OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ryan Pierce

Revisionist History, 2016. Flashe and spray paint on canvas over panel. 72 x 96 inches.

RYAN PIERCE's large-scale paintings operate more like pictoral diagrams of the interconnectedness of nature and culture than representations of the physical appearance of our world. In his most recent solo exhibition, Dusk is the Mouth of Night at Elizabeth Leach Gallery (Portland, Oregon), he continues his ongoing investigation of the "the historical links between natural history exploration and conquest." Ryan earned his BFA in Drawing at Oregon College of Art & Craft in 2003 and his MFA in Painting at California College of the Arts in 2007. In 2016 he was the Keynote Speaker at the Thin Green Line Conference (Oregon State University) and an Artist-in-Residence at the invitational Crow’s Shadow Institute for the Arts (Pendleton, Oregon). He also had two shows with artist Wendy Given: Nocturne at Whitespace Gallery (Atlanta) and Eyeshine at Portland State University. Ryan is a cofounder of Signal Fire, a non-profit that "builds the cultural value of the natural world by connecting artists to our remaining wild places." Ryan's home-base is Portland, Oregon.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The relationship of nature and culture is a primary theme in your work. How do you see this relationship?

Ryan Pierce: Dominant society tells us that nature and culture are separate and perhaps even mutually exclusive. It may sound simplistic, but I think this is at the root of so much injustice in our world. Judeo-Christian creation myths teach us about being cast out from The Garden, and capitalism builds on that binary to encourage the plundering of the Earth. Everything the European settlers of this continent associated with wildness (Native Americans, women’s bodies, predators, intact ecosystems) was simultaneously romanticized and denigrated to allow for its exploitation. Now climate change, in the form of more extreme and unpredictable weather events, is forcing the messiness of nature right into our lives and living spaces, breaking down our walls against the outside in very literal ways.

Retrospective, 2016. Flashe on canvas over panel. 72 x 96 inches.

OPP: In paintings like Retrospective and The Free Museum, tree branches seem to have grown through the walls and floors. Is nature reclaiming cultural spaces, returning them to the wild? (Or do the trees just want to see the art?)

RP: In these paintings, the floods and fallen tree branches have ruined the gallery’s climate control, but they’ve also possibly liberated these stuffy spaces. I often think about Marilynne Robinson’s 1980 novel Housekeeping, in which the eclectic aunt Sylvie allows weather and animals to move through the open doors and windows of the home, the sort of radical embrace of natural systems that eventually compels CPS to intervene. The Free Museum addresses an additional idea: What if all the sacred objects that were never intended to be “art” in a Western sense— objects stolen from their cultures of origin and housed in museums— what if they are all just sleeping, and the storm that destroys the museum walls and floods the galleries allows these things to become re-enchanted and primed for magic in the present day?

The Free Museum, 2016. Flashe on canvas over panel. 72 x 72 inches.

OPP: It often seems that your compositions move back and forth between depth and flatness within a single work. Can you talk about that perspective shift?

RP: That shifting perspective is probably related more to my stylistic impulses. I’m no minimalist, and ideally a viewer would look at my work for awhile and experience multiple levels of visual interest. Like many artists of my generation, I’m influenced by a panoply of picture-makers, including self-taught Balkan painters, comic books and probably the video games of my youth. In a sense, approaching a painting more as a diagram than an illusionistic space allows one to try to impart the essence of an aspect of nature, as opposed to its appearance. I jump back and forth between those approaches, or both in the same composition.

Mask for the Venomist, 2016. Flashe and collage on canvas over panel. 24 x 24 inches.

OPP: Masks show up in works like The Free Museum and Stanley Falls, where I take them to be literal masks, as exhibited in museums. But what about the series of paintings from 2016 with “mask” in the title? Mask for the Venomist, Mask for the Bandit Queen and Mask for Night Farming are just a few.

RP: I had a transformative art viewing experience some years ago, at the mask collection of the Museo Rafael Coronel in Zacatecas, in Mexico. The collection exceeds 13,000 masks from different Indigenous groups of Mexico, with maybe a third of that on display at any time. They often include imagery from animistic spiritual traditions, cloaked in biblical guises to survive the Spanish laws, and they're innovative and debaucherous and meticulous and funny.

I fixated on the mask as a formal starting point for the paintings where they're singular in the composition, piecing together objects that, along with the title, suggest a loose narrative. In the larger works like The Free Museum, the masks are stand-ins for looted archeological relics but I invented them all without source material because I didn't feel that it was my right to recreate any culture's holy objects.

Mask for the Welfare Rancher is a direct jab at the bozos who orchestrated the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge a couple years ago. The degree of entitlement necessary to seize Federal land for any reason other than to return it to its original Paiute caretakers, let alone to claim it for a bunch of ultra-rightwing Mormon militiamen. . . ugh! I hope they're just a plastic bag hanging on the cruel barbed wire fence of this decade, soon to degrade and blow away.

Casta, 2016. Flashe on canvas over panel. 46 x 42 inches.

OPP: Tell us about Signal Fire, which you co-founded in 2008.

RP: Signal Fire’s mission is to “build the cultural value of the natural world by connecting artists to our remaining wild places.” Public lands activist Amy Harwood and I started Signal Fire as an attempt to merge our respective communities, to get artists outdoors for inspiration and to fall in love with public land, as well as to provide activists with new, open-ended strategies for their campaigns.

Eight years and 350 artists later, we have a real community of people who are sharing critical dialogue about wildlands and ecology, and our role as culture-makers is catalyzing social change. We offer a residency in wall tents, backpacking and canoe retreats, and an immersive arts and ecology field program called Wide Open Studios. Our Tinderbox Residency sponsors artists to work as temporary staff among environmental groups and our Reading In Place series offers a day hike book club in the Portland area. We highlight the work of our alumni in exhibitions and events, such as a film festival this coming fall.

Amy and I share the administrative work with our Co-Director Ka'ila Farrell-Smith, a splendid painter and activist, who brings her work in support of Indigenous survivance into everything she does. Amy and Ka'ila's leadership has helped our organization to evolve from a mix of arts, ecology and recreation, to highlighting the social justice issues that should be integral to any conversation about public lands in the American West.

The Mountain That Devours Us, 2016. Flashe and spray paint on canvas over panel. 42 x 46 inches.

OPP: It took a while to get in touch with you to do this interview because you were actually out in the wilderness, with no reception for long stretches of time. I think many contemporary artists believe they need to stay connected to social media all the time, posting on Instagram and checking Facebook. Why is disconnecting a good idea for all humans? What about for artists specifically?

RP: I’m actually writing these answers in a tent in Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness, on week one of a four-week trip. The stars are brilliant tonight and I can hear a rushing, glacier-fed creek, about fifty feet away. Some of the students on our Wide Open Studios trips are young enough that they've never gone a week without a cell phone before.

I'm not a technophobe, but I believe solitude is healthy and increasingly hard to find. Disconnecting is good for building one's attention span and patience to work through a challenge without clicking away. It's reassuring to feel a lasting sense of surprise and the profound smallness that comes with living outside, away from the built environment. It cultivates wonder.

The friendships forged while backpacking through bugs and storms are precious and enduring. The internet is the gold rush of our day: sure, a few artists’ work goes viral, but most of those people are either a flash in the pan or they were damn good to begin with. For the rest of us, myself included, it's a mildly unfulfilling time suck. Every time I hear the little voice encouraging me to scan around for obscure things to apply to, or to sign up for new ways to network online, I try to redirect that energy back into the work itself, or else go do something IRL.

To see more of Ryan's work, please visit ryanpierce.net.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kristen Sanders

One Million and Six Hundred Thousand Years Ago, 2016. Acrylic and Oil on Canvas. 47 x 60."

KRISTEN SANDERS describes her paintings as "prehistoric science fiction." In a satured pallette of pinks and greens, she explores the origins of human existence, mark-making and self-awareness. Her work is populated by both female hominids and female AI robots, both of which call into question our contemporary understanding of what it means to be human.  Kristen earned her BFA in 2012 at the University of California Davis and her MFA in 2016 at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Present Company (Brooklyn), Pro Arts (Oakland) and Basement Gallery (Davis, California). In 2017, she collaborated with artist Devin Harclerode for Maternity Leave: Para-Natural Pregnancies at Sediment Arts in Richmond, Virginia and mounted her solo show Soft Origin at Sadie Halie Projects, an artist-run space in Minneapolis. Kristen lives and works in Minneapolis.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about the recurring pink hominids that show up in paintings, ceramics and costumes. Who are they and why do you keep telling their story?

Kristen Sanders: The pink hominids are all ambiguous human ancestors (or perhaps future human descendants). They are fluid characters who fluctuate between the prehistoric and the futuristic, and sometimes they appear as green or red in addition to pink. They are nonhuman discoverers and inventors, and they allow me to explore ideas of origin, consciousness, gender and ultimately, humanness.

It all started when I became curious about the origins of image making—what kinds of images were made before cave paintings and petroglyphs? What was the first image? I imagined that the first image, unpreserved in the fossil record and therefore unknowable, must have been a line in the dirt drawn with a finger. I designated the hominid as the maker of this first mark, and I have explored and expanded upon this narrative in my work ever since.

Painters in the Grotto, 2015. Acrylic on Canvas. 48 x 64."

OPP: Your palette is distinctly pink/red and green. Why do you choose these colors for this subject matter?

KS: I want to keep the images I paint within the realm of fiction (a "prehistoric science fiction" as I like to call it) so I knew I didn't want to use any naturalistic colors. I chose pink/red and green as color compliments. The green initially came about as a mysterious, sci-fi glow, which confounds the timeframe in which my painted imaged might exist. Pink is an interesting color because it feels strangely plastic and uncanny when used to depict something in nature or something prehistoric. I am also interested in examining pink's initial connotations of the feminine and what happens as it shifts into red.

Prehistoric Posthuman, 2017. Acrylic on Canvas. 22 x 30."

OPP: How do you balance research and myth in your practice?

KS: Research is typically a starting point in my work. I read books and essays, watch movies, conduct google image searches and check in on current anthropological findings. I will pick out an idea as a jumping off point, whether for a single piece or a series of works, and I will then imagine scenarios or invent narratives surrounding the idea. The latter is the myth. However, sometimes myth comes first and then I use research to clarify or expand the narrative. If I consider my larger body of work over the past several years, then I can see that research and myth are continuously bouncing off one another—this is the process by which I conceptualize the images and objects I make.

The First Self Portrait, 2017. Acrylic on Canvas. 30 x 40."

OPP: Why is it important to challenge the patriarchal bias of Anthropology?

KS: It’s important to address the history of patriarchal bias in Anthropology because it has shaped our understanding of our evolutionary history. If biases influence how anthropologists have pieced together the lives of our ancestors, these biases can then reinforce the gender stereotypes that initially generated them, and it becomes a cycle. For example, say an anthropologist theorizes that male hominids were aggressive hunters while female hominids focused on mothering offspring. The theory then gets published, and perhaps a museum installs a diorama that illustrates this scene. The public can then conclude that the stereotype that women are nurturing and men are aggressive must be true because it has an evolutionary basis. However, the ways in which a particular hominid species might have conceptualized gender (if at all) are simply unknowable. It's important to remember that any reconstruction of the day to day lives of our ancestors is based on our own human projections.

OPP: What books should we read if we want to know more?

KS: A great book that addresses this history is called Women in Human Evolution, edited by Lori D. Hager. It's a collection of essays by women anthropologists, and one essay in particular, The Paleolithic Glass Ceiling: Women in Human Evolution by Adrienne Zihlman has been very influential for my work.

What Happens When I Turn Around and Tell You I'm Real 2, 2016. Oil on Wood Panel. 16 x 20."

OPP: What Happens When I Turn Around and Tell You I'm Real 1 and 2 (2016) hint at AI instead of our prehistoric ancestors. What’s the connection between robots and early hominids?

KS: For me the AI robot is a futuristic mirror of the hominid. One is pre-human and the other is post-human, and I merge these two figures into one within my paintings. That is why the hominids sometimes have mask-like faces or peeling skin. One anthropologist once asserted that female hominids were incapable of inventing anything useful, and therefore incapable of crossing that threshold into ‘human.' I am interested in drawing parallels between this de-emphasis of women in prehistory and the tropes of sexualized female robots in film.

Maternity Leave: Para-Natural Pregnancies, 2017. Installation view.

OPP: You’ve recently collaborated with artist Devin Harclerode to create Maternity Leave: Para-Natural Pregnancies (2017) at Sediment in Richmond, Virginia. Tell us about the show. How did the collaboration come about?

KS: Devin and I are friends and colleagues from Virginia Commonwealth University's MFA program. We became interested in future collaborations after seeing our work exhibited together for our first year candidacy review. Devin, who is currently based in Richmond, approached me last summer when Sediment had an open call out for proposals. We both had been thinking about different ideas surrounding pregnancy and birth. We decided to make outfits and suits because that is where our practices overlap formally, and each suit addresses a myth or narrative surrounding birth or anti-birth. Some examples are the dated idea that maternity was incompatible with invention for female hominids and the historic ritual of placing an onion in the vagina to test for fertility. We made objects and accessories corresponding to each suit that were sold to raise money for Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, where Devin has also been working.

OPP: Can you explain what you mean by the term anti-birth?

KS: Anti-birth can refer to the opposite of a birth or an obstruction of birth, such as Devin's use of the abortifacient tansy in Heretic Suit. It can also refer to an alternative birth, such as my Future Suit, which considered robot birth as an assembly of parts rather than a gestation and a delivery.

Soft Origin, 2017. Installation view.

OPP: Soft Origin just closed at Sadie Halie. What new explorations do you tackle in this show that you haven't addressed before? And new directions for the next body of work?

KS: Sadie Halie is a small space so I got to play around with smaller scale paintings. I also wanted to make some paintings that don't feature a figure, and instead focus more on the objects and tools that the hominid characters might have made. Moving forward, I am beginning to research some of the robots that exist today, such as Sophia the robot, and I want to further explore the connections between the hominid and the AI robot.

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

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Samantha Sethi

Object Impermanence, 2016. 12 drawings on plexiglass, gouache, ice, camcorder, MDF, led lights, HD Monitor with live feed. Dimensions variable.

SAMANTHA SETHI is a multi-media artist working primarily in drawing, installation, sculpture, and video. Freezing and melting both play a significant role in her practice, which explores deterioration, entropy and emphemerality. Her process-based sculptures investigate both the human impact on the environment and nature's impact on cultural sites. Samantha earned her BFA at The School of Visual Arts (New York) in 2006 and just completed her MFA at American University (Washington D.C.) in 2016. In 2017, she attended a residency at the Torpedo Factory (Alexandria, Virginia) was a Fellow at Baltimore’s Coldstream Homestead Montebello Sculpture Park and just began a residency at Creative Alliance, also in Baltimore. Samantha moved there a few weeks ago and is happy to call the city her home.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What interests you about the processes of freezing and melting, generally speaking?

Samantha Sethi: My work comes from an interest in the interplay and reciprocal effects between the natural and built environments. Freezing and melting is a way for me to think about the myriad ways in which the world as we know it was formed and how it continues to change, at rates both perceivable and unimaginable to us. Depending on scale, ice melts very slowly and is barely visible, though we are able to perceive the action of melting in a way that we are unable to observe many larger changes occurring in our environment.

Meltscape, 2015. Frozen and melted pigment and mixed media on handmade paper. 22" x 30"

OPP: When did you first engage them as tools for art-making?

SS: Prior to graduate school, my work was mostly painting. I worked often with media like gouache and watercolor, which both involve actively manipulating how liquids and solids interact. What I love most about watercolor is how the pigment and water move over the surface of the page. Sometimes the end result is not as interesting to me after the work has dried.

Early in grad school, I had the opportunity to do a collaborative performance for a project investigating the idea of “water treatment” in various ways. I resisted the performance aspect initially because I have terrible stage fright but ended up making a piece that changed my practice completely.

OPP: Can you describe the action of the performance?

SS: I stood in a very dark room, holding a ball of ice in one hand while using my other to strike and light a match that illuminates the ice and warms it. As the ice melts, water drips onto the match and extinguishes the fire. I continuously repeated this action for the duration of the opening. This live performance has now been reproduced as a video called Fire and Ice, which is meant to be played on repeat indefinitely.

Landscape Formation, 2015. Water, sand, pigment, garbage. Dimensions variable.

OPP: You mentioned that this changed your practice completely. How so?

SS: I began working in way that attended more to process than final product. Monitoring the melting ice was a slow and meditative experience for me. I couldn’t rush the process, and it gave me time to think and focus on what was happening. I also couldn’t control what happened with the melting ice in the way I previously controlled paint with my own hand. I began melting ice on various surfaces: paper, mylar, the floor. The works on paper, Sedimentation Drawings I, II, and III,  are really documentation of an event or a residue. Landscape Formation in a Room was my first installation. I staged an event in which I allowed pigmented ice to melt on the studio floor to find and mark the topography of the space; the water would pool at lower elevations and avoid otherwise invisible raised points. I then built around the these forms with sand. The work exists now as documentation that plays with landscape photography and models and shifts our understanding of what is real.

Entropic Irrigation System II, 2015. Latex, wood, plastic tubing, ice, plant.

OPP: Melting ice plays a key role in Object Impermanence (2016) and Entropic Irrigation System (2015). But the ice plays a destructive role—erasing the paintings—in one and a constructive role—watering the plant—in the other. Can you talk about this distinction?

SS: Something was missing for the viewer in Landscape Formation—the visible action of the ice melting. I experienced it in making my work, but it was only visible to the audience as a remnant. So I began developing systems to manage the melting ice and to create a stage for the process to be observed. In the first of these systems, Entropic Irrigation System, I cast ice in the forms of the Parthenon, a pyramid, an Aztec temple, the Taj Mahal, and the Colosseum. As the forms melt off the table, a gutter system catches the runoff and channels it into a potted plant. The melting ice is an active process that functions as a stand-in for irrigation, deterioration and other slower forms of change. This piece was exhibited for three weeks, during which I replaced the ice at the start of each day, which became a kind of performance in itself.

Entropic Irrigation System II (detail), 2015

OPP: And Object Impermanence?

SS: That work explores the more destructive nature of melting ice, as well as the ways in which we experience both direct and mediated events. In the first iteration, I placed a new painting on a stand every other day for the duration of the exhibition (twelve paintings total) with a piece of ice melting on top of the image that eroded or washed away part of each painting. A larger tray below collects the runoff from the deteriorating paintings. In this version, the paintings directly reference the floor tiles of the San Marco Basilica in Venice, which is where I first began to form ideas for the piece as I considered the constant struggle against nature and time embodied by that location. A video camera installed above the stand simultaneously records and displays a live feed of the melting ice and its effect on the painting on a large monitor in a separate room. After each painting goes through this process, it is displayed with it predecessors as remnants on a large pedestal.

Object Impermanence, 2016. 12 drawings on plexiglass, gouache, ice, camcorder, MDF, led lights, HD Monitor with live feed. Dimensions variable.

OPP: We've discussed works in which melting is an active process. But in Paver I and Paver II (2016),  the charcoal and resin works and Everywhere is Nowhere (2016), the process of melting is “frozen” as a form. Tell us about these works.

SS: The active-melting pieces are real-time events—performances even—and function as models and metaphors for larger, slower, less visible forms of change. The static pieces are also ways of rendering the natural and built environment that are both empirical and analytical.

Pavers I and II miniaturize a glacial world within a block of faux landscaping material, attempting to be reasonable objects both in their own scale and in the one they model. Both Pavers are primarily made of blue polystyrene insulation foam, which is revealed in the glacial lake carved into the center of each artificial stone. The polystyrene mimics frozen forms of ice, but it’s original function is an insulating material that takes hundreds of years to break down. The charcoal and resin works bring to mind erosion and dissolution at their literal scale, while also referencing diminutive topographies, even galaxies.

Everywhere is Nowhere also captures a sense of place and manipulates scale, though with an approach that is more cartographic than visually representational. The individual topographical forms in the piece each have their source in objects whose change is evident at radically different scales, from clouds to glaciers to continents. The forms appear interchangeable and are produced by layering delicate sheets of hand cut silicone. Each one rests on its own glowing blue shelf installed at various heights. 

Untitled, 2016. Charcoal and resin. Approximately 4" x 6"

OPP: In 2012, your series of gouache paintings called Syncretism looks very different from your current work. Does your recent work grow out of these paintings?

SS: This series—as well as most work I produced prior to graduate school—was drawing and painting. The Syncretism paintings were an early exploration of shifting space and scale, scientific and cultural research, the perception of artificial versus natural, as well as examination of my own identity. I grew up in the U.S. like my mother, but my father and his family are from India. After I completed my BFA, I began studying miniature painting and eastern mythology as both personal and artistic research. 

The behavior of water also is an important theme in this series that continues to influence my present work. Our relationship to water is complicated. We need water to survive, but water can destroy us and everything we have.

Dancers, 2012. Gouache on paper. 16" x 20."

OPP: White tigers show up repeatedly. What's significant about this animal?

SS: White tigers are culturally significant throughout the world and are referenced in several myths. We perceive them as natural and commonly see them on display in zoos and at the circus, but white tigers don’t actually exist in the wild. They are bred and inbred for the recessive gene that produces their stunning black and white markings, however this type of breeding often leads to health problems for the animals. In hindsight, the white tiger paintings were probably the earliest representations of “artificial perceived as natural” in my work. This was also my first use of patterning to reference a culture or a place, which I revisited later in the paintings produced for the Object Impermanence installation.

OPP: You are just about to start a residency at Creative Alliance in Baltimore. How long will you be there? Any plans on what you’ll be working on?

SS: The residency includes a one to three year-long live/work space and a solo exhibition in Creative Alliance’s beautiful gallery. I will be working to produce new work for the show that continues to explore our perception of permanence and change. I am currently in the early stages of a new project that involves physical recording of places and objects in a book of rubbings as well as time-based recording of these same places and objects in the form of video. I began the project while in Berlin this summer and plan to continue here in Baltimore and other places I travel to this year. This is my first proper studio and live/work space since I graduated, and I am excited to have access to this resource and time to continue to develop my practice.

To See more of Samantha's work, please visit samanthasethi.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Christos Pantieras

Am I Worth It?, 2017. Detail of installation.

CHRISTOS PANTIERAS transforms digital communication—emails, text messages, and chat conversations from gay hook-up apps—into tangible sculpture through the very slow processes of casting, carving and embossing. He gives weight  to these words, often typed casually and quickly, and forces the viewer to slow down in considering the lasting effects of all communication on the receiver. Christos earned his BFA at University of Ottawa in 1996 and went on to earn his MFA at York University, Toronto in 2015. Christos has exhibited widely throughout Quebec and Ontario and recently received a Municipal Grant from the City of Ottawa. His solo show Am I Worth It? is on view at Circa-Art Actuel in Montreal through September 9, 2017 and will be shown again at the Ottawa School of Art in January 2018. He has upcoming solo exhibitions in October 2017 at Art-Cite in Windsor, Ontario and at La Madison de la Culture, Gatineau, Quebec in Summer 2018. Christos lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do your material and process choices—cast concrete letters, carved wax and embossed text on various surfaces—support your conceptual interests?

Chris Pantieras: Each choice enhances what I'm communicating in my work. For example, the carved wax bricks of I miss talking to you feature a letter of regret that I received six months after a former partner of mine took off. I used wax recycled from candles people lit in my local church and that are never left to fully burn. I melt down these candle fragments and cure them into new forms, in this case the cast bricks. These bricks, if not physically heavy, doubtless carry the psychic weight of their earlier life as containers of hopes, dreams and contemplation. The final installation took the form of a wall which represents the barrier that was built between myself and my former partner.

Concrete, on the other hand, is bland and references the city. How often does one stop to admire a concrete building? We're surrounded by it, and it is just part of the every day. This plays into how language used on gay hook-up apps has become a non-event. The coded words, abbreviations and statements are a very normal and familiar method of communicating with each other. Additionally, bringing online text offline and making it tangible addresses the materiality of words. To make my letters, I need an aggregate—silica sand in this instance—to to bind the cement together. As a parallel, the individual cast letters represent the aggregate. When they're placed next to each other, they bind together and form a word.

I miss talking to you, 2012-2013. 1024 bricks cast in wax procured from a local church, carved text sourced from an email. 533cm x 3 cm x 243 cm

OPP: What about the processes?

CP: My processes are slow and time consuming on purpose, and I thoroughly enjoy the physicality involved in creating most of my work. For me, it's very important to record my presence, and I do this through repetitive acts and accumulation. The text is sourced from a screen; it lacks warmth. Through my methods, I add the human presence. A great example of this is the embossed text in the work Impress Me. Each piece of paper features one email that has been hammered into the surface using old fashioned, metal printing rods. As the viewer reads the papers from left to right, the text becomes more and more illegible as the embossing rips the paper. The viewer focuses less on what is written and more on the transformed material

Impress Me (Detail) 2005-2009. Email text hammered on to paper, six custom reading tables. 11 x 15 in (each paper)

OPP: Most of the text you render through these slow processes relates to dating and lost relationships. Is this work more about the value of slowing down the process of communicating or about the slowness of processing what’s been said after it’s been said?

CP: This is a great question. Firstly, it's important to know a little about the source of the various narratives and where the digital communication comes from. The text I use is either from emails, text messages or interactions on dating/hook-up apps. It is taken directly from my own experiences, encounters and lost/potential relationships. I'm also old enough to remember a time when online dating was very new, perceived as very risky, but was also extremely exciting. Going home to log-in, get online, and check my email was a rush. What people wrote had weight since communicating wasn't as fast and immediate as it is today. Now there's no offline; we're always online. Connecting and interacting with new people is extremely easy, and perhaps that interaction holds less value than it used to.

So, to answer your question, it can be both. My use of analog tools and repetitive processes highlights the contrast between the lack of effort required in my online relationships with the huge amount of commitment and investment it requires of me to make the work. The more recent work uses the language of immediacy from gay hook-up apps, but most of the other pieces were created from emails or text messages that I catalogued and held on to for years. This is an example of how I am processing what's been said, however the way the text will be used manifests later. I kept one email almost ten years before it took physical form. I still have several samples of communication archived in my sketchbooks that may or may not become new work.

GLEN, 2009. Lightjet Print. 26 x 47 inches

OPP: Your work isn’t just about communication between romantically-engaged individuals. Who Sits Here? (2009) explores the way adolescents communicated via writing inside desk drawers before the ubiquity of handheld digital devices. What does this series reveal about communal communication spaces?

CP: It reveals that individuals can be as candid as they want to be without much concern for accountability. The school desk drawer of yesterday mirrors the forums of today. We contribute, we take it in, we respond. Except for the fact that an identity, whether fictional or real, is attached to the author in today's communication spaces, they are no different in terms of what we communicate and how we respond today. The language is still honest, bare and risky. I love the focus on human presence in the doodles, the various penmanship styles and the carved surfaces. The desk drawers are amazing objects.

Tread Lightly, 2015. Concrete, sourced text message. Dimensions variable.

OPP: The cast concrete letter works—HEY. HORNY. GRRRR. (2015), Tread Lightly (2015) and Say What You Mean (2014)—reference alphabet soup and colored alphabet fridge magnets. Each installation uses these letters in a different way, but in each the experience of reading is slowed down for the viewer. How does the viewer’s experience of the various installation of these letters relate to dating in the digital era?

CP: Although my work specifically references my own encounters, I want it to be accessible and relatable to everyone. Yes, they're about my experiences as a gay male, but there's something universal about online dating that goes beyond any limits of sexual preference and orientation. You'll interact with someone who will be kind, respectful and genuine just as easily as someone who is direct, dismissive and crass. I enjoy engaging with people about my work and taking the time to explain where it comes from because it's great to hear them make connections to their own lives and their own experiences. They begin to tell me their stories about dating in the digital era, and I value that vulnerability.

HEY. HORNY. GRRRR. was featured in the Installation Zone at the Artist Project in Toronto in 2015. There were thousands of people there on opening night. It was amazing to see who related to the piece right away and who needed some time. Any gay male that walked by knew exactly what this was and where the language came from. They were not fazed in the least and felt that they were reading their own messages. The complete opposite reaction came from everyone else. They had no idea what they were reading until I explained it to them. Reactions ranged from disbelief about the direct or rude language to, once again, making personal connections and having conversations with me about their own online interactions.

HEY. HORNY. GRRRR. 2015. Concrete, buckets, sourced text from hook-up apps. Detail.

OPP: Your most recent installation Am I Worth It? (2017) is currently on view through September 9, 2017 at Circa Art-Actuel in Montreal, Quebec. I believe this is the first installations in which visitors can walk on the letters. Is that correct?

CP: That is correct. I wanted visitors to have a more direct engagement with my work. By putting them in a position where they have to walk on the art in order to take it in, I get to offer a different experience for each visitor.

Am I Worth It? 2017. Sourced text message, letters cast in concrete, silica sand, subfloor. Dimensions Variable

OPP: How does the title relate to the raised text in this floor of letters?

CP: The title Am I Worth It? is answered by the raised text that spells out the statement: I'm not willing to make the effort. Like many of my pieces before, the text is sourced from a relationship that had a lot of potential. But he wasn't willing to invest in it since it was long-distance, and I was moving even further away to complete my MFA. The sentence plays off the fact that this installation took a lot of personal commitment to complete. The floor is tiled with thousands of cast-concrete letters laid out like a giant word search. I chose to reveal the statement intermittently, pushing up from the jumble of letters, almost like they're trying to make themselves be noticed, or conversely, about to be buried.

To see more of Christos' work, please visit christospantieras.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Matthew Mazzotta

Open House, 2013. York, Alabama. Watch video here.

Artist, activist and designer MATTHEW MAZZOTTA makes use of local materials, plants and existing architectural environments to create third spaces for community members to congregate, talk and question their own assumptions about the local and global world they live in. For both Open House (2013) in York, Alabama and The Storefront Theater (2015) in Lyons, Nebraska, Matthew solicited input from the local community and transformed an existing abandoned space into fold-out seating for communal entertainment and gathering. After earning his BFA The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2001, Matthew went on to study at Skowhegan School of Painting and Scupture and to earn his MS in Visual Studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and Planning in 2009.  Matthew’s team has just signed on for six new projects in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Portland, Maine; Cambridge, Massachussetts; Bronx, New York;  Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Kentucky. Matthew has been traveling and working with different communities in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia for the last seven years, but he will be moving to Cambridge for a full year to be a 2017-18 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Can you talk about the intersection of art, design and activism in your work?

Matthew Mazzotta: With my practice—"The architecture of social space, creating spaces of critique within the places we live"—I create both permanent and temporary, public interventions that open new social spaces inside the built environment. I often feel that I am an activist using artistic sensibilities to bring real world issues into social discourse and to lead public imagining. My work addresses pressing environmental issues, but always with a strong focus on community and public participation. I try to make these issues accessible on many levels to as many people as I can throughout the world.

I believe that inherent in every moment is the potential to ignite profound change. As a catalyst, art affords us a compelling perspective to act upon this possibility.

Looking For A Landscape, 2009. City Certified Utility Box, Binoculars, Pillows, Hardware, Paint and Stickers. 3.5’ x 5’ x 2.5'

OPP: How do you approach public space? What do you hope to introduce to these spaces?

MM: For me, public space is political. My work focuses on the power of the pre-existing, built environment to shape our relationships and experiences and invites a critical perspective and a sense of openness to the places we live in. I dissect the everyday and rearrange it to reveal the potential that surrounds us and to shape these spaces to develop new platforms for conversation. If the only spaces community members have to meet one another other are the transitional spaces of the streetscape or commercial institutions, only certain types of dialogues are produced.


Harm to Table, 2016. Boulder, Colorado.

OPP: What do you hope viewers/users will experience when engaging with your work?

MM: As much as my work uses whimsy, humor, spectacle and aesthetics to draw people in, it is also meant to unsettle them. My work puts viewers in a position of contradiction with what they have known and the knowledge and experience they are now privy to. It is designed to confront people with something that uniquely challenges what they think they know about the world and their community. It puts them in contact with something that they must grapple with directly without the help of their habitual camps of knowledge, reasoning and inertia.

When considering the possibility of change, I believe in the basic premise that “if people can sit together, they can dream together.” My work generates an opportunity for people to come together and view their situations from a new perspective while having time and space to interact. Some people might not feel comfortable at meetings and official events, and others may only have time to have brief conversations in the checkout line. I seek to dissolve the social hierarchies inherent in so much of our world and to create spaces where people are able to be together and have a collective exchange of ideas, which in turn, eventually, resonates throughout the social fabric.


The Storefront Theater, 2015.

OPP: I think of your work as being about enjoying the good life, in the sense that it provides space for humans to slow down, engage directly with their environments, the people around them and their local resources. How do you define the good life?

MM: The 13th century mystic poet Rumi said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.”

I remember being immediately attracted to the concept of going to Rumi’s field, where ideas have not been judged and swamped in words and attitudes. It’s a place where there is time to think and act human again towards each other. In my work, I aim to create spaces like the one Rumi writes about. . . spaces devoid of overt political themes. . . third spaces for dialogue. I try to make sure the invitation into a space surrounding an issue is not polarizing but becomes engaging from as many different points of view as possible. It is important that the space does not provoke anger or cause people to be fearful and instinctively protective of their cultural and personal histories. It should rather be a place that people enter into out of curiosity and childlike interest on their own terms.

Cloud House, Springfield, Missouri. Watch video here.

OPP: How do the aesthetics of your structures serve people and the earth?

MM: I employ design as a vehicle—not for common ends of comfort or convenience, but to challenge people. I use its seductiveness and familiarity to draw people in. But my work is about piercing through the public roles we play and breaking up the narratives of specific public spaces and the types of conversations and actions we usually have within them. I try to find compelling social and contextual components of a specific location and use them to integrate peoples’ daily lives into their surroundings. I aim to generate a space of synergy and potency as we explore the issues right under the surface that have not previously had time and focus brought to them.

OPP: How do the local and the global meet in your work?

MM: I love working with people and the public spaces they live in to try to figure out how to make interventions that engage directly with their local situations. At the same time, I hope each project has a universal appeal to provoke conversations in other cities and towns around the world. As access to the internet has spread so wide, I receive feedback about my work from people all over the world. It has transformed the old mantra of Think Globally, Act Locally to the new paradigm that I work under: Act Locally, Engage Globally.

To learn more about Matthew's work, please visit matthewmazzotta.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Paul Kenneth

Reva Lucille Wood (great-aunt), 2016. Acrylic and pencil on canvas. 10" x 10"

PAUL KENNETH paints portraits, but he isn't a portrait painter. His works are based on a variety of sources from photographs of his distant ancestors to the first bloodcurdling screams in horror movies. He uses gestural paint application, line drawing and a collapsing of foreground and background to express his interpretation of how these unknowable people and characters might feel about being painted. Paul earned his BFA in Painting at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. Since then he has exhibited throughout Chicago, including shows at Mana Contemporary, LVL3 Gallery, Ebersmoore Gallery, Heaven Gallery and the stARTup Art Fair. Paul had his first solo exhibition One Wall: Curious Kin (2016) at Jackson Junge Gallery in the  fall of 2016. He will be featured in the 2017 summer edition of Studio Visit Magazine. Paul lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: All the works currently on your website are portraits, but your style of rendering the human face isn’t exactly realistic. How do you approach the age-old form of the portrait? What’s changed about your approach over the years?

Paul Kenneth: I approach my portraits not as a depiction of a person, but rather a portrayal of a personality through a defined set of mark making. This idea is the fundamental foundation of my practice.

When I began painting twelve years ago, I wanted to pay homage to the history of the portrait genre while investigating the relationship between the human body and paint. My first breakthrough was while attending The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During my final years of earning my BFA, I constructed a complete series which was entirely based on babies. Until that point, I had approached the portrait in a straightforward manner by attempting to create a literal representation of the subject matter. While creating this series, I discovered that the paintings were more unnerving when the subject was rendered in a half completed state. The most recent change in my approach came with my last series of work Curious Kin, where I depicted portraits of my ancestors. In this series I incorporated drawing elements over and under the paint. This latest exploration has allowed me to fuse my drawing and painting practices while also highlighting to the slighted underdrawing.

Franklin DuBois Sidell (grandfather), 2016. Acrylic paint and pencil on canvas. 10" x 10"

OPP: Have you always only painted the human face? Tell us a bit about earlier work.

PK: I have investigated many subject matters in my painting practice but I always find myself returning to the human face. Some of my earlier work focused on portraits of sad cats, dead owls, and fast food. In these paintings, I emphasized the traditional tropes of kitsch, the grotesque and pop art.

OPP: Tell us more about Curious Kin. How is the way you chose to render them connected to the distance between you?

PK: Curious Kin was sourced from images that were taken from family photo albums from the late 1800s to the early 1980s. I invested a considerable amount research to trace the exact relation of each individual as this information was not recorded in many of the albums. The title of each piece is the name of the person followed by their exact relation to me. Some of the portraits are rather direct relations like great-grandparents while others are extremely far removed with a few completely unknown. With the exception of my grandparents, I did not have the privilege to know any of these people even though we are connected by blood and family bonds. As each portrait was made I strived to maintain a sense of respect to the ancestor while imposing my creative aesthetic in the mark making. In a way, each of these paintings is a loose self-portrait.

Mary Marquis (great-grandmother), 2016. Acrylic and pencil on canvas. 10" x 10"

OPP: What about works like Augusta Hulda Verch (second great-grandmother) and Mary Marquis (great-grandmother), both from 2016, in which they faces are partly covered over? It’s almost like these women are silenced by your paint. It makes their eyes look panicked to me.

PK: These two paintings in particular demonstrate the idea of myself, the creator, giving consciousness to his subjects the way Frankenstein gave consciousness to his monster. During this creation process I ask myself, what is he thinking? and how does she feel about what I am doing to her? At times, their gaze suggests a state of unease with the way that I have depicted them.

Garrett Wood (fourth great-grandfather), 2016. Acrylic paint and pencil on canvas. 10" x 10"

OPP: I’m really interested in the way the backgrounds—whether stripes, ovals, halos or horizon lines—intersect the line-drawn faces, which highlights parts of the faces, often the eyes. Talk about this choice.

PK: Throughout my practice, the background holds as much importance as the painterly and drawn elements on the surface. I highlight the process and materiality in each piece by leaving much of the ground visible. The stripes, ovals and blocks of gesso ground are formal additions that level the subject matter. This flattening of the portrait removes it from a representational space forcing the image to hover in a state of flux. The cropping and placement of the face on the canvas in relation to the background shapes is critical to achieve the most active visual balance. This balancing act tends to revolve around the subject’s eyes. Thus, the eyes anchor the painting preventing the portrait from drifting into complete abstraction.

Penny Appleby, 2017. Acrylic and pencil on paper. 5" x 7"

OPP: Tell us about the Scream Queens, which is a new direction. So far, these are all from the 60s. Why did you start here? Where do you see the series going?

PK: Scream Queens is a new series of works that delves into the horror films of my youth. Each piece investigates the cinematic moment when the heroine reacts to the monster with a bloodcurdling scream. By removing these women from the context of the source, their fear becomes a direct reaction to the manner in which I have depicted them. These women are afraid of the monsters they have become. The subjects of these portraits are sourced from various films that range from the 1960s through the 1980s. I am drawn mostly to this thirty-year period of cinematography as I consider it the golden era for the horror film genre. The trajectory of this series holds many possibilities, and I plan to continue exploring the use of paper as a substrate as well as further developing the cut and pasted acrylic paint technique.

OPP: You've said you are interested in the grotesque and your new series demonstrates an interest in terror. What in the world or in your life makes your own face turn to a grimace?

PK: I am rather immune to gooey gore and the average creepy crawly. But there are a few specific specimens that come to mind when contemplating my own terrors. Here is my filthy five from gross to wretched:

5. The story The Red Spot from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
4. The lumps on the old dog Dutch, that frequents The Corner Bar.
3. The stench of rotting meat.
2. Earwigs. Not afraid? Watch the episode "The Caterpillar” from the TV series Night Gallery.
1. The removal of a Guinea Worm from a foot. If you are fortunate enough not to know what this is DO NOT LOOK IT UP!

To see more of Paul's work, please visit paulkenneth.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Amanda Williams

Uppity Negress, 2017. Site-specific installation at The Arts Club of Chicago. Photo Credit: Michael Sullivan

AMANDA WILLIAMS explores the intersection of color, line and material with social, political and cultural meanings inherent in architecture and urban environments. For her well-known project Color(ed) Theory, she painted eight houses slated for demolition on Chicago's South Side in a palette derived from African American consumer culture. Her work hinges on this cultural specificity while simultaneously addressing the broader themes of impermanence, transformation and healing, as they are sited in the human-built environment. Amanda earned her Bachelor of Architecture with an Emphasis in Fine Art at Cornell University in 1997. Her numerous awards include a 3Arts Award (2014), a Joyce Foundation scholarship (2013), and an Excellence in Teaching Award (2015), for her work at Illinois Institute of Technology, College of Architecture. Amanda was named Newcity’s 2016 Designer of the Moment, was a 2016 Efroymson Fellow and has been tapped to be part of the team working on the exhibition spaces at the Obama Presidential Center. Uppity Negress, a site-specific installation for The Arts Club Garden Projects (Chicago), is on view through September 2017. Her solo show Chicago Works: Amanda Williams just opened and is currently on view at The Museum of Contemporary Art through December 31, 2017. Amanda lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Uppity Negress, a site-specific installation for The Arts Club Garden Projects (Chicago), just opened in June and will be on view through September 2017. Tell us about this new work. What about the title and form of the “fence” in relation to the site?

Amanda Williams: I am so excited by this new body of work and how it has expanded the ways in which I’m continually contemplating questions of space, race and color. The title has tangential beginnings related to sculptor Constantin Brancusi, who was an early exhibitor at the Arts Club, as well as a portion of a chapter from author, Natalie Moore’s book, The South Side. I am fascinated by the way the Arts Club garden operates as neither completely public or private. How could I use this spatial condition to consider questions of authority and access, particularly as it relates to the black female body in public space. By venturing “out of line,” the fence creates a disorienting space that allows occupants to experience this liminal social condition. The pickets of the fence disperse and eventually lead to a large banner displaying the arrest transcript of Sandra Bland interspersed with excerpts from a commencement speech given by former First Lady, Michelle Obama. The mashup charts an alternate narrative to the potential of getting out of line. 

Uppity Negress, 2017. Site-specific installation at The Arts Club of Chicago. Photo Credit: Michael Sullivan

OPP: Tell us a bit about the process of painting the abandoned houses marked for demolition in your project Color(ed) Theory. Is it a guerrilla act or a permitted one? Who are your artist assistants? Compare painting the first house in the series to painting the last one.

AW: I chose properties that were at the end of their life cycle and use the project as a way to ask questions about how and when we value architecture. Because of the temporal nature of the structures and the project, I enlisted the help of fellow artists friends and family members who wanted to support my artistic practice and also understood the stakes in working under such conditions. They were collaborators in the truest sense.

My husband Jason Burns was probably the most prolific painter. He also cleared the overgrown weeds, bushes and grass. I didn’t know what to expect when I started. The idea was to load up as much paint as would fit in our truck , or that I had the budget for, go out at daybreak and paint until someone challenged us or until we ran out of paint. By the final house, the project had gained the attention of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and had been folded in as a part of their programming. We went from about 9 people helping to 70. It meant a lot of tiny brushes. It was a good moment to terminate the project, before it turned into something else with external agendas.

Newport 100/Loose Squares, 2015 (Overall), 2015

OPP: How do the painted houses operate in their natural environments? What kinds of responses have you heard from people who live around them? How many are still standing?

AW: Approximately half are still standing. The responses and reactions to the houses are as varied as the houses themselves. Some neighbors don’t like the project at all and think it exacerbates the issues that I’m attempting to call attention to. Many residents near the Currency Exchange and Safe Passage Houses find the color offensive. Some neighbors have described them as odd or thought provoking, while other neighbors have become friends of mine, and we’ve developed relationships that extend beyond the project’s initial intentions.

I think its important to emphasize that it’s fundamentally flawed to imagine homogeneity with words like “community” or “black people,” etc. We are often treated (and discriminated against) as a monolithic group, so its great to have a project that is not black or white, but gray.

Perhaps one of the most unique reactions came from photographer/artist, and Englewood resident Tonika Johnson. She included one of the painted houses as a backdrop to a photo composition she created for a billboard series, Englewood Rising, that offers positive images of everyday black life as a counter narrative to what we hear on the news or see tweeted by uninformed nationally elected officials. It is exciting to have my project interwoven into other local artists’ efforts to raise awareness and change the conversation. The landscapes feel more pronounced when you watch nature reclaim these voided lots.

Color(ed) Theory, Chicago Architectural Biennal, 2015. Photo Credit: Steven Hall

OPP: Most viewers—myself included—have only encountered Color(ed) Theory in the form of photography. What do the photographs do that the actual painted houses can’t. And how have the different display iterations of these photographs changed over the life of the project?

AW: The photographs do a few things. They allow the project to be read as an aggregate, you can never physically occupy or absorb them as a singular spatial body. The photographs also contextualize the houses in relation to one another. They also make the context, namely the general isolation of the structures as important to the visual story as the houses themselves. Lastly, they freeze an ephemeral moment. While this allows the project to be widely shared, I’m still not sure this is a completely desirable strategy for a project that was intentionally temporal.

Pink Oil Moisturizer (Winter; Overall), 2014.

OPP: As I was researching your work, I became aware of just how much sudden attention your work has received since the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015. So you’ve done a ton a interviews and received a lot of press over the last couple of years. Is there anything about your work that you don’t feel gets proper attention? What gets overlooked?

AW: The social nature of the Color(ed) Theory project overshadows a parallel thread about this as a project that is attempting to help inform my painting practice and a desire for a better formal understanding of color. There is also a levity that gets overshadowed by many. I’m always thrilled when someone laughs or smiles after reading a title of a piece, or has an ‘ah-ha’ moment related to a personal connection to the content.

OPP: It’s nice to hear you say that because I love the way the color itself both challenges and lives in harmony with the surrounding environment. It asserts itself, dominates the landscape and then just becomes another part of that space. What colors are you thinking about now?

AW: My Chicago Works exhibition at the MCA, curated by Grace Deveney, has afforded me an amazing opportunity to produce an almost entirely new body of work that contemplates several themes that emerged as a result of the response to Color(ed) Theory. Some of the narratives you’ll see emerging include gold as a signifier for social, cultural and political value associated with land use and ownership, as well as deep material explorations of salvaged building material. It has been really wonderful to continue to think through these fundamental questions in a variety of formats and media. This exploration of gold will also move beyond the MCA walls in a companion project funded by my Efroymson Fellowship, in which Golden Brick Roads will be embedded along short cuts (desire paths) in vacant lots on the City's south and near west side.

A Way, Away (Listen While I Say)—Translating Phase, 2017. Collaboration with Andres L. Hernandez. Photo Credit: Michael Thomas

OPP: Are these Gold Brick Roads connected to A Way, Away (Listen While I Say), your collaboration with Andres L. Hernandez in Saint Louis? This project applies five transformation actions—marking, subtracting, translating, shaping and healing—to 3721 Washington Boulevard, which was slated for demolition. Will you use some of the salvage bricks for the brick roads, and are those bricks also the bricks in your MCA show?

AW: The gold leafed bricks in Chicago share some themes with the gold painted bricks salvaged in St. Louis, and in hindsight will inevitably all be part of my gold color phase—I also had a Peanut Butter and Jelly phase in the 3rd grade—but they are intentionally not the same actual bricks. For A Way, Away, it was important to the premise of the project that the St. Louis bricks STAY in the St. Louis area and contribute to a new life cycle for that place. The four projects that were selected all share concepts of healing and legacy; either material or social/cultural. Andres and I recently participated in a day long charrette with the four organizations leading the projects. We have found that these formal transformations of the material also serve as metaphors and platforms for dialog about personal healing and transformation.

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

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular open on August 11, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ben Willis

Man Candy (detail), 2017. Acrylic, Flock, Glitter, Resin, Spray Paint on Panel. 14" x  24"

BEN WILLIS creates vibrant juxtapositions of color, texture and brushwork, which appear to be separated by clean borders. But in actuality, the smooth, one-directional brushwork never meets the swirling impasto at this sharp edge; the matte acrylic and the glitter never square off defending their own territory. Instead, each hovers above or below the other, floating harmoniously on layers of resin. Ben earned his BFA in Sculpture at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (2005) and went on to earn his MFA in Painting at Arizona State University in Tempe. He received a Contemporary Forum Artist Grant in 2014 and has had solo shows at Rhetorical Galleries (2016) and Pela Contemporary Art (2013), both in Phoenix, Arizona. His most recent solo show Candy Man opens this Friday, August 5, 2017 at Fort Works Art in Fort Worth, Texas and is on view through September 9, 2017. The show is accompanied by Candy Castle, a group show curated by Ben, who lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The title of your solo show Candy Man makes me think of the term eye candy. This description was often used in a dismissive way in my own grad school critiques. Have you encountered this kind of attitude about color?

Ben Willis: I envision Candy Man as an immersive experience in both color and pattern. The challenge has and will be creating an exhibition that has something for everyone. A lot of what we learn and how we speak in graduate school is for such a secluded group, that the majority of your audience members are lost before they begin.

When I was working towards my MFA I painted portraits of the artists who shaped my experience. Early on I kept hearing “you need to expand your color palette” or “find more ways to apply the paint.” I was encouraged to experiment but to also build towards a body of work that was cohesive and meaningful. I went on to use more complex paint mixtures by pushing color into a higher Chroma and found alternative paint application methods that didn’t use a brush. Ultimately my portraits had become more vibrant, but I was so invested in color, texture and mark that painting the figure seemed mundane.

PPAP, 2016. Acrylic, Glitter, Resin on Panel. 18" x 12"

OPP: What would you say to these haters? What don’t they get about color?

BW: I would educate them on the subjectivity of color. It has the ability to trigger emotional and symbolic responses, both good and bad. I’d assure them that it’s more than just eye candy at play and that there is intention behind that sparkly surface. Materials like glitter, flock and even spray paint have certainly been used with negative connotations in my experience, and I like to think of myself as an artist who is not afraid to break the rules if it enhances my message. The color palette references “sweet treats” and the overwhelming presence often displayed in a traditional candy store. In many ways, I want to create a visual experience that is both fun and satisfying yet leaves you hungry for more. I truly enjoy what I am doing right now and believe there is some healing power behind this body of work.

Little Juan, 2017

OPP: Big Juan (2016) and Little Juan (2017) evoke a classic quilt pattern known as Tumbling Blocks. Are you influenced by quilts? If not, can you talk about how you’ve come to work with repetitive squares and triangles?


BW: As far back as I can remember, my mother has always made quilts as well as crocheted various blankets and garments for the entire family. My father is very much a handy man and for all intents and purposes a wood worker. I hadn’t considered it much before, but would certainly be steering you in the wrong direction if I said my parents and up bringing haven’t played a role in my work.

What really tipped the scale in terms of pattern and abstraction relates once again back to portrait painting. My process involved visiting other artists to capture poses in their studio. It was a great challenge trying to replicate the artist’s physical presence in front of their work. I distinctly remember several paintings using impasto techniques, hard edges and geometric shapes. At the time, there was something about that style, using tape and thinking about what paint can do that felt fresh and exciting.

Original Woodie, 2016. Acrylic, Glitter, Resin on Panel. 18" x 12"

OPP: Tell us a bit about your process which involves layers of epoxy resin, glitter and dry pigments as well as acrylic and spray paint. Have you always worked in layers this way? 


BW: All of the panels I work on are handmade. I start with a variety of primers from traditional gesso, spray paint, acrylic paint, resin and collage. From there, it’s more of a classic way of drawing or working general to specific. A loose pattern is sketched on top of the primer followed by resin often mixed with a combination of flakes and pearls (glitter and dry pigments). I build up layers but feel like there is a lot more intuition and freedom involved allowing the composition to evolve on its own.

It’s rare for me not to use a variety of media on any piece and I have always worked in layers. For example, my oil paintings are never really just oil paintings. I typically build up value on canvas with compressed charcoal. The drawing is then sprayed with fixative and squeegeed with amber shellac. From there I use a scumbling technique to build up layers of oil paint as I progressively work towards finer detail.

#groundrules, 2016. Installation at Rhetorical Galleries. Photo credit: Airi Katsuta

OPP: What were the ground rules in your 2016 show #groundrules at Rhetorical Galleries? Did the hashtag #groundrules work the way you’d hoped?

BW: I’ve been working full time as a preparator at Phoenix Art Museum for almost two years now. My job entails closely handling valuable historical and contemporary objects. I think a big portion of the idea for this show came from what I see on a day to day basis.

For #groundrules I wanted to create the same road blocks visitors are confronted with in a museum—don’t get to close or touch the art, no flash photography, no food, no drinks—but in a shipping container. I posted said rules both on social media and on a large didactic at the entrance of the space. I used the same censors and warnings we use at work and even recorded visitor interactions (they were warned). The only real change was that there was no security to stop occupants from acting out.

In my opinion, the entire process revealed rules that exist when it comes to interacting with art and that there is value in finding new outlets to allow your audience to connect with your work. I would say the hashtag was a success and provided new avenues for getting my ideas outside of Phoenix.

So Post Post Modern, 2016. Acrylic, Resin, Glitter on Panel. 18" x 12"

OPP: You’re in the process of curating a show called Candy Castle, featuring the work of Derick Smith, Christina West, Adam Hillman, Sean Augustine March, Sean Newport, Rachel Goodwin, Wheron, Kristina Drake and another of our own Featured Artists Dan Lam. How is the process an extension of your studio practice? What was your curatorial process like?
 
BW: The idea for this companion show to Candy Man was spawned during a conversation with Dan Lam a little over a year ago about Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas. I’m told it’s not out of the ordinary for artists showing at the Nasher to curate additional works on view during the run of their exhibition. The space at Fort Works Art is quite large and stunning. I knew it would be difficult to truly utilize it entirely on my own and felt I could expand my reach by getting more artists involved. 

From a curatorial stand point it has been about finding work that speaks to my senses. I was still thinking in terms of color, texture and repetition but also looking for artists who are currently pushing the conversation on materials and form. Eye Candy, as you put it earlier, is an underlying theme in both shows paying some homage to the Hasbro board game Candy Land. As the creator and curator, my aim is to provide a sense of adventure for all ages through concepts of desire, play, nostalgia and maybe just a tiny bit of death.

The experience thus far has certainly provided a new set of obstacles and amazing opportunities for collaboration. There certainly is and will continue to be a lot of takeaways that will benefit my practice moving forward. I am grateful to everyone involved for the opportunity and support.

To see more of Ben's work, please visit benwillisart.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular open on August 11, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Mark Dean Veca

Hatter 2 (detail), 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 72 x 72"

MARK DEAN VECA’s paintings and immersive, temporary installations are bold, biomorphic worlds. Carefully balancing the sacred and the profane, he renders mass media imagery in a drawing style that adds organic movement to the usually flat graphics of recognizable cartoon characters. The skin and clothes of Mickey Mouse, Uncle Pennybags and Tony the Tiger seem to writhe with maggots, billow like smoke and drip like slobber, semen or pus—not to mention random eyeballs. Yet, in spite of all this bodily grossness, the lines are sleek and elegant. Mark earned his BFA at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. He has received fellowships from New York Foundation for the Arts, Lower East Side Printshop and the Pollack Krasner Foundation. His long exhibition record includes solo shows at San Jose Museum of Art (2012), Site:Lab in Grand Rapids, Michigan (2015), Western Project in Los Angeles (2013 and 2014), and Azusa Pacific University in California (2016). Upcoming shows include the group exhibition LA Painting: Formalism to Street Art at Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis, which opens on September 2, 2018 and a solo exhibition of Mark’s prints and posters at Agent Ink Gallery in Santa Rosa, CA, which opens on September 16, 2017. Mark lives and works in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You have a signature style, which I would describe as “intestinal line work or visceral chaos organized into contained, recognizable forms.”  Firstly, how do you respond to my description?

Mark Dean Veca: Yeah that's a pretty clinical and concise description of what I've been doing in my work for a while now. People do seem to latch on to the intestinal aspect, but there's a lot more going on. It’s a kind of biomorphic abstraction that references all of the biological systems, not just the digestive.

Mothers' Worries, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 66 x 66"

OPP: Secondly, is it a style that you’ve consciously cultivated, part of an existing drawing lineage or simply the way you’ve drawn since you were a kid?

MDV: It's just something that developed and evolved over time. I don't think I ever necessarily tried to pursue it or reject the idea. One of the many ways I learned to draw as a kid was copying from comic books, and I was always attracted to the more organic forms rather than geometric. Later in my career I made a conscious decision to explore the visual vocabulary of cartoons and to speak in that vernacular.

Oh Yeah, 2011. India ink and acrylic on canvas. 48 x 48"

OPP: Tell us about the commercial logos and cartoon characters you choose to render this way. What do they have in common across your body of work? Are your choices driven by fandom and/or critique?

MDV: The found images in my work are always carefully chosen, never random. I use an idiosyncratic set of criteria to choose images that are personal as well as universal, and that serve the needs of the particular piece I'm working on. Very often they are simultaneously celebratory as well as critical. For example in Pony Show (2015) I painted a corrupted version the Ford Mustang logo on the exterior of a former auto repair shop in a work that celebrates and critiques American Car Culture. My first car was a 1965 Mustang which imbues the logo with sentimental value to me personally, but it's also universally recognized and has religious connotations via its cruciform shape. In other works, like Natch (2016), I've chosen an iconic image from popular culture (R. Crumb's Mr. Natural) and manipulated it into a baroque kaleidoscopic composition within which to improvise my particular brand of mark-making. I think of it as a celebratory mash-up of genres that also draws upon the psychedlic culture of my youth in the Bay Area of the 60s and 70s.

Pony Show, 2015

OPP: I’m really interested in the Toile de Jouy paintings like Klusterfuck (2002), West Coast Story (2006) and Toile de Boogey (2008). Tell us about these textile-influenced works. Do you have a favorite? What kinds of images of everyday life are buried in there?

MDV: I discovered Toile de Jouy in the wallpaper of my mother-in-law's bathroom in the late 90s. I became fascinated with this 18th century French style and with Rococo decorative arts in general. I love the draftsmanship and intricacy. In 2001, I started using it as a found composition within which to improvise, combining found imagery from popular culture and art history with the aforementioned biomorphic abstraction, among other things. Klusterfuck has to be an all time fave.

Klusterfuck, 2002. India ink on paper. 59.5 x 39.5"

OPP: Tell us about the various museum installations that include huge, encompassing wall drawings replete with bean bag chairs. Madder Hatter (2016), Virgil’s Vestibule (2016) Le Poppy Den (2014) and Son of Phantasmagoria (2012) are just a few. I’ve sadly only seen pictures online, but I imagine these spaces as energizing refuges from Museum Fatigue. What experience do you hope viewers will have in these spaces?

MDV: I like that idea of a refuge and always appreciate a good chair. My goal usually is to create a spectacle: something monumental and awe-inspiring, immersive, overwhelming and interactive. I often aim to alter the function of a sterile white-cube museum space into a trippy, psychedelic lounge. When I first visit a potential space, I try to let it dictate to me a course of action, to let it reveal to me what should be done. In this way the work is truly site-specific and made for the site in which it will exist—typically for a limited time before it's destroyed. The process therefore becomes temporary, ephemeral and performative. I'm usually working in public and claim the space as my own studio for a while.

OPP: Most recently, you created Madder Hatter, followed by Maddest Hatter, for Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose, a touring exhibition that has its final stop (and is on view through September 17, 2017) at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. What’s your connection to Hi-Fructose?

MDV: I randomly met Attaboy, cofounder of Hi-Fructose at a San Diego Comic Con afterparty, which led to a spread in the magazine a couple of years later. The curators of the show chose me and 50 or so other artists who had appeared in the magazine over its first 10 years.

Madder Hatter, 2016. Installation.

OPP: How is Maddest Hatter different from Madder Hatter?

MDV: I made Madder Hatter for Turn the Page at Virginia MOCA in 2016. This installation was derived from an earlier painting called Hatter (2015), that referenced the art from a tab of LSD depicting the Mad Hatter from Disney's Alice in Wonderland, which was, in turn, based on Lewis Carroll's book—there’s a rabbit hole for ya. For the show's final presentation at the Crocker Art Museum, I adapted the work to fit the scale and proportions of the room. I altered the colors and redesigned the floor graphics, but the concepts and general design principles remained the same. In both cases there's plenty of improvised, stream-of-consciousness wall-painting.

OPP: What’s the process of creating these temporary, improvised wall drawings like for you?

MDV: There's always an essential improvisational element to my installations, which is most often made possible by a lot of careful planning and design. A lot of prep work goes into them ahead of time regarding compostion, scale, color, allowing me the freedom to be spontaneous and direct in the execution. There's also a lot of adrenaline associated with the monumental projects as time is always of the essence. I've enjoyed traveling to places I'd never been like London, Tokyo, and Guadalajara and setting up shop, so to speak, living and working in a strange place and meeting the locals and exploring a little. I does take a lot out of me, so I try to limit these to a couple per year. It's nice to spend the rest of my time at home with my family and in the solitude of my studio.

That's All, 2010. India ink and acrylic on canvas. 66 x 99"

OPP: What keeps the process fresh?

MDV: Since I was a child, I've been drawn to the more intimate side of art—drawing in my room alone or with a friend. The combining of oppositional elements—micro vs. macro, elegant vs. vulgar, spontaneous vs. calculated, high culture vs. low—is a recurring theme in most of my work. That opposition is echoed in these alternating modes of working, which keeps things fresh and interesting, always giving me something to look forward to.

To see more of Mark's work, please visit markdeanveca.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include
shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular open on August 11, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jenene Nagy

scabland, 2017. latex, plaxiglas

JENENE NAGY's practice includes both architectural interventions built entirely onsite from mundane building materials and the creation of discreet objects and drawings in the studio. In both cases, the work is materially-driven with an emphasis on surface, endurance, labor and line. Jenene earned her BFA from University of Arizona (1998) and her MFA from University of Oregon (2004). She is a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Pulp and Deckle Papermaking Studio in Portland. She is currently preparing for a solo show at Samuel Freeman Gallery (Los Angeles, fall 2017) and a two-person show with Joshua West Smith at Whitter College’s Greenleaf Galley (Los Angeles, spring 2018). Her work is represented by Samuel Freeman Gallery in Los Angeles, PDX CONTEMPORARY ART in Portland and Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver. Jenene lives and works in Riverside, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What materials are you repeatedly drawn to in your installations, sculptures and drawings?

Jenene Nagy: With all of the work I employ low tech materials. The drawings and the objects are mostly all paper and graphite, and the projects are all common building materials (drywall, 2x4s, house paint). I like working with my hands in a very direct way, and I also like to keep it simple. It is exciting to me to see what kind of results I can get with mundane elements. When I first began making the large projects, drywall was easy to work with and only required a box cutter and a drill. I don’t really have patience for a lot of tools and working in this way let the evidence of my hand remain.

Once the projects—Tidal, for example—became large enough to require more people to help me produce them, I became less interested in making them. So I introduced a new material in out/look and cover, which allowed me to still work large but independently. Tyvek is just a big gigantic sheet, so I could move it all around by myself. The projects have been built in venues in different parts of the country but working with common building materials I am able to order everything ahead from a Lowes or Home Depot and have everything delivered to the site as opposed to having to hunt down speciality items.

The Crystal Land, 2014. latex, Mylar, plexigalss, wood.

OPP: Symmetry is very present in installations like scabland (2017) and The Crystal Land (2014). The illusion of symmetry is present in disappear here (2016). But older installations like out/look (2010), Tidal (2010) and s/plit (2008) depend more on asymmetry. Was this a conscious shift or just a symptom of the spaces you were showing in?

JN: Around 2010 my studio practice shifted dramatically. Before that, I was making the onsite projects exclusively and the time in the studio was mostly experimenting with materials and testing colors. After a long residency in Los Angeles, I began using the studio to make discrete images and objects. Since that time the studio practice has become almost ritualized, I think as a result of making the drawings. The drawings are meditative and quite but intense. I think I can attribute the symmetry now present in the projects to the types of compositions I am working on with the drawings but also as a result of a more focused practice.

OPP: Could you talk about the relationship between labor and impermanence in your site-specific installations?

JN: I am interested creating a space for the viewer to have a true experience. I think the fact that the projects are in essence fleeting spaces there becomes a kind of urgency to the viewing. Labor is critical to setting up that urgency.

b1, 2014. graphite on folded paper. 14"x12.5"

OPP: The installations make consistent use of bold solid colors while the drawings traffic in the subtle grey tones of graphite. How does color or lack of color relate to scale in your work?

JN: In the onsite projects, color becomes content. I always think of the projects as landscape paintings. The color is always borrowing from the surrounding area—or in the case of the early work, a remembered space and time—and then hyper-realized, resulting in a punched-up pallet.

In the drawings I don’t think of color or lack of color, I think more about surface and material. With both the projects and the drawings, the viewer is asked to engage physically. They need to move through the installations to fully experience them. In the drawings they need to walk from left to right and close up and further away for the compositions to reveal themselves. I can’t say I am making intentional choices with regard to color pallette and scale but I am interested in seeing how the colors shift our perceptions of the space. In scabland, the brightness of the color really opened the space up, but in Destroyer the color shrank it.

p1, 2013. graphite on paper. 28"x 40"

OPP: Tell us briefly about your history as a curator.

JN: In 2006 I opened Tilt Gallery and Project Space in Portland, Oregon with artist Joshua West Smith. In that program, we exhibited site-responsive projects and works that were difficult to show in a commercial setting. After a two-and-a half-year run, we closed the brick and mortar space and shifted to working as an independent curatorial team under the moniker TILT Export:, which is ongoing. We wanted to give ourselves and the artists we work with more flexibility. As TILT Export: we produce shows in partnership with a variety of venues including commercial galleries, academic institutions and non-profits. We wanted to give Portland artists opportunities to show work in other cities and to bring work from other places back to Portland.

From 2011-12 I was the first Curator-in-Residence for Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and currently serve as Curator and Gallery Director at Los Angeles Valley College. At LAVC my role is different because the exhibition program is in support of our department curriculum. The exhibitions are intended to enhance students’ experience and understanding of contemporary art and to provide a space for critical thinking and the development of observational skills.

object 2, 2014. palladium gilded papier-mâché and concrete. 59" x 16 1/4" x 12 1/2"

OPP: What’s your curatorial process like? How is it different from the way you work as an artist?

JN: I don’t often think of myself as a curator in the traditional sense. I think more of what I do in this role is create opportunities and give artists the support to develop ideas. This in turn becomes a bit of a collaboration then, as opposed to the very solitary way I work in the studio.

OPP: Speaking of the solitary space of the studio, what’s happening in there right now that no one else has seen?

JN: My studio right now has lots and lots of tiny torn paper pieces that are being mounted on paper and then coated with a graphite paint I am making that then gets burnished. I am interested in continuing to push my materials and see what new things can be discovered. In the latest work, the paper becomes the mark as opposed to the mark being drawn.

To see more of Jenene's work, please visit jenenenagy.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular will open on August 11, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.