Tag Archives: contemporary art

from Minor Character

from Minor Character

From Andro/Pause

From Andro/Pause

Hands off my Viagra

Hands off my Viagra

video still from Nobody's Home

video still from Nobody’s Home

From Connect Up to me

From Connect Up to me


How long have you been making artwork? 

My earliest memory of drawing probably goes back to grade school. I remember being really inspired by team colors and mascots. I used to fill my room with drawings of every school in our division. I really haven’t stopped making “art” since. I didn’t really commit to the idea of being an “artist” until I graduated from college. 

Who are your favorite artists?  

This is a tough one because I love so many. I’ll just name a bunch of artists I find interesting off the top of my head… Kai Altoff, Bjarne Melgaard, Martin Kippenberger, Tala Madani, Joe Brainnard, Richard Tuttle, Cady Noland, Gary Hume, Christine Hill, Carol Bove, Ray Johnson, George Kuchar, Absalon, Forrest Bess, Chris Martin, Paul Thek, Joanne Greenbaume, David Wojnarowicz, William E. Jones, all the artists who show at Lump…

Who or what are your influences when it comes to making work?

Since I left grad school, I only follow projects, hunches, theories or ideas that interest me. I’m not really looking to make a living off my work, so I try to keep my work as pure as possible. I am a pretty restless person and I like to always be moving forward.

Do you read often?

Yes, I am always reading a variety of media; journals, blogs, magazines, novels, and theory… I jump back and forth from high to low. Currently, I am pretty obsessed with Leo Bersani and Kevin Dean. I am hoping it will develop into a project with my friend John Neff. In terms of my work, I have a half written novel that has reached a dead end, a couple blogs and I am reediting the Joe Orton diaries for a Kenneth Halliwell project I am working on. Always reading and writing.

Before you begin creating images, how do you come up with your ideas? Do you draw from personal iconography, or do you just start putting ideas on paper?

Things happen pretty organically with me. Usually, everything I do starts with drawing. Then to expand it into bigger idea or project I usually recognize that a drawing is not going to be enough and find other strategies to make the work. I don’t have loyalty to any medium or technique.

You use a wide variety of media and strategies. How are your sculptures, paintings, drawings, and video connected? Are they linked by an idea or theme, or are they something completely different?  

Well, as a result of running Lump ( for the past 17 years, my curatorial practice has crept into my work. When I think about my own exhibitions I approach it from an editorial perspective, and this also comes from my background in film and video. I like to fill holes.

Your portraits are really engaging. Who are these people featured in your wallpaintings and paintings?  

For the past 15 years I have been drawing bald guys. I just like to imagine their personal economies within our culture. Sometimes I turn my quick 1-2 minute sketches into these large laborious paintings and wall paintings. I’ve made portraits of Perry Rubenstein, Barry Diller, Stanley Tucci, Michel Foucault, Lloyd Blankfein, and random bald guys I see in the street or at the gym.  Recently I invited everyone I knew to draw Lloyd Blankfein for a book project.  I heard he is interested in contemporary art and I was hoping he would take notice and let me photograph the toilets at Goldmann Sachs. Sadly, it never was printed, maybe some day.

Although I don’t like using the term “naive,” why do you intentionally use naive mark making in your paintings and drawings? 

I was thinking about this the other day in my drawing class when we were having a discussion about mark making. I was telling my students I went through a very technical phase in high school and college but have drifted very far away from that. The style you see now is really a reflection of me in this phase of my life. I love gesture. The crummier the better, the less I do the more I like it. I also told them that you have to know the rules before you can break the rules so they wouldn’t all show up with shitty drawings.

Your work appears to contain a sense of dry cryptic humor. Do you feel that is accurate? 

Yes, I believe I have a pretty dark sense of humor. I usually let it all hang out in the studio and then edit what gets to seen. Some work is just not right for certain audiences. I am revealing hints about what the work means to me, but in no way am expecting the viewer to follow my trajectory. 

You mentioned in an earlier email you were working on a book and solo show. What is the book you are working on? Where will this solo show take place?

I recently went to China and bought a bunch of brushes and ink when I was there. The handling of the brush has completely loosened up my style even more. It is welcome change. I am in no ways trying to work in a traditional Chinese technique, but I like the materials. Anyways, I started using the brushes and ink to make drawings. After I had about two hundred I started editing them and “films” started to emerge. I store all my drawings in portfolios and when you look at them and they read like a film. I am trying to release them as a book. The show I am working on right now will include some of these drawings or a “film” called “Low Hanging Fruit.” I am also working on a bunch of other pieces as well. It is going to be at Spectre Arts in Durham next year.

What are your feelings on academia? 

Well, I teach and I have gone through two programs (BFA/MFA) so I think it’s pretty important to me, but not necessary for everyone. It really is a personal choice. If an academic setting interests you I say follow that path, if not try other approaches. I know plenty of artists who learned from immersing themselves in the art world and have been very successful.

Any advice to young and emerging artists who want to get their work out there?

I guess the most important thing is don’t waste time. Don’t wait for galleries come to you. Put on your own shows, get involved with your community, volunteer at a place you would want your work to be shown, follow your instincts, and make the world a better place.

Bill Thelen is an artist, curator , and educator. He currently lives and works in Raleigh, NC. He earned his MFA from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has exhibited nationally and internationally. He currently runs Lump Gallery and Projects. A contemporary art gallery, collective, and alternative space in Raleigh, NC.  

to view more of his work please visit

To learn more about Lump Gallery and Projects please visit

Guest Artist: Leanne Grimes        


ink on paper, 2013


Charcoal on paper, 2011


ink on paper, 2013

Rainbow Surf Hostel, Maui

Rainbow Surf Hostel, Maui, 2013

ink on paper

From MittWitts, 2011


From MittWitts, 2011Gardenia 

Gardenia, 2011

oil on linen


Owlwoods, 2012

oil on mylar

Cherry Top 

Cherry Top, 2012

oil on mylar


Dream Car, 2010


How long have you been painting?
I’ve been painting most of my life. My mom is an artist and teacher, so she always had creative things for me to do as a kid. I remember using watercolors when I was 4 years old. I would put shapes of colors down, and build walls of colors that filled the page, almost like a brick-layer. I try to go back to that memory and process in order to connect with the simple joy of painting. Too often in my studio, I feel the weight of external pressures, which can be very dangerous for the creative process. But it took me awhile to pursue painting in a real way. I’d say I’ve been painting for 10 years. 

What are your influences?
It might sound weird, but I’m influenced by driving. I don’t have a car right now, so it is always a special treat when I get to drive. I find that it clears my head, and allows room for very specific and often cathartic thoughts to arise. I’m also influenced by physical movement – whether it be biking, walking, dancing, practicing yoga, or swimming. If I am not connected with my body’s physical presence, I find it very difficult to paint. Lastly, I am influenced by beautiful fruits and vegetables, no matter how hippy-dippy that sounds. I love cooking, and I relate that process to painting. Some of my favorite paintings have been inspired by meals I’ve made or shared with friends. 

Who are your favorite artists?
Paul Klee, Peter Doig, Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly, Rothko, James Turell, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly. I’ve gone through many different love affairs with certain artists, but I find that I always come back to these ones. It’s funny because most of them are minimalists, or as I prefer to name them reductivists. 

Do you draw and paint from observation, memory, or imagination?
I use all of these ingredients! I used to think they were mutually exclusive, that I had to pick one way of working in order to “be a good artist”. But that is not true at all. Some days I really need to go outside and draw a tree or a landscape. Other days, I am forced to look at a photo for visual information. Some days I feel like a slave to observation, so I put all of that away and make a drawing straight from my imagination. This is actually terrifying, but equally liberating. It feels like a direct link to my subconscious, which can be unnerving. Memory is a whole other process. I find that in order to work from memory, I need to have a very specific and clear image of what it is I am remembering. Otherwise, there is not enough information, and the result can look generic. Like how if you ask students to draw a tree, 9 out 10 of them draw the iconic symbol for a tree, which is not a specific tree at all. The cool thing about working from memory though, is that if you draw something from observation, it commits it to memory. So if I go out and draw a tree from observation, when I go to draw it from memory, chances are I will produce that same observed tree, minus a few details.   

How do you begin a painting? Do you start with an underdrawing?
I spend a lot of time drawing, which informs my paintings. However, I think I “draw” very little in my actual paintings. I love putting down large chunks of color, and little spots here and there, and then building the rest of the painting around those moments. My paintings actually deal with color theory more than anything. I am very interested in the process of mixing colors, and how they behave in a relative way.

Your mittens titled “mittwitts” are really playful. How do they relate to your drawing and painting process? Or are they something different?
These little sculptures were made for an installation. I teamed up with a video artist. and we performed a few days worth of activities, such as eating, swimming, driving, cooking, and grocery shopping. The point of the Mittwitt is to force personal interaction with people. At the opening, people were encouraged to take them off the walls and spend some time joined in the mitt with a stranger. At one point, there was a circle of 6 of us joined in the Mittwitts collectively drinking wine. The process of making these was actually very intense, but also fun. I found it to be closely linked to painting, but even more immediate and direct. I used fabric from clothing I had been holding onto for years. Some of them are made from shirts I had since I was 14. Others had fabric from a hat a friend made. I loved the process. There was an internal narrative embedded from the beginning due to the stories behind the fabrics. It was actually really weird, because I found that the colors of my clothes were similar to the colors I gravitate toward in painting.

How do your sculptures relate to your painting process? Or are they something different?
I use sculpture as a way to work out ideas. It is a different process than painting, but it is all in the same vein – to realize a vision that occurs, and becomes strong enough to facilitate a creative endeavor. The dream car sculpture was exactly that – I had been having a lot of dreams about cars, especially an invisible one. I didn’t think it would be served well as a painting, so I set out to make the object and photograph it. For me, that was enough. It did not need to be painted. 

Do you ever have truley awful frustrating days in your studio?
Yes. Not only frustrating days, sometimes weeks, or months. I think the important thing is to embrace this time. We can’t always be producing masterpieces. Painting is a practice for me. In viewing it this way, it has alleviated the pressure to constantly be perfect in the studio. Through practice, things develop. 

What are your feelings on academia?
I have mixed feelings about academia. I went to art school. I graduated with a bachelors degree and spent three years out of school floundering around for a bit. So I went to grad school. I had a great experience in grad school. It opened up my creative process and moved me across the country which exposed me to a whole new landscape and allowed me to experience life, which I ended up translating into paintings. The tricky thing about academia is that it does not give you any actual skills to make money. And there are student loans to repay. So what do you do for money? Because more and more, I feel like the idea of living off of painting is not a reality. Sadly, our economy is very different than it was 10 years ago. So I am currently exploring some ideas about how to balance all of this. I’ll get back to you when I figure it out!

What is your advice to young/ emerging artists who want to show their work?
I think you need to be confident about your work and go out and meet people. Talk about your work. Arrange studio visits. You have to be able to stand behind what you’ve made, and the more you can talk about it with your peers, the better you will become at this.

Leanne Grimes graduated in 2011 from the University of Washington with an MFA in painting. She has exhibited nationally and her work has been featured in the New American Paintings blog. 

To view her work: