Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Hello, I'm Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to, or watching, Radio Maine.  Today in the studio, I have with me artist Greg Day. Thanks for coming in today. 

 

Greg Day:

Thanks for having me, Lisa.

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

I'm enjoying this piece behind us. I'm enjoying it all the more because I realize that it's just a peek into a much larger piece that is available. Talk to me about this work.

 

Greg Day:

This is a smaller segment. It's a four-foot segment from a piece called center front and the piece itself is 12 feet wide by 32 inches tall. Most of my work is made up of 16 inch tall by 12 inch wide segments that are then bolted together to make a larger piece.  This one has eight segments bolted together and each one of those segments has a random five digit number as its title. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

You must have a large studio. 

 

Greg Day:

Well, I have a pretty large studio now. But interestingly, the reason I started with these smaller segments is because I like to work large  but I haven't always had a large studio. So by creating small parts of a painting, I don't have to start with a huge canvas. I can just work one segment at a time. And then when I feel like it's ready to be a big painting, I can just bolt them together when I have the space. So that's where that originated from. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Where would you find a space that's large enough to hang this multi segmented painting? 

 

Greg Day:

Well, it fits in my studio. At the Portland Art Gallery, there are walls plenty large enough to show it. In a private residence, it would dominate your space which I think is one reason I like to work big because I like to have my work affect the space.  I think that comes from my architecture background. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I was interested to read that you have that background because I'm guessing that it lends a unique perspective to the work that you do. 

 

Greg Day:

I think it does.  When I first started painting more full time, I kind of rebelled against my architecture background. There were no straight lines and were all curves.  And then gradually I started brewing that back into my work.  So I've kind of gone back and forth between, you know, I try never to do, to create literal space, although sometimes my work, you know, you could imagine that you're in a, a building or, or something like that, but I try, I try never to have a, any kind of recognizable scale to my work.  I mean, some people say that some of my work is like looking down on a map, which I certainly can relate to. I think the only thing I could ever remember saying I wanted to be when I was a kid, other than an architect, was a, a cartographer. So, I guess I'm kind of bringing those parts back. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

What was it about being a cartographer that drew you to that possibility? 

 

Greg Day:

I don't know. I was so young. I didn't have a conscious memory of that but I do remember,  which also is reflected in my work, I remember getting huge pieces of paper and putting them on the table and I would start creating a city. I would first draw a river from one end of the paper to the other, and then I would start racing the river and putting a bridge over. And then I, the streets would go from one end to the other. So lines would always go off the paper or they wouldn't, which is kind of what I always do now that in theory, these lines could go in all directions, you know, infinitely. Which is another reason I never frame my work because it's not supposed to have an edge basically. So I did bring in a piece that has a frame, but I was saying earlier that it's one of the only paintings I've ever had framed, and it's the first painting I ever did.  

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

That's an interesting contrast to some of the people that I've spoken with, who are very specific about having something in the frame and framed, right. As opposed to what you're describing, which is this sense of infinity. 

 

Greg Day:

Right. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

A challenging thing to capture, I would think. 

 

Greg Day:

Yes. Painting is always a challenge for me in many ways.  And I think maybe it’s because I didn't go to art school. When I was in architecture school, I actually had to petition to take art history classes because it was so strict. You have to take this class and this class and this class so other than taking those art history classes, you know, I was never taught composition and you know, all that stuff. So it's not really something I consciously think about.

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

When I look at this now that you've told me about this idea of streets and maps.  I see that, but there's also another dimensionality to it. And, it's more than the flatness of what a map would represent. it almost comes out a little bit. And I, when I first looked at it, I was thinking about a window with trees in front of it. And the different ways that the trees would grow. And of course, there's a dimensionality to trees, even though if they're on the other side of a window, it's a flat surface. So it's an interesting thing to capture both at once. The flatness and also the dimensionality.

 

Greg Day:

That's so perfect. I mean when I first started putting grids on my paintings, I was thinking somewhat about window mullions and mountains. So you're kinda looking through that flat surface to the painting.  When I first started really thinking about art, you know, I was reading, I read all kinds of stuff.  I think it was Clement Greenberg, who was a critic who talked a lot about Jackson Pollock's work. I think it was Clement Greenberg. He was very adamant that a painting must be flat, you know, a painting is the paint, you know, you're not supposed to, it's not supposed to represent anything.  But what I loved about or love about Jackson Pollock's work is there is space. You know, if it's just like almost infinite space, the way he, you know, just his drip paintings and, and even some of his earlier work.  So I think I kind of play with that. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Even the idea that you like large pieces, because you like them to have an impact on the space itself. It's almost this, this desire to, to claim something larger to kind of make a larger statement, which I think was also a Jackson Pollock idea. 

 

Greg Day: 

Yes. I mean, yes I don't know about it, I'd have to think about that more, you know, there's probably a lot of subconscious stuff going on that I could explore more. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Well, I'm just even thinking that you had to petition to take an art class, that you actually had to ask. Could I please do this thing that is very important to me, right? And to, to take that stance, I think is, I would say probably was relatively brave considering that you were in what I think of as a somewhat linearly focused profession. 

 

Greg Day:

Yes. Although most of my classmates, we were all interested in art, you know, on, on one level or another.  And the nice thing about being in a studio environment with all these people is it's just, these ideas are flying all the time. And I had some really amazing studio teachers who brought in lots of interesting ideas. And so we talked about art a lot.

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So it wasn't that art wasn't encouraged. It was more that there were just certain things that needed to be done within the structure of the curriculum. And, this landed outside of that structure. 

 

Greg Day:

Correct. To take a formal class wasn't frowned upon but you had to get permission.  

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

yes. And I can relate to that. I mean, I've always had this sense that like medicine, our architecture is more of a profession. And so there are certain standards within medicine and there are certain classes you take in medical school, but then it's, once you've taken your classes and once you've done your residency, it's then an ongoing education of self that you engage in. And it sounds similar to what you're describing, probably both in architecture and in art 

 

Greg Day:

Right. Yes, absolutely. And I love that part too, where you, it is just, you know, there's endless opportunity to be curious and you know, that I really like that about, I guess, how I've kind of designed my life. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So do you ever find yourself being curious about something that leads to something else that leads to something else, and then you find yourself in a place that you didn't expect you would be? 

 

Greg Day: 

 I try to give myself room to do that as much as possible. I think sometimes I can get too far off on a tangent and I have to kind of bring myself back, but yes it is fun to do that. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Tell me about your Maine connection. 

 

Greg Day: 

Sure, I was born in Brunswick but we were actually living in Freeport at the time. My father was the pastor at the First Parish Church in Freeport at the time.  He was also chaplain in the Air National Guard up in Bangor. We moved around a little after that but by the time I started school we had moved to Brooks, Maine, which is a tiny little town on the Moosehead Trail, north of Belfast.  That's where I grew up. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Where does one go to school in that area? 

 

Greg Day: 

So, for elementary school there's a little school right in town but Mount View High School was the high school that I went to which is in Thorndike, near Unity, near the Common Ground Fair. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Remembering back to when I was in high school, and when I was playing sports, Mountain View is a relatively small school. 

 

Greg Day: 

Yes,  back then it was Class B, which in Maine was probably a small Class B. My class was very small. We had less than a hundred people in my class. It was in the middle of a cow pasture. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So were there any other people in your group in your grade that ended up going into art or architecture? 

 

Greg Day:

Not architecture.  There was one artist.  She was a great artist but I've kind of lost track of her but I'm assuming she went to art school but I'm not positive, but for the most part, no one else. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So when you were in school, did you have teachers who encouraged you to go in this direction? 

 

Greg Day:

Yes. We had great teachers because there were a lot of back to  the lander people from New York city, Boston, and Philadelphia. So one of the only jobs you could get was being a teacher. So we had amazing teachers and our librarian, she would make sure there were a lot of us who had books checked out. I mean, I think I had Frank Lloyd Wright permanently checked out. So, you know, I guess I feel a little bit bad that I always had that checked out, but I just loved just exploring his floor plans and kind of getting lost in those floor plans. Yes, everyone was very encouraging.  By that time, my father also was the guidance counselor at the high school. So he as well as having a church and still doing air national guard stuff. So he was very encouraging. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

That's a really unique set of things that your father did. 

 

Greg Day: 

Yes. He liked to work.  Oh, he also was the head of adult education. So, he worked a lot. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

My father was also in the Air National Guard as a doctor. And he also, I think, well, probably because there were 10 kids in the family, he worked as a doctor. And then on the weekends, he worked in the national guard. And I always thought it was interesting because it lent such a different perspective being in the military and what my father would come back with.  You know, kind of stories about people he had met and he valued it so much that he continued to do it until they finally said, listen, you're a little bit too old. We're gonna need to have you stop now. But did your father have a similar experience when he was with the air national guard? 

 

Greg Day:

Yes, I think so. He was a very progressive, liberal anti-war, you know, peace loving person.  I never really learned how he got into it in the first place, but I know he loved it.  I mean he loved it so much that once a month on a Sunday morning, he would get up at like 4:00 AM, go to Bangor from Brooks, which was about a 45 minute drive. Then he would drive back to his church in Thorndyke, which was about an hour drive. Then he'd go back to Bangor for the rest of the day. So he liked to drive. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

It sounds like you lived in the right place if that's the case. And how did it work with him as a guidance counselor in your school? 

 

Greg Day: 

It was fine. He wasn't a teacher, so he wasn't, you know and he was Mr. Day and my nickname was Mr. Day. So I don't know what, I never got a cool nickname, but I didn't argue. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I never did either. They just used my name. So, you know, you would iron in the same boat. I never felt insulted because I guess I always thought, well, they could take this in a really bad direction. So, you know, Mr. Day is not the worst one you could have. 

 

Greg Day:

Exactly. Yes. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Tell me about the work you've been doing with the Portland Art Gallery. This is a relatively new affiliation for you.

 

Greg Day:

I am very excited to be a part of the Portland Art Gallery and just the work they do.  I'm just so impressed, you know, just everyone there., if I call you know, people pick up and right away and when I go in, everyone says hello. And if I upload some new work, it gets put on the website right away. It's like magic. So, yes I'm really excited. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

What kinds of interactions have you had with other artists who belong to the Portland Art Gallery?

 

Greg Day:

So far, not enough. I'm really looking forward to meeting as many people as possible. I really like the idea that it's a community of artists which I haven't had for a while. I had a studio for a long time in the artist studio building in Portland and all the artists kind of bonded well there. But since I've left there, I haven't really had that. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Well, I would be interested to hear what you and Jane Dahmon would talk about because when I look at this piece, it actually reminds me a lot of some of her large pieces and she does a lot of work with Birch's in particular, but trees in general. And even though they're very different types of work, I know that that scale is something that she's continued to explore. And it seems like not every artist does that. Some artists are very focused on much more manageable size pieces. So I'd be fascinated to kind of be a fly on the wall during that. 

 

Greg Day:

Yes. I'm looking forward to getting to talk with her. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Have you spoken with other artists who like the larger scale works and have you found any commonalities? 

 

Greg Day:

I mean I've had conversations with artists, architects, and collectors over the years and yes I go back and forth. I can do small pieces. I love to do small pieces. They don't have to be large. So I think I just, I'm always kind of playing back and forth with, you know, large scale and smaller scale.  

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

What about working on a theme? Do you tend to do a series of pieces on a theme? 

 

Greg Day: 

Yes, but it, it would probably be more a theme of a color palette, maybe a theme of similar spacial ideas that maybe over a series of paintings would just be from a different perspective or I've done some three dimensional computer studies where I will basically make a movie of a 3D space that I've created and make prints of. So it's almost like a stop action. You know, I might have three pieces of that similar scene. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Do you incorporate the digital aspect of art into your pieces often? 

 

Greg Day:

Well the grid actually exists in a CAD program. So I have this basic grid. That's almost like a musical staff.  So instead of starting with a blank canvas, I already have that basic grid laid out. So then from there I can start, you know, adding the notes and, playing around, putting paint down, and sanding paint off. I do a lot of sanding and you know, putting color down, wiping color off. It's a lot of process, but I like the fact that once I'm finished, the textures look worked, you know,  it's like having a tool, a tool that you've used for years and years and years, and the handle gets, you know, nice and smooth and oiled. And because I never put a glossy finish on, it's just a natural glossiness, when that happens. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

When I first saw this piece, there was actually almost an element of bronze to it, you know, the metal bronze and the, and the patina on the top. So when I think about the process that you're describing by adding and subtracting layers, it kind of makes sense to me, but not all artists engage in that kind of method. 

 

Greg Day: 

Right. I think again, because I didn't go to art school, you know, I admire artists that I call painters who can take a brush, dip it in paint and make something. And my older sister was really the artist in the family and she is an amazing painter. So I've always admired that, but that's not in me, you know, that's not who I am. I kind of build paintings more than paint paintings, that’s how I would think about it.

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

It seems like about half and half of the people that I've talked to for this show have gone to art school versus not gone to art school. So it's more common than I would've expected. And people, the way that they come to art is very different from person to person. And even those who go to art school, sometimes they go to art school, they do something completely different for a very long time. And then they come back to being an artist. So it sounds like your path wasn't perhaps the more traditional path, but it wasn't necessarily unusual for artists. 

 

Greg Day:

It's very interesting that about half haven't gone to art school. I like hearing that.

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, I think there are just different ways of learning things. And there's different ways of knowing things. So, I also would love to be able to paint. I've never been to art school, but I'm pretty sure if I went to art school, I would probably not ever be a traditional painter anyway because it's probably not the way that my mind works. 

 

Greg Day:

Right. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

And when you're talking to me about the building of paintings, it kind of suggests that your mind works in a way that is very specific to your art. 

 

Greg Day:

Yes. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So it's nice that you've been able to follow this trajectory of going through architecture school and then getting to the other side and saying, okay, well, I'm gonna pick this other thing back up again, and I'm gonna do things in a slightly different way. 

 

Greg Day: 

Right. And I don't think, you know, if I hadn't gone to architecture school, I wouldn't be making the work that I make now.  So even though it was painful, six years of schooling, I don't regret it at all. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Did you practice as an architect? 

 

Greg Day:

Yes, the only real job that I've had since graduating college was a three year stint with an architecture firm in Portland back in the early two thousands. Actually that's not true right out of college I moved to New York city and worked for someone for about a year and a half there. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

And what caused you to decide that just wasn't what you wanted to do? 

 

Greg Day: 

A lot of different reasons.  One of which being, you know, when I went through architecture school, everything was still hand drafting, hand drawing, and CAD was just kind of being taught. And my first job, we started, we were doing CAD and I got carpal tunnel in my wrist because you're spending all day long, moving a mouse around. And I mean that wasn't the only reason architecture in practice is a lot different than architecture in school. For one thing, there are no clients in school. I mean, imagine as a doctor, if what you loved was, you know, I don't know if you were a heart surgeon, if you loved heart surgery, but the patients were, you know, a pain once you started practicing, then you might have a different attitude. The reality of architecture is, it's just it wasn't giving me the feeling that I got when as a kid designing stuff.  So I think painting gives me that feeling of just, you know, I can't really explain it, but it's, you know, that feeling of creating and maybe the creative part can be painful in itself, but once you're done, you're like, wow, you know, I accomplished something. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I think that's great that you recognized pretty quickly that what you wanted to do wasn't what you were doing and that you needed to follow a different path in order to get you to that place. 

 

Greg Day:

Yes. And I also think just the life of an artist is a lot. I like the freedom. I used to travel a lot. Even before COVID I was going back and forth to England quite a bit. I spend a lot of time in New York city.  Another reason why I like to work in small segments is because I like to be able to travel somewhere and work and then bring the pieces back you know, and fit on an airplane. We spend time up in the Belgrade lakes quite often, and I like to work up there, but there's not a lot of space to work there so, I work small. I think just the freedom of being an artist is really appealing to me. I mean, I guess that's probably obvious. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I think it's interesting that some people like more structure in their lives and other people where  that doesn't really work for them at all. But sometimes people end up working in a structured environment even when they aren't really that happy about it. So, the fact that you are able to recognize this early on, and make different choices, I think is very powerful.

 

Greg Day:

Yes. Sometimes I get nervous about having to work an eight to seven job. I don't think I could sit still for more than an hour at a time usually. So hopefully I'll never have to do that. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Yes. Hopefully people are going to love your work and they're going to make you very successful as an artist.

 

Greg Day:

Absolutely.

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Greg, I've enjoyed our conversation today and I love this piece behind us. It's a wonderful piece. 

 

Greg Day:

Well, thanks, Lisa. This was fun. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

If you'd like to see Greg Day's work you can go to the Portland Art Gallery, or also the Portland Art Gallery website. I encourage you to do so.  I think it’s even more powerful in person. So I think if you're looking for my suggestion, I would suggest that you go to the Portland Art Gallery to see what he is doing with the gallery. I am Dr. Lisa Belisle.  Today, I was speaking with artist Greg Day. Thank you for joining us on Radio Maine.