Maya Kabat, “Pool Time/Super Spatial Los Angeles” Diptych, Oil on canvas on layered wood panels, 36×36 inches, 2023
What does a day in your art practice look like?
Generally, I am in my tiny studio at home in Berkeley oil painting or at my studio in Oakland preparing canvases and doing other kinds of prep work or experimentation with other materials. I don’t necessarily work all day, every day, but I am always painting or going to the art store, or stopping by my Oakland studio, stretching a panel, noodling around, or making some experimental work.
I work every day, but it really varies depending on my deadlines. My painting days start by 11am at the latest. I have to keep in shape to do the work I do so a few times a week I am at the gym climbing and working out in the mornings. I am sure I would have carpal tunnel syndrome if I weren’t a climber because of the repetition of movements when I am painting. Climbing strengthens my hands and forearms and stretches everything out.
I paint ala prima which means I can only work on the paintings if the paint is really wet. You would be surprised how fast oil paint gets tacky, especially in the summer. So, when I start a painting on a given day, I pretty much have to finish it in one go and that goes for big or small works. All that to say that on my painting days, it’s a full and long day.
What would life be like without art?
I would turn my creativity into other activities. I love fashion and clothing. I love learning about plants and gardening, and I like to cook. I would figure it out.
What is the hardest part of creating your art?
The hardest thing is the immediacy with which my paintings demand my time and attention. Because they are painted ala prima, (wet in wet) I can’t leave a piece for a week and go back to it. I can under-paint, but once I start laying in the thick slabs of paint, I am really committed to finishing the piece as I work on the piece as a whole until it’s finished. I have found a few work arounds, but mostly it’s like running a marathon, especially with the large pieces. It is such a demanding, physical process. As I get older that level of athleticism required is daunting at times.
Maya Kabat, “Los Angeles Sky Patch 2”, Oil on canvas on wood panel, 8×10 inches, 2023
What inspires you?
Many things drive my interest to make paintings but seeing art quilts in person was the form that first really inspired me. I remember going to a quilt show in Ohio after college where I was living and was just blown away by the intricacies, freedom and creativity of a medium that I thought was pretty traditional. As I explored the medium more, it was the Gees Bend quilt makers that became a particular fascination and inspiration. I was so inspired by their improvisational way of working, their use of color and their architectural approach to that medium. I take that improvisational approach with me when making my work today.
In addition, a lot of my work is inspired by the land, landscape architecture and landscape experience. Every series, no matter how abstract, references the architecture of the landscape in some way whether it’s urban or rural, microscopic or macroscopic. It always seems to be referencing landscape space, structures, textures or all of the above. Possibly, it was growing up in Oregon and spending a lot of time on the Oregon coast created a sense of space and place that I am always trying to recapture. I also spent a lot of my time as a kid wandering the streets of downtown Portland. In the 70s and 80s we were really left on our own. I was taking the public bus to school when I was 7, but so were lots of other kids. I feel very much at home wandering the streets of any given city and I think that sense of exploration in the city is really exciting. I also feel at home in the woods or by the ocean and I think these two worlds feel important to my work.
I almost went to Graduate school in Architectural Theory, and I love learning about architecture and the history of architecture. I am not a person who thinks that well in three dimensions, but something about the structure of buildings and architecture of places, urban or rural, is really inspiring to me.
Finally, I am always playing around with alternative art projects whether that be drawing or working on paper, collaging, or just generally experimenting with new materials that have nothing to do with oil painting. I just seem to need variety and I like to develop new materials and working methods. Right now, I am weaving off cuts of the the raw canvas I use to stretch my canvases for painting into woven paintings. What advice would you give your younger self?
I have been thinking about this a lot recently, actually. I would say try and identify who you really are and what you really want sooner rather than later. Then advocate and push for it.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? Why?
I would love to have collaborated with David Ireland. I love the way he works with materials and ideas and creates so much joy and beauty. The way he incorporates conceptual ideas with objects in space absolutely amazes me. I love going to 500 Capp Street in San Francisco and experiencing that space and his energy and the humor and intelligence of that work. I feel I could really learn so much from him and the way his brain operated.
Maya Kabat, “Super Spatial/Los Angeles Sky Patch, 1”, Diptych, Oil on canvas on layered wood panels, 12×22 inches, 2023
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
That everyone has a different rhythm and a different way of working. A friend once commented on the pressure to get into the studio 9-5 like many artists espouse. That somehow this conventional work ethic can be translated to the creative process. He pointed out that he could spend all day in the studio just fussing sometimes and it felt like spinning wheels. He noticed that if he went into the studio and spent 20 minutes doing one thing, but that thing he did was the right thing then that’s all matters to him. The time spent working isn’t the only thing that’s important. It’s about finding your particular rhythm and doing what works best for your unique process.
If you could change anything about the art world, what would it be?
Ha ha. Don’t get me started. 🙂 I would just want it to be more democratic and remove some of the capitalistic emphasis. What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I have always been a maker and a person who understands the world through exploration of the materials around me. The experience of feeling through materials is just part of the way I process life so it’s an internal motivation. I find a lot of joy in it all and that joy brings me along.
If you had the chance to live during a different artistic movement other than now, which one would you choose? and why?
I would have loved to be in New York after WW2. There were so many amazing women painting and working in the city at that time. What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
I strive to do the best work possible, push myself farther and share the work as far and wide as possible. I also want to connect people to their own bodily materiality through the materiality of my paintings and bring a sense of wonder and joy to people.
Maya Kabat, “Car Culture/Super Spatial Los Angeles”, Oil on canvas on layered wood panels, 24 x 52 inches, 2023
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?
Just keep working and honing your practice and voice. It takes time. Embrace the way that you are and the ways in which you are different.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
I am very much a process-based artist so it’s hard to go from concept to finished piece in a direct way. Normally, I work with paint, and I let the process inform the work. Having said that I have started to develop a process where I do a lot of research on a topic and then once I have saturated myself with information, I set it aside and go into my studio to paint. This approach allows the ideas permeate and inform the work. My show at the LAAA Gallery 825 that opens August 19th is my first site specific installation coming out of this approach. It’s about the city of Los Angeles and all of the layered, hidden infrastructures, stories, myths and histories that create the city that we see and the things we can’t see but inform the reality and sense of place.
Super Spatial, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Art Association, Gallery 825
825 N. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA
Exhibition Dates: August 19th through September, 15, 2023
Opening Event: Saturday, August 19th from 10am – 5pm
Gallery is open by appointment only
Please call (310) 503-7248 for an appointment or visit
http://www.losangelesartassociation.com for more information
Portrait of myself in front of a commission in 2019.