Stacy Lynn Waddell is a local artist whose art work Awful Conflagration of the Steam Ship Lexington (after Nathaniel Currier) is on view at the Nasher Museum as part of Recent Acquistions. I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Lynn Waddell the day before she spoke at our First Thursday Gallery Talk on Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey.
Dwayna Clark: What is the inspiration for your artwork?
Stacy Lynn Waddell: My main thrust would be looking at American history and culture, trying to figure out my place in that. I look at American history and pop culture. The big question I ask is what does it mean to exist here? It’s not necessarily about being black but human.
DC: Can you elaborate on the symbolic meaning of the “B” symbol that represents branding, blackness and beauty in your painting Awful Conflagration of the Stream Ship Lexington (after Nathaniel Currier)? Can you also tell why you chose to paint the piece?
SLW: A few years ago I made a list of words that started with the letter “B” and created a narrative with the form. “B” looks impregnated and elegant. I love the way words that start with “B,” “Bl” or “Br” sounds to the air and how the breath and the body create the sound “B.” “B” is a stand in pop culture and history. This particular piece was part of an installation in 2011; it’s a creative scene of what it means to exist from my point of view. It is based off Nathaniel Carrier time in history; the steamship signals a time where black bodies were a part of the commerce steamship carrying cotton.
DC: Your artwork has symbolic meanings and address issues of cultural and personal identity. What advice can you give to an upcoming artist that might not have a purpose behind their artwork and just loves to draw or paint?
SLW: The more an artist makes art, the more they will improve. College programs are finishing programs where one can communicate ideas and things that are difficult to communicate in words. Young artist should begin to think about what they’re making, what kind of message or impact do they want to get across. They should let themselves grow and have specific ideas.
DC: What do you expect people to get out of seeing your work?
SLW: I want people to get an alternate way of thinking. Seeing my work can give people another way of thinking about some things/issues we put to rest.
DC: How do you keep your experience as an artist interesting?
SLW: I keep the process interesting. I work with processes I have never worked with before so it’s still very new to me. I work with heat based paint or tools. It’s still fresh to me, having a lot of subject matter to help keep it fresh.
DC: What do you think about the Wangechi Mutu exhibition A Fantastic Journey?
SLW: I know Wangechi and am familiar with her work. I am interested in materials and processes. I use very few materials and Wangechi uses a vast number of materials. I am interested in how she takes things we might not consider art like magazine images, which is part of the genius and beauty of her work.
IMAGE: Stacy Lynn Waddell, Awful Conflagration of the Steam Ship Lexington (after Nathaniel Currier), 1840/2011, 2011. Burned and branded paper with watercolor, gold leaf and acrylic; 22 x 29 3/4 inches (55.9 x 75.6 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, USA. Museum purchase, 2012.12.1. ©Stacy Lynn Waddell. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.