Interview with Mira Putnam

Would you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I am an artist currently living and making in Providence, RI. I graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2013 with a BFA in Painting. Between then and now I spent two years living in Brooklyn and working as gallery director of Johnson Trading Gallery and maintaining a studio practice. 

At the moment my work is primarily acrylic paintings, but I also experiment with and utilize textile processes. Color and texture are most prevalent in my work. Be it a painting or a stitched wall hanging, color dominates. I strive to use color in unexpected ways and in unexpected pairings. Materiality and texture could potentially rival my love for color, but they haven’t mutinied yet. 

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
Recently my biggest inspiration has been going through my old childhood drawings and sketchbooks. I grew up attending a Waldorf School, which places a great important on the arts and creative thinking early on in a child’s education. I have books upon books filled with drawings and stories I wrote relating to whichever subject we were learning at the moment. It has been fun and rewarding flipping through, using pieces and reinterpreting them.

Most of what I make comes from the combination of things I find – little pictures and phrases collected in my sketchbook, beautiful fabrics from the “bargain bin”, plants, magazine clippings, science and nature Instagram accounts, etc. Often times the “favorites” album in the photo library on my phone serve as inspiration.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Colors!

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them? 
Sometimes it takes me a bit of time to master a textile technique because everything I know I have basically taught myself. I “learned” painting in school, as that was my major, but my textile knowledge is solely attributed to experiential learning. It can take longer to learn things this way, but for me it has been really positive and has fostered lots of good experimentation that probably wouldn’t have come about otherwise. YouTube can usually help me out of any jam.

Usually I am my own worst enemy – second-guessing myself, etc. But I think that is true for most people I know.

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?  
My work is sequences and pairings of false narratives, histories, fables, etc. that come together to create their own definitions of reality. I am also fascinated by childhood and the magic and freedom of expression that is only attainable by the child. Nature, especially the plant world, always finds its way into my paintings.

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
I’m in love with the pattern and motif repetition of Philip Taaffe. His show in last year in Brooklyn at Luhring Augustine inspired a lot of my recent work. Additionally I’ve been really into Paul Wackers, Ben Sanders, Ann Craven’s recent show at Gallery Diet, Marc Chagall’s costume design for “The Magic Flute”, Jonathan Lasker, and my girl Katie Stout’s playful and inspired furniture J

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
At the end of senior year at RISD, one of my painting teachers said that all anyone has to do to be a successful painter or artist is work harder than everyone they know. This always gave me motivation because it made success seem more attainable.