OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Antonia A. Perez

Estas En Tu Casa
Crocheted plastic bags
64" x .75" x 108"
2015

ANTONIA  A. PEREZ repurposes post-consumer detritus, most notably plastic bags, in vibrantly colorful, meticulously crocheted sculptures and textiles. She highlights the functional role of decorative forms like the doily, originally developed to hide flaws or stains on household surfaces, and ironically evokes the notion of the family heirloom to underscore the excess of the manufactured waste we can't get rid of. Antonia earned her BA in 2006 from State University of New York, Empire State College, an her MFA in 2010 from City University of New York, Queens College. She was the recipient of a 2011 Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program Award. She was selected as a 2013 Smack Mellon Hot Pick and was a Back in Five Minutes Artist-in-Residence at El Museo del Barrio in 2014. In 2015, she was a nominee for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant. You can see her work in Txt: art, language, media, curated by Lauren Kelly and Rosio Aranda-Alvarado, at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in Harlem through June 2016. You can also see her piece Market Bag (2014) and catch Antonia performing an on-going action (crocheting) at Cuchifritos Gallery in New York until March 27, 2016 in Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mango, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator, curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful. (Bring your unwanted plastic bags to the gallery and exchange them for a tote bag to shop at the Market. Offer valid while supplies last.) Antonia lives and works in Long Island City, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: When did you first learn to crochet? What drove you to learn this skill?

Antonia Perez: My Hungarian-American maternal grandmother taught me the rudiments of crochet when I was about 15 years old. She had already taught me how to knit. I could make a scarf or shawl at that point, but I wasn’t deeply interested in pursuing knitting. In Mexico, I had seen many beautiful examples of crocheted tablecloths, doilies, dresses and other household items in the homes of my aunts and cousins. Women on both sides of my family were tremendously skilled needle workers. This was something that was just taken for granted. They weren’t considered artists, but they were artists. I admired them all and wanted to emulate them, but I have never approached the level of their mastery.

Once I learned the basic stitches, I began crocheting handbags and scarves, designing them by trial and error. I did this to relax and to make beautiful wearable things, never connecting it to art. I was already studying art in high school, and for many years I made paintings and thought of myself as a painter.

Donald Judd's Grandmother
Crocheted plastic bags, steel rod
36" x 36" x 36"
2010

OPP: When did plastic bags enter the scene?

AP: One day in 2004 I had an epiphany in my kitchen. The mound of plastic bags that I saved under the sink had gotten so big that the cabinet door no longer closed. I took out all the bags and automatically sorted them by color, suddenly seeing that they created a full spectrum. I realized that they could be an art material (since I had no intention of throwing them away). My first pieces made with plastic bags were sewn by hand into what I thought of as plastic bag paintings. I did this for about four years while I also made paintings on canvas and paper. I was also sewing into the paper and crocheting small doily shapes with yarn and affixing them to the canvases. The plastic bag paintings didn’t satisfy me though. In 2008, I decided to attempt crocheting the bags; I was really excited about their potential.

Tissue Box Tower
Empty tissue boxes
69.5” x 51” x 10.25”
2012

OPP: Color is a significant aspect of your work, both in your Tissue Box sculptures and in pieces like Estas En Tu Casa (2015). The color is tantalizing, comforting and thrilling for me. It creates desire, wonder and pleasure. But I’m also aware that the color comes directly out of an underlying marketing strategy to sell the objects that you repurpose in your work. Is this a contradiction or is this apparent conflict actually a significant part of your intention in using these throwaway materials?

AP: Color has always fascinated me. It is so seductive, and it definitely has an emotional hold over me. It is what led me to transforming the bags and the boxes into art objects. The paradox of the unexpected beauty of the plastic bags and their undeniable role as a marketing tool as well as an environmental hazard has intrigued me from the beginning. At times I am so deeply engaged with the pigmentation of the bags that I forget about the fact that it is plastic. It becomes just the color I am using to make an image. I use their aesthetic appeal to draw you in—as I am drawn in—and they become part of my own strategy to signal their role in our contemporary consumerist culture of buying and discarding. At the same time, every plastic bag I use is one that doesn’t go to the landfill.

Red Doily
Crocheted plastic bags
Diameter 63"
2011

OPP: What does the form of the doily mean to you?

AP: The doily is a primary form, particularly for crochet. I have a personal connection to this form through familial associations; I think of the generations of women who designed and made doilies. I use scale to elevate their status from their humble origins to the stature they deserve. I find the geometric nature of doilies very appealing, whether concentric circles or eight pointed stars. The mathematics of making doilies forces me to focus on the structure of the form more than the color and takes my mind in different directions. Seeking to lift the doily from obscurity, I have also used it as a bold sign, employing its form in a repetitive wall pattern.

The original intent of doilies—to cover up something unsightly with something pretty—remains in the context in which I am using them as well. You might say that I am disguising the ugly side of the plastic bags through their transformation into a doily. I used the doily form to construct Black Lace, which was made for an exhibition at the Northern Manhattan Artists Alliance, part of El Museo del Barrio’s “S Files” Biennial. I had been thinking about the handmade lace of the black mantilla traditionally used in Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries because I had seen Goya’s The Duchess of Alba hanging for many years in The Hispanic Society of America Museum in Northern Manhattan. Using black bodega bags to create this lace, my intention was to play with the religious aura of the black mantilla through a work that has seductive implications.

Black Lace
Crocheted plastic bags
Dimensions variable, L 204"
2011

OPP: Could you talk about the concept of the heirloom and the irony in your body of work Heirloom Collection?

AP: An heirloom represents a legacy to ones descendants. Plastic bags are perhaps one of the unintended heirlooms that will remain on earth for generations to come.

The idea for the Heirloom Collection came about as I began thinking of the kinds of things women once made by hand for their homes: exquisitely embroidered linens, finely crocheted curtains, handmade lace and garments, quilts. These items were treasured by families, especially the female members, and passed down through generations as family heirlooms. Crocheting curtains, doilies, towels and potholders out of plastic bags pretty much guarantees that they’ll be around for generations. The things I have made with irony are not the fine and delicate linens, but they do reference the labor of fine needlework. I have intended them as an inheritance for my son.

Drape
Crocheted plastic bags
Dimensions variable, H 48"
2009

OPP: Do artists have an ethical responsibility not to create more waste in the world?

AP: I think as humans, given the situation we are in now, we all have an ethical responsibility not to create more waste, to reduce our carbon footprints and to make a strong effort to conserve the resources of the earth and not pollute it. This sense of responsibility certainly forms a significant part of the motivation for using my chosen materials and often is key to understanding the intention of individual pieces. However, my work is also driven by my desire to elevate the status of handmade objects, my interest in textiles, textile design and their position in historical and contemporary culture.

To see more of Antonia's work, please visit antoniaaperezstudio.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Erin Gleason

#HomemadeLandscape No.32: The Edge
January 23, 2015
Instagram photo

Artist, curator and designer ERIN GLEASON explores physical, psychological, cultural and mathematical space in her multidisciplinary practice, which includes installation, drawing, printmaking and photography as well as curating, writing and public art commissions. Erin earned her BA in Fine Art and in Imaging Science at the University of Pennsylvania and her MFA from the Art, Space & Nature Programme at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. She is the Co-Founder and former Director/Curator of the Crown Heights Film Festival, the Co-Editor/Producer of the publication FIELDWORK and the Founder/Editor of Cultural Fluency, an online forum and interview series that examines the exchange between urbanism and creative practice across disciplines. She was a 2013 Lori Ledis Curatorial Fellow at BRIC, where she curated Cultural Fluency: Engagements with Contemporary Brooklyn. Erin is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. She calls Brooklyn home.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement, you say: “I seek to reveal the frameworks that determine our perceptions of space—whether that space is physical, psychological, or mathematical—and how our relationship to space affects our behaviors, beliefs, and judgment of aesthetics.” The intersection of physical and the psychological—and I would add the cultural—are very present in projects like Plane (2008), My Very Own Private Garden (2009), Stoop Series (2013). Where does the mathematical show up in your work?

Erin Gleason: I’m defining mathematical spaces as those that are conceived purely through reason—spaces that are nearly impossible for us to experience first- hand, either through our external senses or internal perceptions. Outer space is one example; virtual space is another. What is it about these borderless, infinite spaces that compel us to explore them repeatedly and even try to conquer them? When we do find ways to explore these spaces using other methods besides mathematics, what is it we hope to discover?

My ongoing series #HomemadeLandscape, for example, examines the space of Instagram and our relationship to it. Instagram functions simultaneously as a gallery, a place for art-making and as a site for communities to develop. The abstract macro-photography images, which are not Photoshopped or predetermined, capture scenes I encounter in my everyday life, yet they create emotional ties to other places, many in outer space. The images often allude to a spatial vastness, tapping into innate desires for exploration and discovery. When I began the series, each image was geo-tagged with a place the image alludes to: Atlantis, Wildcat Ridge, The Event Horizon, Trollkirka, Leda, SDSS J120136.02+300305.5c, and Venus, to name a few. This continued until Instagram stopped allowing us to make up names for geotags. Now, the places alluded to are in the title for each piece.

#HomemadeLandscape No.37: Under the Clouds
February 04, 2015
Instagram photo

OPP: Can you say more about the nature of Instagram as a virtual space?

EG: Instagram can be seen as another infinite space that embraces an almost Deleuzian nomadic experience while exploring it. We create stopping points with our hashtags, geotags and Instagram groups. We embrace the rabbit hole of the browsing journey, its landscape constantly updating in real time. When we add images, we're populating what we perceive to be an empty, virtual space with everything and anything that suits our whims (as long as the image fits within the ethics of appropriateness defined by Instagram). We colonize virtual space with our fancies. Don’t we tend to colonize every type of space, ignoring what exists there by declaring it empty? Furthermore, Instagram is a contemporary form of The Society of the Spectacle, where our addiction to the image of life, of representation, is played out. That being said, it can be great fun.

2011
Installation and Participatory Performance Event, FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

OPP: Could you talk about the recurring motif of the stoop in your work? How’s planning going for your in-process Mobile Stoop Project?

EG: Stoops are one of several motifs that keep knocking on the door of my creative process, insisting on participating and showing up in my work. Writing, mapping, dialogue, physicality and platforms are a few others. Stoops in particular fascinate me because of how they have transcended the mere utilitarian to become iconic cultural spaces. A simple architectural feature has evolved— through its innate form—to become its own form of tactical urbanism.

To me, stoops feel alive. I believe the best art is able to spark a dialogic space, is able to hold multiplicity and, as Parker Palmer says, "hold challenging issues metaphorically where they can't devolve into the pro-or-con choices of conventional debate." Stoops, as objects and as spaces, do this naturally as communal thresholds between public and private space, between inner and outer life. Some of my works investigate what happens when trying to transport the essence of a space without the architecture that originally created it. Stoop Series, an art and performance series co-curated with poet Lynne Procope, was held on the sidewalk in front of FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn. We examined the cultural space and dynamics of the stoop without having the object itself present.


Mobile Stoop Project takes the question further, blurring the lines of performance, mobile architecture, space branding and objecthood in art with a site that is constantly shifting and undefinable. Currently, I’m at a bit of a production standstill while looking for venue, manufacturing and funding partners for Mobile Stoop Project. But, conceptually, the project continues to progress. I'm currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics at the Institute of Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, and my research on urban place-making and aesthetics is influencing the direction of the project.

Stoop Series
2013
Summer art and performance series, co-curated with Lynne Procope
FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn NY

OPP: At the end of your essay Portfolio: Third Spaces, for a series hosted by Urban Omnibus, The Architectural League's online publication dedicated to defining and enriching the culture of citymaking, you ask a series of open-ended questions. I’m particularly interested in one: Can a virtual space become tangible? Do you have any examples of ways that the virtual has indeed become tangible?

EG: I believe virtual space is already tangible in the sense that it directly affects our actions and what we do with our time. Confronting virtual space restructures our self-representation and redefines our sense of “modern” by providing a new borderless space to explore and discover. The interrelationships between the physical, psychological and virtual (or mathematical) are always at play, transforming each other. I’m repeatedly reminded of these overlaps at Stephen Yablon Architecture, where I work. I watch concepts take form through discussion, drawings, virtual environments and finally, constructed buildings. The buildings themselves take on new lives in new spaces: the psychological space of the people who use them, the cultural space of the neighborhood and the virtual space of online representation. Spaces live and evolve just like we do, whether it’s a space we construct (in our minds or physically) or a space that we can’t even conceive.

Plane
2008
Installation: newspapers, microfilament
In collaboration with Melissa MacRobert and Christine Wylie.

OPP: You recently held an experimental, blindfolded Dark Salon at Open Source Gallery in order to explore how “we navigate space and conversation when our reference point shifts from one of light to one of darkness.” While watching the blindfolded participants talk on the Livestream feed, I thought a lot about the Enlightenment as a point in history when humans began to privilege the mind over the body. Over the course of the conversation, participants seemed to shift from a more conceptual space to a more phenomenological space. They went from saying what they thought about light and darkness to saying how they experienced them. What was the experience like for you?

EG: Copernican Views: Revelations Through Darkness was a grand experiment for me and also thoroughly enjoyable. The point of the Dark Salon was to try to understand what it’s like to navigate a space when our main point of reference is gone—in this instance, light—through a unique, polyphonic experience. As mediator and host, I had no visual cues to go by. I’d like to try this art activity again with more time dedicated to the discussion. It took a while for everyone to shift out of relating “darkness” to “blindness,” but once they did, we had fantastic conversations about what “darkness” means to us as individuals and as a culture. For me, this is when the salon really began. If we continued, I’m sure we would have discovered more how darkness could be an anchor point for navigation instead of light, and in a broader sense, how what we commonly perceive as emptiness can really be solid.

Immortality (work-in-progress)
Ink on paper
65 in x 80 in

OPP: What new projects are you working on?

EG: In addition to continuing work on Mobile Stoop Project and #HomemadeLandscape series, I’m working on three other series of artworks. Rise of the Greenlandic Metropolis is a series of artworks based on the premise that Greenland becomes the next world superpower because fresh water is the new global currency. The first phase was a survey of the landscape and potential sites for new development for exporting arctic water; the next phase of the series focuses on an international media campaign to recruit for the new Greenlandic Military. 

Immortality is a series of large scale drawings, approximately 65 in x 80 in, where I’m writing the entire English translation of Milan Kundera’s book of the same name, in cursive writing. As a nod to the lost art of handwriting and the large contribution scribes have made throughout history, the drawings question Plato’s categorizations of what is imitation and what is real in creation. Kundera’s novel, which is also one of my all-time favorites, likewise questions the role of—as well as who or what is—the creator. Like so many other works that weave together different spaces, the process for these drawings is both physically taxing and meditative. I’m emotionally and physically feeling the shape of each letter, each form, in the book’s re-creation.

I’m also currently working on a not-yet-titled series of artworks that feature hand drawn QR codes in an effort to further link mathematical, psychological and physical spaces. Each artwork/QR code reveals a second, unique artwork: a photograph of the artist as a female nude, shot in a way so the female body is reminiscent of a landscape. As Laura Mulvey pointed out in her text Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, men are (self) perceived as figures in the landscape, while women are often thought of as part of the landscape, to be gazed upon. In other words, men are makers of meaning while women are bearers of meaning. These artworks aim to reveal this cultural perception while turning it on its head. As the artist, the protagonist, the figure and the woman, I can track when, where and how often the QR code is scanned. I’m now looking at you, while you're looking at me. The landscape is now the figure. The object is now the subject. Some day, the technology for QR codes will be defunct, the second figurative artwork will be “lost” in virtual space and all that will be left is the drawing of a digital landscape.

To see more of Erin's work, please visit eringleason.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ian Deleón

2015
Performance still

Prolific performance artist IAN DELEÓN is inspired by "the grotesque, transgression, mortification and ecstasy." Through a rich vocabulary of props and appropriated media imagery, he repeatedly places himself and his audience firmly inside the political and cultural context of Post-colonialism. Simultaneously he explores the more personal, universal human experiences of vulnerability, endurance and submission in collaborations with other performance artists and even his own father. Ian earned an AA in English Literature from the Miami Dade College Honors Program and a BFA from the Studio for Interrelated Media at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design in Boston. He has performed and been included in film festivals both nationally (Boston, New York, Detroit and Miami Beach) and internationally (Cuba, China, Vancouver, The Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Berlin). He is the recipient of a 2015 Art Writing Workshop slot, coordinated by the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program in partnership with the International Art Critics Association/USA Section. He is currently working towards a 2017 solo exhibition in Fort de France, Martinique at Tropiques Atrium. Ian just kicked off a monthly performance curatorial project with Tif Robinette. Look for the next event, I Had to Watch Them Bleed, on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at PULSAR in Brooklyn, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How would you define performance art in general for Average Joe on the street?

Ian Deleon: I’m actually actively engaged in a profound investigation of this very question with many colleagues in New York. What performance art was and what it currently is are often vastly dissimilar. Also, how and why we should distinguish between performance and performing is a key question. Every conjugation of this word carries its own particular contexts; what institutions tout as the embodiment of one format may be precisely the opposite of what young artists in the underground scene would call it.

For someone who is completely new to performance art, perhaps the most productive explanation of the term can simply be: "the experience of watching visual art created live." Whether that's actually useful, I'm not sure. As with any other question dealing with an embodied identity, Average Joe should ultimately prepare themselves for a lengthy response—something that attempts to acknowledge and wade through all of the inherent contradictions of our language and our culture. So if Average Joe follows up by asking if it's anything like action painting or public tree carving, you can say “yes” with confidence. That's when you jump in and ask Average Joe to define painting or sculpture himself. If you have him up until this point, it's a good bet Average Joe will let you take him on a brief journey while you discuss the fluidity of these terms and introduce an example that challenges his preconceived notions of what visual art can be.

Child of the swollen sea
2015
Performance still

OPP: How would you describe your own work for that same person?

ID: I've explored many avenues in trying to explain my own work quickly and concisely to people. My favorite and probably still most confusing remarks tend to highlight the interconnectedness in my work between the body, poetics and architecture. People you are meeting for the first time rarely want to hear in-depth responses to a question so vague. So I try to say something a little intriguing. If they still want to know more, that's when I begin actually describing a piece to them and how it relates to other forms of expression they might be more familiar with. For OPP readers who are still with me, I will add that my work is currently greatly inspired by ideas concerning the grotesque, transgression, mortification and ecstasy.

2015
Performance still

OPP: You are a prolific writer in edition to your performances. You describe them well on your site for those of us who don’t have the opportunity to see them live. Is writing a tool for explaining performances, a tool for documentation?

ID: The writing as documentation definitely began as a way to solve a very real problem, which is that a lot of performance work goes unreported in terms of journalistic criticism. After university, I found myself craving that critical engagement with a work that I regularly received from my studio classes, but rarely found out in the art world. Performance has largely been relegated to spectacle in the media, which means a 'slow burn' of a work has little chance of receiving a thoughtful appraisal or any appraisal at all. Compared to the film industry, even the most banal of movies gets some kind of commentary in the press. The same publication will likely have someone who covers the visual arts as a whole, and 90% of the time you are going to see a review for a show of 2D and 3D work. In Boston, there was this almost laughable common knowledge that the most renowned arts writer in the city would refuse to go to art openings, thereby greatly reducing their chances of catching a live performance in a multidisciplinary group show. They certainly weren't coming to performance-only shows.

Thus, the writing became a way for me to assert a place for the work myself. It was an attempt to look at it objectively, to assess its strengths and weaknesses—so that I can grow as an artist—and to share these thoughts with others. It should appear curious that my resume reads the way it does while I have barely a press listing to my name. I firmly believe that this is due to the strength of the work, which has presented complex ideas that resist the simple and sentimental narratives, while also espousing an economy of images and spectacle. I myself find the most intriguing work to be the most difficult to write about.

In addition, finding photo/video documentation to be largely unsuccessful (although necessary for the grant-seeking game) at capturing the essences of performance, I relied on my skills with the written word to tell the story the images might have been unable to tell.

L’odeur du père
2014
Excerpt of a performance with my father, in my mother's backyard in South Florida following a week of intense and heated political discussions

OPP: Do you conceive of your performances as poetry?

ID: Before I came to performance—or fine art for that matter—I had writing. If there was one thing I excelled at throughout early schooling, it was creative composition. In that way, I feel myself aligned often with performers turned architects such as Vito Acconci, who considers himself, above all, a poet. For me the work absolutely begins with language––an interesting phrase or title of another work. I then embark on an exploration of how to visualize such poetics and in the end find that the writing about the performance is my favorite part of the process, where I can unravel all of the elaborate connections I was referencing in the piece. The performances almost resemble a draft for a literary work to come. The brief and never repeated performance 'tweets' and 'essays' I have been producing may thus one day lead me to develop a long-term project with novelistic ambitions.

2015
Performance still

OPP: In 2015, You’ve collaborated numerous times with AGROFEMME in performances like And our bed is verdant…Incorruptible Flesh, Night of Faith and Estas navidades van a ser candela. How did this collaboration start? What does each of you bring to the table? How would you describe the gender dynamics of your performances?

ID: AGROFEMME and I met at a performance event, and we immediately developed a connection that blossomed into many professional collaborations and an intimate relationship. This latter aspect is certainly present in the work, and I suppose we play with the gender dynamics through a commitment to mutual discomfort and trust. In our performances, you see two people who alternate between trusting one another with their safety, sometimes literally bearing the weight of the other person. Working this way came naturally to us. We're just both very interested in physicality, endurance and the ability to harness an intimate relationship into creating work that neither of us would feel comfortable partaking in with anyone else. In thinking about our process, you could say that AF has a natural ability with materials that surpasses mine. So AF chooses and elaborates a lot of the objects in our performances, while I tend to refine a shared interest into an overarching concept for us to explore.

2015
Performance Still

OPP: Many of your earlier performances are political allegories that comment on the long history of colonialism and American policies and invasions of Caribbean and Latin American countries during the 1980s (Panama, Grenada, Nicaragua, Cuba, etc). There are numerous recurring symbolic props, including bars of Hispano soap, Ronald Reagan masks, a necklace made of children’s shoes, Domino sugar and American flags. Could you talk about the language of props in your work?

ID: That body of work very much came out of the identity crisis I faced after moving away from my hometown of Miami Beach to attend college in the "godless and frozen North" (Massachusetts). I had an inner need for self-discovery and self-making, which started to become informed by the technical skills I was picking up at school. Having been trained in my undergraduate years in film editing, I soon grew acutely aware of how modern visual culture is heavily constructed [full stop] and bent towards the consolidation and normalization of power.

Hollywood tropes, consumer product packaging and travel advertisements became my source material, and I began exploring this language of propaganda media in relation to my own familial stories. I felt the need to cut, splice and re-edit my people's histories just as I had done on numerous film/video projects. It was a way of reasserting control over them. . . of ensuring a place for myself in those histories. This vivisection of imagery and text led me down a path, which has created a tangible bridge between myself, living in the Northern Americas and my kindred spirits to the South. I drew on the 'trop-iconic' materials in various marketable stages (like sugar cane stalks and processed table sugar) to talk about the very different, although interconnected ways in which these objects continued to affect those in the colonies and in the metropole—and yes, those terms and that relationship most certainly still applies to the Americas. I wanted to break the cycle of "diasporic amnesia" and evoke what the Caribbeanist Shalini Puri describes as a "volcanic memory"—something that would prompt a reconsideration of the authenticity and ethics operating within every spoonful of bleached sugar, every imported not-so-ripe pineapple, every cocopalm-laced travel postcard and every holiday cruise.

¡Te conozco bacalao aunque vengas disfrazao!
2013

OPP: It seems you've since moved away from this content in recent years. . .

ID: I've moved away from this type of work mostly because I have said all I can from my current point of reference, which is that of someone who has never actually lived in the Caribbean or South America. But I've also noticed a palpable attitude in the U.S., which for the moment is correctly lending primacy to the voices of the historically under(mis)represented. I believe this translates to the work I have been doing being largely overlooked in the U.S. because of the fact that I appear "white.” In the Caribbean, conversations around race and identity tend to be more fluid, so I have yet to feel my work invalidated there because of the privileges most societies accord my body. In the Caribbean, I am without a doubt Caribbean. In the U.S., most of what I am is doubt. Thus, in order to survive as an artist living in the U.S., I have begun taking more cues from the worlds of literature and cinema. The incorporation of narratives that deviate from the strictly autobiographical have lent my work a broader appeal that I believe has a better chance of being judged on its merits.

2014
Performance still

OPP: What role does discomfort play in your practice?

ID: For me discomfort is at the heart of performance and personal evolution. I impose discomfort on myself and the audience as a way of disrupting the quotidian flow of life. The Myth of Sisyphus has been a guiding inspiration for me for several years now, and Camus' interpretation of that myth asserts that struggle is the quintessential state of human existence. I don't see this as a resignation to a doomed fate, but rather a way to acknowledge the tribulations in life that propel us further as individuals. Inspired by this, a lot of my work has dealt with enacting an obviously contrived, though nonetheless real, experience of discomfort. My commitment to discomfort in the moment, whether I am carrying a 50 pound bag of sugar repeatedly up stairs, or chewing through sugarcane stalks for over two hours, is indicative of my eschewing of theatricality and sentimentality. I have no interest in alluding to a personal connection to sugarcane harvesting, for example. But I am passionate about the idea that someone like myself, who rarely encounters this pervasive substance in its raw state, would choose to experience this trial of endurance. It's a way for me to remind myself and the audience, that comfort never comes without a price.

To see more of Ian's work, please visit iandeleon.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kyle Herrington

Directions to Nowhere
Mixed media
2012

KYLE HERRINGTON creates humorously profound sculptures, cut-paper works and text-based paintings. Using the vastness of space as a symbolic background for more quotidian psychological and emotional unknowns, he explores the drama and anxiety of being an average human on planet earth in the Digital Age. Kyle graduated from Ball State University in 2006 with a BFA in Painting. He was the 2012  Artist-In-Residence at the Indiana State Museum. Recent solo exhibitions in Indianapolis include The Worst Person in the World (2014) at General Public Collective, Catcalls (2013) at the Indianapolis Center and Backyard Phenomena (2013) at Harrison Center for the Arts. He is currently developing a new series of work which he hopes to exhibit in Fall 2016. Kyle lives in Indianapolis, where he is the Director of Exhibitions at the Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You work in a variety of media: sculpture, painting, cut paper text and installation. Can you give us a brief history of your life as an artist? Have you always been so interdisciplinary?

Kyle Herrington: Growing up as a teenager, I always saw myself as a painter. I was a big TV kid, and it always seemed like every artist on television was depicted as this serious brooding painter. I went to college at Ball State University for a degree in painting, but I was very lucky that my mentor there encouraged me to work very experimentally and across disciplines. I often found myself skirting the line between sculpture and painting but always landed on the side of painting. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I found myself setting up these complicated still-lives for paintings in my studio and something clicked. I realized that instead of painting these vignettes, maybe I should just let the set-ups be sculptures. That was an important and defining realization.

I’m also a very impatient artist. I work between media and on several pieces at the same time; I like being able to switch gears if I am stumped or frustrated by a certain piece. The pieces can inform each other, have a dialogue, and mature at the same time. Sometimes a breakthrough in a sculpture can lead to a run of resolutions in a painting series or vice versa. Plus, the curator in me really likes to see different mediums living in the same space together.

Skanky Behavior
Mixed media on wood
2015

OPP: Have you always worked so extensively with text?

KH: It was around that same time that the text really started creeping into the work. I was struggling to explore ideas through images and symbols without being overt. At a certain point, I just said screw it and found it was easier to write what I was thinking about directly on the canvas. This was a huge step in finding freedom for myself as an artist. Suddenly I didn’t have to mask or disguise or romanticize what I was trying to explore. Instead I just blatantly put it out there, which also made the work a little easier for the viewer. I found this allowed me to get much more playful with the work and have more fun making it.

The End of Leisure
Mixed media
2012

OPP: I read several articles that refer to your anxieties about turning 30 as a major inspiration for your 2013 show Backyard Phenomena at Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. The End of Leisure (2012) and Party Killer (2013), for example, are sculptural tableaux that capture the aftermath of fallen meteors on scenes of leisure. I remember when impending adulthood was overwhelming. But now, you are three years older. Have you realized yet that the 30s are WAAAAAAY better than the 20s?

KH: Oh definitely! A lot of that work was a response to the reactions happening around me by my peers and colleagues about aging—I was always very ready to leave my twenties behind. A big influence of that body of work was disaster movies and these images of hoards of people running around completely falling apart and going ballistic. I felt this weird sense of calm isolation at the time while simultaneously witnessing people I went to high school with freak out about turning thirty on social media. At times it felt a bit like the movie Airplane!—completely nonsensical. So, I l decided to indulge the idea and experience of  the melodrama, and I ended up finding a bit of my own anxieties somewhere in the mix.

Three years later, I still find the whole idea relevant, especially the social media/hysterics/sensationalism thing. In a really schadenfreude way I secretly love it when Facebook or Twitter blows up into dramatics over any given thing going on in pop culture. It’s such a disgusting and simultaneously enlightening, entertaining shit show about the human condition in the 21st century. It’s less about aging itself now and more about the fact that people don’t really outgrow these insane, unfiltered sensational attitudes. It’s a really magnified focus onto someone’s character and motivations when they’re so unapologetically dramatic. Sometimes it can be over a legitimate political or human-rights stance, but just as often it’s about something trivial like a celebrity or TV commercial. Those are the nuggets of insanity that I’m drawn to: people evangelizing and going into hysterics about a paper towel ad. To me, that’s absolute gold.

Gay Club
Mixed media on canvas
2015

OPP: Works like Gay Club (2015), Send Nudes (2012) and Motivational Poster #1 (2012), seem to be about another anxiety associated with getting older. . . the insecurities of dating or hooking up in the Digital Age. Could you talk about the recurring vastness of space as the backdrop in these text-based paintings?

KH: Space has become an increasingly loaded symbol for me. It stands in for isolation, frustration, confusion, feeling lost. I never really dated when I was younger so once I started doing so in my 30s it became incredibly overwhelming at times. I joined a lot of dating websites and most times it felt like I was just speaking into these vast voids and hoping something stuck. A lot of those pieces are influenced by that. The whole process of online dating became more and more frustrating, but also more comical.

Spiderweb 3
Handcut grocery circular
2012

OPP: I’m particularly taken with your hand-cut spiderwebs from 2012. They are quite distinct from everything else you do, but some of your text-based works—Another Woman (2015) and Pizza (2015)—are also hand-cut. Can you contextualize the webs for us and talk about why you choose to create text out of negative space?

KH: The webs came from this strange compulsion I have for collecting grocery circulars. They’re pretty common litter and junk mail in Indiana and I would imagine in most suburbs. There’s something very Midwestern about them that I love. I had this ongoing collection of them and one day made the connection between this ubiquitous material and weeds or spiderwebs. Cutting them out with an X-acto knife became a very therapeutic and meditative thing for me, and they’re a nice break from the paintings and sculptures.  I also work a lot on paper so the cut-outs organically carried into those pieces with the Maury show titles. I loved the graphic qualities of those TV show titles, and I wanted to recreate that feeling and not just do handwritten text in those.

OPP: Wow! I didn’t realize those titles came from Maury! But now that you say that, I see more drama in the text that relates to that social media hysteria you mentioned. What are some other sources for text in your work? Is all the language appropriated?

KH: A lot of the phrases or text I use are things I hear in the real world or on television. I keep a sketchbook full of quotes, phrases and pieces of conversations I overhear and pull from them often when I'm trying to resolve a piece. Sometimes they are directly appropriated, but other times they are mash-ups or edited versions in my own wording for better flow. I find myself really drawn to the ritual of people putting on airs or puffing themselves up. It’s this bizarre sense of extroverted or manufactured confidence that I'm pretty mesmerized by. Reality TV and talks show are a great source for this type of hyper-dramatic self-esteem. Also gay bars. I get a lot of ideas for paintings there. As gay men, I sometimes wonder if we have this ingrained flair for the dramatic. Then you add alcohol and you get the biggest display of theatrics. It’s campy and over-the-top, and I just eat it all up with a spoon. I owe a lot of my paintings to my time in gay bars.

Pizza
Mixed media on hand-cut paper
2015

OPP: What role does humor play in your work?

KH: I told somebody years ago that I liked to use humor as a nasty trick to get people engaged in my work. I felt dirty for a long time about making humorous work. I think it’s very common for artists, and especially painters, to feel pressured into holding this kind of academic reverence for what they’re making. When I first got out of school, I was making these large, very academic paintings that I was trying to show around town and I was really bored by most of them. And then I was making these little wacky funny studies in secret and I was way more interested in those. It wasn’t until I stopped looking at humor as a gimmick and as more of a conduit into serious issues that I felt like I could really pull the trigger on changing directions in my work.

Humor serves as an entry point into topics people may not otherwise talk about; it eases people into an otherwise difficult mindset. A lot of my work deals with anxiety, depression and awkwardness, but the veil of humor makes those topics more comfortable and palatable in order to spark dialogue. I saw the Wayne White documentary Beauty is Embarrassing a few years ago, and I wrote down something he said in one of my sketchbooks: “I'm often as frustrated at the world as most people are. But I think frustration is hilarious. One of my missions is to bring humor into fine art. It's sacred.” I just love that.

To see more of Kyle's work, please visit kyleaherrington.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Inna Babaeva

Good Morning
2015
Bathroom appliances, mirror, towel, insulating foam, paint

Sculptor INNA BABAEVA explores absurdity, commodity and value systems. She renders mass-produced home furnishings—chairs, hangers and picture frames—non-functional by adding amorphous, hyper-colored blobs created from expanding foam. The resulting sculptures are then placed back into the site where they were first purchased. Inna earned her BFA from Florida Atlantic University and her MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. In 2015, her work was exhibited in Overripe at Trestle Projects (Brooklyn), De Colores at Buggy Factory (Brooklyn) and Family Ties at 500X Gallery (Dallas). In 2006, she was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation scholarship and has been an Artist-in-Residence at Atlantic Center for the Arts (2006) and Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (2014). Inna lives and works in New York City.

OtherPeoplesPixels: When did you first begin to work with insulating foam?
 
Inna Babaeva: I started working with insulating foam about five years ago. I came upon using this material by chance. I was creating a site-specific installation where 400 hollow silver balls were floating in the water at a local park on the East River. To keep the balls from sinking, I filled them with this expandable foam, which is light and waterproof. I rejected a few balls for the installation because they overflowed with the foam but the shapes formed by the expanded matter looked very intriguing. It has been included in my material inventory since then. 

OPP: What do you love about the material? What are the challenges?

IB: The foam possesses a very non-conformist, almost volatile energy that fascinates me. Working with it is like having a contest. It changes volume and responds to gravity in unforeseeable manner. I have to respect and control its behavior simultaneously. It expands, often in unpredictable directions and then hardens suddenly into wacky and often provocative configurations. It is very time sensitive process since the amount of released foam and the length of time before applying the next layer are very important. It usually takes a few weeks to finish the foam part so I work on several pieces simultaneously.

Intro
2014
Mixed media

OPP: In many ways your sculpture is minimal, discrete. But your palate is not. Tell us about what you love about color and how it operates in your work.

IB: I have been fascinated with examples of modern design and architecture for a long time. I was probably twelve years old when I stumbled onto a book about Alvar Aalto. It made a very big impact on my future artistic preferences. The modernist sensibility has been always present in my work.

Color came to my work after I moved to New York City. Maybe it was an antidote to the predominantly monochromatic, slate cityscape. Or maybe it was the many hours that I spent on Canal Street searching for materials for my sculptures. Canal Street has all these industrial goods stores with plastic, metal, rubber and an enormous number of tiny shops with low grade, mass-produced accessories like sunglasses, umbrellas and hats. There is a deluge of color there, and it was irresistible.

I started using spray paints in my sculptures. It is the most exciting part of their completion, but I don’t rush into painting. I like to live with the foam forms before I know what shades they should be. It always surprises me how the shapes transform after being spray-painted and how they come to their “trippy” existence.

IKEA Invasion
2015

OPP: Was IKEA Invasion always part of the plan for your sculptures of insulation foam overtaking or sprouting from home decor objects like clocks, picture frames and lighting fixtures? Or was the intervention an idea that came after making the sculptures?

IB: About a year ago, while shopping for some household items at IKEA, I realized that almost every object there was a great beginning for a sculpture. I started buying these items—clocks, chairs, mirrors, shelves, rugs, picture frames and coat hangers—and turning them into sculptures. As I made more and more, I began to think about how an inexpensive household object augmented into a work of art steps into the different value system. Its value is increased. But what if the artwork is returned to the store location? What would happen to its value? I thought it would be a reversed Duchampian gesture to display the sculptures back in IKEA, in their original setting. During a studio visit I shared my thoughts with my friend. He said, “Why don’t you just do it guerrilla style?” So I did.

IKEA Invasion
2015

OPP: Tell us about the experience of getting the work back into IKEA. Did you stay to watch shoppers interact with your work? Did anyone try to buy it?

IB: IKEA Invasion is an ongoing project, a contemplation on the value of artistic production and how much it depends on the context of its presentation. The first time that I brought my sculptures to the store, I was a bit nervous. I rolled them, anxiously, to the show room in a shopping cart. To my surprise, no one seemed to pay any attention to me putting the sculptures on display. I spent about an hour installing, photographing and observing people’s reactions to the intervention, but everybody was just going about shopping. Only one customer seemed to be interested in my chair sculptures. “Are those for sale or just for display?” she asked a clerk passing by, who just indifferently shrugged his shoulders. He was in a rush to straighten out the showroom before the store was closed. As the announcement sounded that, “the store is now closing,” I packed my sculptures back onto the shopping cart and proceeded to the exit. It was a challenge to pass by checkout employees on the way out and explain what was in my cart and why I don’t have a receipt for any of it. Somehow, my reasoning was accepted and I got through it ok. My next installment of the IKEA Invasion may take more preparation and some legal permits, as I would like to proceed with a video documentation.

Did you ever pet a lion?
2015

OPP: Another staple material in your work is plexiglass as a substrate for painted marks, as in your series Backstories (2015).  Will you talk about my favorite piece from this series, Did You Ever Pet a Lion? I read the plexiglass paintings as campfires. What purpose do the electrical cords serve?
 
IB: Transparent Plexiglass is such a great invention. I love working with it, since it allows me to create some illusory effects. Images that are printed on a flat surface can exist in three-dimensional space. In Take a Chance, transparent plexiglass allowed me to tease the viewer with not only spatial dimensions but also with the chronology of a feathers' fall.

Did you ever pet a lion?  was born as a result of the convergence of two things that I love to do: watching ocean waters and watching a bonfire. Why can’t I look at both at the same time? I printed the images of ocean water on fabric and made pillow covers from it. Pillows are an emblem of domestic comfort for me. I printed images of bonfires on Plexiglas and attached them to pillows. The thought was to create the illusion of the fire emanating from the ocean. I attached electrical cords as a source of ignition to keep an abiding fire.  It sounds preposterous, but absurdity was always an essential theme of my work.

To see more of Inna's work, please visit innababaeva.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kalena Patton

Inflatable rubber ball, rock, chairs
2015

KALENA PATTON's carefully balances bowling balls on columns of crystal goblets, hammer heads inside porcelain teacups and workout weights on tiny, decorative vases. Her precarious arrangements of found objects hint at the profound strength of the delicate support objects, poetically drawing together physics and Feminist theory. Kalena earned her BFA (2007) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her MFA (2012) from Parsons, The New School for Design in New York. In the Fall and Winter of 2015, she was an Artist-in-Residence at Oxbow School of Art (Saugatuck, Michigan). In August 2015 she co-facilitated a workshop with Historian Athena Eliades at the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association’s Annual Conference in Sacramento. Titled Unsilencing Femicide in Ciudad Juárez: History and Art Making, the workshop explored art-making as a medium for understanding social injustices and gender perspectives. Kalena lives in Brooklyn, where she also works as a floral designer.

OtherPeoplesPixels: From your statement: “Loosely informed by physics, feminism, and my experience living in Las Vegas as a young woman, my practice is an ongoing exploration of the process of becoming by creating systems of objects “on the verge” while simultaneously referencing their past and anticipating the present.” Will you expand on the relationship between physics and feminism in your work?

Kalena Patton: The major link between feminism and physics is essentially the relationship between discourse and matter. I admire the writing of the physicist and philosopher Karen Barad, who suggests that discourse and matter are both part of the phenomena of becoming, setting boundaries and limitations, and, conversely, creating possibilities.

From beginning to end, I want my entire process of making and its components—objects, space, discourse, myself and audience—to embody a state of possibilities, the limitless idea of becoming, which I also relate to a feminist and agential realist perspective of understanding the world.  The intra-active relationships I develop in my sculptures are a way to question and challenge boundaries, established knowledge, and notions of the world that are helplessly mediated and hierarchical—allowing for a way to move forward from imbalanced power and value systems.

Of Course I Love You, That's Not the Question
Chair, cinder blocks, ratchet strap
2012

OPP: Do you think of your work as emotional metaphors?

KP: My work is coming from the culmination of my conceptual interests, emotional experiences, and unexpected variables in the process of making. I see the emotional layer as a point of access to lead to greater contextual inquisitiveness and consideration.

OPP: Frozen in photographs (as I experience them online), your sculptural arrangements are always “on the verge” of falling over or breaking, but they never do. The potential is forever there, and there is a certainty that they will never fall. They are forever in balance. Are balance and precariousness in essence the same thing?

KP: My experience of making is as much the art as the objects or photographs, even if I am the only person that experiences it, and in this process, I see the precariousness as a shed layer of the balance I seek in the process of making.

The precariousness in my work is what also brings awareness to the balance. I view them as different ways to understand time within the same system. Anything that is in equilibrium is not going to stay that way forever, which makes it vulnerable to imbalance and brings about a concern for when and how that shift will occur. Yet, for every shift in what may seem like an ideal balance comes the opportunity for a new state and new possibilities.

May Ate, I Will Wait (Home Series)
2011

OPP: Do you exhibit photographs of the work in the section On Site? Or are these only available to those that encountered them in the world and on your website?

KP: I exhibit photographs of my site specific works, as well as exhibit site specific pieces themselves for people to encounter (if it is safe). When viewing the sculptures in person, there is a visceral response and a tension between the viewer and the sculpture. The viewer becomes part of the work and his/her agency can affect the entire system and vice versa. In viewing photographs of the work, this anxiety and excitement is suggested, but the actual danger or fear is removed. Yet, the photographs allow access to this particular time and space that would otherwise not be accessible. The sculpture arrives in a state of stasis,  never falling, held in a quiet moment filled with its own paradox.

No, It’s Fine
Site-specific sculpture including ice, fern, cinder blocks
2014

OPP: How do you pick your materials? How do you conceive of a piece?

KP: Most of my works begin with a curiosity and awe of a specific object or space. Once I have a place or object in mind, I will go on walks with the intention of just observing the relationships of everything I see. From this I usually find something that inspires my experimentation.

With a tendency to over-analyze and fall into the tediousness of making art, I have found that my most successful works have been made with a sense of humor and self-imposed urgency. When I approach my making as a mischievous and playful act, there is a sincerity, ease and conciseness that emerges in the work—one that is often more diluted in my more premeditated pieces.

Untitled (Bowling)
Bowling ball, wine glasses, 2 mirrors
2015

OPP: You must have had some failures in terms of physics. Will you share an anecdote or two about sculptures that failed or sculptures that were extremely frustrating to execute?

KP: Absolutely! I balanced a large sheet of glass on the pointed tip of a small boulder, which in itself was impressive, I must say. I really wanted to balance a bowling ball on top of that balanced sheet of glass. I spent many hours squatting next to it, with one hand on the ball and one hand on the glass. I worked on this for days. It was extremely frustrating at first, but became very meditative and more about my experience rather than an end goal. I never did get it to balance. And I broke the glass when I was cleaning up the materials at the end of a long day.

For another piece, I was collecting large glass vases of various shapes and stacking them on top of each other to create columns.  I managed to balance them to about my own height quite a few times, as I could not leave them stacked in the studio in case footsteps nearby shook the floor. I finally stacked them to about 8 feet, which took a long time and was so quietly stressful. When I left to get my camera, I heard a massive shatter. All of the vases were broken.

Sometimes I experience relief when everything falls apart. At times I feel like I am wrestling with their desires. It can be satisfying to let them go.

To see more of Kalena's work, please visit kalenapatton.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz

GuerilleReina #1
2013
Giclee print
64"x 44"

WANDA RAIMUNDI-ORTIZ explores the interplay between vulnerability and empowerment in the space where stereotypes, archetypes and lived experience of cultural and racial Otherness overlap. Since 2006, her persona Chuleta has unpretentiously educated YouTube viewers about the Art World. Her Wepa Woman murals tell the story of a NuyoRican superhero, who is charged with representing all her people and preserving their culture on top of having the deal with the regular stresses that all humans have. Most recently, in a suite of performances and photographs called Reinas, she holds court in a costumed manifestation of personal and universal anxieties. Wanda earned her AAS from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 1995, was a 2002 Skowhegan Fellow and earned her MFA from Rutgers University in Brunswick, New Jersey in 2008. She has been awarded the Bronx Recognizes Its Own Award (2002 and 2006) and a Cultural Preservation Award from the Bronx River Alliance (2009). In 2011, she was named Keeper of the Creed by University of Central Florida, where she has been an Assistant Professor since 2010. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Pennsylvania, Centro Cultural de España in El Salvador. Wanda lives and works in Orlando, Florida.

OtherPeoplesPixels: For years, you've performed the persona of Chuleta on YouTube and live at events like Art In Odd Places 2012, New York City. When was Chuleta's first video posted and what's her origin story?

Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz: Chuleta first came on the scene end of 2006 as an examination of my own presence as a Latina artist visiting Art Basel. It was strange to be at these events, being examined as I walked with my fellow Latino artist friends and feeling like we maybe had infiltrated a world that we were actively engaged in. It was a surreal experience. I became very aware of my otherness in this space and wondered. . . how could I explain this career choice that seemed so. . . pretentious and elitist. . . to my ultra urban nieces and nephews? Somewhere between making fun of the gallerists, collectors and ourselves over drinks, Chuleta was born.

YouTube was still in its infancy—a sort of Wild West with nebulous borders. It seemed like a perfect place to create virtual presence, especially with art studio space at a premium. The earlier works were pretty rough and a bit long. But again. . . that was all pre-YouTube etiquette. I had no idea it (and she) would grow the way it did. It became a direct line to the public and a perfect vehicle to challenge expectations of both the art world and viewers.

Ask Chuleta #6: Identity Art
2010
Video Performance

OPP: Has her agenda (or your agenda for her) changed over time?

WRO: Chuleta and I have enjoyed a great run, but she has taken a break so that I can work on the Reinas, which are closer to my heart these days. Chuleta was a direct response to my life in New York and transitioning into academia. Five years after arriving in Florida, my interests, focus and inspirations are more internal and reflexive. She isn't gone, just dormant. I have been thinking of new iterations for her, now that I am changing, too. I’m older, chubbier. . . achier. . . and certainly wiser.

OPP: How has the space of YouTube affected the public's understanding of the videos? Do you ever get grossly misinterpreted? Do you ever get any flack for contributing to a stereotype about Puerto Rican women? How do you use the stereotype for your own purposes?

WRO: HA! I have certainly had my share of criticism and flat out insults like "You need an education" and "Who is this stupid b*tch?" Classier insults reminded me that Sonia Sotomayor was a supreme court judge and reprimanded me for what I was doing to the community. I recognize these self conscious voices. This is what happens to underrepresented people. We become very self conscious about how the (white) masses view and perceive us. It is like having a run in your stocking. Embarrassing. When one of us does something unpleasant, it is assumed that other people will think that the entire community is going to get taken down as a result. And they aren't wrong. Peggy McIntosh describes it perfectly in her article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. It is that charge, that responsibility to your entire community to represent yourself positively that I was grappling with, on both sides. In my real life, as a Bronx-bred, urban Other with a masters degree from Rutgers in the hood, I was challenged by my own as being a Wanna-Be-White girl or praised for being so "well spoken/articulate" by academics, collectors, etc. This was my way of fighting back.

Wepa Woman: Acts Like a Child, Punish like a Child
Bronx NY
2013
OPP: You've also created comic-style murals and works on paper about "the NuyoRican super hero character Wepa Woman, who is charged with cultural preservation among her beloved NuyoRicans." Will you summarize her story for us?

WRO: I originally created Wepa Woman when I was about 19 years old in an effort to critique stereotypes because I felt like I was an oddity in the hood. I didn't look or act "Latina" enough because I was an artist into New Wave. I hung out with my fellow urban, artist oddball friends that made comics and created Wepa Woman. I was thinking of Wonder Woman, but her origins were ordinary. The real strength that she held was her conviction. The first appearance of Chuleta in my work was through the comic drawings. She was the antagonist, an amalgam of all the things I abhorred about the hood at the time. It, and she felt inescapable, and I wanted to badly to break out of that place and away from that stereotype and the long shadow it casts over us Latinas.

OPP: Is there an actual comic or just the murals? What does it mean for viewers to only encounter one panel of Wepa Woman's story?

WRO: There was no published comic, but the murals came from feeling confined to the page in my original drawings. I think I have a problem with enclosed spaces and ideologies (lol). The murals, also inspired by the hood, offered a different kind of accessibility. I wanted the murals to be accessible whether you knew her story or not. I wanted to insert intrigue into more of my practice. It worked!

PorcelaReina #2
2014
Performance
PorcelaReina #2 is the third movement in a suite of performances and photographs from my most recent series REINAS (Queens). Made to emulate a porcelain doll, this queen's regalia is made nearly entirely from packing materials, in an effort to protect me during my most delicate time- pregnancy, and to explore my own discomfort and isolation with my own frailty.

OPP: Your most recent suite of performances is called Las Reinas, in which you hold court in some art space, often a museum. You performed Bargain Basement Sovereign (2012), for example, at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and PorcelaReina #2 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Florida in 2014. Which is you favorite Reina? Tell us about her costume, performance and viewers' responses?

WRO: My favorite Reina so far is GuerrilleReina, the warrior queen. The photos from that suite are really exquisite. I am thankful for my photographer, Jay Flynn, for being able to harness the warrior I was trying to create. This queen comes from many failed relationships; I found myself hardened, ready to defend myself, sometimes before anything had ever happened. The queen persona in me was protecting me—too well. The costume is designed with materials that are used to protect. But there is no one else in the battle. Just me.

The response is always great. I feel that people see themselves in these works. Chuleta puts people on the defensive. The queens are more. . . I don't want to say inviting. . . but they certainly aren't antagonizing. (Except for the warrior queen—lol)

All of the concepts hold clues to the individual queen. If you spend enough time investigating the wardrobe, you will gain more insight into her. I also like working with unusual materials. I don't want to lead readers too much. It spoils the fun.

HUSH
2013
Installation view
For four hours I laid in bed in the gallery and welcomed visitors to lay with me, share secrets, joke or share stillness. Much like a confessional, the space becomes incredibly intimate in even the most public setting. Participants were then instructed to write their thoughts on a white wall in white chalk.

OPP: How do the various iterations of Hush, which is about intimacy, vulnerability and public space, inform your performances of Las Reinas and Chuleta? Are you yourself or another persona when lying in a bed in a gallery space?

WRO: I am myself in Hush. The concept for Hush predates the Reinas, and comes from a moment when I was craving intimacy in a very profound way. I knew that I wouldn't be alone in this. Being open and vulnerable in this way was the first time I saw the clear distinction between power and strength. Through the performances, I was able to completely subdue my urge to control or manipulate, antagonize or challenge. After each performance I would emerge covered in hives and almost no recollection of what occurred, other than a sense of being overwhelmed with other people's angst. I wouldn't be able to talk for a long while after. Only wanted to be alone in a quiet space and purge and cry. It is because of Hush that I know my other works as well as I do. I can't wait to do it again someday.

To see more of Wanda's work, please visit wandaraimundi-ortiz.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Stacia will create a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show opening at The Ukrainian Museum of Modern Art on February 5, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Hector Madera

2015

HECTOR MADERA expertly wields colored masking tape and photo backdrop paper, creating a dizzying environment of pattern and aggressively bright colors. His masked portraiture, abject sculpture, neon banners and screen-printed pillows surround the viewer in installations that portray a frantically-fluctuating, unstable rush of emotions. Hector earned his BFA from Escuela de Artes Plásticas (San Juan, Puerto Rico) in 2004 and his MFA from Brooklyn College CUNY in 2011. His solo exhibitions include el pah-­‐pay-­‐lone (2011) at Metro: Plataforma Organizada and Papo Tiza & Co (2012) at Roberto Paradise, both in San Juan, and, most recently, Shameful acts, disgraceful episodes, grandiose moments, insignificant achievements and everything in between (2015) at Espacio 20/20 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. In 2016, his work will be included in group shows at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Chicago and Brian Morris Gallery in New York and a solo show opening in May at KB Espacio para la cultura in Bogota, Colombia. Hector lives and works in New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Pattern and color has always been a significant part of your practice, but you really amped that up to 11 in your most recent solo show, Shameful acts, disgraceful episodes, grandiose moments, insignificant achievements and everything in between (2015) at Espacio 20/20 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Why is the intensity of saturated color so important in this body of work? How does it relate to the title?
 
Hector Madera: For Shameful acts, disgraceful episodes, grandiose moments, insignificant achievements and everything in between, I created a body of work that illustrated my mental state at a particular moment in my career. Through the employment bold and colorful images, I wanted to achieve an environment where feelings of sadness, tension, anxiety, disorder, euphoria and happiness—just to mention a few—were all tangled up, creating a disparate and muddled celebration of the ups and downs of the everyday life.

2015

OPP: I can certainly see that in the framed smiley/frowny faces. Could you talk about the floor-installed works? I’m particularly interested in what looks to be balls of discarded patterned duct tape and the imagery on the pillows.

HM: These crumbled artworks in a way are rooted in two words inflao and desinflao, Spanish slang for inflated-deflated. An old friend uses these terms frequently to describe the feeling of being happy, excited, fulfilled or frustrated, down, empty. I inflate balloons that then are covered with layers of tape and ultimately with thick layers of clear acrylic. I make tiny holes with a pointy object so that the air comes out slowly. As the air releases, the acrylic hardens, preserving the final crumbled shape. When developing these artworks, I think about extracting the good out of bad situations. In many ways, it is an attempt to transform a discarded object or gesture that represents frustration or failure into something beautiful, something grand.

The imagery used for the soft sculptures is a combination of bold graphics and colors mixed with strippers with voluptuous bodies in sensual positions and digital drawings in where I recreate psychedelic-hallucinatory-euphoric effects. These sculptures are closely linked to the strange comfort found in deliriously indulgent moments.

2015

OPP: When did photo backdrop paper and colored tape first enter your practice? Why do these materials continue to be compelling to you after all these years?

HM: I was already working with masking tape as a way to join single papers together to create a bigger support to work with. Then, during my MFA years at Brooklyn College, I decided to replace paint with colored tape. Backdrop paper showed up a bit later when I first saw the material in a thrift shop. I was very interested in its color intensity and matte finish. The paper is sturdy, acid free and fadeless. So, conservation-wise, it made complete sense to incorporate it into my practice. I first used it to create sphere-like, crumpled paper sculptures that represented discarded ideas. Now these paper backdrops have become the support of my large-scale mixed media collages.
 
It is my intention to create compelling works of art in which the presence of paper is part of the strength of the work. They say we are living in a more and more paperless society. I like to think that I am defying the perception that paper is becoming obsolete.

Salvador 2012
Colored tape, carton sealing tape on c-print
48 x 64"

OPP: What role does masking play in your practice in general? Can you also talk specifically about masked portraits like Salvador 2012, untitled 2012 (Rene) and Willem 2012?
 
HM: On a trip to Paris I was wandering around the Marche Aux Puces de Saint Ouen when I saw this book filled with close up portraits of 20th century masters, Picasso, Matisse, Serra etc. I bought it without hesitation for only one euro! A little later I decided to pay a double homage. First I selected the portraits of all the artists whom I had studied at some point. Then I covered the portraits with a mask design inspired by Los Super Medicos, my favorite tag team wrestlers when I was young.

In the masked portraits you mentioned above and in my overall practice the act of masking is equivalent to the act of painting. Through the luchador mask, I explore the themes of hiding, filtering and diffusing in order to have the opportunity to become something else. The wrestler character works as a great analogy for the life of an artist. He is in a constant struggle for survival, he can rally from behind to be victorious or simply end up beaten on the mat.

Bust of Emanuel Augustus (Collaboration with Jose Lerma)
Photographic backdrop paper
Variable
2013

OPP: You've collaborated with Jose Lerma on various monumental busts made from photo backdrop paper. How did the collaboration come about? How did it influence your solo work?

HM: The collaboration with José started in a very casual way. We are very good friends and when I moved to New York he was one of the first people I called. Since then, we were always hanging out, and he became my mentor. I guess he liked the sculptures that I was making with backdrop paper, and one night we started talking about making bigger things with the material and technique. We decided to collaborate for a works-on-paper show in Chicago. That’s when we collaborated on the Bust of John Law. This triggered all the collaborations we have done.
 
José's unique vision, mentorship and friendship has been very important in my formation as an artist. We share common interests, which influenced my practice and made our collaboration an effortless one.

Beau ca. 1610
Holographic tape, colored cardboard and acrylic on paper
22" x 30"
2013

OPP: Could you talk about your combination of cartoony vampire teeth and Elizabethan-era ruffled collars in pieces like Papo ca. 1586, Mike ca. 1628 and el primo ca. 1689 (all 2013)?

HM: These characters are based in real people whom I've met over the years and who, for one reason or the other, don't live life as everybody else. They are unique people with unique stories. I have used them in many different artworks before. In this particular series, I wanted to pay homage to these everyday characters by creating faceless portraits with ruff necks. I am interested in the effect the ruff neck creates of holding the head up high in a very proud and lordly-style pose. The teeth are inspired in my fascination for vampires and eternal life. In these works, I’m creating busts or portraits of everyday people, "unimportant people," the ones with "minor histories.”

OPP: As you answer these questions, the theme of the underdog is emerging and now I see it both in your image and material choices. Do you relate to the archetype of the Underdog?

HM: Totally. I relate to the underdog. In sports, I always end up rooting for the team, boxer or player that is labeled as the unlikely winner. My upbringing has a lot to do with this, and I believe that limitations force you to be creative. You're forced to try things you would otherwise never have attempted. . . not only in art, but in life itself.

To see more of Hector's work, please visit hectormadera.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Stacia will create a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show opening at The Ukrainian Museum of Modern Art on February 5, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Caitlin T. McCormack

Night Glaive
2015
Photo credit: Jason Chen

CAITLIN T. McCORMACK draws connections between discarded and inherited lace remnants and the remains of baby birds, lizards and small rodents in her stiffened cotton, crochet skeletons. Her textile bones read as Wunderkammer relics thanks to the black shadow boxes and antique museum vitrines in which they are displayed. Caitlin earned her BFA in Illustration, with honors from University of the Arts, Philadelphia in 2010. In 2015, Caitlin's 2015 exhibitions included three-person show Exquisite Echoes at Gray Gallery, collaborative installation Ex Silentio at The Art Department and solo show Mnemosyne at Paradigm Gallery + Studio. She has an upcoming show with bone-carver Jason Borders at Antler Gallery (Portland, OR) in March 2016, a solo exhibit at La Luz de Jesus (Los Angeles) in June 2016 and a two-person show with Philadelphia artist Sabrina Small at The Mütter Museum's Thomson Hall Gallery (Philadelphia) in January 2017. Caitlin lives and works in Philadelphia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: When did you first learn to crochet? When did it first enter your art practice?

Caitlin T. McCormack: My grandmother was a very talented crocheter; she taught me the basics of the craft. She was actually a bit of a hard-ass, for which I'm grateful. Both of my grandparents passed away very close to one another right after I graduated from college. I inherited a large quantity of cotton thread that my grandmother and her sisters had once used to crochet all sorts of things. Crocheting initially proved to be a mindless, repetitive method of dealing with grief. I eventually found that producing excessively knot-addled, over-stitched bits and pieces allowed me to generate material with more volume than, say, a doily. My grandfather was also a skilled bird-carver, so in an attempt to create a tribute to and a synthesis of my grandparents' very separate creations, I tried to construct what evolved into the brittle, fibrous innards of a wooden bird.

Inevitable Canyon
2015

OPP: Many of your stiffened crochet skeletons are recognizable as baby birds, lizards and small rodents, but some are less mundane and more monstrous, like Night Glaive (2015) or Ianuaria (2013). Are these imagined creatures or based on actual skeletons?

CTM: I tend to base my skeletons off of animals that are indigenous to the East Coast, where I'm from—squirrels, deer, foxes, finches, and a variety of domestic animals. My memories tend to center around specific animals that were present during an incident, i.e. the cat that was at the party when this happened, or the squirrel that was sitting on the windowsill when that happened. I grew up in the woods, so animals have always been very important to me and carry kind of a totemic significance. My process involves deviating from a skeleton's authentic form, though, so once I've begun working off of a sketch that has been totally warped by my visual biases, it's hard to say what's going to happen. Sometimes what I produce is so distant from my initial intention that it feels right to incorporate additional, grotesque elements into the structure.

Slicer
2015

OPP: Lacewilds (2014) and Bound as it Were (2015) combine found textiles with your crocheted cotton string. How do you think about the connection between antique textiles and skeletons?

CTM: When I'm working on pieces in that vein, I like to imagine that a garment has disintegrated and reformed itself in the image of a tenacious animal's remains. It has a lot to do with the persistence and transmutation of memory and how innate the significance of cloth and thread can be in a person's life. I began hunting for found remnants from garage sales and flea markets in an attempt to introduce imagined histories into my work. I enjoy speculating about the possible origins of the scraps, how their undisclosed narratives might compliment or even conflict with my own experiences, and the various ancestral bonds that might still linger in the material.

The Mesmerist's Daughters
Mixed media
2013

OPP: Tell us about the work in your website section Illustration. Why do you refer to this work as 3D illustration instead of photography? Are these commissioned works?

CTM: I began working on those images during my time at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where I majored in Illustration, and used that method to produce my thesis. I think I latched onto the term "3-D Illustration" because it allowed me to indulge in my desire to convey narratives and accompany text with tangible, hand-constructed elements. Using imagery from dreams as inspiration, the works are usually created just for fun. They are occasionally displayed as prints alongside their sculptural subjects. I'm also in the process of creating illustrations for a narrative written by Philadelphia poet, Chris McCreary.

Widdendream
2015

OPP: Could you talk about display in your recent solo show Mnemosyne at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia?

CTM: Mnemosyne was comprised of pieces evocative of taxonomical specimens, in addition to works involving found textiles, antique frames and pieces of furniture with sculptures hidden in drawers. With this body of work, I tried to provide a sense of unraveling domesticity, a familiar space that has grown foreign with the passing of time. I intended for this show to be the second installment in a cycle of three exhibits, tracing the way a memory can become warped as it deviates from its authentic, incidental roots and becomes an unrecognizable artifact of a nearly forgotten experience.

To see more of Caitlin's work, please visit caitlintmccormack.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL).

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Rebecca Potts

Radiant Color Chart, Softened
Acrylic on wood, resin adhesive, cow hide
48 x 30 x 18"

Informed by her research into metaphysical philosophy, REBECCA POTTS explores the transmutation of matter and energy as manifested in sculpture and painting. Her angular, wooden sculptures evoke webs, dome-like architecture, stained-glass windows. Most often radiating from a central point, they are portals, focus points for the attention and energy of the viewer. Rebecca earned her BFA (1998) from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and went on to earn her MFA (2002) from Cranbrook Art Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2003. She has exhibited primarily in New York, including Working Artists (2015) at Academic Gallery, Abraxas at Temporary Agency (2014), Upfront at Feature Inc (2011) and New York 2111 (2011) and Scattered Logic (2009) and at The Texas Firehouse. Rebecca lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels:You make primarily wall-hung sculptures, although there are exceptions to this rule—Sandal and Matador from 2010, The Wise Will Have Passage and Casual Proximity from 2008, to name just a few. Could you talk about the wall as a space for sculpture? What draws you there more often than to the floor?

Rebecca Potts: Wall-based sculpture has more of a seductive energy; it draws you towards it. Whereas free-standing work—that you might trip over—has a bit more of a masculine, declarative energy. The fact that less than a 360 degree view is presented is also intriguing. Why? Is it holding something back, does it have secrets, is it trying to behave like a painting? The works from 2014 and 2015 are quite fragile and line based, dealing with machinations on energy and space personified. Mounting them on the wall is semi-protective, but also ensures that the encounter by the viewer happens at eye level, allowing for a projection of the self into the work.

Flamenca
Acrylic, paper mache, wood, fabric
21.5" x 21" x 12"
2011

OPP: Before 2013, you were using more found materials in your work—fabric, pieces of jewelry, sequins, corks and a glass eye—as well as plaster and clay. Since 2014, it appears that you are working exclusively with wood and paint. Earlier work seems more bodily with lots of gloppy textures, fabric folds and curved lines, while newer work feels more architectural with straight lines, angles and hard edges. Was this a conscious shift? How has this evolved over time?

RP: Found and scrap materials have always been attractive to me. I collected the corks for The Wise Will Have Passage (2008) while working in a restaurant. Sometimes I encounter things on the walk to my studio, as in Bigger There (2013). Broken pieces of jewelry or worn out clothes might find their way into sculptures, as in the belt used in Chicken Skin (2011) or the material in (E)West (2011). Working with found or accumulated materials is rich in possibilities for additive practices. It is how I innately approach art making, and is a very improvisational and reactive process. It’s a very animistic way of working. As I am creating, there is some direction from the work itself.

The shift occurred as a result of a desire to look beneath surface as my primary focus and define space in a more subtle, energetic way. The work from 2014-15 still uses that method of using units and accumulation, but employs the most basic unit: the line. I am interested in defining space that is at once structured and permeable—the cell wall, for example—or describing radiation physically. The shadows cast by these pieces both push them out and away from the wall as well as accentuate their materiality. 

The Net of Light's Origin
Acrylic on wood, resin adhesive, monofilament
26 x 28 x 17"
2014

OPP: The forms of your most recent sculptures (2014-2015) evoke a multiplicity of images: stained glass windows, shields, talismans, spider webs. The forms radiate from a central point, sometimes concave and sometimes convex. How do these forms relate to your interest in energetic transmutation?

RP: The radiant form is associated with many ideas, from the big bang to human auras to descriptions of heat or light. Heat and light are difficult to sculpt, but may be suggested, and a number of the evocations you bring up are three dimensional objects that exist primarily in a language of line. Transmutation is a transformation of material or element into another state or form. This body of work explores transformation in several ways: of energy into vector, vector into line, line into delineator of spatial boundary and skeletal structure into architecture. The same thing happens as the form casts its shadow, transforming back into something intangible but still visible. The concave versus convex aspects close off or open up the ends of the work, similar to a closed versus open circuit. Many of these pieces, such as both Radiation Gray/Gold and Radiation Yellow/Gray have central hanging elements that spin in accordance with the currents in the room, a transformation of motion occurring as a physical demonstration of time.

Solar Wedding Basket
Acrylic on wood, resin adhesive, cork, twine
26 x 30 x 5"
2015

OPP: One could view your work through a purely formal, material, or aesthetic lens. But your statement—and the links you include on your website—makes it clear that you view your work through a spiritual lens. . . something which the contemporary art world is slightly uncomfortable with, but curious about. How has your spiritually-driven work been received?

RP: I would say it works on all these levels, but would use the word metaphysical over spiritual. Metaphysics is a philosophical investigation of that which is beyond sense perception whereas spiritual speaks more to an experiential self-exploration. For the current series of work, studying the Medicine Wheel has been formally and conceptually important. It uses the four directions to correspond to various elemental, animal, human, earth and cosmic states. Through these associations one can describe existence, tell the story of time and creation, as well as achieve personal growth. It is a simple coded system loaded with symbolic information: lines, circles, spirals, vectors and colors that become increasingly complex as one's understanding of their corresponding connections deepens. This system is used in many cultures worldwide with slight variations. Another influential source was Jack Schwarz's book, Human Energy Systems, for what the form of energy might look like. Similarly Bernini's treatment of The Holy Spirit as not only beams of light but spears of gold in The Ecstasy of St. Theresa informed my ideas about representing light and energy in dimensional form. I don't see the work as dependent on these sources, though. I've had very positive response to this body of work, with and without commentary.

Untitled 2012-13
2013

OPP: Here's a slightly strange, practical question. . . there's another Rebecca Potts, who is an artist. Her work is very different from yours, and her website pops up when I google your name. Have people ever confused the two of you in a professional context? Any advice for other artists with the same problem?

RP: I am aware of her and I'm sure she is aware of me, though our paths have not yet crossed. We have never been confused in a professional context that I know of. I would say that duplicate names in professions are not unheard of, and as far as advice would go, I would say it is a very individual choice in how one approaches it. I know people who have changed their names to deal with this very problem, and at least one other person who has not. I think Rebecca Potts just sounds like a sculptor's name, right?

OPP: If I were to walk into your studio right now, what would I see?

RP: You would see a lot of things in progress. I tend to work on anywhere from three to five things at once, so as not to be slowed down by paint or glue needing to dry. It also helps me to work on an idea in more than one way, to see what works. Sometimes I come up with something on the fly that I want to try, and that becomes its own thing. The new pieces as a whole are more trapezoidal in nature than the works discussed above, although they still have the four directional points represented. They also are beginning to fill in a bit more with solid fields on the inner and outer planes. Though they are not finished, I am moving towards reincorporating some materials (fabric and grill cloth) that I have used before. I seem to be circling back to some previous ideas, while still remaining conceptually in the same world. It's a spiral progression, rather than a linear one!

To see more of Rebecca's work, please visit rebeccapotts.net.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed last month at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL).