Studio Visit: Tracy Kerdman

Tracy Kerdman is an artist who lives and works in New York.  Her work can be seen in PLEAT's January 2017 exhibition as well as tkerdman.com. 

Please describe your work. 
My work mainly focuses on portraiture. I make paintings that seem normal on the surface, but have an underlying sense of unease: eyes with no pupils or flesh that doesn’t quite look natural. I buy old photographs online from Etsy stores that sell vintage photographs, and use them as my references. Because the photographs are of people who once existed, the paintings become simultaneously familiar and empty; a stand in or formula for social structures.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices? 
I draw from my background of growing up in the low country of South Carolina, a place known for hospitality, and paradoxically, its bigotry. Figurative work is what drives my interest and helps me explore this idea of anxiety buried in normalcy. I am interested in the idea of what it is to “look normal.” Working within the context of traditional figurative work, the goal is to create something unsettling and more disconcerting than academic representation.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
I refer to John Currin’s work more than any other visual artist. Despite years of coming back to his paintings, I continue to learn from his figurative work. My work is also influenced by Édouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, Caravaggio and Gerhard Richter, to name a few. Manet’s flat, saturated blocks of color taught me how to make volume in the figure out of solid colors, while Richter’s references showed me to be critical of everyday images and to incorporate that into my work. I look to Fairfield Porter and Luc Tuymans to remind myself to keep it simple, loosen it up and to embrace my brushstrokes when I become too polished and tight in my execution.