Studio Visit: Clare Torina

Clare Torina recently received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was a participant at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2012. Her work has been included in group exhibitions in Memphis, Chicago, and New York and solo and two-person exhibitions at the Brooks Museum of Art and Dixon Gallery Gardens in Memphis, TN and Forum+ in Bruges, Belgium. Clare currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.


On collecting and process:

Reference imagery has become less apparent in my work lately, but I still keep a large file of found images. These often end up in collages. Because I don’t make preliminary sketches or models, my sketchbook is mostly filled with text. Some is personal, but most is taken directly from what I’m reading or watching that I find surprising, poetic, or related to my previous work/ideas. I collect materials; having a variety of things to work with is freeing (and also seems to alleviate the fear that I could spontaneously quit). This has become a major part of my practice because, while I do often make project-based work that requires finding specific materials chosen for their surface/function/historical baggage, I need the balance of improvisation; the something-out-of-nothing giddiness is that much more intense when the materials aren’t so predetermined.

Simultaneous, always, though one project will have more of my time than the others. I need the different speeds of working, most importantly because the projects always cross-pollinate and become more complex as they progress. So, right now, I’m working very slowly on a sculpture where I make one mark, or one small decision every couple of days. I’m also writing instructions for possible pieces I want other people to install. But, most of my time is going to making costumes and objects with my husband. It’s important for me to have the work that baffles me – that I have to think about and stare at for hours before knowing what to – balanced with more laborious, repetitive efforts. These ways of working are generative when together, but so frustratingly dense if separated.


On research:

The narratives that form my objects and paintings often come from parafictions; I’m fascinated by the myths surrounding historical characters, fragments completed by imagination, and removal of context to create quasi-truths. Through invention and sabotaged illusions, I want to complicate skepticism of myself, my own hand and education, my relationship to history, and death. I’m interested in the performative artifact and often think of the act of painting as performance, and the painting itself becoming the relic. I’m both enamored and saddled by the weightiness of paint’s history.

The artists that have been important for me are Paul Thek, Richard Hawkins, Broodthaers, Guston, Duchamp, Ensor…But, I watch films much more than I look at paintings and sculpture. I find film is more unapologetic in its theatricality and its struggles with representation, observation. I’ve gotten great scenic, metaphoric, and comedic fodder from F for Fake, This is Spinal Tap, Sleeper, Animals are Beautiful People and Suspiria, among others.

On space and site:

I’m working in the kitchen and courtyard right now. Adjusting to a small apartment has been challenging after having so much space in grad school and Skowhegan. However, I’ve always preferred to work where I live. I want to be naked, have movies playing, and the dogs hanging out. I don’t need the separation many artists seem to want, because it’s not separate.

I’ve lived many places under many circumstances. Geographical location has never changed the look of what I make. Regarding space, how I exhibit my work it is as adaptable as I am. Ideally, I get to make things for a space.