Video Tutorials

Feeling a bit more aural & visual than textual these days?

No problem, we’ve got you covered!

Along with our extensive, searchable help section, Pixelpedia, and our email customer support, we offer video tutorials as well.

These tutorials make our easy-to-use service even easier! For OPP newcomers, check out our getting started tutorial.

Want to know how to embed vimeo clips?

Or reorder the folders on your website?

Or perhaps you'd like to explore your artwork alignment choices?

We have more than 50 video tutorials to help you get on your way to being the master of your own website.

So pop some popcorn, sit back, and press play. :)

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews David Leggett

Drank
2011
Acrylic, felt, pom poms, silver leaf, and wiggle eyes on canvas

DAVID LEGGETT’s paintings and drawings synthesize the personal and the cultural. His egalitarian use of craft materials, paint and ink emphasizes the balanced treatment of his subject matter, which ranges from the silly to the profound. He has tackled such topics as the history of painting and the high/low divide, race and our perceptions of ourselves in relation to the images presented to us by pop culture, sex and desire as they relate to self-esteem and carnality. Leggett received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. He lives and works in Chicago, IL.

OtherPeoplesPixels: When asked how you would describe your work to a stranger in an interview you did with LVL3 last year, you responded with a great tagline: "it’s everything wrong with the world with bright colors." How do the bright colors (as well as the craft materials like pom poms and glitter) function in your work? Is it about a kind of optimism? Or is it a deflection of all the bad stuff?

David Leggett: Color has always interested me. The artists that I was interested in as a child and as an adult had vibrant color palettes. All the cartoons I loved as a kid use vibrant colors as well. I do not think of the colors I use as being optimistic. I see color as a tool to bring the viewer in for a closer inspection. I work with subject matter that can turn some off. Color can be used to make medicine go down if you will. That could also be said about craft materials. I started using craft materials in order to problem-solve in my painting. I felt my painting was very rigid before I used craft materials. I wasn’t trying to figure out one painting from the next. When you work with craft materials you have figure out how to use them, so it doesn’t look like craft materials on canvas. It’s too easy for those materials to look like a child at play.
That Where They Made Me At
2012
acrylic and shoe polish on canvas

OPP: Who are some of the artists you love? And what were your favorite cartoons growing up?

DL: Pedro Bell, Gary Panter, Sigmar Polke, Harvey Kurtzman, Jim Shaw, and Mike Kelley were a few of my favorites growing up. I loved the Smurfs, Ren and Stimpy, and Thundercats.

OPP:  You often use the form of the tondo, a large round painting historically used for religious subject matter. Could you talk about this formal choice, either in general or in relation to a specific piece?

DL: I don’t shy away from any subject. I cover religion a lot. Tondos are interesting. They are a part of art history, and I like using that reference in my work. In Uncle John, I’m making a memorial to all the Johns of the art world. The idea of a gold leaf tondo with just the name John referenced Christianity even though that wasn’t my intent. Working with more than one meaning is one of the many things I use in my work.
Unforgivable Blackness
2012
acrylic on canvas

OPP: Many of the tondos also feature recognizable figures from pop culture, as in Silver Dechanel (2010) or Rick Rossing It (2010). What about in a piece like Chocolate Rainbow Connection (2010), which features Kermit the Frog? Are there religious connotations here?

DL: I don't think of them having that meaning, but I'm aware that some viewers have taken that from the work. I like things being open for the viewer.

OPP: My favorite thing about your work is the way the tone continually moves back and forth between the sweet and the profane. I see this especially in the recurring motifs of boobs and balls on heads and scoops of ice cream. Does this resonate with your interests?

DL: Yes it does. There are many thoughts and ideas that go through my mind when I make work. My personality is very much a part of my work. I have a dark sense of humor, and it comes out often in the things I do. I also bounce back to being more practical at times and that also reflects. I feel everyone has the same way of thinking to an extent.
How to get to Grape Street
Blog drawing
2011

OPP: You currently have an exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago called Coco River Fudge Street, which consists of 152 drawings from your blog of the same name. How are the blog drawings different from other drawings? Has the digital form of the blog affected your analog work?

DL: The only real difference is the time. I have very limited time to work on the blog drawings. I’m always trying to beat the clock. I also find myself making things I might not have if I didn’t have to produce a drawing a day for the blog. It was a fun challenge.

It made me keep things simple. Certain things wouldn’t work on a blog. Colors and textures wouldn’t show up as clear due to my using a scanner. This changed the direction I originally had for the blog. I wanted to do all paintings which is nuts.

OPP: Tell us about your process.

DL: There isn't really a process to the blog drawings. It's whatever comes to mind within that day. I will use whatever trials I have, but I try to keep it simple so I'm not spending the entire day on one thing. That is the opposite of my other paintings and drawings. I have materials and subject matter planned ahead of time. I'll also gather source materials.

Old Negro
2011

OPP: Will the blog keep going now that you’ve had the show?

DL: I was thinking about doing a fan appreciation month in the near future. As for another entire year of blog drawings, I don't have it in me. It's a lot of work, and I would like to travel. You have to stay put when you are doing a daily drawing blog.

OPP: What were your drawings like as a child?

DL: It was all pen and ink. I wasn’t a huge fan of color back then. I would go through hundreds of sheets of typing paper to draw on. I would draw my favorite comic characters and cartoons. I later realized I was good at making caricatures of kids I didn’t like in school. It’s funny how things never change.
To view more of David Leggett’s work, please visit davidleggettart.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Deb Sokolow

You tell people you're working really hard on things these days (detail)
2010
graphite, charcoal, ink, acrylic, paper on panel
7 ft x 25 ft

DEB SOKOLOW creates large-scale drawings that combine text and image in complex narratives with multiple beginnings, endings, and course-changes. Weaving together facts and fantasy, her signature 2nd-person narrator expertly pulls the viewer into her paranoid musings. She ultimately leaves us with an entertaining and profound experience of doubt, questioning the nature of reading in the gallery and the function of art in general. Sokolow lives and works in Chicago, IL.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The first time I saw your work was in 2003. It was Rocky and Adrian (and me), a 9 ft long drawing which catalogs the love story of Rocky and Adrian scene by scene while inserting alternate scenes in which the narrator becomes the love interest for Rocky. Since then, you have become well known for your use of a paranoid 2nd person narrator in your drawings. What precipitated the switch from me to you?

Deb Sokolow: What precipitated this switch was a desire to tell a story in a way that would immerse a viewer/reader in the narrative. This is hard to do with text-y art that exists on a wall and not in a book, because I think most people are resistant to doing a lot of standing and reading. So I decided to switch from narrating everything in the first person (i.e. “I have an uncomfortable encounter with my neighbor, Richard Serra, the failed-sculptor-turned-body-butcher-for-the-mob”) to the second person (i.e. “you have an uncomfortable encounter with your neighbor, Richard Serra, the failed-sculptor-turned-body-butcher-for-the-mob”). The idea is for the viewer/reader to take on the roll of the protagonist when reading the story, and hopefully develop a connection or some level of personal investment in it. Also, I’ve never wanted to make diaristic work, so the decision to switch from I to you was a way to move the story out into the world, so that it could be about anyone’s real or imagined experiences, and not just my own.

OPP: Were Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 1980s an influence for you?

DS: Absolutely. I’ve attempted to work in a Choose Your Own Adventure type format, but can only manage to create 3 to 6 possible endings. I’ve discovered that it is so much harder to do this with a story that hangs on a wall as opposed to a story that resides in a book.

Whatever happened to the Pentagon (restaurant)?
2007
graphite, ink, acrylic, correction fluid on multiple papers, pins
5ft x 4ft

OPP: And you have experience working in both formats. Whatever Happened to the Pentagon (restaurant)? (2007) is both a large-scale drawing and an edition of 100 accordion-fold books. Could you talk more specifically about the differences in creating a text drawing that evolves linearly as opposed to one that is more of a rhizome, as is more common in your large-scale drawings?

DS: People will usually read a book from beginning to end, so for the most part I know how they will experience the story. When I’m working in a less linear format, such as with some of the large drawings, I am less certain of the path a viewer/reader will take when following the story. It’s so much harder to make the work because I’m constantly struggling to develop a strong enough visual hierarchy so that there is one or a few obvious entry points in the piece, but not too many so that it runs the risk of being too chaotic and unreadable. Writing for a book is also difficult because there is less space for tangential story lines. Recently, I’ve been working with footnotes in the books as a way to organize some of those tangents.  

How do these people manage?
2011
graphite, ink, acrylic, collage on paper
11 x 8 1/2 inches

OPP: You never try to hide erasures and edits in the drawings. These changes are integral to the visual aspects of the work. You even made these changes a performative part of your 2010 installation You tell people you're working really hard on things these days at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, adding and removing elements over the course of the exhibition "as contradictory evidence and new observations were acquired." Could you talk about how this aspect of your work developed?

DS: Initially, when I started making large drawings with a significant amount of text, I was frustrated with myself for making a lot of mistakes on the paper and using quite a bit of correction fluid. But then I came to terms with the mistakes when I realized they were as important to the drawing as the final product. And lately, I’ve been thinking about this writing process, its erasures and edits and indecisiveness, as a type of time-based drawing process.
You are one step closer to learning the truth
2008
graphite, ink, acrylic on wall
141 feet long
installation shot

OPP: You have exhibited widely in Chicago, nationally, and internationally. Does any one exhibition opportunity stand out as having been particularly suited to your work or particularly transformative for your work, pushing it in new directions?

DS: There was this one project, Dear Trusted Associate, which was first installed at the Van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands, and then exhibited again a year later at the Smart Museum at University of Chicago. Both times, the piece existed primarily on a forty-foot scroll of paper with some amount of writing and drawing spilled out over the edges of the paper onto the wall. Showing the project a second time was a real challenge for me. Not only did I have to re-create the parts on the wall, but I actually had to re-do everything that was on the paper, too, so that the story would fit within a different wall configuration. Also, the Smart Museum asked me to add a new chapter to the end. So, in the end, I decided to re-write the entire piece, and came up with a more edited-down piece that included additional commentary of a contradictory nature from a more jaded, older version of the narrator who, looking back in time, disagrees with his/her initial version of how the story is told. This playing around with tenses was something new for me. I don’t think I would have experimented in this way if I hadn’t had the extra time or reason to fine-tune an existing story.

OPP: Could you tell us a bit about how each piece evolves? Is the story fully formed in your mind before you start drawing?

DS: The basic story is formed in my mind before I start figuring out how it should exist visually, but the tangents happen as I'm physically making the work, and I don't usually know how a story will end until I'm almost finished with the piece.

OPP: Do you have a favorite piece from your own work? Is your favorite piece your best piece in your opinion?

DS: Someone tell Mayor Daley the pirates are coming might be my favorite piece. I don’t know if it’s the best piece I’ve ever made, but I’ve always liked how ridiculously naive the narrator is - so much more naïve than the way I write the narrator’s voice in other projects. I keep thinking I should revisit that level of naivety again. 
You tell people you're working really hard on things these days (detail)
2010
graphite, charcoal, ink, acrylic, paper on panel
7 ft x 25 ft

OPP: Have you heard anything from Richard Serra about your inclusion of a fictionalized version of him in your 2008-2009 drawing Dear Trusted Associate?

DS: Not yet. I’m still using him as a character in the work, still playing around with this idea that his life as an artist would be so completely different if he’d come to Chicago to try and make it as an artist, but failed miserably and had to take on a day job butchering bodies for the mob in order to maintain a studio practice. I’m starting to write alternate versions of the lives of other larger-than-life individuals, most recently Willem de Kooning and the cult leader, Jim Jones. My father was a political scientist, and one of his former students, (now Congresswoman) Jackie Speier, was part of the delegation that had been shot at while visiting Jonestown in 1978 to investigate allegations of human rights violations. Jackie was shot five times and still managed to survive. Her story and that of Jim Jones have always loomed large in my mind.

OPP: That sounds like the basis for a new story. Is it a piece you are working on right now?

DS: I am starting a project about Jim Jones, and Jackie Speier might be a character in it, but it's in the initial planning stages, so I'm not entirely sure how it will all pan out. I'm also trying to figure out which, of three upcoming exhibitions, would be the most appropriate venue for the project, since the nature of the project might be fairly disturbing. I can't install a piece about evil, torture and death just anywhere!
To view more of Deb Sokolow’s work, please visit debsokolow.com.

Support the Love Renagade's New Project!

 ELIZABETH AXTMAN is an interdisciplinary artist, whose alter-ego, The Love Renegade, creates powerful works about bridging the divide between people and their egos. When a person has acted, (as Liz says) "a hot-mess," the Love Renegade steps in with a work that confronts this head on -- treating these sometimes hateful people with surprising grace and kindness.

In her socially engaged practice, The Love Renagade has written love letters to Ann Coulter & Bill O'Reilly, has re-edited video footage of Sarah Palin to create an apology to people she had hurt, and has poignantly altered a photo of O.J. Simpson's mugshot to say "I'm so sorry." She has participated in exhibitions all over the world including: The Renaissance Society (Chicago), The Studio Museum (NYC), The Contemporary Art Museum (Houston), Kunsthalle Gwangju (Republic of Korea),The Kitchen (NYC), & te tuhi Center for the Arts (New Zealand).

The Love Renagade's newest project, currently being funded via Kickstarter, is entitled "The Love Renagade #308: I Love You Keith Bardwell." The documentary-form work confronts former Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell, who in 2009 refused to marry an interracial couple in Louisiana, siting that he was concerned about "the children." Axtman's ambitious new work documents the loving relationships between interracial couples, and shows their happy thriving children -- who at intervals tell the camera: "I love you Keith." The Love Renagade's work is a moving testament to the power of love over hate, compassion over ego, and understanding over fear.

Please check out The Love Renagade's Kickstarter page for this wonderful project, support it if you can, and pass it on!

You can see more of Elizabeth Axtman/The Love Renegade's work, on her website.

 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Graham McNamara


IMG_6293, detail
2009
Oil on mdf unit
18" x 18" x 3.5"

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement, you evoke the role of the scientist by using words like "clinical" and "dissect" to describe how you deconstruct "romantic, idyllic European painting." Could you say more about this "clinical" approach? 

Graham McNamara: I’m quite an analytical person, and I like systems and structures. I’ve always perceived the world in this manner, and so it was a clear step for me to view art in that way, too. Art history fascinates me. By dissecting it, I create an interesting dialogue with truth and idealism both then and now.

OPP: In your series Units, small sections of classical paintings are blown up, painted in monochrome and intersected with paint drips. The paint drips actually come before the reproductions, which get painted in around the drips. Why is this important to the piece? How does it change the final look of the painting?

GM: Within my work I enjoy many subtleties and quiet gestures. The cited paintings are often grand, strong declarations. I counter this with understated actions that have equally powerful declarations, albeit with opposing intentions. The order of the application, subtle as it is, is a key element in my work. It creates a paradox whereby my work, which is undermining an illusionary motif, becomes in itself illusionary.

Page 136
2008
Oil, pencil, primer on mdf unit
24" x 48" x 4"

OPP: Appropriation of art historical paintings is a staple in your process. How important is it for viewers to know what the original source paintings are?

GM: In a way it does not matter if the viewer is able to decipher the original piece. It is either known or not known, and this conveys two different experiences that can be had with my work. I find them both interesting. I don’t really want to make an elitist art only accessible to those who know art history, which is difficult when art is referential.

If the work is recognized then the piece takes on quite an academic reading: all the history, stories, and interpretations of the original work feeds into my piece and creates a dialogue about art, art history and the creative drive. It is often quite comical, as I will crop out or ignore a fundamental element of the original work and paint instead the background or less important things, rendering its original concept absent.

The other, less informed reading of the work is more abstracted and intangible. Enough of the painting is left to convey a glimpse of a moment. It’s familiar in some way, but in one that cannot be placed. It becomes a sort of vague, shared memory, warmed by the soft, hazy, smoothed-out brushwork.

OPP: How do you choose what paintings to appropriate?

GM: A lot of research goes into selecting which paintings to use. I go through a period of a few months of reading and looking at works, which results in a selection of artists and a selection of their works that interests me. I then group these into loose categories to pull from. I reflect over what a piece does, why it speaks to me, and how I can manipulate it. I always seem to know which to use next.

The Creator, The Destructor IV
2009
Oil, pencil, primer, Epson print on partical board
12 x 12 x 0.5 inches

OPP: You mention Walter Benjamin's famous essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" in your statement. When did you first read it? How has it influenced how you think about painting or art in general?

GM: I read his text while studying at university, so I was quite young and new to making art. It had a profound effect on me and how I saw the world, especially through the context of the Internet. Generally speaking, I see more art in reference form, whether on my computer, my smart phone, or in a newspaper or magazine, than in reality. My experiences of art become less valuable or unique as a result. Maybe that’s why I feel I can take such liberties with these important works; there is no preciousness to them. They can be dissected. I comment on this with my work, but I also fight against it through elements which cannot be replicated in these modes, such as the subtly and structure.

Blue Boy
2009
Epson print on paper, framed
15 x 19 inches (frame)

OPP: I know what you mean about how we look at art these days, considering the fact that I’ve never seen your work in person. But I disagree that our experiences of art are less valuable when they are mediated. They are just different than they were before. And in some ways, they are better. For example, I love how I can can a real sense of the breadth of an artist’s work by looking at his/her website. I can’t get that when I see a single piece in a group show. Sometimes, I find individual pieces dull, but when I see them in the context of the artist’s total output, I become really engaged with the work. Admittedly, my bias is that I prefer to understand things in their context. That’s where I find the most pleasure in looking at art. But I’d love to hear more about how your experience looking at art differs from mine.

GM: True. Maybe it is just different. For example, my website is a powerful tool to show a much wider audience my work and also show work that has not yet been exhibited in reality. But I think what is interesting is when these mediums shift from being referential to a primary source of absorption on art. The art then becomes the digital or printed reference, and the physical work itself is somewhat secondary in almost a Plato’s cave effect. The concept is paramount, which I love. But when we loose the physical engagement with the presence of a work, we lose the aura as Benjamin says, and that is so important to the understanding. No matter how many books I read and images I saw of Rothko’s paintings, they held nothing compared to when I first visited a collection in person at Tate Modern, London. Before that, I was informed, but I didn’t truly understand.

OPP: Tell me a little about your process. How much is thinking/planning and how much is actually painting?

GM: I usually have my work fully planned out before beginning the actual piece, although there is room for altering from course throughout the process. Most of my creativity is directed before I begin the work through writings and sketches, and the actual creating is more a series of skilled tasks to lead to completion. This helps me think clearly, and the process of making becomes a quiet meditative time. I have to work in a logical manner, almost machine-like in some stages. For instance, when I paint the cited image using the projector, I try only to paint the image projected, not what I see. Too much of my mind is chaotic, and the world is a myriad of complications. My art process grounds me and gives me a structure to realize my ideas.

With my Units and IMG_  series I firstly construct a selection of perfect boxes, then sand and seal them. At this point, I do not have a set use for them. While I make these, and for a while after, I research my subject matter and write. I usually have the piece fully planned out before beginning to paint. I use a projector and sketches to make decisions. I try to understand what the piece will become and if it will be successful. During this process, I’ll decide which boxes will be paired with which paintings, and I select a single paint color based on the imagery and the shape of the boxes. Next, the boxes get primed, sanded where necessary, and taped off to leave only the surface to paint on. Then I paint the whole area and brush it smooth, before I apply solvents to create drips with as little regard as possible for what will be painted on the box. This dries for a few months before I painstakingly paint an image around the drips, brushing the strokes smooth as I go.
Untitled, branch with rock #3
2011
Resin, drift wood, & rock
8 x 18 x 2 inches

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

GM: I have just come out of about 6 months of not making anything. I spent the time evaluating my work and considering its direction. I think it is important to take these moments of reflection when creating art in order to maintain the integrity of your creativity, rather than the integrity of a specific style or technique.

Earlier this year I had a residency at The Carriage House in Long Island. This took my practice in an exciting new direction with sculptural works that I’m very pleased with. Photos of these pieces should be uploaded onto my website any day soon(!). Using crude metal brackets and wood supports, I reconstructed a series of trees that had been cut down and moved into my space. I also constructed trees from found fallen branches to create man-made disjointed forms. These works were almost a poetic act of reconstructing trees to a former state using materials and techniques that clearly expose this interaction. My other works were made using resin, at varying degrees of clarity, to turn old lumber and driftwood back into the blocks of wood they once were. These works stoically strive to reclaim their former identity and sense of purpose, but instead they are a futile attempt to correct the forces of nature and of man in a ghostly, exposed manner.

To view more of Graham McNamara’s work, please visit grahammcnamara.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Shawnee Barton

Misfortune Cookies, detail
2010
Hand Embroidery on cotton

SHAWNEE BARTON is a Texas-born interdisciplinary artist who uses satire and storytelling to explore “sociological concerns such as dislocation, relationship and group dynamics, class issues, and the ways in which we make connections and communicate with each other.” She works in drawing, sculpture, performance, photography, video, embroidery, and new media. In 2006 she received her MFA in Printmedia from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and finished second in the World Series of Poker No Limit Hold'em Ladies event. Barton currently lives in San Diego, CA.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You are an interdisciplinary artist in the extreme. But the strategy that is common throughout all your work is storytelling. Individual pieces, such as To Celebrate My Favorite Day, use text to tell a story, while video installations like Kachina involve oral storytelling. You also have  an ongoing project called The Roaming Blog, in which you write posts on various topics as a guest blogger on other people's blogs. First off, do you see yourself as a storyteller? How is storytelling in these various forms the same? How is it different? 

Shawnee Barton: I am firmly committed to an art-making model in which the concept behind a piece precedes and dictates the medium.  It was, for example, a natural fit for my satirically titled Occupation: Housewife series to be mostly hand embroidered pieces, since needlecraft is a stereotypically female, housewife-y hobby.

In terms of content, I am definitely a storyteller. I don’t approach storytelling differently based on the medium I am working in though. No matter what form it takes, a story is successful when it is profoundly relatable, when it makes you think something you’ve never thought before, or when it transports you. The things I love about This American Life pieces are the same kinds of things that resonate with me when I read a Zadie Smith novel or see a William Kentridge animation. 
Occupation: Housewife
Hand Embroidery on cotton, folder
2010
17" x 11"

OPP: Of all the media you work in, do you enjoy any parts of your practice more than others?

SB: I don’t feel the ghosts of art professors past looking over my shoulder when I write. I especially value that freedom to purge and play since I have a tendency to over-think even the smallest of decisions when I’m making visual work.

I also enjoy when a project requires me to mindlessly do something over and over, like filling in a solid area of color in embroidery or making tedious audio edits in Protools. Repetition in art making takes me to a quiet, zenful place that I don’t feel elsewhere in my life.

I’m curious, and I love learning new artistic disciplines, but the least favorite part of my practice is the technical “jack of all trades/master of none” aspect of it. A lot of art programs still hire people that are technical experts--master lithographers, bronze casters, and the like. People like me with strengths in idea cultivation, storytelling and problem solving tend to be less appealing to hiring committees. I’ve always wanted to teach college art, and sometimes it feels like I am sabotaging a dream by making art the best way I know how.
Ice Cream on Light Box 3
2009
Color photograph
Edition of 10, 30" x 40"

OPP: A recent piece, I Kindly Reject Your Rejection, led to an experience with internet censorship. Can you describe the piece and what happened?

SB: The web-based piece is a response letter to a rejection letter I received from a film program I never applied to. It originally ran on the well-known art blog, fecalface, but after Ann Berchtold, the director of the art fair I wrote about in my letter, complained about the negative attention, fecalface removed the piece from their website without first asking me to respond to Berchtold’s claims.

Being censored was not fun or funny, but since this particular piece was about rejection, it did seem appropriately ironic that the art fair people unwittingly reiterated the concept behind the piece one more time.

Everything in my letter is defendable, and I was shocked and disappointed at how casually fecalface, an art- and artist-focused online publication that I’ve admired for years, would censor me. It was also depressing that the director of a contemporary art fair would be so quick to make such a passionate effort to get a work of art censored—these are the type of people that should know better.

Being censored made me think about some larger issues, like whether online publications have a responsibility to defend the writers and artists they publish in the same way print publications do. This kind of support may be another important thing (along with quality investigative reporting, fair salaries, and benefits for content creators) that we're losing as news, information dissemination, images, and writing increasingly go viral.

On the flip side, this experience taught me that the internet makes absolute censoring, as in keeping someone from ever accessing certain information, much more difficult (at least in our country), since there is an endless number of places to repost content online. In my case, the fabulous Kathryn Born kindly republished my web-based piece in The Chicago Art Magazine where it received more hits than all the other stories on their site combined during the week it ran. It also inspired them to create a regular column of artist horror stories.
On Egocasting
2008
Installation View

OPP: Your work is unapologetically personal, and you make no bones about the therapeutic aspects of making art. This is an impressive and admirable admission in my opinion, because this is a contentious idea. I've often witnessed compelling work being dismissed outright with the phrases: "it's too personal; it's just art therapy." Why do you think this prejudice exists?

SB: I can empathize with the haters.  Introspective art can be angsty, heavy-handed and obliviously cliché. And since this type of art is the instinctual place a lot of young artists go for material before they find deeper wells to draw from, there’s a lot of bad art of this nature.

Sometimes, I compare this type of art to the “rom-com” genre of film—for every one honest, relatable, and smart When Harry Met Sally, there are 100 cliché, time-sucking Failure to Launches.

I think finding and making good introspective art is so difficult, because there are many places to go wrong. First, we all like to think we are more special and unique than we actually are. That’s why I love David Sedaris, Raymond Carver, and David Shrigley. There’s no inflated sense of grandeur with them. They all have an incredible ability to find magic or humor in the banal moments of life.

Editorially, it’s difficult to objectively make art in which your life is the material. You have to be completely vulnerable in the beginning in order to flush out raw material. Then, once you’ve got something to work with, you have to turn the emotional part of your brain off in order to neutrally make edits and design decisions that will strengthen and serve a larger, more important concept, which always includes murdering your darlings.

In many ways, I feel like this type of art chose me more than I chose it. What I make is honest, and I think even if people don’t like the genre, they can at least connect with or respect that intention.
How to Make a Baby the IVF Way: I'm Glad it's not Swimsuit Season
Photo from Slideshow
2011

OPP: Let's talk specifically about your recent piece How to Make a Baby the IVF Way. First published on Slate.com in November 2011, this photo essay with text documents the grueling emotional and physical experience of trying to have a baby despite infertility. How is disseminating work this way different from showing work in a gallery?

SB: The internet can be a more appealing artistic venue than a traditional gallery for many reasons. First, it’s obviously less insular. There are fewer people to pander to, more viewers see your work (at the level I’m at anyway), and there’s no one trying to take a 50% cut (even if it’s 50% of $0, which is the case most of the time).

I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to have gallery success. That would be amazing. It’s just that that road never really felt like a viable option for me, since I’m not very good at selling myself. I also always knew that I wanted to feel free to make weird stuff that doesn’t hang nicely on a wall. Maybe this excuse is a cop-out, but it’s kept me focused on finding creative venues to disseminate my work rather than feeling helpless and depressed after sending out hundreds of packets that just wind up in a pile that no one looks at.

OPP: It was the most read piece on the site the week it was up and there are 313 comments, ranging from thankful to abusive. What's it like to have this kind of sudden visibility and to read these comments?

SB: The comments about my Slate IVF piece were pretty fascinating. Nothing about choosing to do IVF feels controversial to me. In making the piece, I was interested in documenting the process of IVF, not debating or defending its validity. I frankly thought our society was past that, but, clearly, the volume of responses to my piece suggests otherwise. Realizing that your sense of reality may be distorted is always disconcerting.

The negative comments also reminded me of something I learned in Psych 101: people are more willing to be cruel to a stranger than to someone they know. I see their vitriol as a good reminder that we all need to step away from the computer and television every once in awhile in order to make actual connections with people in the non-virtual world.

Pink Slip
2009
Color C- Print
30" x 40"

OPP: Are you working on anything in the studio right now? What's next for you?

SB: I’m currently collecting stories from people who have moved back in with their parents because of the bad economy. The project’s website is movedbackinwithmom.com and stories or photos can be submitted to Imovedback@gmail.com

I also currently have a piece in an exhibition at The Athenaeum in La Jolla, and I will be in a group exhibition in June at Susan Street Fine Art Gallery in Solana Beach, CA. I am also always on the look out for blogs that would welcome me into their little nook of cyberspace. I can be reached at shawneebarton@gmail.com

To view more work by Shawnee Barton, please visit shawneebarton.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Carl Baratta

Entombment/ Entombment
2011
Egg tempera, watercolor, and gouache on board
24"x 36"

CARL BARATTA paints lush and complex landscapes populated by robots, aliens, animals and humans who appear to be from some other culture or time period. His dense, colorful paintings depict moments of transition, often referencing his art historical predecessors in both composition and color palette. He equally draws from “popular and unpopular culture.”  He received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005 where he currently teaches. Baratta lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: When looking at your paintings, I imagine you have a complete narrative in mind when painting. Is this the case?

Carl Baratta: Well actually I don’t have a specific idea of a narrative. What I tend to do is read a lot of mythology, fables, sci-fi, and mystery books and then pick the parts where there is a tipping point in the narrative. Everything I end up doing leads back to transformation and moments of struggle. There’s a lot of overlap in everything I read so when I see a certain situation crop up I start to imagine what it would look like. The moment I pick is really important and I try to start every painting differently to see what happens. Sometimes I plan out major parts and other times I start with weird blobs and work out from them.

OPP: Tell us about how you make choices about your color palette?

CB: I approach a visual piece the same way as I do written stories. For the overall narrative tone, I’ve recently moved away from a Mughal Miniature approach to color and have started using a more subdued earthy pallet, more of a late Fauve use of color. One reason I decided to do this is I have been introducing a lot of animals into the landscapes and the high key color makes them look too cartoony. The other reason was I was making super violent imagery that the viewer didn’t see right away because the jewel-intense color struck the viewer first. I think having the color be more subtle lets the imagery be seen first and then the network of color. I’ve made well over 50 paintings that operate on the color first principle and felt I should move on. What I love most about the miniatures is the emphasis on an ever present situation as opposed to a more mutable subject matter. That’s why the only transient shadows I ever paint are really there to set a mood, never to imply that there’s a sun that moves over the land.
Driver, Take Me To The River 3
2010
Watercolor, gouache & ink on paper
18"x25.5"

OPP: I’ve heard you talk about the Mughal Miniatures before, but I’m not familiar with them. For those of us who are less educated, could you describe them and what draws you to them?

CB: Mughal is a style of painting from the 16th to 19th century in South Asia. The painters from that time period are known for their blushing colors and their use of pattern as a vehicle to move the viewer's eye throughout the composition. My favorite works are during Akbar's dynasty. He was alive during a period where there was a lot of trading of goods and ideas between cultures and understood the power of synthesizing all these ideas to come up with some very interesting paintings and ultimately introducing his people to a broader understanding of the world they lived in.

A couple years ago I saw a collection of illuminated pages from a book in his collection at the Met. The sky was atmospheric picking up ideas from the West,  and everything below the sky line was laid out with strong color rhythms and patterning that the Moghuls picked up from previous painting styles. It struck me that when I look back over painting and pick my favorite spatial conventions to create a dynamic space, I'm synthesizing from many cultures too. I feel that this is still relevant in our culture now, and to me it feels incredibly contemporary. The best thing about looking in the past is the experience of seeing something you wholeheartedly believe in from a long long time ago in a different country. It's the closest I will ever get to having a time traveler's conversation. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it feels really important.

OPP: In pieces like MFBB 2 (TFEFA!) (2009), Failed Out of Autumn (2007), and Showdown in Flames (2005), we see beheadings, bodies ripped in half and hand to hand combat. Could you talk about the recurring violence in your work?

CB: I need to come clean and say that I put the violent shit into my paintings because I think it’s awesome and it makes my friends laugh. Sometimes the gore is pretty over the top. A lot of the gore either comes from film stills from giant monster movies from the 70’s or from paintings and tapestries from just about anywhere from any time period. I collect images of beheading/ dismembering images and have a pretty large collection.

You wouldn’t believe how many paintings there are that have chopped off heads in them. For instance MFBB 2 (TFEFA!) stands for ‘Mother Fucking Blood Bath 2 (yeah, there was a number 1) and then ‘Thanks for everything Fra Angelico!’. The painting is based off of Fra Angelico’s The Beheading of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damien. I’ve been to Paris several times, and I always spin by that painting in the Louvre and stay with it for an hour or two. The composition is so tight it blows my mind. For my piece I wanted an even more anonymous set of figures while keeping the composition tight. To do that, I had to move some things around and essentially break Fra Angelico’s composition. It’s stupid to take a painting you love, shit all over the composition and not rebuild it. It’s a respect thing for me. Anyway, it was going to be a ‘fast’ painting. Took me over four months to figure out and it’s still not anywhere as amazing as Fra Angelico’s. In the end I realized the composition was what moved me to try my own. Since then I’ve tried to tackle every piece as fiercely as that one.
MFBB 2 (TFEFA!)
2009
Egg tempera on board
24"x24"

OPP: Often chopped limbs from trees resemble chopped off limbs from humans and monsters in your paintings. The landscapes and figures seem to have equal weight in your work. How do you view the connections between the environments you paint and the figures that populate them?

CB: You know, before I even made the connection between body parts and tree limbs, I realized I’d been photographing weird body-like trees for years! I paint them because I want the figures to reflect the world around them and have the landscape react to the figure’s emotional state depicted. In other words, the world around each figure is an extension of what is happening internally to the figure and vice versa creating the open ended narrative. Sometimes having trees and fauna echo the shape of animals and people is the quickest, clearest way to get their emotional relationship across to an audience.

OPP: What kind of drawings did you make as a child?

CB: Scribbly, weird ghost shit and robots. Basically the same stuff I draw now but without an art history background. I drew like that until I went to undergrad and then trained under New York abstract painters. The work I make now is me backing out of a tradition where paint is paint and moving into figurative painting. I can no longer just draw from one type of work or another, so these days I continuously try to meld the two approaches together.

River! Sky! Mountain, Mountain!
2005
Watercolor, gouache and ink on paper
32"x36"

OPP: Do you have a favorite piece or series by another artist?

CB: Well I mentioned Fra Angelico’s The Beheading of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damien, but I’d also think Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness by Master of the Osservanza is totally amazing. A contemporary I really enjoy is Johnny Ryan’s on going comic series Prison Pit. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite, but Bob Thompson’s Blue Madonna makes me feel like I am lazy and need to work harder. I’m looking at a lot of Bob Thompson again, and it’s blowing my mind.

OPP: What's your favorite piece of your own work?

CB: As for my own work, I usually just look at it in terms of what I should fix. So I don’t have a favorite. I just have ones that are more painful to look at than others. I know I’m being vague, but the paintings that are more or less painful to me change places every month or so. So, in short, I don’t know.

Say Goodbye To The Mountains 2
2006
Water color, gouache & ink on paper
20"x26"

OPP: You've been showing like crazy these days. Where can people see your work in person right now?

CB: I had a solo show open at Lloyd Dobler last Friday, March 2nd. It’s got a 5 x 10’ diptych in egg tempera and also features selected paintings from 2011 and 2012. The following night I had a group show I’ve curated about personal hell, transformation and struggle, opening at Side Car Gallery in Indiana. It’s entitled They Wore Faces of Red Clay, which is a line from a Mayan poem about death and the afterlife. Since this year is the year the Mayans predicted the world will shit the bed, you should come and see it before you melt into a puddle of blood and tears! The show features six artists, Isak Applin and Shay Degrandis from Chicago, Dan Schank and JJ Pakola-Mayoka from New York, and Iva Gueorguieva and Justin Michell from LA. The work they gave me for the show looks great and truly strange. In a good way.

In June I’m in a group show at Southfirst in Brooklyn, curated by Jesse Bransford entitled That Sinking Sense of Wonder. And in the fall I’m in a group show at the DePaul Museum, a workshop with Isak Applin and Oli Watt at Columbia College, and I’m doing an installation at the Roger Brown House here in Chicago. All three things are curated by Thea Nichols and Dahlia Tulett-Gross. It’s going to be hot! Come see everything!
To view more of Carl Baratta’s work, please visit carlbaratta.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Hope Hilton

The Recognitions: Slave Sights
the main house, Tulip Grove
Tulip Grove, Tennessee
C-print, 30 x 40 inches
2010

HOPE HILTON weaves together stories and journeys in her multimedia events and installations, revealing the spaces where the collective and the personal overlap in relation to history and geography. Hilton curates, collaborates, designs, publishes, writes, and walks. She received her MFA from Hunter College in 2008 and is a co-founder of the artist collective Dos Pestañeos (Atlanta/NYC). Hope Hilton lives and works in Winterville, Georgia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you tell us a little about your development as an artist?

Hope Hilton: I’ve always worn many hats as an artist. That’s one reason I call myself an artist – I can do anything. I write, publish, curate, teach, walk, design, and collaborate, among many other things. In art school I spent a lot of time in printmaking and photography and was seduced by the democratic nature of making multiples. I think it was a natural transition to create experiences, social architecture, websites, and projects that were trying to be open in what they would become. I’ve always believed that art is something we can all enjoy, and the experience should not only be limited to important and expensive works of art. I definitely try and share work that is accessible in a sense, within and outside of institutions.

OPP: What do think of the term relational aesthetics? Do you consider yourself part of this movement or responding to it?

HH: I like the collectivity and connectivity that is implied by relational aesthetics. It is a movement that fulfills a certain postmodern disconnect that many of us feel culture-wise. I do, in fact, want to create experiences to be shared and experiences that bring people together. Because of this, it’s not possible to say I’m not a part of it. I feel, though, that I’m more influenced by it and less a subscriber to it, because I believe my work is driven less by experimenting with people and more by collecting stories and shared experiences that are specific to a place, a history, or, more specifically, the local.

The Recognitions (detail of porch)
2008

OPP: Your ongoing project The Recognitions is an example of this. It explores your personal connection to your family's history of slave owning and takes many forms: photographs, a journey, a series of drawings, an installation and, most recently, the reproduction of a famous quilt. Could you talk a bit about the impetus for this project and how it has evolved?

HH: During graduate school in NYC I received a compilation of my family history from my grandmother for Christmas. In it were pages and pages of wills, letters, and legal documents. What struck me most was that my family had owned slaves. Not all white families in the South owned slaves, and I never had any reason to believe we had, having grown up in a lower-middle-class family. What came as a shock to me soon became my life’s work. I was drawn to a particular story about the birth of my great-great grandmother and a slave named Henry who walked 60 miles, from Alabama to Tennessee, to announce her birth.

The stories about my family have led to other stories, including an interest in the plants that slaves in my county used as medicine. It seems like a natural evolution.
Queensy's Light Root
2011

OPP: Art historically, appropriation as a strategy has served to critique consumer culture as well as the notion of originality. In the DIY world of the internet (via memes and remix video and tumbler blogs), appropriation serves to reveal the complicated ways we make meaning out of cultural material. But your piece The Recognitions: Mrs. Harriet Powers, Bible Quilt appropriates in a very different way. It is a re-creation in paper of a quilt made by a freed slave. Could you describe your intent with this appropriation?

HH: Wow, I haven’t even thought about this project as appropriation. Thanks for making me even think about that. It’s so new, really, that I’m still learning about what I did. To me, it’s more of a reenactment or a re-creation. I was enchanted with her story and her life, and in a way she haunted me. She crept into my dreams and became ever-present in my life. I had to do something about it. I wanted to participate in her labor, to make something that was about her work and stories and her intuition. To be honest, another part of the impetus of re-making the quilt that I kept reading and hearing about was a desire to see it to scale.

OPP: I definitely see your re-creation as a way to honor the original source, rather than to critique it. Can you tell us a little more about the status of the piece?

Working on The Recognitions: Harriet Powers Bible Quilt

HH: It's just finished and is on exhibit for the first time at the Athens Institute of Contemporary Art until April 1st! I worked on it for two months after the idea came to me in response to an invitation to create a new piece of work for the exhibition Southern, curated by Judith McWillie. More often than not, my work is project-based and created for particular exhibitions or projects, so I felt really honored to be included and trusted.

OPP: You’ve also done quite a few events with children as part of this project, right? Could you tell us about some of them?

HH: I teach art to kids every week here in Athens and am particularly in love with their point of view. I've had many silent walks with children present and have made projects (Walk with me) that are accessible to kids, but programming events for kids is new to my practice. I've taught lots of art classes throughout the world to kids, so the experience is not new to me, but curating an event for kids based on my own work has been really delightful and intimidating. Currently I've created events with an art educator named Sage Rogers, and together we made a project for the Athens Institute of Contemporary Art. This week, in fact, I read a story about Harriet Powers (the original quilt-maker), and together we looked at her quilt to see what was there. We then did a tour of the exhibition, talking about each of the works. Lastly, we created our own quilt squares from paper and Mrs. Powers' imagery. It was profound and wonderful.

Walk with me : Georgia (installation)
2008

OPP: Your piece Walk with Me has been performed many times in different locations. You've led participants on silent walks in Georgia, San Francisco, and Boston. How do participants respond to the silence? Are their experiences on the walk documented? How do you determine if a walk is successful?

HH: Not everyone loves silence like I do, so I’ve definitely taken walks with participants that had to really put in a huge effort (thanks, Dad) and participants who put forth no effort. The walks are not documented as it’s very important to me that attention is paid. It’s impossible to determine or have a scale of success. Every walk I make is a success just because it happens. Ha!

OPP: What's an average day in your studio like? What part of your practice do you enjoy the most?

HH: I consider my practice post-studio, though I do have a wonderful studio to work in once a project is born. My front porch is the best place to have ideas. When I’m in my studio without a particular project, I spend a lot of time staring out the window and thinking or just watching the horses in the field across the holler. I'm more inspired by communing with what's around me, with my dreams, and with the idea of slowing down. If "slow art" were a term like "slow food,” that would be me. While I embrace technology I'm always wanting to slow down, to appreciate and learn from history, and to spend time with nature. I call myself a New-transcendentalist, which may sound old-fashioned but seems to be happening more and more, at least in the South. A return to our roots, our land, our independence, and our happiness. I'm always seeking the beautiful, and believe that hard work is just as important as a walk in the fields. That dedication to the invisible is just as important as the here and now. In this regard my studio is everywhere.

Georgia Tattoo
2007
tattoo

OPP: It sounds like where you live is truly integral to the work you make.

HH: When I moved to NYC for graduate school, I had no intention of returning to Georgia, where I was born and raised. After a move to San Francisco to teach, I really felt that I was too far away from my investigations and inspirations. Inspired in part by Lucy Lippard's The Lure of the Local and by my work pulling me back, I returned to land of my roots. This quote often reminds me why:

"Travel is the only context in which some people ever look around. If we spent half the energy looking at our own neighborhoods, we’d probably learn twice as much." - Lucy R. Lippard (On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place)

To view more of Hope Hilton’s work, please visit hopehilton.com.

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.