I met Tisch Abelow a couple months back, and whenever I’m around her I can’t help but feel inspired by her levelheaded, simple and straightforward attitude. I also continually seem to find myself in a state of deep transfixion, staring deeply into the center of her colorfully precise and exacting work. Tisch can draw and paint with the best, has collaborated with a ton of great artists, and has traveled all over this great country of ours. I recently caught up with this wonderfully talented lady and asked her about making art, living life and eating lunch in the big city and beyond.
Hey Tisch! How’s it going?
Hey. It’s going well. Just got home from work.
You have lived all over the country, both on the east and the west, tell us about some of the different places you’ve called home? Tell us about some of the most interesting places you’ve been throughout your travels?
Well, I grew up in Maryland and went to high school in Vermont. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, I ventured to the west coast. I moved up and down California for about 3 years. I farmed in Northern California off and on during that time, and also lived in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. California won my heart, especially the rural country of the northern half. After a few years, I felt the need for an east coast ‘reality check,’ and the need to be closer to family. I’ve been back in New York since February, and find myself taking a lot of trips to Vermont–It’s important for me to keep a balance between country and city in my life. I’ve also farmed on the Big Island in Hawaii, which is a gem.
You have worked for several well known artists – tell us what it’s like to work as an artist’s assistant? What are some of the hard parts?
I feel lucky I have been able to be an artist’s assistant in all the major cities I’ve lived. It has been interesting to experience different artists and how they run their studios. There aren’t too many hard parts, unless you count doing very repetitive, tedious activities, like drawing a grid and rolling a dice for every square and coloring in the odd-numbered ones, or filling in triangles with colored pencil, or pushing punk studs in a canvas all day.
How do you manage to help someone else most of the time while still maintaining your own unique vision for your work?
It can get frustrating when you feel like you’re working on other people’s work more than your own, but, in a way, it drives me to work harder on my own work. I’ve never had trouble separating my own ‘vision’ from the people I’ve assisted–my job is my job, and when I’m home in my studio, nothing is blurred.
It was fortunate–My friends, Keith Varadi and Michael Kennedy Costa, invited me to be in the show right before I moved back to New York in February. I knew the show was in June, so it was nice to set up my new life, new studio, and start a new series of work, knowing I would get to show it in a few months. Feels good to have something to work toward. I had four pieces in the show–all 68 x 41 1/2 inches, gouache on paper– part of my Tizdayle’s Friends series. The whole experience was pleasant. Keith, Michael, and I, drove up and spent a few days there to install and go to the opening. Everyone at SPACE was extremely helpful. It was refreshing to be part of a more laid-back and supportive art scene community.
What’s your studio like? What kind of stuff would we find in there? What’s something you can’t work without?
I have a live/work situation. I just moved in with my friend Lauren Luloff, who is also an artist. The place is this great old loft in Bushwick that, surprisingly enough, has a country-vibe, lucky for me. My studio, of course, is full of my work and not much else–besides my bed and desk. I’ve put my ‘gouache on paper’ series on pause and am now working with oil on canvas again. A lot of the older work on my website uses text, but I haven’t used any text in my work since moving to New York. My most recent paintings are still grid-based with a limited color pallet, but more paired-down, with a lot of rectangles. I’ve been trying to use more subdued earth-tones, rather than bright colors. I can’t work without canvas, stretchers, paint, brushes, and classic rock.
Your work is very precise; is your studio space always tidy or is it a mess? What’s the first thing you do when you start a new drawing?
My studio is certainly not as tidy as my work, but I’m relatively clean. I usually let things get messy and then have a major clean up. I don’t like owning much stuff, and sometimes get worried about being too clean, so I try and stay a little grubby. I usually have an idea or pattern in my head before starting a new painting–before anything, I draw a grid.
Three favorite movies: Love Streams (or anything by Cassavetes), The Holy Mountain, Zabriski Point
Three favorite lunch spots in NYC: Eastern Noodle (in Chinatown), Tom’s Diner, The Islands (both in Prospect Heights)
Three artists who’s work interests you right now: Mark Grotjahn, Roy Newell, Joshua Abelow