OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kristen Schiele

38"x 44"
Acrylic, silkscreen, oil on canvas
2014

KRISTEN SCHIELE is inspired by "stage sets, cinema, folklore, allegory, kitsch, and storytelling." Her paintings and sculptures combine color and pattern with appropriated silkscreened images from films and magazines. The result is frenetic and tumultuous surface intensity that belies the complexity of the interwoven stories of youth culture. Kristen earned her BFA from Indiana University in Bloomington and her MFA from American University in Washington, D.C. and went on to study at Hochschule Der Kunste in Berlin. Her work is a currently on view in Summer Mixer, a group show at Joshua Liner Gallery (New York City). Upcoming group exhibitions include Your Bad Self at Arts and Leisure Gallery (New York) and An Odyssey at Torrence Art Museum in California, both opening in September. OOOT MMMMM, a silkscreen book collaboration with Abe Smith published by Kayrock Screenprinting, will be available at the Printed Matter Book Fair at PS1 MOMA in New York City (September 17-19, 2015). Kristen lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Pattern features prominently in your work, but so does the figure. . . how do the two relate to one another?

Kristen Schiele: I paint to tell stories, usually inspired by books, film and memories. The figure is either in the work or is the viewer seeing the work. In the same way a graphic novelist designs the page to tell a story, I use pattern as a framing element. Giotto would break up stories with intricate panels and borders in order to make the stories ornate and to lead the viewer. I'm obsessed with researching patterns in any books I can find. Carl Jung talked about ancient, primal, universal language, and since every culture has created pattern and design, there is something of this universal, primal language in pattern and symmetry.

Halston disco
27"x 36"
2015

OPP: Tell us about a particular go-to pattern and what you’ve learned about it in your research.

KS: I love geometric patterns: German, Swiss, Finnish, Swedish, Russian 1920s-1950s era. In the 1950s, the Marimekko and later 1970s California pattern designers did something amazing from the 1920s French design work of simplified, large scale patterns. But no pattern is a go-to pattern. I'd say love of the diagonal brings me to the Chevron pattern, as in the painting Melanie Malone. It mirrors the space.

OPP: Can you talk about layers in your work, both literally and figuratively?

KS: I have always loved to allow simultaneous readings in my work, and I probably think of too many things at once. Rather than make a reduced, perfect image, I layer work so the viewer is in several places at once. I often work from unruly, meticulously cut piles of collage material from hundreds of vintage magazines, books or movie screen shots. I start from the collages, drawing in the work, painting in acrylic paint, or sometimes adding layers of silkscreen. Silkscreened images can sit on the surface, but a viewer can see through them and cannot miss their shape and meaning—like in the newspaper or  Lichtenstein and Warhol pieces. I often go one more layer of color or use oil at the end, as it is dense and sits on the surface.

Disco Sucks
34"x 36"
Acrylic on board
2015

OPP: The layers of pattern give me a little bit of a voyeuristic feeling, like I’m looking through blinds or curtains to see what’s happening behind them. In some more recent pieces, like Halston Disco and Disco Sucks, that feeling is especially strong. There’s the visual attraction of the pattern and color, and then there’s the frustration of having my view obstructed and having to push past it to see the story. Thoughts?

KS: I do like the idea of a journey or voyeurism. I like there to be a journey in layers rather than the amazing, Japanese elegance of pictorial design and flattening of space. I think more in terms of a video game going front to back. Halston Disco is from the 70s/ Studio 54 era, and Disco Sucks is an image from a vintage Easy Rider magazine of a 70s biker, with his slogan T-shirt and adorable could-be-a-guy-in-Williamsburg, Brooklyn look. I pretty much smashed disco cuteness on cool people. I'm making myself laugh, essentially, and spending tons of hours on individual-taped off squares of color. In a similar piece Tiga, the aggressive, silkscreened image of a tiger is the negative space in what is really, a painted quilt of pattern. I like to play with what I think is masculine authority and give sweetness or craft the authority.

Futurismo
38"x 44"
Acrylic on canvas
2013

OPP: In what ways have you been influenced by stage sets, cinema and the theater?

KS: My first experiences of being deeply moved by art were watching the stop animation movies by Czech masters of the 1930s, like Berthold Bartosch’s L'Idee or Dada films, which also influenced Chilean director Jodorowsky. These artists create poetic space for a story, with pieces of bedrooms or houses, dense color and abstractions. This informs how I create space in my work. For me, the bedroom should include the dark sky and moon if you are, say, thinking of the lead character reading her husband's diary in Ingmar Bergman's film Hour of the Wolf. In the painting Futurismo, for example, there is a figure in the foreground, eating and reading an Italian Futurism manifesto. She is in her bedroom, but the moon and the suburban house are there as well.

OPP: Are the characters you are influenced by archetypes? How often do viewers “get” your cinematic references and does it matter if they don’t?

KS: Archetypes can be found in everyone, and I think about them a lot. No one needs to get a cinema reference, but I usually include the reference in the title or on the backs of the work. If I choose an image from a movie, it is the greater story or meaning that draws me in, so referencing the specific movie is just to pass on the appreciation of what an artist was seeing. I see something in it myself, then pass it on to you.

Spirit Girls
Lu Magnus Gallery
2014

OPP: You've made sculpture and installation work before, but it seems that you broke out of the rectangle, as it specifically relates to painting, in your most recent solo show Spirit Girls at Lu Magnus Gallery. Is this a new direction for you or was it specific to this body of work? What led you there?

KS: This was the first time I installed patterned, colored strips of wood. There were paintings on cut wood panels and some works on canvas. The installation and panels were not a new approach but more like combining groups of sculptural work I've made on layers of painted wood and taking it linear. The show was specific to the Spirit Girls theme. I was literally allowing myself to be super happy and free. I installed the wood patterned strips free-form all the way up and around a two story wall, and I allowed the panels to be in shapes and parts. I had not done that before because I was holding to the tradition of the rectangle-painting space. In the studio now I am pushing more literally into theatrical space. I am printing patterns on fabrics and draping them into a space. The space is a stage I'm setting up for live drawing in a group of artists, and I will see how far I push the next installation.

Berlin Girl
38"x 45"
Silkscreen, acrylic on canvas
2015

OPP: You exhibit all over the world. Tell us a story about a great experience exhibiting outside of the U.S.

KS: I love showing in Berlin. An opening there means underground bar late nights, a mural painting at 2 am, an art and clothes trade, long talks (trying not to be suffocated by cigarette smoke) and finding new books. The city inspired me to make a studio cooperative in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in order to keep my Brooklyn community as tight. I have old friends in Berlin. We grew up in our 20s together, and they are inspiring with fashion, music, film and painting. Berlin is less expensive, and the government has protections for rent stabilization. I wish we would do the same here in New York. I plan on staying in amazing Brooklyn and going back to spending my summers making work in Berlin. It's ideal!

To see more of Kristen's work, please visit kschiele.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

A few tips from someone who looks at A LOT of artist portfolio sites

Over the last three years of interviewing artists for the OPP blog, I've reviewed hundreds, maybe thousands of portfolio sites. I approach all the interviews as an artist interviewing an artist. I don't think of myself as an art writer or a critic. But I have a wealth of experience navigating artist websites from the point of view of a person who wants to get an overview of each artist's work. So I've decided to share some tips about the user experience of your websites. Below are tips that are based on my personal experience looking at artwork online, and everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

Tip #1: DON'T isolate images with no context

As an artist, I know that we often want to control the viewer experience of our paintings, sculptures, photographs, etc. But a portfolio site is not the same as a gallery. You may want a lot of physical space around a particular work in a gallery, but our attention works differently when looking at work online. If you want to control the order that a viewer looks at your images, I recommend the new side-scrolling galleries. They are perfect for photo essays, for example. But I don't recommend setting your site up so that I have to click through every image to get to a particular piece of work. This is frustrating when I've looked at all the work but want to go back to a particular piece.

If you haven't switched over to New Thing, consider it. As a person trying to quickly get a sense of whether or not I want to interview any particular artist, I'm thrilled about being able to see whole images instead of thumbnails all on one page. It makes my job SO MUCH easier. It's a thrill to get a quick view of a particular project or exhibition in one fell swoop. It allows me to see threads that run through an artist's work very quickly. It doesn't mean I don't look closer. I always do, but with a sense of context.

Tip #2: DON'T over-nest

Yes, one great thing about OPP is the ease with which we can organize our work. It's great to be able to divide work into specific projects, exhibitions and media. But I highly recommend using the nesting option with discernment. Clicking into a folder that has one work and having to click back out to get back to other work frustrates my viewing experience. I believe I have more patience than the average person online and a longer attention span, so if I'm getting frustrated enough to stop investigating work, I KNOW others stopped long before. If you have folders with less than five images, consider putting these images somewhere else on your site.

Tip #3: DO include a statement about your work

Many artists HATE writing statements about their work. They say that the work should speak for itself. Or they don't want to limit the experience of the viewer, but honestly, stop worrying about that. You won't. Think about it this way: many viewers will disregard your text, but those that seek to write about you or may want to contact you for a studio visit want to do their research before reaching out. Everyone is a little afraid of looking stupid. Remember when you were in art school and you sometimes didn't say something in critique because you were afraid of looking stupid? Writers, curators and collectors sometimes feel the same way.

Also, there are times when I look at work, and I am very aware of my own viewing biases. Like every human, I have preferences and ideas that I believe—confirmation bias is real. I may see something in your work that you didn't intend. I may view your work through a feminist lens or a spiritual lens or a political lens, so it helps me to understand how you see your work. Most viewers want to know your intention, even if they choose see the work in a different way.

To be really frank (with the intention of helping), a lack of statement always reads to me as unprofessional, like an artist doesn't really know what they are doing. If you think you are a bad writer or don't know how to articulate about your own work, I recommend soliciting help. Ask friends and peers to talk about your work to you. What do they see? How do they understand what you are doing? Sometimes you just need help finding the right words for what you already know to be true.

If you still don't know exactly what you want to say about your work, consider stating what informs the work you make, including theoretical, art-historical, personal or cultural influences. I also find it really illuminating when artists address why they choose the materials they choose or say something about their process. Your statement doesn't have to be long or even perfect, but even a few sentence about your intent is valuable. Please write something.

Tip #4: DO include media, dates and dimensions, especially for 2D work

Many viewers, especially writers and curators will want to get a sense of your development over time. That's one of the major benefits of looking at an artist's work online—I get to see how the work has changed and it allows me to see which formal and thematic concerns disappear and reappear over time. You know your work so well, that you may forget what it's like for a random viewer to stumble on your site through a link. Sometimes I encounter work and can't tell if the work is a photograph or a sculpture. Painting sometimes looks like drawing. Collage sometimes looks like digital photography. Especially difficult to make sense of online is wearable art or performance documented in photography. Remember all work online (except video and web art) IS encountered as photography, so be clear when it is something else.

Tip #5: DO include detail shots!!!!!

I can't emphasize this enough. Especially if your work is three-dimensional or has a lot of small parts. Especially if the texture of your work is a wonder to behold. I've seen some amazing work that begs me to look closer, but the artist hasn't included details. Some of it is work that I will probably never have the opportunity to see in person. The wonder of the internet is that you can show me the exact spot of the detailed surface that you want me to see.The point of a portfolio site is to communicate about your work, so please give me all the details I want.

Tip #6: DO update regularly

I would recommend updating your site after every new project or exhibition. I've reviewed so many sites which have interesting work, but it's from 2011. Sometimes, I can't tell if the artist is still practicing or not. As an interviewer, I want to know what has been made in the last two years. I imagine the same goes for curators, writers and collectors who look at your site.You might be missing out on opportunities you aren't even aware of because your site is out of date.

Tip #7: DO include an updated CV and short bio

I want to represent the artists I interview as they want to be represented. In my experience, most writers, critics and curators will value the information you provide about your work. They may have their own interpretations, criticisms and experiences of your work, but I don't believe they want to misrepresent you. It's true that many writers these days don't check their facts. Or they use the internet to fact check and sometimes confirm incorrectly based on errors on gallery websites and other postings. I've had works of mine factually misrepresented numerous times. But for those of us that do check our facts, make it easier for us to find information about you and your work on your own site.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Becca Lowry

Bows and Arrows
Mixed media wood carving
36" x 30.5" x 3.5"
2015

BECCA LOWRY's "carved warrior shields" are a harmonious orchestration of color, texture and pattern. She carves away at planks of plywood with power tools, but the elegance of her final forms belie the lumber yard origins of her materials. Her  exhibitions include shows at David Findlay Jr. Gallery (New York, NY),Jeffrey Leder Gallery (Long Island City, NY), Galarie Zürcher (New York, NY), as well as repeated shows at Fred Giampietro Gallery (New Haven, CT), where she is represented. Her work is currently on view until August 23, 2015 in Summerset, a group show at David Findlay Jr Gallery in New York. Becca lives and works in Mount Rainier, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a bit about your history with wood-working. Has this always been your predominant medium?

Becca Lowry: Wood was ever-present in my childhood. My father is a builder and, loathe to throw anything away, has always kept a vibrant scrap wood pile in the side yard. So I am quite sure that I have made art with wood for as long as I have made art. As an adult, I used plywood as a surface to paint on, in part because scrap wood was free and abundant, but also because I didn’t like the hollow feel of painting on canvas. 

I painted on wood for many years before it occurred to me to treat the wood as a medium in its own right, to try to carve it. I started timidly by incorporating very low relief carving, texture really, into the surface of my paintings. But as I continued to experiment, the carving became more aggressive and deeper relief until eventually the balance between painting and carving flipped. 

Although I grew up around wood and woodcarving tools, much of the technique I am using in my work now is quite new to me. Playing around with scrap wood as a child does not a sculptor make—nor a carpenter for that matter. What I’m doing now is much more akin to wood-carving than it is to wood construction, though there are still built aspects to my process. I’ve done a lot of experimentation over the past years, starting with tools and materials that I am most comfortable with and gradually incorporating input from the woodworking and fine art worlds.

Pansy
Mixed media wood carving, upholstery fabric, wire
33.5" x 14.5" x 2.25"
2015

OPP: What tools do you use? How do they define and expand the limits of what you can do?

BL: My primary tools for woodcarving are a jig saw and an angle grinder, which I use mostly with masonry grinding disks. I use a skill saw occasionally for very severe, straight cuts. For more detailed carving, I use a die grinder and a flex-shaft tool with various wood carving bits. I also have a handful of chisels and other hand-carving tools, but the bulk of the carving is done with power tools.

I have a long wish list, of course, but I like to add new tools slowly. Too many new variables all at once can be overwhelming. Each time I add a new tool, my work changes a bit as a result of the functionality of the new tool and the new kinds of cuts I can make. I open myself up incrementally, so as not to get overwhelmed with too many choices.

Red Right Return
Wood carving, oil, latex, spray paint
33”h x 30.5”w x 1.5”d
2014

OPP: What role do addition and subtraction play in your process? At what stage does color enter the development of a piece? Is it purely additive, or does it ever get stripped away?

BL: Perhaps because I was initially just painting on plywood, I have developed a process of “sculpting” that is in some ways more additive than it is subtractive. At first I was carving low relief texture into one sheet of plywood and then, as I broke through the surface, adding another layer on the back of the first, and so on. Eventually I shifted to a thicker stock of plywood, but I still use the same process, more or less, of beginning the carving in one piece of wood and, as the piece starts to take shape, adding additional layers onto the front and the back. So the piece, overall, gets thicker as I go, not thinner, though I am of course carving away wood as I go.  

Color usually comes in after the shape is more or less solidified. There’s still some refining to the shape that happens after I start adding color, but I try to get the rough form sorted out before a lot of color comes into the picture. And then there’s an iterative process of carving and painting and patterning that happens until the piece is “done.”&

All of this
Crayon rubbing of original wood carving, oil on rice paper
24" x 36"
2014

OPP: You also make crayon and pastel rubbings on paper of your sculptures. When did you first do this and why? Was it a practical or a conceptual decision?

BL: People had been telling me that my earlier low-relief carvings looked like the block of wood-block prints, and some suggested trying to take prints off of them. I did try but with little satisfaction. Upon the suggestion of an artist friend, I tried rubbings instead and found it to be quite magical. 

I started doing these rubbings as a compliment to the carvings and a means of having more time to play with texture and pattern. It allows me to select out elements from a carving and reuse those elements in new ways. And the paper pieces are physically less demanding, so when I feel I need a break from the carving, which admittedly is not that often, I can spend some time with paper. Increasingly these paper pieces lead me to new compositions that I’m interested to try out in wood. So the paper pieces may start to be part of a feedback loop of experimentation, where carving informs paper informs carving and so on.



RIP 06
Wood carving, oil, latex, spray paint, steel
39"h x 30"w x 2.5"d
2014

OPP: For me, your work reads more as having a ceremonial/spiritual function, rather than a purely aesthetic one. The tangibility of the three-dimensional texture adds to this sense. Each piece beckons to be touched and used, not simply looked at. The material and the process carry references to totem poles and carved altars, and occasionally the titles—i.e. RIP 06 and Family Crest—hint at memorial functions. Admittedly, this is my particular lens. . . I'm very interested in the spiritual and emotional functions of art. What are your thoughts?


BL: This is really nice to hear. I always enjoy when someone comes away feeling that she wants to hold on to one of these pieces or that the work resonates on some level other than aesthetic. In my head, I’m making modern interpretations of carved warrior shields like you would find in innumerable forms across time and cultures, from Oceania to Europe. Besides the most obvious, G.I. Joe symbolism, there’s a ton of room to play with the concept of a shield.

I love that shields operate on both a symbolic and a functional level. For centuries they have not only served as a physical barrier between self and other, but their surfaces have been carved and painted with symbols and images meant to intimidate foes and flaunt the prowess of their bearers. And I love, too, that so much of this flaunting is a sham, that what we think of as bravery is merely fear masquerading. I am both fascinated and confused by what I see as a very fine and shifting line between vulnerability and strength, by the strange truth that often the bravest thing we can do as humans is to expose the most tender aspects of ourselves. These shields I am making try to speak to that, to the relationship between the soft and hard parts of the human experience.

Sometimes I am aware of making a shield for a particular person or being, as in the case of the piece you mentioned, RIP 06, which was made in honor of a legendary female grey wolf. But most often I have no idea what particular function the shield will serve or for whom. For me, this is what feels most spiritual about my work: that by some strange alchemy, in the pretend world of my studio, I am forging from wood some very vital protection for some very vulnerable soul somewhere out there in the world.

To see more of Becca's work, please visit beccalowry.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Diana Gabriel

Projections
2014
String and wood

DIANA GABRIEL’s expansive, angular string installations are conversations between her, the material and the exhibition space. Her enduring exploration of the line is born of her training in painting and drawing, and the architectural space of the gallery is simply a new blank surface on which to make marks. Diana earned her BFA from Northern Illinois University in 2004 and her MFA from Illinois State University in 2007. She currently teaches at Harper College in Palatine and College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. She is the co-founder of TheCGProject, a creative platform for artists and audiences with a shared vision of increasing appreciation and accessibility of art in our culture. Recent exhibitions include All In (2015), curated by Karen Azarnia for the Riverside Arts Center (Riverside, Illinois) and Transcending Boundaries (2014) at the Bridgeport Art Center (Chicago). Most recently, she collaborated with Rita Grendze on an installation inspired by the bobbins donated from an American textile company that closed its doors in 2009. American Spinner (1903-2009) is on view at Water Street Studios in Batavia, Illinois until August 22, 2015. Diana lives and works in Elgin, Illinois.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What does linearity mean to you? What's appealing about a straight line?

Diana Gabriel: A line is more than just the distance between point A and point B. It's one of the most basic and versatile of the art elements. We use line to communicate by changing its direction and length to create shapes in the written language. We’ve empowered it to create and negate, divide and connect, to add (+), subtract (-), and bring equality (=). Even within the context of our messages, we use line metaphorically. It’s cross-culturally embedded into our vulgar verbal and physical expressions. 


Ciclos
2014
String and wood

OPP: Your large-scale string installations respond to the architecture of the exhibition space and capitalize on tautness and tension to create straight lines in pieces like Trifecta (2014). But string also has the capacity to curve, and you make use of that in drooping pieces like Tracing Time (2012) and Under the Table (2013). What led you to include the curved line?

DG: In my practice, the straight line provides an underlying structure and sense of control. I’ve made it a rule to use straight lines as my starting guide to set the parameters of what I will and won't allow. However, another one of my rules is to keep my process organic and change those parameters as I go. In other words, I always bend the rules I set for myself. The straight line and its rigidity, visually and metaphorically, are the starting and finish line. The curved line, on the other hand, is the precarious improviser. It provides my process with a healthy balance. Maybe it’s my Libra nature, but I always find myself in the pursuit of balance. The straight, the curved, the taut and loose, the thick and thin are all ways of finding the perfect amount of balance within the work.

Reach Across
2013
Acrylic
12" x 12"

OPP:
Thinking about your string installations, your acrylic paintings of lined pattern and some early pieces using marking tape, I imagine a similar process of unrolling, unspooling and squeezing straight from the paint tube. How do these processes relate to drawing?

DG: I’ve always loved drawing. Its immediacy and spontaneity are playful traits I find important in art making. Most people have a studio in art school, but when you graduate you're faced with the fact you might have to use a corner of your room or a dinner tray as your studio. That was the moment when I began to think about making work out of existing spaces. It’s very liberating to have a different “surface” every time I make a piece. It also feels very natural to start a piece without the “blank canvas jitters” because the conversation has already started before I even get there. In my installations, I’m just responding to a space by drawing lines there-dimensionally from one edge of the room to another.

Under the Table
2013
Wood and mason line
10' x 13' x 13'

OPP: Is your response to those spaces improvisational or planned? Tell us a little about your process of installation.

DG: I normally study the space and do a few sketches that help me figure out color, mark and a general idea of the structure for each piece. I really enjoy making meticulous perspective drawings of the space. It helps me understand the height, width and distance between the multiple planes with which I’ll be working. Then I think about the type of marks I want to incorporate and how they’ll interact with the space.

I do, however, need to keep my process organic. Once in the space, I modify the piece as it develops. I see it as a conversation, not a lecture. It’s a two-way street, a give and take relationship. Sometimes I want the string to do a certain thing, like go in a specific direction or be tight in a certain spot, but the light won’t be right or the logistics of the space simply won’t permit me to do it. So improvisation becomes a large part of it. Those situations are nerve-racking but exceedingly exciting. That is when the magic happens because I have to put my plans and rules aside and work "with it.” It starts to feel like a collaboration of sorts.

Looping System (detail)
2011
String, nails and gaffers tape

OPP: What about the experience of deinstallation? Do you reuse the string?

DG: I get a lot of my drawing/ mark-making ideas for installations when I deinstall. I usually take many photos during this process. The breakdown is in some instances more enriching than the build up of the work. I’ve made it a habit of creating new “pieces” as I take others down. It's very exciting to cut the edges off of one plane and see the limpness versus the tautness of the string. I fall in love with those moments and try to incorporate them in creating new pieces. It’s pretty evident in a piece from 2012 called 342, which is when I first started incorporating this practice. The whole right side is one of my favorite parts of the piece.

Perhaps it’s because I see these new ideas under certain light and and with a specific material that I do tend to reuse my string. I also hate how wasteful art can be, so I work extra hard to save most of my materials. I have bins of string I hope to use one day. Art is the only aspect of my life where I allow myself to do a little hoarding. That and scarves.

Blue Window
2011
Acrylic, nails, and string on panel
8"x 8"

OPP: Your background is painting and drawing, but I see such an affinity for Fiber and Material Studies (my own background). Both weaving or crochet use the line in different ways. Weaving is a system of interconnected lines on a grid, while crochet is more akin to drawing in space with one looping line. Do you have any experience with these textile techniques?

DG: I never knew what drove me to the linear until I visited my childhood home in Colombia. I noticed all the baskets, plate settings, tablecloths, even the “carpetas” under the flower vases were woven, made through macrame or crocheted. I’ve always enjoyed lines and patterns because they felt familiar, but my connection to them has been solely through drawing. Being around all these hand-made things made me realize my linear bias made sense; it all suddenly clicked. I recognized that I come, not only from a long line of artisan women in my family, well versed in the “handy crafts”, but from a culture of talented people who resourcefully use these skills to survive.

Oscillating Reciprocity
2011
Cotton Yarn
Detail

OPP:
What can you tell us about what it's like to walk around in the string installations, since our readers can only experience your work online. I'd like to hear about your own experience and how they relate to your body, as well as any interesting comments you've received from viewers.

DG: I like to hang around the space while others experience my work. I enjoy when they find their favorite ”moment” and nook within the work. I especially like to hear them question and make assumptions about the process. I feel most connected with the viewer when the work triggers motor memory. We all know the motions of tying and pulling, or bunching and stretching. I use that as a way to connect the viewer with the process of making. With so much technology nowadays, we are losing touch with the instinct to pull and push, tie and unravel. . . to physically build and create. The idea of manual labor is somewhat repulsive to some and seen as unnecessary to most, but it’s extremely important to me. It’s honest, primal, human; a connection to our natural state.

To see more of Diana's work, please visit dianapgabriel.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Cable Griffith

Deception Pass
Acrylic on panel
24 x 30 inches
2014

CABLE GRIFFITH creates and explores fictional worlds in landscape paintings informed by the aesthetics of early video games, visually triggering the nostalgia of a generation. Fictional worlds, of course, are simply analogs for the world we live in, and these colorful, cartoony landscapes use formal reduction to hint at the expansive complexity of imagining what might still be left to discover. Cable earned his BFA in Painting from Boston University in 1997 and his MFA in Painting from the University of Washington in 2002. His numerous solo exhibitions include Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start (2013) at Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, Washington), FlotsamJetsamLagan: The Oneness (2013) at SOIL Gallery (Seattle), Domestic Landscapes (2014) at two shelves (Seattle). The forthcoming Sightings will open in December 2015 at G. Gibson Gallery (Seattle). Cable is a faculty member at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The earliest work on your website (2006-2008) is characterized by intense, accumulative mark-making. Works like Orange Jungle (2008), Green Canopy (2007) and Vertical Shear (2007) hover between abstraction and chaotic environments. Did you consciously shift towards the more designed, organized landscapes that came later or was this an organic evolution in your practice?

Cable Griffith: That transition was definitely organic and happened gradually over several years through several bodies of work. Looking back at the shift, I can try to make sense of it now. The earlier work was a record of me arriving at an invented place, mark by mark, with little-to-no pre-defined plan. I still rely heavily on improvisation, but in 2009, I made World One Overview, my first “map” painting, which attempted to conceive many separate locations into a more fully connected world. Using the maps, I began to locate myself in a more intentional way inside that world and the continuing description of it. Now, some paintings take a vantage point from far above, and some are at ground level. In short, I think that as the invented world became clearer in my mind, aspects of my process became more deliberate.

World One Overview
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 60 inches
2009

OPP: In your most recent work, I see clear influences from both the aesthetics of early video games—specifically, Nintendo and Atari—and Modernist painting. Do the discourses of these seemingly disparate fields share territory? What are the connections for you?

CG: I grew up with Atari and Nintendo and have played video games ever since. More recently, I’ve realized that my understanding of landscape has been heavily informed by video games’ systematic and formulaic way of reducing the complexity of natural environments. This influenced me long before I knew what Modernism was. I’m attracted to the reductive qualities of both and their potential as language. Once I identified that my work was influenced by the history of virtual space as much as painted space, I set out to explore that territory.

One of the crossovers is how reductive form is used in both modernist painting and early video games. Many modernist painters were trying to reduce form intentionally towards a simple and efficient result. They might say they were trying to capture the “essence” of something. In early video games, however, the reduction wasn’t intentional, but rather a limitation of the technology of the time. Because of the limited colors, chunky resolution and minimal memory, the game designers needed to be very inventive with how they maximized the given set of parameters. Some of my favorite games—Zelda and Mario Bros., for example—felt like expansive worlds, when in fact they were entirely made up of only a few variants. In many ways, I’m trying to do the same thing by limiting my parameters while trying to built something that feels limitless.

OPP: What can games do that paintings cannot, and vice versa?

CG: Some games sell millions of copies? And some paintings make people travel thousands of miles to see them in person. Honestly, I’m having a hard time with this question. There are many painfully obvious answers one could come up with that separate the two. But the more I think about it and consider the vast range of things that people have done already and the unlimited potential of both fields, I’ll go out on a limb and say that hypothetically, there’s nothing one can do that the other can’t.

Mountain Stream
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 36 inches
2014

OPP: Tell us about your collaborations with programmer/artist Brent Watanabe.

CG: In 2012, I was working on a large painting installation Side-scroll World One for my exhibition Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. It was my first body of work that explored the crossover of video game space through painting. Side-scroll was composed of over 20 connected/sprawling paintings and referenced the classic platformer video game convention. I posted an image of the paintings in progress on Facebook, and Brent made a comment about mapping a game projection on top of the paintings. I really wanted to see that happen, so we started talking seriously about it.

Although we didn’t use the Side-scroll installation at the time, we got together and came up with a game and world concept, then went our separate ways to work. Brent designed the game system, and I developed the background environment. The final piece was called for(){}; and was a playable triptych, very loosely based on the Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. This year, we revisited the playable painting/video game collaboration on the original Side-scroll World One installation and the game used much more of the wall space in between and around the paintings, including various objects in the room. Both games shared a lack of any clear objective. And this was intentional. As the "player" you could explore the world freely, interact with the environment, try to figure out various cause and effect relationships, consume and leave waste behind. Kind of like humans on earth! We’re continuing to develop these ideas and are looking forward to a new collaborative project in 2016.

for(){};
(collaboration with Brent Watanabe)
Projection mapped video game, acrylic on canvas
2013

OPP: Recent paintings from 2014—Desert, Landguage I, and This is the place - Be prepared to defend yourself, among others—read like pictographs, hieroglyphics or maps key symbols, while still maintaining a clear connection to both video games and landscape. Are these new works landscapes or texts?

CG: They’re both. To me, all landscape paintings are texts. Of course, the more we know about a painting, the more it tells us. And the perspective of time gives us a much different reading on paintings now than 300 years ago. Or even 20 years ago. Everything about a painting is part of its story, down to the pigments and tools, the artist’s social or political relationships, patrons, and trends of the time. Generally, I’ve found that the more you look, the more you find. Of course, the artist’s intention is important, but that’s not where meaning always resides.

The code paintings are, in some way, are a further reduction of natural forms from my map paintings. But I’ve become increasingly interested in the domestic function of paintings. Generally, domestic space is where paintings eventually spend their time. Paintings have a very strong connection and history with living spaces. And yet, artists like to think of their work in a clean, white, empty gallery space. I certainly do. The code paintings and  “tapestries” (painted on loose, raw canvas) are explorations of landscape with a relationship to a domestic site in mind, referencing wall paper and textile patterns.

Desert
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
2014

OPP: Tell us about your upcoming solo show Sightings. This body of work takes an entirely new inspiration as its jumping off point.

CG: The Sightings series was conceived in conversation with the history of landscape painting, notions of the Sublime and the role of painting as documentation. The paintings are all inspired by reports of various unexplained phenomenon in contemporary culture. I’m hoping to evoke a similar sense of wonder and awe as the Romantic landscape paintings of the 19th Century, but in an updated way.  Artists like Thomas Cole and Casper David Friedrich depicted a magnificent and untameable world that suggested the insignificance of man in the face of overwhelming natural forces. Today, much of that landscape has been conquered and covered by a civilization whose aspirations now aim beyond the terrestrial. In a world where anything seems possible, perhaps we give the most pause to things that seem impossible.

Many of the paintings are based off of actual UFO reports in the Pacific Northwest. I use part of the witness’s actual description as the title and research the location and time of the sighting as a starting point for the painting. I don’t take a position on the validity of any of the claims. I’m mainly interested in the sighting phenomenon overall. There are images of several studies of the series on the G. Gibson Gallery's website, but the full show will open in December 2015.

To see more of Cable's work, please visit cablegriffith.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Melissa Leandro

Fracturada, Monument
2015
Woven fabric, plastic, vinyl, electrical tape on linen. Heat fused
82” x 100”

MELISSA LEANDRO creates complex, sumptuous surfaces using traditional textile techniques in unconventional ways. Her diverse repertoire includes drawing, hand embroidery, machine sewing, paper-making, felting, heat-fusing and weaving, and she ultimately balances all these in a symbolic exploration of her cultural identities as both Latina and North American. Melissa lives and works in Chicago. She is currently pursuing her graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, while maintaining an active exhibition record. After winning the Juror’s Award at the 57th Annual Beloit and Vicinity exhibition in 2014, her solo exhibition Recuerdos de Un Paseo is on view at the Wright Museum of Art in Beloit, Wisconsin until August 2, 2015. Her work is included in the group exhibition, Mom & Pop: Family Business in Art and Life, curated by Anthony Stepter. It opened last week at Arts Incubator at the University of Chicago and will be on view until September 11, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a little about your history with the various techniques you use in your practice. How does each feed into the others?

Melissa Leandro: I originally began with traditional floor loom weaving and then quickly moved to weaving with the aid of a digital Jacquard loom. I also have an obsession with learning and inventing new techniques while using my hands for repetitive and methodical systems of making.

Weaving and stitching follow a particular pattern—over under, up and down—but intentionally causing inconsistencies in that pattern to achieve an unconventional outcome is extremely satisfying. I’d like my work to constantly generate or branch off into new ideas. My process of making and thinking through ideas never completely ends. I often go back and fourth with imagery and process by using reoccurring marks and patterns from finished or in-progress works.

At the root of my practice is a perpetual interest in considering how to create harmonious combinations of process, material and pattern within a given object or textile. Over time, I’ve developed a working method that often calls for the fusion of materials into new textiles and surfaces through processes like heat-fusing, weaving, felting and paper-making. For example, I often build up multiple layers of plastic, paper, felt, yarn and fuse them together to create a new substrate. The materials are often cheap, cast-away domestic objects, like upholstery, tablecloths and polyester fabric. Through the process of weaving, elements of the original materials are hidden, exposed and thus fragmented. I use embellishment techniques like embroidery and stitching to further build up, expose or hide pattern and color.

Recuerdo, this and that
2015
Woven cotton, electrical tape on linen. Heat fused.
44” x 64”

OPP: What role does translation—in terms of materials, media, and language—play in your practice?

ML: I’m interested in moving sourced pattern and drawn lines through multiple processes of translation. I often begin with a base process—small-scale line drawings, two-dimensional collages or cyanotype prints, for example—that is consistent and has limited freedom in its output. I create these intimate, abstract works during moments of transit, extended travel or moments of boredom, usually in a sketchbook. Then I translate them through embroidery, machine sewing, paper-making, felting, heat-fusing and weaving. I enjoy the idea that my paper pieces can move through multiple iterations until they are drastically different from their original form, both in scale and texture.

Lately, this has been through the use of cyanotype or “sun prints.” Cyanotype, a photographic printing process that uses the sun for exposure, leaves only an impression of the original object. I imprint family trinkets and mementos, fabric, lace, leaves, rocks and small sculptures, but their nuanced textures and colors are stripped away. What remains is a distorted—translated—image of shapes and lines.

From here the image is traced, photocopied, cut and collaged to create new drawings, weavings and sculptural objects that only slightly echo the original linear elements of the cyanotype. The sentimentality of these objects becomes blurred and sometimes totally lost. My titles connect the final work with its original inspiration. Spanish phrases, words and slang in my titles often refer to being on journeys, endless paths, lost in mazes. Alternatively, there are more specific cultural adjectives about character and class.

I am conflicted by being a part of two different cultures, identifying myself as both American and Latina. I struggle with bouncing back and forth between thinking and speaking in English and Spanish. I’m continually concerned that one culture is becoming more dominant than the other. My practice has become a means to seek out systems that highlight these stark differences while forcing them to coexist within the same plane.

I'll make my own
2012
Jacquard weaving
26.5" x 36"

OPP: I love your idea of language as the "warp and weft of a mixed culture." Can you expand on that as it relates to Spanglish?

ML: In Miami, it’s common for people to speak in English but regularly use Spanish words or phrases as a form of slang. Although, I don’t live in Miami any more, I still occasionally use Spanglish and process thoughts and memories in both languages. As time progresses, it becomes difficult to differentiate whether memories were in one language or another; things are lost in translation.

This mixing of languages has often lead to the creation of new slang words, which correlates to the mixing of material textures in my practice. I combine natural with synthetic, bright with muted, digital with analog, just in the same way Miami was a collision of cultures, music, food and so on. There is also a huge contrast between the rural landscapes of Costa Rica—my family’s home country—and the more urban, party town that is Miami and now my urban home of Chicago. I find comfort in merging the physical qualities of a very rural landscape with the rich, hyper extreme colors that surround me in the U.S. Through material investigation, I believe this play between local and foreign influences will impact my work for some time to come.

Waist Side
2014
Jacquard weaving, gradient stitching

OPP: What's a "gradient stitch?" Tell us how you use it in your work.

ML: A “gradient stitch” is a term I use to describe a very dense zig-zag machine stitch that requires gradated sewing thread. Every sewn inch, changes thread color, fluctuating between three-five colors in one given spool of thread. The thread has a smooth transition between each color, allowing for solid, colored lines to be “drawn” on fabric. I frequently choose colors that are vivid or neon because they give a desired effect of vibrating on the fabric’s surface. Similar to my pen drawings on paper, I use sewn stitches to draw repetitive lines, dashes and shapes. By making crucial decisions on thread color, the sewn plane is alive and in constant transition. The end results are illustrations that resemble warped and deconstructed topographical maps.

Paz
2013
Braided tapestry warp on jacquard weaving
28" x 26"

OPP: In works from 2011 like Mi Mama, Mi Papa and La Familia, there were more literal references to your family and heritage. But in recent years, you have shifted more towards symbolic abstraction. In your statement, you say, "I create an inventory of symbols connected to [childhood] memories based on abstract structures, systems of map making, topography, and landmark images." Could you highlight a favorite recurring symbol for us?

ML: One repeating symbol in my work is a cluster of linear, mountainous forms, forming landscapes. Specifically, they are hill-like shapes that stack on top of one another, often consuming the paper, woven cloth or stitched fabric I’m working on. This symbol represents my affinity for rural environments. Growing up, I spent many summers in Costa Rica. I later realized the rural, mountainous and lush landscape subconsciously influenced what I was doodling in my sketchbook. As the imagery became more pronounced, my doodling turned into a body of drawings that depicted mountains, valleys, dirt mounds, roads and river paths. Now I spend much of my time in urban cities, so my drawing practice reconnect me with surroundings that are currently quite foreign to me. My drawings shift between landscape and aerial views. The symbols have also begun to mesh urban and rural elements together. I associate squares and straight lines with urban environments, while circular shapes represent rural/natural environments.

Untitled
2015
Synthetic weaving, plastic, rubber, electrical tape. Heat fused

OPP: You've also been working with the doily as a material symbol. What does it mean to you?

ML: Doilies have recently become an incredibly prominent symbol. The doily has a rich connection with home decoration, dinning and social class. I’m interested in thinking about how the doily has moved through materials; first as silk ornaments made for furniture coverings, then cotton doily placemats, to recent uses as plastic coasters and tablecloths. There is a fascinating juxtaposition between a handmade cotton doily heirloom and a mass-produced plastic, disposal doily coaster, which hints at a huge shift in class status and value for the handmade. The disposability of this symbolic object make me want to invest in it as pattern.

I have begun to weave with plastic doily tablecloths. I cut the material into strips, weave them together using a tabby construction and then heat-fuse the whole piece; the heat melts the plastic strips to form a new substrate. The imagery of the doily is fragmented and obscured by other woven-in, synthetic materials like plastic rug liners, disposable tablecloths, fabric gimp, trim and sequins. These cheap, domestic materials were a huge part of my childhood home, which was decorated with plastic dishware, textiles and furniture. My work reincarnates these utilitarian and disposable textiles into something surreal, gaudy and precious.

To see more of Melissa's work, please visit melissaleandro.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Natalie Loveless

22-minute video loop (documentation of seven-year performance)
Soundtrack by Derek Champion
2012

NATALIE LOVELESS is an artist, academic, writer and curator with a specialization in feminist and performance art history. For this interview, we’ll be focusing on her curatorial project New Maternalisms (2012), as her website for the exhibition first brought her to OPP’s attention. In 2004, she simultaneously earned an MA from Tufts University and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She went on to earn her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2010. Natalie has a chapter in the forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Feminist Art Practice and Theory, co-edited by Hilary Robinson and Maria Elena Buszek. She will be a participating artist at the upcoming SLSA in Houston, Texas in November 2015 and will be presenting research at the Sea Change Colloquium in October 2015. Natalie is an Assistant Professor in History of Art, Design & Visual Culture at the University of Alberta in Canada.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a bit about your history as a curator, an academic and an artist.

Natalie Loveless: I wrote an autoethnographic essay about this once!  The short version is: I came up in art school at a time when crit sessions were still dominated by the language of post-structuralism popularized by Art Forum and October in the 80s/90s. It was all "performativity" this and "deconstruction" that. I found myself curious about what Austin and Derrida were trying to build with these concepts. I wanted less to use these ideas in my artist statements than to figure out, social-sculpture-style, what these thinkers were doing with these ideas—the politics and passions behind them. So I talked to folks at the School of the Museum School of Fine Arts and our sister school, Tufts, and convinced all involved to let me do an MA in Contemporary Art History at the same time as my MFA. No one had done that there yet; they didn’t have a structure for supporting work that crossed practice-theory lines. But they supported it anyway. My experience of SMFA was that it was a very visionary place when it came to interdisciplinarity. Their approval was the gateway drug I needed to say to myself, as I was researching and developing my MFA show: “Uh, maybe I should stay in school and do a PhD next. . .”

At the time, in North America, the world of “practice-led” and “fine-arts” PhDs was really, really nascent. No one had ever mentioned it to me as a possibility. I was completely in the dark about the few programs that did exist in the U.S. and even about what had already been happening for quite a while in Europe. No one was talking about art practice at the doctoral level at the Museum School, or in Art Forum, or October, or at CAA. Times certainly have changed! Instead, I ended up attending a really visionary PhD program—colloquially referred to as “HistCon”—at UC Santa Cruz that let me pursue my work as an artist and curator alongside my academic work, in ways that ended up tangling the three together.

I want to give a really big shout out to the two people who were my primary supervisors at each institution. Their vision, passion, politics and pedagogy provided a model and road-map for me. Was it Korzybski who said “the map is not the territory?" They made the territory the map for me. They walked the walk. They not only taught me the stuff they knew in the areas that they were interested in, they modeled an affirmative, incisive, generous, unflinching approach to creating artistic-intellectual-political spaces without which I don’t even want to think about what my life would look like today! So here is the shout out:

Marilyn, Donna, I am forever, and gratefully, in your debt. I literally could not have done it without you. Thank you for everything.

Ok. Almost everything. There is someone else whose affirmative, incisive, generous, unflinching approach to life made it possible for me to gravitate towards the mentors that I did, because she modeled it for me from the get-go: my momma, Evelyne Lord. Thank you, mom. Your generosity and vision and bravery will never cease to inspire me and (my sister) Stephie.

Skype-based Durational Performance
2012

OPP: How was New Maternalisms (2012) first conceived?

NL: In 2010, I gave birth to a little human who was born eight weeks prematurely and totally topsy-turvied my life. I had been planning on giving birth in my mother’s house in Canada and submitting my PhD before D-day. So there I was working on the PhD, in the last two months of revisions, and suddenly found myself in the hospital with a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Over the next few months, I just kinda held on, taking it one day (hour, minute, second) at a time, trying to survive and build a livable system to support this new, intensive, immersive, daily practice/labour. I began working on what became a three-year, daily-practice art piece called Maternal Ecologies. In effect, I took all the artistic and intellectual literacies that I had at hand and applied them to my lived situation out of desperation.

In art school, Mary Kelly was a huge (HUGE) influence on me, specifically in the way that she brought daily practice, feminist politics and psychoanalytic theory together. So, inspired by my memories of her work, I started looking around for models and support structures. I came across Andrea Liss’ 2008 book Feminist Art and the Maternal. I came across the UK-based research network MaMSIE and their journal Studies in the Maternal. Myrel Chernick and Jennie Klein’s edited volume The M Word came out in 2011, and I was introduced to both of the incredible exhibitions they had curated. Then Shannon Cochrane (Artistic & Administrative Director of FADO Performance Art) asked if I would be interested in curating something for their upcoming season. The rest, as they say, is herstory.

3 hour durational performance
2012

OPP: What was the curatorial premise of the show?

NL: I started by asking myself what was most interesting in the field of contemporary art and the maternal, and I decided to build an exhibition that focused on performance-based practices. Performance-based work (of all stripes) makes a lot of sense to me when looking critically at the early years of maternal labour. The ideological politics of visibility that inform and surround the maternal body are important, as is the historical censuring of the professional female body on the basis of its maternal status. Performance-based practices interest me for the many ways that they can comment on and intervene into these politics and histories to foreground the temporality and complex materiality of labouring bodies, making the texture of that labour central to the work itself.

OPP: New Maternalisms was first mounted in 2012. In 2014, you co-curated New Maternalisms-Chile with Soledad Novoa Donoso for the National Museum in Santiago, Chile. What was different in this second exhibition?

NL: Alejandra Herrera, one of the artists in the original show, suggested developing an iteration of the exhibition in Chile. She knew Soledad, a curator who has been committed to the discourse of feminist art in Chile for decades. I curated the non-Chilean (largely North American) artists, and Soledad curated the Chilean artists. The exhibition was an experiment in bringing two different national perspectives together for conversation and reflection.

What neither of us expected when we began organizing the exhibition, held concurrently at the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art, was that the president of Chile would, in the months leading up to our opening, announce that they would be re-evaluating Chile’s strict national laws forbidding abortion. We were interviewed non-stop by radio, television and newspapers and were sometimes quoted inaccurately in ways that tried to polarize the exhibition as “pro-natalist” in the context of these abortion debates. The positive side is that we had over 600 people at the opening.  

Jill Miller: The Milk Truck
Ongoing Social Practice Performance
2012

OPP: What changed in your understanding of the discourse of motherhood between the two exhibits?

NL: For one thing, I had two more years of research and thinking under my belt. Over the last five years, there has been a notable surge of exhibitions, books, journals, networks and conferences at the intersection of feminist art and the maternal. (Of course, the moment you start looking for something you tend to see it everywhere.) I just returned from two conferences on the topic, one in London and one in Rotterdam, and an edited volume is about to be published taking my first exhibition as the inspiration for its title! I have two hypotheses as to why this is happening right now.

Firstly, I see the maternal as a really interesting test case for feminists of my generation who were born in the seventies. At that time, Mary Kelly made Post-Partum Document, Miriam Shapiro and Judy Chicago founded on Womanhouse and Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance Art was circulating. I, for one, was raised with the idea that my status as a middle-class, cis-gendered woman in North America translated into a future in which a choice between maternal and professional status did not have to be made. I could be a mother and an artist and an academic; this was the territory my mother’s generation fought for. The maternal didn’t occur to me as a political problem until it hit me in the face (uterus?). In gathering artist-mothers of my generation together around me, I discovered that this “rude awakening” was not unique to my experience. I consider the maternal to be a potent location from which feminists of my generation can ask questions about the status of feminist art and political practice today.

Performance action
30 minutes
2012

OPP: And the second hypothesis?

NL: There is another pressing social and political issue that I see as linked to the maternal: the current ecological crisis. To ask questions of the maternal as a structure of care, labour, pedagogy and sustainability—that is, to examine the maternal as an ecological matrix—is to ask questions relevant to global climate change. As dominant norms, the individualistic, nuclear-familial ideologies that structure much of contemporary North American family life are part of what is killing the planet. Phallogocentric, global capitalist social ideologies and kinship structures have given us anthropogenic climate change. To address the maternal in this day and age is to address the structures that have led to and support global ecological collapse. I have found myself in conversations over the past few years with colleagues who work politically in the university and who parent small children. We have to ask ourselves what our duties are in training our students and our children. It is they who will have to face the worst of it. What approaches to learning, living and critically creating in the world are relevant? How do these affect the art I make, the syllabi I construct, the articles I write and the conversations I have with my five-year-old son? This line of thinking has expanded my thinking on the maternal, and it structures the exhibition I am currently working on, New Maternalisms Redux (May 2016).

Performance action, 45 minutes
2012

OPP: What about fathers? Do you have any interest in male artists making work about fatherhood? Have you encountered any?

NL: In short: Great question. Yes. Few.

One of the glaring things I’ve had to contend with in this work is the overwhelming gender, sexuality, race and class biases that seep into it. When my child was born, I was a finishing PhD student, without a job or guarantee of one and in crazy debt (which I will likely carry for the rest of my life). But I was also incredibly privileged. I went to art school, earned a PhD and passed as white, hetero-normative, middle-class and cis-gendered (though I don’t identify with all of these). I have a biological and daily partner in parenthood (Sha LaBare) who is willing to parent with me. I have a mother whose house I stayed in while I recovered from my son’s premature birth and finished my PhD. I had folks that I could draw on as allies for emotional and intellectual support… all of these constitute incredible privilege. No matter how tough things have been at times, they have not been so tough that I couldn’t turn to art and theory and political action as part of my arsenal of survival techniques.

Mother and father are identities and roles that, like male and female, have difficult, enduring histories that have been used in service of a sexist worlding practice. These histories are thick and sticky, and there is a real need for more critical art practices dealing with fathering—fathering done by men, women or other-identified folk. I know few cis-men or trans-men (or trans-women for that matter) making performance-based art work from their experiences of early maternal labour, or folks of any identification dealing with early paternal labour through performance-based practices. I am currently writing on work that queers the maternal. For example, Sadie Lune's performance-based work not only deals with queer insemination but also queers insemination, and Lissette Olivares' work explores trans-species mothering or what she calls the post-humanist maternal. I know folks attempting to sidestep the gendered frameworks of mother and father entirely by working on the discourse of parentingEnemies of Good Art in the UK and Cultural ReProducers in the U.S. I ally myself strongly with these projects, but still find myself interested in the metaphorics of gendered performance and its genres. When it comes to the debates raised by this work I say: the more the merrier. It takes a village. To raise a child. To have a debate. To change the world. 

In the shout out above I named three "mommas"—one domestic, one artistic, one academic. But there have also been lots of sisters and aunties, brothers and uncles, critters and widgets, lovers and partners of all persuasions, and, of course, fathers. I love creative kinship maps. And I love the idea of aligning these functional roles, these kinship identities, with the language of “persuasion.” My parenting and life partner, Sha, performs both "mother" and “father” with care, compassion and attention that inspires me daily. He and I are co-writing a piece that takes a critique of hetero-and-mononormative, capitalist patriarchy as a basis for thinking about ecological and maternal ethics together. If he hadn’t chosen to stay home and mother our son while I started my tenure-track job at the University of Alberta, I never could have accepted the position and wouldn’t have the support to be doing what I am doing.

Video projection
60 minute loop
2012

OPP: Tell us about The VACCINES Project.

NL: While my academic and artistic work on the maternal is topically grounded, my methodology is indebted to what we call Research-Creation here in Canada. (I recently published something on this.)  The VACCINES Project (our working title) is a collaborative research-creation project initially proposed by Dr. Steven Hoffman, the director of Global Strategy Lab at University of Ottawa as part of a larger initiative funded by the Research Council of Norway. Steven asked my colleague Sean Caulfield and myself to join him in developing an international collaborative project bringing research-based artists together with health-policy academics and activists around the issue of vaccines and the public. We are starting off with a workshop in Ottawa this summer to begin work towards a research-based exhibition on vaccination in Geneva in 2017.

Some of our objectives for the first workshop are to (a) identify and examine challenging issues surrounding global vaccination from scientific, artistic and social perspectives; (b) foster mutual understanding and interdisciplinary dialogue from across the arts, academia and activism; and (c) problematize and deconstruct existing perceptions of the role that art, research and advocacy can and should play in informing and challenging global governance related to vaccines. These objectives will be guided by a set of questions such as: (a) what key issues around vaccination might benefit by being interrogated by artistic practice?; (b) how important is formative and impact evaluation in assessing the importance of research-based artistic and creative practice?; and (c) how important are different understandings of the “public” in public policy and the “public” in the context of socially engaged/research-based contemporary forms such as “art as social practice” and “new genre public art”?

One link between this and my maternal work, other than methodology, is that Jill Miller has joined the team and will be doing work on maternal anti-vaxers. The vaccination and autism scandal is a perfect example of a sophisticated misinformation campaign orchestrated to breed maternal and ecological anxiety. . . but that is a conversation for another day!

To learn more about New Maternalisms, please visit newmaternalisms.ca.
To learn more about Natalie's other projects and research, please visit loveless.ca.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ian Monroe

Installation view of Currents 105
Saint Louis Art Museum.
2011

IAN MONROE is drawn to edges, literally and figuratively. Influenced by both architectural and virtual space, he explores the illusion of perspective and our related "complicity and a potential sense of disembodiment" in large-scale, two-dimensional collages, predominantly made from adhesive vinyl. Ian received his BA from Washington University in Saint Louis (1995) and his MA from Goldsmiths College in the United Kingdom. Since 2003, he has had solo exhibitions in five countries: England, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the United States, not to mention group shows in at least five more. He is currently working on a major public commission for a new building in Leicester Square in London. His upcoming solo exhibition (title TBA) at Horatio Junior (London) will open in November 2015. He is represented by Galeria Casado Santapau (Madrid), where he will have a solo exhibition in 2016. Ian lives and works in London.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Talk about the wonders (and the challenges) of your staple material, adhesive vinyl.
       
Ian Monroe: Vinyl allows me to paint without using paint. I am able to build the image, layer by layer. All of my early work was sculptural and I still primarily gravitate to the three-dimensional, hence the perspectival nature of the images. This is also reflected in my tendency to consider them as built rather than painted images. It's a subtle distinction, but it allowed me to use carpet, linoleum flooring, Formica and paper in two-dimensional works. Had I used paint, I may not have not considered these alternative materials. There are, of course, frustrations with vinyl. The biggest is the industrially-limited colour palate of the material. I can't just mix a new colour! On the other hand, limitations sometimes force creative solutions, and I find the process of squeezing the most out of a constrained palate an interesting challenge.

Ideal Pursuits
Vinyl on Aluminum
176cm x 331cm
2005

OPP: Formally, your older work is all hard lines, angles and edges. Did this formal quality grow out of the material itself or is it more about source imagery? What influences you visually?
         
IM: Conceptually, architectural space certainly is an influence, but so is the notion of a virtual or invisible-yet-collectively-agreed-upon-space like the internet. Like the perspectival image, which is simply an agreed upon illusion, many of the spaces—airports or modern banking systems, for example—we deal with today rely on us all behaving according to an unspoken, but very constrained set of rules. The work is therefore meant to play both with our complicity and a potential sense of disembodiment that these spaces create.

Materially, the hard edges and angles were initially driven by the slice-and-cut nature of collaging the material. When you collage one material to another, it very rarely has any blending (except perceptually or metaphorically in the way two things may be visually or conceptually conjoined). I started making very thin lines with the vinyl and filling in geometric forms with the basic shading of a light, medium and dark colour. In the process, the schematic—as opposed to the rendered—possibilities of the images really excited me. I started to see all kinds of possibilities for images freed from the constraints of virtuosity that paint usually requires; I could deploy the language of diagrams or technical drawings for potential spaces or structures. In this way, they operate like huge architectural-conceptual proposals. I also enjoy that they run counter to a kind of expressionist language often found in painting, and so I embraced the razor sharp and unequivocal edge of the collaged material. 

The Registered Movements of a Thing
Vinyl on Aluminum
176cm x 301cm
2006

OPP: Could you talk about how "collage can be seen as a function of 'edges," an idea that you first explored in an essay titled "Where Does One Thing End And The Next Begin?"
        
IM: I hinted at this in the questions above, but the essay essentially develops a set of tools to understand how various collaged images seem to function and how they can be read. There was an open call for an essay in the catalog entitled Collage: Assembling Contemporary Art, put out by Black Dog Publishing in 2008, and I had been thinking about the idea for some time. I was musing about how a collage by John Stezaker operates totally differently from one by Ellen Gallagher or one of mine. That led me to see that the one unifying element across all collage, regardless of the imagery or conceptual drive of the work, is the cut or torn edge. Unlike a painted or a drawn image, in which there is (usually) no absolutely clear edge between various images or materials, collage is a collection of things colliding and interacting at their edges. I thought that this may be the key to understanding how collage actually functions, so I used the essay to explore how various types of edges interact and form meaning. Some types of edges I delineate include 'the corrosive edge', 'the municipal edge' and 'the chimeric edge.’ The entire idea is fully developed in the essay, so I’ll refer anyone interested to have a read. 

The Instantaneous Everything
Installation view
2008

OPP: Your two-dimensional collages have always manifested a dynamic sense of space and depth. But you also make three-dimensional sculpture, which compliments the wall-based work. How did these works interact and inform one another in your 2008 show The Instantaneous Everything?
     
IM: I was very loosely playing with a concept in physics that entire universes arise with their own unique rules and structures, seemingly instantly and as complete structures. The big bang is the theorized, instantaneous genesis of our universe. The strange conundrum here is that we as humans are simultaneously the creators of this theoretical structure and the actual product of it! So which came first? I saw some parallels to my art practice where the ‘rules’ for making work—perspective, diagrammatic and hard-edged shapes, encoded language—all seem to arise with their own theoretical structure and yet at the same time I am the supposed author and am in control. Visually, I sought to highlight this sense of a complete but co-mingled universe in which the distinction between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional was unimportant. Sculptures appeared to fall out of the images and images flowed out of sculptures and onto the floors and walls. I think it was a first step, and like all shows one does, you realize that the ideas can be pushed and developed. So I am working on a follow-up show.

'. . . many long hours'
Vinyl on Perspex
50 cm x 35 cm
2011

OPP: Recent work from Currents 105: Ian Monroe, your 2011 solo show at Saint Louis Art Museum, had numerous references to in-transit spaces like airplanes and airports, as well as hotels, pay phones and swimming pools. There's way more empty space than in earlier work and the figure is present. How did this apparent shift in focus grow out of older work?

IM: As I mentioned in one of the answers above, airports and other ‘non-places,’ to use a term coined by Marc Augé, have held a long-standing interest for me. For the show in Saint Louis, I decided to make a new body of work that reacted to and reflected a specific local architecture, but not in a site-specific way. Saint Louis has a long history of architecture and flight and has many mid-century buildings of note. Lambert Airport has a particularly interesting story. Completed in 1956, the building was the first major commission by a young architect named Minoru Yamasaki and was an icon of mid-century modernism and optimism in a newly global world. In a strange and ominous coincidence, I discovered one of his last major commissions was the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan. This trajectory, embodied so succinctly in these two places and spaces and in his buildings, was one that transitioned from a glamorous new optimism of the jet-setting global population to that of an increasing anxious, overcrowded and weaponized society.
   
I did a lot of research on Yamasaki, the airport, Saint Louis and also worked with the Saint Louis Art Museum collections. The artwork all grew out of that material. The figures entered perhaps because there is a very specific story to tell. I found images of the architects working late into the night, of women on holiday in advertising campaigns about destinations reachable from Saint Louis, and the telephone booths that have now been removed because we all have mobile phones. I didn't want to directly reference the towers and all that they now embody. It was a way to sit on the edge of a changing world that is both in love with its systems and one that is deeply threatened by them.

To see more of Ian's work, please visit ianmonroe.net.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Fafnir Adamites

Felted burlap, paper, felt
11'x 8'x 6'

Using the traditional craft techniques of felt-making, paper-making and embroidery, FAFNIR ADAMITES  creates both intimate, personal memorials and large-scale, abstract monuments. Influenced by theories of inherited trauma from previous generations, she employs the forms of the hidden mass, the implied void and traced/retraced text to provide viewers an opportunity for ongoing contemplation because, as she writes, “the surest engagement with memory lies in it's perpetual irresolution.” Fafnir graduated Cum Laude from University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a BA in Women’s  Studies and Photography in 2001. In May 2015, she earned her MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in. Her work will be included in Materialities: Contemporary Textile Arts, juried by Namita Gupta Wiggers. The show opens on August 27, 2015 at Arrowmont School of Craft in Craft in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Fafnir lives and works in Turners Falls, Massachusetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: One of your staple processes is felt-making. Can you briefly describe this process for those who have never thought about felt before. Why do you choose this process? What's compelling about it conceptually and/or viscerally?

Fafnir Adamites: Felt is the oldest form of fabric, pre-dating knitting and weaving. It is the process of transforming loose, unspun wool into a tight, non-woven fabric. By adding hot, soapy water to the wool and agitating it—my particular process involves rolling and hand-manipulation—the wool fibers shrink and form a dense mass. I’ve always been drawn to intensive processes in the studio. I was a black and white darkroom nerd in undergrad. There’s something about the sharp grain of a perfectly developed photograph that relates to the fine surface of a well-felted object. Processes like these suit perfectionists. They can be unforgiving to the cocky and ultimately rewarding to the person who can slow down and collaborate with the materials and tools.

Predecessors
2014
Handmade felt, muslin, image transfer
Series of 6, each piece approximately 7"x 7"

OPP: What's compelling about felt-making conceptually and/or viscerally?

FA: The repetition of felt-making is part of the appeal for me. The time that’s required allows for meditation and demands physical stamina to see the process through to the end. The transformative quality of felt also intrigues me. Through the shrinking of the wool, I transcribe my actions and embed meaning into the surface of the material.

Felt is a chaos structure that is not constructed in a rigid, striated method like weaving. Felt, like paper, is a mass of unruly fibers. Deleuze and Guattari wrote about the smooth and the striated in A Thousand Plateaus. They make an interesting distinction between the infinite and open nature of felt-making and the spatially limited nature of a process like weaving which always consists of mobile and passive parts. These two distinct forms are inherently different yet wholly inseparable. The felted burlap technique that I have used in a number of recent sculptures is a combination of the smooth and the striated. The smooth, chaotic structure of the felt disrupts the rigid, striated formation of the woven burlap, creating a new beast all together. Chaos overtakes the ruthless grid.

Monument for the Irresolvable
2014
Felted burlap, paper, plastic, air
Approximately 16' x 10' x 4'

OPP: What Conceals and Monument for the Irresolvable, both 2014, formally represent unseen masses. The viewer only has access to the shell or shroud. Both pieces make me think of the idiomatic elephant in the room. What's the elephant in the room in these works?

FA: There is no discrete thing/trauma/experience that I am shrouding or covering up. So maybe the elephant in the room is in fact the elephant in the room. My intent was to designate space for contemplation on absence. The purpose is to shift the authority or the prescription of what is to be mourned and what is worthy of our grief and attention. Pursuing a void form was one method to fill the space and avoid a reference to any particular moment in time or any kind of conclusion.

My research on the counter-monument movement in Germany helped bring me to these void forms. I am particularly interested in how the counter-monument artists approached the conundrum of representing an absence. They were not moved to find closure or seek an end point to the traumas they were memorializing. Instead, they worked with the notion that the surest engagement with memory lies in its perpetual irresolution.

These pieces are less about what is being remembered, suppressed or hidden, and more about leaving space for whatever that phantom is that haunts us. Whether you do anything about it or not, I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that it is indeed there.

What Conceals
Felted burlap, debris
7'x 7'x 4'

OPP: Please talk about your text-based, textile works Writing Adamites (2014) and He Was a Worker (2014), in which you use embroidery to trace written language that relates to your ancestors. How do these pieces relate to your interest in patterns, both personal and collective?

FA: This work began with my research on Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance. This is the theory that environmental events, traumas and anxieties can be imprinted on a person’s DNA and passed down to future generations. I’m fascinated and frankly horrified by the idea that I may be trapped within the events and emotional fallout of generations before me, that I may be pre-programmed to react and exist based not on the current positive or negative forces in my life, but by the forces that were in place decades before me.

In trying to shed some light on my own family’s history, the act of retracing became a potent symbol and method of research, meditation and intimacy. I used the writing of a family friend, poet Robert Francis, to enter their lives and search for a likeness or some shred of familiarity. Physically tracing the words that described my grandfather, his parents and siblings was an act of reverence and a way to slow down and choose to exist within a storyline that I originally saw as a hereditary trap. Retracing someone else’s words, footprints or habits by choice rather than by force can lead to a power shift.

Writing Adamites
2014
Muslin, cotton batting, cotton thread, graphite
7'x 5'

OPP: Highlighting and obscuring are conceptual and formal strategies that overlap with one another in your work. Are these sometimes the same thing? Are they always the same thing?

FA: These strategies are definitely not static, which is part of what draws me to them. Sometimes I think I’m visually highlighting something when actually what I’m doing is obscuring it. As the maker, I can’t always pinpoint which is happening until after the fact. There’s a fluidity that exists in the searching. I’m intrigued by the way that the actions of underlining and redacting can contradict their own intended purposes. Frustratingly, clarity often eludes you when you search too forcefully. Obscuring, or allowing something to be opaque, can make it more approachable. Mucking around in the grey area ultimately dislodges something that is fundamental to a final exposure. Sometimes a guide is revealed in the process. This occurs in my work through the dislocation of meaning when words are redacted or highlighted within a text or when an image is physically altered during the felt-making process. Similarly, the visual signs of concealment are the best way to draw attention to it. 

Husk
Paper
56"x 32"x 32"

OPP: You literally finished graduate school a month and half ago. It's an experience that many artists have had, and we all know how intense, rewarding and difficult it can be. What was your experience like?

FA: Going back to school for my MFA degree at SAIC after over a decade of being out of school was a jarring experience for me. It forced me to examine a lot of my habits: as a student, an artist and a slightly misanthropic human. The advising sessions, critiques and constant examination of the minutiae of my thinking and my work was a lot like therapy. And it was just the kind of intensity that I needed. I entered knowing that I had to shed some old tendencies and blockages to be able to get deeper into the conceptual intentions of my work and to re-commit myself to my studio practice.

OPP: How does it feel to be entering the next phase of your artistic life? Are you on to new projects yet?

FA: It will take some time for me to fully process my MFA experience and reacclimate to my normal life. While I’m doing that, I have a day job at a special collections archive at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and will begin teaching felt-making and other fiber processes at Snow Farm in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. I’ve been researching for and designing a college level class which combines an intellectual investigation into the history of making and integrating traditional craft processes into fine art studio practice. I’ve also been writing an article on the marginalization of fiber art in the contemporary art world.

To see more of Fafnir's work, please visit fafniradamites.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Matthew Schlagbaum

If I could have feelings at all, I'd have feelings for you
Inkjet print, hammertone acrylic, artist frame
2015

MATTHEW SCHLAGBAUM's sculptures, installations and photography explore the muting effect of romanticism and expectation on our lived experience. Various visual filters like frosted plexiglass, colored mylar, screens obscure clichéd imagery of natural phenomena including sunsets, rainbows, lightning bolts. The viewer is repeatedly viewing one thing through another, which creates a frustrated desire to experience the imagery directly, and this perceptual frustration is echoed in titles that add interpersonal, emotional narratives. Matthew earned his BFA in 2009 from University of South Florida and his MFA in 2011 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His solo exhibitions include Don’t Stop Now, I’m Almost There (2012) at Vitrine in Chicago, It’s What’s On The Outside That Counts (2013) at Contemporary Art Center in Las Vegas and Wearing Myself Out Trying to Get There (2015) at Bert Green Fine Arts in Chicago. He is currently an artist-in-residence at the Arquetopia Foundation in Puebla, Mexico. Past residencies include Vermont Studio Center (2013), Hatch Projects (2013) at Chicago Artists’ Coalition and ACRE (2011). Opening on September 11, 2015, his work will be included in the upcoming exhibition Making Chances at Gallery 400, which is part of the citywide program Platforms: 10 Years of Chances/Dances. Matthew lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does longing play in your practice? 

Matthew Schlagbaum: Longing is a major aspect of my work, but I am no longer very interested the longing related to nostalgia or a yearning for the past. I am interested in representing the desires of the present.

I often feel persuaded into believing that Love and Happiness are obtainable, permanent states of being. In reality, happiness is experienced intermittently, dispersed throughout a gradient of other feelings, most of which are probably pretty neutral. But I often feel the expectation to constantly exist in a high-key. There is a pervasive, erroneous notion that equates not feeling strongly with not feeling at all. Like, if I do not love you so much it makes me sick, then I don’t really love you. 

These unrealistic expectations result in a constant state of longing for something more. Some promised state that is recognizable in others on the streets and in the movies, but that I find difficult to experience. Perhaps Marina and the Diamonds described this more succinctly than I can with their line “TV taught me how to feel, now real life has no appeal.

And all those in love and for those who can remember it
Inkjet print
2014

OPP: I relate to this so much! And, as much as I believe that TV has many positive emotional benefits, unrealistic expectations about the experience of love is a negative side effect. Pop songs certainly play into this, too. Rarely do they capture love, but I do think they are very accurate at capturing infatuation and calling it love. Could the longing to feel more just be a symptom of semantics? Does fine art play into this collective misunderstanding?

MS: I don’t want to give the impression that I am anti-television or popular culture. On the contrary, I’m actually quite fond of them. I do believe that this might be an issue of semantics, in the sense that I often feel disconnect between an emotional reaction and its cultural signifiers. This is a situation that seems pervasive in pop culture, but the Art World is not immune to this either. There is so much work I cannot fully relate to because it’s either assaulting me with its saccharine idealism or smothering me with the horrors of the world. It seems rare to encounter work that addresses the notion of emotional neutrality or explores an ambivalent viewpoint. In response to this, my work is about the person who feels guilty for not crying at a funeral or struggles to muster the level of excitement required to ensure others of their appreciation of a gift—in other words, the person who feels like they are not feeling enough.

The aspirations of the yearning individual in a valueless world
Galvanized steel mounted onto corrugated plastic, refrigerator magnets and imitation gold leaf
2013

OPP: Gold is a recurring color and symbol in your sculptural work. In 2013, you used imitation gold leaf in installations like Treasured, Everything and The Aspirations of the Yearning Individual in a Valueless World. You've also used gold spray paint, gold scrapbook paper and found trophies. What are your thoughts about the color gold and it's conceptual content in your sculpture?


MS: My initial interest in gold came from my inability to convincingly mimic it for a project that I did not have the funds to create out of the real thing. It quickly dawned on me that I had never owned anything made out of gold and didn’t really even know what it was I was trying to replicate. After that I became interested in the value and superiority placed upon the material, its art historical references and the myriad of colors that attempted to imitate it. The imitative materials sort of had this drag quality that I found appealing. They are not convincingly mimicking the original, but that isn’t the point. The act of imitation becomes an exaggeration, and that exaggeration results in something altogether new.  

Now you change. Please. Don’t make me change you. Must I? All right I will. You’re changed now. You are. You did it too. I did it to you but you did it. Yes you did.
Window, wood, paint, Venetian blinds and color changing LED light bulb
2012

OPP: Your titles often contain emotional content that is integral to the work. In some cases—Now You Change. Please. Don’t Make Me Change You. Must I? All Right I Will. You’re Changed Now. You Are. You Did It Too. I Did It To You But You Did It. Yes You Did. (2012), for example—I would consider language a material on par with physical materials. When in your process do you decide on titles? Does thinking about titles shape the evolution of the piece?



MS: Titles are incredibly important to me. They are a way to add an additional reference, layer of content, or entry point into the work. With that being said, titling usually happens after the work has been completed. Like my imagery and materials, I appropriate many of my titles from other sources. I keep a running list of things that I read or hear that resonate with me. When I read, I do a lot of underlining.

Once a work is finished, I comb through all my notes and books and sometimes search for quotes online using keywords or phrases that are related to the conceptual aspect of the work. I like mixing the sources of my titles, and have previously taken titles from movies, television shows, musicians, novels, critical theory, overheard conversations and self-help books.

The title you referenced in your question was taken from the Ernest Hemingway novel The Garden of Eden. The female protagonist convinces her new husband that they should have the same hair, clothes and tanned skin in order to be like androgynous twins. She is constantly altering both of their appearances to suit her desires. In the section this title is taken from, she is trying to convince him that they can switch back and forth between genders, and in that moment she wants him to be the woman and her to be the man. He doesn’t really understand why she wants this or how it would even work, but allows her to assert that this change has taken place anyway. 

Much better
Inkjet print on backlit film and lightbox
2013

OPP: Please talk about the various obstructions/filters that you use to block out or mediate some romantic, natural phenomena like lightening bolts, rainbows or the sunset.



MS: The imagery I choose to work with is meant to represent an extreme emotional state that I often struggle to relate to. Landscapes and natural phenomena work well for this because they tend to be overly romanticized— perhaps a little threatening, but also enticing. I want the images I use to be so familiar that they are simultaneously potent and lacking content. Stock photography has this unique quality of being specific and generic at the same time.  A stock image has to be specific enough to anchor it into a perceived reality, but generic enough that lots of different realities can be projected onto it. 

The plexi, window screen, blinds, etc. that I use to obfuscate imagery are meant to create that sense of longing you mentioned earlier. It allows the viewer to know exactly what it is they are looking at while denying them that full sense of visual satisfaction. I want to manifest a sensation of desiring something that is always just beyond reach.

To see more of Matthew's work, please visit matthewschlagbaum.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary 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 instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.