Q&A: Naomi Husdson-Knapp
Naomi Husdson-Knapp is known for her moons. Yes, moons. That stunning speck we see at night glowing above us.
Naomi’s moons are celestially painted captures of everything we seem to feel when we look up in the sky. We asked her a few questions about how she creates such wondrous moons.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I come from a family of woodworkers, seamstresses, engineers, spiritual leaders and naturalists. Raised in a small rural town in Vermont, I moved to Brooklyn at 17 to study Art and Design Education at Pratt Institute. Living in an urban context for the first time, I became enamored with the contrast between growth and decay, linear and organic forms, natural environments and the concrete jungle. The city - its people, museums, landscapes and sidewalks - became my muse. I have been painting and teaching in cities - New York, Rome and now LA - ever since (and Shanghai this summer).
Describe the type of paintings you do.
When I lived in New York City, I painted to make my physical environment feel more expansive, to create voluptuous and infinite forms in contrast to the dense city. In Los Angeles, the light and space are vast, so I paint to consolidate the richness and feel at home.
I am currently working on a series of paintings that range from 2” x 3” to 40” x 60”, using handmade and manufactured inks. Each work is unique. I start by drawing a circular form, covering the form with water and letting the ink fall and spread onto the page. Each subsequent layer is in response to the first, obscuring and revealing different portions.
My first attempt at making ink was seven years ago using black walnuts. My grandmother, mother and I harvested the pulpy green walnut hulls, soaked and boiled them in water, then strained the organic materials out. I had my first batch of ink. I am still using some of it in my work. It has a lovely orange/brown hue. I have been experimenting with the production of avocado and indigo ink as well. Avocados from the farmer’s market make a lovely peach color. Each ink has its own story and unique properties. For example, black walnuts have been used for generations as hair dye, wood stain and natural remedies.
Are you a professional fine arts artist or do you do other work?
Art making has always pursued me, sometimes quietly whispering, sometimes shouting. I have had a consistent studio practice for over 20 years. As a day job, I am a materials and design consultant for children and classroom teachers, also known as, a studio art teacher for two to six-year-olds. Color, texture and form are our mediums for exploration and communication. It is my pleasure to spend my days with young children who have a competence, sincerity, playfulness and ingenuity.
What are you most inspired by?
The patterns in rust, lichen structures, NASA images of celestial forms are all inspiration. In addition, looking at the work of other artists keeps me motivated. Julie Mehretu and her wife, Jessica Rankin are two artists who never fail to make me feel a sense of awe and devotion. Any work by Louise Bourgeois is a nourishing punch in the gut. And Agnes Martin is my resting place.
What is it like to be a female artist?
Being female definitely influences the way I view the world, but I don’t tend to think of myself as a “female artist”, rather an artist who is female. However, I was blown away when I visited the show, Revolution in The Making: Abstract Sculptures by Women, last year in Downtown LA. Nearly every piece spoke to me and soothed my soul. There is something undeniably powerful about the female perspective that is not respected or represented enough in the art world.
Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?
Keep going. If you are stalled, restart now. You don’t need a lot of time, you don’t need the perfect materials, you don’t need the right moment. All you need is the mindset that living your life IS a creative act and that what you are doing is important to society. Keep creating. Tell your family, friends and others about your work. Stay inspired whether it’s arranging your dish rack with attention to form and color, reading one line of poetry every night before bed; it will change the way you think and feel. A few years ago I began a morning painting practice - ten minutes of painting before leaving for work. It became my meditation - simple, brief, and a refreshing way to keep my painting practice at the forefront.
I love the following quote by Kiki Smith, “Just do your work. And if the world needs your work, it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I am given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one’s own vision.”
Photography by Jason Pugh