2023, oil and hardware on wood, 14" x 11" x 2"
Stacy Fisher’s paintings have a directness about them that initially intimidated me when I thought about writing this introduction. What can one say about objects that already present themselves so clearly? How can words possibly reveal anything when nothing is hidden to begin with? Had she been poured into the body of a writer instead of a painter, one could imagine Fisher producing the shortest of short stories and the briefest of poems, all hitting the mark with just a few well chosen words. What more could I add to that?
Fisher’s paintings, however, have a thingness about them that I am temperamentally drawn to. They are singular in both their originality and in the sense that they don’t act as metaphors (at least not to me). They are what they are and that, I think, is something I can put words to. That’s a starting point.
A captivating mix of structure, improvisation, and understatement, Fisher’s paintings hold my attention as they shift in space like restless performers on the thin line between form and its opposite. At times her paintings playfully whisper, at others they state their intentions with a clarity composed of vivid colors and decisive contrasts. She wisely shies away from anything resembling an earnest lecture stiffly or monotonously delivered. Instead, it’s as if she’s realized that casualness is its own hungry beast and she’s let it out of its cage.
Fisher is an artist adept at articulating the personal and the subjective in a way that makes both seem inevitable and true. Her off-kilter forms and soft touch fuse her materials with her supports, suggesting an airy effortlessness that any painter knows is hard won over years, if not decades. Her paintings lean into a visual language that is more like Saturday-feral children rolling down a hill in a park and giggling wildly; much less like a formal team practice focused on rules and technical ability. Both have their place, to be sure, but I get the sense that Fisher is more excited by the idea of losing a bit of control than by obsessively cultivating it.
This month I’m very happy to share my Semi-Finalist interview with New York based artist Stacy Fisher.
Stacy Fisher in her studio.
The Semi-Finalist: Stacy, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I really appreciate it. I like to start most of my interviews by asking about an artist’s formative years. How did a life in the arts begin for you?
Stacy Fisher: I grew up in Norwalk, Ohio, which is a relatively small town, and have been drawn to art and music for as long as I can remember. While I was a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art we took class trips on a bus to New York and I immediately fell in love with it. We had a literature teacher who had an apartment on Mercer Street, she made us all subscribe to the New Yorker and I think we watched Slaves of New York in class like three times. But it was through doing a residency at the Chautauqua School of Art that really sealed the deal, most of the teachers were based in the city and gave us great info on how to move there. It’s funny to look back at those years and how information was so precious. We didn’t have all the internet resources, so meeting the right people was key.
2023, oil on wood, 16.5" x 17" x 1.5"
S-F: When I recently visited your studio, you mentioned that at some point your work transitioned from being sculpture-centric to being painting-centric. Tell me more about that.
Stacy Fisher: I’ve always had a foot in both worlds, but the starting and finishing points were previously aimed at being sculpture. I made abstract paintings for years on the side and hid them away because they didn’t necessarily have the same intent as my sculptures. They were more of an outlet for painting in a freer way since painting on sculptures can be so tricky. But in the early stages of the pandemic, I found myself at a bit of a loss in the studio. I’d run out of materials and wasn’t in the right frame of mind to bother with restrictions. I did find a stash of oil paint and was really inspired by Fortnite, which my son had just started playing. I was blown away by the look of it and the skins, I had never really appreciated the virtual world. With the insanity of the lock down on top of the political anxiety in the air, I figured if there was ever a time to explore painting that this was it- not only because the process of painting can be so pleasing (even like traveling), but I discovered a new way of setting up and exploring ‘moments’ by painting on wood. It had never occurred to me that I could build my own structures to paint on and they didn’t have to be flat. This was the beginning of the shift- when my focus became oriented towards pattern and using color, and I was making structures with the intent of painting them.
2023, oil on wood, 20" x 11.5" x 1.5"
2022, oil on wood, 13.25" x 10" x 1.75"
S-F: You also talked about your interest in making paintings that avoid the illusion of form and instead privilege literal form. That idea really resonates with me. Can you talk about the importance of that in your work?
Stacy Fisher: The first iteration of these works were made pre-pandemic and were all white with minimal pencil markings. Layers of wood were stacked one on top of the other, or a strip would jut out to one side- whatever marks I added were in response to the shadows, sides, and edges. When I started painting them I followed the same strategy, with the structures being very much a part of the narrative. I found that if I added an illusion of space that all those little structural details would get lost. In many ways, the entire point to this work is found through what happens to the shifting spaces and how each work changes as you move around it. This idea of layering and the picture changing has really stuck with me as a metaphor for a point of view. I love to read fiction written in first person that specifically narrates day to day tasks. It seems so boring but I am really interested in how the mind works and responds to what’s happening around us, how certain events have huge effects on us and others don’t.
2023, oil on wood, 9.75"x 6" x 1.5"
2022, oil on wood, 12.75" x 9.5" x 1.75
S-F: Your work is such a wonderful blend of rigor and play, geometric structure and casual brushwork, simple materials and sophisticated color choices. Stacy, I don’t know if I even have a question for you here! But maybe a good prompt for this section would be: “Where does your impulse to fuse opposites come from?”
Stacy Fisher: I have always done this in my work- looked for some harmony between opposing parts or added something that didn’t seem to belong. I have a natural tendency to go against. It’s in my nature. If something I’m making seems too straightforward, I have to intervene. This leads to a lot of failure in the studio but I don’t think I could do it any other way.
Where and how it all gets done.
S-F: Who are you currently looking at (living or dead)?
Stacy Fisher: I really loved Gedi Sibony’s last show at Greene Naftali. He is a master of making something/nothing come to life. I love Joanne Greenbaum’s paintings because they go against every impulse/instinct I have in composition, they mystify me, I could never make them. I also love Richard Aldrich’s work, he touches on something very personal by having a narrative that’s slightly out of reach, but you can still sense it. That’s all I need in art, really, that sensation that you’re being communicated to. When it starts to get too specific I tend to lose interest.
A studio wall
S-F: What’s next for you?
Stacy Fisher: I was thrilled to be in my first painting group show at Mother Gallery in Beacon this summer, organized by Paola Oxoa, Trudy Benson, and Russell Tyler. I’m going to be showing work at 57 W 57th Arts new space in the fall- I've been a fan of their programing, which focuses on showing minimal, abstract artists (like you!). I’m looking forward to that, as well as a group show at the University of Vermont curated by Steve Budington that opens in September.
2022, oil on wood and craft stick, 11.5" x 8" x 1.75"
You can see more Stacy Fisher:
- on her instagram: @stacyfffisher
- on her website: www.stacyfisher.net
- in I Am the Passenger at Mother Gallery in Beacon, NY
- at Left Field Gallery in Los Osos, CA
A work in progress on the studio wall.
2020, oil on wood, 11" x 7.25" x 2"
Above and below: Untitled
2022, oil wood, 11.5" x 8" x 1.75"