Ada Friedman
Artist Statement
March 2023

I structure how I make my paintings to reveal how I make my paintings, thereby putting who I am in the studio on open display.

Transparency is central to this process, both as a metaphor and as a specific material texture. I layer translucent coats of hand-made acrylic paint over marked-on enmeshed papers and fabrics creating see-through layers. Translucent lighting gels and perforated tulle and lace make up the belly of the Pyramid Paintings, making them literally see-through. With close observation, one can make out text fragments on the painting’s surface. These are handwritten messages to myself that range from notes about the moves I want to make next in the painting, ideas for color choices, personal frustrations, and song lyrics or drawn symbols to keep me grounded in the momentum of the work. The text fragments are a map that I’ve drawn for my future self as I’m propelled along in the making of the work. Building transparent layers makes the painting a palimpsest of the process itself.

Negative space and irregular edges are similarly critical to the work. By being unexpected in an exhibition context, they create a space that is active, even forceful and asks the viewer to see their surroundings with fresh eyes. Pathwork: Threshold I and Pathwork: Floor call to the viewer to walk through and within them. Floor started as the outline of a walking path I taped on the floor of my temporary, expansive University of Tennessee studio, reminiscent to me of a dance floor. The mundane physical pacing in my studio became the seed of my new series, Pathwork. Each time I came into the studio, I walked around this horizontal loop painting, its perimeter made of tape and tissue paper, at least 15 times, marking off a slash on another painting on a wall. The negative space in this painting is the area where I walked; it was purposely built in from the beginning and not cut out later. The Pathwork works embody navigation and space, with titles, Floor, Threshold, Wall, and Ceiling. Ultimately, these paintings invite the viewer to reexamine their surroundings as they see how I moved through mine.

My work is meant to reveal, not conceal, my process: my leaving in and showing of my hand, my decision-making, my brushstrokes. My paintings become emissaries of my studio, transforming the exhibition space into a simulacrum of the place where they were made, a place of activity and effort and creation.

Ada Friedman 

Artist Statement

My studio process manifests through drawing, painting, ceramics, writing, staging, and directing plays. Although multidisciplinary, my practice is housed in drawing and painting.

In my ongoing Everyday Drawings (EVD) series, I mesh modes of drawing, painting, and collage. My observational drawings arise from moments of intimate looking, such as watching plants grow on my fire escape, focusing in on parts of artworks in museums, and observing the progression of works in my studio. The handwritten text becomes a texture and is a mixture of self-dialogue stream of consciousness, quotes, and dates. I combine these zones of working with indexical marks, such as tracings of found and made objects, and cut photocopies from my growing archive. Some compositions echo a calendar’s patchwork grid, while others consist of an allover pattern punctuated by bold text or a shape. Bright applied and inherent colors from collage elements and borders abound. These works are self-reflexive and transparent: they show the process of their making and the context in which they are made. I work in a range of traditional painterly materials (oil, acrylic, gouache, pastel) alongside experimental and rudimentary media like crayons, tin can lids, lighting gels, and reflective Mylar. The EVDs illuminate my research on ideas of time as non-linear, subjective, and detached from the Gregorian calendar.

My work is imbued with ritual and propelled by the momentum of making. I forefront my studio’s physicality by writing, staging, and directing plays. These Performance Proposals, a name I have given to the plays and the artworks that catalyze and create them are in direct contrast to the interiority of EVDs as they are meant to activate imaginations and bodies other than just mine. Their imagery and materials develop in tandem with a script I write, which is an accumulation of research, lists, and hands-on making. Operating in the Poets Theater mindset of serious silliness and the paradox of choreographed everyday movement, I have staged six different iterations of Helen Rides, inspired by the overlooked esoteric Beat poet Helen Adam. Helen Rides Performance Proposals take different forms: large, shaped fabric and paper paintings, oil on stretched linen, mixed media drawings, costumes, puppet paintings, ceramic stage lights, and instruments, to name some.

In the studio, I celebrate and explore the time ticking mundane, the animation of the inanimate, and painting’s ability to make and activate worlds.