The Keltie Ferris show (that’s her work behind the lovely Angela) at Mitchell-Innes & Nash is so exciting: the paintings are large, the colors are vibrant, the shapes make you feel like shaking your groove thing. I want the movie of my life to be set inside them. I met Angela at the opening, drawn to her because of what she describes as her “Keith Haring dress.” I wouldn’t have thought about it, but once she said it, I was like, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.”
What do you do?
I’m a writer and an editor.
Do you have a specific subject that you write about?
I write about artists for Interview magazine. That’s my passion. And I’ve just become an editor at Cosmopolitan magazine.
So, art is your passion. Did you make art at one point, or do you still?
I used to when I was young. I made sculptures out of clay, nude women. But they were so big, and they broke in the kiln all the time. So it was a little devastating. Then I started to write about art. That was what I was better at.
Would you describe the writing that you do as journalism, or is it more like creative nonfiction?
It’s a mix. I love the art of the interview of the artist, being in the studio. I spent two hours with Keltie in her studio, chatting. Then I’ll research enough so I feel like I have a handle on it, and then it’s more how the art felt…when I’m writing about the actual works, it’s more creative. And I try not to read what other people have said about them first, especially if it’s a new artist.
Do you have a focus, do you do mostly new artists, or are you everywhere?
I guess I do mostly new and newer artists.
Do you have a favorite medium? Are you drawn to anything in particular?
I really still love figurative painting, but in a fresh, energetic way. I love Richard Diebenkorn’s work…I love color, and I still love sculpture. I’m kind of up for anything.
What about painting appeals to you in particular?
I like the tradition behind it, of seeing how younger artists, dealing with all that history, are trying to make it fresh again. And I think you know it when you see it.
It’s a gut thing.
Yes. And that’s the exciting bit. You wait to go to a gallery and feel that, because you go to so many and don’t feel much.
If you were starting your own collection, what would you begin with? What is the most coveted item?
I actually think a Diebenkorn. He was one of my first discoveries when I came to America and had a painting teacher at Cornell. I took an oil painting class, and she said to me, “You might like this guy.” And I’d never heard of him before.
So it was like a revelation.
Exactly. And I then went to live in Santa Monica for four years. So I lived on the streets he painted. Actually [my teacher] is an incredible artist. Her name is Dannielle Tegeder. Her things are very abstract, industrial, like blueprints of boilerworks, because that’s where her parents did. So she grew up among blueprints, knowing the insides of buildings. So her art kind of reflects that. She was amazing.
So what’s your background? You came here for college, from Australia?
I came here as an exchange student…
And you never left?
Well, I had to go back because my visa ran out. Then I went home, miserable, and I applied for the lottery, and I got the green card.
No way! Meant to be.
So it was meant to be, and I came back. And I’ve been here five years.
And so why do you call this your Keith Haring dress?
I don’t know why, it just reminds me [of his work]…the colors, and the squiggles.
Are you a color person in your dressing style?
If you had a piece of advice for someone who wanted to do what you do, but was just starting out, what would it be?
I would say go and see lots of shows, and be an intern. That’s what I did. It’s tough. You have to try and work out a way to get your writing out there. And for a while you’re just not going to get paid for it. Accepting that is humbling, but it works. And I think finding what you love…I would write about art…I don’t need to get paid to do this…
So you have another job, and you do it in addition.
Yes. Find that thing that you would do anyway, and go for that. If you put the work into that, you don’t mind the time it takes, or the commitment it takes. It will start to work its way into a career. I was a waitress for a decade. And even in my new job, I just love flea markets and thrift stores. I don’t have much, but I think that projecting yourself the way you’d like to be is half the battle.
So that brings me to my last question: If you had a life philosophy, or personal code, what would it be?
I’m a huge believer in being willing to fall in love and take risks with it. I’ve traveled all over the world doing that, and people thought I was crazy. But it’s been the crazy experiences that help me understand the art I see, or the depth in things. I hope.