OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Melissa Manfull

Rising & Falling
2013
Ink, gouache, graphite on panel
40" x 60"

MELISSA MANFULL draws together the domains of nature, culture and the spirit in her densely patterned abstractions in ink, gouache and graphite. Her compellingly ambiguous spaces combine otherworldly architecture, geologic formations, the geometry of sacred spaces like cathedrals and mosques and the manipulative order of game design and graphic design. Melissa received her MFA in 2002 from Concordia University in Montreal. She has mounted three solo exhibitions at Taylor de Cordoba in Culver City, California: Tesseracts (2009), Pattern Constraints (2010) and Schemata (2013). Melissa’s work can currently be seen in two group shows: Thin Space at Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, California) through May 5, 2014 and Temporal Residue at Keystone Gallery (Los Angeles) from April 19-30, 2014. Melissa lives and works in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Sometimes your drawings reference architecture, sometimes landscapes. Other times, they look like the insides of temples and sometimes the insides of pinball machines. How are all these seemingly disparate types of space connected?

Melissa Manfull: I am interested in controlled space, specifically how architecture or human intervention dominates the chaos of natural environments and phenomena. Architecture mitigates our experiences of space and the horizon. It is an intermediary structure that connects sky and land. I use drawing to experiment with space and structure without the constraints of gravity and perceived reality.

Each individual body of work focuses on a specific theme and is informed by an aesthetic, theoretical or topical interest. These have ranged from an interest in the aesthetics of science fiction or mystic architecture from the Southwest to the aesthetics of game design. Over the years, the drawings have shifted from observing architecture from an exterior viewpoint towards an interest in flipping between interior and exterior positions. Schemata’s focus was on the enclosed space of a game, which is a relationship between the interior mind of the player and the interior space of the game. Formally, I play with the depth or ambiguity of the space depicted in the drawing.

Untitled A Frame
2012
Ink on paper
18" x 24"

OPP: Is the meditative act of drawing only the process that drives your work or is it also the content?

MM: Both are very important to me as an artist, and the process is directly related to the content of my work. I develop my drawings in a very controlled, consistent order. From beginning to end, the process is almost mechanical; drawing is the one place where I can control, predict and order the whole experience. First, I research my chosen topic and collect visuals related to the content. Then I plan out the drawing, execute it in pen and ink in the color. The drawing and inking stages are very meditative.

I listen to audio books related to the theme of the drawing. I like to imagine the books are somehow woven into the drawing or affect the choices I make in the process. While working on the drawings from my 2009 show Tessaracts—both the title of a science fiction novel and a geometric form—I listened to books that dealt with time shifts and time travel. I have an underlying interest in dimensional portals, 11 dimensions of string theory and the aesthetics of science fiction. While working on Plato's Cave, Arch, Stylobate and Portico, I listened to Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, among others.

Study for Ludic Space
2013
Ink on paper mounted panel
14" x 11"

OPP: I've witnessed the attitude many times—and I 100% disagree—that pattern, ornament and decoration are insignificant and superficial. Even beauty is sometimes dismissed as not meaningful enough. Have you ever had the experience of your work being dismissed with the descriptor "decorative?"

MM: My work has actually been described as difficult to look at in person. The decorative elements of the work are so dense and obsessively drawn that there’s more a sense of horror than pleasure. This is also changing in my current work. Recently I’ve been using a heightened color palette with fluorescents to create a more challenging visual experience. The drawings are still dense and decorative, but now they have an electric glow which makes it difficult for the viewers’ eyes to focus. The decorative is also a form of order. I am interested in logical, mathematical patterns, such as tessellations, as well as optical and geometric patterns that mesmerize or hypnotize. So, the decorative is a large part of the content.

I do agree that decoration and pattern are sometimes an easy way of not having content and that using it so predominantly puts my work in a position of being viewed as commercial or illustrative. I am okay with this because I feel confident that my work transcends this category and uses pattern in a meaningful way, creating a synergy between the disparate worlds of fine art, the decorative and the graphic.

Colony
2010
Ink on paper
16" x 18"

OPP: The press release for your 2010 solo show Pattern Constraints states: "Due to the obsessive nature of her process, Manfull has often viewed the meditative act of drawing as a way to approach her fear of vast, open ended space (the unknown). By creating her minute sculptural drawings, she gives this abyss a meaning and in essence, gains control." How does this “control” show up in a new way in your most recent exhibition Schemata (2013) at Taylor De Cordoba Gallery (Culver City, California)?

MM: For many years, my drawing style involved imposing a structure on an empty space or on less controlled forms (for example, poured ink forms, which were symbolic of chaos). But now, I am more interested in exploring forms of visual control in society and the relationship between power, manipulation and pleasure. It is still related to the chaos/control relationship, but it is more specifically about corporate, graphic design as a visual language that is used to manipulate.

In Schemata, I was interested in how games hypnotize and entrance the viewer with color and form. The theory behind game design relates to the intentions of architects of spiritual spaces—Gaudi is an example. Both have a visual logic with designated points that manipulate the player into making certain decisions. Squares, circles and triangles move game players’ eyes around the space, leading them on designated paths to preconceived outcomes. There are points of choice, possible actions and payoffs, as well as elements of addiction like relapse. I used these ideas to create compositions or abstracted versions of the original games. Symmetry, patterning and the golden ratio were all a part of designing these works and relate back to geometry found in spiritual spaces.

Point of Choice: No Possible Action
2013
Ink, gouache, graphite on panel
40" x 60"

OPP: Could you say more about the overlap of the aesthetics of game design and of sacred spaces?

MM: Geometry has always been a recurring theme in my work. My initial interest in architecture became abstracted into patterning and design, which are forms of order, logic and control. I began to research the relationships between geometry and sacred spaces like cathedrals and mosques, which were designed to inspire awe and explore the human relationship to the infinite. As an atheist, I want to understand how and why geometry and logical forms inspire such a reaction. The geometry found in the rose windows and spires of cathedrals, in the tile design of mosques and in mandalas is referred to as sacred geometry. Basic geometric forms are imbued with meaning specific to each religion or spiritual belief system. There are certain shapes that lend themselves to this—the circle (infinite perfection), the square (balanced symmetry) and the triangle (male/female duality in Hinduism). I use these forms with an acknowledgment that they have very significant historical references.

To see more of Melissa's work, please visit melissamanfull.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

"Heartbleed" Bug Not an Issue for OPP

Some of you may have heard about the massive Heartbleed security issue affecting over 2/3 of the Internet. We want to assure you that luckily your OPP website was never vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug. However, this is a great time to remind everyone that changing your passwords regularly is a good idea. Please take a minute to go to ACCOUNT ---> Change Password and choose a new Control Panel password and a new email password (if you have an email mailbox through OPP).

If you haven't changed your OPP passwords in a while, you'll notice we now require stronger passwords, so please be sure you follow our detailed instructions on the top of the page, as well as being sure to carefully enter your current password.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Aaron McIntosh

The Bear
2013

Through the lens of his “own complicated narrative as a nerdy Appalachian queer guy,” artist AARON MCINTOSH examines desire and the role mass-media images and text play in influencing our sexual identities. Combining sculpture, drawing, text and textiles, he references the historically gendered connotations of quilting and employs piecework as a metaphor to address identity construction. Aaron received his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. His numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Quirk Gallery Vault (2011) and Russell/Projects Gallery (2010) in Richmond, Virginia. Most recently, Aaron’s work was included in Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community (2014) at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York. His essay "Parallel Closets,” published in the April 2014 edition of The Brooklyn Rail, addresses the twin pursuits of queering craft and crafting queerness. Aaron lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I've read in another interview that your grandmothers were both skilled quilters. Did they teach you when you were a child?

Aaron McIntosh: My grandmothers actually didn’t teach me to quilt or sew. But they were always piecing, making quilts for family members, dragging out their scraps and in-process quilts and showing these things to us grandkids. I begged my mom to teach me to sew when I was nine, and she finally relented and showed me how to hand stitch. When I was 12, I taught myself to use the sewing machine, and off I went. I made lots of little quilts, clothes for dolls and for myself. I would show these things to my grandmothers. They were impressed and offered me sewing tips sometimes. Mostly though, I think they and everyone else expected me to grow out of this “phase.”

from Fragments
2013

OPP: Why is quilting as a medium so well-suited for exploring "how stereotypes of sexual emotions, experiences, and identities are propagated in mass-produced images and print material, and in turn, how these images and text shape our own identities (from artist's statement)? Could you talk about the historical quilt patterns you reference in Big Little Men (2010), Bedroom Buddies (2010) and your 2013 solo exhibition Patterns?

AM: The quilt is an excellent platform for my content precisely because of the family connection and because it is a medium with multivalent trajectories. Whether personal or communal, minimal or maximal, staid or kitschy, high or low, quilts are flexible, open objects that are full of possibility. Piecework itself can be traditional, rigid or structured, but it can also be loose, intuitive, unhinged. Identity is analogous to crafting: it’s something we work on, obsess over, tend to with care. So I’ve chosen this patchwork medium to unload a lot of disparate thoughts about my identities: queer, Appalachian, textile nerd, academic, hopeless romantic, stray son, feminist, artist.

I am simultaneously deconstructing the quilt and my identity. On one hand, I am stripping away the quaint, Americana charm-factory status from the quilt, peeling back its cultural layers and infusing the medium with the realities of what happens beneath quilts: desire, sex, death and birth. On the other hand, I am enshrining that domestic decorative affinity as another burdened facet of gay male identity, a psychological sub-bottom to hyper-masculinity’s top. I use traditional quilt patterns such as Double Wedding Ring, Chain Links and an obscure one named Daddy Hex to further blur and complicate this relationship of parallel concerns.

In a recent series titled Fragments, I address this disjointed, scrappy, unfinished nature of identity. One work, Fragment #3: Roses are Red, is made by piecing a traditional quilt pattern called Roses are Red into an image of a heaving jock stud from a gay erotica magazine. The patchwork fabrics belonged to my grandmother, and the digital textile print is an enlarged, scanned copy of a cover of FirstHand magazine from the 1990s. Initially, I picked this blocky quilt pattern from my grandmother's collection because it could partially mask the cover model’s face—a direct nod to online cruising culture in which some men blur out their faces, focusing instead on their bodies. Deliberately using feminized quilt squares to dominate the figure reveals my hesitancy around body image, appropriate sexiness and gay male objectification. In the same way that this gay, masculine body is out of reach for a fag like me, so too is a fulfilling relationship with my family and their traditions. Both are just tantalizingly out of reach. So in this very literal way, I am forcing my queer desire to intersect my craft heritage and creating a space for what is in between.

Captive Heart Boyfriend
2009

OPP: You've used gay and straight romance novels as a material in numerous ways since you were an undergrad. What first drew you to this material?

AM: Reading has always informed who I am, shaped my desire and sense of self, so it’s no wonder that I turn to printed text as a material. When I first turned my eye to the thrift store heaps of discarded romance novels, I was searching for a more evocative material than the masculinized plaids and men’s pants I had been using in quilts. I initially chose this material for aesthetic reasons—the pattern of text and yellowed pages—and because the novels were feminized objects that represent heterosexuality.

But after receiving several gay erotic novels as gifts, my relationship to the romance novel began to shift. Romance novels intended for straight women and those for gay men are radically different. Romance novels written for women tend to be drawn-out narratives with more focus on all the details leading up to the sexual act; entire pages may describe a mere glance. Gay novels, on the other hand, are typically printed in large type and double-spaced for quick reading. They have horribly loose narratives and a sex scene every couple of pages. I was fascinated by the simultaneous material resemblance and subject opposition. I played with juxtaposing the straight and gay romance novels to highlight their differences and their commonalities.

Notes for Future Romance(s) (detail)
2009
168" x 94"
Straight romance novels fused to cotton and coded with highlighters, markers, pencil, pen & ink; drawings in watercolor, color pencil, stickers, enamel paint pen, acrylic medium, hair

OPP:
How has your use of these cultural artifacts changed over time?

AM: I was entirely critical of them as reading material for the first several years. But then I decided to seriously read a few and give myself over to the possibility of a romance novel fantasy. I read five novels and was surprised to find my own stories in these novels. I became really intrigued by the small markings, repetitive cursive name writings and underlining by previous readers. I was inspired to start notating the novels, recording my own experiences. I changed (i.e. queered) the text by eliminating female pronouns and devised a coding system for repetitive motifs. I pieced these coded pages together with glue and they became the substrates for many works, including the large Notes for Future Romance(s), Boyfriends Series and Island.

I was drawn more and more to the materiality of sexual identity and began to use printed erotica and eventually porn. This widening spectrum of desire-bound material had one unifying quality: the intended reading space is a domestic setting. The home is the most private space to escape from workaday drudgery into romantic dreaminess or sexual fantasy. These fantasies take flight from the couch or bed. I wanted to make a functional object about reading and taking in desire. The Couch is a very grandmotherly couch covered in hundreds of racy pages. The original novel pages were scanned and digitally printed on fabric, so the couch is wholly functional. When a viewer steps closer, the homey look of patchwork shifts into a barrage of homoerotic titles, colorful straight novel couples, illustrated gay men en flagrante and text from both straight and gay sources. While some images and titles might be aggressive or oversexualized on their own, they are dulled by the conflation of so many disparate desire-driven images and text. As a visitor to my studio pointed out: “There’s something for everyone here!” The Couch has no hierarchy or dominant sexuality. It charts the known and unknown territories of my personal desire, which has been informed by a variety of gendered and sexual experiences.

Chronicles of Cruising (detail)
2010

OPP: Could you talk specifically about the notion of erasure and absence as it is used in many of your works, including Romance Series (2006), Boyfriends Series (2009-2010), Chronicles of Cruising and NSA Boyfriends (both 2010)?

AM: Absence in my works speaks to both the voyeurism and loneliness that can accompany desire. Responding to loneliness and the lack of stable romantic relationships in my personal life, I created a series of larger-than-life boyfriends appropriated from romance novels. The flimsy, cut-paper men in Boyfriends Series are attempts to fill the voids of unattainable love; they are the stand-ins for boyfriends I cannot attain in real life. These boyfriends are “stolen” from their female counterparts in the romance novel covers, but the work is not a statement about removing women. I’m simply calling into question the heteronormativity of these couples and pointing out that straight men are just as desirable to queer men as they are to women. The removed men are made vulnerable and their sexual identity suspect. In eliminating one partner from these cover relationships, I am choosing to highlight what is absent rather than present.

Chronicles of Cruising is a collection of 365—I made one everyday in 2011—paper cut-outs of attractive guys from desire-based, print sources. Each guy is carefully removed from his respective partner, isolated on card stock, and then cataloged by month. Each man carries the traces of his fractured story in his clothing, accoutrement and posture, as well as the absent partner’s removed body silhouette. Such removal creates an overriding sense of loneliness in this set of new bachelors. The act of cruising—taking in quick, furtive glances of other bodies with no specific intention—is echoed in this queer reversal of the male gaze. Men become the objects of scrutiny, and the obsessive nature of desire itself is splayed open, rendered cold, mundane and creepy in the archival act of clipping.

Forest Frolic is my most recent work to take on absence. Two cavorting male figures have been removed entirely from an erotic illustration, The remaining scene is enlarged, printed on cotton and then quilted. This is the first work to completely remove all figures. Suggestive of the dangers of being sexually overt as a queer person in rural spaces, this quilt contains as much personal fantasy as anonymous, pervasive fear.

Weeds: Dandelion
2013

OPP: Untended (2013) was a two-person exhibition with Jesse Harrod. Could you talk about the introduction of nature metaphors into this new work?

AM: The nature-based themes are an entirely new move in my practice, but they have been rising to the top for some time. The exhibition was the impetus for new ideas of embedding queerness into representations of nature. The title of the show is a reference to unmanaged gardens and the surprising, perhaps unwanted, growth that occurs when nature is allowed to freely form itself.

The Bear is a very family-personal work. Like The Couch, this work attempts to reach across generational divides through a language of form, but difference and unease are manifest in the materiality. In my remake of this taxidermy heirloom, the bear has been "freed" from his constraint as a legendary, family hunting trophy. Covered in shredded, gay pornographic "fur," he is the subaltern of my own romantic forays, sexual legends and hunted desire.

The Bear is surrounded by Weeds in an installation mocking "natural habitat.” The weeds—Briars, Pigweed, Broadleaf Plantain—are scourges to the home gardener. I draw a covert connection between these pernicious, unwanted plants and my own anxious efflorescence as a queer person in a tradition-steeped culture. My copies of disregarded, local plants are made strange by their patchwork skins of vintage fabrics and printed, gay erotica. In contrast to most of my other work, the text and images are embedded into the form so tightly that only fragments can be read, favoring subtle meaning over easy decoding.

To view more of Aaron's work, please visit aaronmcintosh.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Bianca Kolonusz-Partee

Staten Island Ferry (Detail)
2010
6” x 76”
Product packaging, colored pencils adhesives, map tacks

BIANCA KOLONUSZ-PARTEE’s colorful, constructed drawings of industrial shipping ports are crafted from repurposed product packaging, directing the viewer’s attention to the tons of commercial goods for individual consumption that move through these oft-ignored, interstertial spaces everyday. Bianca received her MFA from Claremont Graduate University (Claremont, California) in 2007. She has exhibited widely throughout California, including solo exhibitions at Offramp Gallery (Pasadena) in 2012, and Byatt Claeyssens Gallery at the Sonoma Academy (Santa Rosa) in 2010. Having investigated major U.S. ports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco,  Bianca now plans to visit various Asian ports to better understand issues surrounding global shipping. Her first stop will be the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka. She is currently raising funds for her trip with her project Sri Lanka or Bust. Bianca lives and works in Guerneville, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What fascinates you about ports and industrial landscapes?

Bianca Kolonusz-Partee: I grew up in northern California, and I learned to understand the landscape by traveling through it on the roads that intersected it. That we learn about something by basically breaking it apart is at the heart of my work. When I lived in San Francisco, I became intrigued by the container shipping port in Oakland and how ports are minimally-regulated global freeways that link us to the rest of the world. Later, as an MFA candidate at Claremont Graduate University, I experienced first hand the mega-port of Los Angeles. I began considering the effects of the pollution on the local population and the impact of this space on the global economy and environment. Our collective obsession with stuff became more serious for me.

Project: Outward Inward 2
2009
40” x 180"
Colored pencils, product packaging, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: When and why did you first start using repurposed product packaging as your dominant medium?

BKP: When I left graduate school in 2007, I was using fine Asian and architectural papers. It just didn't feel right. I began using product packaging because it is the debris of the goods that travel through these ports. I never include logos or names, but I love the connection that people have to the highly designed product packaging of our contemporary world. Bottom line: I feel most comfortable with fewer fine tools. I appreciate both high-end and low-end packaging and enjoy pulling the colors, patterns, textures I need out of the material. Nothing is left as is.

OPP: What's your collection/accumulation process like?

BKP: I initially thought it was very environmentally-friendly of me to reuse discarded packaging, but I don't actually accumulate a lot in my own life. I asked friends and family to collect it and send it my way. I quickly realized that I was unfortunately spending resources that negate the "greenness" of my efforts. Also, I’ve been inspired to try specific products out because my friends liked them. I’ve realized that I am just as tied into our consumer culture as anyone else.

Keelung, Taiwan
2012
21"x 53"
Recycled product packaging, colored pencils, adhesives and map tacks

OPP: Your work exists somewhere in the gray space between drawing and collage. Do you consider it more one or the other?

BKP: I love this question because it is a real struggle for me. I don't think of myself as a collage artist AT ALL. Collage talks about creating an image out of found images in a historically surrealist way. I think of my work as constructed drawings. I work with the materials in the same way that I would draw or paint. I began in these media. I still think of myself as a two-dimensional artist, but possibly I am a hybrid. The fact that my constructed drawings are created directly on gallery walls brings up the notion of installation. My favorite contemporary work is installation art: Ernesto Neto, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Ann Hamilton, Richard Serra. Erwin Redl does these amazing installations with LED lights that make you feel like you are inside of Tron. I went to see his piece at LAMoCA’s Ecstasy: In and About Altered States (2005) several times and walked through the grid that he created in the room. It was truly amazing.

But I have been most influenced by the great masters like Paul Cézanne. When I was an art student, his two-dimensional work absolutely had a physical impact on me. In my drawing class, we learned about figuring out a landscape by the connection points where elements intersected, and we looked at Cézanne. I drew like that for years: first landscapes, then roads cutting through landscapes and then shipping ports. I eventually discovered others like Turner, who documented the industrial seaport of his time. I often think of myself as a new version of an old master using today's technology to observe and document where we are right now.

2010
12” x 40”
Recyclable materials, colored pencils, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: Can you walk us through the process of drawing with these materials?

BKP: I work from a video of the port. I choose materials from three boxes of collected packaging organized into color groups: cool, warm, black/white/neutrals. My process is just like drawing a line or painting a section of color except that I am cutting out these shapes. I sketch a shape/area onto the packaging with colored pencils while looking at the video. Then I put double stick tape on the shape, cut it out with the yellow scissors—so as not to goo up my nice scissors—and place it on the piece. I am one of those people that has trouble drawing a straight line freehand. I allow my process to mimic my drawing ability by cutting out the straight lines and shaving it off piece by piece until I get it right. It is always about figuring out the space. As I revise, one area often becomes very built up with material. Sometimes I cut sections away with an even stronger pair of scissors. I might cover up an area if the color or pattern doesn't feel right or work to recreate the space. The dense sections of my work result more from my process than my subject matter.

OPP: One of the most significant aspects of your work is the use of the map pins. Was your decision to use them conceptual, formal or practical?

BKP: The pins began as a practical way to hold the work together. When I began working this way, each piece would be partially built and pinned together. Then I would finish building it into the space where I was exhibiting. Eventually, I decided that the pieces typically ended up being a set chunk on the wall, so I started to make sure the pieces were entirely connected before I installed. My largest piece Outward Inward 2, which is 15 feet long, is in three sections. I like the added random mark, which is why the tacks are multicolored, but they do hold the work to the wall. I use the tacks to make some structural pieces appear stronger and more stable on the wall. For example, if there is a big, heavy crane next to a tree, I don’t want the crane to be slipping around on the wall at all. But it’s okay if the tree moves a little.

Rambler Channel, Hong Kong B
2011
20" x 30" framed
Recyclable materials, colored pencils, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: Could you talk about the difference between the larger landscapes pinned directly to the gallery wall and the smaller pieces pinned inside frames?

BKP: The framed pieces are the same as those that are pinned directly to the walls. I frame them on white backgrounds in white frames in order to evoke the white cube gallery wall. When I sell them framed, I do provide instructions and a container of map tacks to those who plan to install them on their walls. I prefer hanging the work out of the square and transforming the gallery space into a mock landscape where the walls become water and sky.

To The Ocean (Installation view at Project_210)
2010
12” x 112"
Product packaging, colored pencils adhesives, map tacks

OPP:
You've visited ports in Manhattan, New Jersey, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 2011, you shifted focus to Asian ports in your series Countries of Origins (2011). Could you talk about this shift? Have you visited any Asian ports in person?

BKP: Most of the goods that move through the US ports are made in and come from Asia. To see the full picture of consumerism and its global impact, I needed to shift my gaze to those countries providing inexpensive goods to the rest of the world. Countries of Origin, based on images from online videos, explores ports in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I haven't been able to afford to travel to Asia yet, but I have been able to piece these places together remotely. However, visiting the ports in person is a big part of my work. I have decided to kick off that effort by traveling to Sri Lanka to visit the port in Colombo. I am raising funds for my current project, Sri Lanka or Bust, using my website and a Facebook page. I will sell the work that I make before the trip from a series of images that I found on the internet to pay for the trip. I am currently making drawings with elements of the paper work in them. I have a dear friend from Sri Lanka who lives there and will be able to introduce me to her home, which will make the trip even more rich. Good or bad, we all make assumptions about foreign places. I look forward to replacing those assumptions with a real experience and to taking a look at shipping from a Sri Lankan perspective. I'll use my own video, photographs and experience to make work about the port in Colombo, Sri Lanka upon my return.

To view more of Bianca's work, please visit bkolonuszpartee.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Patrick D. Wilson

Subdivision
2013
Laminated C-prints

The photographed-covered, fractured planes of PATRICK D. WILSON's discrete objects read as multifaceted mirrors, reflecting the details of a larger, surrounding environment. He employs the interplay between surface, volume and depth to reveal the complex amalgam of geometry, texture, meaning and memory that comprise geographic and architectural spaces. Patrick received his MFA in Sculpture from San Francisco Art Institute in 2005. He has exhibited extensively throughout California at institutions including the SFMOMA Artists Gallery (2010), Berkeley Art Center (2011), Headlands Center for the Arts (2012) and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (2013). He was awarded a 2012-2013 Fulbright Fellowship to travel to Chongqing, China to document the city’s pervasive construction sites. He recorded his experience on his blog and exhibited new work in a solo show at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (2013). Having recently returned to the U.S., Patrick is in the process of relocating to Brooklyn.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What was your first piece that combined sculpture and photography?

Patrick D. Wilson: Infinity Crate was the first piece I made combining sculpture and photography. I used downloaded images of stars photographed through a telescope to cover the outside of a small meteor-shaped crate sculpture. I made this piece in response to some of the reactions I was getting to my sculptures including Low Earth Orbit, Crash Site (2007). Viewers would often ask, "What's inside?" I always thought this was a strange question to ask about an artwork, as I would assume that the artist is showing me what they want me to see. Ideally, the viewer will imagine what objects are inside any of my crate or box sculptures. I once jokingly replied that the sculptures were filled with infinite space. I initially made this piece as a humorous response, but I felt that the photographs actually created that paradoxical sense of space on the surface of the vessel. So I started to explore other ways of replicating that.

Westfield Centre Skylight
2009
Laminated photographs
12" x 20" x 12"

OPP: Sculptures like Westfield Centre Skylight (2009), Cloud City I (2010) and The One That Looks Like a Cloud (2010) are reminiscent of crystal formation. Is this a visual reference for you?

PDW: A lot of people see crystalline structures in these works, but there isn't really a conceptual link to that. It's not something I am conscious of when I compose them. I think it's just that crystals also have very apparent geometries and form in these conglomerated structures that are similar to the way my sculptures are built up.

I think more about architecture and rocky landscapes when I am sketching these. I hope that the arbitrary geometric formations will create an intuitively habitable space. The sculptures are like architectural models, which invite viewers to imagine themselves inhabiting the space as if the tiny rooms and hallways were real. Photographs similarly lead a viewer to imagine the environment beyond the edge of the frame. Both of these forms encourage a nearly-automatic, imaginary transformation without any form of verbal suggestion. This involuntary image production occurs all the time when we watch television or listen to the radio, whether or not we are fully conscious of it. It's the part of us that stitches stories out of fragmented scraps of perception. I take advantage of this unique function of the human mind to create spatially-constrained objects that also suggest an environmental or immersive embodiment.

Right now, viewers feel very connected to the hard edges and geometric faces because of the amount of digitally-composed imagery they are consuming. I imagine these sculptures will look quite different in ten years, and that my compositions will adapt with the compositional tools that I have access to.

House Crisis
2010
Wood and laminated photographs
33" x 33" x 28"

OPP: There are many steps to your artistic process: taking photographs, designing using three-dimensional modeling software and fabricating your sculptures. Is there any part of the process that you enjoy most?

PDW: I definitely like taking the pictures the most. I imagine myself to be visually mining the environments for their interesting materials and textures. It's sort of out-of-body approach to looking. Really there are two separate phases to the photography. In the first phase, I photograph entire scenes as a way of contextualizing the work and to figure out where my interest really lies. That process informs the three-dimensional models. Then I have to go back for the second phase to get the surface photographs that will fit the sculptural form. I don't generally use pictures of entire objects to get the textures. I photograph smaller parts. That way I get better resolution, and I can photograph from angles that create interesting geometry on the sculpture.

OPP: Is there any part you wish you didn't have to do?

PDW: Assembling the cut photographs is probably the most painful. I always think I am going to enjoy it. But about half way through the process, I start to melt down because it requires a lot of slow, careful handwork, which usually has to be redone at least once. Anything creative is already done by that point, and there isn't even any problem-solving to do other than keeping the dust and air bubbles out of the adhesive. But it's a good chance to space out and listen to a year's worth of podcasts.

Materials Yard
2013

OPP: You were awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to travel to China in 2012-2013. What led you to Chongqing specifically?

PDW: My general topic was construction sites. Chongqing is a gargantuan and rapidly-expanding area of China, so it seemed like there would be plenty of relevant material for me there. Wikipedia puts the population of Chongqing at over 29 million, though the actual urbanized population is probably a third of that. I was fascinated by the idea of this inland, industrial megalopolis that most people hadn't heard of, especially prior to its recent corruption scandals. It was off the radar for people who weren't specifically interested in China, and I assumed that meant that it was sheltered in some ways from the westernization you see in comparable cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The Sichuan Fine Arts Institute is also there. They have a sculpture department that is very famous for public works, especially government-commissioned, large-scale monuments. This seemed to be a very unique part of the sculptural universe, so that drew me there as well.

OPP: What’s fascinating about construction sites for you?

PDW: Virtually all sculptors have a fascination with industry and its capabilities. Construction sites are one field within the industrial landscape. The sheer accumulation of materials—steel scaffolding, concrete, plywood—is exciting to anyone who is a maker. But I am particularly interested in documenting the construction site as a continuous, nomadic event that exists independently of architecture and development. The construction site is more than a stage in a building’s life; it is a roving matrix of material and labor that is the generative edge of the urban world. It's a necessary agent of change, but it creates so much waste, pollution, noise and human toil. It is the dark and dirty complement to the shiny image that is presented by real estate developers. It is this value-neutral beast with its own momentum and economy that is hidden behind the curtain of progress. That conception of a construction site's existence continues long after the buildings are bulldozed.

Kashgar Column
2013
Wood and laminated C-prints
32" x 18" x 32"

OPP: Could you highlight some of the new work created in China that was in your solo exhibition at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in October of 2013?

PDW: The most successful piece in the show was Kashgar Column. Kashgar is in Xinjiang province near the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. It was an extremely inspiring place. I didn't feel like I was in China anymore. The relevant issues in my research shifted; the geography took over. The images on the outside of that sculpture are of the doors saved by the families in the old city of Kashgar. I read that the doors are thought to contain the family history and must be moved with the families when a home is demolished. When I left Chongqing, I gifted that piece to the sculpture department at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and brought a duplicate copy of the constituent photographs home in a plastic tube.

Learning to make sculpture in Chongqing was definitely more challenging than I expected. You would think that a city that builds as much as Chongqing does would have limitless access to materials, but procuring the materials I wanted was difficult. Fractal Architecture is a piece that I made in a furniture factory where they fabricated Ming Dynasty-styled furniture. I was invited to work there after complaining to one of the sculpture professors about the quality of the wood I was finding. When I got to the furniture factory, I found that they actually used a lot of oak imported from the U.S. I lived there several days a week—it was more than two hours away from my apartment—and worked alongside their crew. Most of the workers spoke local dialect, so I could only communicate directly with the two that also spoke standard Chinese. That was a great experience in making because we largely communicated through our shared language of the craft.

To see more of Patrick's work, please visit patrickdwilson.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Janelle W. Anderson

The Chase
2013
Graphite, colored pencil, and ink on mylar
11" x 15"

JANELLE W. ANDERSON's layered, graphite drawings on mylar evoke a surreal sense of loss, nostalgia and confusion. Dreamlike, undefined spaces are populated with juxtapositions of human limbs, gaping maws with sharp teeth, eyeballs, butterflies, birds in flight, bunnies and the tangled web of power lines city-dwellers must peer through to see the vastness of the sky. Janelle received her BFA in Painting from the Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she won the Nagel Art Thesis Award in 2011. Her work will be on view in The Octopoda Invitational, curated by Scott Bailey, at Love Gallery (Denver) until March 28, 2014. Janelle's solo exhibition All Together Now opens in July 2014 at Pirate: Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado, where she lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Are the juxtapositions of animals, objects, patterns and body parts in your drawings random? Is it more important to evoke a narrative or a mood with these juxtapositions?

Janelle W. Anderson: I use a lot of recurring symbols and animals in my work: rabbits, skulls, all-seeing eyes and, within the last year, the open mouths of carnivorous animals. I repeat these symbols because they have complex meanings for me personally but can also be interpreted in numerous ways by the viewer. I enjoy art that I can stare at for hours and still have questions about. The narratives in my work are loose enough to encourage multiple readings. Ultimately, the entire composition is designed to be examined closely and trigger a range of emotions. I want to get an immediate reaction out of my viewer, and I try to direct that through the wide range of emotions and human qualities associated with animals.

Rabbits, for example, are cute and cuddly. But they’re also rodents and will reproduce to the point of grotesque infestation. They’re also lucky, spontaneous, vulnerable, clever and quick-witted. I personally identify with the sensitive, timid side of rabbits, and I always associate them with "time running out" because of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I try to draw my rabbits with a good balance of cute and creepy to make them mysterious. Right now, I’m obsessed with drawing roaring lions and barking dogs because of the sudden burst of that emotional release. It’s like an explosion. I’m fascinated by the texture and physical form of their open mouths. It’s the contrast of sharp teeth and wet tongues. There’s a sense of danger that makes the imagery really enticing.

Self Portrait with Teeth
2014
Graphite, colored pencil, and ink on mylar
9" x 12"

OPP: Could you talk about the interaction of real and imagined space in your compositions? I'm thinking about the differences between your series of paintings Big Empty Sky (2012) and the surrealistic drawings from Voyage (2013).

JWA: Space and time have both been important components in my work since I was in school. The paintings in Big Empty Sky are depictions of real, physical space, but the true subject of the paintings is the uniform blankness and depth of the sky on a dreary day. I’m still really interested in creating that feeling of blankness. The great thing about working with mylar is that I can get that hazy effect from the material. In a sense, I’ve progressed from depicting a blank sky to placing my subjects inside of this ambiguous blankness. The figures in Voyage, and in my current work, transcend time and space. There is much more freedom in working with this indefinable space; it allows me to be more creative with the ideas I’m trying to express.

OPP: Is there a pervasive mood to the blankness? Is blankness truly ambiguous, or do you see it as more positive or negative?

JWA: This feeling of blankness is definitely existential. I keep coming back to the idea that life is inconsequential, due to its temporary, fleeting state. I have both positive and negative feelings about being temporary. I consider my art practice to be an ongoing exploration in finding meaning and purpose in the ephemeral.

Sanctuary
2011
Graphite and ink on mylar
18" x 18"

OPP: Many of your drawings on mylar have layered imagery, in which one image seems more tangible, more present, while other images seem like wispy ghosts. This is especially true in your series Entangles. How do you achieve this effect? How does it convey your conceptual interests?

JWA: The works from Entangles are each made up of three to four separate layers of mylar. I drew different elements on each layer and stacked them to create the ghost layer effect. I continue to push the effect in my current work by drawing on both sides of the paper and even creating double-sided pieces that become sculptural.

I’m attracted to the ghost image for several reasons. For one thing, people have to look more closely to see the ghost image. It requires a viewer to spend more time with the piece. I want to reward the patient viewer and give people something to seek out in my work. Another reason I like the ghost image is that it seems like a memory or dream and evokes the feeling of nostalgia. This relates to my interest in the passing of time, our perception of it and the desire to hang on to the single, fleeting moment.

Titanium Expose (detail)
2012
Graphite and colored pencil on mylar
12" x 36"

OPP: In 2013, Curious Nature was a two-person exhibition featuring your work and the work of Myah Bailey. The hybrid animals in this show are less dream-like and surreal than in earlier work. They are more horrific or uncanny. I'm thinking of Beast and Baby Creature, which make me think of genetic engineering, or Seeing Shell and Octopus Flower, which make me think of fantasy and science fiction worlds. How do you think about the creatures you created?

JWA: I read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn for the first time about four years ago and was struck by how the narrator Oly Binewski, a blind, albino, hunchback dwarf, felt that her “freak-ness” was special. She thought it would be terrible to be “normal.” One of my favorite quotes of hers is: “I get glimpses of the horror of normalcy. Each of these innocents on the street is engulfed by a terror of their own ordinariness. They would do anything to be unique.”

For this series, I created creatures that are confident their freak-ness. They’re not hiding, but they’re not flaunting themselves either. They’re comfortable in their own skin. I find them quite romantic and charming.

Baby Creature
2013
Graphite and ink on mylar
18" x18"

OPP: What's happening in your studio right now?

JWA: I’m showing a new piece titled Juice in the Octopoda Invitational. It's part of an ongoing portrait project I’m working on. The starting point for each drawing is a photo sent to me by another person. Most of the time people send me photos of themselves. But sometimes the photos are of loved ones or they contain two or more people. This challenges me with a starting point that I don’t get to choose. It forces me to construct a composition that uses a portion of the photograph and fits with what I’m trying to communicate through my work. The working title of this in-progress series is All Together Now, and the unifying theme of the series is the complexity of the human condition.

To see more of Janelle's wok, please visit janellewanderson.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Genevieve Quick

AstroAquaAnaglyph: Scaphandre
2013

Artist GENEVIEVE QUICK is fascinated by the historical lineage of image-making technology from Victorian projectors like the magic lantern and the zoetrope to modern day cameras, space satellites and telescopes. Her low-tech versions of these instruments are constructed from model-making materials like foam core and styrene, and her subtractive drawings on transfer paper replicate the aesthetics and display of photographic negatives and simple 3D effects, reminding us of the profound role these mediating devices have played in the human exploration of previously uncharted spaces and ideas. Genevieve received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (2001). Her recent solo exhibition Vertical Vistas at Royal Nonsuch Gallery in Oakland, California closed in February 2014. She has received a Center for Cultural Innovation Investing in Artists Grant (2011) and a Kala Fellowship (2011) and has also been awarded residencies at the de Young Museum (2011), MacDowell Colony (2010), Djerassi (2004), and Yaddo (2003). Genevieve lives in San Francisco, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What was the first machine you ever built?

Genevieve Quick: The P4 Series (Periscopic Panoramic Pinhole Photography) (2006) was the first machine I built. Before this piece, I was making these oversized landscapes out of modeling materials, like really big miniatures. I began thinking about integrating mirrors and lenses into the landscape itself as a way to explore the relationship between image and object. But the landscape became secondary in P4, and I ended up housing it inside an octagonal, cabinet-like form with a rotating pinhole camera attached on the top. Hiding the landscape inside this new piece forced the idea of landscape as an image, rather than as an embodied interaction.

TerraScope
2007
Foam-core, paper, dowel rods, mirror, Fresnel lens, model trees
89" x 74" x 52"

OPP: Could you talk about your choice to use lo-tech materials like foam core and paper to build optical machines like ScopeScape (2007), TerraVision (2005) and SnubSubScope (2008)?

GQ: I use foam core, styrene and paper because they are materials used in model making or prototyping. I draw upon engineering, architecture and design through my materials and the fabrication process. But I make devices that are completely redundant and fantasy driven; they have no real world functionality. Rather than more durable materials like wood, metal or injection molded plastic, I use materials that convey a sense of an incomplete and ongoing design process. More conventional materials, combined with the level of detail in the work, would make the objects too plausible and real.

OPP: Why is it important that these machines are “redundant and fantasy driven?”

GQ: Coming from sculpture with a limited knowledge of optics, I tend to think of things in mechanical or analog ways, rather than in mathematical or electronic terms. Current, emerging and useful technologies tend to be digital, but I'm not interested in writing code. And for that matter, Sony does a much better job than I could ever do. I am, however, really interested in how high-tech imaging relates to its analog ancestry. For instance, the front ends of digital and film cameras are similar; both need to respond to the physical world and the way light travels. The back end, where imagery is stored and later processed, is different. But even still, both operate similarly: a light sensitive sensor in a digital camera has replaced light sensitive film. While the objects I make have no real practical application, they allow me to break down vision or imaging in ways that are consumable. I think of what I do as a macro approach; my sculptures offer a way to think about generalizable ideas.

Astroscopic Series
2009
Blue transfer paper in light boxes

OPP: You've combined drawing and photography in several projects, including Analog Missions and Other Tests (2010) and your AstroScopic Series (2009) by creating hand-drawn "negatives" that are displayed on light boxes. Could you talk about the photography references in these drawings?

GQ: I’m interested in blurring the boundaries of photography through the materials and processes of sculpture and drawing. These drawings are a low-tech approximation to how photography works. The transfer paper I've been using is visually similar to a film negative. The imagery is inverted, left to right and in terms of value. The blue transfer paper references cyanotypes, an early photographic process that uses Prussian blue, light-sensitive chemistry. Until recently, cyanotypes were used for the blue print processes of architectural and engineering drawing, so this process has always had one foot in photography and one in drawing. I've since expanded the materials to grey transfer paper—following the development of photographic processes from cyan to black and white photography—and gridded vellum, which references drafting. Calotypes, another early photographic process, were actually paper negatives. So, all of these images are also displayed in light boxes to reference the photographic process, and they are capable of producing prints. The imagery all relates to space exploration or testing. The images in the AstroScopic Series are all space telescopes and the Analog Missions and Other Tests are all based on the testing that scientists do on the ground before launching the objects or people into space.

A Trip to the Abyss 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Far Side of the Sun and Moon
2013
Two channel video on stacked broadcast monitors
17:22:02

OPP: Recently, you've drawn a clear connection between space travel and deep-sea diving in your video A Trip to the Abyss 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Far Side of the Sun and Moon (2013), which pairs underwater clips and outer space clips appropriated from over 50 science fiction movies. Your AstroAquaAnaglyphs (2013) are works on paper that appear three-dimensional with 3D glasses. They compare space suits and underwater diving suits. What's fascinating to you about these different domains of exploration?


GQ: Given their lack of a breathable atmosphere, as well as gravity and pressure issues, sea and space are both completely inhospitable places for humans. But there are a wide range of technological mechanisms that allow astronauts and scuba divers to briefly inhabit and see these places. Since most of us are unable to go to either, these devices get transformed or complimented with photography and video technology to create a sort of remote vision. The visual experience can be so disembodied and mediated, both for the astronauts/scuba divers and for everyone else looking at the video or photographs. 

AstroAquaAnaglyph 8
2011

OPP: Growing up in the 80s, I remember a sense of awe about space travel. It seems like when space is in the news, no one is really impressed anymore, like the mystery is gone. People seem more interested in the iPad than Mars. Has our collective cultural interest in space been surpassed by the advent of the internet and technology for personal use? I'm wondering if this is just because I'm older now, or if our collective attitude has changed. Thoughts?

GQ: I think that there is still a lot of public interest in space. But there is a difference in how we are thinking about space travel. Basically we’ve abandoned manned flights and are thinking about robotic or mechanical means of exploration, like the Hubble Telescope and Mars Rovers. While I agree that NASA’s golden era is over, private enterprises (like Space X and James Cameron) and foreign countries are pursuing manned space exploration. I don’t think that private enterprise will create great discoveries or inventions, but will allow wealthy non-professionals to buy an experience that was previously reserved for astronauts, who were the physical and intellectual elite. If trickle down economics technology actually works in this case, it could provide greater accessibility to space travel for common individuals, much like what happened with airplanes.

OPP: Do you think mediated experience of mostly inaccessible spaces adds to or detracts from a collective sense of wonder?

GQ: It definitely adds to a collective sense of wonder. After all, every experience is mediated by our senses. So, mediation itself doesn't really affect our reading of imagery. The bizarreness of deep sea creatures like the Dumbo Octopus, which was only recently discovered, is completely amazing. It just proves how much we still don’t know. Since we first mastered the ability to capture an indexical likeness, we've been using lens-based technology to see things not readily perceptible to the naked eye. Muybridge and his galloping horse, x-ray photography, surgical applications of fiber optics and space telescopes are all attempts to visualize ideas or things that humans had never seen before but had hunches about. They've all, at least momentarily, satisfied and sparked our sense of wonder. 

To see more of Genevieve's work, please visit genevievequick.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Rogan Brown

Clone
2012
Layered lasercut paper sculpture (limited edition)
74 x 74 centimeters

Self-taught artist ROGAN BROWN’s monochrome, hand-cut paper sculptures reveal the interconnectedness of human beings and nature by conflating the microscopic, the cosmic and everything in between. His labor-intensive process and choice of paper as a material emphasizes “the delicacy and durability of the natural world.” In 2013, Rogan won Best Installation in the UK National Open Art Competition. In 2014, he was awarded first place in the Sculpture/Installation category of the Florence-Shanghai Prize, allowing him to exhibit his work at the Present Art Festival in Shanghai (July 2014). He was recently appointed to be an artistic adviser to the Eden Project, a well-known ecological education center in the United Kingdom. He will collaborate with both scientists and artists to create exhibitions and programs exploring the theme of the human body and its hidden microbiological wonders. Rogan lives in Les Cevennes National Park in the Languedoc Rousillon region of France.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a little about your history as an artist. Have you always worked in cut paper?

Rogan Brown: My history as an artist is a little unconventional in that I did not go to art school but studied literature and cultural theory at university. Although I wouldn’t call myself an “outsider artist,” I do see myself and my work as coming from outside the establishment and this perhaps accounts for its hybrid quality: part craft, part design and part sculpture. I started working on the paper sculptures about four years ago after a period of experimenting in the studio. The work is a direct response to the move that I made from London to a remote, rural area in southern France. I was looking for a way to engage with the subject of nature that avoided both painting and photography because I felt that the weight of history and tradition in these media was simply too great. I began drawing detailed fragments of leaf, tree moss and rock textures that I discovered on my walks in the forest. I realized that my approach was more in the tradition of scientific observation and illustration. I developed this further by buying a microscope and delving deeper still into detail.

The monochrome paper cuts emerged because I was looking for a technique that focused purely on process and form. Time is a key element in the work. The process had to be slow, progressive and meditative in order to reflect the natural processes that I observed around me: seasonal change, growth and decay. Few other art forms foreground the time that went into their construction as well as paper cutting does: every cut is a moment, every sheet a month, every sculpture a season.

Cut Pod (detail)
2013
Hand-cut Paper/ boxframe
150 x 84 centimeters

OPP: You mentioned the fact that the pieces are monochrome. I agree that having the work be one color highlights the process and form, but why do you choose the color white? Have you ever considered other colors?

RB: White maximizes light and shadow and evokes marble, dead coral and fossils. I think of my work as creating fossils, time fossils, imaginary fossils. I see myself as an archaeologist of the interface between nature and the imagination—nature IS imagination, according to William Blake. The fossil allusion also contains a warning about what we are in the process of doing to nature. In addition, white carries associations of purity and innocence, which is a counterpoint to the explicit sexuality. But above all, the calming effect of white allows me to be as frenetic and excessive as I like in terms of form without overwhelming the viewer. I have tried using color (or rather tonalities of the same color). It works very well but carries different associations. It is certainly something I will be developing in the future.

Seed
2013
Lasercut paper sculpture (limited edition)
50 x 40 centimeters

OPP: What is the difference between the hand-cut and laser-cut works? What makes you choose the automated process for certain pieces?

RB: There are technical, conceptual and economic differences. It is possible to do things with a laser cutter that are impossible by hand. There are certain shapes that are very difficult to cut at a small scale by hand. Clone exemplifies this. Conceptually, the hand and laser cuts are completely at odds with one another. One could argue that the laser cuts destabilize and question the value of the hand cuts, that they undercut—pun intended—the aura of authenticity in the hand cuts. However, there are also simple, real world economic imperatives at play. The hand-cut work is so labor-intensive and time-consuming that it makes no commercial sense at all. It doesn’t merely subvert the time-money nexus; it completely torpedoes it. In short, the limited edition laser cuts allow me to sell work at an accessible price. Since I wish to make my living from my work, this is very important.

Growth
2013
Hand-cut paper
110 x 75 centimeters



OPP: The beauty of the work is in their delicacy and precision. Do you experience any anxiety about ruining a piece with one sloppy cut?

RB: The cutting itself is very precise and controlled. Everything is minutely hand drawn in advance, each layer giving birth to the next one. There is no real anxiety during this phase. It is in the final gluing process that problems emerge: each layer has to be placed with perfect precision on top of the preceding one. There are usually about eight layers of paper separated by a hidden spacer to create the illusion of floating. The glue does not allow repositioning. I have only one shot, and mistakes are sometimes made.

OPP: What do you like about the process?

RB: The process can be frustrating, but it’s also exciting. I only see the work properly for the first time once all the gluing has been completed. Each piece suddenly comes alive when it is placed vertically in the light. Photos only catch them at a certain moment. In reality, the pieces move with the changes in the ambient lighting, so they are always slightly different. There is a transient play of light and shadow that creates a feeling of incredible delicacy and fragility.

Erode
2010
Hand-cut paper/ boxframe
110 x 75 centimeters

OPP: What strikes me most about your imagery is the connection between the very small and the very large. Some pieces are identified by title as being based on spores and kernels, but these pieces make me think of weather systems and the cosmos, as well as cell structures. Obviously, the vagina is clearly present, but so is the more metaphoric spiritual void at the center at many of the pieces. What inspires you most about the imagery you create?

RB: I dislike giving titles to my work because it limits the free play of interpretation, but it is a practical necessity for identification. It’s marginally better than a numbering system which would carry its own freight of meaning and association. I create pieces that encourage multiple readings because I’m interested in representing interconnectedness. The vagina or yonic element is, of course, present (a nod towards Georgia O’Keeffe), but there are multiple references to the human body including organs such as the heart and lung, intestines, arterial systems, neurons, tissue membranes and cell structures. The point here is that we are not physically separate from nature but contiguous with it: it is us and we are it. Consciousness imposes a completely fictitious division. What fascinates me in nature is the beauty and barbarity, the barbed beauty, the deadly voluptuousness. When you observe nature closely, you come to realize that it’s a vast process of feeding and breeding. Everything is devoted to this end. . . this primal Darwinian purpose. Beauty is there. It exists. It is not merely a cultural construct but a key element and strategy in this process. Perhaps it is there you can find your spiritual void. . . in this sheer godless logic.

To see more of Rogan's work, please visit roganbrown.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

Calling All Chicagoland Artists: The MAKER Grant is Back!

Deadline March 15, 2014

The MAKER Grant is an annual award opportunity for Chicago-based contemporary visual artists who demonstrate a commitment to a sustainable artistic practice and career development. MAKER Grant’s unrestricted $3000 and $1000 annual grants are intended to recognize two exceptional artists and support the advancement of their artistic careers.

This grant is funded in part by a portion of proceeds from the Chicago Artists Coalition’s annual Starving Artist fundraiser and a matching contribution from OtherPeoplesPixels. MAKER Grant recognizes both the CAC’s and OPP’s mutual commitments to supporting local artists’ practices and professional development.

Mirror Selves
Mary Patten, 2013 Winner

AWARD INFORMATION

In addition to financial support, MAKER Grant awardees receive:
  • Published interviews and promotion through CAC and OPP communications, including a feature on CAR-Chicago Artists Resource & the OPP blog
  • A one-year CAC artist membership
  • 'Lifetime' access to OPP's exceptional portfolio services
  • Two tickets to attend CAC’s Starving Artist fundraiser on June 21, 2014 (winners will be recognized at the event)

ELIGIBILITY

Applicants must be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen or legal resident, as well as a resident of the Chicagoland region (within a 30-mile radius of Chicago). Applicants may not be currently enrolled in a degree-granting program or its equivalent, nor may they apply as a collaborator on more than one proposed project.

WHO SHOULD APPLY

  • Artists who can show that they are at a defining moment to achieve growth in their creative and professional careers
  • Artists who demonstrate a strong and active engagement with and professional commitment to their artistic practice
  • Artists whose work as cultural makers impacts the development of art and culture in a meaningful way
White Guilt
David Leggett, 2013 Runner-up

    SELECTION PROCESS

    Submissions are evaluated by a jury of professional peers from leading cultural institutions in Chicago, as well as representatives from Chicago Artists Coalition and OtherPeoplePixels. The 2014 jury is:

    • Greg Lunceford, curator of exhibitions, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events
    • Cesáreo Moreno, chief curator, National Museum of Mexican Art
    • Lori Waxman, Chicago-based critic and art historian

    HOW TO APPLY

    • Complete the online application form
    • Upload your Resume
    • Provide 10 Work Samples
    • Pay non-refundable, $15 application fee

    Click here to apply for the Maker Grant.

    For questions, please contact Cortney Lederer (Director of Exhibitions and Residencies, Chicago Artists' Coalition) at 312.491.8888.


    OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Sandrine Schaefer

    Stairs to Nowhere
    2009
    Duration: untimed
    Location: Boston, MA USA
    photo by Philip Fryer

    Performance artist, writer and independent curator SANDRINE SCHAEFER literally and figuratively explores the concept and experience of fitting in. Her site-sensitive live actions in public space offer the opportunity to contemplate the relationship of our bodies to time and space. In 2004, Sandrine co-founded The Present Tense, dedicated to the presentation and preservation of live action art in transient spaces. In 2012, she was a recipient of The Tanne Foundation Award for artistic excellence. Her curatorial project ACCUMULATION is on view through March 26, 2014 at Boston University’s 808 Gallery in conjunction with the group exhibition The Lightning Speed of The Present. Sandrine lives and works in Boston.

    OtherPeoplesPixels: You use the term "site-sensitive" instead of the more prevalent "site-specific" when referring to your performances. Could you clarify the difference?

    Sandrine Schaefer: Working site-sensitively requires an artist to surrender to the present moment and accept all of the chance encounters that come along with making work for a specific environment in real time. Site-specific work can do this too, but this it isn’t a requirement.

    Organico
    2012
    An infiltration into a trash can in Mexico City
    Duration: 57 minutes

    OPP: In 2012, you spent time in Mexico and did a series of durational live actions in public space—including Ascensions, Fusions and Illusions—that grew out of your 2009 project Adventures in Being (small), which was a literal and figurative exploration of the theme of fitting in. How were the performances in Mexico an extension of that earlier project? What was different? How did time factor into these projects?

    SS: When I began working on Being (small), I was measuring my body by infiltrating a wide array spaces and was not too discriminating about what those spaces were. If I thought I could fit some part of my body into a space, I would try. In the early work, I was interested in the accumulation of the project. There are two rules for Being (small): I enter the space the way that I find it, and I stay (often in sustained stillness) for as long as my body or the space allows. My intention was to work similarly in Mexico, but there were many historical and environmental elements that insisted on becoming part of the work. 

    My first destination was Puebla, a place that is known for its cathedrals. Locals kept telling me that these cathedrals were “built on the backs” of the indigenous communities. It is said that the indigenous people built idols of their own deities into the churches in Puebla. When forced to pray to the saints, they were actually praying to something they believed in. I appreciated the rebellion of this story, and I found the notion of a hidden history kept alive through memory inspiring. It made me reconsider the notion of “smallness” and “being.”

    A Nicho for Coatlicue
    2012
    Site-sensitive action with sun-burned image of Coatlicue on back, infiltration into domestic space in Puebla, Mexico
    Duration: 50 minutes
    Photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

    OPP: What other unexpected factors changed the work?

    SS: The sun has a presence throughout Mexico that I had never experienced before. It’s no wonder why early civilizations were influenced by the cycles of the sun! It had a profound effect on my body and impacted my internal clock. The work became shorter because I had to be very specific about what times of the day I was outside. I had to move at a different pace while in the sun. I wanted to actively incorporate these limitations into the work, rather than allowing them to be passive byproducts, so I started researching. 

    I found that before Puebla was called Puebla, the Aztecs named it Cuetlaxcoapan, which means "where the serpents shed their skin.” I began engaging in sun rituals where I sunburned the image of Coatlicue, an Aztec serpent goddess, onto my back. I then sought out places of tension throughout Puebla: places where ruins had been built over or where buildings with different architectural styles touched. As I fit my body into these spaces, I simultaneously placed this (literally) fading historic icon into contemporary situations.

    As I continued my travels, I chose images relevant to the history of other locations throughout Mexico. In Oaxaca, I burned a Zapotec huipil onto my chest. In Mexico City, I burned an image designed from ruins I studied at Monte Alban onto my stomach. There was something powerful about wearing the traces of one place and bringing them into another. Histories travel through us.

    Half Sadhu
    2013

    OPP: How does the presence of a camera, used to document your performances, affect the performances themselves?

    SS: While working on Being (small), I started to view the camera as a collaborator. Although the actions I performed were rather benign, being still in public spaces can cause concern. This is intensified because of my perceived gender. The goal in all of my work is to create a pause for my audience. . . a chance encounter that inspires a shift in their perceptions about how we interact with our environment. The presence of a camera gives people permission to look. I’ve found that the more professional the camera looks, the less anxiety the encounter induces. The audience is usually more willing to engage. Being (small) intentionally has two different audiences: those who encounter the work in the present moment and those who encounter it through its documentation. But is the “art” in the live act, the photograph or video or both? This is slippery territory that performance artists of our time are navigating in different ways. For me, the art is the live act, but I also see the artistic value of the documents themselves.

    For You. . . and anyone else who might be watching (1)
    2013
    Photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

    OPP: That brings to mind recent pieces like Mirror Stage (2013) and For You. . . and anyone else who might be watching (2013), that include video-sharing technologies like the iPhone and live-cam on the Internet as integral ways for viewers to experience live actions. How have these technologies changed your work? Do you think they are changing the nature of performance art in general?

    SS: Living in an increasingly documented society, it is impossible not to consider the potential and the limitations of these technologies. I certainly think that technology is changing spectatorship of performance art. These technologies are amazing in the sense that we can connect easily—almost instantly—and see documentation from pieces that might be impossible to witness live. However, no matter how thorough, documentation is not a substitute for the live piece. In Mirror Stage and For You. . . and anyone else who might be watching, I use contemporary technologies to intentionally fragment the experience of the performance in order to inspire an active dialogue about the tensions around the act of witnessing in the 21st century. 

    I often work with the idea of breaking the traditional performance space by rewarding the curious viewer. This is expressed through small details that can only be experienced at a close proximately. In both Mirror Stage and For You. . . and anyone else who might be watching, I found that viewers are willing to engage a bit more intimately than in some of my other work. Perhaps the mediation of an interface reads as an invitation to interact.

    Mirror Stage
    2013

    OPP: For you, is documentation of live performance a problem to be solved or a creative opportunity?

    SS: Both. As an independent curator and archivist of performance art, I am always thinking about this. False Summit (phase 2), my collaborative project with Phil Fryer, revolved around the idea of archiving through the body and memory. There are many artists that are doing interesting work with archiving and alternative strategies for documentation. Jamie McMurry, Boris Nieslony, Márcio Carvalho and Shannon Cochrane are just a few.

    My curatorial project ACCUMULATION explores documentation of art action through objects. Over the duration of this exhibition, participating artists are given one day to create a live-art piece. All evidence from their actions is left behind, challenging the following artists to incorporate these remnants into their own work. Any materials that come into the space must remain until the exhibition closes. ACCUMULATION challenges ideas about artist collaboration and simultaneously creates an innovative exhibition of experiential art documentation. This has been generative for me. 

    OPP: What is The Present Tense?

    SS: In 2003, action art experienced a resurgence in Boston. Inspired by the explosive movement happening around us, Phil Fryer and I created The Present Tense in 2004. It started out as an initiative that organized and produced live art events and exchanges, but quickly grew into much more. We believe that art is an access point for growth. To date, we have organized and curated dozens of art events, festivals (including the Contaminate Festival), artist exchanges and exhibitions. In 2009, we co-founded the late MEME Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We have shown over 300 artists from across the globe, accumulating footage and relics from performances. We wanted to share this further, so The Present Tense launched an online archive in 2009. The goal of this living archive is to provide a permanent presence for ephemeral art that has difficulty finding space to be seen. The Present Tense challenges cultural perceptions of what art can be through its commitment to curating this often misunderstood art form.

    We are celebrating our tenth birthday later this year, so Phil and I are also using this time to reflect and explore what the future of The Present Tense might look like. In 2014, the archive will include never-before-seen footage, posts by guest writers, a series of posts with the theme "Family" and artist accounts of performances that have had no witnesses.

    To see more of Sandrine's work, please visit sandrineschaefer.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.