OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jeff Krueger

Failure is an Option, 2017. Installation view.

In a nod to the legacy of Modernism, JEFF KRUEGER (@kruegerstudio) uses recurring, abstract forms. But his ceramic works and drawings do not maintain the primacy of the non-contingent art object. Whether in sculptures glazed with his own blood or objects that evoke both physics and philosophy—his works refer to real objects and issues in our very messy lives. Jeff earned his BFA, in Ceramics at the California College of Arts and Crafts, followed by his MFA in Sculpture at the University of New Mexico. His residency at Roswell Artist-in-Residence in New Mexico culminated in the solo exhibition Failure is an Option: My life with Abstractions at the Roswell Museum and Art Center. Jeff's work is represented by Gallery Fritz (Santa Fe, NM), where he will have a two-person show in April 2019. In the meantime, his work is included in the group show The Audacity of Art, opening on October 26, 2018 at Gallery Fritz. Jeff lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: You identify yourself as an “abstract social realist.” What does that mean to you?

Jeff Krueger: This is a catch all terms I use. In many instances, the work is a form of cultural study, which re-renders forms in the world, be it items designed for the body, the home, small public arenas or corporate identification. They are things as diverse as cervical caps, water pitchers, oddly curious parking lot dividers. There can be a flat footedness to the enterprise, like reading the My McDonalds ad campaign and deciding to make my own arch. The Social Realism aspect of this is the turning of the arch upside down with bottles of bleach holding up the sign, which is a reference to the city of Chicago pouring bleach into street food vendors food as a means of discouraging the practice.

Ghosts, 2017.

OPP: Talk about the abstract visual language you work with.

JK: I generate a constant stream of abstract forms, be it works which evolved out of Dadaist, Surrealist, non-objective art and other 20th Century traditions. This language is our artistic inheritance. My work involves infusing these forms with direct contact with the real, whether that is coating the objects with red blood cells, using them to present things like my DNA, store used condoms, or simply juxtaposing the forms with materials that have generally understood cultural meaning. In the newer works, it can be as simple as glazing them in such a way that the color gives the work meanings. I hope the works achieve some quality that there is an active social realist consciousness to the object. Group identity or cultural identity is for me a form of abstraction, and I am looking to render these abstractions as a vehicle for understanding the world. 

My Brother Michael Drinks from the Evangelical Water Bottle, 2017. Ink on Paper. 19"x 13"

OPP: Can you give us a specific example of that?

JK: I made a drawing of a my brother being waterboarded by what I called the Evangelical Water Bottle. It was a thought about how he had become such a devout Evangelical Christian and how our country has used waterboarding as a method of torture. I decided to make the water bottle into an object. I wanted to use the work to reconsider imagery which might reflect upon the central Christian rite of Baptism, one of these major cultural abstractions. Once you are washed, you are forever washed. Water is present, even though it is gone. The photograph with the bottle in front of a handicap parking space was a way of taking the object back to my brother, as he was one of the people that spoke before Congress in advance of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This parking spot at Bitter Lake was a direct result of Michael’s work. 

It is a poetic loop I suppose, but one I hope considers a wide scope of related subjects.  

Untitled Body with Red Interior, 2017. Ceramic with Poplar and Brass. 16" x 44" x 14"

OPP: Have you always worked with ceramics? Tell us a little about your artistic trajectory.

JK: I started working with clay in high school. I studied at 3-4 different schools as an undergraduate, and at each step I was given the direction to aim high. Viola Frey, at the California College of Arts and Crafts, was among those voices. She was pretty amazing and directly introduced the idea that art could be a form of cultural study. I have been a restless artist since then, exploring a number of media and forms, but often return to ceramic work due to its unique properties and my interest in design. I was schooled in the 80s, which can be seen as both the peek and collapse of Modernism. Minimalism and all that gospel still has meaning to me, as I think a ‘thing’ unto itself can be far more commanding than something which is primarily referencing something outside itself. Ceramics does the former very well. 

Infinity is King, 2017.

OPP: You use a lot of repeated ceramic forms that are recontextualized by color and titles. An example is Infinity is King, in which the form is a figure wearing a crown, and Infinity Tastes Like Candy, where the same form evokes cotton candy. Talk about this recontextualization.

JK: It is an outcome of thinking about the same thing in different ways. I would not say I work in series, but I do think about the same topic from different perspectives, variations on a given form allow for distinctly different ways to frame the ideas in the work. 

One of the concepts that has played out in the work through the years is that of fecundity. What is human fecundity? It is sort of a pompous question, but not really. . . and I think it is an important one to ask these days. Somehow I think our faith and inquiries about the infinite are linked to our fecundity. These works came out of an interest in defining the infinite within a single object. What would that look like? I don’t know if this form is satisfying enough, but I like it. Infinity is King juxtaposes that form with a crown dotted with flesh tone blobs. I guess that is a thought about the human obsession with race which seems a rather petty obsession in the context of the genuinely infinite. Infinity Tastes like Candy is an ode to my childhood. When I was kid I was told everything that I would not eat tasted like candy. It was somewhat funny because, with exception of chocolate, I don’t recall ever liking candy.

She Will Gives Waves of Warning, 2004. Ceramic and Epoxy. 6 1/2" x 32" x 12 1/2"

OPP: And what about the repeated form used in Untitled in GrapeShe Will Give Waves of Warning (2004) and The Settlement (2000)?Does it have a real world reference?

JK: These sculptures are part of the long line of abstract forms I mentioned. I make a lot of work in both drawing and sculptural form, which does not start from knowing what or why I am making it. Generally there is no thesis I am trying to defend. Rather, I make work intuitively and then try to see what is generated in terms of emotion or language. Then I see if I can say something or ask a question via that generated language. 

After I made these, I saw the form as an abstract uterus. I wonder what this projection of a uterine form means. There is a quality to it of deriving language out of a human body part. I don’t have one of those parts but I came from one. Is that even valid to say any longer? I am not entirely sure why I feel invested, but they are beautiful. I’m aware of the pathologically patriarchal in our culture—I saw that in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings which pitted all those male characters against a flaming vulva—and I wonder if I am not doing something similar. But I don’t know if it is patriarchal to wonder about where you came from or consider the world outside oneself. There is an aspect of it which is clearly an unconscious activity, as it is most of the time when I render parts of male body in works like Doubles or Fattening Frogs for Snakes.

Juggling Our Inequity, 2017. Ceramic and Water Color. 60" x 146" x 3"

OPP: Can you talk about the relationship between ceramics and drawing in your recent show, Failure is An Option (2017)?

JK: Back in the 1980s, I worked in a preverbal, rather awkward manner. One of the more influential drawing projects that I saw back then was a collaborative book of the poet Micheal McClure, with whom I studied, and his friend Bruce Connor. At the time I was essential making blobs in both ceramics and ink drawings. In the Connor pen drawings, I saw this road to radically slowing my mark making down. There was a union of the subject and the field, meaning and content. I’ve done similar work since. I make the drawings as a matter of daily practice. Sometimes it is the bulk of my production; other times it falls to the side. Often I see forms within the drawings that I feel would be interesting objects, and so I try to render them as such. The drawing It and  ceramic wall sculpture Its Black Facsimile would be one of those attempts. Each of these an attempt to render some notion of the fecund.  

The exhibition also includes watercolors, renderings of photographs and plein air paintings I’ve done over the last few years. I take a lot of photographs as a manner of looking at the world. Many seem like they would be interesting paintings. I also am confounded by Facebook and the news, so I use these sources for imagery which make it into the watercolors. A suite such as Juggling Our Inequity combines all of this work. In that group, there is a small painting of a river in Russia that was reported to be poisoned. It was bright red due to copper, chrome and other contaminates. Then I did a small watercolor of the field behind my house in Roswell, which edges fields devoted to alfalfa production. The pairing of this bucolic scene with one of an industrial disaster seems honest, as both happened simultaneously. I surrounded the pair with a field of ceramic dollops. The chemicals in these glazes are about the same as those in the poisoned river and probably some of those in the alkaline water used to irrigate Roswell. All of it seems tied together, mutually dependent, the inequity that between the earth and how we use it.    

Baptismal for the Death Star, 2017. Ceramic. 40" x 30" x 25." Photo credit: Margot Geist

OPP: What are you working on right now? Any new directions in the studio?

JK: At the end of my Roswell residency, I finished some pieces I call sequences. These are works which again relate to the ink drawings. They are ceramic forms thrown and then assembled and hand built.  I am doing these at the same time as making more watercolors. Some of these will possibly go into a long term project that I am working on which relates to living on the Death Star. 

To see more of Jeff's work, please visit jeffskrueger.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). During summer 2018, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Tamara Bagnell

tiny sculpture series 1, 2017. wood, fabric, rope, felt, polyfil, acrylic paint,. 5.75"h x 4"w x 4"d

TAMARA BAGNELL's soft sculptures are playful systems made of fabric, felt, wood, rope and polyfil. They teeter between abstraction and representation, and the meaning of her recurring forms—drops, vines, concentric arches, stuffed tubes—shifts as her palette does. Tamara earned her BFA in Interrelated Media from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2001. She ran a textile design and screenprinting business until 2016, when she turned to art-making full time. Her artwork has most recently been exhibited at the Durham Arts Council, in soft goods (2018) at VAE Raleigh, and The Art of a Scientist (2018) at The Rubenstein Art Center at Duke University. Tamara lives and works in Durham, North Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What does soft mean to you?

Tamara Bagnell: Soft is approachable, playful, familiar, empathetic. Soft is both malleable and resilient. Softness has an open quality, an ability to draw the viewer in. It also creates a lightness to elements of my work that if made from other materials might read as more serious, sinister, or aggressive than I intend.  

system 1, 2018. fabric, polyfil, bamboo, rope

OPP: Have you always worked in soft sculpture?

TB: My background is predominantly in screenprinting and textile print design, although I find my soft sculptures incorporate a lot of the aesthetics that drew me to screenprinting: bold blocks of color, repetition, abstraction. I also occasionally use screen and block printing to embellish the fabric I use in my pieces.  

My path as an artist is maybe a bit different than others. After receiving my BFA in 2001, I turned my focus away from making fine art and ran a more design-oriented business. During that time, I still worked with fabric and occasionally experimented with soft sculpture, but I was never happy enough with the result to exhibit my work.  It is only over the past few years that my approach to art making has really come together for me, and soft sculpture has begun to permeate my work.  

irregular animals series, 2016. wood, fabric, yarn. 12"h x 12"d x 8"w

OPP: When and why did you learn to sew?

TB: Sewing is a tradition in my family. Growing up, there was a sewing machine that lived in the dining room of my home. My mom learned how to sew from her mom, and I would watch her make me tops and dresses when I was elementary school age. I’d also tag along on trips to the fabric store and pass the time exploring all the colors and textures. I began nagging her to teach me how to use her machine when I was maybe in fifth or sixth grade. My motivation was to be able to design my own clothes, which not surprisingly turned out to be a lot harder than I anticipated. I stuck with it though and gained a modest level of expertise through decades of practice. While my interest in making clothing ultimately waned, the skills I gained through learning those techniques are something I’ve continually found new ways to tap into. People often comment when seeing my work in person about how meticulous my construction is, and I think that has a lot to do with all that experience making clothes and accessories.  

escapism, 2017. fabric, polyfil, wood, acrylic paint, pvc

OPP: Your color palette is pretty consistently neutral with accents of pink and yellow hues. What draws you to these colors?

TB: I am completely obsessed with color, and it is one of the most important parts of my process. I have a strong emotional connection to certain colors that I find difficult to describe in words. Yellow is one of those colors. Since my work is mostly abstract, I often use color as a way to nudge the viewer to interpret important elements of a piece in a particular way. A drop-like shape in beige or peach is more likely to read as flesh. Whereas if I make it blue, it becomes water, or green a leaf, red might be blood or a fruit. For me, the pinks and neutrals have a flesh-like, organic quality, representing the elemental parts of living beings. I see these elements as embodying both the physical as well as the emotional, the parts of us that are affected when we feel. 

Lately my I’ve been focused on the interconnection between humans and systems, whether natural or human-created, so there has been a lot of pink, beige, and brown. It can be a struggle though, at times, finding harmony between using color in a representational way and also making sure the color works for the piece overall. It is very important to me that each piece I make can also be appreciated on a purely aesthetic level, and color is a key component in that.

natural order, 2017. fabric, polyfil, yarn, rope, matteboard, felt, acrylic ink. 26" w x 42" l

OPP: The obvious exception is natural order (2017). That blue background changes some neutral colored forms that show up into other works by introducing the context of the sky, which makes weather systems. What led you to make that change? Is it an anomaly or a new direction?

TB: At the time I finished that piece it was an anomaly, but later on it became a point of departure. It was both an early attempt at making a wall piece and an experiment with color. In the end I wasn’t entirely happy with the result, but that piece and wide open became the inspiration for a series of more free form wall sculptures that I am working on now. system 1 and system 2 are part of that series, and I have four more that are at various stages of completion. As I progress through those pieces I have found my palette shifting, adding more blues and greens, playing with the symbolism of color and how I can utilize that to expand my language of shapes.

system 4,  2018. fabric, polyfil, cotton batting, jute. 

OPP: Do you reuse parts of your sculptures or make the same form over and over again? That pink string of “sausage links,” for example shows up in hidden (2018), system 2 (2018) and dark machines (2018).

TB: I almost always make new forms for each sculpture. Occasionally I will disassemble a less successful piece and harvest it for parts. I also have a huge bin full of cast-offs that I can pull from when working on a composition. Since it’s rare that I start out with a sculpture fully laid out in my head, I manufacture each of the elements as I’m composing, with the hope they will look the way I envision when I incorporate them into the sculpture. If not, they go in the bin and often end up in a future piece.  

collage series 1 (group arrangement), 2016. fabric, polyfil, wood, jute, plastic, acrylic paint

OPP: Can you talk about what some of the recurring forms mean to you?

TB: A lot of the reason I make and repeat certain shapes again and again is because they simply appeal to me on some intuitive level, but over time they have sorted themselves into a kind of personal language with meanings that shift depending on color or context. I see most of the recurring elements in my current work as either organic forms—existing in some vague place between internal body parts, plants, seeds, and other objects in nature—or rigid, inorganic, machine-like forms.  

Some sculptures are cryptic systems comprised of mostly organic elements. In others, organic elements are being confinedgenerated or processed by human-made objects or machines. Some of these systems appear harmonious, while others seem sinister, chaotic or adversary. This stems from my larger fascination with interconnectivity, whether it’s contemplating the incredibly complex web of the natural world or questioning the systems we create and the corresponding rules we subscribe to as a society. Exploring these ideas in soft sculpture allows me overlay those thoughts and emotions with a certain playful quirkiness that I really enjoy. That said, I’m not overly concerned that people viewing my work infer any of these things or feel any pressure to “get it.” Ultimately I want my art to feel open and approachable, something to enjoy and explore, and take as much or as little as you want from it.  

To see more of Tamara's work, please visit tamarabagnell.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). During summer 2018, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews April Dauscha

Custody of the Tongue (veiling), 2013. 2:28 minutes

APRIL DAUSCHA's work is distinctly feminine—in the Victorian sense of the word. In photographs, videos and sculptures, she combines the visual language of the Victorian era with intimate acts of the body to explore her personal experiences of mourning, contrition and motherhood. April earned her BFA in Fashion Design at the International Academy of Design & Technology in Chicago, followed by her MFA in Fiber at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Her work is represented by Page Bond Gallery (Richmond, Virginia). In 2018, she has exhibited at Museum on the Seam (Jerusalem, Israel), the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (San Jose, California), the Walton Arts Center (Fayetteville, Arkansas) and her work will be included in the upcoming Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment, which opens on October 6, 2018 at the Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, Massachusetts). In November 2019, her show Clothed in a Mantle of Virginity will open at Furman University Gallery in Greenville, South Carolina, where she also lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Lacehairbustles—the materials in your work have a Victorian sensibility. How is this bygone era relevant today?

April Dauscha: I actually came to love the Victorian era by way of fashion; my background is in fashion design. This period originally peaked my interest because of the fashion rituals that were associated with mourning and loss: black veils and the story of Queen Victoria. The visual language of the Victorian era has allowed me to explore my personal experiences of mourning, loss, religion, femininity, sentimentality and motherhood. Materials like lace help create a visual vocabulary and symbols that give meaning to the work. 

Examination of Conscience, 2011. Photograph.

OPP: Why are you drawn to lace in particular?

AD: Lace is a total dichotomy. It speaks of purity and sexuality. It reveals while it also conceals.  It is humble, yet ornamentally overindulgent. In my work, I use lace as a symbol to represent the duality of body and soul, right and wrong, good and evil. The lace is always handmade and often uses a variety of needle lace techniques. The process of making lace is significant because I have always viewed the act of making as a representation of penance.

Perpetual Adoration, 2012.

OPP: I see a connection between 1970s endurance video and performance and religious ritual in your video works. How do you think about these videos as a body of work?

AD: I often use my body and handmade objects as props for fictional rituals captured through intimate, voyeuristic and documentary-style videos and photographs. The tension of using handcrafted objects often associated with women’s work and subjecting them to digital manipulation is mirrored by the duality of these beautiful and virginal objects, misappropriated in unexpected ways—ways that often lack a sense of decorum. I swing between the delicacy of handcrafting a miniature piece of needle lace to the vulgarity of  wrapping a lacemaking thread, tightly, around my own tongue; this is a symbolic gesture of confession and atonement.

Bound: Reflections of the Self, 2011. Photograph.

OPP: Tell us about Bound: Reflections of Self (2011). The title frames the figures as two parts of one person, as opposed to two figures bound together. Why is hair the binding agent?

AD: Bound: Reflections of the Self is a photographic series that investigates the idea of an alter ego. These photographs explore themes of good and evil and our inseparable relationship with the dichotomy of these conditions. In this series, my hair has come to represent an uncomfortable binding of one's self to one's alter ego, while also serving as an act of penance and self-mortification.

Engorged, 2017. Glue, milk, glass bottles.

OPP: Most recently, you’ve been making work about motherhood. The body is now present in the form of its byproducts—breast milk, a baby toenail, a dried umbilical cord. Can you talk about this shift of representing the body in photography and video to representing the byproducts of the body?

AD: My work on motherhood is very much about separation, especially the separation of two bodies. My piece, Bond, is a traveling case filled with breast pumps, rubber nipples and glass baby bottles containing glue. The work signifies a connection between breastfeeding, bottle feeding, bonding and a struggle of separation between the mother’s body and that of her child.

There is a blatant absence of child and mother in this piece. The meeting of cold, hard, man-made surfaces highlights the separation of mother and child and the necessary dilemma of substituting their bodies. The vessel is a stand-in for the mother,  the bottles for her breasts and the pump acts as child. The body of the infant struggles to function without its mother. The body of the mother struggles to function without its offspring. 

However, I am definitely still working through performance and photography as a way of documenting the body in ways that deal with my experience as mother. My piece, Weaned (a year later), is photographic evidence of the phenomenon of perpetually-lactating breasts. This photograph was taken exactly one year after I had weaned my youngest daughter off my breast, yet my body was still attempting to nourish her body despite our bodily separation. The image becomes a symbol of yearning and the slow process of weaning, both physically and mentally, that happens between mother and child—an unwelcomed separation of bodies, one still yearning to nurture the other. 

To see more of April's work, please visit aprildauscha.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). During summer 2018, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Rachelle Reichert

BackwardFuture, 2017. Installation shot, Black Crown Gallery. Photo credit: Phillip Maisel.

RACHELLE REICHERT's sculptural forms are minimal and her palette is monochromatic—almost exclusively black, white and grey. These formal decisions grow directly from her material choices—graphite and salt. Underlying the seemingly-simple, formal elegance is a committed interest in the social and ecological impact of technology. Rachelle earned her BFA at Boston University, following by her MFA at Mills College (Oakland, CA). In addition to numerous solo exhibitions, she has presented her work at the California Climate Change Symposium, the State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference, the American Geophysical Union Meeting. Her work will be on view from September 9 - October 21, 2018 in the group show Unwalking the West at the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at Pacific Northwest College (Portland, Oregon). Rachelle is curatingTrace Evidence: A Cross-Cultural Dialogue on Climate Change in affiliation with Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018. The show opens at Minnesota Street Project (San Francisco) on September 5, 2018 and will be accompanied by a panel discussion sponsored by SFMOMA on September 11, 2018. Rachelle lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Why are salt and graphite the dominant materials in your work? How do they drive your work?

Rachelle Reichert: I am interested in the familiar becoming unknown and in the complexity of seemingly ordinary things. My practice explores the connection between basic natural materials, their use by industry and technology and the resulting impact on the environment and culture. I have created work with metal, clay, natural pigments, charcoal and more. But graphite and salt have held my attention for over five years.

Graphite is a primary tool for drawing— a practice that helped develop human consciousness. Graphite was originally used by sheepherders to mark sheep. Since then, it has a history in industrialization as a lubricant to machinery and now in the lithium-ion battery found in cars and  smartphones. Graphene—graphite’s 2-D form—is enabling leaps in nanotechnology and biotech because it is an excellent superconductor. I research the life cycle of the material, from extraction to implementation and create artwork based on this research.

First Rains, 2016. Salt. 15 x 12 x 9 in each.

OPP: And salt?

RR: I started thinking about salt in 2013 in my first semester of grad school. I had an incredible professor, the late Anna Valentina Murch, who encouraged material experimentation in sculpture when I was making large graphite paintings. She helped to transform my thinking. Salt has been extracted industrially from the San Francisco Bay since the 1850s. It is an incredibly unstable mineral that is essential for human life. Like graphite, I’ve researched salt’s use in industry, such as local extraction and the repercussions shaping the San Francisco estuary. In addition I have studied salt’s role in culture, such as its use in woman-led pagan practices that were later adopted by Catholicism. My salt circles come directly from that.

Both graphite and salt are extracted all over the world. Presently, I am looking at graphite extraction in China and I recently returned from the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the largest salt flat in the world with the largest reserves of lithium.

Exhibition at Monterey Peninsula College, 2017

OPP: How do you make formal choices to support your conceptual concerns?

RR: My forms and palettes are determined by the materials themselves. I am sensitive to the textures and forms of the materials. That is where the complexity lies. These works are demanding and require close looking. Unfortunately, photographs of the works don’t communicate this well. 

OPP: How do the forms grow out of the material? It’s clear in the saltworks, but what about the hexagons, for example?

RR: The hexagons reference the crystalline structure of graphite, an allotrope of carbon. It’s the hexagonal form that allows for the superconductivity of the material. A beautiful example of form follows function.

Untitled (Hexagons 3), 2018. Graphite on panel. 50 x 24 inches (variable).

OPP: Is the sourcing of your materials important?

RR: Yes, very important. It creates the content for some works. I often harvest my own materials or when I can’t do it myself, I work with companies who do and build relationships with these companies. I often watch sights for a very long time, years usually, before I start making work. Watching includes tracking locations via satelite images and reading news, geological reports, surveys or any information I can find and visiting the locations—if I can. 

Currently, I am working on a project where I’ve been visiting locations in California impacted by forest fires and making oil paint from the charred trees. I started this in 2014 but it is just now that I am making paintings. The fires have accelerated rapidly in the time I’ve been researching. I coincidentally started making this work during the largest recorded fire in California history, the Thomas Fire in December 2017. Since then, the Mendocino Complex Fire, burning as I write this, now holds the record as the largest fire. I am creating this work as it rains ash from the sky in San Francisco and grieving, like so many others, for a California past and for those who have suffered from these fires.

Blackdragon Mine #15, 2017.

OPP: What role does satellite imagery play in your drawing practice?

RR: I use private-sourced earth imaging satellites to track locations affected by global warming. I have access to these images from a research ambassadorship. I track graphite mines with these images and salt evaporation ponds, wildfires and new sites of extraction in the American West. These images come from technology that could not exist without the raw materials that are being photographed and so I want to highlight that connection with my drawings.

OPP: Are the Black Dragon drawings examples of this? Do viewers/critics ever miss the connection and want to talk abut these as pure abstraction?

RR: Yes. The name comes from the mining group that I have been following in China. These works can function as pure abstraction or as an investigation of the images I am exploring and creating the works from. The connection is often missed, but I think that adds an interesting layer, potentially revealing the reference images in unexpected ways. Most people don’t realize that satellite images are highly edited—color corrected, cropped, composited—to look like what one would expect from a satellite image: a clear view of the land below with no clouds or blurs or camera malfunctions (remember, these images are coming from space!). The drawings are layered and space is negotiated in strange ways intentionally to reveal this. 

Blackdragon Mine #16, 2017. Graphite on prepared paper. 12 x 16 inches.

OPP: You’ve presented your artwork at the California Climate Change Symposium, the San Francisco State of the Estuary Conference, and the American Geophysical Union Meeting. Can you talk about presenting art in a scientific context?

RR: My research requires a lot of understanding into the chemical composition of my materials and how their uses impact the planet. I track pollution from extraction and man-made marks on our planet. I feel that art is an essential tool to help understand science, especially climate science. There is an urgency there and I am always seeking opportunities to intersect ideas and collaborate. 


To see more of Rachelle's work, please visit rachellereichert.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018).  Most recently, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit  Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. 

Going Strong for 7 Years: Justin Richel

Did you know the OPP blog turns seven-years-old at the end of August? In honor of our upcoming birthday and the artists we feature, we'll be sharing some blasts from the past. In this post and over the next few weeks, we'll share new work from Featured Artists interviewed in the first year of the blog. Today's artist is Justin Richel.

Justin at John Michael Kohler Art Center

OtherPeoplesPixels: What's new in your practice, since your interview in 2010?

Justin Richel: In 2013 I received an Arts/Industry Residency at Kohler Co. through the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which altered the way I would think and make work there after. Since that time I have focused my efforts on a sculptural practice, shifting from painting exclusively to a multidisciplinary practice that allows for both painting and sculpture and the mixing of the two.  

Endless Column (Toast), 2017-18. Urethane plastic, acrylic. 36 x 4 x 4 inches.

A series that I am currently working on is titled Tall Order this seres takes it’s overall aesthetic from early modernism and minimalist idealisms and subverts these with a bit of pop culture, humor and a maximalist approach to detail.

Zips, 2016 - 18. Bass Wood, Gouache, acrylic, sterling silver and 23k gold leaf.

Another series titled Zips takes it’s name from the famous zip paintings by Barnett Newman. An homage to the artist but also to the object that created the paintings. Constructed from carved wood, painted with gouache and gilded with gold, silver and copper leaf, they reference the object-ness of a paint brush yet lack its functionality, resulting in an object that resists definition. It is simultaneously a brush, a sculpture, a painting, a zip, a portrait of the artist and yet none of these things by classical definition.

The Artist, Alone In A Vacuum, Gestating The World Into Being, 2015. Gouache on board. 9 1/8" x 10.25"

In 2015 I received an artist residency on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine. This residency afforded me the necessary time to make a clean break from the paintings that I had been making during the previous 12 years. Monhegan is known for being an art colony among early modernist painters, undoubtedly for it’s rugged coast line, extreme weather and solitude. My paintings now incorporate the stigma and stereotypes surrounding the archetypal permutations of the artist and the creative process. I am particularly interested in portraying the ”shadow” of the artist, which metaphorically represents the darker underlying struggles that exist in the character of “Mankind.” In this work I draw from art history, mythology, pop culture and Jungian psychology. The paintings are composed almost exclusively from borrowed imagery combined and reconfigured to create new narrative structures that build on the past.

Endless Column, 2013. Slip cast vitreous China. 96" x 4 1/2" x 4 1/2"

In 2016, my partner Shannon Rankin and I moved from Maine to New Mexico. Shannon had received a residency from the RAiR Foundation which provided us with a house, studios and stipend for one year. We liked it so much that we decided to stay. 

I currently have some work in a show titled Parallax (A RAiR Connection Exhibition) at the Roswell Museum and Art Center in New Mexico. This three-person show features works by Emi Ozawa,  Maja Ruznic and myself, who are all partners of current or former RAiR grant recipients, and is on view through September 2, 2018. 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Preetika Rajgariah

SMILE, 2017. Bindis, jewels, thread on silk. 56" x 80."

Interdisciplinary artist PREETIKA RAJGARIAH uses personal biography as a jumping off point in works that "challenge perceptions of exoticism and the sociopolitical standards in Indian and American cultures." Her performative photographs and videos investigate the nature of body adornment—which can paradoxically make us blend in or stand out, depending on the crowd. She gives decorative materials—rufflessarisbindishennaglitterhair extensions—their own embodiment in sculptures and wall works, allowing the viewer to contemplate ornamentation without the body as a substrate. Preetika earned her BA in Studio Art at Trinity University in San Antonio,Texas. She completed her MFA in Painting and Sculpture in 2018 at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She was recently an artist-in-residence at ACRE and is headed to Oxbow in the fall. Her work will be included in a two-person show, opening at Roots and Culture (Chicago) in October. Preetika is currently preparing for three solo exhibitions in Texas in 2019: Tangled at Art League HoustonSari Not Sorry at Lawndale Art Center (Houston), and a currently-untitled show at Women and their Work (Austin). Preetika lives and works in Houston, Texas.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What does adornment mean to you?

Preetika Rajgariah: Adornment represents choice—the choice to adorn or not—and pushing those boundaries. 

In my culture, adornment is expected for women to elevate one's beauty or status. . . growing up with the pressure to decorate oneself or present in certain ways is something I’m interested in challenging in my life and work. 

Beauty Mask, 2018. Digital Photo.

OPP: What’s the role of exaggeration in your photographic and video works from Self

PR: I’ve often gravitated towards accumulation and repetition in my practice. More recently, I like to use my body as material to showcase this exaggeration. I’ve always been a bit of an athlete or a competitive person, so in the videos or photos, I am often in competition with myself. I am very interested in exploring my limits and defying my own expectations. So, these works explore limits and standards that are set by societies. 

How About Now?, 2017. Video performance with sindoor powder. 4:10 Excerpt from 20 minutes.

OPP: Can you talk about additive versus subtractive processes in your series of modified Saris? Is the sari a symbol—if so, of what?—or simply a familiar surface in this work?

PR: The sari represents familiarity and nostalgia while simultaneously embodying the exotic. It is a material that evokes memories of the place I was born, but it also signifies a culture that I sometimes feel extremely removed from.

Typically, impulse and intuition lead the decisions I make in my practice. I MAKE first and foremost, no matter the medium I am using. In the two dimensional sari pieces, I make formal decisions of addition or subtraction depending on each particular sari and the story that inspires the piece (yes, there’s usually a autobiographical narrative that informs each of my works). 

What we keep, what we leave, 2017. Sari with pyrography. 55" x 90."

OPP: Both material and process play a big role in your work. Are you more driven by one or the other? 

PR: Both material and process are crucial to the content of the work. More often, I am drawn to material first, as it is extremely narrative driven, and then process comes in as my way of problem-solving. Coming from a painting background, I treat material similarly to paint. Formally, it is a large part of the beauty in my work. The materials I use in my work now—textiles, powders, henna—go way back for me. They are all materials that surrounded me daily while growing up. In this sense, I feel much more connected to my art and my work now than when it existed as just paintings. My processes—stitching, tearing, pouring, bleaching—are ways of handling of these materials that complicate, dismantle and re-purpose.

Climax, Migrating Identities, 2015. Watercolor on paper. 51" x 1.2'

OPP: I love the migration paintings. They teeter between abstraction and representation, and the marks remind me of thumbprints. Can you talk about the shift from these representations of the movement of groups of people to focusing in on the individual in recent work?

PR: In recent years, as I have unpacked my own upbringing and personal life, the work has honed in on the individual as well. The migration paintings are directly related to my three dimensional sculptures—the aunties. I had wanted to make three dimensional versions of the paintings for quite sometime, and as I became interested in fabric and textile, experimenting with the new material lead me to create free standing, hollow sculptures made entirely from scraps of traditional silks - often saris that belonged to the women in my family. 

Hairy auntie, 2017. 25" x 60."

OPP: Who are the aunties in Soft Bodies? Are these soft sculptures memorials to your real aunties?

PR: No, the aunties are not specific to any real people, but they do embody a certain spirit so to speak. They are mash-ups of many dualities I experience: Indian/American, traditional/modern, masculine/feminine, past/present, hard/soft, etc. As I created these amorphous bodies, the narrative around their being came into existence. They are bold, resistant and a bit othered. They represent facets of my own personality as a bit of an othered woman in the American and Indian societies that I navigate, while also being stand ins for a tribe of aunties I wish I had had in my life growing up.

To see more of Preetika's work, please visit prajgariah.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018).  Most recently, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit  Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. 

Going Strong for 7 Years: Adam Ekberg

Did you know the OPP blog turns seven-years-old at the end of August? In honor of our upcoming birthday and the artists we feature, we'll be sharing some blasts from the past. In this post and over the next few weeks, we'll share new work from Featured Artists interviewed in the first year of the blog. First up: Adam Ekberg!

Lawn Chair Catapult, 2017. Archival pigment print.

What's new in your practice, Adam Ekberg?

My new studio is in an old barn in New Jersey I restored over the last few years. In the barn is a small room with a chair and table near a window that looks out over a wooded area. This is where I go and make drawings of actions that I want to see occur in the world. After I make the sketches, I write notes about how to make a particular action exist at least long enough for me to photograph it. The studio walls are pinned with sketches, which only come down once the final photograph is made- the replacement of the sketch with a small print always feels like a small victory.

Beer Bottles, Banana, Cocktail Umbrellas, Disco Ball and Bic Lighter, 2017. Archival pigment print.

While my working process involves a lot of experimentation, I have become increasingly uncompromising in any deviation between the initial sketch and the final photograph. It is like a completely ridiculous game I have concocted with very specific parameters--you wouldn't believe what is entailed to catapult a lawn chair on the plains of the Midwest!

Roller Skates and Aerosol Containers, 2017. Archival pigment print.

Coming up this fall, I will have images on view in the Maine Center for Contemporary Art Biennial and in the upcoming exhibition Groundings at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. I am also at work on images for a large upcoming solo-exhibition so I am a bit of an art-monk at the moment. Recent solo-exhibitions include those at ClampArt, New York, De Soto Gallery, Los Angeles, Platform Gallery, Seattle and Capsule Gallery, Houston. My work is featured in the upcoming publication The Focal Press Companion to the Constructed Image in Contemporary Photography, and my monograph, The Life of Small Things, was published in late 2015.

Candles, Mirrors and Laser, 2014. Archival pigment print.

Read Adam's 2010 interview.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Montana Torrey

Bagnasciuga, 2017. Folded collagraph. 28.5" x 6" x 10.5" total piece is 29 feet.

During the midnight sun months in Iceland, MONTANA TORREY painted the sunset daily on her window. She hung gauzy ghosts of American Private Property signs In a Finland forest, where Everyman's Law rules. In Venice, she looked to the horizontal line of algae growth along the sides of the canals as a document of the difference between wet and dry. In each case, landscape is a lens that magnify the dualities inherent in particular sites. Montana earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Headlands Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Catwalk Institute, and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, among others. Recent Exhibitions include shows at Hotel Art Fair (Bangkok, Thailand), the Subhashok Arts Centre (Bangkok, Thailand) and SAC Gallery and Lab (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Montana currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she is a Visiting Lecturer at Chiang Mai University.

OtherPeoplesPixels: According to your website, your work “employs the landscape as a metaphorical tool to investigate sites of opposition.” What kinds of oppositions? Can you give us some examples?

Montana Torrey: My work is a response to particular sites, either through direct physical engagement with the landscape or by using metaphorical elements of the landscape contained within architecture. The sites of oppositions are an arrangement that I create as a way of recontextualizing and understanding place. I do this by structuring a dialogue between the site, material, and an idea.

I approach the site by questioning its dualities: public/private; absence/presence; tangible/intangible; fear/comfort; freedom/containment; heaviness/ weightlessness, etc. My most recent work, Floodplain (126), re-imagines an ancient flooded ruin in Chiang Mai, Thailand through the dualities of absence/presence, past/presence, heaviness/weightlessness. This work embodied the temporal past and present of the ruin, suggested the flood waters through the piece’s movement, and transformed the seemingly inherent weight of brick by making them from paper and creating the illusion of weightlessness.

I have used oppositional structures to create and form a new experience of place and understanding of the site in its relation to the present.

Division of Labor, 2015. Hand-sewn silk organza. 30 feet.

OPP: Can you talk about the various barriers—both literal and metaphoric—in your work?

MT: The use of barriers, borders and fences started when I was in graduate school. Much of my work then was about public and private space and the psychological factors that determine what we deem as protective/protected space within the American psychic landscape. This was the beginning of my interest in literal divisions of the landscape and how we divide, manipulate and control space to further convey these ideas. At that time, I was looking at a lot of historical American landscape paintings—such as those of the Hudson River School—that were celebrating the vastness of the landscape as a form of propaganda to promote westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, which in turn resulted in the exploitation and further division of the landscape into private property.

Morning Light Barrier, 2016. Hand-painted silk organza. Variable dimensions.

OPP: What about the light barriers?

MT: I created the sewn “light barriers” for several exhibitions at the Catwalk Institute in Catskill, NY as a response to the work of Frederic Church. With these pieces, I was re-inserting elements of Church’s skies back into the landscape, inverting the horizon and imprisoning shafts of light. So, my first sewn light barriers were a reference to Church and others’ use of the horizon as a representation of the future, a collective future of the land beyond. However, when my pieces were inserted into the landscape they functioned as barriers, by creating physically blocks and restricting the suggestion of the infinite.

From there I began using the horizon more and more, working with the horizontal and vertical elements of dusk and dawn and experimenting with these pieces in relation to architecture.

We Buy Gold, 2011. Tarpaulin.

OPP: You’ve been to numerous residencies in European countries—Iceland, Finland and Italy, to name a few. It seems that many of your projects in these countries refer back to the American landscape by inserting what is missing. Is this a planned agenda or an intuitive response?

MT: Each site is tangible, present. One of the ways I approach my practice is by searching for an absence or ways of evoking absence through presence. I am interested in the formation of spatial perception and how spatial perception can be culturally defined. So, when I am working in a new country, I seek to insert my own spatial understanding of the landscape into that place. It is a form of place-making, rooted in memory, and cultural conditioning about the landscape. I try to collapse the distance of my own past and my immediate present in space.

On one hand, it is a calculated way of working, but within this, I allow for the experiential. I like to remain open to how my ideas will evolve and be informed by new places and cultures that help to shape the development of my work.

Permanent Sunset, 2012. Paint on window. Skagaströnd, Iceland.

OPP: What does your practice look like when you aren’t at residencies?

MT: Because I create installations about place, my work is always in flux and requires the continual investigation of materials and research, through both conceptual and academic development. Much of my work is informed by architecture and nature, so this is an endless and peripatetic investigation. Moving through space and observing the ways in which we understand the landscape through movement is very much a part of my research: when I live in the U.S., I am constantly driving and searching for architectural forms or sites to use within my work, but also making note of time and distance. I am seeking to create more of a phenomenological experience within my current installations, so finding ways of understanding a more embodied experience is critical.

Much of my practice takes place outside of the studio, in the field or in the library, and my studio is much more of a laboratory for the testing of materials, but the work all comes together in the installation.

Floodplain (126), 2018. 126 folded collagraphs. 3.5 x 3.5 meters.

OPP: What’s a collagraph? How does this process support your conceptual concerns in Bagnasciuga (2017) and Floodplain (126) (2018)?

MT: A collagraph is a basic printmaking technique in which the plate can be created with very inexpensive materials such as cardboard, glue, gesso. I started using this technique last year (2017) when I was a fellow at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy. I found that collagraphs gave me the ability to create a wide variety of textures and to mimic the water line on the Istrian stone for my piece, Bagnasciuga. I began to make installations out of 3-dimensional collagraphs.

Both Bagnasciuga and Floodplain (126) explore the intersection between water, the built environment and the physical vulnerabilities of these structures through climate change. I intentionally used paper for these works because it helped to convey vulnerability via a shift in materiality from stone or brick to a fragile material. The paper also created another conceptual dichotomy; the illusion of weightlessness. Both of these installations move with the gentle swaying of water. Bagnasciuga moves back and forth like the rocking of the vaporetto or a dock as you move throughout the city, and Floodplain (126) moves like debris floating on the surface of water. Again, the experience of movement through space is critical to the function of both of these pieces, as I tried to evoke the feelings of floating, shifting, swaying, gliding, drowning and rising to the surface of water as the viewer moves around and through these works.

Portable Widow's Walk, Bird Island Lookout, 2008. Handcut canvas/ acrylic paint.

OPP: Where to next? 

MT: I am currently living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a Visiting Lecturer in the Painting Department at Chiang Mai University. I’ve been in Thailand for the past eight months, having originally come here as an artist-in-residence with the Subhashok Arts Centre in Bangkok, but subsequently secured a position as a guest lecturer. For now, I plan to stay here for the foreseeable future, possibly with an intermittent break pursue a Ph.D. 

It is important to me to find alternative and affordable ways of creating an art-practice and to seek teaching experiences outside of the U.S., given the current political and financial climate for the arts. While I believe in art as an essential element of resistance, the responsibility of maintaining an arts practice in my home country, where funding for the arts is being slashed and the cost of living continues to rise, was becoming unsustainable for me. Furthermore, being in Southeast Asia has given me a deeper understanding of how dynamic and ever-changing the global art world is. My work will always reflect my experience growing up in the U.S., but I want to find more and more ways of connecting that experience to the rest of the world. 

To see more of Montana's work, please visit montanatorrey.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018).  Most recently, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit  Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Amanda Burnham

Neighborhood Watch (installation detail), 2016. Acrylic, flashe, paper, cardboard, and LEDs. 5 vignettes, each approx. 10 x 10 x 5.'

AMANDA BURNHAM's immersive, collage installations are dense with vernacular signage, brick walls and and trash cans. She pieces hundreds of gestural drawings of the surrounding city together, deliberately confusing three-dimensional space.  Instead of a realistic rendering of what a city looks like, she captures the frenetic energy of city architecture. Amanda earned her BA in Visual and Environmental Studies, at  Harvard University and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking at Yale University. Her long and varied exhibition record includes recent solo shows at University of Baltimore (2017), Elon University in North Carolina (2017), Arlington Art Center in Virginia (2016) and Dittmar Gallery at Northwestern University in Chicago (2014). Her work is included in the permanent collections of National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC) and the New York Public Library, as well as various private collections. Amanda just completed the Antenna Projects Artist Book Residency in New Orleans, and her solo show Amanda Burnham: In Situ will open at Gershman Gallery in Philadelphia on September 6. Amanda lives and works in Baltimore.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your drawings and installations are all about cities. What’s your favorite city in the world?

Amanda Burnham: There are many cities that I love, but I'm going to go with Baltimore—not only because I live here, but because of its rich, diverse architectural vernacular, history, neighborhoods, and challenges. It inspired the direction of the installation work I have been making for the last decade.

Better Waverly, 2014. Paint and paper. 

OPP: Tell us about the first installation?

AB: The first installation I made was for a show at the Julio Gallery at Loyola University in Baltimore in 2008. I'd been asked by the curator to show a group of the plein air cityscape drawings I'd been consumed with making at that point. I'd made hundreds of these small observational drawings of different sites during my first full year in the city. It started as a way of getting to know my new surroundings. I'd begun to feel the limitations of working at a small scale, from a fixed perspective. I increasingly felt that it wasn't the best way to capture the energy and activity of the city as I came to know it while sitting for many hours drawing it. I asked the curator if she would be open to me creating an installation for the show to accompany my drawings, and, thankfully she was. Looking at back at the resulting work (which, at the time I was very proud of, and which was very freeing for me), I'm struck by how minimal and reserved it is. But it changed the direction of my practice entirely.

Edmondson Avenue, 2009. Ink on paper. 9 x 12."

OPP: Earlier drawings are more realistic renderings of city landscapes, but it seems like you have been drawing in a more illustrative, comic style lately, especially in the installations. What led to this shift?

AB: Lately I've been interested in broadening the parameters of my work, so that it is less defined by a visual shorthand that references the built environments of urban spaces. I want it to be more inclusive of imagery that also suggests all the activity that occurs within those spaces. What really draws me to cities, anyway, is the events that happen when our living circumstances are not isolated and homogenous and the way they enable people to collect/collide/interact. 

The somewhat comic stylistic approach of my drawings allows me to incorporate ideas which are less literal and strictly visually descriptive. I like that a comic style, given its bold, graphic qualities, allows me to formally weave together imagery from a lot of really different places—objective, inventive or visionary, metaphoric, etc.

In the Weeds (detail), 2016. Acrylic, flashe, and paper. 10 x 72.'

OPP: Tell us about the process of creating these drawing installations? Are they site-specific? What determines the imagery?

AB: They are always site-specific in the sense that they are constructed almost entirely within the space they will be shown, and are therefore sensitive to the physical peculiarities of whatever that space is. They are often site-specific in the sense that I choose to enfold imagery discovered in the surrounding area to some degree. I've done this in very subtle ways, and I've also built entire pieces that were meant to evoke a specific city (as with RFP in Baltimore). 

I start by looking at the space and by collecting imagery from which to make drawings. I walk around the neighborhood, take pictures and make sketches. Using my sketchbook, I establish parameters for the piece, ideas I want to address or imagery I want to incorporate and roughly how I will engage the space. I sketch out broad compositional outlines for shape on the wall, where I want collage layers to be massed, palette, whether there will be sculptural components or embedded lighting. 

I'll spend the weeks leading up to making a piece preparing raw materials for collage. I roll out drawing paper in my studio, prepare it with color (watered down acrylic, usually), and make hundreds of quick gestural drawings with black acrylic. When I put the piece together in the space, I take anywhere from a day or two to several weeks. Everything is orchestrated very extemporaneously within the parameters I've set. I use different widths of black or colored masking tape and light duty staples to attach pieces to the wall, and sometimes paint directly on the wall, as well.  The final pieces are the result of many layers of collage build up. 

High Winds, 2011. mixed media

OPP: You mentioned RFP, which was a unique installation in that it involved audience participation. What does RFP stand for?

AB: RFP stands for Request for Proposals. Its a term commonly used in city planning for the development of a parcel of land. I wanted to evoke this common usage because Baltimore—like most older, formerly industrial cities—has a fraught and lengthy history with issues surrounding planning. There are neighborhoods with legacies of exclusion borne by restrictive covenants and red-lining, division and isolation of formerly thriving neighborhoods via poorly considered large scale building projects (like highways), disinvestment and civic neglect of neighborhoods (frequently along racial lines), gentrification that prices long term residents out of their homes and established communities. A commonality to all these dynamics is how bound up they are in bureaucratic and political structures that can seem far from the reach or control of the individual citizens that they impact. 

RFP was motivated by an idealistic desire to propose a city democratically shaped in every way by the people who actually live there; it was a request for proposals from the residents of Baltimore.

RFP, 2015. Paper, paint, cardboard, tape, lumber, lights. 2015

OPP: How did the installation evolve?

AB: The piece as it opened on day one was like my other work in its use of paper and collage installation. All of the drawings were recognizably Baltimore; different neighborhoods were woven together throughout the space, commingled without reference to literal geography.

I wanted the piece to feel very welcoming. The piece was orchestrated in a large ground floor former department store space with huge, plate glass windows in front. It was located on West Baltimore Street, an area of the city which a lot of different people traverse for a lot of different reasons every day. In addition to having numerous hand drawn OPEN signs (like the neon ones you see in bodegas) and a sandwich board inviting people in from the sidewalk, I designed the piece so that it would be maximally visible from outside. It stretched all the way to the front so there wasn't any apparent barrier to entry (like the imposing desks that sit at the front of most galleries). All of this was meant to be a reflective backdrop, and the centerpiece of the installation was a big table full of drawing supplies and some loose prompts inviting thought about Baltimore: "I feel the most like I belong here when...", "This city needs...", "My neighborhood is..." etc. 

Visitors were invited to add their writings and drawings to the existing backdrop. During the time the piece was up, more and more of these amassed, so that by the time it came down it was covered with hundreds of contributions, ranging from reminisces, to suggestions, to manifestos, to actual images altering the preexisting ones. 

RFP, 2015. Paper, paint, cardboard, tape, lumber, lights. 

OPP: Was there anything frustrating about depending on the public to complete the work? What was satisfying about it?

AB: Not in this case. We had a large volume of visitors due to the visibility from the sidewalk and the high traffic in the area. The piece was set up so that it would be clear to someone that contributing was the idea without having to ask. The paper on the table was color keyed to the backdrop, in addition to the rolls of tape and drawing supplies were visual cues, and this seemed to work (though I was on hand every day to greet people and answer questions if they had them, too.) There was some initial anxiety that it wouldn't work, or that I'd have to edit contributions (i.e. if someone posted something abusive or hateful), but wonderfully, there was no need. 

Since I was there everyday, I met a lot of people over the course of the piece's life. As satisfying as it was to see (and be surprised by!) the range of physical additions to the piece, the most satisfying was that the piece became a way for me and other visitors to talk to people we might never have met otherwise.  

To see more of Amanda's work, please visit amandaburnham.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Isak Applin

He Was a Friend of Mine, 2016. Oil on canvas. 36" x 48"

ISAK APPLIN's painted vignettes often depict quiet moments that point to the internal experiences of their subjects. A man chops wood while remembering a betrayal. Solitary figures stroll through the forest in contemplation. Although there is occasional drama—sometimes a man is knifed outside a bar. Regardless, these works balance site with story. His attention to color and texture demands that viewrs take the environments as seriously as the action. Isak earned his BFA in Painting at Maine College of Art and his MFA in Painting and Drawing at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His numerous solo shows include: Dark Holler (Chicago, 2006) at Contemporary Art Workshop, Six More Miles (Chicago, 2008) at Roots and CultureChocorua(Ontario, 2013) at Evans Contemporary, and Now Chicago (Sydney, Australia, 2014) at The Hughes Gallery. Around the Mountain Again, a two-person show also featuring the work of Featured Artist Carl Baratta opened at The New Standard Gallery (Sydney, Australia) in early 2018. He is currently at the Stephen Pace House Residency in Stonington Maine. Isak also runs Titan and Weald, a private press specializing in chapbooks, fine press books and relief prints. Isak lives in Queens, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What’s your relationship to the woods?

Isak Applin: I see the forest as a place of mystery and change.

I grew up in the woods of the Taconic Mountains on border of Massachusetts and New York State. In the 19th century, lumber mills, small factories and sheep farms deforested much of the region. As these industries waned during the mid 20th century a rich forest quickly grew back. And yet traces of the old way of life remained: logging roads, building foundations, stonewalls, mysterious piles of rocks and weathered fence posts were scattered throughout the woods. I witnessed the tail end of this transformation as a child; even then I found it awe-inspiring, disconcerting and sublime.

As a child and teenager, the forest was also a stage for adventure—it was my African jungle, Sherwood Forest and Siberian taiga. Later it was the place for one’s first kiss and precious hours of freedom from school and parents. 

The inhabitants of this forested area were also equally fascinating. During the 1970s, the area was settled by Whole Earth Catalog inspired hippies, Vietnam Vets seeking solace and New Yorkers who had always dreamed of owning a horse. It was also a place of big dreams and spectacular and frightening failures. Within a few miles of my house there was a thriving Sufi commune, a huge Indian style Peace Pagoda built entirely by volunteers and a failed nudist colony—it had descended into violent, drug-ridden chaos. I’ve always been extremely fascinated and moved by my neighbors’ eccentric and epic lives. 

The Letter II, 2014. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: How you think about the woods when painting?

IA: Many of the paintings attempt to capture the sentiments I described above. They are simply an edited depiction of that landscape or the story set in that landscape. I have always been a collector of stories and situations I find moving, strange and unique. Sometimes, often years after the event, I feel the need to make a painting of one of these stories in an attempt to record and share it. And this is how much of my work is generated: I hear a story or experience something, find myself reflecting on it, and at some point decide that this event needs to be shared with the rest of the world. 

Forked Lake, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 12" x 9"

OPP: What’s your relationship to landscape painting?

IA: My relationship to landscape paintings is that of a magpie to its nest; I’ll steal from any tradition if it helps me convey the spirit of the story or place I’m depicting! In general, the compositions are largely influenced by Medieval Sienese paintings, Persian and Indian miniatures and various Chinese paintings. Early and mid 20th century European and American modernists often inform my color choices and paint handling. Lately I’ve been under the spell of Monica Poole and Gwenda Morgan, wood engravers from Britain that created marvelously inventive landscape prints.

His Last Night in Randazzo, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 19" x 14"

OPP: His Last Night in Randazzo (2018) and Goodbye Jay (2017) have a cinematic quality, in the sense that the scenes floating around the central figure indicate something other than what’s happening in the present moment. I keep flipping back and forth between thinking they are the near future, the distant past or a complete fantasy in the heads of the figures in the bottom of the the paintings. Thoughts?

IA: Both paintings are inspired by true events, and both depict several different points of time within one composition. The events are fragments, and they do not necessarily come together to form a coherent narrative. In these paintings I hope to capture what it feels like to hear the stories (or the storyteller) that I’m working with, rather than transcribe these events into a linear narrative.  

Goodbye Jay is a memorial painting, albeit a light-hearted one, depicting events from the life of a friend who was a sailor on research vessels in the Arctic and the South Seas. He lived in a comic book world of maritime violence and South Seas romance. His Last Night in Randazzo is a little less straightforward. I used the space to the left of the tree in the center as a container for vignettes depicting an acquaintance’s escape from Sicily and his flight to Detroit. To the right of this tree is a couple walking down a path in the present day--they are the ones that have to live under the weight of the events on the left.

Fantasy is sparingly added to these compositions, I only include fictional events in the paintings if I feel that it will enhance or clarify the feeling that I’m trying to convey.

Spring '96, 2013. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Can you talk about the recurring themes of being chased, watched or stalked?

IA: The chase themed paintings began in 2012. A friend and I were cycling along a wooded path on a drizzling November afternoon, and we were suddenly chased by an incredibly fast deranged man wearing a cape of burlap sacks. Around this same time everyone in my apartment building was unexpectedly evicted. I started making some drawings of being chased while cycling, and the chase theme became an allegory for forced flight.

The “watching” paintings are about longing, loss and the quixotic behavior of scorned lovers. Like the other paintings, these are based on true events from the distant past that have haunted and moved me. I never really set out to make a painting about being stalked, but I can see how some of the compositions could inspire that interpretation.

Dennis and Marilyn, 2016. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Tell us about the process of making collaborative prints with Carl Baratta and Oli Watt?

IA: This series started in 2007. One of our primary goals is to create a collaborative piece where the viewer can’t see each artist’s hand. Put another way, we hope that no one will be able to look at a piece and suspect that I drew the bottom, Carl drew the top and the middle looks like something from one of Oli’s prints. To achieve this, we try to draw in each other’s style, we often take turns carving different parts of the wood block, and we generally make all decisions collectively.

Old Woman Spring Road I, 2016. Collaboration with Carl Baratta, woodcut on paper. 9" x 12"

OPP: Did this collaboration teach you anything about your solo practice?

IA: For a long time, the collaborative work was a place where I (we) explored fantastic and mythological themes that were absent from, or didn’t seem to fit into, my personal work. The collaborative prints were a vessel for passages from the epic of Gilgamesh, invented deities and the depiction of other worlds—content that seemed at odds with my paintings set in the contemporary world. To my surprise, in 2014 the apparitions, ghosts and angels from the collaborative prints started creeping into the personal work, enriching it in a way that I could never have anticipated.

To see more of Isak's work, please visit isakapplin.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.