Thankful for Art and Artists

Since Featured Artist Interviews always fall on Thursdays and so does Thanksgiving, I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight some of my personal favorites from the last year in no particular order.

BECCA LOWRY

Bows and Arrows
Mixed media wood carving
36" x 30.5" x 3.5"
2015

BECCA LOWRY's "carved warrior shields" are a harmonious orchestration of color, texture and pattern. She carves away at planks of plywood with power tools, but the elegance of her final forms belie the lumber yard origins of her materials. Read the interview.


KRIS GREY/JUSTIN CREDIBLE

Homage
Performance Still (Clifford Owens Seminar at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY)
2013
Performance and Concept by Kris Grey
Photograph by Kris Grey and Fivel Rothberg

Gender queer artist KRIS GREY/JUSTIN CREDIBLE’s interdisciplinary practice includes video and ceramics, as well as a variety of performance modes: storytelling, drag, educational lectures, social interaction in public space and endurance. They explore the intersection of gendered embodiment, authority, intimacy and social justice. Read the interview.


SABINA OTT

here and there pink melon joy (purgatory)
2014
Installation view
Styrofoam, spray foam, astroturf, artificial and real plants, mirror, canvas, water, pump, plastic, clocks

Vulgarity, beauty and contemplation meet in the materially-driven practice of artist and educator SABINA OTT. Hanging, body-sized sculptures sport light fixtures, clocks and mirrors. Carved slabs of styrofoam, embellished with faux house plants, rest on flat, astroturf rugs/pedestals. The bizarre scene creates a compelling hybrid: part home decor, part monument. Read the interview.


COURTNEY KESSEL


In Balance With
2014
Performance

Mother, artist and academic COURTNEY KESSEL collapses the divide between public and private by performing with her daughter Chloe and bringing the objects of her everyday life into the gallery. In performance, video and installation, she "strives to make visible the quiet, understated, and often unseen love and labor of motherhood." Read the interview.


SELINA TREPP

Dismount after the Win
2013
Archival pigment print
40 x 29 inches

Interdisciplinary artist SELINA TREPP creates illusions of physical and conceptual space, conflating a variety of distinct artistic disciplines. She makes videos of herself painting her own portrait on a two-way mirror and creates immersive environments in which life-sized projections interact with tangible objects and sound. Most recently, she's been creating photographs of constructions in her studio which include paintings, her body, mirrors and sculpture. Ultimately, she expertly synthesizes each of these disciplines, highlighting the natural and imagined boundaries between them. Read the interview.


MATTHEW SCHLAGBAUM

If I could have feelings at all, I'd have feelings for you
Inkjet print, hammertone acrylic, artist frame
2015

MATTHEW SCHLAGBAUM's sculptures, installations and photography explore the muting effect of romanticism and expectation on our lived experience. Various visual filters like frosted plexiglass, colored mylar, screens obscure clichéd imagery of natural phenomena including sunsets, rainbows, lightning bolts. The viewer is repeatedly viewing one thing through another, which creates a frustrated desire to experience the imagery directly, and this perceptual frustration is echoed in titles that add interpersonal, emotional narratives. Read the Interview.


ADAM MATAK

The Peripatetic Life of Sandow
MFA Thesis Exhibition
2015

ADAM MATAK employs decidedly mundane media—BIC pens, graffiti markers and rubber stamps— to complicate notions of cultural value. His allegorical paintings of museum goers, for example, use the style of comics to question our always-changing relationship to esteemed art objects. Read the interview.

MARIA GASPAR

Making the Unknown, Known #1 (Site-Specific projects for Little Village, Chicago)
2013
Digital Rendering for sound installation proposal

MARIA GASPAR seeks to make "what is invisible more visible, what is unknown known." As a studio artist, facilitator, collaborator, performer and audio archivist, she explores power and the social and political meanings of geographic spaces, especially in Chicago’s West Side, where she grew up. Read the Interview.





OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Art Vidrine

Sub ads (found intervention), 2015

Interdisciplinary artist ART VIDRINE is concerned with how we perceive the surrounding world and how our literal and metaphoric lenses affect the meanings we make. In photography, collage, sculpture and video, he modifies and destabilizes our existing cultural frameworks, calling into question individual agency through abstraction. Art earned his BA in Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) in 2002, and went on to earn his MFA in Fine Art from the School of Visual Arts (New York) in 2014. He was curated into Miami Projects in 2014. In 2015, his work has been included in Battle of the Masters at Open Gallery Space in New York and Plus One at Sideshow Gallery in Brooklyn, and in January 2016, will be included in Abstract Preferences at NIAD Art Center in Richmond, California. He is a participating panelist on an upcoming episode for TransBorder Art titled Discomfort, which will appear on public television (tentatively in December). Art is a contributing writer for ArtSlant and lives in Brooklyn.


OtherPeoplesPixels: How did your undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature set the stage for your photography, sculpture and video work? 


Art Vidrine: Before the degree, there was a love of literature, which was rooted in early childhood, much earlier than any affinity for visual art. From adolescence, I was attracted to what creative intelligence has to offer in making sense of the world: empathy, reflection and imagination. I mention this because no matter how driven by abstract ideas my art may be at times or how rationally I discuss it afterwards, my work still draws heavily from those human qualities I find in literature. Comparative Literature allowed me to explore multiple languages (and consequently multiple perspectives) and lots of theory. Undoubtedly, my obsession with certain themes was formalized in college, especially with that hobbyhorse of reader-response theories: audience agency.

Just for You, 2014
Wood, resin, paint, hot glue, spray foam, detergent, hardware, carpet, headphones, sound, black lights, Arduino
box - 48" x 48" x 48", carpet - 72" x 96"

OPP: Do you think there is a difference between textual thinking and visual thinking, from a process point of view?


AV: Yes and no. At their best, both textual and visual thinking defy conventional thought and form. The origin of that creative impetus is the same (an attitude), and the process is similar (channel that attitude into a communicable form). That being said, there is definitely a difference between the two, which manifests itself most acutely when talking about work with other artists. Some can ascend the heavens with a brushstroke or click of the shutter, and yet their tongues can barely get them off the ground. Textual and visual thinking are somewhat different skill sets with different vocabularies and differing dependencies on concepts. Both can be strengthened, but only up to a certain point. After that, talent and desire take over.

Parenthetically, I do think some artists read and relate to work differently than others. Some of my friends are painters for whom the brushiest brushstroke or the richest hue is like a conversation with God. They are transported in ways that I will never be in relationship to painting. They look for different things in those works than I do. Conversely, the cleverest conceptual project can send chills down my spine and leave them feeling cheated of a meaningful experience. If the difference is just a matter of picking up on nuances in the work (i.e. references, interesting decisions made when making the work, etc), then that is something that can be rectified over time with more exposure to art.

Durational, 2015

OPP: Could you talk about the categories— Agency, Perception, Abstraction and Surroundings—you use to organize the work on your website?
 
AV: These days, the art world prefers artists to have a “thing” – an identifiable, readily digestible and marketable focus, a singular purpose that can fit nicely into an elevator pitch embodied in press releases and talking points with board members and collectors. There is certainly value in sustaining a tunnel vision commitment to one thing in depth, whether it be a process or topic. But my interests do not coalesce so easily. In fact, the topics themselves that interest me do not play well with reductive boundaries, opting instead for cross-pollination. Abstraction, perception, and agency are interdependent. I elaborated on this in my graduate thesis, which anyone can read from my CV & Writings section if they need something to help them fall asleep at night.
 
Honestly, the categories on my website are really meant to make the constant themes that I return to more apparent for those who do not know me or my work. I see the thread, the relationships amongst the different media, forms, and subjects. That thread consists of three intertwined topics: Abstraction, Perception, and Agency. Work in one category could also exist comfortably in another. The choice of which work belonged where had a lot to do with what I saw as the predominate concern of each work.  Surroundings exists as a category for sharing my love for landscape and cityscape photography, which often have a hard time fitting into one of the other three categories. One’s environment unequivocally shapes how he or she experiences the three topics mentioned above. Sometimes, it’s hard to classify how.
 
OPP: What role do lenses, filters and screens play in your practice, literally and/or figuratively?


AV: The lens (mental and physical) with which we view the world is directly related to the three main themes my work addresses. I do not set out to emphasize lenses, filters, and screens as a material. That happens naturally as a result of my chosen themes.  They are merely the metaphorical conduit for a reflection on perception, and consequently perception’s influence on agency.

Intermediate, 2015

OPP: What was your process for creating Performative Utterances: A Symphony (2015), in which you translate political rhetoric into music? Why did you choose the particular speech that you chose? 


AV: I transformed Netanyahu’s voice into MIDI notes, multiplied those notes into different layers, and then assigned each layer a software instrument. I tweaked some notes—shifting octaves, changing a couple to a different note and extending the duration for some—but mostly kept them untouched. I adjusted the parameters for the instruments to achieve the sounds I wanted and gradually added in or removed instruments as the performance progresses. Who knew Netanyahu was so musically talented?
 
I chose this speech because of the theatrical nature of the spectacle. This is not to say that Netanyahu’s speech was not good or relevant. He has some legitimate concerns.  It’s just that the whole event felt like a night at the symphony or a rock concert, with adulating fans roaring, sea swells of standing ovations, a maestro’s swagger. There is even the analogous handshake with the first chair, the singer’s wipe of the mouth between songs. It made me wonder how much of the speech’s political content could be conveyed even without words, which then made me think about the long history of the relationship between music (the most abstract art form) and politics. This was as much about abstracting political content from speech to sound as it was about discovering a new way to build a symphony. I’m sure classically trained musicians will disagree with the distinction of this work as “a symphony,” “classical,” or even “music.” But I think it functions quite well as a kind of avant-garde symphony. Netanyahu was trumpeting an aggressive, antagonistic position, so I gave him (literally) the brass his speech (figuratively) conveyed.


Performative Utterances: A Symphony
2015

OPP: In your artist statement you say, "The cultural framework we inherit prescribes meaning and intelligibility to things." Then you ask, "But how does our relationship to the world alter as our conceptual frameworks are challenged? As our lives are increasingly mediated through technology, simulacra, and mass media, how does our physical, experiential grounding within the world evolve?" These seem to be the long-term questions of your practice. I'm wondering if you have any answers, or at least theories, yet?

AV: Hmmm. . . If I did, I don’t think I would need to make art anymore.

To see more of Art's work, please visit artvidrine.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,just opened at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and runs through December 19, 2015.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Pei-Hsuan Wang

Over and Over Again
2014
Ceramic, glaze, paint
Photo credit: I-Hsuen Chen

PEI-HSUAN WANG combines ceramics with found materials, both domestic and industrial,  in poetic arrangements that evoke the home. Abstract references to picture frames, house plants, curtains and ottomans hint at intimate, stable spaces, which seem to be the antidote to the disruption of international migration—from Taiwan to America and back again—that informs her practice. Pei-Hsuan received her BA from Macalester College in Minnesota and her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. In 2014, she had two solo exhibitions in Taipei, Taiwan: Mobile Scapehood at FreeS Art Space and Formation No.1: On Levitation at Bamboo Curtain Studio. In 2015, she has been an artist-in-residence at 1a Space in Hong Kong and European Ceramic Workcentre in the Netherlands. She lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You were born and raised in Taiwan, earned your BFA and MFA in the U.S. and then returned to Taiwan in 2013. How has your personal experience of international migration affected the work you make?

Pei-Hsuan Wang: Taiwan is a country in constant struggle with its own identity. This has affected the mentality of many Taiwanese people: we are forever locating/relocating ourselves in this ever changing world with fluctuating powers. I left Taiwan unaware that a big part of what motivated my departure was the unfulfilled hole of not knowing who I was and where I came from in a "worldly" context. I had attempted to pass as someone "legitimate" by migrating West-ward. I did not see this until years later, of course. Being in the U.S. allowed me to reflect on my experiences occupying multiple spaces. I began to see Taiwan in a different light, and at the same time, view America from a critical perspective. All of these become things I think about in my work.

All They See is the Horizon Line
2011
Ceramic
13 x 8 x 6" each
Photo credit: James Carrillo

OPP: Earlier projects, Chinked-Out Factory and Asian Persuasion (both 2011), make overtly political statements about identity, the commodification of stereotypes and globalization? These projects are such a contrast to your recent installations, which I would describe as poetic and meandering as opposed to pointed and critical. What led to this shift?

PW: I often have ideas that I don't have time to follow through with yet. This is kind of what happened to Chinked-Out Factory and Asian Persuasion. They were meant to be long term endeavors. I was struggling to execute these projects in final forms, however, despite the fact that there existed already a variety of pieces in thought or sketch forms that could be made whenever I felt like it. I believe this has a lot to do with fear of perpetuating stereotypes and disseminating easily misinterpreted messages. I wonder if the satirical content is clear in the racially charged comments and caricatures I create, and if the work only appeals to those already aware of the things I want to talk about and therefore, remains a witty one-liner. I am still thinking about this.

The more poetic works are ways for me to ask questions rather than give answers or demand attention in approval. More thoughts are able to generate that way, for me and for the viewers. I am able to play more freely with ideas, materials and forms and to think as I make. Sometimes I come to no solid conclusion and I’m totally okay with that. Every piece becomes an experiment.

Closer to Home
2013
Bamboo, ceramic, cushion
Dimension variable
Photo credit: Thomas Cheong

OPP: Throughout your sculptural oeuvre, I notice a lot of visual references to home decor. In some cases, you've used actual found furniture, as in In Transit (2011), but there are also more abstracted, poetic indications of picture frames, house plants, ottomans, carpets and curtains in Portal (2012) and Closer to Home (2013). Could you talk about the significance of these references?

PW: I like taking things that are dear and familiar to my experiences and turning them into something vaguely associative. These things become starting points to wonder. They can act as anchors to relate, in visual form or other forms. The fact that they are often home decor did not occur to me until you mentioned it in this question. I suppose I am interested in observing spaces and things in those spaces, however fitting or out of place.

Closer to Home
2013
Ceramic, tarp
each object approx. 13 x 10 x 55"
Photo credit: Thomas Cheong

OPP: I love the images of Formation No.1: On Levitation (2014), your most recent exhibition, which show viewers/participants interacting with your sculptures. The Throne, for example, seemed so precarious until I saw the images with children climbing the wooden stairs. Does this audience participation relate to the sense of detachment you write about in your statement?

PW: Thank you. As a whole, the piece is a version of the more or less structured manifestation of my messy and multilayered thoughts at the time. I wanted the audience to experience the space and become a part of my thought form in visual realization. They were encouraged to participate and activate the installation, but were not imagined or anticipated in any way to "mean" something or relate to something to my work when I made the piece. I wanted to allow whatever happened to happen, and allow the piece to create its own extended stories, through whichever ways possible.

The Throne
2014
Wood, found school chair, found fragments of brick houses, cement
Photo credit: I-Hsuen Chen

OPP: In asking that question, I was thinking that inviting participation with the work is a way to create a connection between you and your viewers that is beyond the visual. With the growth in Social Practice work over the last decade and a wider acceptance of materiality as on par with composition and form, the functions of fine art are in the process of being reconsidered and the boundaries are shifting—as they always do. It’s actually quite difficult to simply talk about “visual” art anymore, because so many artists are working in ways that engage other senses and the body and mind as a whole. Sometimes the word “viewer” is no longer accurate. I’m curious what you think about fine art’s history of privileging the eyes over other modes of perception. Is it changing?

PW: I do believe it is important that the participation of the "viewers" not be limited to the visual, but also other modes of perception—spacial, audio and corporeal—that are present in my work. We all have certain senses that we rely on over the others; this opens up more opportunities to explore ways of production and also ways of understanding. And I do think the experience and the awareness of the experience have become a big part of art practices in all disciplines. I believe it is going to be even more so in the future, with newer attempts to bridge peoples with ideas, which are never quite visual in the first place, in whatever ways we can.

Altar
2014
Salvaged wood, old pallets for concrete pours, resin, concrete, bulb, seat cushion
Dimension variable
Photo credit: I-Hsuen Chen

OPP: What's being worshiped in Altar, a piece in your most recent exhibition, Mobile Scapehood?

PW: The title Altar mainly referred to the feeling that the piece gave me personally. It was tucked in a quiet corner in an existing space and created a small space of its own, even though the structure seems semi-open to the eye. The niche space allowed one to kneel in cozily and study the textured details of the resin, which was in fact a messed-up cast with the wrong ratio of A-B parts, as well as the hole within the concrete shape, which was originally a custom-made piece for an industrial ventilation system in some factory in the city. The whole thing can be like a hollow mind space waiting to be filled with people's private thoughts. In that sense, the thing to be worshiped was absent.

To see more of Pei-Hsuan's work, please visit pei-hsuanwang.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, just opened at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and runs through December 19, 2015.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Caroline Carlsmith

Pyritization II (In Praise of Limestone)
2014
Poem, pyrite (FeS2)
Detail

CAROLINE CARLSMITH's interdisciplinary work is a rhizome of meaning, material and language. The impenetrable walls and poetic byproducts of translation are subjects in works that range from vinyl lettering on walls, poems written in minerals and prints of word clouds made from digitally generated lorem ipsum (a meaningless filler text used by typesetters since the 1500s). In 2009, Caroline completed a double degree in Studio Art (BFA) and Visual and Critical Studies (BA) from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and went on to earn an MFA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University in 2014. She has attended residencies at SÍM Residency (Reykjavic, Iceland), ACRE (Stuben, Wisconsin) and Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, Vermont). Recent exhibitions include to be looked at and read at BKBX Gallery in Brooklyn, Archipelago (2014) at the Block Museum in Evanston, Illinois and Reading Room at Julius Caesar in Chicago. Caroline lives and works in Brooklyn.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk about text as image and image as text in your work? I'm also curious if you experience textual thinking as different than or similar to visual thinking. 



Caroline Carlsmith: Though there may well be a difference for some people between textual and visual thinking, I am not sure whether I experience it. In some ways all of my works are written, but sometimes literal writing is visible in the finished product and sometimes it isn’t. My artworks are most often the result of a constellation of ideas that are associated as I might want to associate them in a poem. If I want the impact to be simultaneous or sensory, then I make them objects.

While there may not be, for me, a difference between visual and textual creating, there is certainly a difference between the experience of the reader of a text and the viewer of a non-text-based work of art. My desire to invoke one kind of experience or another dictates whether the final product is text or text+. I tend to use images and words similarly, trying to play with their multiple meanings, placing them in congress with each other to facilitate controlled collisions.

Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet
2012
45 inkjet prints on paper
Prints are 8.5" x 11" each
Installed at Northwestern University, October, 2012

OPP: Whether you are rendering poetry as small nuggets of pyrite as in Pyritization II (In Praise of Limestone) (2014) or Walt Whitman's Calamus as word clouds in Nobody Loves Pain Itself For Itself (2012), translation is both a strategy and a subject in your work. How do you think about issues of legibility, believability and accuracy in relation to translation?



CC: I believe there is no such thing as accuracy in translation. Every translation—be it from language to language, image to text, material to material, body to fossil, artist to avatar—presents both loss and gain. It is this transformation, or transubstantiation, that allows an idea, a thought or a figure to be carried beyond the boundaries of the original in time and space. But inevitably what is translated is not the thing itself. The “true” original is never accessible. It is what we touch when we reach for what lies beyond it. It is the thin shell of space between skin and skin when we believe we are in contact with each other. This is the space I am seeking to make visible.

I Am Now With You
2013
Die-cut vinyl lettering

OPP: You've done numerous projects that take Walt Whitman's work as a subject or a jumping-off point. Why Walt Whitman, as opposed to any other writer? What does he mean to you as a human, as an artist? What does he mean to your work?

CC: Walt Whitman is a key figure to me in many ways. Most important is a move he makes throughout his work, in which he asks to be understood as present with the reader after his death, without his body, through the text. Whitman was an artist who wrote “himself” into his poetry, creating a fictional persona that overlapped with but did not replicate the author. When the poem claims “I am now with you,” the reader is faced with an incantation, a performative utterance, which enacts its own truth through its declaration. This form of immortality, the conjuration of one’s figure through the medium of text, which is not dependent on the living body and moves through time differently, was the one Whitman proclaimed for himself when he made statements like,

                                                   Remember my words - I may again return, 
                                                   I love you - I depart from materials;
                                                   I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

For him, to escape the body and the material world was to live on, but, perversely, that living can only be enacted within a new body. And what is conjured is not a man, but something both larger and smaller: a figure.

Importantly, for Whitman this strategy is dependent on love and enacted by the reader’s succumbing to desire for his “presence.” It’s a form of seduction that results, for Whitman, in alternating forms of procreation and resurrection, or, better yet, new poems, or new works of art, that carry forward that figure and allow it to grow and change—in other words, to live.

2013
Wax cylinder record, marble dust (CaCO3)
2 1/2" diameter x 4"

OPP: Could you talk about the significance of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) in its many forms?

CC: I initially became interested in calcium carbonate in its crystal form of optical calcite, which is a birefringent material that splits a ray of light into two beams. I was fascinated to encounter a naturally occurring material that had the capacity to split an image or a word viewed through it in two. It produces a doubling effect in which the “real” and “virtual” are separated but indistinguishable.

As I began to research further, however, I found multiple ways in which calcium carbonate shaped the history of the visual itself. For example, according to the fossil record, trilobites living in the prehistoric oceans saturated with calcium carbonate developed the first eyes, which were compound lenses of calcite. Later, when the oceans acidified, the bodies of the animals living in that environment and deposits from that water became chalk and limestone, or metamorphosed into marble. In forms like these, as well as gesso and lime plaster, calcium carbonate has been an integral part of human art-making as far back as we can trace it. The study of calcite also gave rise, in the 17th century, to the understanding of both the polarization of light and the polymorphism of crystals. Calcite remains the purest polarizing material in use in optical instruments today. Even now, it is still present at the expanding boundary of the visible. It is ultimately that polymorphism that attracts me to calcite. It is part of why I use chemical formulas to indicate motifs and produce associations between seemingly disparate materials in my work. I like that a material can be so many different things and somehow still be the same, remain connected or cohesive.

However, like most materials, CaCO3 is most dynamic when set against something with which it is in tension. When working on Phaedra/Phaedrus/Phèdre, for example, I was using calcium carbonate in the forms of marble powder, chalk, pearl and calcite crystal. That installation also made use of multiple meanings of the word basic, which is a characteristic of the alkaline calcium carbonate, but also a way to think about language, about the foundations of education and thought and about foundations themselves.

Installation view of Phaedra/Phaedrus/Phèdre
foreground: Phèdre, left: Basic Phaedrus, right: Citation Pearl: General Index, background: Solution
2013

OPP: What about your use of blackboards as substrates in Phaedra/Phaedrus/Phèdre (2013)?



CC: Blackboards, in that context, were not only the typical substrate for chalk marks, but also a pedagogical tool, as well as associated with the work of Cy Twombly, whose triptych Phaedrus was recreated in chalk and marble dust on the reverse of the three blackboards in the installation. (The original paintings had been famously kissed by the performance artist Rindy Sam, who claimed she’d been so overwhelmed with love for the work that she had to physically consummate it.) Blackboards, along with champagne and the lipstick Sam had worn to kiss the Twombly, interacted with calcium carbonate as substrates, solvents, and additives. By paring down the materials involved in an installation to just a few elements, I hoped the complex relationships between them would have a greater impact.

II (Inside of a Needle Inside of an Egg Inside of a Duck Inside of a Rabbit Inside of a Chest Buried Under an Oak Tree on an Island)
2014
Carbon ink drawing (C) on paper

OPP: What are you working on right now?

CC: I’m working on a new series of drawings right now based on a Rose of Jericho, which is a resurrection plant native to the desert of Mexico and the southwestern USA. When it’s dry it looks like a little tumbleweed and quite dead, but when you expose it to water it uncurls and grows green and is suddenly alive. The ancient city of Jericho is associated in illuminated manuscripts with a certain type of labyrinth which has seven cycles, related to its apocryphal seven walls. In these drawings, I use the Rose of Jericho, as it opens and closes, to trace paths that lead out of seven-cycled labyrinths. I'm also working on a written piece—or perhaps seven written pieces—that I hope will accompany the drawings when the series is finished.

To see more of Caroline's work, please visit carolinecarlsmith.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, opens today at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and runs through December 19, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joshua Parker Coombs

Communicative
Steel, paint, surface bonding cement, rust
53" x 52" x 27"
2014

JOSHUA PARKER COOMBS' steel and cement sculptures reference living organisms and their basic drives. The forms are simple pods, blobs and larvae, but the scale mimics the human body, making these unsophisticated "beings" into metaphors for the human experience. Energetic steel lines surround the rusted, steel bodies, growing like vines or crackling like electricity. They simultaneously appear to be expressions exuding from the bodies and cages that trap them. Joshua earned his BFA in 2002 from Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore and his MFA in 2009 from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. In 2014, his numerous Philadelphia exhibitions include group shows Un/Natural at the Sculpture Gallery, University of the Arts and Presence at Indy Hall, as well as his first solo exhibition From Within at PSG Gallery. Joshua is currently a member at the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym in Philadelphia, where he lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Do you think of your work as representational or abstract?
 
Joshua Parker Coombs: I think of it as both. I definitely use certain abstracted larva-like forms to reference human gestures. I also use the annular cell form to represent a rudimentary form of life to convey certain feelings or human experiences. In Shroud (2009), the larva-like form appears to be taken over by the brown cement texture. It’s accepting being overcome by this entity. The slumped gesture is meant to signify this surrender. In Conflict (2008) the cement texture is encroaching from one side and a linear steel element is attacking from the other side. It’s a take on the devil and angel on one’s shoulders and the tension two opposing feelings can create within a person.

These forms of basic life are the subjects of the sculptures. I for one often feel like a fledgling version of myself.  At times it seems that all of the life experiences I’ve had are never enough, and I have yet to be formed completely. A stripped down representation seems fitting for the fundamental emotions I try to convey.

Shroud
2009

OPP: Tell us a little about the various processes you employ in your work and your history as an artist.

JPC: I was fortunate to have many 3-D and Ceramics classes early on in high school and was able to take similar summer classes at a community college. When I was an undergrad majoring in Sculpture, taking Fibers, Ceramics and Wood classes was encouraged. I was fortunate to be able to dabble in those areas. I fell back into Ceramics towards the end of undergrad because of both the medium and the department faculty.
 
In graduate school, I really fell in love with welding steel armatures and experimenting with different materials in conjunction with them. I saw that process as drawing three-dimensionally. The larger scale was both encouraged and more fun. The armatures were pretty quick to build and many Ideas came from using the different materials and seeing how they worked together. One piece would lead to another in terms of materials and concept.

Due to the layering process of using armatures, I developed a theme of conceptual layering. One element would appear to grow into another, and then another element would be growing from it or on the surface of it. This process also forced me to plan pieces out more due to the technical needs of the sculptures and how they would convey my ideas.
 
I enjoyed using fabric with steel and that lead me to try to create a similar feel with the surface bonding cement. I started with pillow forms filling the inside of steel forms. This lead me to create interior hollow cement forms that appear to grow inside a cage-like form. I also attended a leather working workshop, which lead to an interesting process of forming the leather over cement forms I created.
 
My artistic productivity in the last few years is made possible by the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym. This is a maker space which gives me access to welding facilities. This allows me to continue and expand on ideas and themes that I touched upon in my schooling.

Garden
Steel, fabric, thread, fiber fill, rust
2007

OPP: In earlier work, there seems to have been more of an interaction between hard and soft, as in Protection/Constriction (2009) and Garden (2007). But in the last few years, you seem to working exclusively with steel, paint, bonding cement and rust. Was this a conscious shift away from soft materials?
 
JPC: The textile classes I took during grad school really influenced the hard and soft aspect. But I veered away from that to focus on more durable practices because the possibility of showing and storing work outdoors made more sense.
 
With cement, I was able to create different textures to represent different ideas. As in both Shroud (2009), Conflict (2008) and also Aura (2014) the blob-like texture acts like a slow-growing moss overtaking the body of the sculpture. I began exploring ideas which required erratic linear steel forms to emerge from other forms as I was able to weld over the cement forms. The energetic steel lines always read to me as a faster growing entity. This is evident in the latter two where the linear element is fighting against the other entity and also growing bigger from within, suggesting a greater achievement. In the piece Stabilitate (2014), I used a smoother, cement texture to simplify the surface, so that the linear element could be the focus. Structurally, the steel lines help the form stand upright, but this metaphorically represents the form finding it’s “footing” through an interior force.

Stabilitate
Steel, surface bonding cement, rust
44" x 40" x 41"
2014

OPP: What role does rust play in your practice, both formally and conceptually?
 
JPC: Rusting my work is a way to make an industrial material such as steel seem more natural and plant-like. It’s similar to creating pattern on fabric and works beautifully with distressed painted surfaces. It’s also just what happens to the material. It’s a natural occurrence. I do force it for deadlines but I like that it is continuing to change as works sit in the elements. Rust is literally a weathered condition and acts as a metaphor for showing age or experience as a being.  It also works well with the common themes of growth and change.

Kindred (detail)
Steel, paint, surface bonding cement, rust
65" x 46" x 27"
2014

OPP: In images of your 2009 Thesis Exhibition, most of your sculptures are presented on classic sculpture pedestals, but in other images on your site, they sit directly on the ground. What's your preference and why?
 
JPC: For that particular show, I had many pedestals at my disposal. I also constructed some as a way to get larger heavier pieces into the gallery safely with a pallet jack.  It’s always nice to see your work on a “perfect” white box in a white room.

But I also like to see them just existing in a space or outside environment. A lot of my work is a combination of “animal, vegetable and mineral.” I use organic forms and gestures, and I often hope there is a suggestion that these things just happened into the setting. I suppose my preference would be—at least at first glance—for the viewer to not even think they were made by an artist, but that they just exist.  The “perfection” of a pedestal removes any chance of that happening.

To see more of Joshua's work, please visit joshuaparkercoombs.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, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL) opens next Thursday, November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kirsten Furlong

Promise and purpose, the Ancestors' dream
Collage, ink, graphite, and colored pencil on paper
60"x 60"
2014

KIRSTEN FURLONG explores the interplay between culture and nature and the multifaceted relationships between humans and animals in her drawings, prints and fiber-based installations. In her project Unchopping a Tree, based on the eponymous W.S. Merwin prose poem, she laments the lost lives of trees and the impossibility of reviving what has already died. Kirsten earned her BFA (1995) from the University of Nebraska in Omaha and her MFA (2000) from Boise State University in Idaho. Recent solo exhibitions include Kirsten Furlong: Repeat and Shift (2014) at Enso Arts in Boise, Idaho and Standing Still and Moving Through The Wilderness at Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, Arizona. Her work is included in Dog Head Stew | The Second Course, which just opened this week on October 19, 2015 at Gallery 239, Chadron State College in Nebraska. Another group show, Paper West, opens on November 5, 2015 at Gittins Gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah. In September 2015, she was the Artist-in-Residence at Crooked Tree Art Center in Traverse City, Michigan. She is the Gallery Director and Curator for the Visual Arts Center and a Lecturer at Boise State University. Kirsten lives in Boise, Idaho.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement, you say, "animals serve as emblems of nature and as metaphors for human desires." It seems to me that human desires aren't that different from animal desires. What does it mean for our relationship to animals that we turn them into metaphors for our own experiences rather than imagining their experiences?
 
Kirsten Furlong: Animals, in many cases, carry the weight of our cultural baggage which can make it very unclear what anyone’s actual desires may be, animal or human. The most basic and necessary human desires may be for water and air, and yet we engage in activities that foul these resources and deny both humans and animals access to them.

However, a species becoming emblematic has occasionally been useful if they get our attention due to a larger narrative or problem. For example, the near destruction of bald eagles from DDT and the subsequent ban and recovery. There is such an incredible complexity of animal identities, politics and cultural identities tied to the land and species that reside therein. This dynamic takes on particular qualities here in the Western U.S. Thoughtful consideration of the experiences of animals such as wolves, sage grouse, or the giant Palouse earthworm would certainly steer our treatment of their lives in a different directions than they seem to be currently heading.

Investigations in experimental garments for animals
Inkjet print
24"x 30"
2013

OPP: Could you tell us about your experimental garments for animals? Why do these birds need hats?
 
KF: The “garments” started as three-dimensional studio sketches created from hand-made and hand-stitched wool felt. The initial forms were created as protective outer-wear with architectural qualities designed for a few particular birds, insects and small mammals. These forms were intended for a project in which they would be placed in environments to be discovered by these species. The subsequent interactions, collaborations—or lack there of—would generate ideas for the future completed designs. While impatiently awaiting these collaborations and sometimes storing the forms on the head of a taxidermied chuckar partridge in my studio, their unintended, uncanny resemblance to various hats or historic head gear became apparent: dunce caps, papal mitre, bonnets, chaperons, hoods, and military gear. So, while there is no need on the bird's part for a hat, providing one points out, in an ironic way, the uniquely human need for adornments and accoutrements.

standing still - tree circle (detail)
Ink drawing on paper
30"h x 22"w
2012

OPP: How does your use of repetitive mark-making—in the forms of drawing, cutting and sewing—in pieces like Standing Still - Tree Circle (2012), Twice: Migration (2009) and Wolf Mouth (2013) support the content of your work?
 
KF: My process is to mimic forms and patterns made by plants and animals: tree rings, concentric lines on seashells, woven grass in a bird nest, fractal patterns on ferns and corals, spider webs, or the meandering line of a snake. This is a way of understanding natural processes via imitation and representation using the tools of the artist —the pen, the blade, the needle. 


OPP: I like imagining Nature making marks in the same way an artist does, as if it is cognizant and self aware. Perhaps we should go back to the tradition of anthropomorphizing Nature itself, as used to occur in ancient myths . . . might we treat it better if we thought of Nature as a creative being deserving empathy?

KF: This is not just a belief of the past but a way of thinking that is embraced in a number of cultures, and it can have a profound impact on how one exists as a part of Nature. Many dismiss systems of thought like anthropomorphism and animism or consider them only as cultural constructs, but I think a more nuanced approach that crosses the boundaries of natural sciences and arts/humanities is where the most interesting discussions are taking place.

Unchopping a Tree #8
String and poplar tree
2015

OPP: You just returned from a residency at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Northern Michigan. What drew you to this residency and what did you work on while you were there?
 
KF: I have never visited the area, and I like to invigorate my studio practice by situating it now and then in unfamiliar places. Also, I had the opportunity to teach a workshop called Image Layering with Printmaking, Painting and Drawing. I introduced a variety of techniques for mark making including frottage, chine colle' and image transfers. For the frottage process, I demonstrated how to use found textures of wood grain, stones and plants with printmaking inks and graphite on thin papers. Then I showed the process of cutting and adhering these images /patterns to thicker papers and adding additional images with transfers /drawing/painting.

This temporary move from the late summer high desert to the leafy landscape of Northern Michigan's forest preserves and great lakes provided much to investigate. The most fascinating discoveries on the shore of Lake Michigan were the unique geological features - the fossil patterns of Petoskey stones and chain coral influenced some of the drawings I worked on during the stay. The Crooked Tree program is unique in that the artist stays in a private studio and apartment adjacent to the residency hosts' home. The hosts are very knowledgeable about the area and the local flora and fauna and shared a lot of useful information about the region. I also created some site specific works related to my Unchopping a Tree series in a grove of poplars a short walking distance from the studio. I had the opportunity to visit Headlands, one of few designated International Dark Sky Parks, which has me thinking a lot about darkness and nocturnal environments as threatened natural resources.

Rings - September 2013
Tree branches
15' diameter

OPP: Do you see Unchopping a Tree (2013) as part of the trajectory of the earthworks of the 1970s?
 
KF: It's interesting to consider. Unchopping a Tree was inspired by a W.S. Merwin prose poem of the same name that was originally published in 1970. It’s publication and the earthworks are contemporaneous with the 1970s environmental movement and federal legislation for water, air and wilderness. They also coincide with my youth. Although I lived in cities and had no connection to wilderness or National Parks, I was still influenced by the cultural milieu of Woodsy the Owl, Smokey the Bear and collected what I could find from my backyard for “nature crafts.”
 
As an adult, I have visited many of the major earthwork sites of the West. If we can consider the trajectory and its many branches to include the influence of artists like Joseph Beuys and Richard Long, than perhaps what I’m doing is an offshoot from that. The major difference is the scale. Monumental alterations of the landscape like Double Negative, Spiral Jetty and Roden Crater are gigantic gestures. I tend to focus on smaller, and in some cases, nearly invisible patterns and processes. I concentrate on the details, which is what really struck me about the Merwin work. This written work essentially instructs the reader how to put back together a tree that has been cut down and all of the directives are, of course, impossible. The passages about sawdust and spider webs and nests are what really got me thinking about intricacy and what one likely wouldn’t see at all. That is the larger metaphor that moves me. When it come to the environment, we’ve gone so far down the path of destruction and removal, it seems unlikely that the damage can be undone or even sufficiently repaired.

To see more of Kirsten's work, please visit kirstenfurlong.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). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jeroen Witvliet

Wayfarer - Hounds
Oil on canvas
190 x 260 cm
2015

The moody, nearly monotone world of JEROEN WITVLIET's paintings appears to be one on the brink of destruction or already just past it. It seems like tremendous clouds of dust from a recent disaster have settled over the surface of everything. Regardless, Jeroen seeks to reveal the presence of the "Poetic" amidst the aggressive stadium crowds, the beached and overturned boats and the endless piles of broken boards and branches. Jeroen earned his BFA from Willem De Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Netherlands and his MFA from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. He has had solo exhibitions at Slide Room Gallery (Victoria, BC), Zerp Gallery (Rotterdam) and Elissa Cristall Gallery (Vancouver). His current solo show, Wayfarer, at Kelona Art Gallery in British Columbia will close on October 18, 2015, so there's still time to see it. Born in the Netherlands, Jeroen now lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The definition of wayfarer is "a person who travels on foot." In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, many words with vastly different connotations are cited as synonyms: drifter, gadabout, gypsy, knockabout, maunderer, rambler, roamer, rover, stroller, vagabond, wanderer, nomad. Who is the wayfarer in your current show at Kelowna Art Gallery in British Columbia, Canada? Do any of these connotations apply?

Jeroen Witvliet: The Wayfarer is, to me, an abstraction, a situation one might find oneself in, a place where we wonder, where decisions need to be made or  a place in which we feel utterly lost. Lost by accident or by choice. A wayfarer is also a person who travels between communities without being part of either one, a person who brings tidings from one place to another. A messenger without roots. The wayfarer in this show is everyone and no one at the same time.

Part I
Oil on canvas
180x200 cm
2014

OPP: I see both narratives and symbols of violence, aggression and the aftermath of destruction. It's in the dead bodies of Part I and Part II (2014), the recurring beached and overturned boats, the drones and the fighting figures of Feral, as well as the chaotic landscapes of Wayfarer. Are you an optimist or a pessimist about the contemporary world we live in?

JW: The work comes into being while being surrounded by media and news images, reading newspapers and listening to radio. Violence and aggression finds a way into the work, but I am not making any direct references to specific events. I can't say that I am neutral, but I try not to have an overtly pessimistic world view get in the way of creating images. I need them to carry a sense of the Poetic. Something you can't put your finger on, a sense of wonder and beauty even though that might not be the first association made by the viewer. If the work escapes definition they become like the the world I find myself in, nothing is either this or that.

Man in front of Crowd
Oil on Canvas
30 x 24 cm
2014

OPP: Could you talk about when you choose not to exhibit your paintings on the wall? I'm thinking about the moveable display structures in Wayfarer and the unprimed, unstretched canvases of Feral. What makes one painting right for the wall and another beg to become more sculptural?

JW: The choice to take paintings of the wall and exhibit them as movable displays took some time. I have experimented with mounting work on different structures or as loose canvas hanging off the wall for some years and have, for now settled on showing work that is placed on custom-built wooden structures. This way I can vary the space in between the works and give the space in which the work is displayed a new feel. I can move works closer, opposite of each other or angle them and so create charged, in-between spaces. It is important to me to show that the work is two-dimensional and contains some sort of lie. The suggestion that we look into a space, a painted space, is being addressed by showing the backside and the structure that is used to stretch the canvas.

The works in Feral, on the other hand, are based on banners that are carried in protests. Instead of text, I use images that relate to protests on the banners. They are carried around by whoever wants to during exhibitions, constantly changing the way the work looks. When the works get dirty or damaged a sense of the passing of time is present. This adds to the work. The idea of time also plays a role in the structures with mounted work on them. While observing the work the viewer is asked to move around more, discovering relationships between the various works, linking or creating different narratives. Awareness of space and the passing of time become more present.

Feral
Acrylic on unprimed canvas on found wooden support bars
Variable installation
2014

OPP: You are predominantly a painter, but have also studied film at Emily Carr University in Vancouver. Some paintings—Stadium, empty field (2013) and Lights (2013), for example—are based on stills from videos you made, but you don't include the videos themselves on your site. Is video and film just a tool for painting in your practice? How has thinking about the moving image affected your work in painting?

JW: Video and film can give us a a different sense and sensation of the passing of time. To me they can investigate and address issues surrounding spatial experience, narrative, angles of viewing and memory. How images in film are sequential has influenced my way of thinking about repetition, rhythm and how to deal with the possibility of narrative in the paintings. Editing in video has taught me how to edit my work when hanging a show. The work is made with the presentation in mind, the relationship between the works are of great importance to the overall experience of the work.

My video/film work stands by itself even though there are very distinct similarities. The video work has become very simplified over time, a single point of view recording the passage of a vessel or stadium lights turning on. These recordings do influence the way I paint. I might ask what changes take place over time when observing something for 30 minutes or more. Does our sensation of time apply to painting where we assume the image is static. To me there is no static image in painting: you look, turn around, come back to the same painting and a shift has taken place. Your memory and consequently the associations are triggering the possibility for different perspectives.

Day to Night to Day, Hands II
2014

OPP: I see a connection between the grasping hands and packed stadiums. While the hands are about the relationships between a few people and the stadiums are about the crowd, both have implicit elements of connection, disconnection and desperation. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the relationship between these repeated motifs.

JW: The paintings of hands and the stadium pieces are both investigating the ongoing relationship of an individual to a group and the shifting mentality of society to idea, belief systems and radical thought. How does the mentality of a group relate to the feelings and emotions of the individual? How does one become part of a group and act accordingly or how does one become outcast/separated from a group?  With the hands, I am looking for intimacy of one person to another, realizing that in a group a different intimacy might exist. The fragile bond between individuals extends itself to the bonds between the group and the individual and between groups that define themselves as being different from the other group. The hands might hold something close to desire, longing, desperation or eroticism. They are human. This humanity can be easily lost in the group. I’m interested in questioning how we maintain our sense of self when confronted with chaos and change or the radical outburst of groups—whether small or stadium-sized. Are we spectators or participants or is that line too blurred to even distinguish?

To see more of Jeroen's work, please visit jeroenwitvliet.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). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ramekon O-Arwisters

With the Wind
2011–13
Fabric
52"H x 86"W x 9"D

Crochet Jam invites participants to communally crochet Spirit Tapestries from shredded rags, harkening back to traditional craft practices of reusing and transforming textiles. In these free, public events, artist RAMEKON O'ARWISTERS offers a public space for nourishing a sense of belonging and connection between strangers, as well as the possibility of liberation through creativity. Ramekon earned a Masters of Divinity from Duke University and is currently a curator of exhibitions at the SFO Museum and a guest lecturer at various Bay Area colleges. He was 2002 Artadia Awardee and a 2014 Eureka Fellow. If you live in the Bay Area, you can be part of Crochet Jam this fall at the following venues: Root Division (September 26, 2015) and Light Up Central Market, sponsored by the Luggage Store Gallery (Sept 30 2015). Crochet Jam will also be at the NIAD Art Center in Richmond, California on November 14, 2015. Ramekon lives in San Francisco.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You have a Masters of Divinity from Duke University. How does this background influence the work you make? Tell us a little about your path as an artist.

Ramekon O’Arwisters: Yes, I was in divinity school in my mid-twenties. Fortunately for me, and I believe for all of those around me, divinity students at that time were taught to be critical of the sources and not to rely on blind faith. We were taught biblical Hebrew and Greek, so we could translate from the original text and not rely on standard translations. We were taught to trust our own translations of the text, and to analyze the scriptures with regard to the historical context in which they were written. We asked questions like Who was the audience? and What was the social and political framework during that time? It was a powerful way to teach young people to be independent and self-reliant. Until this time, no one in my family had even read the bible; we had relied on the local preachers within our community to interpret for us. They authoritatively told us what to think and feel and how to act from the advantage point of the pulpit.

While I was in divinity school, I was also a practicing artist and had local-gallery representation for my abstract works on paper. As an artist, I was liberated to paint and draw whatever I had the courage to envision. And I did. I painted with the homemade grape wine. I dipped rocks and sticks into paint to make marks. Much later, I drew portraits of nude models using charred Brazil nuts.

Early in my professional ministerial training, I realized that my real job—outside of the sacred walls of academia and from the pulpit of the church—was to maintain the status quo and encourage conformity. In that role, I felt I was not meant to be an instrument of liberation but to continue to incarcerate the minds of others into an unsophisticated and dangerous, narrow-mindedness about religion. What frightened me more than the fact that I was not aiding in the liberation of others was the fact that others were hesitant to embrace a different way of understanding the bible. People outside of the university didn't want to think differently about how interpretations of the bible can cause spiritual, political, psychological and economic hardship.

It dawned on me at the age of twenty-five, that if the church was not willing to embrace new ways of viewing scripture, then it would certainly not embrace a queer lifestyle. Overwhelmed by the striking contradictions between the revolutionary and transformative teachings of Christ—love, acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness—and the present reality of the church, I decided to finish my degree and move to Tokyo to embrace spirituality through my creativity and paint and draw there. I lived in Tokyo from 1986 until 1991, when I moved to San Francisco.

Crochet Jam, Second Annual Family Art Day at the Shipyard
San Francisco. Presented by ArtSpan
2013

OPP: Tell us about the history of Crochet Jam.

RO: When I was growing up in North Carolina, I helped my paternal grandmother, Celia Jones Taylor (1896–1982) make quilts. Quilt-making with her is one of my fondest childhood memories. I was embraced, important and special. I felt like a little black boy hiding my queer self from my family during the harsh reality of state-sanctioned Jim Crow oppression of black people in the U.S. and before the turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement that spread throughout the country. My grandmother let me add any color or pattern I wanted to her quilt. It didn't matter if the strip of fabric that I selected did not fit the color scheme or any particular standard quilt-making pattern, that wasn't important. Togetherness and sharing stories and feelings while calmly quilting was important. There wasn’t any judgment. Our quilting bees were calm, relaxing and peaceful, just the type of atmosphere a confused, little black queer boy needed when the world outside of my grandmother’s house was often negative, hostile and unforgiving.

My social practice project Crochet Jam embodies this tenderness, compassion and warmth. I decided to start a community-art project that enabled groups of people to collectively work on a piece of art in public with strangers. The focus is on relaxation and human connection. I want participants to be in a creative mindset without anyone dictating the creative process, nor worrying about the finished product. Crochet Jam is how I make liberation a form of art.

The project originally began in 2011 with small sewing events with friends that I called Stitch. I was awarded a second Individual Artist Commission Grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grant Program in 2011 for Sugar In Our Blood, an exhibition in 2013 that was an autobiographical approach to explore society's sexual stereotyping of the LGBTIQA and the African-American communities. The community joined me weekly at my home to cut and hand sew rag rugs. Stitch transformed into Crochet Jam with my artist residency at the de Young. The museum's leadership supported my community-based project but did not want to include using needles to sew the fabric. I agreed, but I needed to figure out a way to attach the fabric without needle and thread. A breakthrough occurred when a friend mentioned to me that I was making rag rugs—you can also crochet rag rugs! Crochet Jam was born.

Crochet Jam
African American Art and Culture Complex, San Francisco
2013

OPP: How has the project evolved over the years?

RO: For almost five years, I have presented Crochet Jam events at galleries, museums, San Francisco International Airport, a community shelter, schools, and a hospice and in cities around the country—San Francisco, Oakland, Chico, New York City, Miami Beach, and Greensboro, North Carolina. Including Stitch and Crochet Jam, I believe that I have facilitated nearly a hundred events. What has changed is that I am not as concerned any more about only hosting Crochet Jams at museums and art centers. I plan to take Crochet Jam to communities within the industrial-prison system, including youth within our government's juvenile-detention centers, foster-care facilities, domestic-violence shelters, homeless shelters, hospitals, and hospice-care centers. But I believe that I am the one most positively impacted by Crochet Jam. We all want to be liberated and not judged. I am liberated by the gift of Crochet Jam and I'm pleased to share it with others.

Crochet Jam, Radical Craft Night,
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz, California
2014

OPP: While crocheting can be wonderfully relaxing, teaching crochet to beginners is exhausting! Do you experience social practice fatigue?

RO: Well. Let me think. I only know one type of stitch in crochet: single-stitch crochet. So I can't really say that I am a crochet artist or really a crochet teacher. I am a social-practice artist. What I do is provide an opportunity for participants to experience liberation, creativity and social interaction using the folk-art tradition of crocheting rag rugs—organic, free-form, rag-rug tapestries. Crochet Jam is very symbolic in that I provide an opportunity for acceptance and non-judgment through public, community-based events with strangers using a folk-art tradition in a non-traditional manner for a non-traditional purpose.

Crochet Jam is liberating because no one is dictating the creative process, nor judging the finished product. Once I show participants—even five-year-olds!—how to single-stitch crochet and how to attach strips of fabric, then they can add any pattern or color they want to the tapestries. They are free to be as creative as one can be using a large wooden rag-rug crochet hook and strips of fabric. I keep telling the participants, add any pattern or color you want. But they still feel the need to consult with me, seeking my approval or feedback, and I gently repeat: Please add any color you want. Some even ask, Does this look good? Is it right? My reply is, How does it feel?

I give up my perceived authority and ask the participants to trust their creativity, their vision, and trust the material to reveal what it will. We are hardwired to please others and to be judged by what we create and produce. I am very happy that Crochet Jam has come to me; it is a gift that I freely share with others. I am extremely fulfilled and grateful that I am the conduit for Crochet Jam. I can only be liberated by liberating others. For me, that is the supreme power of art—to liberate.

The Trinity
2011-13
Fabric, ceramic, glass, metal
100"H x 95"W x 36"D

OPP: Two of your solo exhibitions—Sugar In Our Blood: The Spirit of Black and Queer Identity (2013) at the African American Art & Culture Complex and Communing With the Unseen: African Spiritual in Contemporary Art (2012) at the de Young Museum, both in San Francisco—address the intersection of identity and spirituality. How do you define spirituality?

RO: For me spirituality has nothing to do with religion. Given my training, religion was about following rules, respecting authority, dogma, ritual and the mistreatment others who believed differently. Religion is antithetical to the spiritual well being of the population. Spirituality, on the other hand, is about the degree to which one is conscious, grounded, open and connected to the universal forces that create all things.

It has taken some time for me to embrace who I am spiritually, racially, sexually, politically and artistically. Family, friends, communities, societies and governments force conformity. We learn to deny who we are for the pleasure of others, ultimately for the pleasure of the state. What I feel I have had to deny the most over and above my sexuality is my spirituality. I am spirit. This statement offends the powerful because they cannot control it. Within the mega structure of the church system, the masses are controlled through dogma, ritual and conformity. Spirituality in all of its many glorious forms is a powerful thorn in the body politic.

Where We Are
2013
Fabric, photos, wood, paper
48"H x 84" W x 12"D

OPP:  How does your solo work and your social practice work address spirituality in different ways?

RO: In my solo work, I define what's important. I accept and take my clues from my creative vision. At one of my recent group exhibitions, the curator informed me that a friend's five-year-old daughter said that "putting a rag rug on the wall is silly." Brilliant. What makes it silly? Well, rag rugs belong on the floor, not in a place of reverence like on the wall. This concept of keeping things and, by extension, people in their places is the backbone of conformity. I accept my creativity, my vision, as a spiritual act. Similarly, my social practice allows others to be themselves, to connect with others and to be liberated in a non-judgmental environment. It takes a great deal of courage to be liberated. For me, it starts with accepting and embracing spirituality through creativity.

To learn more about Ramekon and Crochet Jam, please visit crochetjam.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). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Yikui Gu

Tip Toeing in My Jordans
Oil and acrylic on canvas
36 x 26 inches
2015

YIKUI GU wants his work to be "horrifying and hilarious." His colorful, chaotic paintings, drawings and collages have the feeling of an overwhelming parade that started out fun. But now everyone's a little too drunk, desperate and on the verge of violence. Desire and longing are intensely present, and so is the anxiety the follows wanting. All this becomes a hilariously horrifying critique of capitalism, commodification and the inherent violence that accompanies the striving to always be on top. Yikui earned his BFA from Long Island University in 2005 and his MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, MFA in 2008. He has exhibited internationally, including shows at G.A.S. Station (2015, 2010, 2009) in Berlin, Ground Floor Gallery (2015) in Brooklyn, the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (2013), the Siena Art Institute (2011) in Siena, Italy and the Delaware Art Museum (2012) in Wilmington, Delaware. During the summer of 2015, he was an Artist-in-Residence at the School of Visual Arts in New York. His recent solo show Chance Encounters just closed at Hungerford Gallery at the College of Southern Maryland, where Yikui is an Associate Professor. Yikui lives in Philadelphia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I won't ask you to be a poet, but I will ask you to expand on your artist statement. To you, what's horrifying and what's hilarious? Why is it important to combine these qualities?

Yikui Gu: I see horror and humor everywhere in life. It’s in almost everything we do, although we may disagree on which is which. I think those two qualities are often linked together, so it’s not that I find it important to combine them, rather I see them as already combined, pre­packaged in a way. The famous Buddhist expression “life is suffering” nicely sums up the horror, while all the petty things we do in spite of that are what is hilarious. We all age. Knowledge of our mortality can be horrifying, and when someone buys a sports car or a pair of breasts to combat that, it’s hilarious. We are all born into a world where we’re conditioned to be good worker bees, to take our place faithfully in the assembly line, and look forward to  the promise of a wonderful retirement. That’s horrifying and hilarious. Look at the art market, that place is full of horror and hilarity.

Brothers in Arms #2
Charcoal & acrylic collaged on bristol board
11 x 14 inches
2015

OPP: Tell us about your series Lovers Melt. I get the impression that the faces are sourced from found images and then you dress them up in military garb, camouflage and, in one case matching hijabs. I mostly get that impression from God Hates Fags, which appears to have been painted and collaged on top of an image of some anti­-gay protest. In some cases, the people seem to be coming and, in others, they appear to be screaming in anger, even rage.

YG: Lovers Melt is a recent series that I began this summer. I was at a residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York for the month of June, and that’s where all those pieces were produced. I’d been wanting to combine drawing, painting and collage, and the residency was a perfect opportunity. For the series, I wanted to use images of facial expressions from staunchly patriarchal groups, be it the military, religious fanatics or cultural conservatives. The idea was to take these charged expressions of anger and misconstrue them into something sexual, something homoerotic. So the face of a screaming soldier can become the face of someone enjoying orgasm. Interestingly enough, I didn’t need to change the expressions at all, once they were positioned too close to one another, they re­contextualized themselves. It was the perfect way to mock these institutions.

Also, an aside about God Hates Fags. I think that piece perfectly sums up my thoughts to your first question. It’s both horrifying and hilarious that there are people out there who believe the omnipotent creator of the universe would experience a petty human emotion such as hate. And that’s coming from an atheist.

The Debaucherous
Oil, acrylic, and marker on canvas
42 x 42 inches
2014

OPP: There are a lot of partial bodies that fade into the background and disembodied pairs of legs, especially in Sneakerheads. Could you talk about this treatment of the figure?

YG: I was academically trained, and my work used to reflect that more. I used to paint lots of portraits, and I was happy to show the world that I was a well trained monkey. Today its very hard for me to make a portrait or a figure in a “traditional” sense, so the disembodied quality is a reflection of that. It’s also how we all experience the world and the other people in it. On a crowded subway I may only catch a fleeting glimpse of an arm or leg, the same can be said of most of our daily experiences whether we’re shopping, dining, fucking, or at an opening. Who says a figure must be complete? And what is complete anyways?

The Game is Rigged
Oil and acrylic on canvas
36 x 34 inches
2015

OPP: Could you talk about the recurring motifs of semi­automatic weapons and bombs? Is your work a response to violence in general, or specifically the violence of war?

YG: The imagery of weapons, bombs, soldiers, and warplanes are a response to the general violence in the world, a reflection of the world’s power dynamics, the horror part of human experience. While these images speak most directly to the violence of war, they’re also meant to suggest the ever present threat of violence in daily life. That threat permeates everything, it exists in the sexual, economic, political and social realms. It’s the source of most of the world’s power, and by extension, its problems. Additionally, most of my depictions of weapons and such are generally done in an unrealistic, almost cartoony way. This is to neuter that threat of violence, and my attempt at injecting a bit of levity into the situation, the humor if you will. Even when weapons are painted realistically, such as the bomb in I Bomb Atomically, it’s a realistic depiction of a cartoon bomb, a bomb that couldn’t ever exist (I hope).

Don't be a Dick
In-progress painting

OPP: What are you working on in your studio right now?

YG: Since returning from my residency at the School of Visual Arts, I’ve been combining drawing and collage into my paintings, which has been very exciting. While I'd always thought about doing that, the limited time in NYC gave me the perfect opportunity to try it. I’m curious to see where it goes. I’m still interested in using political, cultural and domestic imagery to explore the horrible and hilarious things that human beings do. Specifically, I'm working on an in-progress painting called Don't be a Dick. A charcoal portrait of Dick Cheney will be pasted onto the spot where the current painted version is taped. The legs with the Jordan Bred 4s are done with ink and colored pencils and also will be pasted on.

Conceptually, I'm thinking about ideas I've always thought about, especially in the series Sneakerheads. The commodification of sneakers, with blue chip brands and highly sought after releases, mirrors the art market perfectly. There are re-sellers, counterfeits and buying frenzies. This is contrasted with the pile of garbage—collaged from magazines—the legs are sticking out of. Over-packaging, waste and planned obsolescence have been on my mind. Even the readily available images I used from Ikea catalogs—a different type of detritus—further drive home the point that we produce too much crap, shitty art included. Dick Cheney is there because he's an asshole, and I'd like to mount his head and hang it in my house. He's the perfect symbol of White Privilege and pure greed, which are connected to the commodification and waste I mentioned earlier. Because of that, it won't matter if he's not recognized in the future.

To see more of Yikui's work, please visit yikuigu.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). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Lee Lee Chan

Cluster (detail view)
2009
Styrofoam, aqua-resin, aluminum, found brick, metal rod, paper collages, acrylic paint and pastel
50 x 15 x 11 inches

The physics of space, reflection and materiality play into LEE LEE CHAN's intuitive, compositional decisions, resulting in poetic juxtapositions of found materials, both natural and manufactured. Her background in painting informs her abstract sculptures, and her experiments with objects inform new paintings, creating an endless feedback loop between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional. Lee Lee earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006 and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009. She has exhibited at extensively in Brooklyn: Tompkins Projects (2013), Brooklyn Fireproof (2012 and 2013) and Horse Trader Gallery (2009). Other exhibitions include Overseasoned Part Deux (2014) at Artemis Project Space in York, United Kingdom, Faraway Neighbor at Flux Factory in Long Island City, New York and Geography of Imagination (2009) at Adam House in New York City. Her work will be included in the Sluice Fair in London from October 16th -18th, 2015, and works on paper are available online through The Dorado Project. After over a decade living in the United States, Lee Lee has set up her studio in Hong Kong where she was born.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Both your BFA and MFA are in painting, but your sculptural work is so spot-on. What led you to introduce the three-dimensional into your practice?

Lee Lee Chan: My transition to sculpture was not a deliberated decision; it evolved organically. When I arrived at graduate school, I was making paintings by piecing together magazine imagery with painted surfaces. However, I found this limiting and did not know how to move forward. Then I saw a picture of Frank Stella’s paper maquette for Wheelbarrow in the studio, 1986, and it left a strong impression on me. I also discovered Judy Pfaff’s installations, in which she weaved painting and architecture into dynamic spaces. This intersection of pictorial and physical experience and the idea of “collage in space” really opened up possibilities for me.

I began making tabletop-sized, paper models from magazine collages, painted paper and photographs, arranging them as a stage for my photograph work. When I began to incorporate more tangible materials such as Styrofoam, aluminum and everyday objects, these models started to have a sculptural presence and took on their own life. This hands-on process of making the sculpture had started to dominate my practice.

Having a painting background is both a bliss and curse. I instinctively think of my sculptures as objects floating in space, just like images. However, as they grew more complex and larger, I became more aware of their relationship with the physical matter as well as the space between the viewer and the objects.

Cadence
2014
Acrylic and oil paint on canvas
11 x 14 inches

OPP: Has working in sculpture changed the way you think about painting?

LLC: I usually work in discrete phases within a medium. For a few months, I only make sculptures, then the next few months I make paintings and works on paper. Moving back and forth between these media has made me more aware of the limitations and strengths of each medium. It also helps me embrace the materiality of each medium instead of forcing them to do the things that they cannot do. Coming back to painting allows me to take a step back, and I tend to discover things that I did not notice before. Reoccurring motifs always make their way through: underlying geometry, biomorphic forms, motion, light, atmospheric space. Between the parallel universes of painting and sculpture, all things were interconnected. For instance, the sense of object weight in my painting has been directly influenced by my sculpture.  And the way I use an intricate system of overlapping to create spaces in my sculpture has affected the way I construct pictorial space to look through and hold imagery in my painting. Generally, I want to generate an intimate perceptual experience that encourages the rawness of seeing.

Bower
2014
Plaster, pigment, found lamp shade, branches, garden netting, recycled Styrofoam packaging and plastic bottle, threads, metal rod, plexi mirror and cotton rag
36 x 25 x 13 inches.

OPP: Your sculptures are often strange and wonderful juxtapositions of natural materials and recycled packaging, as in Keeper (2015) and Bower (2014). How do you decide what materials to work with? What's your collection process like?

LLC: My collection of objects has always been a reflection of my surroundings. I grew up in Hong Kong and, since I was 17, have lived in Utah, Chicago, New York City and York in the UK. Both Keeper and Bower were created during the time I lived in York. The dramatic change of environment, moving from New York City to medieval York, where I lived very close to nature, expanded my visual vocabulary. I started collecting tree bark and branches on my walks and experimented with incorporating these natural elements with ordinary objects like garden netting that I purchased from a local pound shop (the equivalent to a dollar store in the U.S.). I found the lamp shade in Bower next to a dumpster in my neighborhood.

I tend to collect objects that are mass-produced and easily accessible in everyday life: household items, commercial and industrial materials from the local hardware store, abandoned objects that to me have a pathetic quality. You could say that I collect anything that catches my eye, but then again, I consciously look for objects that do not carry any narrative or nostalgic quality. Any associated meaning gets in the way of my transforming them. The fact that these objects are so mundane and apparently without value prompts my desire to subvert this hierarchy by altering the way they are arranged and treated. Ultimately, I am interested in provoking uncertainty with these objects: how does something become valuable?

Most consistently, I use Aqua-Resin coated polystyrene packaging and plaster to build the structure for my totem-like sculptures. They look substantial but are in fact extremely lightweight, thus subverting the expectation of weight. These materials act both as surface and structure that house multiple micro spaces within the sculpture. They also reveal a trace of my process by highlighting the primacy of the handmade. Aqua-Resin and plaster create a limestone-like surface that reminds me of a construction site or ancient ruins. I guess this specific material sensibility came from my memory of growing up and working with pottery tomb figures in my parents’ Chinese antiques shop in Hong Kong. I imagine myself as an archaeologist of the present.

Untitled
2015
Found polystyrene packaging, artificial plant, aqua-resin, plaster, wood, epoxy putty and pigment
85” H x 7”W x 5”D

OPP: What’s your process like? Do you sketch beforehand or make intuitive moves as you go?

LLC: I see both my paintings and sculptures as a physical embodiment of the inside in a different form. They are a self-exploration of the subconscious.

Generally, my works do not start with sketches; rather they generate meaning through the process of making. I am completely open to the process and let my works develop intuitively. It’s a kind of a call-and-response approach, which involves ongoing subtracting and adding until an image or form slowly emerges. The decision-making is at the same time deliberate and improvisational. Ultimately, it is all about potential: I want to make known the unknown and make works that surprise me.

When painting, I usually start with a list of colors or a certain mood that I want to evoke. But, of course, everything tends to change once I actually put the paint down. Likewise, with sculpture I begin with materials or objects that trigger my imagination. I spend a lot of time looking at and playing with the relationships between them. Painting is a more direct, internalized process. With sculpture, I am dealing with the physics of actual space, gravity, weight and volume. I often rely on problem-solving experiments to better understand the properties, potential and technical issues of different materials. What are the elastic possibilities of my materials? How far can I feasibly push them? Which properties do I want to embrace? I work towards sculpture that generates its own internal logic, structure and energy, and thus functions more like an entity rather than merely an object.

Bottle Neck (detail view)
2009
Styrofoam, aqua-resin, pumices, plaster, plexi mirrors, Lego, aluminum, recycled bottles, PVC, collages, cinder blocks, photograph collages, acrylic paint and pastel
48 x 60 x 36 inches

OPP:  What role does reflection play in your work?

LLC: I want to explore this interplay of space in my sculpture and one way of doing so is through the use of reflections. It facilitates a material shift from the exterior surface to the interior structure, blurs the boundary between inside and outside; between the actual and painted surface. My intention is not to use reflection in a highly technical way to deceive the eyes. I’m not attempting to hide its mechanisms; instead, I am interested in the junction of a pictorial way of looking and materiality of things in space.

Embedded in my sculptures are micro spaces, constructed either by Plexiglas mirror or aluminum. These materials reflect and absorb the surrounding light, generating a different sense of light for the micro space. This creates both an architecture and a landscape. I always think of the densely layered space in urban environments. In Hong Kong, for example, hidden areas exist everywhere in order to maximize space. I have always been intrigued by the way people expand their everyday, constrained surroundings in an organic and illusionistic way.

I want to offer viewers a rewarding discovery by creating work that demands more than a glimpse. I create space that you can either dive into or step back from in order to complete the whole picture. My sculptures generate new meanings depending on the angle from which viewers approach them. The aim is always the same: to evoke the fleeting moments that we encounter in daily life.

To see more of Lee Lee's work, please visit leeleechan.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). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.