October 12, 2011 HQ Interviews… Joanne Greenbaum: The artist behind The Whole Love album artwork.

Wilco HQ: Thanks for taking the time. And without delay, let's get started...

Wilco HQ: How long have you been painting?
Joanne Greenbaum: My whole life since I was about 12 or even earlier.

Wilco HQ: That's a long time.  So where and how do you like to work? Has that changed over the years?

JG: I live and work in the same place - a loft in downtown Manhattan, I've been in this particular space for about 20 years now. I prefer to live and work in the same space because I like the integration of day-to-day living and going into the studio whenever I want to. In fact most of what I do is in the studio, if I cook a meal I eat it in there, that’s where my TV is, my books and computer are all in there. Certain things remain the same and never change, I do work a lot and continue to make a lot of stuff, most of which does not get shown. I use a large table and its usually covered with drawings and papers and the stuff of an artist. For the large paintings I prop them up on buckets against the walls, that way I can move things around all of the time, as I tend to do a lot. It’s a very fluid environment, it changes all of the time, and I am constantly re-hanging things and trying out different arrangements of artworks. It can get very colorful in there and often I have to put things away in order to think or to see things differently.

One thing that has changed over the years, as I get older, is the sense of time becoming slower - that there are a lot of hours in every day and so much time to do so much. There are days when I do nothing but look around the studio, and days that are just non-stop working. Earlier I didn’t have this awareness of the preciousness of time.

Wilco HQ: Would you tell us about the cover image for the album? Was there any particular inspiration (or not) for this piece?

JG: I believe the cover image was made after a period of using a lot of color and being very involved with layering thin washes of paint over each other. Sometimes I need a break from this, but in the case of this silver and black painting, it was a desire to use a fictional structure without the distraction of color. In the art world, there is an idea of silver and black being a cliché of toughness or a boy punk sensibility that I enjoyed playing with. And as a woman, playing with those clichés or expectations was a lot of fun. It felt odd to do that painting, and for years it sat in the racks of my studio kind of rejected and all alone. Last year a curator, Bob Nickas chose it for a show he was doing in a dark cave-like space and it fit perfectly. I was thrilled when Wilco ended up choosing that image for their cover it made total sense to me that musicians would respond to it. There is also something about using black and silver that is very elemental and universal in our time.

Wilco HQ: How about the cover of the deluxe edition?

JG: This painting for the deluxe edition is a huge painting, something like 110 inches by 100 inches.  I made it specifically for a show in New York in 2003 in which my idea was to fill the gallery with 4 or 5 monumental paintings. Also at that time, my work was going through changes where I was using a lot of different colors, sometimes 50 or so in one painting, and working big like that frees one up to do a lot without becoming over busy.  There is a lot of space in which to perform with paint.

Wilco HQ: You have a new show opening in October at D’amelio Terras Gallery in New York.  Will any of your pieces featured in The Whole Love packaging be in the show?

JG: No, nothing from the pieces on any packaging will be in this show. This show will consist of a series of new paintings I made this past spring. They are all really small - 16 inches by 12 inches. I made 60 of them. They are all different and very open to experimentation with different materials combined with paint, like magic markers, spray etc. I had a great time making them all. I am also making a book to go along with these paintings, with images of all 60 in the book. We may not be able to show the whole series in the exhibition.

Wilco HQ: Have you worked with any bands prior to Wilco?

JG: You are my first.

Wilco HQ: You'll never forget us.

Joanne’s show at D’amelio Terras in New York (525 west 22nd) will run from October 15th - November 12th in the Front room gallery.
More info here:


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