Dear MAP,

Sorry for the delay, I’m in the process of moving at the moment so things are a bit hectic. I hope these answers suffice, feel free to lightly edit. But if you do any drastic changes I’d like to see them before you go to press.

Best, Donelle

At the ICA, I will set up a work space for myself, so that patrons can not only see my work, but see it in process. The space will be set up not unlike my studio in Harlem, and I will be working there periodically and be available to talk to visitors. Come to think of it, the public will have the opportunity to watch me think and zone out and pick my nose. I guess I’ll be as much a part of the exhibition as my work. I don’t think it’s possible for the artist to only see the ‘finished’ piece when s/he looks at his/her work. I think that’s implicit in the word ‘work’. ‘Work’ doesn’t mean the end result, but the path one takes to get there.
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When I look at my pictures, I see my time and attention. I think about what I did—decisions I made—and what I liked and didn’t like about them. In the case of these pieces, I think about the harmony of the perfect fit, and how discordant it is when I have had to make modifications. Sometimes I remember what people have said they’ve seen in my work, but it’s often hard for me to see individual shapes or references—focus more on the overall cohesiveness. Since I’ve been with the pieces from the beginning, my relationship to them is different. When I view them, the vantage of that relationship is inalienable.
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I think all visual art is a part of a shrinking social context and mine is no exception. The more I interact with artists and art viewers, the less diversity of experience, or world-view, or even fashion, I see. While art has never been the great equaliser, it nonetheless pains me that so much of it is predicated on privilege.
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Everyone is interested in how my work relates to Cubism, and there is an undeniable visual link. However, when I first began to make these pieces, I wasn’t looking to explore Cubism. But, that’s what you get when you begin making compositions with wood scraps. I can’t really speak to a larger context—historical, social or otherwise—as that’s not how I see my work. I love wood, I love that I can make things from ‘scraps’, and I love that my pieces can be considered Cubist. Perhaps ‘Cub-ish’ would be more appropriate? I don’t know.
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Process affects all work. Again, the ‘work’ isn’t the end result, but the journey there. My pieces result from decisions I’ve made about the harmony of these pieces of wood. That’s what I mean about seeing my time and attention in my work. It’s my process, my decisions and the harmony of all that. For instance, when I was working on ‘Palimpsest’, I specifically remember listening to Ellington and being influenced by the geometry and colour (at least, in my mind) of his compositions. The result was a lot of play with angles as well as tones which I really enjoyed. I remember being quite satisfied with how the composition came together: the angles and tones of my wood conspired so effortlessly for such a positive effect. Thinking about the music made me wonder at Ellington’s process, and the process of music composition in general. I thought about my elation when creating art is easy, and how disappointing it can be when it’s harder to come by.
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I do work alone in my studio. It’s located in the back corner of a busy lumber reclamation factory, but once all the workers have gone home it’s just me in this huge 50,000 square-foot space. Well, there are some others in the space who have more legs than I do, but I wouldn’t call them ‘friends’.
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And yes, I’m happy to say the work travels very well.Joe Scanlon presents artist Donelle woolford at the ICA’s Double Agent exhibition, which explores the ethics of representation, 14 February–6 April Featured as ARCHIVE SPOTLIGHT #7 as part of Suzanne van der Lingen & Claire Walsh’s Footnoting the Archive project, 2016