Howard Skrill draws public statuary throughout New York City. If you wish to find out more about his project, please visit howardskrill.blogspot.com. He is a father, teacher, long time Brooklyn resident who teaches drawing, painting, sculpture, general studio arts and art history lecture at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and Essex County College in New Jersey, as well as clay modeling to seniors in Manhattan.
3ER: Was there a specific element that sparked your story idea?
HS: The word ‘Dirge’ led me to write ‘Brooklyn Dirge’ as a way of communicating my impressions of the public monuments that are the source of my latest series of artworks, the Anna Pierrepont Series. As I have drawn public monuments for three years, I have found that many them reflect on a related word to ‘Dirge’, ‘lament’. ‘Lament’ seems to me the visual equivalent to the sound of a ‘Dirge’. Laments further relate to the subject of the many paintings and sculptures of the Virgin Mary’s embrace of the body of the crucified Christ, ‘Lamentations’, also known as ‘Pietas’. As I composed ‘Brooklyn Dirge’, I had in mind two particular ‘Lamentations’, that of Michelangelo and Giotto. I began to relate the anguish of a Doughboy in a World War I Memorial in Prospect Park, Brooklyn to the anguish of the angels in Giotto’s Lamentation and the restrained reaction of the Virgin in Michelangelo’s Pieta to a female figure holding a child in a memorial from World War II, at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.
3ER: If you could choose any three elements, what would they be?
HS: memory, context, contingency
3ER: Describe your art-making/photography process?
HS: I create plein-air works [drawings out of doors] on paper by usually walking to many different places in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with my art supplies crammed into a blue Whole Foods Rolling Park. I typically draw the figurative monuments I encounter on route.
3ER: Favorite piece of art/photography?
HS: Maids of Honor (Las Meninas) by Diego Valesquez
3ER: What do you like about limits?
HS: They focus my mind around a topic that I can then draw connections
3ER: What do you want to tell our readers about your piece?
HS: Societies, like individuals, express feelings. Public monuments provide insight into both the feelings of individuals [the artist or the patron] or a societies writ large. Those that possessed these emotions may have passed, but these artifacts provide testament to their complex human reactions to events, as well as their beliefs, passions and our shared humanity, as they do to my own feelings.
3ER: How do you know when a work is good?
HS: Some works draw me in aesthetically or provide insight into the world or nature. Las Meninas did both, a flawless image that rocked my world and cemented my path as an artist. I felt that the figures were sharing the physical space that I was occupying, despite being painted hundreds of years ago.
3ER: Which artists/photographers inspire you?
HS: In addition to those I just mentioned, I also possess a long time commitment to the art of Gerhard Richter, an artist who recycles existing subjects and yet does not shy away from personal expression. When I returned to Graduate School at CUNY-Queens College, I also was inspired by my teacher Maureen Connor and also had the opportunity to assist in projects for Fred Wilson. Connor’s interests involve mapping the contemporary urban, political and social environment, which is why I wander the urban landscape I inhabit. Wilson is committed to radically different understandings of historical artifacts, which draws me to public monuments.
3ER: If you could have created any piece of art or taken any photo, what would it be?
HS: Since NYC and Brooklyn is defined by monuments dedicated to battles that took place during the Revolutionary war, particularly in Brooklyn and the victory of Union arms in the Civil War, I hope one day to draw the public monuments in a Southern city that define, instead, the Confederate identity.
3ER: Where can we view more of your work?
HS: The Anna Pierrepont Series, [http://howardskrill.blogspot.com/]
3ER: Do you create art in a certain place? Do you listen to music? What are your rituals?
HS: I wander my nearby environment with a rolling pack as mentioned before, earbuds in, radio on, typically tuned in to WNYC, New Yok’s public radio station.
3ER: What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?
HS: I can not recall
3ER: Do you have a Twitter handle so that we may tag you when we tweet about this blog post?