh perspective a few days later. Over a period of months, and in some cases, a year, each painting grows, evolves, and takes on more and more life and its own particular personality.

  • Your work undoubtedly has a contemporary take on landscape, how do you battle the relationship of abstract to representational in your work? Do you begin by leaning one way or the other, or does it come together organically?

I usually begin the paintings abstractly, with mark-making or washes, in all different ways, to get the surface initially activated with color and paint. In essence, things start to appear, and I bring them out and mix them with what I like and want to see. It is a process of conjuring and editing and creating transitions between the different elements. If something in the painting feels too real and starts to take on a hierarchical stance in the painting, I turn the canvas upside down and work on it this way for a while. By the time I turn it back, things have shifted enough that I have both excavated new material to work with and gotten rid of the object or face in question. I think a well-structured strong painting can be turned different ways and still work, so I also like to do this for the purpose of seeing which areas are weak and need to be looked into.

  • Your work to me has an exploratory vibe, it feels like a travelers experiences into the new, different, exciting, confusing all at once. Are you a big traveler? Does this play a role at all in your work? Or does everything come from your imagination?

I traveled in Europe when I was a child because of my father’s job. It was an impressionable time and sometimes I think I am still pulling out objects and atmospheres from those memories. As an adult, however, my trips have been to other countries to explore different plant medicines, which involve lots of inner journeys. I like to imagine myself as a big traveler, but not in the physical sense. You can travel anywhere and everywhere in the mind while sitting in one room, and painting is the perfect vehicle to record and reflect on this type of exploration.

  • I love your pallet. Your works have a vibrancy and excitement in them that feel youthful, energetic and almost urgent. What is your approach and relationship with color when you begin a new work? Is color equally important in other aspects of your life? (home, wardrobe etc?)

I love strong color. And yes, I have color in my life, but it is like with my dreams. People say to me, you must have fascinating dreams, but I don’t always remember my dreams a lot and when I do, I’m often actually doing some kind of organizational task. I suppose these parts of life unfold in my paintings and when I am painting, that is when I experience my dreams and vibrant colors.

In terms of process, as the painting progresses, color becomes more and more important and specific. I may have an inclination toward one color when starting a piece, but this is pretty arbitrary usually. In fact, the colors can look quite awkward at the beginning and as the piece evolves, the colors come into their own. About a third of the way in, I will mix a set of very specific colors and enough paint for that painting and record it all in a color journal. For one painting, there may be three different grays used for different areas and two or three different blacks, a specific red only for that piece, etc.

  • You are primarily a painter, have you always been that way? Have you ever explored other mediums or do you have any desire to grow your work in that way? Or if you could learn any new skill, what would it be? (for instance your work seems perfect for printmaking or even textiles, any interest in other mediums?)

Along with some drawing and painting, I primarily did sculpture until I was 17, (ceramics, metalsmithing, and sculptures made of wood, paper mache, wire, found objects, fabric, etc.). At RISD, I went into painting, because the idea of creating my ideas in two-dimensions, after years of seeing them 3-dimensionally, both fascinated and daunted me. While studying painting as an undergrad, I also took classes with the metalsmithing/jewelry majors. Sometimes, I would work on a large painting in the afternoon, then find myself at night bent over a one by one-inch piece of silver, filing, cutting and soldering. Each medium informed the other, and I enjoyed the difference in scale and perspective. I have always thought of painting as a three-dimensional space within the two-dimensional surface where I am building worlds the way I would with wire, paper, paint, glass, wood, fabric, etc.

  • Do you have any favorite female artists?

Lisa Sanditz, Julie Mehretu, and Genieve Figgis who are living, and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Remedios Varo, and Hilma Af Klint who are no longer alive.

  • Do you have any current or upcoming events and shows that you'd like to share?

I’ll be going to the Hermitage Artist Retreat Residency during the first two weeks of October where I will also have a small exhibition and give a talk about my work. In December my paintings and paper pieces will be featured along with three other artists at Scope Art Fair in Miami with Octavia Art Gallery. I am also working throughout these projects on an upcoming solo exhibition in New Orleans in April/May 2019.

Read the article in full, here.