Study of Mycelium, Oats and Cardboard (front and back), 2017, mycelium, steel cut oats, cardboard, water, 6" x 6"
Study of Mycelium, Oats and Cardboard (front and back), 2017, mycelium, steel cut oats, cardboard, water, 6" x 6"
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In this interview, Josette Ghiseline discusses her unconventional use of painting materials, the role of painting today, and her interest in biofabrication.

In your opinion, in what ways are you continuing to make abstract painting relevant? Does it have a political or ecological role to play?

Time and time again, since the invention of photography and later Duchamp's introduction of the ready-made to contemporary art, painting has been declared dead. Yet, it always seems to make a comeback. I developed a passion for abstract painting early in my career and have experienced the opposition and criticism that results from having content that may be subtle, hidden, and/or without representational narrative. I like to put forth in my work the notion that abstraction has the ability to contain expansive content derived conceptually and inspired by material physicality. I want for the work to question and challenge traditional notions of abstraction and painting as both an object and illusionary space.

Josette Ghiseline

Shelter, 2016, mixed media, industrial felt, wood, latex house paint, 7 units each: 62” x 7” x 3” 


How has your interest in researching “future and homegrown materials” influenced your painting practice? Has it changed your definition of painting?

Because the nature of the homegrown material has specific requirements in order to grow and thrive, a slightly more systematic approach has influenced my painting practice. I have become a little more ordered, thoughtful, and patient. Also by working with the grown materials, the notion of the material guiding the decision making and outcome of the work has become that much more evident and desired. I am paying a lot closer attention to what the material can and wants to do whether it is painted or grown rather than forcing my will.

Do you see experimentation with materials as a practice of resistance?

I see it as an alternative to traditional paths of making art. Because there is a give and take between you and the growing material, it is more like a partnership. This idea is something new to me and perhaps new to amateur practitioners in cultivation, but likely an old concept for say, gardeners or mycologists. I find the mixing and exchange between disciplines that are possible with emerging and grown materials to be a necessary and forward-thinking point of view. In that sense, anything new that challenges traditional paradigms can be seen as a practice of resistance. We all must work together to save our planet, so a current and future interdisciplinary approach to solving some of our problems is very important.

Are there certain effects you would like your work to have on the audience?

I would like the audience to gain a sense of curiosity or inquiry into what they are seeing. I like to leave visual clues and traces of the layers of decision-making in the final piece. I like the viewer to wonder how I arrived at a certain conclusion or end point. When I am working on something new, as in my latest paintings that use hand-drawn geometric patterns, for example, I feel a sense of newness in my thinking. In this specific case, it is a sense of mathematics and formulas, though I know very little about geometric equations. Accessing a different part of my brain is a very exciting feeling even if it is not understood by me rationally. I would like to share that sense of discovery with viewers in order for them to engage conceptually from their own experiences.

With the grown material works I would like to bring awareness to our material world in a larger sense. The impact of our manufacturing processes and "throwaway" culture mindset has caused much damage to our environment. By using grown materials I present alternatives to harmful materials like plastic, and by doing so I hope to bring awareness to the existence and current development of these grown material alternatives. Additionally, I hope to evoke greater consciousness to the full lifecycle of our products and the need to consider the entire journey of an object in our lifestyles before and after our use. I hope to inspire the audience to realize these grown materials are accessible to everyone and the possibilities are broad and exciting.

How has winning the Jerome fellowship affected your work?

Winning a Jerome Fellowship has been a wonderful and reaffirming experience. The fellowship provides access to MCAD facilities which allows me to consider using media that is outside my studio practice. I remember when I finished graduate school, it was big transition to go from having facilities like a wood shop or printing studio to going without. Right now I am experiencing the opposite and enjoying all the possibilities. The fellowship also provides feedback from critics and peers so I feel like I am part of a community which is very positive and beneficial to me.

Josette Ghiseline

Early Bacterial Cellulose Growth Study, 2017, tea, SCOBY, sugar, water, 8.5" x 10.5" x 1.5"


What are you currently working on that particularly excites you?

The possibilities of grown materials are very inspiring to me. The research and sense of community in the field of biofabrication is very exciting. There is a spirit of invention, responsibility, and cause that gives me a very real sense of pioneering a vast new world of creativity for change and innovation.