Studio Visit: Molly Briggs

Studio Visit: Molly Briggs


Studio Visit appears in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, a visit with Molly Briggs, instructor in School of Art + Design and grad student in landscape architecture

Q: What kind of work will you be showing at the University YMCA?

A: Five paintings from two different bodies of work. One series is called "Clearing" and the other "Painted Way."

Q: Are they similar to the paintings you showed in Chicago in the mid-2000s?

A: They're related. I had shows in 2004, '06 and '09 in Chicago, and you can see development across those bodies of work. They all feed into one another. There won't be any of the paintings with red trees, which I'm probably best known for.

Q: Are you still showing in Chicago and represented by a gallery there?

A: Yes. I show at the Zg Gallery in River North. I have a show there that just opened this past Friday. It'll be up until late February. The title is "Walking, Looking, Making." Some of the paintings from the "Painted Way" series are in that show.

Q: Are the works in the show at the Y about the environment?

A: Viki (Ford), who curated "Artists on the Environment," invited me to be part of the show. She's concerned with environmental issues and found a way to address some of those concerns through her art practice, and she knew there are similar threads in my work and Glen's (Davies).

Q: Are you still teaching at the (University of Illinois) School of Art + Design?

A: Yes, I teach drawing and design in the foundations program. Right now, I'm teaching a design class that's cross-listed between the (UI School of) Art + Design and landscape architecture.

Q: What made you want to go back to school to work on a Ph.D. in landscape architecture?

A: Well, I deal with representations of landscapes in my work. I'm concerned with both how we see landscapes in terms of optics and how we understand them conceptually. There are lots of people negotiating questions that tie these issues together. A lot of interesting work is happening under the umbrella of landscape architecture theory, and I became aware of the fact that some UI faculty are doing incredible work in that area. That really validated the type of things I was working on through my research.

Q: Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in art?

A: I grew up here in Champaign, and my parents are both painters. My father, Bill Briggs (died in 2005), was on the UI faculty until 1983 in painting and drawing, and my mother, Vicki Briggs, got a bachelor's degree in fine arts there. They each had a studio like this that was added onto the house so I think the urge to do this goes all the way back. The other thing I hoped to do was writing. Writing was always part of my studio practice. It's how I sort things out. Doing all the reading and writing required for a dissertation allows me to fulfill that interest.

Q: You also have a print shop here called Caladium Editions, right?

A: Yes. We recently completed an edition for a colleague, Deke Weaver. This was a contract print job as opposed to us (with her husband Walter Wilson, also an artist) publishing Deke's work.

Q: Do you make your own prints as well?

A: No, my work is all painting on canvas, panel or paper.

Q: Do you use acrylic or oils?

A: I use mostly Flashe paints. It handles like tempera and dries flat, but it's more archival. It also has a finely ground texture in its pigment, which I appreciate.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

A: The big push now is for my Ph.D. I will complete the course work this spring, and I'll have my exams at the end of the summer. For my dissertation, I'm looking at a group of parks on the West Side of Chicago; I'm considering them as social phenomena and formal phenomena and the intersections between those.

Editor's note: "Artists on the Environment: Paintings by Molly Briggs, Glen Davies and Viktoria Ford" will open Thursday in the Murphy Gallery of the University Y, 1001 S. Wright St., C, with a reception starting at 6:30 p.m. and artists' talk at 7. The exhibition will be on view from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays through Feb. 23.