Evidence Of Life: A Conversation with Gregory Siff & Cassie Greatens About CASS Contemporary's New Residency and Show
To kick off the new year, CASS Contemporary invited artist Gregory Siff to create a residency in antcipation of his newest solo show, Evidence of Life, opening at the gallery's Tampa, Florida space. Embedding himself in the local scene, Siff got a sense of the Tampa arts community as well as got a chance to make new works, speak with local students as well as participate in a series of talks at the Tampa Museum of Art. This gave us a chance to talk to both Siff and Cassie Greatens of CASS Contemporary on the artist's stay in West Florida, what works he has been focusing on and his views on the changing art landscape over the past few decades.
Juxtapoz: Have you done a residency before? What are you hoping to get done? I feel like artists always have a goal in mind, but sometimes its about showing up and just doing the works
Gregory Siff: This is the first time I’m leaving my studio for an extended period of time to create a whole new body of work In a place I don’t know anything about. CASS Contemporary is getting me away from the distractions of Los Angeles so I can dedicate 12 to 15 hour days painting for 4 weeks. During this time I’d like to reach new levels in my work and find myself back to where I started 10 years ago in that comfortable free flow no limit environment. I’m halfway in right now and the work is responding to the hours. I did a lecture CASS Contemporary at the Tampa Museum of Art where I talked about the importance of residency’s and the impact they have on communities and the artist. We unveiled a new large scale painting in the museum and it brought a new frequency into the room. It was awesome. I also got to do some lectures at the University of Tampa and meet some of the students for their senior critiques. These young artists already understand the power in the practice of painting.
Jux: You made work for the show before you headed to Tampa, so how does the work you are making down there communicate with the work you planned before?
GS: I created five pieces for the show in LA. They are indicative of my symbols and elements style but they are large hand stretched raw canvas studies on some of my favorite things to paint, the work coincides with the rest of the room beautifully as I sit here right now and take stock of how many works will be in the show, looks like close to 70 works on, canvas, paper, panel and a very large interactive sculpture.
Jux: You have so many different genres that you work in, but fine art you mix your fine art with immersive installation. What do you think is your comfort zone?
GS: If I ever feel uncomfortable I begin to apply paint to anything and it automatically sets everything at a good tempo. There are a lot of diverse materials that I’m painting on and as long as my hand is bringing it to life then it feels right and goes in the arc and continuity of who I am.
Jux: You have your work in some prominent collections and galleries, I'm curious about your overview of what you have seen changing in the art world over the past 15-20 years or so? You were born in NYC and live in LA, so I feel like you have been in the epicenters and seen those places change, but also may have a broader view of "art" as your career has grown.
GS: In the past 15 to 20 years I’ve noticed that art has become a contagious thing and a lot of people are moved by it and have begun their own self discovery through painting. That’s what I really am excited about when people come to an art show and see a vision inside themselves that they want to get out almost like wow Gregory did this I wonder what I’m capable of.
I once did an art show back in 2012 called There and Back about what it feels like to be from New York and living in LA and having a love of both worlds two different polar opposites. The art that I found in Los Angeles on walls and in streets is different from the work that is in the public in New York. I've always been inspired by the museums In both cities.
Jux: What have you been working on, say, today? Are you disciplined on this residency where you are working 10-12 hours a day?
GS: I have been working on the 3D element to the show where people will get to step into a Sculpture and see a hand painted experience in blue and red. I also have been working on water colors in my vices series which are sugar alcohol and locations that are addictive and fun. There is also work that I am having a great time making telling stories about what I’ve seen in Tampa thus far.
Jux: Anything you can say about CASS? What is it like working with them?
GS: Working with CASS is like having extra hearts in my chest. Jake and Cassie both care about my work and the way that it is received since I touch down in Tampa. I have never felt so and synchronicity with my work they take away all of theBarriers and distractions that stand in the way of your story and allow me the free time. I’ve been singing and dancing and painting inside these walls of the gallery and it shows inside the work there is a privacy that they give and also uplifting my vision is their main priority. This whole experience is surreal and real and beautiful and I couldn’t do it without CASS. It's magic.
Jux: Cassie, I want to pivot to you and more about the CASS Contemporaroy. How long has this residency been in the works?
Cassie Greatens: We have been working with Gregory for 3 years. Jake and I have wanted to do an artist residency for a long time and Gregory was the perfect artist for this adventure. He has the uncommon combination of talent and the abiity to connect with people. Gregory makes amazing work and really inspires everyone who he comes in contact with. We're really excited to have him in Tampa and we can't wait to see the work he creates while he's here. Also, we're happy to have the Tampa Museum of Art and the University of Tampa involved with Gregory's residency-- the entire community has welcomed him with open arms.
Jux: There are some residencies that ask something of the artist, like an assignment, and others its just about the experience of being in a city and a place. What would you say the CASS residency would be?
CG: I think Gregory’s residency is a mix between both—he has some specific projects to compelete while he's here but, mostly, we want him to create work that's inspired by his visit to Tampa. Its been fun to see what catches Gregory's eye and the special things he notices about our community. Having already been involved with the senior art students at the University, and with his upcoming patron dinner and museum lectures, Gregory really his immersing himself in all things Tampa.
Jux: I saw that you were going to bring Greg to the Tampa Museum of Art for a brunch, and it seems like the residency is a way to keep an artist in town and really get them immersed with the scene.
CG: Gregory will be doing two Artist Talks at the museum while he's here. After one of the talks, there's an intimate brunch that will allow people in our community to be able to visit with Gregory, and to get to know him on a more personal level. Gregory has been having fun checking out all that Tampa has to offer- he's been dining at our best restaurants and interacting with the community, but he's also putting in long days and late nights at CASS. When he's not out exploring the city, Gregory is at the gallery working hard to create the new pieces for his upcoming show, Evidence of Life, opening at the end of the month. Bringing Gregory to Tampa for this residency helps grow our art scene and adds another layer of culture to what already is a great city.
Gregory Siff's Evidence of Life opens at CASS Contemporary in Tampa on February 29, 2020.