Silver Lake sweetheart and self-supporting young artist Vanessa Prager is a babe. A chilled out, I-don’t-take-myself-too-seriously, and yes-my-sister-is-acclaimed-photographer-Alex Prager, babe. At 25 years old, Prager has been making a full-time living in the art game since she moved back to her native LA from what (I like to imagine) was a My So Called Life-inspired stint at a boarding school in Oregon. While preparing for one of her most extensive exhibitions to date (November 10 at the Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica), Prager took the time to talk shop about the process, publicity, and the importance of patrons.
The refreshingly succinct bio on your website says you are self-taught. Has this lack of formal training impeded you in any way? Do you secretly feel somewhat unscathed by “art school conditioning”?
Yes, a little, to both, though I never know what would have been had I gone to art school. What I do know is that when I first started this whole thing, I was terribly insecure, and I’m really not sure I would have held up against the scrutiny and critique that art school brings. But who knows! I’m not one to give up, so maybe it would have just made me tougher faster. I did struggle for a number of years to teach myself painting techniques, so that could have been shortened. But again, it might have changed my style, too…all these unknowns!
This year is a landmark in your career. You have begun to book solo shows in some real fancy-pants galleries. Up to this point you have been throwing almost exclusively independent shows with the help of generous sponsors and hosts. Care to give a shout out to some of your earliest supporters?
I am forever thankful to WeSC, They have been a major sponsor of mine for years now, and with no hidden motivations or control issues! They were always super down for every weird idea I had and would help me realize them—I mean, they were all in! It’s not every day you find a company willing to be that different. I’ve also had numerous repeat collectors, a few of whom became patrons, and their support of my work was invaluable.
Speaking of friends, you have a bit of a cult-like fan base attending your shows, including several celebrity collectors and starter-type collectors. Would you care to shamelessly drop a name or two and/or describe the personal dynamic of those relationships?
Well, I value all of my collectors immensely. I feel like their love for my work allows me to keep growing and creating. I do have a number of public figure-type collectors at this point which is just cool, and then there’s Amanda de Cadenet, who’s hosting my new show. Collectors and past hosts like Harvey Weinstein, Danny Masterson and Michael Pena have taken it a step further than just collecting by actively letting more people know about my work. But I feel a sort of closeness with anyone who comes to my shows and appreciates my work because they get me in some way, we share some sort of understanding. And that’s nice, it helps me feel more connected, which I think everyone strives for in their own way, living in what can otherwise be a disconnected and lonely world.
What random things are inspiring you right now? Does inspiration kick you in the teeth or give you warning cramps before it hits?
Inspiration usually works more gradually for me. There will occasionally be those light bulb moments but mostly it’s sort of brewing, kneading, and sometimes fermenting in my head until it all pours out into a new body of work. I’m really into smoke right now, or fog, things that blur, including clouds and harsh light. But I’ve been on that kick for almost two years now. Still loving classic cars, old movie posters, simplistic nature imagery, and 40’s hair and clothing. Really into wallpaper patterns and animals creeping. It’s always evolving.
What was the last song you played on repeat? And how do you feel about lip gloss? I think it is too sticky.
Fiona Apple’s “Every Single Night.” She’s brought me through many rough times in my twenties. I feel I’ve moved along from the intensity of her anger at this point, but still, great song, amazing artist, and I still very much relate. And I hate lip gloss!! Way too sticky, and it gets stuck on my hair. I can only get down with the balm.