This Fall we are thrilled to introduce the pop art paintings of Colleen Critcher for the first time to PxP Contemporary! In this interview, you'll learn more about the artist & after reading, don't forgot to check out her Tondo Rex series.
What was your initial introduction to art and the art world?
I’ve loved and made art since I was a child so it was a no brainer that I studied painting when I went to college and then eventually graduate school at SCAD in Savannah, GA. SCAD was the place where I learned that my passion for making art could actually become a career, so after I graduated I focused on my studio practice but I also kept practical jobs like teaching college art courses and working as a gallery administrator. The pandemic years shifted my perspective about my time and after losing some friends to illness I decided to jump into my studio with both feet in 2022.
You have strong technical skills as a painter! How have you developed your craft as an artist?
Thank you for saying that. My mother will tell you that when I was old enough to walk I made my first watercolor paintings on the rock wall in our backyard in upstate NJ. She would let me paint all of the rocks that I could reach and then after the rain washed them off, I would gladly paint them again. To this day I don’t think I can look at things without wanting to paint them. I’m one of those people that just always has to make things and I think that the persistence factor is probably what has helped develop my craft the most.
I love them but...why the fascination with the T-Rex?
My work as a whole addresses American consumer culture. I first began experimenting with kitschy garden gnomes and have since sampled a few other gorgeous plastic figures. I started referencing T.Rex in particular as part of a narrative I was crafting where I insinuated that the plastic figurine was the “ultimate consumer.” It sort of snowballed from there because there was also this lovely irony due to the fact that I was immortalizing a piece of plastic.
One of the sad truths of plastic is that it is petroleum based and is literally composed of the remains of dinosaurs. Although plastic degrades, it never really leaves us. For that reason the work also has environmental implications and I like the fact that my paintings immortalizing this dinosaur will probably last longer than the plastic object that I’m referencing.
I found T.Rex truly fascinating for so many reasons, but his relevance in popular culture was noteworthy as well. Why is this dinosaur in particular so well loved? Why did I have a collection of these as a child? Why do children still collect them? Why does he repeat in movies, on decor, on clothing and in animations? There is a hazy sense of nostalgia present, but it’s for a creature that none of us have ever known for real. It’s a nostalgia based on a fictional or fantasy version of these creatures that we create in our minds.
Then there is the fact that the name itself implies that Rex is the King of the lizards, which has a whole other set of power and gender connotations. This is one of the reasons why I leaned into the idea of changing the colors frequently. And for the record, I do favor pink a lot to flip the traditional associations and to make Rex accessible to everyone.
Brilliant, love that. And I don't think we can have this conversation without talking about color! So, walk us through how you pair colors and the importance of color in your work.
I am color obsessed at the moment. I love the entire color wheel and I also love taking a single object and repeating it in different variations of really wildly saturated colors. That satisfies my obsessive personality as well as speaks to my goal of drawing attention to our relationship with consumer culture - which lovingly presents us with a variety of colors to choose from.
For a while every collection I painted had a stark white background that was visibly flat in the same way you see objects presented in online shopping images. This current wave of super colors I’m riding is somewhat of a response to all those years of restriction. For these I decided to play with complementary and analogous pairs. Color theory never gets boring to our eyes, so the images really pop and please us. I love the idea of hanging these small pieces in a variety of spaces on bright or neutral walls because the color pops are really fun either way.
Share a bit about how this collection for PxP came together. How long did you work on these and what materials do you use?
These are all small acrylic paintings on round (tondo) canvas or wooden panels. I love working small because I like holding the work in my lap and working out details. This collection was made over the course of the summer and relies on some really amazing bold and fluorescent paint colors that were inspired by trips to the beach and by the flora in my neighborhood. I love vibrant summer colors - everything from bathing suits and beach towels, sunsets, roses and hydrangeas activate my visual tastebuds.
A few 'just for fun'
If you weren't an artist, you'd be... a geologist. I’m obsessed with rocks, especially pretty ones.
Coffee or tea? Coffee
A favorite movie? Star Wars: A New Hope
The best thing to do during the fall is... drink coffee and wear sweaters while looking for pumpkins