Abstract in Numbers: The Art of Joyce Wellman

Larry Saxton | 7/15/2009, 10:02 p.m.

Artist Joyce Wellman, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been living and working in the District since 1981. She received a Master€s degree in Education from the University of Massachusetts in 1977 and after receiving a Ford Foundation Fellowship to study painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art, she received her MFA from the institute€s Mt. Royal School of Art in 1996.

In addition to painting, Wellman is an accomplished printmaker, having studied the craft with printmakers such as Valerie Maynard, Khrisna Reddy, and Bob Blackburn. In 2003, she was invited to Kenya to teach a master printmaking class at the Kuona Trust Studios in Nairobi.

Currently, Wellman€s work can be viewed in the show €Rules of Engagement€ at the U.S. District Court House in Greenbelt, Md. through Wed., July 29.

WI: How would you describe your art?
JW: I would call it abstract geometry, because with geometry you have all sorts of shapes. My work is expressive and non-specific. I have a lot of things going on in my work. I like abstract expressionism. As I grew as an artist, and moved from printmaking into painting, I always loved the geometry, the kind of minimalist thing.

WI: Were you a math lover in school?
JW: I used to teach math. I think the real influence came from my mother who played the numbers while I was growing up in New York City. There would always be numbers going around. So when I started doing art, numbers emerged in the work. It was my way of dealing with some internal stuff that was going on within me. It appeared in the work on its own, but once I saw it coming I said, €Okay this is it. I€m going to do that.€

WI: What are some of the ways you use geometry in your art?
JW: I started applying paint to the canvas in dots. Those dots became shapes and from there, those shapes became the forefront of the painting. I started making canvases in different shapes. Making circular and rectangular shaped canvases, and within the rectangular shapes there are other shapes. I decided to read the book €The Sacred in Art,€ which is tied to math and art. It says the pentagon represents mankind on the spiritual side. It has five sides, all the sides are equal and all the angles are equal, you don€t know which way is up. I really started getting into pentagons.

WI: You were commissioned to do an installation of your art work North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C. What was that like?
JW: It was a beautiful experience. They provided me with my own studio space, which had a screened in porch. It was located near where the band would come out to practice and I could sit on the porch and listen to them play. The campus is beautiful, especially at the time of the year I was there. They were doing a lot of building and the chancellor was committed to promoting the arts. I was the third artist to do a piece for the university; Richard Hunt and Joe Holston were the other two. My commission was to create a piece of art for their new science building. I created €Autumn Passages€ [in 2005,] a large pentagon painting, which was installed in the lobby of the building.

For more information on Joyce Wellman visit www.joycewellman.com.