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From the Studio: Alexi Worth

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From Alexi Worth:

Even before the pandemic, I spent most of my days alone, wearing an N95 mask, a necessity if you’re using an airbrush. So, in some ways my life has changed surprisingly little.

Every morning I walk or bike to Dumbo, which looks more like it did twenty years ago, before it blossomed into a Destination Neighborhood. The shops are closed, wedding parties gone, the streets deserted again. I take stairs up to my studio, but could probably take an elevator; the building is empty. Then I spend the day racing to finish paintings in time for my ghost deadline: May 7.

Oddly, the paintings I’ve been working on are all about nearness and connection—the opposite of   social distancing. Years ago, I got interested in a wine glass view. Imagine you’re out drinking with a friend or lover and between sips you find yourself glancing through your own fingers. Almost as if in a mirror, you see their fingers, their glass.

I’m interested in the feelings that come with drinking together: rapport and uncertainty, friction and attraction. The sense of being a little off-balance. I like to think of the link between the painter and the viewer as a courtship. The fact that we will never be in the same space together makes the courtship more, not less, interesting to me.

Remoteness and nearness: I’ve been thinking about ancient Greek vase painters too. They designed beautiful flat shapes on curved surfaces. I’m doing the opposite, imagining a taut canvas as a big curving wineglass. Their palette, clay-red and black, pulls my mind away from the contemporary.

People often ask about my process. It’s so slow, you could call it “Extreme Revisionism.” Small oil on Mylar drafts sit around, often for years, before I can develop them.

There are multiple technical stages, but the only dramatic moment is when I airbrush over stencils. What was a drawn line becomes an edge, crisp and black, then evaporating. The effect is like a collage or a photogram—the form seems to preexist the painting.

Visitors to my studio often remark that nobody else works like this. I think that’s true. As a younger artist, when I was starting out, every path felt traveled, crowded. To get clear of that, to have a way of working that’s pretty much one’s own, is happiness.

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