Untitled lure (raspberry & blue), detail
OtherPeoplesPixels: Your body of work contains two dominant modes of production: paper collage, as in Horizon Utopias, Paper Lures, and Tiny Utopias, and assemblage-based sculpture, as in Lures and Nets. What's similar about these different media? What's different?Anne Roecklein:
Whether I’m working two- or three-dimensionally, I work with found images and objects, because they have had a life before I find them. I’m interested in the conceptual, historical, and physical residues that materials bring with them. I can recombine and leverage these materials in new and meaningful ways.
Both the assembled Lures
and the collaged Paper Lures
explore physical as well as conceptual aspects of fishing lures. Why are certain colors and shapes, such as the form of an egg cluster, so appealing? What does it mean to put something out there that will attract what you want? The assembled Lures
are made with materials from actual fishing lures, faux flowers, plastic aquarium plants, and cast hot glue—materials that attempt to replicate nature, but don’t quite succeed. The elements for the Paper Lures
come from health, biology, and embryology textbooks, as well as cookbooks—sources that deal with different kinds of potential and fulfillment. Here, I’m interested in the mini-tragedies of discarded books, and I’m using the visual vocabulary of science to address some questions about biological desires.
So, these different modes of production are addressing similar questions but coming from different directions with different processes and material associations.
Untitled Paper Lure
Collage on paper
18" x 24"OPP:
From a strictly process-oriented perspective, what body of work is your favorite? Which did you enjoy working on the most? AR:
The Paper Lures
are my favorites right now, which could be partly because this is some of the newest work. It’s still shiny and new to me. These pieces evolved out of the assembled Lures
so they’re rooted in the same ideas, but the paper pieces are less about materiality and are a little more formal. I spend a lot of time exploring subtle color relationships. Sometimes it almost goes to a nerdy extreme, but this is an area where I find pleasure in my studio practice. I also spend a lot of time with scissors making this work; it’s contemplative, until I get hand cramps.
I’m currently working on a new version of Constant Lake
that’s over twelve feet long. This is pushing some scale boundaries for me, which is exciting. OPP:
In your statement, you say that your work focuses on our desires. What do our desires say about the world we live in? AR:
Desire is the central topic of my work. It’s also a jumping off point from which I explore related ideas like possibility, wistfulness, longing, and need. I’m looking at the world around us through the lenses of biological desires, desires involving objects, and desires for the unattainable. Investigating these topics can tell us so much; desires are what motivate us to take action. They elucidate our relationships with what we find pleasurable. They may drive some neurological pathways dealing with learning and reward. Processing or not processing desires can have a lot to do with individual happiness or frustration.
Pop Song, detailOPP:
Collage on paper
How is collage particularly apt as a medium to address issues of desire?AR:
Collage and assemblage are processes that I have chosen very deliberately for this work. They embody fragmentation, hybridization, and appropriation. They are perfect vehicles for addressing desire in a world where images and objects overwhelm our lives and spaces and where consumerism is presented to us as the fastest path to satisfaction.
These processes are especially well suited to creating fictions that escape the everyday. The individual components are like little “facts,” but when they’re added up and recombined, you get a rubric in which every element is potentially relevant to every other element. This creates countless parallel narratives. When you work with found objects, there is a weird sense that these are “real” objects, because they come from the world and not from art. So when you combine images into an impossible landscape, for example, the viewer is constantly suspended between what is possible and what is impossible. Collage is perfect media for dealing with nostalgia or the longing for utopian places that are simultaneously perfect and nonexistent. OPP
: I, personally, find both the paper and sculptural Lures
very visually compelling. They do pull me in, like a fish on a line, and leave me wanting more. In that sense, when looking at them, I engage directly with my desire to possess one. But on the other hand, looking is enough. I notice my desire, and I become aware of pleasure of looking as I contemplate the work. I see your work as an opportunity to contemplate seductiveness and desire through the decorative. Is this a common response? AR:
Yes, that’s it! Sometimes I wonder whether making work about wanting impossible ideals is indulgent daydreaming or a way of curbing my own desires. Perhaps making an object or image about something I cannot have is a way of neutralizing the longing for it. And other times, I find I just need certain things to be possible. It does not matter if those things can’t be real or can’t be mine or are highly unlikely—I just want them to be possible, and it’s through my studio practice that this can happen. OPP:
Are viewers ever dismissive of the content of your work, because of its seductive, eye-candy quality?
AR: I have encountered a few viewers who have been a little dismissive about some of the over-the-top aesthetics in works like Popsong or the Lures like the one covered in pink flocking. I was asked once if “something that is pink and fuzzy can be serious” and my answer was and still is “of course.” Our culture is full of eye candy, and dismissing seductive, opulent, or even campy ornamentation is a missed opportunity for deep understanding.
Your most recent collages from the series Rustbelt
are very different in their source material and overall composition. It looks like you are using scientific graphs and illustration, maybe from textbooks or manuals of some kind. How does this new work differ from the Horizon Utopias made with old postcards and the Lures
, made with images of plant life? AR:
The images and objects I make can be organized into three categories that address desire from multiple directions: strategies, spaces, and systems. The Lures
(both collaged and assembled) and Nets
are in the strategies category—they’re about tools of desire. The Speculative Plans
and Tiny Utopias
are in the spaces category—they’re exploring amalgamated landscapes and the longing we have for more perfect places.
The new Rustbelt
series and older pieces like System with Yellow Tubes
, If you can graph it, then it’s true
are in the systems category—these pieces are exploring the desire we have for knowledge and the need we have for things to work. I’m looking at very broad areas like science and statistics—methods for acquiring information. I’m interested in the optimistic promise of these activities and their inevitable disappointing breakdown. Ideas like the scientific method suggest that, if we’re careful and organized in our research, we’ll arrive at useful and correct answers. But this isn’t always true.OPP:
Where did your interest in this new source material come from? How do these technical drawings play into your overall project about Desire?AR:
I’ve spent the last seven years living in Michigan, Indiana, Pittsburgh, and now western Massachusetts—areas often associated with “the Rustbelt”. The pieces in this series are new, and I’m obliquely exploring how places like the rustbelt used to function. These pieces include things like batteries that don’t connect to anything, light bulbs on dysfunctional circuits, and graphs that don’t really tell us anything. The functional circuits or data are lost. It’s now about the aesthetic information, which is a different kind of truth and a different kind of answer.
To view more of Anne Roecklein’s work visit anneroecklein.net.