Increments & Incidents: Interview with Artist Sky Pape

Sky Pape
“Increments & Incidents” is a new solo exhibition at The Garage Art Center displaying work by Sky Pape, a Canadian-born artist living in NYC.

“Increments & Incidents” is a new solo exhibition at The Garage Art Center displaying work by Sky Pape, a Canadian-born artist living in NYC. Sky is known for creating abstract works on and of paper which have been widely exhibited for over thirty-five years. Her work is in museum, corporate, and private collections internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Sky Pape has been the recipient of many honors, awards, and grants, and her artwork has been reviewed in The New York TimesARTnewsArt & Antiques and other publications. She is presently represented by June Kelly Gallery in New York City.

In addition to her art career, for fourteen years, until 2000, Sky Pape maintained a parallel career in scientific research, primarily in the fields of schizophrenia, genetics and traumatic brain injury. Her interest in the sciences has a continuing impact on her work. Pape’s art embodies the interplay between the intentional and the unexpected, highlighting irregularities within ordered systems, and the dynamic coexistence of dissimilar entities.

Sky recently discussed her art, career, and more via an exclusive interview.

Sky PapeMeagan Meehan (MM): Can you name an influence that moved you in the direction of art?

Sky Pape (SP): One of my grandmothers took up painting around the time I was born, and she filled her home with art and books. Along with her good cooking, I devoured it all voraciously, if sometimes surreptitiously in the case of nudes. She opened my eyes to the arts, particularly the major movements of twentieth century abstraction, and she was always game for a lively, critical discussion. So, early on I knew that between looking and making I would never ever be bored, and I recognized that solitary, focused activities of exploration suited me perfectly.

MM: How did you develop your unique style, and what is your relationship to the materials you choose?

SP: My shift to the abstract vocabulary and materials I’ve favored for so long now came about as an emotional and practical response to a series of intensely difficult life events that compelled me to leave behind figuration, and oil paint, and for long stretches of time, color. I developed a strong connection to paper and ink, appreciating that they are quite commonplace and easily accessible, and that they’re also key among the creative materials essential to the world’s most ancient societies. I find continuity and meaning in in that. Entering the studio, I have specific ideas in mind, but the pieces are not preconceived or all planned out, because I want to discover something I don’t already know. They develop as a result of showing up, experimenting, and responding to what I see unfolding before me. It’s a convergence of intellect, intuition, and chance — never an obvious path from start to finish.

MM: You have experience in the field of research science. How does that influence you creatively?

SP: My sense of curiosity is very wide-ranging. I’m a logical thinker and have a researcher’s heart and mind. Facts appeal to me, but I also know how perception can be unreliable. If you think of research as a systematic method of inquiry, collection of data, and rigorous analysis, that’s reasonably descriptive of how I operate. If you experiment and get results you expect, you validate what you know, but when results fly in the face of expectations, you open up a whole world of why, and have a chance to discover something new. That’s when things get exciting! The sciences – math, physics, biology, and social sciences – ignite my imagination because they provide clues about existence. This helps me look at what I’m doing through a multifaceted lens. Experimental investigation is both forward-looking and can examine things that happened billions of years ago, managing to connect the two. I find that to be true in both science and in art.

Sky PapeMM: How did you find out about The Garage Art Center and secure a show with them?

SP: I was introduced to The Garage Art Center and Stephanie Lee by the artist Frances Hynes, whom I’ve known a long time as we both showed with June Kelly Gallery in NYC for many years. Stephanie invited me to show at GAC, and I was so impressed with her and all that she does, I was happy to say yes. Our decision to work together came about roughly two years before the exhibition “Increments & Incidents” opened, and the pieces on display were completed during that time. These are part of my ongoing “Anomalies” series of patterned, intricate pieces that are created incrementally, one mark at a time, pulsating and coming to life with irregularities that arise from the hand-made process.

MM: What events, projects, or other exhibitions have you got on your agenda?

SP: In addition to “Increments & Incidents” at Garage Art Center until November 20th, 2022, pieces from my Ligurian Suite are on view through February 2023 in “Sound and Sight: A Duet” at The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. A collaborative, curatorial brainchild of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and nAscent Art New York, the exhibition presents creative dialogues between eight artworks and eight original musical compositions, all by visual artists and musicians in the NYC area. I’m also thrilled to be a mentor in New York Foundation for the Arts’ Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program, geared toward “building and serving a community of artists with diverse backgrounds who share the experience of immigration.” Plans are in the works for a solo show of my work at Garrison Art Center in Garrison, NY in 2023, and I continue my dedication to “Lens Society of Two,” an ongoing collaborative project with artist/writer Pamela Popeson, which we began together in 2016.

Sky PapeIf anyone would like to receive updates about my work and goings-on, I welcome you to subscribe to my (approximately) quarterly news.


For more detail, please visit The Garage Art Center website: