ART & DESIGN

Zoe Pettijohn Schade’s Artful Histories


Photographer: Vincent Dilio

Artist Zoe Pettijohn Schade has used gouache paint—an opaque, watercolor-esque pigment—since the beginning of her career, but it wasn’t until she began looking into the its illustrious past, specifically its role in 17th- and 18th-century French textile pattern paintings, that she became deeply interested in the medium. After a Fulbright grant and a decade of research, Pettijohn Schade is unveiling her findings with an exhibition at Kai Matsumiya Gallery, where her saturated images of monkeys, skulls and tombstones will hang alongside 18th-century gouache paintings from the Design Library in Wappinger Falls, NY. Here, the artist talks about her labor-intensive practice.

Pettijohn Schade’s “Crowds” will be on view until May 9th at Kai Matsumiya Gallery, New York kaimatsumiya.com.

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

The artist in her Brooklyn studio.

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“My work explores the ramifications of repetition and patterning. Every image I make is in repeat and the way that the images repeat are as meaningful and important as the images themselves. Often there is an understructure I am playing with—with this work the understructure is a scalloped tombstone pattern.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“I first came to gouache as an aesthetic choice because I was interested in finding a medium for pattern making. When I learned gouache painting was how textile design was traditionally done, I began to dig deeper only to discover this wild and wonderful tradition out of France from the 17th century. The abstractions in their work seemed to predate a lot of what was to come later.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“During my research, I found this amazing collection of 2,000 anonymous gouache paintings in the Bibliotheque Forney. I spent six months sketching in Paris. There was everything from wild patterns with snakes and double helixes to funiculars made of lighting bolts—even some of the first cellular imagery. Doesn’t this look like 1980s fantasy? ”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“I’m not a chaos lover.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“If I wasn’t sharing a studio with my husband, I would probably prefer to work alone. We share a deep understanding of what each other is doing—the same impulses and empathies—but yet our work is so different. It’s close but not too close. We share a file drawer and he likes to DJ—it’s perfect.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“I love the mathematic structure of this lace. Each line has a physical body. Each stitch has its own wild permutation.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“These are drawings I did at the Cluny museum in Paris. They were the heads of the King sculptures that adorned the original façade of Notre Dame. During the French revolution, they were knocked down. I became fascinated by the way they embodied the life cycle of a crowd—from the raising of the structure to its destruction.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“There are a lot of hats that artists are suppose to wear, the studio hat is, of course, the most pleasurable. I find it heavenly. When I was younger, I used to feel like I had to try and push myself to adopt other people’s rhythms, but over the years I’ve grown to know my own. For me, six hours of work comes like a dream.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“I had a very elderly cat who has since past. She had a sensitive belly for years, so I fed her baby food. The jars were perfect for keeping gouache. I’m so sad that I’m almost out.”

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Photographer: Vincent Dilio

“This show comes from a heartfelt desire to see these paintings come more to light. They are so gorgeous and have a lot to say art historically—at least in my opinion.”