OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Michael Salter

too much
installation image
Rice Gallery
2008

OtherPeoplesPixels: You are well-known for your styrobots, robots built entirely out of found styrofoam packing materials, especially those used to ship electronics. How did you first begin to use styrofoam in your practice?

Michael Salter: It’s always been robots made from reclaimed polystyrene packing pieces. I simply saw the pieces as mechanical looking and started sticking them together. I have made quite a few of them, so every now and then I make something else like a race car or a motorcycle. But whatever I make it uses the found forms of the packing pieces. I just made a 20ft long robot shark named A N D Y (Autonomous Nautical Deepwater stYrobot).

OPP: Do you have a favorite robot from pop culture?

MS: A few, yes. The robot/mecha-suit from the film District 9, the robot from My Iron Giant, every era of Battlestar Gallactica’s Cylons, R2D2 & C3PO, Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Johnny 5, B9 from Lost in Space. The thing is my fascination with the robot results from an overall love of popular culture. The robot is an icon from contemporary visual culture. I grew up being told we’d all have robots in our homes. I like the Eastern ideas around robots more than the Western ideas. The robot is my friend, companion, protector as opposed to the militant killing machine. There is a film by Takashi Miike called The Great Yokai War, and in the film there is an army of monsters all made from things we discard. As you might imagine I really like this idea. Giant robot monsters made of trash.


OPP: I was hoping you would mention the Cylons! They are the most complicated to me, because ultimately they are just humans, with the capacity to be both friend or foe. I’m not so familiar with the eastern robots. Where do you think this difference comes from? What do our western robots say about  our culture?

MS: I am not sure I can separate robots by culture after all. I do know I’ve responded to the sweeter, gentler robots portrayed in media. I think Star Wars introduced me to my first 2 of these characters within robots. I guess I’ve always liked the misunderstood Frankenstein element too: when the robot is really a protecting friend but still gets beat on by some military bad guys. My point was that generally speaking western culture portrays scary, mean robots, and often japanese culture might represent the robot as the giant friend. What does that say about our cultures? I think its pretty obvious and I leave everyone to their own opinions about that.

giant styrobot
polystyrene packing materials
22 feet tall

OPP: Specific installations are titled, but it seems like specific pieces are not. Are the styrobots interchangeable?

MS: All my works are in fact titled and discrete in nature, yet integrally part of a larger installation. The end result is often a show that looks like a group show.  These disparate, tenuous connections between the work are important to the installation as a whole. Each and every styrobot is built site specifically and hence each installation is considered and deliberate in every way for every venue.

OPP: I've read that you sometimes have to destroy the large robots just to get them out of the gallery? What's that feel like?  

MS: Yes, often the giant styrobots are destroyed when a show is over. My intention is that they are to be experienced, or not, and then they are gone. Is this hard? Ask a street artist if they like getting their work washed off or painted over. I appreciate the Buddhist concept that the more things we are attached to the farther we are away from ourselves. So letting work go is okay with me. I think its liberating not to be too attached your work. 

OPP: Your exhibitions are well-crafted in my opinion. There is a compelling tension between the flatness of the icons and the dimension of the styrobots and sculptures. The icons reference consumer culture and seem to set the context for the bots… like this is the world where they live. The bots themselves reveal a lot of emotion in their postures. They are sad and vulnerable. I see them as stand-ins for human beings. Can you talk a little about how these two media work together to communicate your message?  

MS: I take great care in fabricating extremely tightly finished work. I intentionally mimic manufactured consumer products. My work has consciously employed a wide range of media. It keeps me from getting bored. I have several long running bodies of work. Most often, the collection of graphic icons I have drawn and the styrobots are exhibited. But my work includes kinetic sculpture, animation, drawing, and video. It depends entirely on the venue, institution or sight when deciding on an installation. At Rice University Gallery the icons made a perfect environment for the Giant Styrobot to exist collapsed in the corner. You are right about the icons referencing consumer culture. I am obsessed with what we see and what it makes us think. The media saturated world we live in wants my attention and my money, really, really, bad. What’s funny about the styrobots is that I don’t see their heavy psychological or emotional content until much later. I think their metaphoric content as humans is inescapable. I do find a trip to the mall tiring, and often sad.

OPP: Thanks for bringing up all the media you work in. Could you talk a bit about your graphic landscapes and your collaboration with Chris Coleman?

MS: Chris and I have been friends and collaborators for several years. We actually open a show at the Galleries of Contemporary Art at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs this evening. Aligned in motivations, concepts about politics, society and culture we make work together that looks at everyday banal behaviors, places and actions. I draw most of the digital landscape drawing and send it to Chris, and then we begin an elaborate ping ponging of ideas about narratives and motions within that drawing. Chris is particularly adept at understanding animated narrative language and the poetics of graphics in motion. We mutually develop the scene and its actions. Then the final solution is an animation that is delivered in a variety of ways like custom laser-cut acrylic framed flat screens and careful, considered projections in a different sizes.
UTA
from the installation, Visual Logistics,
University of Texas, Arlington, winter 2006.
curator Benito Huerta

OPP: Is there a difference between your graphic design impulse and your sculpture impulse, in terms of the experience of making, not in terms of the final output? Do you enjoy one more than the other?

MS: Nope, no difference. I am somewhat obsessive about creative output, and I live to be constantly generating work. I suppose I’m just afraid that if I stop I know how hard it is to start up again. I respond to any and every impulse I have all the time. My main goal is to simply stay amused, because if it ain’t fun for me, god knows it ain’t gonna be fun for anybody else.
To view more work of Michael Salter’s work, please visit michaelasalter.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Lindsay Page

Untitled, from the series Spawn
2007
Colour photograph
24 x 32

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your Spawn series spans three years from 2007-10 and depicts both a pregnancy and the subsequent infant and toddler in striking domestic settings and landscapes. I assume the subjects of each photograph to be you and your own child—how much of this work is performative and how much of this work incorporates restaged moments of your own motherhood?

Lindsay Page: Spawn was an examination of the contradictions I felt transitioning into motherhood. There was simultaneous exhilaration and intense anxiety, gain interlaced with an overwhelming sense of loss. It was a messy time that seemed continuously at odds with the societal narrative of birth and motherhood as exclusively celebratory. In addition to being beautiful and transformative, to me there was something somewhat monstrous about pregnancy, where the body acts with a will of it’s own creating this unknown presence. When my daughter was born I felt overwhelmed by a sense of disappearance, that my self identity (and my identity as an artist) was being eclipsed by this generic label of “Mother." So I started to create these images as sort of a defense against invisibility. There is this inescapable proximity that accompanies early motherhood so it seemed essential that she be included in many of the images, though doing so felt somewhat exploitative. This is probably the series I am most conflicted about making. Motherhood is a difficult terrain to navigate in art, as there are so many clichés and stereotypes that one can fall into while making, or that viewers can’t escape when looking. It is difficult for me to know how the images read, but for me both the making of and the resulting images are problematic, awkward and discomfiting, which seems appropriate to the discussion. 

Old lady
2010
Color Photograph
30 inches x 40 inches

OPP: Tell me about your recent photograph Old lady.

LP: My mother is sick and I guess in response to that I have started to project images of mortality and aging onto myself and those around me. As I get older I see glimpses of myself as an elderly woman, see how my physical self will shift in the years ahead.  I think anyone with kids is acutely aware of their physical vulnerability, as soon as they are born you start to worry about them dying. I began to think about my kids gradually growing old and the impossibility of my witnessing them in the last stages of life. 

LP: I am also interested in the complexities of play, how children’s games can seem simultaneously innocuous and sophisticated depending on the viewer’s perspective.  

OPP: Adult human forms wrapped in white fabric appear in your photographic series Basement Performances. Your recent photograph, Octopus features another human form entirely encased in white. In this image, the form is that of a child and the white fabric appears to be a hooded sweatshirt worn backward, a pair of tights worn on the legs, and two more pair of tights tucked into the sweatshirt and held by the hands to give the playful yet eerie appearance of the figure having eight appendages. Tell me about the connection between the two photographs. What served as your inspiration for Octopus?

LP: There is not much of a connection conceptually between the two images. Basement Performances were much more about the ways in which we reinvent ourselves in our private spaces, often as a more empowered figure than we actually are. I was also interested in picturing longing and in engaging a discussion about substitution. Octopus is more ambiguous and somewhat exploratory. Again I am thinking about the complexities and contradictions embedded in childrens’ play and the ways in which an image can unnerve a viewer without it being clear exactly why. Photographs of children pose questions about power relationships (photographer/subject, adult/child), as well as exploitation and I am interested in building on the tension that this creates both for maker and viewer.

Octopus
2011

Color Photograph
30 inches x 40 inches

OPP: In your three channel video installation, I'm building you an army anonymous hands create twelve paper soldiers who, as completed, salute to the camera and join each other in a large grid. Who is the “you” in the title for whom the army is built? Can you speak about the conceptual concerns for this video installation?

LP: There is a specific “you” the piece refers to, but it is never revealed. The piece is about power and powerlessness and the interplay between aggression and passivity.  It stems from a desire to transform the individual into a group, to multiply the self in order to enact change that the individual alone cannot. The impossibility and futility of this act of sharing the self becomes more and more evident as the group accumulates and begins to dissemble and fall apart. It is the repeated gesture of the attempt at this, despite the impossibility of it, that most interests me. There is this repetition of and insistence upon an action that can never extend beyond itself. The effort far outweighs the result, and the piece sort of sits as this doomed heroic gesture.

OPP: A life-sized form resembling the paper soldiers in I'm building you an army appears in your photographic series Basement Performances. Tell me about the Basement series and the significance of both the paper soldier and human forms cut from paper more generally, in your body of work as a whole.

LP: I have always been interested in the ways in which objects can be activated through art. Puppetry and animation transform objects into something beyond their materials and there is then this potential for a viewer to be affected in an unexpected way.  No matter which media I am working in, I need to include this kind of tactile building element. I am interested in apparatuses / constructions that are obvious and flawed as a way to insert my presence into the work and connect myself as a maker with the audience.

Untitled, from the series Basement Performances
2005
Color photograph
30 inches x 40 inches

OPP: What are you working on now? What is next for you?

LP: I am currently working on a large installation piece called, Erasing Machine. The piece, employs kinetic sculpture to facilitate the erasure of knitted photographic portraits. The public is asked to submit photographic images of individuals they desire erased from their memory. They are not asked to identify themselves or disclose their reasons for the desired erasure. These photographic images, once converted into “photo blankets” are slowly and publicly erased throughout the duration of an exhibition. I hope with this piece to engage discussion about the relationship between photography and memory and raise questions about ownership of images, representation as well as power and violence. 

To view more of Lindsay Pageʼs work visit lindsaypage.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Eric Huebsch

Mt. Elephant
2008
Mixed Media
24 x 20 x 12 in.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In drawings like Watch What You Say Cause… (2006), The Abject of Man's Gaze (2009), and I Know What You Said (2005), you use an interesting diagonal composition which creates a sense of one thing leading to the next, but the juxtapositions and the scale discrepancies are sometimes nonsensical. The same composition can also be seen in some of your sculptures, such as Beastmaster (2006) and Mount Elephant (2008). What's it like to draw and build in this way? Do you start at one end and not know what will be at the other end?

Eric Huebsch: I really think in 3-D, I made the drawings first thinking they could become sculptures. As for ideas, I kinda have a vision and I see some details, but generally it never turns out how I first envisioned it. Also with those pieces, I like the puzzling challenge of putting it together and figuring out the composition. So the diagonal layout helps convey a certain depth in graphic quality of the pieces. A lot of those earlier works have a particular flatness to them and that style of drawing is somewhat akin to the drawings of a stoned teenage boy.
I Know What You Said
2005
Colored pencil and enamel marker on paper
44 x 30 in.

OPP: Your most recent work, Spit the Winkle, is a group of 40 collages which combine imagery from contemporary porn with older sources, possibly from the 40s and 50s, including weightlifting magazines, children's books and cartoons. Could you talk about the juxtaposition of sexuality and nostalgia?

EH: I was given this vintage scrapbook and decided to use it to create a story. I have lots of different types of source material that I have used for other 2-D pieces and thought I could create a entertaining story using the scraps of my source material. Most of the images have some sexual connotation, and I was thinking that people have been bonking forever and will continue to do so. It’s timeless really. Everything can be sexualized, even the most innocent thing.

OPP: Is that because sex is naturally embedded in everything all the time? Or because anything can be transformed into anything else? Is your intent to say something about the power of appropriation or about the power of sex?

EH: I believe that sex/reproduction is at our core. As primal as that sounds, I really think it is true. Generally speaking, people are pretty shy and conservative about sex, even though people in the entertainment industry (i.e. music, television, movies) and in advertising all use sexuality as the key component in some of their messages. Obviously, not everyone is reproducing, but everyone is still enjoying the act of sex.
 

Untitled
2010
Mixed media collage
14 x 11.5 inches

OPP: Can you talk specifically about the imagery of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear from the 1946 Disney musical Song of the South, which is notoriously considered racist and has never been available on DVD or home video in its entirety due to this controversy. How does this history of your source material contribute to what you are trying to say with the collages?

EH: It’s interesting, because it is somewhat generational. Some get it, some don’t. So it adds another layer for the folks that can make that reference. And if you don’t have that reference, you see it purely as imagery but with the question of where that found imagery came from. For the most part, I feel that I have decontextualized the imagery and appropriated it to create something new.  The imagery still teeters on the edge of what is and isn’t acceptable.

OPP:  Theoretically, can everything, even the most loaded material, be decontextualized?

EH: That’s a tricky one. I‘d like to think so. There are so many variables that can play into it: location, audience, etc. Nothing is absolute.

Keep Attacking the Body
(Anonymous #1)
2011
Ink, pencil, collaged elements
30 x 22 inches

OPP: In sculptures like Human Growth (2007) and The Oogie Boogie (2007), you seem to have an intense fondness for materials that appear to drip and ooze, evoking body fluids like semen and vomit, as well as tar and even melted flesh. Is that some kind of expanding foam insulation? How did you start working with this material?

EH: Well, in art school I initially worked in glass. I was drawn to the wet, syrupy, plastic-like feel and look of the material. In graduate school, I became a bit disillusioned with the material of glass because of its size and cost limitations. I started using materials like foam, epoxy, and fiber glass to try and achieve that illusion. Also, there is a bit of alchemy that happens when you work with two-part expandable foam. There is a finite amount of time when you can work with this stuff, and it really has a mind of its own. I find that there is a lot of beauty in those chaotic moments. The work just happens and you are just part of the catalyst. 

As a metaphor, I like playing with the excess of this stuff coming out of any and all orifices. There are times when we are so sick that we have to surrender to the intense moments. There is no grace when the body decides it needs to purge; those moments are involuntary.

Human Growth
2007
Mixed Media
47 x 22 x 17 in.

OPP: Your artist statement is on the sarcastic side. Is this your actual voice? What role does sarcasm play in your work in general?

EH: Yes. BIG.

OPP: Tell me a little about the Miscellaneous Muses section of your website. Are these found images and sculptures? In what ways do they inspire your work?

EH: So, the Miscellaneous Muses are my life.  I’ll find them, sometimes they’ll find me. They (the images) all have a story and they all make me smile in one way or another. I’ve been trying to collect life’s truths and life’s little inspirations, and these nuggets have kept me motivated and interested through the years. The search is everlasting and enduring. I put them on the website to share a little window into my world/brain with visitors.
To view more of Eric Huebsch’s work visit cockandoodle.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Mara Baker

All that is not very much
2011
Blue painters tape and 6 years of studio residue.
Installation at Happy Collaborationist's, Chicago IL

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your work unites the concerns of formal abstraction in painting and sculpture with the conceptual concerns of fiber and material studies. Is one ever more important than the other? Can they be separated?

Mara Baker: I think, within individual works, one or the other may have a stronger voice, but both concerns are always present. When I am creating work I try not separate out the two. In fact I have found the work suffers when one voice takes over. The material or process is usually the conceptual engine in most of my work, but if the material’s voice is too strong than the work becomes didactic or narrative in a way I don’t like. I do like the idea of an abstract history embedded in any given material. When starting a project, I try not to think too hard. It is enough to use a material simply because I visually respond to it. For instance in a recent piece the whole jumping off point was the fact that I loved the found texture in an old landscape print next to the texture of grey packaging foam; that was enough. After I make some initial intuitive decisions the hard work happens. Most pieces in my studio see at least four or five different actual lives. I have to make and then unmake most of my pieces in order to build up sufficient relationship with a material or idea. There is no denying that my studio practice is process driven, but I strive for the work to operate on many levels that engage both formal and material concerns.

Untitled (Detail)
2011
Found print, photographs, acrylic and packaging foam

OPP: Your recent body of work Blue Glue and Other Explorations, which uses painter's tape and the residue from your studio, shows the way discarded remnants from the creative process feeds into the creation of new work. This really illustrates what you say in your statement: "Underpinning all of the work is a desire to explore the performative and conceptual role of deterioration and residue." Can you speak more broadly about this theme, either in this project or in your practice as a whole?

MB: I am interested in the history and relationship I can generate with any given material. I like to fondly, and somewhat facetiously, call my studio a factory for the generation of history. I tend to generate vast amounts of material leftovers that have been edited out of whatever I am working on at the time but that I am unable to throw away. Over the past six years I saved and cataloged, by color, size, and texture, all of these back end leftovers in plastic paint liners. Similar to a junkyard that is full of objects displaced from their former uses, the Blue Glue project used the junkyard of my studio practice as its primary material. As a rule I tend to stack and pile materials I like next to each other as the first step in making work. In a very democratic way I was determined to do this with all of the remnants I had saved. The installation played with how these fragments, embedded with all of my studio failures, could function together as one coherent thought. Blue tape served as a vehicle for both drawing as well as binding. I like that blue tape has a natural relationship to architecture. We use it to temporarily protect and block off spaces we intend to change. Perhaps one of my most literal pieces, the work was a reflection on failure and the process of making.

Internal Weather (construction cord orange)
2010
Found soap factory residues, Plexiglas, construction cords, poly-tubing, straws, vinyl, acrylic, rust, charcoal, and graphite.
Durational Installation at Soap Factory [link to: http://www.soapfactory.org/ ], Minneapolis MN

OPP: You use the term "durational installation" for several pieces. Can you define that more clearly for us? You've installed your "durational installation" Internal Weather at least four times, and each time it's a little different in form and color. Can you explain the piece in more detail?

MB: I used the term “durational” to define installations that changed and eventually broke down over a set duration of time. Specifically, the Internal Weather Project pieces were all comprised of hundreds to thousands of drinking straws (depending on the site) that were joined together with surgical tape. I created line drawings in space with the connected straws that were then hooked up to high-powered water pumps. Over time, the straws would develop kinks and cause pressure that would eventually break down the straws and the system. Leaks, breaks, popping sounds, and mini-geysers were all integral parts of the work. In making the installations, I was constantly striving to make the systems more ambitious while at the same time always balancing the fact that I was using flimsy plastic straws. The liquids I chose to run through the systems varied from acrylic paint to road salt. I was also interested in the residue that was created when the system failed. The work was constantly changing both internally and externally. The final form of each installation was determined by a response to the space, time constraints and genuine curiosity. The series ended when I could no longer take the stress of putting together mini-apocalyptic art scenarios. I came close to ruining a couple of gallery spaces. What I loved and still love about the work is that it was a very real and raw response to the strengths and limitations of materials over a duration of time.  Each installation played with the edge of failure and strove to put the proverbial “last straw” on the camels back.

Untitled,
Wood, Various Construction Materials, Tarping, Vinyl, Acrylic Found Residues and Tape.
Site-Specific Installation for Cara and Cabezas Contemporary

OPP: How did you begin your ongoing collaboration with Rafael E. Vera? What do you like more about collaborating? What do you like more about working alone in your studio?

MB: Rafael and I met working as adjuncts teaching at the College of Dupage. We both work in installation and drawing, and Rafael approached me about creating a body of work together. What was appealing about the collaboration was that we share a love of formal language and a similar approach to space both in drawing and installation; however our individual aesthetics are very different. His work is clean and minimal and mine tends towards the maximal. We were interested in playing our different approaches off of each other. The beginning collaborations were simple exchanges of drawings (Trading Paper series).  I would start a drawing, he would finish it, and vice versa. We did this for a year. It became increasingly apparent that the drawings were blueprints for installations, and we have since worked on three different site-specific installations together. What I love about working in a sustained collaboration is that we have developed a visual language that is neither his nor mine. During the installation of our last piece in Kansas City the curator of the gallery commented on how our conversations were nonsensical to the outside observer. We have developed a way of interacting, talking and making that is uniquely ours. In our collaborative work, I make different decisions than I would make in my own work , which is very freeing. Working alone in my studio is just different. I could never give up my own practice, but collaboration has enhanced my understanding of my own process.

OPP: What's going on in your studio right now?

MB: I recently finished creating three site-specific tactile paintings for a group show entitled Two Histories of the World. The project was inspired by William H. Cooper, an old manufacturing plant turned resale business that is in a state of great disrepair due to the hailstorms that occurred last spring. The curator, Karsten Lund, asked 4 artists (Sarah Black, Laura Davis, Mike Schuh and myself) to create works inspired by the site and the materials present within the site. The work will be dismantled and re-envisioned in a new show at the Hyde Park Art Center in 2012. Otherwise, I am looking forward to some time to make small drawings that are not for any particular purpose but thought and growth.

To view more of Mara Baker’s work, visit marabaker.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Casey Vogt

Chow Time
2010
House paint, collage, envirotex/panel

OtherPeoplesPixels: You identify yourself as a "dot painter." Could you explain the history and context of Dot Painting?

Casey Vogt: I can offer you my personal history and context of dot painting. It is actually quite simple and rather banal, but here it is anyhoo. I came to art later in life than most, 25, and the first major exhibition I saw was of Australian Aboriginal Tingari “dot paintings.” I was totally blown away. I had always thought of paintings as portraits, landscapes. The use of color and repetition of the same form was mesmerizing. I was hooked then and continue to be today, because to me it is far more compelling to make a line out of dots rather than to simply draw a line. When a painting is comprised of dots there is a sense of obsessiveness that permeates the piece. It is my way of mark-making. Yet, at the same time, my hand is removed from the work. I enjoy the contradiction, as I myself am a living contradiction.

OPP: Could you say more about the obsessiveness you mention?

CV: I think that I'm obsessed with making my paintings as over-the-top as I can, yet maintaining an overall balance throughout the piece. In a way, I want to complicate them so much that they appear simple; then the viewer realizes that the work is made up of 80,000 dots.

OPP: The motif of the mandala, often with anti-depressants like Wellbutrin at the center, is omnipresent in your work. To quote Wikipedia: "In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction." When looking at the focused, repetitive mark-making you use, I think of both of the compulsion and anxiety that can beg to be medicated and about prayer practices like the rosary and meditative tools like the mantra and the mandala. Are prescription drug use and spirituality being equated with one another?

Rapture
2010
House paint, collage, envirotex/panel

CV: Let me begin this answer by saying that I am not religious, nor have I ever been prescribed any medication other than for various injuries, Percocets mainly. One of the great things that artists do is choose something they want to explore: an idea, a technique, etc. They contemplate it, figure out how they’d like it to look, and create it. While most of them have a strong opinion about how they want their art interpreted, it hardly ever happens that way. So when you ask if I’m trying to equate prescription meds and spirituality, I understand why you’re asking. The simple answer is yes… partly.

While those major topics are always on my mind, there are also really menial, logistical reasons for a lot of elements too. The mandala, for example, has a ton of inherent meanings and associations that I utilize in my conceptual framework, meditation being chief among them. But, truth be told, it is also a wonderful way to get the viewer to look at various places on my painting, because our natural inclination is to look at the center of concentric circles to see what’s in the middle. It is in the middle of these mandalas, or explosions, that I place color copies of prescription pills. In a way, I’m asking the viewer to contemplate a meteoric growth in prescription medication use, specifically, but not limited to, anti-depressants. It is in this vein that Western religions can be brought into the fold as well. In the time before Big Pharma, most people who were having “problems” often sought the assistance and guidance of God, and found solace in that “embrace.” However, it seems more and more that a similar “hug” is being dispensed in a candy-colored dose. I know that anti-depressants help millions of people achieve an equilibrium in their everyday lives, but I also feel that they are being doled out in copious amounts to people who probably would be just fine without them.

OPP: I think the comparison of Big Pharma with organized religion is interesting because both have the capacity for negative and positive effects on their users/followers. The same could be said about the obsessive repetition in your paintings. It could be seen as excessive, overwhelming, almost nauseating. But in truth, I find it simply beautiful... and calming. How do viewers generally respond to your work?

CV: It's funny because most people do find them calming. I think the cowboys help that a lot, they serve as anchors and access points that allow the viewer a respite from the ever-present dots.

Banal Ideas Can Be Rescued By Beautiful Execution
2010
House paint, collage/panel

OPP: Thanks for bringing up the cowboys. In your series Meaning and Nothingness, appropriated images of cowboys people abstract, decorative, overwhelming landscapes of color. What is your source material?

CV: I find images of cowboys everywhere! It’s truly amazing where you can find something when it’s the only thing you’re looking for. I have a bunch of old western movie books, I search the internet for old movie stills, I also used the cover of an ArtForum that had Martin Kippenberger on a horse. This is an image-glutted society, so it’s pretty easy to find source material. I love how the cowboy is perceived in this country. I mean, America’s football team is the Dallas Cowboys! In many ways the cowboy and the mandala are two of the most loaded icons/symbols I can think of, at least in their respective cultures. I think that is one of the reasons some find my work compelling. Not only are there these clashes of form, color, and dots everywhere, but there is also competing cultural iconography. To me, the cowboy represents the rugged loner or gang that lives the land and solves problems, whatever they may be. He is butch beyond butch; he is the real American Man. I read that after Marlboro cigarettes introduced the Marlboro Man sales went up like 2000%! There’s something about the mystique, the adventure that makes men want to be one and women to be with one. Being from Colorado, and having known real cowboys when I was young, it’s really funny to see how romanticized their life is when in actuality it is one of the most physically and mentally challenging occupations there is. Sorry, that was a longer tangent than I planned on. I use the cowboy to serve as a surrogate for the time before Big Pharma, when self-medication meant slugging from the whiskey bottle.

OPP: The combination of a complex american cultural symbol like the Cowboy with contemporary use of prescription drugs and spirituality, makes me think about how our collective perceptions of history shift over time. We don't see the Cowboy the same as we did in the past. Nor does religion play the same role in our collective lives. How do you think our collective view of prescription drug use will change?

CV: I already think attitudes are shifting. When teenagers take their lives and it gets linked to the anti-depressant they were taking, people take notice. The problem is that everything is so incestuously linked together. First graders are on Ritalin to keep them calm, yet they only get 20 minutes of recess. Teenagers are on Lipitor, yet school cafeterias serve processed shit food for them to eat. It’s all cause and effect. Sadly, Big Pharma controls Washington D.C., and they’re not going anywhere. Everyone should read, “Comfortably Numb” by Charles Barber. It sheds a light on how intertwined everything is, from Big Pharma to doctor to patient. I do still have hope that this culture will return to a more conservative/cautious approach when it comes to prescription medication.

Semi-Intelligent Design #7
2007
House paint, collage/panel

OPP: How did you end up painting with house paint?

CV: I started using house paint out of convenience. I have been a house painter off and on for 18 years, and it just made sense as a poor undergrad art student to try it. I tried “painting” with it and realized that wasn’t going to work, because it dries too fast and blending with it was nearly impossible for me. However, it works optimally when dotting, precisely because it does dry so fast. We have a store here in lovely Akron, Ohio that sells other peoples mis-tints, and the palette that exists is nearly endless. My wife and I will go there and return home with 15 different shades of blue, 20 browns, etc. And as I said earlier it’s cheap--$1 a quart, $5 a gallon. My process is so low-tech, it’s funny. I use the non-bristle ends of paint brushes, wooden skewers, marker ends, the “bulb” of a turkey baster, and so on. I dip the implement into a can of paint and repeat, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times. I do utilize a lot of collage elements as well, beyond the images of cowboys. I’m a sucker for wallpaper and scrapbooking patterned paper.

OPP: What are you working on in your studio right now? Are you excited about any new ideas, directions, or upcoming  exhibitions?

CV: I typically have four or five painting going on at the same time. My gallery in NYC, Tria Gallery, has been very good at moving my work, so I need multiples going in various stages of completion. I would love to start working bigger. My work is usually 24” x 24,” but it takes a long time. Maybe a couple of years from now that can happen. I’m also kinda jazzed about a new piece: I literally drilled hundreds of holes through the support and am dotting in the negative spaces. There are the physical dots on the surface, the “void” dots, and then the cast shadow dots on the wall. And of course, cowboys sitting on a fence staring and taking it all in.

To view more of Casey Vogt’s work, please visit caseyvogt.com

2012 : New Year, New Copyright Dates

You may be wondering why it seems like the folks at OPP didn't notice that it's a New Year. (Change our Copyright Dates, please!)

The reason OPP does not change your copyright dates is because the copyright dates on your site should reflect the dates upon which the material was created.

Therefore, you should use the earliest date in which you created material for the site, as well as the latest date. If you have not posted any work from 2012 as of yet, your copyright dates will not update automatically.

If you'd like to change your copyright dates regardless of when you created the material on your site, you are definitely free to do so.

Please see our Pixelpedia Section for detailed instructions on how to change your Copyright Holder Text.

http://wiki.otherpeoplespixels.com/help/cp/changing-the-years-in-your-copyright

Of course, another way to get your copyright dates to change automatically would be to post new work -- so get back into that studio, and create away.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Tory Wright

Obsession, detail
2009
Cut plastic
30 inches x 40 inches

Other Peoples Pixels: Your most prevalent media is “cut duratrans” or “cut poster on paper.” Can you tell us more about your source material and about the process of cutting such detailed pieces? It appears to be precision work. Is there a lot of planning before you make the first cut?

Tory Wright: My day job is in retail as a visual merchandiser. So whenever a light box Duratrans or a fragrance poster was slated for the trash shoot, I would roll it up, tuck it under my arm, and take it on home to my studio instead. These posters and Duratrans prints were large versions of the magazine adds I had been altering before I had this job. The funny thing is the scale shifted to a larger format while the detail of the cuts became more intricate. I just dive in and start making cuts free hand with a standard X-Acto® blade. I usually start at a point of interest like the eyes of the model.

OPP: I’m interested in the recurring shape of the loop. What does the shape mean to you and how did it emerge in your work?

TW: The shapes in my work are based on the body. When I made paintings I would look at high fashion magazines and then translate those forms (the models themselves and the cuts of the clothing) into flat, biomorphic forms that had a distance from the source. In graduate school at MICA I had a shift in the relationship between the source material and the final work. Why not cut my forms and patterns directly into the source material? It was about surface beauty and alienation, so why not change the surface of the source material itself? The most obvious step is often  the hardest one to make.

Crimson and Clover Interior, detail
2011

OPP: Crimson and Clover (2011) seems to represent a shift in your practice from delicate and intimate gallery pieces to larger public art works. The piece is both a billboard and has an interior life in a gallery space. Can you tell me about how it was developed?

TW: Good Citizen in St. Louis is a great space. They have a billboard on top of the gallery and have programmed the use of it as well as the gallery space. I was so excited to have a solo show there. On top of that, to be able to have a billboard for two months was beyond what I could have hoped for. The billboard was where I started the work for the show. So in a way I worked from the roof down. The work is about transformation of a single image and a single face (Kate Moss). As I continued to work with the transformative qualities of this cut and copy methodology, I was able to see the possibility of where this new work could go.

Untitled Floor Piece, detail
2010
Cut collaged photocopies

OPP: Untitled Floor Piece (2010), an abstracted collage using repeating imagery of the Venus of Willendorf  is distinct from most of your work. Its source material is from Art History instead of advertising, and it uses a process of accumulation instead of a process of deletion, as most of your cut pieces do. Can you talk about these differences?

TW: Untitled Floor Piece-Venus was the second cut, copy, and accumulate piece that I was able to do in a gallery. The first was at The Front in New Orleans in 2010. For this project at Lump gallery in NC, I was encourage to take advantage of the freedom of treating the space as an extension of the studio. Being able to glue the work to the floor opened up new avenues that wouldn't have been possible in a more formalized gallery setting. There was both humor and social commentary in drawing a face on the art historical Venus and then setting up the installation for interaction with the audience. Well, the interaction was more like watching people stand on top of the cluster of Venuses regardless of how many people were at the show. It was definitely a good time with a healthy sense of humor about some important topics.

OPP: What kind of important topics?

TW: The use of the Venus was my way of working through the position of feminism in my work. Giving her a sort of blank face seemed to sum up a internal commentary I have with a feminist history. I wrestle with where I might fit in. I just took my thinking out of my studio and into the gallery, thanks to Lump Gallery and the encouragement of Bill Thelen. The majority of my work is I engaged with the altering of the female form. I edit images constructed by fashion photography into a new form of beauty: just as alluring, but now more powerful with the absence of the cliche.

Kate, Back in Black, #4
2011

OPP: What’s changed in the way you work over time?

TW: The work I make has gotten more labor intensive as I have challenged myself on how much information from the original image could be striped away without losing the sensuality of the original image. However, now the cut and copy work is about the  accumulation of all those choices made in my past work. Now I just need another opportunity to push the installation of the work into a total environment.

OPP: What project are you most excited about right now?

TW:  I am really into a collaborative project I have with Lydia Moyer. Hateful is a zine and blog were we challenge each other by juxtaposing our separate aesthetics with images from artists we invite to participate. It has been a great avenue for approaching my work in new ways and pushing what I think my work is or should be.

To view more of Tory Wright’s work, visit torywright.com.

Black-out your OPP website tomorrow in solidarity with the protest against SOPA/PIPA

***UPDATE: Once you've blacked-out your site, post it to OPP's Facebook page under the black-out thread***

Tomorrow, January 18th, many companies across the Internet, such as Wikipedia, will be "blacking-out" their websites to protest two pieces of legislation, which if passed, could have devestating consequences for online freedom.

You can read more about the protest, the proposed bills, and take action at AmericanCensorship.org.

If you have an OPP website and want to participate in the protest, here are simple steps you can take to black-out your OPP website tomorrow.  

(Remember to change your website back to the way it was on the 19th -- and that keeping track of and making the changes is up to you. We suggest you make a note of your current settings: font names, template names, color number etc. If you choose to participate, we applaud you!)

 

1. Download the image below and post it as your Home Page image or feel free to make and upload your own protest image.

2.  Go to 'Appearance' ---> 'Template' and click on the 'Black' tag. Change your Template to any of these black templates.

3. Go to 'Appearance' ---> 'Background Color/Pattern' and using the color-picker choose black for your Background.

Optional: You can also change your Title and Navigation, and Body Font colors to black to prevent people from being able to access your content.

 

Thank you for helping to protect freedom on the Internet!

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Michael Pajon

Lady Lazarus
2011
Mixed Media Collage
6 x 9 inches

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your father immigrated to Chicago from Colombia, South America where he met your Irish Catholic mother on Chicago’s South Side. Reading your description of your experiences being “the product of the integration and movement of Chicago's populations, the artifacts that groups of people have left behind in the still identifiable ethnic neighborhoods, and the points where cultural identities have overlapped and melded” makes me curious about the relationship between the collages you make now and the art you may have made as a child. What did you like to draw while you were growing up?

Michael Pajon: When my Father was growing up in Colombia he told me about coming across American comic books and being fascinated with them. Even though he couldn't yet read in English he spent time with them redrawing the pictures.

I learned to draw very much the same way, reading and collecting comics as a kid the same way my Dad had.

I am still drawn to very graphic imagery like I was as a child. I remember drawing a lot of dinosaurs, airplanes, weird little cities with castles and skyscrapers. My imagination was a little scattered with ADD (attention deficit disorder) so I would often draw something into a picture that I might have seen on TV or in a movie we rented, and then sprinkle in a dinosaur or an exploding volcano. I distinctly remember drawing Spectre Man (sort of like Ultra Man) into coloring books and in the margins of other drawings as well as the Kit car from Knight Rider.  The only thing that I’ve gone back on to find interesting is that when drawing family members I used a dark brown crayon for my Dad a tan one for myself and my siblings and a pink crayon for my Mom. I wasn’t particularly aware of race at the time, but I was aware that my Dad was from some place far away.

A Century of Progress
2011 Mixed Media Collage
14-1/2 x 12 inches

OPP: You recently moved from Chicago to New Orleans. Has your move impacted your art practice?

MP: Yes, I have more time to focus on my work. The pace of living down here is much more relaxed than Chicago. There are new sites sounds smells and rhythms to get used to and become a part of. The city creeps into my work in various ways, particularly with this series of houses that I’ve been working on. I bike past empty run down homes every day, many of which will be lost to the elements rather than become a home to a person in need.  Those pieces are about the ghosts and memories that haunt those places.

OPP: Tell me about the artworld in New Orleans and your involvement in the community there.

MP: Upon arriving I began assisting my friend Meg Turner in creating a community printshop. A lot of blood sweat and tears went into getting our shit together, and then the plug was pulled as of January 2011—we lost our space. She and a few others have recently relaunched it, and I am hoping to be teaching the occasional etching class again. 

I have been part of a few group shows over the past year and a half, but most notably I was included in a larger exhibition of transplanted artists during Prospect 1.5 that ran from Nov 2010-Jan 2011.  The range of work ran from 2D to video and installation.

OPP: The materials you use in your collages range in date from the 1880's-1950's. What is your interest in this time period?

MP: I find that the imagery is unique and hard to find, but at the same time familiar.  Most likely you’ve seen something like it at a grandparents house or floating around a junk, thrift, or antique store. I hope that it will trigger a unique memory in the viewer. I tend to stay away from using things like Coca-Cola ads and the like for fear of coming off as kitschy.

OPP: You keep a blog accessible from your website. On it you post pieces from your Standard American Collage series as you finish them. You also post the found imagery you come across. Do some of the found images that appear on your blog also end up in your collages?

MP: Sometimes, though I tend to post things that are either too large to use or perhaps I find interesting as a piece of history or nostalgia, like my post of a Nelson Algren poem that I found in a 1940’s Esquire magazine. I don’t necessarily find it interesting as collage material, but I love it as something found in its original context.

OPP: How do you select the images and materials that you post on your blog and that appear in your collages?

MP: I have boxes and boxes of things to choose from. I typically sift through things from piece to piece making a kind of mental inventory of what I have. I work rather intuitively, so if something just hits me the right way and it seems to fit I’ll try to include it. 

The blog is simply another tool where I feel I can include people on the process of my art making and offer some of my personal interests as insight to that work.

Tighten the Screws, and Fear Not the Tigers Oath
2011 Mixed Media Collage
3 x 5 inches

OPP: Everything in your collage work is original and painstakingly cut by hand. What's the hardest part of your process in general?

MP: The hardest part is leaving out something that you love and was possibly very difficult to cut out, but doesn’t fit or ad anything to the dialogue of the piece.

OPP: You have worked as a printmaking technician and assistant to artist Tony Fitzpatrick, how did working closely with an established artist early in your career influence your own practice?

MP: Immensely. I got a front row seat to understanding the ins-and-outs of the art world. He was and remains extremely supportive of my work, which is something that I cherish because it can be hard to find. Most artists are not nearly as generous with their time and resources as Tony. They can be secretive about their techniques or even suspect of younger artists. It’s hard to catch a break without getting a little push and it’s rare that you will find that person willing to give you a break.

Tony also treats his studio time like one should, as a job. He gets up, clocks in, gets his ass to work and doesn’t let anyone tell him “no.” I think this is a model to live by.

I have received emails from all walks of people since launching my website. Most of them simply inquire about the work, but more recently I have had teenagers and other young artists write to me. I make a point to offer them as much insight and help as I can. I try to offer them encouragement and give them a little push.

OPP: What will you be working on next?

MP: I’ve got a few things on the desk at the moment, but home improvement projects are also on the horizon. I have a show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery here in New Orleans in March and will also have some work at Scope NYC. Watch for updates of new work as well as inspirational ephemera at paperandblades.tumblr.com.

To view more of Michael Pajon’s work visit michaelpajon.com.

Fonts Galore : OPP adds over 500 New Fonts!

Because we know that artists can never have too many choices when it comes to the aesthetics of their websites, OPP is excited to announce a HUGE update, guaranteed to get your websites looking snazzy in the New Year.

As of today, the number of fonts available for OPP websites has tripled. More than 500 NEW FONTS just blasted out of the OPP-Awesome-Update-Queue and into your website life. Bam.

Unlike many other website template services, OtherPeoplesPixels offers a unique way of using custom fonts -- so that you're not stuck with boring old Arial, Verdana & Comic Sans. (Click the link for the win!)

We've hunted down the best fonts, and tagged them all so they'd be easy for you to browse. All the new fonts are gorgeous, but, as OPPers requested, we especially added lots of clean, minimal, simple & classic fonts. You can use tags to search specifically find these types of fonts, and/or click the "Recently-Added" tag to see new fonts only.

OPP now offers a lot of font "sets" too -- e.g. fonts that come in both regular & bold or normal & italic etc. This allows you the extra-classy option of using one of these fonts for the Title Font and another for your Nav Section Font. Oooooh!

And here's another deluxe matcy-matchy tip: Search for the name of your new font online, and download it to use for your business cards, email signature, show emails headers etc. All the fonts OPP uses are free, and many can be found here.

So get cracking and check out the new fonts! Pick two gorgeous fonts and stick with them for a while, or hire an intern to change your font 20 times a day. Your call.