Artist Spotlight: Kristy Hughes

Sul-Jee Scully

kh2Like Christmas, 41″x41″, Acrylic, Collage, Decollage, Pastel, Fumage on Panel, 2016


The World According to Garp is one of my favorite books, but I have always been reluctant to see the movie. This is mainly because I don’t want the actors to replace my images of the characters. There is something very personal and intimate about constructing an image of your own making and the certainty of a defined face for a name feels confining and all too final.

Kristy’s work pulls this act of imaginative construction to the surface. Layered and unbound, her compositions just barely expose glimpses of order amidst rolling shapes of color and fragments which seem to scatter, then merge, before you. The act of looking at Kristy’s work is fully active; in searching for recognizable forms we end up inventing their names for ourselves.

Pieces like March 11 remind me of an activity I did in grade school that my teacher called “Straight Lines That Bend.” Using a ruler, the class drew a series of straight lines connecting points diagonally opposed to each other on an x-y axis. The result looks like a softly weighted net; an arc appears where the lines accumulate. True story: some of us gasped at this effect.

Likewise, there’s a similar sense of magic in Kristy’s work. Marks are built up, then obscured. Lines converge and hint at an amassed structure, yet also sustain individuality. But unlike straight lines that only appear to bend — an illusion that can’t exist without order —  Kristy’s work embraces disarray. And rather than toss out the axis, she questions its structure, a gesture that proves more satisfying than any answer.


khWith Both, 20 1/2″x22 1/2″, Latex Paint, Spray Paint, Collage, Fumage, Colored Pencil, 2016


kh3Hide and Reveal, Approximately 30″x20″, Wood, Collage,  2016


khughes1Everything Stays the Same and Everything Changes, Approximately 54″x54″, Trash, Scrap Paper and Wood, Plastic, 2016


Kristy was recently an artist-in-residence at MASS MoCA and currently lives and practices in Indianapolis. Take a look at more of her work here!

Artist Spotlight: Matt Phillips

Anna Buckner

mp-slow-danceSlow Dance (for E.E.), Pigment and Silica on Linen, 58.5″ x 48″ 2015


I first came across Matt’s work during his interview with Gorky’s Granddaughter a couple years back. Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Matt is represented by Steven Harvey Projects in New York City and was a founding member of TSA New York, an artist-run gallery in Brooklyn. Matt has shown extensively internationally – most recently at Devening Projects in Chicago, IL.

I was just talking about Matt’s paintings with a painter in Michigan the other day and he goes, “Oh! The guy who makes colored-pencil drawings?” While his paintings are not actually made with colored pencils, they have a similar laborious quality. Matt makes his own water-based paint and uses small brushes to cover flat areas of color. Each mark is legible and slow, mimicking the repetitive nature of embroidery or weaving, and is painted thinly – revealing the weave of the linen. But his paintings are also improvisational, creating space for change and response. There seems to be both a nod to and a criticism of abstract expressionism.

The edges of his canvases are often irregular, suggesting that the image is contending with gravity in the same way a quilt hangs on a wall. The shapes in his works have this same sense of vulnerability – like they might float away or slip off the frame if you don’t look closely enough.

Check out more of Matt Phillips’s paintings here!

untitled2Untitled (2), Pigment and Silica on Linen, 20″ x 16″ 2016


img_4751Installation shot at Devening Projects, Chicago


bannerBanner, Pigment and Silica on Linen, 20″ x 16″ 2016


stanky-legStanky Leg, Pigment and Silica on Linen, 58.5″ x 47″2016


left-on-the-lineLeft on the Line, Pigment and Silica on Linen, 47″ x 58.5″ 2016


mp3Spierdalai, Silica and Pigment on Linen, 24″ x 20″ 2015



Humpday Haiku: Madeline Winter

Maddy’s recent works are reflections about motherhood. Like Maddy, the paintings are funny and unapologetically honest, presenting a counter experience to the “beautiful and natural process of having a child.” In her statement she writes, “even though gestation and parenting is a normal and organic experience, some (most) days it felt anything but.”

By using painting (a historically male-dominated trade) as a framework for talking about women’s health, Maddy’s works are quietly subversive – potentially the most powerful form of subversion.

You can view more of her work here:

Here is the haiku she wrote about her work:



To Tease



Reclining Nude



Water Birth 



Pajama Party



In Utero 

Humpday Haiku: Mitch Raney


Our first Humpday Haiku comes from our dear friend and fellow eggplant despiser, Mitch Raney.  In addition to painting, Mitch writes poetry, plays music and has dabbled in competitive lip-syncing. Mitch easily brought the best food to crit nights at Indiana University, and he freely lent out his truck to fellow MFAs (and faculty).


3 Asses



Finn and Cleo’s First Encounter (from The Station Agent)



Can of Shit



Durchfall…I’ve Fallen Through!



Check out more of Mitch’s work here:




Artist Interview: Greg Burak

AB: Sul-Jee and I have had the pleasure of going to school with you, which means we have seen your work evolve. At IU, your paintings were more academic and perceptual. Could you talk about how that foundation plays into your current body of work?

GB: The link has to do with visual problem solving. I remember measuring angles during Math class in high school. I was drawing my teacher’s head and I realized his nose corresponded with an angle, which I could compare with another one, and so on. It was like visual algebra and I became totally hooked on perceptual drawing and painting. I was really interested in Cezanne, how weird and hallucinatory things can seem after looking at them for an inordinate amount of time. I became obsessed with shapes, or seeing things as patterns of interlocking shape/tones. I started to look at figurative painters who used flatter forms, like Fairfield Porter. Painting from life became a game of finding shapes, be it within objects, through objects, through shadows, etc. – and how they added up into an image. So I started reducing and simplifying things into flat shapes, which are essentially the types of forms I am working with now. I have a great love for perceptual painting but I never felt as if I ever managed to really locate myself in it. In grad school I decided to stop talking myself out of ideas for paintings that seemed ridiculous. Like I wanted to make a painting of people getting pulled over while smoking weed in a car, so I just made it up. It forced me to think about painting in a totally different way. Making a painting without a direct reference let me explore content that I couldn’t approach before, like painting a falling figure or disembodied hands. I am still obsessed with interlocking shapes, but have become more interested in finding them through different processes. I still think of painting like solving a bizarre puzzle.


AB: In your statement you mention “the tragically mishandled situation.” How does this relate to the physical act of painting?

GB: All of my paintings get tragically mishandled at some point, sometimes on purpose. I usually start from collages or drawings and I often make them rough or incomplete so I have to resolve any issues while I am painting. Whenever I try to make really planned out preparatory work the painting itself becomes a transcription and then I have to fight against that. The painting closes up and I realize that the composition is bad, an element doesnt fit, or something along those lines. Laziness in color mixing is an ongoing battle for me, since I use a fairly limited palette and sometimes go on autopilot. Ill lay something in like a drawing and then have to repaint it later. All in all I think some errors and missteps along the way are good for the work, because I can react to them and unexpected things happen.

SJ: SJ: Many of your recent paintings make use of a late 70’s/early 80’s aesthetic that feels particularly suburban — it seems like you have an earnest appreciation for the clothing and the more bizarre interior design trends of the time. Could you tell us more about how you decide upon these kinds of visual details — like, why bellbottoms?

GB: I love all the tans and solid linear shapes of that period. Although I grew up after the heyday of those trends, some of them lingered around my childhood haunts: the bowling alleys and roller rinks of my youth. The house I lived in had a bit of a retro vibe and I think that really stuck with me. I grew up in the suburbs of New York which had a wide variety of fading design trends, and I like the idea of living contemporaneously amongst them. Part of it is remembering things from when I was very young and that is kind of mysterious for me. Otherwise, I like de-saturated flat shapes, which are basically what faded photographs from that period look like.


SJ: What role does time play in your work? Both the era in which you see your paintings being set as well as the concept of time as a regulator of experience — its role in navigating the unknown, etc.

GB: I try to time the experience (my own at least) in two layers. The first happens all at once, the second is found if I can stay in it long enough. There is an initial reaction to seeing something, like a snap judgment – so it has to hold attention from the start. For me this is the design. Afterward, the unknown or ambiguity comes in, with the subject. I try to leave room for interpretation even though I may have secret narratives going on. The paintings seem to take place a step removed from our time, which allows me to paint about things that don’t seem so direct to my own experience. I reference a lot clothing and décor from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. It was pre-internet time. I like the idea of having knowledge be less accessible than it is today. We can find out almost anything instantly, which is amazing but perhaps does a disservice to magical thinking and slow and painful self-discovery. I cherry-pick aesthetics but I try not to place things too squarely in any one period. Contemporary styles still reference that time, so I like to think they are both referential while still being plausibly contemporary scenes. I used to raid my grandpa’s closet growing up. I still dress like that sometimes.


SJ: Favorite 70’s style icon?

GB: Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

AB: What’s your favorite studio snack?

GB: These Stella D’oro breakfast cookies, the S shaped kind. They are modest cookies but go very well with coffee.



Artist Spotlight: Benjamin Cook

Anna Buckner


I couldn’t have imagined an artist more suitable than Benjamin Cook for our first Command Zine post. Like my relationship with Sul-Jee and like an online framework for exhibiting art, Ben’s work is neither entirely digital nor entirely physical, but floats in-between.

My friendship with Sul-Jee began online. We met on an online forum where prospective MFA students wrote about the application process, aptly named MFA 2014 All Art ADMISSIONS freak-out forum!!!!!!!! I remained quiet during the entirety of the application season, but lurked obsessively, reading almost every post. Eventually Sul-Jee published a post indicating that she was planning on attending Indiana University in the fall, reaching out specifically to her future fellow students. I immediately messaged her. Not unlike the real world, private messages are more my style.

My first message to Sul-Jee was in July of 2014, a little under a month before the beginning of school. We exchanged emails and she drew me a color coordinated map, indicating where she was living (circled in lavender), where the studios were located (pink),  and the fraternity neighborhoods to avoid (red). We became fast internet friends, and I felt comforted by her nurturing nature and her use of exclamation marks and emojis. When I finally met Sul-Jee in person for coffee in Bloomington, she was simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Benjamin Cook’s paintings speak to this awkward transition from the digital to the physical world. Ben is an artist from Northern Kentucky and a current MFA candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His paintings, referencing digital realms, illustrate the fluidity (or perhaps jerkiness) with which we move between digital and material spheres. I came across Ben’s work for the first time in the midwestern edition of New American Paintings and was immediately drawn to it because of the way he addresses the tension of existing in this in-between state. This was the same tension I felt when finally meeting Sul-Jee IRL and having to act surprised when she told me she was a Baltimore Ravens fan, pretending like I hadn’t already looked through all her Facebook profile pictures.

Ben’s paintings are brutally honest portrayals of a contemporary landscape, referencing both a loaded history of painting and modern forms of communication.  Though referencing snap-chat drawings, his works are permanent, or at the very least will exist longer than the Snap-Chat time limit. His process of painting alludes to rendered layers in photoshop, but he cannot press cmd-z in his studio – his paintings are physical and show a history of revision. Like the beginning of my relationship with Sul-Jee, Ben’s paintings straddle physical and digital dimensions, illustrating an evolving landscape and the implications of this transformation.



You can check out more of Ben’s work at his website: