It's hard not to fall in love with Charleston artist Alex Waggoner. She is adorable; whether with her pups, with the way her "southernness" comes out in conversation, or how she not-so-subtly gives a shout-out to her partner in the arts and crafts in a video about her and her work. It's an easygoing nature that complements her brush. Buildings become memories worth recreating. The work is fundamentally rooted in "place" - right now, mainly the illustrious Charleston, SC - while abstracting and evoking universal elements.
We think you should get to know the artist behind the work. For a highlight from our interview, watch the video below. For the more in-depth understanding of A.W. read the transcript that follows. You won't regret it.
A brief excerpt from an interview with Charleston artist, Alex Waggoner:
Interview begun July 22, 2016. Charleston, SC: Alex Waggoner and Chris Nickels Residence. 1 hour and 15 minutes together. 37 minutes recorded audio.
My name’s Alex Waggoner. I’m from Gastonia, North Carolina. I went to school at SCAD in Savannah, and studied Painting and Printmaking. I moved to Charleston after school, and have been here with a bit of Raleigh, North Carolina in the middle.
How did you know that you always wanted to pursue art?
‘Cause I can’t think of anything else I would want to do. I just love it. It’s so special, and I’ve never considered doing anything different.
Was it painting that first started it?
When I went to SCAD, I started for graphic design, and in my first 2D class, my professor was like, ‘you should come to painting,’ so I did. I never looked back.
The painting program at SCAD was incredible. I mean it’s all in one big building, and the community was so rich. You would go in at anytime, and there were people painting and the rooms were very open and there was so much communication. Critiques are one thing that I miss so much. Just to be able to be with your peers and freely give critical feedback is incredible - I miss it a lot. I don’t know, it’s special.
I had some really awesome professors. Jason Hoelscher said I should be painting, instead of graphic design - he’s brilliant. Very critical thinking and theory-driven painting.
How would you tell me about your work if I didn't know you?
So the kind of work that I’m doing now started when we came to Charleston for the first time. I was kind of in this weird spot where I didn’t know what to make, because I was missing that critique from school. I knew that I liked the way shapes overlapped and the negative space between them. And Charleston was just so rich with beautiful things, so I just started painting what I was seeing, and that was all of the beautiful buildings and colors and all of that. And the more I did it, the more I could think about why am I seeing all the spaces in between? That’s when I realized that Charleston is changing. And the way people are rehabbing the old, or tearing down the old, and that weird bridge between the old and the new is what I’m trying to explore.
The style: I like to be very minimalist. So, still harping back to Minimalism and different movements from the 50s, 60s, and 70s but in a more approachable way. Because Charleston is so full of color - I like it to be a little approachable.
Photography plays an important element in your work, can you talk about that?
So I think the photography - I wouldn’t even call it photography (me snapping fictions on my phone or my camera, if I have it) - the things that I see are just so instant. If I drive by a spot, I can hold my phone up and take a quick snap of it. Then I can have this archive of things that are inspiring, and if I have to go back, I’ll go back and take more - but it’s just a mental reminder.
I have this one awesome picture of this building in West Ashley that I can’t wait to do. It’s this tiny little building in a giant parking lot - and it’s empty.
So I just have an archive of pictures that I like to work from. It’s not that I just go out and look for something. That’s what I love about Charleston - these things just creep up on you. It’s nice to have the ability to have this archive of things that crept up - and then recreate them.
For more on Alex's inspiration, materials, work/home life balance, and everyday challenges, listen to the interview below.
(LINK COMING SOON)
Photographs courtesy of Elizabeth Ervin.