OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Anna Jensen

She Would Rather Imagine Herself Relating To An Absent Person Than Build Relationships With Those Around Her
2012
Acrylic, goldleaf, glitter, and oil stick on canvas
60"x 72"

Van Gogh, Picasso and Andy Warhol meet family snapshots, Britney Spears and Mister Rogers in ANNA JENSEN's densely-patterned, psychological landscapes. Anna is deeply in touch with the Jungian shadow. She expertly balances humor and darkness, referencing her personal biography in a way that points to a universal, human vulnerability. Anna attended the University of Georgia in Athens and Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Her work has been featured three times in Studio Visit Magazine and on The Jealous Curator. She has had solo exhibition at Honour Stewart Gallery (Asheville, North Carolina), Dockside Gallery (Atlanta) and, most recently, Nouvel Organon (Paris). Anna lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk generally about the balance of funny and sad in your work? How do you know when you've got it right?

Anna Jensen: I generally start painting without any conscious intention. A painting can begin as a figure drawing or me riffing off of a family photograph that moves me at that moment. Or I will just start mark-making and finger painting to see what memories or feelings are evoked. I go from there. I was playing with paint loosely on top of a more tightly-rendered piece and had this flash of memory from an incident when I was a child on a road trip with my family. The yellow and white splotches I was compelled to add to the image in the present all of a sudden represented the mustard and mayonnaise that my father once smeared on my brother's face in an inappropriate attempt to reprimand him. So the innate actions of my hands and the paint brought about this unexpected connection that was personally significant to me, and so I decided to keep it. It's always comforting with paint to know that you CAN paint over something if you choose to. And I often do. I paint and repaint my surfaces an insane number of times until I stumble—often through great effort—onto that perfect balance of funny and sad. It's a gut thing when I know I've found it. There's no formula. It's both difficult to find and effortless. C'est la vie!

A Foreboding Shadow Befell Her So She Drowned Her Future Sorrows
2010
Acrylic, goldleaf, and glitter on canvas
40"x 30"

OPP: Tell us about your saddest piece.

AJ: They all break my heart and save me at the same time. I think life is so incredibly sad and yet SO amazing and wonderful. I love that paradox, although that in itself is gut wrenching. A Foreboding Shadow Befell Her So She Drowned Her Future Sorrows is, at first glance, happy and bright, familial. . . love filled. But, there is major sadness or doom waiting in there. A man looking at it in Paris said aloud, "this is like a knife in my heart." It was so touching to hear that he had such a strong response to the image. This piece is based on a found photograph of my mother holding my little sister in our childhood kitchen as I sit to the side morosely glugging a goblet of golden liquid. There is a double exposure creeping over the left side of the frame. It forebodes trouble to come. My eyes have dark circles around them, and I chose to accentuate the red-eye effect in my eyes while removing it from my sister and mom. There is also a spider hanging over my mother's head, likely a leftover Halloween decoration but also adding an eery sense of imminent danger.

My mom died suddenly when she was way too young. It was, of course, a terrible tragedy. It has been very difficult to accept living without her. I had some pretty serious issues with alcohol abuse as a teenager/young adult, so the photo was telling in many ways. I just had to make a painting from it. The patterns in my work most likely stem from these times in my life when I had a living Mom and a more traditional family situation. She decorated with many competing and/or complimentary patterns. At times, it felt very busy, but there was a certain flow and comfort in the partnering and placement. I'm definitely a nostalgia junky, so things like that really get to me. I can find the ugliest thing drop-dead gorgeous if it evokes a certain feeling. . . that feeling of heartbreak in the name of love.

OPP: Tell us about your funniest piece.

AJ: I think Finally I'm A Functional Alcoholic is pretty darn funny. The goofy, starry eyed look on her face while the fire burns behind her. The landing-strip pubic hair (as my eccentric friend coined it). Of course there's some sadness going on. She's perhaps blitzed in the face of impending doom. The flowers I painted flanking her were from a gardening book I found which belonged to my late mother. But, over all it is humorous somehow. . . at least for a moment.

What's Happening To Us, Daddy?!
2011
Acrylic, goldleaf, and glitter on canvas
60"x48"

OPP:
Your portfolio includes several commissioned pieces, which fit stylistically with the other works, but don't have the same content as the "psychological landscapes."  But I wonder if pet portrait commissions like Portrait of Laila for her daddy, Mr. Todd Shelton (2014), Brando Plays Ball In The House (in Heaven) (2014) and Portrait of Amazing (2014) actually have a conceptual connection to the other paintings that explore intense emotions like anger, fear, resignation, shame, sadness. What do you think?

AJ: I try to infuse whatever I do with some level of emotion. My dog Beulah is like my child, so I totally love and respect animals and want to convey that in the portraits. They really do have personalities. One little mark in the wrong place and it looks like a totally different creature and would be unsettling to the pet parent! Those were basically gifts. I am glad I did them, but I have decided to cut back on stuff like that because I really do need to eat!  And I can't seem to NOT put my all into whatever it is that I am working on, whether I am being payed for it or not. The Brando piece took me weeks for example. That wallpaper!

OPP: Do you have any rules about what kinds of commissions you will take?  

AJ: I'm doing a pet portrait for my uncle right now and a piece for a friend's family who lost their youngest son recently. After those, I think I might be done with commissions/trades/gifts for a while! I have a million ideas for paintings I NEED to realize. If I could crank out work really fast that would be one thing. . .  or if I was independently wealthy. But I can't, and I'm not. I recently spent ten days on a painting of a mummy for one of my sister's low-income students because in passing he said, "hey, could you draw me a mummy?"  and I said, "sure, kid!  I'll draw you a mummy!" Again, I don't regret doing those things and honestly it is unlikely that I will really stop. But, it is my plan to strictly focus on my personal vision for a good while starting soon.

NEW work in progress
Automobile series
2014
Acrylic on canvas
18"x24"

OPP: Tell us about the Automobile Series, which you note on your website is "NEW work in progress." What's the inspiration for these new paintings?

AJ: Cars, especially older cars, are so structurally and energetically beautiful. They hold so many hopes and memories. . . from the mundane to the grandiose. It is about the physical aspects—color/shape/shine—as well as the nostalgia and personalities they evoke. I didn't think too much about it at first, but have since been flooded with all kinds of memories of the cars in my personal  history. My mom was a traveling saleswoman, so she always had a company car. As she moved up in her job, the cars got better and better. It was always so exciting when she would get a new one. . . that new car smell! And when she would pick me up, the air conditioning was such a relief from the Georgia heat. But, my dad always had junkers.  He is a mister fix-it type. . . he was an engineer, but circumstances landed him in home repairs/renovations. As a family we were never super well off, so my mom's company cars were a real luxury. My first car was a 1983 Volvo. It had been sitting in a field for years before I got it, so the inside was completely green with mold. Although I cleaned the heck out of it and smoked a million cigarettes in it with my friends, I don't think it ever lost all of that moldy smell.

I started the Automobile Series in an attempt to produce a bunch of work more quickly, less obsessively. But, they took on a life of their own, and now I am in over my head with all of the ideas I have for how to complete them. They are probably more involved and OCD-inducing than any before. There are a few more that I haven't added to my website yet because they are just TOO personal or not nearly ready for show. I just wanted to let people know that although I haven't presented finished new works in a while, I HAVE been busy. There is just never enough time in a day, as we all know.

OPP: You've just returned from Paris, where you had your first international solo show at gallery Nouvel Organon. Tell us about the show and your experience. Also, how do you decompress after a big solo show?

AJ: That show was an incredible experience. It involved so much risk, investment and hard work, but it was beyond worth it. I just can't say enough about it. I learned so much about the city and about myself. I made lifelong friends, which is priceless! I sold eight pieces—not too shabby! We had multiple events in the gallery to keep it creative and exciting. Spoken word, poetry and musical artists performed in the space. An amazing Butoh duo created a piece relating to my work, and they even had me paint their feet in the performance. The whole month was a beautiful time for everyone involved. That being said, I'm happy to be "home" and back in my studio.

At Least We Got Together For Lunch Last Week
2011
Acrylic, goldleaf, and glitter on canvas
48"x72"

OPP: How do you decompress after a big solo show?  

AJ: In the earlier days after a big show, I was so frazzled from all the build-up and hours of talking to strangers—immediately following the concentrated solitary time that went into creating the work—that I hightailed it to a Mexican restaurant to have a LITTLE food and a LOT of frozen margaritas. I found that I didn't leave there feeling much better. As I've become more seasoned, I have learned that some down time simply hanging with my dog is an immediate stabilizer. Exercise and, of course, more painting helps as well. The social and showing/talking part of this job always leaves me feeling a bit shell shocked. But, I'm so appreciative of the human connections I make on those occasions. I'm honored and grateful that people show up and make themselves vulnerable to speak up and share their response to the work. It's incredible. This is a mysterious and perplexing "job" to have, and I question it all the time. But, art has existed all this time for a reason. A BIG reason. So I always come back to realizing the value in staying on this path. However winding. . .

To see more of Anna's work, please visit annajensenart.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jacinda Russell

Barton Springs, Austin, Texas
June 13th, 2010
Archival Inkjet Print
20" x 30"

The objects we collect and accumulate serve as vehicles to both cling to and let go of our identities and personal experiences. JACINDA RUSSELL reveals the nuances of this continuum in her photography, sculpture and installations.  Some collections are extensions of her own body—fingernail clippings, old swimsuits and a broken comb she used for 25.5 years—while others present the obsessions and fixations of others. Jacinda received her BFA from Boise State University in Studio Art and her MFA from the University of Arizona in Photography. Her work has been exhibited at Texas Gallery, DiverseWorks, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Houston Center for Photography and the Academy of Fine Art & Design in Wroclaw, Poland. Faux, also featuring the work of Alexis Pike, opens on September 5, 2014 at Boise State University Visual Arts Center in Idaho. She a member of the Board of Directors and participant in the Postcard Collective. Jacinda is an Associate Professor of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You've said you come from a family of collectors. What kinds of collections did you witness as a child?

Jacinda Russell: Growing up, my father's major collection was balloon tire bicycles. At one time, there were nearly 200 inside the house, suspended from the ceilings or propped against any available wall space. He also accumulated soda bottles, porcelain signs, rusty toys, wheels, odd pieces of metal and wood, photographs and old advertising signage that he someday hoped to use in art projects.

Installation of 12 for 7 Years as an Adjunct Professor: 2002 - 2007, Oregon State University
2013
Archival Inkjet Prints
Each 45" x 30"

OPP: Do you remember a favorite collection from childhood?

JR: My favorite collection as a child is so hard to answer! I owned a lot of small wooden boxes that contained pins, stamps,tiny toy animals like plastic elephants and old rings. I also saved artifacts from places I visited: shells, rocks and purple-tinted glass worn and shaped by waves. Those are the items I still remember and even have one representation in a display case in my living room today.

OPP: There are probably as many idiosyncratic collection practices and purposes as there are humans, but I see collections as falling into two primary categories: collections that can be completed and those that can't. Thoughts? Do you tend towards one or the other?

JR: That's an interesting question, and I've never thought about it in that manner. I can see how that pertains to a comic book collection where someone owns every single issue of a publication, however, my collections exist as finite units. No matter how many objects are accumulated, when I say it is done, that is it. For instance, I don't need all the teeth my brother and I lost as a child photographed on a white piece of cotton. I only use what I have, and that is fine.

1045 Lists (1st June 2010 - 31 May 2013)
In progress

OPP: How do you decide when it is done? Is it a strictly artistic decision or is it something else?

JR: I stop when a collection overwhelms me. The best example I can give is of a small series of photographs that I am currently working on that features every single list I saved from June 1, 2010 - May 31, 2013. I kept them as long as I could before the stack made me physically uncomfortable and took up too much space on the shelf. I am currently sorting these into categories and photographing each pile individually and in small groups. There are 1045 of them.

OPP: Your project A Tale of Two Obsessions: David C. Nolan & Marilyn Monroe and Arline Conradt & the Cat Scrapbook, 2011 - 2013 investigates the collections of two strangers. How did you first encounter these collections? How did they become part of your work as an artist?

JR: I've known about the David C. Nolan photographs of Marilyn Monroe for years. They have haunted me since I was a teenager. I never thought to make art about them until my father gave them to me. He has always been a great source of material, perhaps knowing better than I do that I will someday turn it into artwork. If you would have told me when he first gave me the cat scrapbook that I would make an installation featuring 7500+ cats as a serious art project, I would have scoffed at the idea. I love this series because it is a step away from myself, a look at two individuals from a different era that are not too dissimilar in the manner in which they organize and structure their collections. The source of their material is very different, and I feel connected to—and repulsed by—both.

Arline Conradt & the Cat Scrapbook Mock-up Installation
2012
Archival Inkjet Prints

OPP: In what ways are you a documentarian? In what ways are you not?

JR: I define documentary work as an objective viewpoint, and everything I do is subjective. I have always considered myself a pseudo-archivist rather than a documentarian. I fiddle too much with the truth, preferring to manipulate what I see rather than leave it alone. It is very difficult for me to take a photograph that is not staged in some manner and consider it artistic (although I appreciate documentary photographers like William Eggleston and Robert Adams).

OPP: "Despite its beauty, Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water comes from a dark place—one that was momentarily forgotten as I traveled across the country searching for pristine water." That's a mysterious statement. Will you tell us more about the beginning of this project?

JR: I allude to the "dark place" at the beginning of the project statement: "Spring 2010 featured several personal and career-related disappointments, and for the first time in my artistic life, I was devoted to a project that’s main premise is beauty, escapism and desire. . . Complete immersion in finding inviting bodies of water to float Styrofoam and acrylic-tinted, caulk cakes was a coping mechanism to come to terms with loneliness and unhappiness with place." I have a habit of saying too much with my artwork and this series was a challenge to step back and not explain everything in detail. I wanted the photographs to stand on their on and for the most part I think they do.

Scott & Kim Anderson’s Backyard, Hartford City, Indiana
June 18th, 2010
Archival Inkjet Print
30" x 20"

OPP: This project gets at the idea that collecting can be a consciously or unconsciously evasive maneuver. But it can also be an opportunity for transformation. Where did the project lead you?

JR: I don't consider the cakes a collection, rather a depiction of an action or performance. Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water consisted of many components which I documented extensively on my blog: the construction of the object, choosing the locations, the travel mishaps that often took place because so many variables were out of my control, the encounters with the general public that interfered with the documentary process, the begging, bribing and excuses I made to explain my actions. They are all part of the series though not evident in the end product.

The following summer, I received a grant for a project entitled From Venice Beach to the Venice Biennale. It involved many failures but led me to several series that I am currently working on: my explorations with water and stalking artists. The Venice Beach portion featured my attempt to meet Ed Ruscha. I had a couple weeks in between my trips to California and Italy to create art in response to whether or not I met the famous conceptual artist. Whatever came from it, I would bring to the Venice Biennale. I sent him a letter before flying to Los Angeles, outlining my plans and included nine postcards of the fake cakes. Needless to say, I did not meet him but a couple days after I returned from California, I received a postcard from him stating: "Jacinda - Thanks so much for 'Nine Fake Cakes: . .' Those cakes never had it so good and niether [sic] did those bodies of water! Rage on! Ed Ruscha" I would like to think I took his advice seriously (or at least I am still trying).

Clear Water Sample: Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
20" x 30"

OPP: You recently completed a summer residency, correct? Where did you go and what did you make?

JR: Since I finished Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water, I have often wondered if I were to redo it, how could it be better? The answer lies in the location. Although many of the bodies of water in that project had a purpose, they were not as meaningful as they could be. I started a series last summer based on my autobiography as told in water (the opening image on my website is the first photograph, but the series is in-progress and currently untitled, hence not referenced anywhere else yet). I have a list of 14 locations that I must document and collect materials from in order to finish this work. They range from locations important to my family history to destinations I have longed to visit because I thought they would change the way I perceive water and thus, my relationship to the world (the glacial melt of Lake Louise is an example of the latter).

I was invited to attend a residency at Surel's Place in Boise, Idaho, which is conveniently located next to five of the locations on my list. I spent the entire month of May revisiting many of the places where I vacationed as a child. I collected water samples, made sound and video recordings and took photographs. I am halfway done with the list and hope that I will have completed it in two years. I am still editing and thinking about the images I acquired. Some will exist as photographs while others will be featured in a mail art project, an artist book and a mixed media installation. I have always wanted my work to extend further into the third dimension, and I hope this series will be a breakthrough in that direction. 

To see more of Jacinda's work, please visit jacindarussell.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Geoffry Smalley

Paper Tiger
2013
Graphite on Paper, Cut Paper Overlay

According to GEOFFRY SMALLEY, "to understand the history of American team sports is to understand our national development." To this end, he thoughtfully and humorously examines the "Big Three" (baseball, football and basketball) in painting, drawing, collage and sculpture. Painting on top of existing reproductions, he injects sports arenas into famous Hudson River School landscapes and mashes up team uniforms and mascots with the animals that inspired them. Geoffry earned his BFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago and his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited extensively in and around Chicago. Most recent was his solo exhibition Past Time at Packer Schopf Gallery in the summer of 2014. When he isn't making art, Geoffry works as an art conservator at Joel Oppenheimer, Inc. in Chicago, where he lives.

OtherPeoples Pixels: Tell us about the work in Past Time, your most recent solo show at Packer-Schopf Gallery in Chicago.

Geoffry Smalley: For several years I've been exploring social and political issues related to American sports, and Past Time is the latest body of work. In my daily dealings as an art conservator, I think about the works I treat, their place in American art history and the nature of authenticity. I have to hide my hand when treating an art work, and because of that I began to think of ways I could use historical images for my own purposes. At the time, I was also reading about the rise of sports during the Industrial Revolution, which reflected America's progression into the modern age.

Catskill Creek, Citi Field
2012
Acrylic on Ink Jet Print

OPP: I'm especially interested in the sports vistas, in which you insert contemporary arenas and stadiums into romantic landscape paintings. 

GS: The vistas are reproductions of Hudson River School paintings onto which I have painted images of various sports arenas. Painters like Thomas Cole and Asher Durand held cautiously optimistic views of society's progress. They believed in the sublime, the closer-to-God power of untamed nature. They captured these unspoiled vistas at the very moment our country steamrolled west and grew into the industrial superpower it is now. Sports flourished in the same way. At a time when workers first began to have leisure time, baseball emerged from rural America. It was played at what was then considered a rapid pace, under the sun, during the growing season, affected by the elements. Football is industrial manufacturing plus military readiness: taking land by force, specialized individual moving parts choreographed to achieve a singular, larger goal. Basketball picked up football’s individualized machinations but added a more free-form individualism to the mix. As Americans left the rural landscape to congregate in cities, immigrants, settlers and native-born people tried to assimilate their variegated histories into an homogenous American identity. Sport offered a common site and a common language where that diversity could be bridged.

OPP: Team names and mascots are a jumping off point in many of your drawings on found images, as in Chief and Cowboy from 2014, as well as Seahawks, Orioles and Eagles from 2011. It seems like most professional sports team names are either history or animal references. Is this the case? Why do you think that is? Can you think of any exceptions?

GS: I believe team names are derived from the tradition of using animal totems as a way to harness the mythic powers, internalize the traits and externalize the characteristics of certain creatures. In football you have the Eagles, Lions, Panthers, Bears—all predatory, strong animals. Baseball gives you Cubs, Orioles, Cardinals and Blue Jays—not really striking fear into an opponent with those names. But there are also historical and social references—49ers, Cowboys, Brewers and Steelers—which reflect each team’s hometown industry/identity and blue collar fans. Of course you have the tradition of “honoring” Native Americans by making them mascots. From Chief Wahoo to Chief Noc-A-Homa to the tomahawk chop, there are racist slurs appropriated with great popularity across all sports. The traditional Thanksgiving NFL matchup of the Cowboys vs. Redskins is also indicative of historically entrenched nationalism and racism that still bubbles beneath the surface. Team names are meant to carry with them meaning and identity, and do so quite powerfully, sometimes with unintended consequences. There just a couple exceptions to the animal/historical references, where a team name actually invokes either more etherial or benign powers. The Heat, the Thunder, The Sox from Chicago and Boston. . . hard to take umbrage with the fact that Miami is hot or that Chicagoans wear socks.

Bears
2011
Acrylic on Book Page

OPP: Could you talk generally about the strategy of the cut-out in your work? You've used it in collage, drawing and sculpture, and it appears to be both a aesthetic and conceptual strategy.

GS: I have used the cut-out for about 15 years, originally as a way to isolate all or part of a specific image from the collage-like paintings I used to make. It began as an attempt to understand why I used a particular image, how re-contextualizing an image changed or added to its meaning. That isolation evolved to be more of a strategy of simultaneously concealing and revealing, taking images past straight representation and into a more mysterious place. The cut-out also acts as an interruption, a pause or glitch in the image a viewer is trying to decipher. Not being given the whole story at once allows for a slower absorption of information and keeps the question alive longer. It's always more interesting when you don't know the answer. On a base level, cutting and collaging is an extension of my drawing practice, a way to regroup and quickly realize thoughts.

Ring Stock Ballyhoo - Swarm
2010
Collage
Variable (16x19)

OPP: I'm seeing a lot of forms that evoke the Fleur-de-lis and other coat-of-arms designs. Some examples include the graphite helmet designs in Starbury (2011), the decorative flourishes in Antique Sorrow (2008) and the cut-out gold foil in Dale Earnhardt Portrait Cartouche (2007). What do these flourishes mean to you? How has your use of them changed over time?

GS: Those forms mostly come from the Rococo. I was picking on NASCAR, talking about the spectacular, florid, over-the-top displays of eye candy that NASCAR embodies. The Rococo is often discounted as a movement entrenched in frivolity and poor taste, one of shallow and selfishly playful intent. Just beauty. I used the forms to create what I called “portrait cartouches” of NASCAR drivers, comprised of all the sponsors’ logos on their fire suits. As with the cut-out, decorative forms serve dual purposes. As aesthetic forms, they bring shape and content to an image. In Starbury and similar images from Past Time, I conflated athletic and military display, imagining athletes “in the trenches” or as modern-day gladiators and warriors. I began to think about contemporary athletes’ tattoos as parade armor worn by Medieval and Renaissance kings. That armor was never worn in battle. It was a narrative display of power.

Kaplooie
2008
1:24 Scale Hobby Model, Cut-out and Bent Sintra, Enamel, Decals
16" x 22" x 15"

OPP: How do you decompress after a solo show or the completion of a big project? Do you need a break before returning to the studio?


GS: I definitely need to take a break. I usually spend a little time away from the studio after a show, until my feet get too itchy to keep me away. I see an exhibition as an opportunity to get some perspective on where I am with my work in general. It’s good to see all the pieces out of the studio, having a dialogue together. I take that back to the studio with me. After cleaning and rearranging, I research, make drawings and listen to a lot of baseball on the radio to prepare for the next thing. 

OPP: And what's your next thing?

GS: While making work for Past Time, I had thoughts and ideas bouncing around that didn't fit with that show, so they got put on the back burner. But as I stated above, feet get itchy. I have been thinking about how the landscape/stadium idea relates to religion. Certain stadia and arenas are considered pilgrimage sites for fans. Naturally, inside those sites are relics, items imbued with the history and iconography of the residents housed within the building. I’m working on ideas for sculptural forms that play with sports reliquaries and trophies. . . nothing fully-formed yet. But I’m excited to get back to work.

To see more of Geoffry's work, please visit geoffrysmalley.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Deanna Krueger

Elusive Vector
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), paper, ink, staples
54" x 63"

DEANNA KRUEGER’s work sits at the intersection of sculpture, painting and textiles. Her wall-hung Shards, composed of ripped, angular pieces of acrylic monotypes on X-Ray/MRI film stapled together, reference quilting, Minimalist painting and primitive surgery. Deanna graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA from University of Michigan and received her MFA with Highest Honors from Eastern Michigan State. In 2014, her work was included in the group exhibitions Meditative Surfaces at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (Indiana) and the Rockford Midwestern Biennial, on view until September 28, 2014, at the Rockford Art Museum (Illinois). She is currently preparing for a forthcoming solo exhibition at The Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art (College of Lake County, Grayslake, Illinois) titled Deanna Krueger: Shimmer. The exhibition opens on February 27, 2015. Deanna lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you explain the different parts of the process of creating the works in your series Shards.

Deanna Krueger: I begin by printing acrylic monotypes onto recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film). The film is then torn apart and the shards are reconnected into new configurations using thousands of staples. The process yields large wall-hanging pieces that are semi-translucent and slightly dimensional.

Shards
Installation shot, River Gallery (Chelsea, Michigan)

OPP: What's your favorite part? Least favorite part?

DK: The painting and printing is probably my favorite part. It always seems to happen too quickly, though I also really enjoy combining the various nuances of colors on the shards. Tearing the film creates quite a bit of noise. It sounds like I am taking out my aggression, but it just makes me laugh as that is usually not the case.

I assemble the pieces while seated on the floor of my studio, which is tile that I painted white so I can see the translucent colors. I set out the shards into little piles of color, much the way a painter lays out her palette. Then it is kind of like a game of seated Twister as I reach and staple, reach and staple. The repetition is meditative. At times I wish I could get my process off the floor to lessen the physical strain, but I always go back to that tile.

Aether
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
45" x 45"

OPP: When did you first start working with recycled medical diagnostic film? Where do you get so much of it?

DK: In grad school I was experimenting with translucency on small discarded Mylar retail signs. My adviser saw what I was doing and mentioned that someone had dropped off some medical film years ago to the studio. She gave me about twenty sheets of 14” x 17” film. I instantly fell in love with the stuff. Acrylic won’t usually stick to plastic, but the film has a chemical substrate designed to absorb pigment. At that time, I was working as a preparator and assistant to the Visual Arts Coordinator at an arts program at the University of Michigan Health System. I made a lot of contacts with clinics and stockpiled the stuff. Most of what I got are clear “cleanup” sheets. They are run through the diagnostic machines between scans to clean off the print rollers, so when you go for your brain scan there are no accidental ink blobs on your results. Sometimes people give me their own personal X-Rays and MRIs, and I have also gotten some over-exposed film. I did some other things with the film for my MFA thesis show, but my Shards series started the year after I finished.

OPP: Tell us about your choice of staples as the connecting element for the Shards.

DK: In undergrad, I found a used, specialty hand-held stapler. I appreciated its elegance and simplicity. I am a bit obsessed with tools! After my MFA, the medical film and the staples came together. They seemed the perfect match. There is also the connection that staples are often used in surgery. The staples add an edge to the work. I welcome this bit of darkness. . . though they also add sparkle. So there is dark and there is light.

Alcyone (detail)
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples

OPP: Let's talk about how practical concerns affect art-making. I imagine these works are difficult to transport. They seem like they might crack or break if rolled up. How do you move this work from one space to another? Has it ever affected where you exhibit or the scale of your work?

DK: Though the pieces look quite delicate, they are actually very sturdy. The film is .7mil BoPET (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate). I roll the work up and make long narrow boxes for shipping. Unlike paper or other plastics, it pops right back to flat when unrolled. They have safely shipped to numerous states and to Rome and Berlin. I once shipped eight pieces to Florida all in one box. My largest pieces so far were 75” x 75.” Even those were less than two pounds each. When I am pressed for time, UPS makes the boxes for me. I love to work large. I am disqualified from a lot of shows for it, but I don’t care. I have recently made some at 36” x 36,” but I think the larger ones have more impact. In my current studio I could probably make something as wide as 14 feet. I am waiting for that commission to roll in! Work has only been damaged once. A bunch of rowdy children were running around and yanked on it. It was torn beyond repair. The force required would probably have punctured a typical canvas as well. Thank goodness the venue had insurance.

Nereid
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
50" x 69"



OPP: Although your Shards are hard and sharp and don't have the same associations of comfort and care, I see quilts when I look at them. Like quilters, you break apart and recombine materials that could be thrown away. And there are embedded stories that aren't legible to the viewer. Are you influenced by quilting or its history?

DK: Yes. I had a duel major in undergrad: Drawing/Painting and Fibers. My MFA was in Textiles. A lot of viewers have mentioned the similarities to quilts and also to stained glass. I like the fact that peoples’ histories are embedded in the material. I am transforming what may have been a negative experience into a more positive thing.

I describe these pieces as sculptural paintings. Unfortunately, I think work in fiber still often has the stigma of being crafty women’s work. I pulled my own little Guerrilla Girl stunt the first time I entered Shards in a juried exhibition. A postcard produced for a show during undergrad had a typo in my name. They spelled it Dean. I got to thinking that the gay, male juror might like a Dean better than a Deanna, so I entered as Dean. I got in and won best in show. I would like to think it would not have mattered. I dropped that charade after the gallery took me into their stable and gave me a solo show. 



Lazuli
Acrylic on HDPE on Panel
30" x 30"

OPP: The surfaces of the two-dimensional works in Liminal have an amazing, scale-shifting effect. I switch back and forth between seeing relief maps of landforms and microscopic views of ice crystals. Could you talk about the relationship of the very large and the very small in this work? How does this relate to your overall interests in making art?

DK: Geology, fossils, crystalline structures, growth patterns and topographical maps all inspire and fascinate me. In fact, a Swiss friend of mine calls me Map Girl, because when traveling I must know at all times know where we are on the map.

I enjoy creating the fluctuation of micro and macro. That is one common thread between the Liminal and Shards pieces. I love it when people say the work looks so different from far away than it does close up. More intimate observation reveals the layers of intricacy.

Epsilon Indi
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
63" x 63"

OPP: Your titles also get at that fluctuation if you look at them as a group; they reference geology, astronomy and mythology. How important to understanding the work is it that viewers read the titles and get the references?

DK: Viewers can take away as much or as little as they like, though I do enjoy it when people understand or at least explore the conceptual nuances embedded in the work. The geology and astronomy references stem from my interest in science in general. In the astronomical field, many celestial bodies are named after mythological characters. Referencing mythology is my way of calling into question various belief systems. We now know that things the ancients believed are false. Pointing this out is one way of questioning the validity of many beliefs strongly held today. 


To see more of Deanna's work, please visit deannakrueger.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video,
collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Wesley Harvey

teapot
2010

Drawing on Queer Theory, ceramic artist WESLEY HARVEY explores what the terms"normative and deviant" mean for the contemporary, gay male. His visual influences range from the pottery of Ancient Greece to kitschy figurines, and his work sits on the line between functional object and sculpture. Wesley received his BFA from Indiana University (2002) and his MFA from Texas Tech University (2007). His work is included in the permanent collections at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Ceramic Research Center at  Arizona State University and the Art & Artifact Collection of the The Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. In 2014, The Cupcake Eaters won First Place in the 20th San Angelo National Ceramic Competition at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. Wesley's forthcoming solo exhibition one night stand opens on October 6, 2014 at Clamp Light Artist Studios & Gallery in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Is it important to make a distinction between functional pottery, decorative pottery and ceramic sculpture, either in your work or in general?

Wesley Harvey: As a ceramic artist, I love that I can jump back and forth between the craft and the fine art. For the longest time, ceramics as a medium was just stuck in the craft movement. But most of my career, I have made ceramic sculptures. About four years ago, I became interested in the pottery aspect of ceramics. Some days in the studio, I absolutely love to sit down and spend the day just making cups. I treat each cup of mine just as I would a sculpture, making sure that every inch of the cup is exactly how it should be. My newest body of work is pottery-based, but I consider the larger vessel forms to be sculpture.



bearsome
2011

OPP: Could you talk about the intersection of the cutsey-kitschy with the overtly sexual, especially in your 2011 solo show Afternoon Delight at Joan Grona Gallery?

WH: I grew up loving all things kitsch because of the fascination that my grandmother had with tawdry objects. She taught me to appreciate them rather than see them as trash items, as most people do. She had so many objects and figurines in her home; it was like a kitsch museum. My mom is a huge Elvis fan, and she had so much Elvis memorabilia in our home while I was growing up. He was in every room and on every radio, even in the car. I guess I just got the kitsch gene passed onto me by the family. I knew that Afternoon Delights was going to be my last solo exhibition using the kitsch-inspired influence of figurines and collectibles, and I wanted it to be special. Sexuality has been an influence in my artwork since my undergraduate studies at Indiana University. While there, I visited the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender and Reproduction. It had everything and anything in all regards to sex. I loved it!

So for the exhibit, I really wanted to use both of these influences and create something special for the audience that would make them either love the artwork or be somewhat bothered that I put my kitschy figurines in these awkward situations. My favorite piece in the exhibition was come on baby, which consisted of a line of 25 bunnies who where actually having sex with each other. Formally, the piece was beautiful and up close, the viewer could see that each bunny had a phallic part that was going into a hole on the backside of the next bunny. I was blown away by the support; everyone loved it!

Dinnerware Installation (detail)
2010

OPP: Dinnerware Installation (2010) features decals of images created by Tom of Finland, called the "most influential creator of gay pornographic images" by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade. This china set is particularly interesting in relation to the blurred boundary between functional and conceptual uses of ceramics because it brings to mind the marriage tradition of registering for a china pattern. 2010 was the year Prop 8 was finally ruled unconstitutional. Is Dinnerware Installation a response to the ongoing struggle for marriage equality?

WH: Yes and no. It’s more personal than overtly political. This second body of pottery-based work was heavily influenced by my studies in Queer Theory, which defines and examines both normative and deviant behavior. Previously, I was really only looking at normative behavior. I started to create this work because of the feeling that I would not ever get to the point in my life when I would be able to register for a china pattern. This body of artwork was a way for me to become sexual and fantasize about a different life than what I had as a single, gay man. I am really the biggest prude in the world and the worst at relationships. The artwork for me counter-balances those insecurities.

Pussy Stare
2014
Porcelain, glaze, decals, glitter, resin

OPP: It’s important to say that the terms normative and deviant are social constructions that shift and change over time and from place to place. It seems like those terms may have even shifted within the queer community over the last decade, as same-sex marriage is slowly, but surely becoming legal in more states and more same-sex couples are parenting. For readers who are unfamiliar with Queer Theory, can you say more about “normative and deviant behavior?”

WH: Yes, the terms normative and deviant are social constructions that do shift and are always evolving. As with any duality, you cannot have one without the other. Whereas Gay/Lesbian Studies focused its inquiries into natural and unnatural behavior with respect to homosexual behavior, Queer Theory expands its focus to encompass any kind of sexual activity or identity that falls into normative and deviant categories. So, the fact that gay marriage is becoming more accepted in our society puts it in the normative category. But the deviant category, which I do not see society accepting for quite a while, interests me most. While doing my research for my collage process, I sometimes even get red in the face. For example, the cupcake eaters, was inspired by deviant subject matter. I found an ad on Craig's List: a gentlemen wanted men to come into his hotel room and defecate into his mouth by using a special chair, which would already be set up when the callers entered the room. I modified this deviant act, using cupcakes falling into the guys mouth. I felt that was a bit more appropriate.

the cupcake eaters
2013
Stoneware, glaze, decals, luster, silk flowers

OPP: The stoneware pots—the cupcake eaters (2013), daydreaming in gold (2013), B.A.B.S. (2013) and portraits of daydreaming (2014)—covered in decals recall the pottery of Ancient Greece, which tell the stories of what life was like then. Are they meant to be viewed as future artifacts telling stories that might otherwise be lost?

WH: These particular pieces are definitely influenced by the ancient Greek vessels. In pieces like the cupcake eaters, I am referencing acts of deviant sexuality; more than stories that might be lost, these are matters that are not discussed. I find it interesting that people want to talk about the deviant, but not really. It is like a bad car wreck. You want to look at it, but at the same time, you feel bad. What I am doing is not really shocking, considering the imagery of the ancient Greek vessels. When you take a second look at that pottery, you start to notice what is really going on with those men and adolescent boys.

OPP: You have a upcoming solo show at Clamp Light Artist Studios & Gallery in San Antonio, Texas (October 6-13, 2014). What are you planning for this exhibition? How will it be different from previous shows?

WH: For this exhibition, I have changed things up a bit in the studio. I have ditched porcelain and stoneware, and I’m working exclusively in terra cotta. The vessels are going to be much more closely related to the ancient Greek vessels in their forms. I have never really used terra cotta, and I wanted that historical reference to be there with these new forms. I am most excited about the kylix cup forms I’m making for the show. They are a much smaller scale than the vessels, and it has been nice working with the handheld scale again. The imagery is changing also and branches out from the Tom of Finland guys. The kitsch and cute is going to make an appearance again, but only in the two-dimensional imagery. Let’s just say that I’m throwing smurfs and Elvis into the mix!

To see more of Wesley's work, please visit wesleyharvey.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video,
collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Tamara Kostianovsky

Bound
2008
Clothing belonging to the artist, meat hooks, chains
61 x 39 x 15 inches
Photo Credit: Sol Aramendi

Jerusalem-born, Argentinian-raised TAMARA KOSTIANOVSKY "cannibalizes" her own clothing for raw materials, using the body as a site of connection between the violence perpetrated against humans and against animals. Drawing on her history as a painter, she expertly layers fabric to simulate flesh, ligaments and bone in soft sculptures of butchered meat and three-dimensional recreations of masterworks containing slaughtered animal carcasses. Tamara earned her BFA from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes “Prilidiano Pueyrredón” in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1998) and her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2003). She has been the recipient of numerous grants, including a Pollock Krasner Foundation Award (2012), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2010) and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2009). Apocryphal Times, a group show organized by Tamara and Thorsten Albertz, for Friedman Benda Gallery (New York) opens October 30, 2014. In two upcoming solo shows, The Still Lives will be exhibited at the Nevada Museum of Fine Art in Reno (January - July 2015) and then at El Museo del Barrio (January 2016) in New York City, where Tamara lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Most of your work employs both simulated and real butchered meat. But this work doesn't appear to be about vegetarianism or animal rights. They aren't sculptures of whole, slaughtered animal carcasses; they are butchered and ready for consumption. Could you talk generally about your interest and associations with the image of the slabs of meat?

Tamara Kostianovsky: Most of my work came about as a result of my experience working at a surgeon’s office, where veins exploded into waterfalls, cut ligaments set free the muscles they once contained, and chunks of fat poured over tissues of various colors and textures. An ambivalent fascination with these encounters put the torn body at the center of my work, over time allowing me to reflect on history, politics and the needs of the body.

These works are about violence; they express my frustration with senseless destruction, which of course applies to animals, but more so to humans. The recent history of South America and the violence associated with the military dictatorships of the 1970s was in my mind when I started working on the series of butchered cows.

War Map 1810
2012
C-Print mounted on Sintra
52.5 x 36 inches

OPP: The photographic War Maps (2012) and the sculptural maps made from cured meat both explore historical conflicts over land boundaries. Why are the butchered bodies of animals the perfect medium to explore this theme?

TK: I was inspired to print maps onto fresh slabs of meat as a result of my interest in the depiction of the goddess Pachamama (usually translated as “Mother Earth”) that was developed by the South American people of the Andes during the 17th Century. In response to the enforcement of Christianity and its imagery, the native Americans rendered their ancient deity as the Virgin Mary with the body of a mountain: half-human, half-land. Playing on this proposition, I too decided to give a body to the land, printing maps onto fresh slabs of meat that later turned into entire meat continents that I cured in my studio. The series includes maps and pseudo-architectural models that speculate about possible futures for our lives.

OPP: The pieces in Actus Reus are amazing recreations of butchered meat that expertly avoid looking like cute stuffed animals, despite their soft, textile materials. How did you accomplish this? Did you work from images or from "life?"



TK: I work in an artisanal way. . . totally low-tech. Pretty much everything in my work is hand-made. I use discarded materials, primarily my own clothing. I often use photography as source material, but I actually work in a very traditional sculptural way: building forms, working and reworking the images until I am satisfied with their final form.

I usually spend a few of months on each piece. The first phase involves translating the image that inspired the piece into a three-dimensional form so that it feels simultaneously accurate and sculpturally interesting. Then I focus on the detail, paying attention to specific areas of the sculpture to create a sense of realism—which is mostly fictional. I put a lot of effort into exaggerating areas of each piece to make them look bloody, torn and freshly severed. Interestingly, it is the details that come from my imagination that look most realistic.

Still Life I (detail)
2014
40 x 20 x 23 inches

OPP: Before you began using your own wardrobe for material to make art, what were your sculptures like?



TK: I actually did very little sculpture before the introduction of clothing in my work. I was trained as a painter. My paintings were all about color, usually referencing something figurative like landscapes or still lifes. Color was key to me at the time, and I didn’t shy away from strong contrast and high saturation. Those experiences with color live on my current work. I often find myself fighting with painters’ problems such as balance, saturation and hue. I very much enjoy layering tones, especially in the  flesh, which I create by juxtaposing fabrics of diverse transparency levels.

OPP: That painting history makes a lot of sense now, considering The Still Lives, which reference several masterworks by Durer, Goya, Bruñuel, Aertsen and Carracci. Could you talk about this shift towards such well-known art historical references in your work?

TK: De Kooning famously said “Flesh was the reason oil paint was invented.” There are many examples throughout the history of Painting that point to the strong desire of artists to capture the richness of the flesh. The series exists in between realism and illusion. Often based on the experiments of Master Painters, the works play on the idea of recreating two-dimensional images in three-dimensions, which is the opposite of what painters have been doing for centuries.

After Goya (detail)
2013
Articles of clothing belonging to the artist, fabric, wood
101 x 104.4 x 24 inches

OPP: You often cite your predominant material as "clothing belonging to the artist" and you've used the term "cannibalize" to describe how you mine your own wardrobe for material. The term cannibalize really foregrounds the violence you are interested in, but it's such a different way of saying reuse or recycle, which foregrounds a mode of living which is the opposite of violent. Thoughts on this?



TK: Violence is the central theme of this body of work. There is something “sacrificial” about the appropriation of my own clothes. I use clothing to bridge the gap between human and animal violence. I strive to transform fabric into flayed flesh, gristle and bone. The manipulation of this material allows for me to unveil the architecture of violence that starts in the foods we eat and takes over our continents, our history, ourselves.

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

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive, collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Sage Schmett

Fold away house
2010
Cardboard, acrylic paint, hot glue

Using cardboard, catalogs, magazines and other recycled paper, SAGE SCHMETT returns repeatedly to the motif of the house as a repository for both loss and desire. Her uninhabited, pop-up houses are impressive in their engineering and emotionally haunting. Recently, while indulging in the pleasure of collecting as a strategy, she has turned to domestic interiors, revealing our attachment to the objects with which we share our lives. Sage earned a BFA in Fiber Arts from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2012. Most recently she debuted Dollhouse #1 (2013) in the group exhibition Dwellings, curated by Rachel Gloria Manley, at Center of the Commons in Harvard, Massachusetts. Sage lives and works in Boston.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Houses are recurring visual motifs in your work. Could you talk about the different manifestations of this motif and why it continues to be a staple in your work?

Sage Schmett: I've been making houses in different forms since I was a kid. Back then, I loved making dioramas, especially of little rooms and interior scenes. I also had lots of Polly Pockets (still do!), and would build dollhouses with my dad. So my fascination with building houses goes back even further than my sense of being able to know why, beyond the fact that I just enjoyed it.

By the time I came back to building them in my late teens, houses became more associated in my mind with memory, dreams and the cycle of life and death. I began to see them as imprints of personal experience or repositories of memories and desires.

2010
Cardboard, acrylic paint

OPP: Talk about the form of the pop-up book in general and your material choices of recycled cardboard and hot glue.

SS: I like making art that requires interactivity. I want the person viewing my work to feel encouraged to explore a bit. And with pop-up books, there's an aspect to creating them that touches on engineering and other forms of logical problem-solving. I find this to be a fun challenge. Most importantly, I want the houses to stay safe and somewhat private.

The great thing about cardboard is that it's free. It's also easy to work with and easy to rework when I want to change something. The process gives me a sense of catharsis and relaxation. I like the trance-inducing nature of accumulating tons of miniature pieces, as in the Dollhouse and the repetitiveness of cutting and gluing.

2011
Cardboard, acrylic paint, hot glue

OPP: There's something somber about the ghostly pop-up houses and their grey and creamy-white exteriors. They seem dilapidated, possibly abandoned. And yet, because they fold up, they could easily be carried with you. I read these pieces as about nostalgia and clinging to the past. Thoughts?

SS: A lot of the emotional content of the houses is rooted in my past, for sure. Growing up, we lived in apartments. I always fantasized about having my own house, mostly so I could paint my bedroom a painfully bright color and install bead curtains and other tween decor. I also remember car rides with my whole family. We would drive by impressive, old New England homes, and I'd imagine interiors that were filled with adorable nooks and secret passage ways.

After my father passed away, I rummaged through his things. I discovered a box of photographs. The pictures were all of gorgeous, unfamiliar houses. I began my Dream Home series shortly after. The pop-up books are replicas of the houses my father photographed. Building these homes helps me stay connected to him, and allows me to realize our shared dream of having a place that is ours. Going through his apartment and his belongings was such an intense, private experience; it felt like I had stepped into his own inner world. The whole thing left me with this impression of how houses can be so personal and otherworldly at the same time, even just by virtue of the stuff that's in them. Though it probably just indicates a lot about the person who inhabits it, the why and how of accumulating dreams, desires and memories in the form of stuff and clutter. These ideas have stuck with me and show up repeatedly in my work.

Dollhouse #1
2013
Cardboard, catalogs, hot glue, acrylic paint, other collaged materials
2' 9"x 4'3"

OPP: In 2013, you shifted from focusing on the exteriors of houses in your pop-up books to the interior in Dollhouse #1. This piece has a dramatically different tone to it; it is excessively lived in. Who are the imagined occupants of this house?

SS: That shift in focus seemed natural to me at the time. My life had changed a lot. Time had passed since my dad died, and I was falling in love. I felt less vulnerable sharing things about myself in my work. I focused on exteriors before as a way of exploring architectures that my dad and I both liked. But I became interested in how houses' interiors can reflect private parts of the personality, both my own and those of people I care about. They are places to hold all the things we like, all the things we bind to our memories and dreams. I wanted to make a piece that would enliven these inanimate objects come and the space.

My process still involved architecture and kinetic, pop-up influenced elements such as a rotating toy carousel and a ringing phone. But I became much more immersed in basically "shopping" for things that appealed to me. I spent the better part of a year collecting pictures of toys, junk and clutter, mostly from free catalogs, magazines and decorating books. It's actually a rush! Once I had cut out an item and mounted it on cardboard, I felt a lot of satisfaction. It's a bit strange: I'm probably more excited to find a tiny paper version of a beloved object, than the real thing. I love the challenge of being constrained to such a specific scale when choosing an object. Outside of that, I just choose images of objects that genuinely appeal to me. The mess and clutter adds to the intimacy of the scene, but it also makes the house more alive, and it allows me to keep adding more stuff to it over time. The only occupants I can imagine living there are myself and my partner.

Dollhouse #1 (detail)
2013
Cardboard, catalogs, hot glue, acrylic paint, other collaged materials
2' 9"x 4'3"

OPP: Could you talk about the interaction of two-dimensional and the three-dimensional in your work?

SS: This interaction has its origins in the dioramas I used to make, but it also comes naturally as a result of my interest in both architecture and collage. I like how the mixture of both elements plays with the eye in interesting ways, with a kind of push/pull effect happening between flatness and depth. I also love how it photographs, since in the right lighting it can end up looking very realistic, obscuring the true scale of the scene. In this way, it gives even more life and focus to all these flat, throwaway objects.

Past Manicures (1 year) (detail)
2013
Nail polish, toothpicks, glue
12" x 12"

OPP: Speaking of throwaway objects, let's talk about your 2013 piece Past Manicures (1 year). I definitely see a connection to the houses by way of process: the collection of lots of tiny objects. Your earlier description of the houses—"imprints of personal experience or repositories of memories and desires"—certainly applies here, too. Is this piece a singularity or a new direction in your work?

SS: I see that piece as more of a continuation of my previous work, in that, as you mentioned, I was still collecting lots of miniature parts and trying to make them all say something when they're all together.

I took an interest in nail art about two years ago. After I would paint my nails, I found myself looking at them a lot throughout the day. When I was ready to paint my nails again, I would carefully remove the polish and save the pieces. The polish bits resembeled little jewels, and for some reason I loved them. Since the piece is a survey of a year's worth of manicures I had done, there are certain memories attached to each one. I'm not currently working on any other nail-based pieces like that one. For now, nail art is a fun hobby.

For the past six months, I've been collecting pieces for my largest house yet, and  I recently began building the structure that will contain all of them. I love the architectural side of things, but my heart is really in the collecting. Since I find that the most fun, I see it continuing to be a major part of my work in the future.

To see more of Sage's work, please visit sageschmett.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video,
collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews P. Seth Thompson

The Guttenberg Galaxy
2014
Archival pigment print

P. SETH THOMPSON “photographs” the blurred boundary between reality and fiction and the influence of American mass-media on our contemporary understanding of time, space and death. He digitally manipulates appropriated imagery from science fiction movies, home movies and news media, revealing a glittery, glowing world that is both strange and familiar. Seth studied Film and Video at Georgia State University, where he earned his BFA in 2005, and went on to receive his MFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design (Atlanta) in 2012. His first public art piece, commissioned by the Decatur Book Festival, will be on view Labor Day weekend, 2014. Seth has been named one of Atlanta’s 2014-15 Walthall Artist Fellows. The Last One, his 2013 solo show at Poem 88, was recently featured in Art in America. His upcoming solo show, This Message Has No Content runs from September 13 to October 25, 2014 at Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta, where Seth lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your current aesthetic has a 1980s sci-fi feel to it, but you have a background in "straight" photography. I can see visual precursors to your current work in Jesus in the Bleach (2005) and Face Mask (2009), as well as the many images of space-related sites like The UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico and the Kennedy Space Center. How did your earlier photography lead to your current work with appropriated images from TV and movies? 


P. Seth Thompson: My earlier work was a reaction to the medium of photography. While in school, I grew tired and a little annoyed with seeing the same images and concepts over and over again. There was a lot of work about identity and marginalized societal groups. Not that I don’t think this is an important topic, but if we continue to label these groups as such, they will stay marginalized. I think photography has more to say at this point in its history. Photography needs to move into a dialogue about how it disconnects rather than connects us. As a gay man, I have never felt separate from others, except with regards to my right to marry in my state. But art continues to tell a different story. It’s almost like we don’t want the conversation to move in another direction because then we will become the majority.

So I decided to let go of all that and just start shooting whatever I found interesting. The resulting photos led me to understand that my aesthetic—saturated color, lo-fi and banal—was profoundly influenced by all the films I watched as a kid. (My favorite film is A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.) My next move was to bring back the concept and incorporate images from film and television that visually spoke to the viewer and make them want to know more about the work.

Four Portals
2010

OPP: Some sources are very recognizable: Jason in The Illusion of Death Perception (2010), Patrick Bateman from American Psycho in American: 2001 (2010), Anthony Edwards in The Protagonist (2014), to name a few. But many of your source images have been manipulated beyond recognition. Sometimes the titles give me a hint at the source, as with The Tannenhauser Gate (2012) and Voight-Kampff Test (fail) (2012). Is specialized media knowledge as a prerequisite for understanding your work?

PST: I love this question because I have been battling that since I began the work. I always recognized that most people wouldn’t know the source images. I try to make the work as visually compelling as possible to attract the viewer’s attention. It’s almost like a modernist painter’s mentality; people become transfixed with abstraction, like they figuratively go to another place when they are in front of it. I want my work to cross boundaries and allow for all people to get some sort of message from it whether it be the reference, the aesthetic or the medium itself. As long as they leave with something new, then I am good with that.

OPP: What’s the most surprising response you’ve had from a viewer who didn’t get the references?

PST: It’s a tough one, for sure. I think the most interesting response was to my image of Kim Kardashian titled K is for Kim. People are confused as to why I would choose her as a subject, and my usual response is something like, “I am fascinated by her and what she represents.” We consume her, and she becomes a part of our daily life. She becomes an ice-breaker for conversation at work or at social events. Don’t get me wrong. I can’t stand her. But that doesn’t mean she isn't part of all of us; she is a symbol of America’s consumption.

The Last One (Tommy Westphall's Universe)
2013
Archival pigment print
25 x 33 in.

OPP: As a nerdy, life-long TV fan, my ego needs me to say that I know what Tommy Westphall's Universe is ;-), but I'm not sure it's common knowledge. Could you explain the theory for our readers and talk about its connection to your 2013 solo exhibition The Last One?

PST: Tommy Westphall was an autistic boy played by actor Chad Allen on the series St. Elsewhere. In the series finale, the entirety of the show was only a product of Wesphall’s imagination. To add another layer, the characters on St. Elsewhere show up on other television shows like Law and Order, Homicide, and so on. There are over 256 television shows that are theoretically connected to St. Elsewhere, or a product of Westphall’s mind.  

In my exhibition The Last One, which is also the title of the series finale, I explored the idea of how images never show the truth. The viewer’s suspension of disbelief was active during the run of the show until the finale proved otherwise. The finale made the viewer feel duped into having any sort of emotion, even though the show was intrinsically fiction. I correlate this to our own reality. I believe we are all Tommy Westphall, creating a world inside our heads and never fully understanding the truth. But unlike Westphall, our world is not edited into an hour long television show and written as a common monomyth. We are constantly searching for truth and attempting to explain it to others, but we keep getting blocked by the images we consume daily. Images define of our world. They are false, suggesting all of life is false.

An Event Cannot Have an End Time in the Past
2013
Video

OPP: Two pieces—I knew you, I know you, and I will know you again (2013), a memorial for deceased fictional characters, and An Event Cannot Have an End Time in the Past (2013), a video that blends your personal home movie footage with footage of the 1986 Challenger explosion—add a lot of emotional depth your to blurring of reality and fiction. A common, shallow read of your work (and of others who acknowledge how much TV and movies have influenced their perceptions of reality) is anxiously bemoaning the fact that humans don't know the difference between fact and fiction anymore. But I think that's silly. Humans have always told stories in order to understand their place in the world. Could you talk about how cinema and television function as contemporary myth, especially in relation to our need to understand death?

PST: The advent of the video rental store changed my life because it came with a different viewing experience. I took full advantage of it; I was able to control the film with the remote and have multiple viewings. Because of this, I believe a more extreme paradox of fiction was born. I felt a close bond to the characters and when they died, I had an emotional reaction. The memorial, I Knew You, I Know You, and I Will Know You Again offers a way to discuss the idea that death is not the end, but just another part of the journey.  Even though you are gone, I will see you again. All I need to do is hit the rewind button. 

As an adult, dealing with the reality of death, I know now that the two are not emotionally synonymous. The Challenger explosion was the first time I began to understand the separation between actual death and fictional death, but at six years of age, it was still elusive to me. It was hard to understand how Big Bird and Christa McAuliffe could both exist within the television. It is not the idea that people cannot decipher reality and fiction, but that there is no separation between reality and fiction.

We are curious creatures, and our need to understand death is always at the forefront of our thoughts. My fascination with film and television is a way to understand loss, but also to understand the reasons we are here in the first place. . . to get past the limitations of our eyesight and begin to connect the dots, to figure out our place in all of this. I don’t fear death anymore because I know that it is inevitable. People always say you shouldn’t worry about things you can’t control. The only thing you can do is try and understand it.

In the Beginning, it is Always Dark
2014
Archival pigment print
25 x 45 in

OPP: You have an upcoming solo exhibition This Message Has No Content
 at the Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta. Will you give us a preview?

PST: I started getting emails dated 12/31/1969 and that said “This Message Has No Content.” I thought this was kind of cool, so I looked up that date—nothing happened—and then following date. 1/1/1970 was the beginning of Epoch or Unix time, which is a system for describing moments of time in seconds. For example, the Challenger shuttle is 507296353. I thought the reason I was getting emails from 12/31/1969 was because it was the last day before events were described in Unix time. It was almost like someone was trying to contact me from the past, but it wasn’t coming through because the past never existed.

The new work is about the illusion of time, and I am using the act of watching a movie on VHS as a way to discuss this illusion. With a VHS, you were, for the first time, able to control your viewing experience. The film was measured in time with each scene corresponding to a series of numbers. In the image In the Beginning, It Is Always Dark, I am presenting the viewer a film still from The NeverEnding Story because it is the end of the film, but it is the beginning of the union of worlds.

To see more of Seth's work, please visit pseththompson.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, opens on July 25, 2014 at Design Cloud in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Dyan Green

Hook
2012
Bailing Hook, muslin and ball pins
6" x 8" x 5"

DYAN GREEN's sculptures are augmented found objects from the early 20th century. They include rusted farming tools—a bailing hook, a muzzle, a harness—and domestic tools—an antique sewing machine, a milk basket and ice hooks. Her signature white, ball-headed pins simultaneously evoke the human decorative impulse and the organic growth of mold, dust and cobwebs that signal the passage of time. Dyan holds a BFA from Kansas State University, a MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a M.Ed. from Texas State University.  In 2013, she had two solo exhibitions in San Antonio, Texas: Colonies at the Clamp Light Gallery and Rust and White at Equinox Gallery. Dyan teaches 3D Arts and Art History at Saint Mary's Hall in San Antonio, Texas, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You have a BFA in Ceramics, but your current work involves modifying found objects with muslin and ball-headed pins. Does your background in Ceramics influence this work or is this a break from the past?

Dyan Green: The aesthetic vernacular of ceramics and the craft world in general are still very much a part of my work. The internal dialogue that I turn to when creating is often the voice of a ceramicist. Ultimately, I am an object maker. My work is still about the relationship between our hands and the tactile nature of material.  

Early in graduate school at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, I realized I needed to explore materials other than clay. I was so entrenched in the ceramics world that it felt like a betrayal at first. But, in leaving ceramics, I realized something really important about being an artist: you have to follow the work and not force it to follow you. I followed my work through all kinds of craziness (laugh), but really all that experimentation was important to my creative growth.

Clay will always be my home base. When I get lost, when I’m seeking direction, I work with clay for a while. These ceramic pieces rarely turn into show pieces, but they always guide me to something. Before I did my most recent body of work, I made a few thousand clay beads. Just rolling clay balls and poking a hole through them. I liked to make them and run my hand through piles of them. Then I started playing with ball pins.

Hive
2012
Ceramics

OPP:
What was the first work you made with the white, ball-headed pin as a staple material?

DG: I did a series of works on pillowed canvases that used ball pins and loads of other smaller items. Most of the works in that series were explosive in color, but I did a couple just in white, including Drift (2011). I fell in love with the white ones. I liked the quietness of them. So I committed to just working with white pins for a while.

OPP: I want to hear more about the “craziness” you mentioned. Can you give me an example?

DG: Well, I did a lot of experiential art in graduate school. I had a show that took place in a swamp and involved a man in a tiger suit and a canoe—that was pretty crazy! I did installations with swings and also invited people to apply make-up to reproductions of Botticelli’s Venus. These kinds of works were intermingled with more labor-intensive works including a piece where I glued several thousands of sheets of paper together and another where I chewed scores of gumdrops and spit them out into medicine bottles. Surprisingly, more people comment that the work I do now is "crazy. They imagine that the physical act of pushing pins for hours must be so tedious and maddening. However, I find a kind of peace in the process of doing it.

Drill
2013
Found object, muslin and ball pins

OPP: Could you speak generally about your interest in artifacts? Are you a collector beyond your art practice? If so, what else do you collect?

DG: Well, I grew up around artifacts. As an only child, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ farm in Kansas. It’s been in the family for many generations. I would go exploring in the barns, the old carriage house, the woods and the creek beds. My grandmother made me wear a whistle in case I fell and broke something while gallivanting around on my own.

The farm was like an archeological site in some ways. I still recall seeing that place with a child’s eyes. I pretended the junk-packed barns were museums of ancient treasures. I saw the giant pieces of antique farming equipment protruding from the creek bed as dinosaur bones. 

I never was much of a collector of things, more of a collector of experiences. It is my grandmother who is the collector and really all of the items in my work are hers. She thoroughly inspected my excavations before giving me permission to use them in my art. When I first picked them out, I wasn’t sure how I’d use them, I just knew I liked them for all of the history they held and for their disintegrating beauty. 


Domestic
2012
Antique Sewing Machine, muslin and ball pins

OPP: The found objects you work with are clearly of a bygone era. But these objects aren't just old. They represent various forms of labor that no longer exist in the same form: the farmer, the milkman, the housewife who sews all textiles for the family, the ice delivery man. How does your meticulous, artistic labor relate to these occupations that have all been rendered unnecessary by electricity and mechanization?


DG: There is something innately somber in the work. For me, each piece is not just an old object. It is something a family member of mine used. So, there is a personal history there, as well as a collective one. For example, the horse muzzle in Muzzle was made from wire by my great, great grandfather. In other objects I used, I could feel where the handles were worn from work. I could see where the buckles have pierced through the leather a thousand times. I am drawn to this evidence of labor and the work of hands. 

My process with the pins is derived from women’s handicraft, but I wanted to invent my own handicraft. I was looking for some way of making that would be all my own.The pins were a natural solution. They are not only tools of labor but a measurement of the labor itself. 

It became clear as I was making, that these weren’t simply sculptures. They are collaborations with the past. Each piece is an intimate dialogue spoken through the language of objects. My work is quite literally built on the work of others. I labor on their labor. I exist because they existed. We are, because they were.

Milk Basket
2012
Antique milk basket, muslin and ball pins
12" x 16" x 9"

OPP: When you talk about rolling all those beads, I think of rosaries and meditation. One thing that gets overlooked about handicraft in general—because the final product is often a decorative object—is the ritual of it. I see handicraft as a practice that engages aesthetics and labor, but is ultimately spiritual in nature. Thoughts?

DG: I always liked Harold Rosenberg’s essay “The American Action Painters.” He described a canvas as an “arena in which to act.” I ask myself these questions a lot: What is my act? What is its purpose? Clearly what has emerged from my action is a sort of ritual. I think this idea of ritual through repetition has been a mainstay in my work for a long time now. Focusing all my energy into the placement of a pin somehow relieves the chaos of everything else. Sometimes my pieces are work. Sometimes they are meditations. Sometimes they are like voodoo dolls absorbing negativity. It’s also important to mention that I think quite a bit about “flow” when working. I want my pieces to have a fluid, oozing quality which does tie into a spiritual metaphor for me. This underlying spiritual essence is also the main reason I prefer to stick to white. I love color, but it seems I keep coming back to white for its simplistic power.

To view more of Dyan's work, please visit dyangreen.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, opens on July 25, 2014 at Design Cloud in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Steven Vasquez Lopez

Some Strings Attached 037 (detail)
2013
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"

The snags and unraveling edges of STEVEN VASQUEZ LOPEZ's colorful, hand-drawn textiles embody the accidental beauty of mistakes, acting as a graphic metaphor for an optimistic way of viewing life's chaotic moments. Influenced by the perseverance of his seamstress mother and mechanic/welder father, he reveals the connections between drawing, textile production and manual labor in his patterned grids, which echo Minimalist painting, the weave structures of plaids and the color palette of Mexican serape blankets. Steven received his BA from UC Santa Barbara and his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is a past recipient of the William Dole Memorial Scholarship (1999, 2000), Abrams Prize (2000), Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship (2006), and the 2012 ArtSlant prize. He has exhibited widely throughout California and is represented by CES Contemporary (Los Angeles), where he had his first solo show Accidental Moments in 2014. His work is currently featured in the San Francisco-based The New Asterisk, now available in print and online. Steven lives in San Francisco.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your paintings and drawings are dense with color and pattern. Where did your love of pattern come from? What influences your color palate?



Steven Vasquez Lopez: I grew up around a lot of sewing and fabric. My mother became a seamstress at a very early age in order to earn her own money. I spent a lot of time next to her while she worked, so I have an intimate relationship with fabric swatches and pattern. Also, I went to Catholic school, where we wore plaid uniforms. Then, during high school I took some architectural drafting classes that nurtured my interested in linear and geometric drawing. Over the last five years, these influences have merged into my current work with pattern and color. Now, I continue to be influenced by plaid and color from uniforms, men’s clothing, and Mexican serapes that I see around me.

Some Strings Attached 043
2013
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"

OPP: The ink drawings from Patches and Some Strings Attached, equally recall Agnes Martin's abstract grids and woven textiles. Of course, the entire history of painting has been covering over the natural grid of the woven canvas itself. Do you have any weaving experience or interest in learning to weave?

SVL: I’m glad you mentioned that. I received my MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute, where there is a real importance on understanding the linage and history of the work you are making and ideas you explore. I’m well aware of and influenced by prolific artists like Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly and Sol Lewitt, as well as contemporaries such as Jim Isserman, Amy Ellingson and Nike Schröder, for their use of color, form and ideas as they relate to art history, culture and technology.

My domestic sewing machine and overlock/serger machine never has time to collect dust because I use both so frequently for alterations and making my own clothing. I’m obsessed with well-tailored clothing. A few years ago, my mom taught me how to crotchet. I have to be careful because I love compulsive, laborious projects, and drawing already consumes a lot of my time.

I would love to get some instruction on weaving or creating textiles on a loom. Do you know anyone in the Bay Area you can introduce me to? Haha! My work has been used with a few research projects in fashion and textiles. It would be fun to collaborate with a designer on avant-garde and conceptual textile designs. I get a lot of recommendations to put my work into fashion. For me, it would need to be the right project. Although the drawings are influenced by fashion, I don’t envision just silk-screening them onto t-shirts. It would be important for me to get my hands and understanding on the technical side of a fashion project, then develop the conceptual parameters. There is a lot of potential there. I’m sure when the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll be on board.

Shelf Life 003
2013
Ink on Paper
22" x 30"

OPP: Tell us about the process and experience of drawing so many straight lines. Free hand or ruler?

SVL: I can’t give up all my secrets! However, I will tell you that I don’t use any pencil or preliminary under-drawing. It’s all hand-drawn with ink, and it’s a one-shot deal. I like that intense precision. I’m obsessed with the notion of a human imitating a machine to produce work. It makes the drawings more personal and valuable on both a conceptual and tangible level. Also, I have to learn a formula for each pattern and repeat the math in my head as I’m drawing. I don’t write down or record any formulas. Instead, I sing the numbering in my head. All these years of drawing, I have developed an ability to measure out the spacing really accurately. The entire process feeds my obsessive-compulsive need to make laborious, challenging and meticulous hand-made work. I thrive off it. It’s fulfilling and rewarding!

Patches 008
2013
Ink on Paper
9.5" x 13.25"

OPP: On the one hand, the drawings from Patches (2013) are pure color and pattern. They evoke plaid fabric scraps and bring to mind patchwork quilts and mended clothing. But these patches seem to have personality. The more I look at them, they become blobby beings hugging one another instead of flat scraps of fabric. Could you talk about your intentions in this body of work?

SVL: After making about 30 of the abstract pattern drawing from Some Strings Attached, which is a ongoing series, I wanted to work on drawings that could be a little more organic, personal, quirky and silly. By using blobby shapes, the swatches transform into these interesting characters with personalities. I come from a very big, supportive, funny, loving Mexican family, and I wanted to use these amoebas to tell stories about the relationships with my family and friends in a vaguely narrative way. The patches are beautiful and resourceful support systems for one another, disregarding judgment based on economic elitism. I’m glad to hear that you see a few of them hugging each other. That is exactly what is going on.

Some Strings Attached 111
2014
Ink on Paper
14" x 17"

OPP: Talk about the metaphors of the snag and the unraveling edge.



SVL: Initially, I didn’t intend on any unraveling in the drawings. I needed a project that I could do while traveling so the series started without “imperfections.” I made about fifteen perfect uninterrupted pattern drawings. Then I hit some turbulence on a plane and messed up a drawing that I had been working on for about five hours. I put it aside and had to deal with the disappointment. When I pulled the drawing out a few days later, I realized that moment of disruption was the precise moment of awareness in the work. It turned out that a happy accident was my awaking into Some Strings Attached.

One metaphor is that we spend so much of our daily lives on autopilot, trying to keep life stable, predictable and consistent. This way of living is so consuming that we forget to look around and be in the moment. We need to get off our phones and devices and pay attention to the real nuances and quirks that make life special and memorable.

On a personal level, I spent a lot of my younger years making sense of diversity. A large part of the population conforms to preconceived ideas of success and lifestyle. We need to teach both our youth and “old dogs” to embrace difference. There’s nothing more boring and depressing than a homogenous culture. Self-deprecation based on the ideals and expectations of others is a disease learned at an early, impressionable age. Let’s embrace and celebrate our uniqueness, rather than oppress and demonize anything or anyone outside of our comfort zone. I’m optimistic that it’s getting better with more awareness and visibility, but there’s still more terrain to cover. A snag in my drawings can either be viewed as a mistake or a beautiful, unique moment. It’s all perspective. How do you look at life?

To see more of Steven's work, please visit stevenvlopez.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.