When did you start working with the traffic light motif?
That was the last series I did before this exhibition. That was kind of a breakthrough for me because I studied at the New York Studio School where people work for two years non-stop from observation. That's what I was doing, and it's a great way to always work because there's always something to do. And I tried to do paintings that weren't from observation, but that didn't get me very far.
What led to your breakthrough?
There are two big questions always: what to do, and how to do it. Working from observation you still have this question of what to do, but I couldn't find a satisfying way to get across what I meant. One day, I don't remember how it happened, maybe it happened at the same time. I had a crush. I went to the Met last year and there was a John Baldessari show up. And to tell you the truth I didn't even know who he was and at first I realized that this is probably something I'm not going to get. But increasingly, the further I went the more I fell in love, badly. But I felt like I was betraying something because I came from a different tradition or different way of thinking. And I felt like a girl who fell in love with a trucker and has to tell her mother that this is how things are now. I don't remember if it happened before or after that, but one day I just thought, could I paint a traffic light with almost nothing in it? My landlord gave me these huge stretcher bars and I did this really big painting. I realized I could keep going, so I kept going for a while. The Baldessari thing was big.
Why are all your paintings vertical?
Besides wanting them to relate to the works from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, I wanted them to be connected somehow. So if you really look you'll notice that they all have circles in them. The circle thing has become big for me because I've realized it's the most perfect but also unattainable form.
How do you know when a painting is finished?
Usually I know when it happens. But this work was very different because of the connection to the art in the Brooklyn Museum's collection. I set out to do something first and it had very strict limitations, and then I did exactly what I planned to do, which is not the way I usually work. To me it's very much about music because it's almost like having a score that I work out, that I'm performing. Usually nothing that I do comes from serious logical thinking that then leads to a resolution. I try to look at things, read things and listen to things as much as I can and then they by themselves come to something, and I have to trust that. I wouldn't say that anything that I see or read directly influences my decision-making. Indirectly, it all does.