Austyn Weiner Is Riding Her Wave

I first met Austyn Weiner when she generously opened her Los Angeles studio doors and led me through one of the most compelling and well-versed artist experiences I’ve had to date. Austyn embodies the creative spirit; Her work is a true extension of who she is and what she projects onto this world. When speaking about her artistic practice, it’s as though she is describing a best friend — someone she knows the ins and outs and nooks and crannies of completely, who might have good and bad sides to them but who she loves and accepts without question. She isn’t afraid to let her humanness show, rather, she embraces it and puts it all out there for all to see. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons I knew from the moment we met that our relationship would go beyond the art world confines and into something much more real.

Though Austyn’s been a dedicated creator ever since she stumbled upon her middle school’s dark room, the past calendar year has produced some particularly pivotal, career-defining moments. She opened an exhibition of some of her most dynamic paintings to date at Bill Brady Gallery in her hometown of Miami last December, to much acclaim. Just last month, Austyn made headlines for her clothing collaboration with eachxother, debuting at Paris Fashion Week.

I caught up with Austyn a week before her first solo exhibition of paintings in New York, Prenup, would open at The Journal Gallery. In this new body of work, Austyn unpacks personal experiences from the past few years into a bold and energetic presentation that cements her presence in the New York art world. In our conversation, Austyn speaks about the multifaceted sides of her practice and opens up about this moment in her career which she has so diligently brought to life.



Maria Vogel: How are you doing today?

Austyn Weiner: I am weirdly… good! Which is strange. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with everything just being good, like I’m waiting for the shoe to drop or something. I’m actually having a moment of just feeling strong and convicted and clear. Those are very exciting things to be feeling because I seldom feel that.

MV: I feel like when good things are happening it’s really hard to let yourself feel the positive emotions associated with that. I don’t know about you, but for me, when creating things, I’m so hard on myself that I don’t let often myself feel like I’ve earned the praise that can come along with the finished result.

AW: Exactly. I think there’s something self-deprecating in all of us. Especially the role of the creator. You fill yourself up like a vessel and then empty yourself out completely. That experience on its own is essentially like the act of giving birth. With that comes the post-partum too. The ups and downs of life sort of mirror the ups and downs of the creative process. The highs are so high, but the lows are filled with extreme solitude.


Kick Backs And Tray Tables, 2019
Prenup at The Journal Gallery


MV: So, you’re in Miami right now?

AW: I’m in Miami right now. I am ruled by the planet that is my 97-year-old grandmother and I have a little guilt meter inside of myself. If I’m away from her for too long, that guilt meter starts to go off, so I have to come and see her. The real purpose of being down here – as you know I just did this clothing collaboration and one of the main reasons I did it is because for years my grandmother has been going off about seeing some of my paintings in textiles. So, I actually brought samples off of the runway with me and I am doing a photoshoot of my 97-year-old grandmother in my clothing. I’m so excited.


eachxother X Austyn SS20 Runway Collection


MV: We share that barometer of guilt with our grandparents. Mine with my 93-year-old grandpa and you with your grandma.

AW: We’re so lucky. The elderly really are our greatest teachers. I feel so lucky to be able to tap into that knowledge and wisdom that you really could only get from somebody who has been walking this Earth for 90+ years.

MV: It sounds like you’re enjoying a nice, peaceful moment at home before heading up to New York.


And All Of The Men (Lies) They Never Mattered, 2019
Prenup at The Journal Gallery


AW: Yeah, I’m taking a moment of peace and rooting down. The day of my show is also my 30th birthday so big things are happening. I was born and raised in Miami – my best friends in the world, my grandma, and my parents all live here and the sum of those people is really what keeps me rooted and grounded. I’m so happy to be with them before getting to New York.

MV: We’re speaking at a special moment in your career. It’s been a big year for you beginning last December with your solo show Mid-Explosion at Bill Brady in your hometown. What did this moment mean to you?


Installation View, Mid-Explosion at Bill Brady Gallery, 2018


AW: It’s funny. The act of creating in a way is an extremely selfish and self-involved endeavor. On the other hand, when you are really in it, it feels so selfless. I think the process of getting to a “monumental moment” in an artist’s career is a wonderful feat, but not something I try to get too caught up in. The moments of me spending month after month in solitude in my studio – those moments that create the monumental moment – are so important to me and they keep me humble and grounded and sort of focused on not so much the highs and the lows but more the flow of it all and what’s it really all about.

I feel like in a lot of ways it [Mid-Explosion] was a moment where I broke out of a box both figuratively and literally. I took a lot of chances in concept and in paint. The idea of these figure-shaped works was something I had been brewing for a long time. Anyone who’s been in my studio and seen the backend of my work would know that the figure cut outs and where they come from has been a consistency in my practice for seven years, pretty much as long as I have been creating in this realm.


Mid-Explosion at Bill Brady Gallery, 2018


MV: That is something I think is so cool about your studio. Not only do you have the work you are creating right now but you also archive everything else you make, whether it’s a doodle or a collage. As a viewer, you’re able to take a walk through your creative life. It feels to me that you’re very conscious of all the creative moments, whether they end up on the gallery wall or not.

AW: If I’ve learned nothing else in the time I’ve been creating, it’s that the smallest moments, the smallest gesture can turn out to be the most monumental moment of one’s process. A doodle on a piece of paper, a sentence created out of pain that one lays down on a piece of paper. You can work on a painting for nine months and it could mean nothing in comparison to what flows out of you organically. I really cherish and put an emphasis in my personal practice and the backend of that practice. I put an emphasis on the little moments. For me, that’s the romance of being an artist and the romanticism behind being someone who is creating. There’s something about the intimacy of things that are small, and I really try to cherish those things as well.

I learned so much about painting through that show. I took so many technical ideas that I was thinking about and feelings that I was having and laid it into the paint in a way I hadn’t before. The physical size of the works was daunting and the fact they were human-like forms was sort of daunting. I think the title of the show reflects that. Mid-Explosion was about a breaking out and not necessarily into a specific place but just the act of breaking out itself.

MV: Like you said, you really cherish every notch on your belt, and I think you have a certain level of thoughtfulness that goes along with that. You’ve made decisions surrounding your career as an artist and where your work is shown in a thoughtful way.

AW: Thank you. Thank you so much. Even before I was entitled to navigate my career, I was always protective of myself. I just knew that no one else was going to look out for me in the same way I would if I had the knowledge to. So, I started learning a lot. I’m not afraid of the business side of things. That doesn’t mean that as an artist I don’t need to turn that off and shut the doors of my studio and turn my phone off and go in and leave that Austyn at the door. But to not include her in the conversation would be stupid because at the end of the day I feel like we’re our greatest allies.


Spit In My Mouth Like You Mean It, 2019
Prenup at The Journal Gallery


MV: Have your goals as an artist changed in the past few years?

AW: I definitely feel like in the last six months I have begun to think about my work in a much more expansive way. From the clothing capsule collection I just did with eachxother in Paris, my mind was sort of blown open honestly. I had never embarked on an endeavor that involved another industry but was directly linked to art. From that experience I hate to say this, but I also don’t, [I realized] the art world is so linear and can be so narrow-minded in its capacity to reach human beings. I think that the art world sometimes loses the grip on who it is we’re trying to reach.

If anything, this experience has made me think of things more expansively. Every young artist’s dream is to one day be in institutions and museums and I want all of that, but I also want the ability to truly touch a mass amount of people in whatever capacity that is. The back and forth exchange of humanity is definitely one of the driving forces of why I am an artist to begin with.




eachxother X Austyn SS20 Runway Collection


MV: Right, it’s insane to call yourself an artist and then be told by these perceived rules that you have to stick to a certain list of things you can and cannot do. The possibilities should be endless. If not, what is creativity? What is being an artist?

AW: Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s all changing. But it’s only changing if we change it. I think I just had a moment of clarity of being like, “You know what, I really fucking love to make, I love to create and I’m the one putting these restrictions on myself.” At the end of the day, we’re all responsible for our path. I can’t blame anybody else or the world or the industry. It’s me and my decisions. I think I just made a decision from the heart to do something that would be genuinely F-U-N fun. It turned out to be such a dynamic and expansive experience creatively to me.

MV: That takes strength—

AW: I was scared shitless!

MV: But it’s so important to break through all of the shit and expectations society puts upon us and say fuck it. It sounds to me like the goal for you is doing what you truly want to do.

AW: Yeah, I think the goal for me is freedom. Freedom and the utmost honesty in my work. That’s ultimately what’s most important to me right now. I try to root down in the simplest form of my goals because that’s what gets me there in the day to day.

MV: Seeing young women go after and achieve what you are describing to me is drive for any individual to be like, “Yeah, I got it in me too.”

AW: I really hope so. We live in such a surface world right now and it’s so easy to live within a façade and to be so hard on yourself and judge yourself. If anything else, I hope I get the opportunity to connect with human beings on a deeper level.


If You Hit Me Harder Maybe I Would Listen detail, 2019
Prenup at The Journal Gallery


MV: Growing up, who were your artistic influences?

AW: The first art book I ever picked up was in my 7th grade photography teacher’s classroom. It was Lucas Samaras and I was enamored. His self-portraiture, his dark room manipulations, his multiple exposures, his natural dyes – that became the foundation from which I started creating from, full on. I had never seen someone so relentlessly searching themselves for the inspiration. The only artist I knew besides that was Andy Warhol, who was sort of the antithesis of that. Lucas Samaras is taking a journey inward, Andy Warhol was exposing the outward. I think that the combination of these two artists definitely resonated with me very young.

MV: What does a day in your studio look like?

AW: I can speak about the best days in my studio?

MV: Let’s do that.

AW: The best days in my studio are the ones where I have no idea what I’m walking into. Where I painted ‘til two in the morning the night before and something occurred and I walk in [the next day] and I feel like a stranger to my own painting. That goes back to the night before – the best nights in the studio are the ones where all of the voices truly leave your head and you’re actually just painting from your heart to your hand to the canvas and the truth comes out. For me, when I’m late night in the studio, I describe the feeling as catching a wave. When I catch a wave, then walk out, go home, and come back the next morning – the experience of staring back at oneself in such surprise and disbelief, I think it is such a rare moment for a painter but when it does, it’s the sweetest spot.

MV: How do you stay inspired to paint every day? Do you paint every day?

AW: When I am in the city of Los Angeles, I am painting every day. For me, there’s a big in and out. When I’m in it, I’m in it. I have no social life in Los Angeles. I am in my studio from 9 am ‘til 1 am pretty much every day.

MV: Wasn’t that part of your intention in moving out to LA [from New York City]?

AW: Totally. I made a conscious decision to put my practice first. I took a long hard look in the mirror and had a talk with myself about what it actually takes to do what I want to do every single day. I made that decision to put it first. That is what my life in LA is made up of. I’m extremely regimented in my work practice.

In terms of staying inspired to paint every day, I’ve always felt an obligation to create. The only way I can describe it is sort of feeling possessed by something beyond a decision that I did or did not make. I’m addicted to change and painting for me is an opportunity to control and implement change. When I’m frustrated with the world, I can’t control that. I can control the change that occurs inside of my studio.


Come As You Are But Change Entirely, 2019
Prenup at The Journal Gallery


MV: How do you like to unwind? How do you balance out the periods of time when you are alone making art?

AW: As a person and human being, I grappled a lot in my early twenties with the fact that I am introverted and extroverted. What I was choosing to do with my life as an artist was an extremely introspective process that would ultimately leave me void of a lot of human contact. In terms of unwinding, I used to have a lot more division between the different sides of myself. Now I feel like we’re all able to chill together in a way that we couldn’t before.

I like to get on a plane whenever I can. When the work is done, I feel like the other side of the work starts which is my personal growth. I think painting mimics life, life mimics painting and the growth I do on the inside is a direct deposit into what happens on the outside. So, I give myself the gift of different cultures and different people. There’s no better way to learn about yourself and the world you were brought into then entering another world. I’ve learned as much in the studio as I have outside the studio in the past few years. I think the marriage of the two is finally reflecting in my work too.

MV: I feel like we sort of covered my next question already. You started out as a photographer which then led to all of these other creative pursuits and your work doesn’t exist just on one medium. You obviously have a desire to not be put in artistic box so to speak…

AW: The only thing I would add to that is that the one thing that is still not out of the box is my writing. I am a writer. I write every day. I have been very cognoscente of how words can overpower visuals and imagery. I think that the actual narrative of what I’m living right now will find its way into practice in due time. It is definitely a priority of mine to write and to see where that medium manifests itself as well.

MV: You have shared some of these raw moments in bits and pieces on Instagram, which is so brave.

AW: I don’t even feel brave yet because I’m sharing .00591% of the truth. I want to be in a place where I feel comfortable and safe enough in the arms of this world to share that. I’m excited to see how and when it manifests.


My Prenup Is With YouHashem detail, 2019
Prenup at The Journal Gallery


MV: You’re celebrating the opening of your first solo presentation of paintings at Journal Gallery in New York – the city where things first started happening for you. What can we expect to see on view? How did you decide what you’d put into this exhibition?

AW: I’m so excited, I really am. The exhibition faces certain limitations that actually worked to my benefit. So far, all of my solo presentations have been in very large physical spaces. The Journal is such a beautiful, quaint space, but it is not the same volume of space as where I’ve recently shown. Also, the show is a week-long which is such an interesting and cool concept. All of this worked perfectly with the moment I’m in and what I wanted to bring to New York.

The body of work was not started with the intention of exhibiting it in this show. It started for me in response to an extremely special and beautiful relationship that took place and ended in the last year and a half of my life. That relationship spanned continents and time zones – it was a monumental experience in my life. The beginnings of these paintings were created in an emotional response to that.

The title of the show is Prenup and there are a lot of meanings to this word. In this world, we know it as a document or agreement that two partners enter into pre-nuptials. It is supposed protect one’s self and the two parties in some capacity. Once I really started digging into it, I realized the antithesis of trust is essentially a prenuptial. The idea of marriage is essentially the idea of trust. These sort of defining ideas started to be funny to me.

These works are definitely derived from a lot of personal narratives. There’s a big focus on this idea of forced togetherness. That was definitely a big driving force aesthetically – the idea of two figures forming into one or attempting to do so.

At the same time, I was exploring the idea of entering into an agreement with one’s self. For me personally right now, I’m alone in a partnership with myself. I actually played around with this idea and wrote a prenuptial agreement from Austyn Weiner to Austyn Weiner. It’s an undying commitment to myself. I think playing with that idea of duality, the playfulness of this outdated system of marriage. It’s not that I’m against marriage, but I think there’s a fine line in that and when you say, “Hey I love you so much that I want to get the government involved!”


I’m Sorry I Bit Your Head Off I Was Hungry And There Was No Food, 2019
Prenup at The Journal Gallery


MV: Sounds like you are unpacking what a prenup actually is.

AW: Exactly, unpacking those ideas, working through them. The titles from the show – from the exhibition’s title to the smallest work on paper – more so than any show before, are so indicative of the truth. Within the titles, there is a lot of information on the duality of love in its entirety. In my opinion, there is nothing more volatile than the idea of a prenup. I think that volatility is both interesting and comical.