INTERVIEW WITH PAIGE BRADLEY
Paige Bradley is an American sculptor with an incredible knowledge and preparation. When she was just nine, she already knew what her career would be, first approaching drawing and then bronze sculpture.
Hers studies led her to study also in Italy, where she met a real passion for Michelangelo's work.
Her works are characterized by strong dichotomies and contrasts, in them we can read the artist's will to speak a language that overcomes the barriers of time and space and this is what makes her works so contemporary and modern.
All images © courtesy of Paige Bradley
In your biography I read how art and the idea of an artistic career has always been an important part of your life since childhood but how much do you think it has evolved and changed since the beginning?
My thoughts of becoming an artist were all-consuming as a young person. Up until I moved to NYC, I thought I was going to change the world with my artwork. I guess I had a bit of an ego, but I worked very hard to make sure I could do what I said I could do.
Upon meeting New York gallerists, curators, and other artists, I realized how deep and wide the art world truly was and I was overwhelmed. It was then that I realized that being good and accurate was not what made ‘good art’. It is more essential to be a visionary, to be honest, and to experience the human condition transparently. Now that I’m a mid-career artist, I have evolved to understand that my art follows my life rather than my life following my art. Raising my kids and growing wiser is the journey, and now my artwork follows the stories of my life. By being open, vulnerable and honest when creating, I can connect to others through art.
Why do you choose to refer to real models when working on your sculptures? Is it related to your quest to represent the truth and the real?
Real life models offer me a opportunity to view nature as it is, not how I think it is. Creating solely from the mind is very limiting. Being one generation removed from reality, the mind’s idea of reality is perfectly organized, redundant, and simplistic. I am after the chaos of nature because therein lies the dichotomies found in our hearts; the beautiful and the ugly, the soft and the strong, the quiet and the loud.
Italy has represented some important stages in your life. Can you tell us something about it and how it has helped you in your artistic growth?
While I studied in Florence over my second year in college, I became enthralled with Michelangelo. He became a real person to me, not an icon or a god. I followed his footsteps through the streets, from Pietrasanta to Rome, I wanted to understand his genius and his dedication to his craft. I also drew nightly at the Florence Academy of Art, when it was a little known school. Most important, I realized how different I was from the other 40 students in my class who were studying business, communications and finance. I saw the world differently and I was driven to start working. I would bring home 50 pound bags of clay to the villa and work at night while my peers were out in the town drinking and dancing. It felt so good to know my path from a young age. But the duty it demanded of me sometimes became loneliness. I knew Michelangelo felt the same way.
Expansion, seated bronze sculpture of a woman in meditation, is a sculpture that of strong impact and success. One of the reasons is the use of the current but also the message it brings. Can you tell us about this work? How was the inspiration born? What did you want to express?
I am driven to express the soul in my work. Before I created Expansion, I thought I could find the soul just by being really accurate and good. Unfortunately, it worked in an opposite fashion and the care to detail actually killed the soul of the piece. I was also frustrated that a bronze sculpture was always solid and dark. The soul feels the opposite of this, and I wanted to catch the uncatchable. I began to think outside my paradigm and not limit myself with rules. It was then that I understood how being visionary was essential to being truly creative.
Since the creation of Expansion it has touched many and taken on a meaning of its own. It now belongs to the world and the meaning of it far surpasses anything I could have delivered alone.
I am also very interested in the innovative materials you use. How do you choose the materials for your works? What is the main idea you look for?
Usually what is going on in my own life pushes me towards the subjects I need to portray. And this leads to materials. Sometimes I am unable to get to my studio (home schooling kids, winter weather, etc) and that’s when I enjoy sculpting polymer clay from the kitchen table and baking it in the oven. Sometimes I take a photo or see a landscape that I really need to draw or paint. Other times I use water-based clay when I want to put a thought down fast. We have so many different materials now that previous sculptors didn’t have. Welding, Stainless steel, bright paint colors and engineering with 3D computer programs are only some of the things that have changed since Rodin sculpted. In the end, I am just interested in moving the ancient form of sculpture forward to our sensibilities of today.
There is a section on your website dedicated to drawings. How do you feel this artistic expression? As preparatory to the realization of the sculptures or as something detached and important for itself?
Drawing is very dear to me. It was my first love and also the most important foundation for everything. You cannot be an artist if you cannot draw. I don’t usually draw out a sculpture before I start sculpting, but sometimes I sketch various ideas first. When looking through sketches from great artists, somehow I feel the strokes of graphite on the pages are more alive than the paintings or the bronzes. The sketches take me to a singular moment where an idea sparked or a concept was studied. The artist never intended so many eyes would gaze upon the sketch book or drawing pad. It’s the primary process of finding oneself; grounding before flight. There is an immediacy and an honesty that goes with the private communication of a simple pencil and paper. Someday I might write a book about it.
Many of your works have been exhibited in outdoor spaces while others indoors; which setting do you prefer?
I cannot say that I prefer one over the other. I have a few bronzes in my home and a few outdoors. Any setting can be altered dramatically when a piece of art is put in the right spot. I do love seeing bronze out in nature. Mainly because a painting cannot live outdoors, but a bronze can. Alternatively, I have seen how a simple dark bronze figure can liven up light grey interior walls by creating new shapes, patterns and spaces.
Which are your goals for the future? Your next projects?
I have a long list of new subjects that I want to embark upon. I have to capture the essence of childhood before my children grow up too much. I need to start painting as I have things to say within this medium also. I would love to see “Expansion” in a public garden where visitors can go and see it, as I am frequently asked. So I feel Endlessly busy!