Ohio Interviews: Frances Waite

Ohio Interviews, Prose


Frances Waite and friend
Frances Waite and friend

Frances, can you give us a sense of where and how the dickheads have emerged in your work? Are they direct descendents of the Nudes?

The dickheads sort of emerged naturally, and I think the Nudes really helped the Dickheads arrive. To give a little bit of history, for the past two years or so I’ve been heavily involved in drawing these small intimate scenes with repeating characters and motifs. Every few months the motif evolves, for a while it was these bubbling mountains, then the bowls, then houses, tears, even fish for a short time. One or more of the symbols would appear in every drawing. I started drawing the Nudes out of necessity, I’d been drawing women holding bowls of penises for months without feeling any growth. Drawing nude selfies from internet strangers started out as an exercise in clearing my head. Then sort of naturally the previous work crept into the nudes and I felt like the work was evolving again. And all of the sudden the characters’ heads became bowls, and there was a dick in the bowl. Somehow these moments always make a lot of sense, I’ll be drawing and something will happen and I’ll think– of course their head is a bowl and there is a dick in it! Of course these drawings are dickheads. Once that happens then the conversation starts, the drawings become stories about the dickheads in my life, or the times I am the dickhead.

Frances Waite, "Dickhead,"  11x16 inches, colored pencil on paper, 2016
Frances Waite, “Dickhead,” 11×16 inches, colored pencil on paper, 2016

So tell me about the format–how big are these and what are they–colored pencil? Do you envision the form changing?

I see that you recently graduated from Pratt. Are you committed to staying in NYC? What are your thoughts about being an artist in NYC right now?

The drawings are all around 11×16 inches, and made with red, blue, and black Lyra Color-Giant pencils. They are awesome, fat, colored pencils that make you feel like you’re a kid when you use them. I’m keeping it simple in terms of material, sometimes I’ll really throw myself into the materiality of an image, and the work becomes a story about surface and texture and it’s really a fantastic experience, and other times I want to feel like its just me and the drawing, nothing but the basics. It’s a different feeling, sometimes more intimate, I think.

At this point I’m happy with the scale, I know in the next few months I’ll be working big again because its been awhile, and I know I’m going to crave that change in scale. I guess the Dickheads will be tiny unless they stick it out until then.

I like working in NYC and I feel really comfortable here. But I was never the person that dreamed about moving to New York. I grew up in Rochester, NY, and I knew by the time I was thinking about college that I didn’t want to be in Rochester. I applied to a bunch of art schools here and ended up at Pratt- which I totally loved every second of. At this point my priority is to be around the people that make me happy, and most of them are here. In terms of my thoughts about living and working here, I don’t have a lot to compare it to.. It’s definitely amazing to be around so many other artists and to be in a somewhat an art-centric culture. I found so many people in this city that are so close to my heart now, and I also found a lot of dickheads. I guess it’s a win-win.

Frances Waite, "Dickhead," pencil on paper, 2016
Frances Waite, “Dickhead,” 11×16 inches, pencil on paper, 2016

I have to state that I found you via Jerry Saltz’s Instagram. Have you ever met JS?

No I have never met Jerry Saltz, he found my work after it was posted on the very cool blog Oh My Erotica (@ohmyerotica). I was so thrilled that he posted my work because I am a huge fan of his. Sad or not, Instagram has become my main source of news, and sometime last year he made a few posts calling for the art world to “pick up their narrative game.” That really resonated with me, especially because I was in school at the time and getting so much shit for making work that was too narrative. Once I used the word illustrative in a positive way which ended up terrifying some students and teachers. I think art is better when it’s not being squashed by repressive theory. I know my work is at times a narrative of sentimentality, and I like that. That’s my thing, I’m not made to make work that isn’t a part of that conversation.

Frances Waite, "Dickhead," pencil on paper, 2016
Frances Waite, “Dickhead,” 11×16 inches, pencil on paper, 2016

Do you have any artists whose work you look up to in terms of that, in any medium?

And we hear you on Jerry. We are superfans over here.

I’m a super-massive fan of Louise Bourgeois, and the other mother figures of confessional art. One of my best friends, Joey Atkinson, who is an incredible artist and who is also very hard to locate on the internet (he does have an instagram though @intimatetechnologies) turned me onto Anais Nin in college and that had a huge impact on me.

-Interview by Amy Fusselman