OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jennifer Williams

Ladders
Robert Mann Gallery NYC
2014

JENNIFER WILLIAMS' large-scale, digital photographic collages are printed on flexible, repositionable Photo-tex paper. These two-dimensional, site-responsive works become three-dimensional by bending around corners and stretching from wall to floor and to ceiling. They are architectural adornments, temporary tattoos for buildings and rooms, which highlight overlooked and unused parts of both interior and exterior space, while also investigating the slow, consistent changes of neighborhoods over time. Jennifer earned her BFA from Cooper Union School of Art in New York and her MFA from Goldsmiths College in London. Her numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Robert Mann Gallery (New York, 2013), The Center for Emerging Visual Artists (Philadelphia, 2012), Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (Pittsburgh, 2012) and La Mama Gallery (New York, 2011). In June 2016, Jennifer will have work in the group show Seeing is Believing at Mount Airy Contemporary in Philadelphia and is working on a site-responsive project for the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia), which will open in early 2017 as part of a group show. Her most recent installation New York: City of Tomorrow is supported by a Queens Council on the Arts New Works Grant and is on view until July 31, 2016 at the at the Queens Museum in New York. Jennifer lives in Queens, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your photographic work from the 1990s to the early 2000s, you pieced together the “truth” of various interior spaces by layering c-prints. When did you first begin to cut out the objects themselves to create collages that broke out of the rectangular frame of the photograph and disrupted the spaces they were installed in?

Jennifer Williams: The rectangular frame has always proved something of a conundrum for me; it feels constricting, and I’m nervous about what information gets left out of that frame. To me, a single shot never accurately represents what I'm experiencing or what I want the viewer to see. That’s where the earlier layered c-prints came into play. But c-prints were hard to produce and limited in texture and surface, meaning they could only be printed on plastic-based materials with a narrow selection of finishes. By the mid-2000s, Photoshop and digital printing technologies had reached a point where things I’d previously dreamed of being able to do photographically were possible without a darkroom. The time it took to print photographs shrank, allowing work to be produced in a shorter period of time. It was incredibly liberating to be able to mask portions of an image—essentially cutting them out—then layer them and resizing on the fly, working with color and composition in the computer first. But once printed and cut out in real time, the rectangle was entirely eliminated. Other quandaries arose regarding how and where the work would be displayed. At first, wheat pasting directly onto the walls seemed the only option to create a conversation between the work and the exhibition space, but then I found Photo-tex.

Portals
Collaged prints: pigment ink on Phototex paper
Installation at The Hunterdon Art Museum
2012

OPP: How did Photo-tex paper change your practice?

JW: Photo-tex is a re-positional peel & stick paper that has a woven texture, like wallpaper. It comes in a roll, is inkjet printable and is really amazing stuff! Discovering PhotoTex in 2009 completely changed my practice. I found the tool of expression I’d been looking for all along! Here was a thing that could be printed on in the studio, cut out, stuck on the wall, repositioned, wrapped around corners, then removed without damaging the installation surface (and reusable, too.) Physical barriers were broken down. Suddenly I could position photographs anywhere I wanted in a space and print them as large or small as I liked. Also, the surface is matte, and the material is very thin, so the images feel at one with the surface they’re stuck on. People are surprised when I tell them the work is printed photographs and not painted, like a mural.

OPP: Do you think about the future collages or their destinations when taking photographs? Or are these two parts of your process distinct from one another?

JW: I’ll occasionally think about future collages when shooting, but compositions usually happen after destinations have been decided upon. The architecturally-related works are project specific. Someone will approach me about doing a piece for their space, and I’ll do research into the surrounding neighborhood's history, then walk its streets while shooting. The size and shape of the exhibition space influence the composition, so getting a feel for it first is ideal. I’ll often build a model from floor plans and photographs then make mock-ups of installations and photograph them, which gives me an eerily accurate idea of what the finished product will look like. But in general, I’d say I use photography as a gathering process. I generate a million compositional ideas, of which only a few come to fruition. So photographs happen regardless of where they end up going, but I do like having a goal when shooting.

Episodic Drift #2
Installation at the University City Arts League in Philadelphia, PA
Pigment ink on phototex paper, foamcore, acrylic paint
2012

OPP: The ladders in the various Episodic Drift installations are disorienting and directionless. Since I’m only seeing the work online in a 2D format, I sometimes can’t tell what is 2D and what is 3D. Can you talk about how you use this repeated motif to disrupt the architecture of the exhibition space and its symbolic implications?

JW: I studied both film and sculpture along with photography as an undergraduate, and I believe the work I make now reflects the values and sensitivities of these disciplines in regards to time and space. In a general sense, I like using spaces that are not functional in the same way the middle of a wall is in a gallery setting. Installing work that engages ceilings and floors transports the viewer, challenging them to notice odd corners or architectural oddities, turning the exhibition space itself into a kind of spectacle and subverting the usual anonymous behavior gallery walls are meant to project.

We see the world in three dimensions because of the way light functions; if something is lit in a very flat manner we perceive it as flat or shallow, although we inherently understand that the objects in front of us have volume. The 2D/3D ladders play with that concept in multiple ways. Upon first viewing, we believe they are real because they are photographed in a spatial way. Bringing them out into the space as cut outs accentuates the effect, but of course, it’s a trick.

Episodic Drift asks the viewer to equate the subject matter with the journeys we take in life that push us beyond our habitual perception of the world. Ladders are tools which allow us passage to spaces above or below our everyday experience, creating just enough of a shift that we see our world from a new perspective. The experience is equally disorienting and exhilarating bringing into question everything around you and your relationship to it, even if it’s in a room you use every day.

Flux Density:Detroit
Installed at Whitdel Arts
2014

OPP: What remains the same throughout your work is the investigation of how spaces don’t remain the same. In recent years, you’ve shifted away from the interior spaces of apartments and refrigerators toward the exterior spaces of urban neighborhoods in installations like Flux Density: Detroit (2014) and Sea Change (2013). What led to this shift?

JW: I moved to New York in 1990 from a small, dying steel town and lived on the Lower East Side until very recently. It was always a home base, and as I grew older and more settled, a shift happened regarding the way I related to the neighborhood itself. As I watched it morph from a bombed out wasteland into the shiny, gentrified playground it is today, I keyed into the factors behind that change, and became less interested in change that was happening in my own life. My commute to work for many years was walking or biking to the same location, and I rarely took public transport for anything so I had an intimate relationship with the streets I was traversing day in, day out. As an “architectural tourist”—to quote Dan Graham—I have done a lot of reading about gentrification and urban change to understand the world around me and my place in it. I think the work I’m making now is an attempt at discussing neighborhood change on a visceral, visual and often indexical level while addressing its existence as a universal truth that spans cities across the nation.

Manhattan: Billionaire's Row
Collaged prints: pigment ink on Photo-Tex paper
20' x 15'
2016

OPP: Tell us about the installation you just completed at Queens Museum. How long is it on view?

JW: It’s called New York: City of Tomorrow and up until July 31, 2016. It’s installed in one of the most unique spaces I’ve ever been asked to interact with: the 10,000 square foot model of the five boroughs titled The Panorama of the City of New York, housed at the Queens Museum. The installation addresses the rising skyline of the urban landscape from a pedestrian viewpoint through juxtaposition of photographs of the miniature architectural models with street views of newly constructed buildings occupying the same locations today. While entire neighborhoods have been reinvented due to ambitious renewal and development projects, the Panorama offers a miniature, three-dimensional opportunity to travel back in time to an earlier version of the five boroughs. It was originally constructed as a descriptive tool for the 1964 World’s Fair, and new construction has been added sparsely since its last restoration in 1992. In the future, I’m hoping to add a few more neighborhoods to the roster and in conjunction with some writing, turn the whole project into an artist book.

To see more of Jennifer's work, please visit jennifer-williams.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 at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Mary Black

Makeup (detail)
2015
Midrange porcelain, glaze, decals

MARY BLACK creates compelling, beautiful, complicated ceramic forms that evoke fleshy human bodies, despite their hard surfaces. Floral decals and carved drawings on the surface of her sculptures employ two classic, but often over-looked functions of decoration: to hide and to highlight. Mary earned her BFA in 2011 from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and went on to earn her MFA in 2015 from University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Her work was recently exhibited in De La Naturaleza at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio and Materials: Hard & Soft National Contemporary Craft Competition and Exhibition in Denton, Texas. Mary currently makes work at Mudflat Studios in Boston. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your abstract ceramic sculptures evoke bodies in folds and bumps that are both familiar and resist recognition. What looks like a hip crease meeting a fleshy belly from one angle, looks like a bicep pressed up against a head from another. Are your sculptures as abstracted representations or total abstractions?

Mary Black: I consider my sculptures to be abstracted representations of the human form combined with human emotion. I choose to showcase the female body in a way that creates a connection with the viewer, while also leaving moments of unfamiliarity or curiosity. Intrigue plays a large role in drawing me more closely to other works of art, and I think others have this same experience. Giving the viewer a hint of torso or a trace of an arm crease helps to start a dialogue as to what this form may represent.

Lace
2015
Midrange porcelain, slip, glaze, pearl powdered pigment

OPP: You talk about insecurity, vulnerability and acceptance in your statement. Could you expand on your use of surface decoration as a way to mask “imperfections?”
   
MB: I focus on volume and abstraction to evoke the physical truths of the body, which also speaks largely to the emotional distress that comes with those truths. I seek to balance the physical and emotional weight of my sculptures; I couldn’t have one without the other. Showing volume through folds, curves, gravity and scale conveys the literal nature of physical heaviness, yet this is also how I express emotion and self doubt. The sculptures are reflections of my body and my physical, emotional and mental insecurities, but I abstract the body in the hope of connecting with other females who have their own set of insecurities. There is a constant push and pull between cultural ideals of beauty and beliefs about how one should feel about them.

My soft surfaces and layers of detail make the folds and crevices attractive at first glance. I create 'beautiful' layers of floral elements, detail and delicate line-work on the surface in order to entice the viewer to come in for a closer look. When I choose to carve directly into the form, the decorative, floral shapes reference tattoos and scars, which represent physical and mental permanence. These surface details are a buffer created in the hopes that the unappealing and, at times, hidden aspects will be appreciated. Through the process of making, hiding and/or showcasing, I accept moments in my work that I find unflattering and embrace them in another manner, whether that is from mark-making, glazing or final additions of decals and luster.

Late Bloomer
2015
Stoneware, underglaze decals, glaze
16" x 8 1/2" x 19 1/2"

OPP: For those of us who are not well-versed in ceramics, can you explain briefly the different processes you use in your work in creating the forms?

MB: Volume is a way for me to bring a sense of life and weight to ceramic forms. The way that flesh curves and folds around the bone, leaving points unnoticed within the larger, supple areas is stunning and also under-appreciated. I hand build my sculptures to be voluptuous, using thin slabs of clay that I have cut into different shapes. I then piece slabs together in what might seem like a nonsensical manner, but this process is very natural to how I think and how I see shapes. Having a variety of pieces gives me the freedom to alter the form according to what I am feeling in the moment and to what makes sense from a compositional basis. I attach, detach, push, pull and carve the surface, mostly working from the inside to create a shapely, robust form. I tend to work with a light-colored clay body with a very smooth texture, which aids in the process of forming supple folds and later in the process of carving line work.

Balancing with myself
2015
Midrange porcelain, glaze

OPP: And what about decorating the surfaces?

MB: The sensuality I render through each form happens in multiple steps. At this point, it may have become more of an obsessive habit for me as the maker, but I rigorously smooth and sand the sculpture's surface. After allowing the form to become bone dry, I then use at least two to three different grades of sandpaper to best eliminate any additional blemishes or angles.  A sanded, smooth surface is important for my work because it is one of my main attempts at creating an alluring sculpture and hiding any early stages of 'imperfections' that I am uncomfortable with. 

After the final stages of firing, small seams in the clay wall that pull through at mid range firing temperatures (2124-2264° F) have still compromised the surface quality. Textures such as these are not always considered beautiful, which is why I choose to embrace each curving line and each indention. These unconventional standards are ones that I choose to celebrate and appreciate just as much as the appearance of floral decorations. I use underglaze pencils, underglaze, waterslide decals—think: temporary tattoo application, but for clay—and in the very final stages I often apply a gold or white gold luster.

Makeup (detail)
2015
Midrange porcelain, glaze, decals

OPP: Most—if not all—of your sculptures have cavernous holes. The holes simultaneously nod toward the vessel, a staple of ceramics, and reference body orifices, making several of your sculptures strangely sexual. How do you think about the holes? Are they different in different pieces?

MB: I appreciate when moments in my work (and any artist’s work for that matter) allude to more than one specific reference. There is the slight nod to vessel work and traditional ceramic pottery, but I am more concerned with the holes and crevices as metaphors. As I stated earlier, I love a good intrigue. The deep pockets pull the viewer in for a more intimate look at the form and surface details. The first step in experiencing my sculptures is formal. The second step is more conceptual; the viewer yearns for a connection between the abstract and the representational elements. The heavy folds and deep crevices are dark and empty, akin to the sensation of insecurity when one is unhappy with one's own attributes. They also cannot be fully seen, even when peering inside, which works well to tell the story of how we choose to cloak aspects of our lives. There is always more beneath the surface, the unseen and the unnoticed. It is about taking that second glance to get a better understanding.

A Part of Me
2015
Stoneware, slip, underglaze pencil, glaze
14 3/4" x 15 1/2" x 15 1/2"

OPP: As someone who makes both functional ceramics and sculptures, does the distinction between Art and Craft matter to you?

MB: As an artist,  this is a constant discussion. In my early years of making, I was a painter, which automatically falls into a fine art category. No one questioned whether what I was doing was art. After shifting to ceramics, everyone questions this very same thing. It was an on-going debate in grad school because my program fell under the Artistansry category. Never heard of it? Yeah, me neither. Ceramics, wood, metals and fibers were grouped separately from the Fine Arts category (painting, sculpture and printmaking). We all ended up with the same Master of Fine Arts degree, so why was there a need to separate us during our studies?

I think the main distinction between art and craft, even though I hate making a distinction at all, is that craft is more about community. Not to say that the fine arts category doesn't have community, it's just different. Painters tend to brood in a studio by themselves, it's a singular experience. In ceramics, we rely on each other for support with loading and unloading work, sharing glazes and glaze recipes, firing kilns. Firing work together is one of the oldest traditions- and holds true even now. A high fire gas kiln load requires a full days work (if not two days), so firing by yourself is brutal. Sharing space in the kiln with others helps lighten the load of babysitting a kiln from 8am-9pm. There are also plenty of times where you just have one or two small things to fire, and more often than not, another artist will have room where you can get your work in with theirs.

A few times a year, ceramic artist Chris Gustin (a UMD alum) conducts wood firings at his studio near by and allows the university ceramics club to be a part of it.  Artists from all over the country come to join in on the fun.  It takes days of preparation, a week’s worth of constant firing and dedication from each artist to sign up for shifts throughout.  It is one of the best experiences an artist can have, in my opinion.  It gives you the chance to meet new people in and outside of your field of study and learn and share with each other.    

My friends and family often asked how my “pottery is going.” I'm making art. This shouldn't have offended me—and doesn't now—but at the time I couldn't grasp why the understanding of ceramics to outsiders is so skewed. It wasn't pottery to me. It still isn't. There is functional and nonfunctional; that is the only distinction I feel needs to be made. It is all art under one large umbrella.

Cup & Cloud
2014
Porcelain, glaze, salt fired

OPP: Do you think of the functional objects on your website as different than the sculptures?

MB: My thesis body of work revolved around sculptures, but I was teaching wheel throwing and taking a tableware class on the side because I wanted to expand. I wanted to push the boundaries of what I could make and how I could make it. This is true for any artist in any medium.

It is so exciting to see sculptures or paintings by an artist, and then also realize you may be able to own something from them, only on a smaller scale. I think of my functional pieces (mugs, cups, vases, plates) in the same way that painters or photographers think of their prints. An admirer can share their love for someone’s work within the walls of their home. I have yet to be able to afford a massive sculpture; I can't even afford a large tea pot from some of my favorite makers.  What I can afford is the small tea bowl or yunomi that they also have up for grabs.

Art is about sharing. Sharing viewpoints and opinions, color palettes and line work. . . everything. There is no better feeling than sharing the love we have for art. The art vs craft debate matters only because they are treated different in our society. You cannot have one without the other. Regardless of categories, we are all artists.

To see more of Mary's work, please visit maryisthenewblack.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).  Most recently, Stacia created site-responsive installations for Form Unbound (2015), a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016), a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (Chicago, IL).

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kelda Martensen

Alone Together
woodblock, handmade paper, collage, mylar, graphite
28 x 40 inches
2013

KELDA MARTENSEN combines printmaking and collage in poetic explorations of displacement, longing and sorrow. Her rich visual language includes recurring images of domestic architecture, the burdened human figure and the wide-open landscape. Kelda earned her BA in Studio Art from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon in 2002 and her MFA with honors from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 2009. Her solo exhibitions include Works on Paper (2009) at University of Missouri Craft Gallery (Columbia, Missouri), Something is Shifting (2010) at Pratt Gallery (Seattle), Kelda Martensen (2012) at Door No. 3 (Twisp, Washington) and To read your gestures aloud: new prints and collages by Kelda Martensen (2015) at Johnston Architects (Seattle). Her work is available through the SAM Gallery, limited edition prints are available for sale through Mantle Art and her work is currently on view at Gallery AXIS in Seattle until April 4, 2016. Kelda is a tenured professor of art at North Seattle College in Seattle, Washington, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do the themes of displacement, searching and burden intersect in your work?



Kelda Martensen: I think we all try to make sense of our sorrow somehow, and as artists, this grappling often drives the work. Poetically, I feel very connected to ideas of displacement and carrying a shifting sense of home along the journey. I relate to the intellectual and emotional experience of searching—as a woman, artist, mother and educator. I want my work to have curiosity, restlessness and yearning. I keep returning to the theme of burden. Even though we use it to speak about a heavy, cumbersome, unwanted obstacle, it's a word that is often connected to something good: responsibility, feeling needed, an opportunity, a goal, time with a loved one. I want to get at this ambiguity in my work. I want to communicate the beauty and strangeness of a moment that is at once soaring, yet uncomfortable. . . light and illuminated, yet heavy and unmoving.

Sorrow of her own construction
Digital print, charcoal, wood veneer, collage
48 x 32 inches
2012

OPP: Why is your combination of printmaking and collage the perfect vehicle for your conceptual concerns? 



KM: I work with the collapsing of memories and narratives. Collage is a natural way of organizing these ideas. Before I start to collage, I become engaged in the processes of printmaking. While the structure and time required in printmaking allows me the room to generate ideas, I feed off the free-association and immediate compositional and conceptual feedback that I get from collage. I am interested in where these two ways of working intersect, where printed marks have the spontaneity of collage, and drawn and collaged marks have the intention and permanence of the print.

OPP: There’s a repeated visual motif of overlapping, colored circles. They first show up in 2012 in pieces like I'll be your closest neighbor and The Outskirts of Sleep, where they highlight empty space. Are these circles symbolic or purely formal?

KM: I'm interested in how the meaning of a symbolic image grows with usage. I keep returning to the circle, and I do love it for its formal qualities. I appreciate how it activates the negative space around it and can so easily achieve the illusion of depth and form. I play with circles to intentionally flatten a space or to make a space more atmospheric. Sometimes the circle acts as a void, other times as a form. In my earlier work, such as The Outskirts of Sleep, the repeating circles were really more about the edges, the void within and highlighting the unknown. Most of the symbols I use create movement in some way. The circle, especially when repeated, can represent a larger cosmic notion of movement: the circling around the sun, tidal patterns in connection with the moon, a lifetime.

The Outskirts of Sleep
Monoprint, digital print, collage
40 x 32
2012

OPP: They then became a dominate feature of your public art project West Seattle Signal Box Project (2014), where they are filled with what looks like both the surface of the ocean or a textured landscape.

KM: For the West Seattle Signal Box Project, I wanted to use a recurring motif that would associate five different public art installations with one another. I took the idea of the overlapping circles from my previous works and exaggerated the repetition as a way to fill a large surface area, and to speak to the vibrant rhythms of a city on the edge of wilderness. In West Seattle's case, it is a neighborhood with both urban density and the vast expanse of the Puget Sound waters. The surface of the ocean is from a woodcut I carved inspired by my time living in Alaska. I enjoy how people read this particular image both as land and water.

Print for vinyl public art installation, Easy Street Records
Monotype, woodblock, collage
43.5 x 30.25 inches
2014

OPP: Another recurring—and much more loaded—visual motif is architecture in many forms. What does the house mean in your work?

KM: I think the house is my most autobiographical symbol. My dad is a cabinetmaker, boat builder and sign carver. I grew up with plywood boxes, needle nose pliers and cedar shavings as toys. I spent a lot of time thinking about houses, looking casually at blueprints and walking through construction sites daydreaming. My dad's shop was only steps from our backdoor, and the path between house and shop was traveled so constantly that the two became blurred in my mind.

As a college student, I had my first opportunities to travel outside the United States. I lived and studied in Galway, Ireland and Durban, South Africa. After being in Europe and then Africa, architecture took on a new meaning for me. It became more universal than personal, more about history, class and race. In Durban, I became very interested in contemporary African photographers such as Zwelethu Mthethwa and Malick Sadibé—especially in the use of pattern and architectural façades in portraiture—and began to understand the visual role of architecture in storytelling and narrative. I now reference architectural forms to speak about place, be it an internal, psychic place or an external, physical place. Every time I use a roof, a window or a hardwood floor in my work, I have a feeling that I am recalling my earliest memories. Though my use of architecture is drawn from my personal narrative, I hope that it speaks to the human experience and a larger more global story.

Cape Town Fringe (After Dollar Brand)
Woodblock, graphite, charcoal
28 x 20 inches
2009

OPP: What role does your sketchbook play in your practice?

KM: I keep several sketchbooks at once and don't necessarily work through the pages in order. This allows me to go back in time and to react to earlier ideas from previous phases in my life. I can revisit places I've traveled and feel closer to past experiences and the passing of time through drawings. My most prolific sketchbook practice happens when I'm traveling or when I otherwise find myself alone and without distraction. With teaching full time and raising a two-year-old, I don't really experience those moments as I used to. Returning to earlier sketchbook pages allows me to return to a time of creative concentration when I might not currently be in one. Still, I can fill pages even if I only have a minute, and it is a safe space to try out ideas quickly. My sketchbooks allow me to feel productive and connected to my art practice.

What we talk about when we talk about coyotes
Moleskin journal, wax, monotype, digital print, collage
6.5 x 8.5 inches
2015

OPP: How does the sketchbook relate to the artist book as a form?

KM: I am always grateful and intrigued whenever I have the chance to see an artist's sketchbook. Like artist books, they are a gift to look through. The sketchbook relates to the artist book not only as a visual form for the distribution of ideas, but also as a way of presenting images to the viewer in an intentional order. This is what fascinates me about the artist book. It is so closely related to printmaking, but it is about the order of the narrative and about how one handles or operates the images. The sketchbook, though not necessarily made for an audience, is also about the order of presentation, and the condition of the pages. With artist books and sketchbooks, I am most intrigued by the treatment of the pages and how they relate to one another. I often incorporate actual sketchbook moleskin journal pages into my work in hopes of evoking this very personal act of reflection, wandering, note-taking.

2015 class mural - design by Justin Gibbens

OPP: You created the first course in public art at North Seattle College, Tell us about the collaborative murals you create with students. Mural painting seems vastly different from printmaking, but is there an unexpected connection in either the process or the product?

KM: It's funny you ask this now, as I'm currently working on a mural project that connects more with my studio practice than any mural I've done before. I am creating a large-scale temporary installation for a construction fence around a future light rail station in the North end of Seattle. I work off-site, creating huge plywood shapes that are puzzled together from several sheets of plywood and painted to mimic my woodcuts and monotypes. The curator of the project, Christian French, pushed me to think about this mural in a way that was much more akin to collage and printmaking. Previously, I made traditional murals painted directly onto the wall. I am really enjoying this new way of thinking about it. I can already tell that this mural project is influencing my studio practice and pushing my comfort with scale—not to mention all the scrap wood to make woodcuts from when I'm done!

The opportunity to design and teach the Mural Art course at North Seattle College has been invigorating for my teaching and studio practice. Each spring, I work with 10-20 students who enroll in the course and together we take on the transferring and painting of a design created by a professional artist. From an instructor's perspective, I feel a heightened sense of collaboration with my students in this course. It's really fun to watch the students take pride and agency in the transformation of the wall and to have the work of students applauded by the campus community. It's always a highlight of my year.

To see more of Kelda's work, please visit keldamartensen.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 at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Dugald MacInnes

Fault
Scottish Slate
85cm by 85cm
2015

Influenced by Minimalism, DUGALD MACINNES explores the materiality of stone and its geologic origins in framed, slate and shale mosaics. He employs the natural color and physical properties of his chosen materials in compositions that honor the processes of their creation. Dugald studied mosaic murals at the Glasgow School of Art (1970-1975). He went on to earn a Post Diploma in Design (1975), a degree in Geology (1985) and a Certificate in Field Archeology (1993). He is an active member of the British Association for Modern Mosaic and is a regular Guest Tutor at the Chicago Mosaic School. His mosaics have won first prize at the North Lanarkshire Arts Association exhibition in 2003 and the International Mosaic Exhibition in Chartres, France in 2004. He has exhibited internationally in Scotland, Greece, Austria, Italy, France, Japan, England and the United States. Dugald lives and works in Kilsyth, Scotland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about your history as an artist and with mosaic as a medium.

Dugald MacInnes: In August of 1971, I entered my second year of studies at the Glasgow School of Art in the department of Mural Design and Stained Glass. This event coincided with the arrival of a new senior lecturer from Edinburgh College of Art who took over the department. His name was George Garson, and he changed the course of my life.
 
Garson had a strong working class background, and he laboured in the Scottish shipyards for many years while developing his life-long passion for painting, so much so that his portfolio gained him entry to the Edinburgh college. It was in his third year there that quite by chance his senior lecturer, John Kingsley Cook, asked for a volunteer to assist him in the creation of the fourteen stations of the cross to be executed in sandstone and glass smalti for an Edinburgh church. It was this commission that engendered in Garson a passion for mosaics in stone. On a visit to the west coast of Scotland, he discovered slate with its varied colours and characteristics, a medium that he continued to employ for many years.

In my second year at Glasgow, Garson invited me and fellow students into his studio to show us some of his small, slate mosaics. If ever there was a ‘Damascene’ moment in my life, then that was the moment! I was brought up on the west coast and was familiar with the slate there. It was the very same that Garson had used. From then on, that stone became my medium above all else.

I was not classically trained by Garson, who saw himself as an expressive artist, an axiom that I very much adhere to. From time to time, I return to my roots and produce small pieces of a more expressive nature. These are very important to me; they remind me of that moment when I was introduced to mosaic and they also serve, hopefully, to keep my integrity intact.

Fault Zone
Scottish & French Slate
13cms by 20cms (5" by 8")
2015

OPP: Upon first glance, I thought your work was geometric abstraction in conversation with Minimalist painting. I was thinking of your work in relation to Post-minimalism. But after looking more closely and reading your titles—Fault Zone, Subduction and Tectonic Drift, to name a few—I can see that these works are much more about the materiality of stone and its geologic origins. Thoughts?

DM: Yes, it is true to say my work is about the materiality of stone and its geologic origins, but I have been strongly influenced by minimalist painting. The work of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns and the English artists Ben Nicholson and sculptor Barbara Hepworth were particularly influential, as was Russian Constructivism. For me those artists conveyed the very essence of art through the removal of extraneous elements.

Geology, however, is my principal context. Its forms, textures and, to a lesser extent, its colours play an integral role in my work. I attempt to tune into the beating heart, if you like, of the earth itself, its magmatic interior being the ‘life blood’ of our very existence. The rhythms created by the repetitious use of small slate ‘fingers’ in many of my pieces serve to express the planetary pulse beneath our feet. I refer to this use of geology to express my responses to geology as Lithospherics.

I remain excited about the qualities of stone though. Scottish slate has undergone dramatic changes through the effects of heat, folding and faulting with the result that it can be found in a friable state, easily broken by hand, in contorted forms and smooth, steely sheets that glisten with an oily sheen.

Fold (Deformation Event IV)
Scottish Slate & Shale
90cms by 90cms (34" by 34")
2014

OPP: How do you source your material? Why is it important that it is Scottish Shale and Slate?

DM: As I have said, I source my stone principally from the west coast of Scotland but other locations of my homeland provide material of different forms and characteristics. I also use slate from the Loire Valley in France, Cornwall in the southwest of England, and recently I used limestone from the Tuscan hills in Italy.

Stone is stone no matter where it comes from. I have a global, geological view of our world and do not lay import on the source of material in a national sense. When I use the term Scottish slate, it is merely offered as information. It is not imperative that my stone comes from Scotland; this is merely most convenient source. Although I have to say, Scottish slate, because of its ‘tormented’ past, exhibits a greater range of forms and colours than most other material that I have come across from elsewhere.

Anticline II
Scottish Shale
73cm by 73cm

OPP: Works made from slate—like Anticline II and Xenolith (Moho)—have long, thin shards while works made from shale—Intrusion, for example—have more variety in the shapes of the tiles. Is this related to the nature of the materials? Or about how you exert force on them?

DM: Most of my work is executed in slate, but recently shale has been used in pieces such as Intrusion. These materials are worlds apart in terms of their qualities. The shale is extremely fragile and is often applied in wafer-thin pieces with the result that it is more difficult to exert control over it, but that is part of its charm. It does not respond well to the water-sluiced diamond saw I use to cut and control my slate shards and ‘fingers.’

The processes used in obtaining and shaping both types of stone differ considerably. Slate is sourced in disused quarries, taken home, split, then cut with a saw. Then it is washed, dried and sorted into different hues. Shards with rough edges are separated from the smooth because they are used to different effect. Shale, on the other hand, is sourced from the waste material of historic coal and oil shale mines in Central Scotland. It is not washed and saw cut.

Intrusion
Scottish Shale
100cms by 100cms
2014

OPP: Generally, your color palate is limited by your material. Is this a challenge you work around or part of the reason you choose this material? When there is color, is it natural?

DM: I am drawn to natural processes; the geological phenomena that first fascinated me at a young age remain with me. All the colour is natural. I do not change it artificially (although on occasion in smaller works I rub graphite into the stone in order to create subtle contrasts).

Pieces such as Paleogene Swarm and Intrusion, both executed in shale, have a higher colour content than most of my work. Shales have a fairly consistent black colour, although oil shale that has been heated for extraction turns from black to various hues and shades of red. These processes 'control' my colour palette. In most cases, it is very limited, though the subtle variations of hues within the stone itself do play a significant role in creating an overall warmth to the work.

The colours of slate, on the other hand, range from almost black, through hues of greys, purples, greens and even a creamy dun. Colour is subordinate to the other inherent qualities found in slate. Loch Lomond Re-advance, for example, appears at first glance to have an overall grey tone. But on closer inspection, there are subtle changes in hues and shades. The subtle colours of the slate rely on texture, i.e. the way that light plays on the stone, especially in its rough, uncut edges. The viewer is forced engage closely with the artwork; the further one looks, the more colour is revealed. I also invite the viewers to touch the art, an act much frowned upon in most galleries. The audience can relate to my work both in a visual and in a tactile sense.

Tetonic Drift
Scottish Slate
60cms by 60cms
2016

OPP: Would you pick a favorite piece in which you use color to express geological forces and talk more in depth about it?

DM: Tectonic Drift embodies the unimaginable geological forces beneath our feet and how these forces have shaped and continue to shape our planet. The colour red is associated with power. This piece employs the nuances of colour in the smooth cut edges and in the rough portions. Here the reds combine with the greys in a harmonious, perhaps a primordial way. Think about fire and charcoal, magma and black volcanic rock, even life and death.

A close study of the smooth pieces reveals also the unpredictable way slate fragments when split with mosaic nippers. This is part of the delight of working with such a stone. The colours of the smooth slate are not deliberately placed but are randomly selected. This is because the variations in hues and shades are not dramatically different, creating a unit when viewed from distance.

I use a small area of reds to suggest the furtive nature of tectonic forces, but colour does not exist in isolation. In expressing geological forces, form is essential. In Tectonic Drift, the use of simple disjointed shapes expresses the fractured and shifting nature of the earth's crust, that tenuous raft on which we exist.

To see more of Dugald's work, please visit dugaldmacinnesart.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 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.