tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:/posts OtherPeoplesPixels Blog 2015-10-09T04:23:04Z OPP tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/914454 2015-10-08T15:21:29Z 2015-10-09T04:23:04Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ramekon O-Arwisters
With the Wind
52"H x 86"W x 9"D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPP: Tell us about the history of Crochet Jam.

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

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

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

Crochet Jam
African American Art and Culture Complex, San Francisco

OPP: How has the project evolved over the years?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about Ramekon and Crochet Jam, please visit crochetjam.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/911730 2015-10-01T12:26:32Z 2015-10-01T12:26:32Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Yikui Gu
Tip Toeing in My Jordans
Oil and acrylic on canvas
36 x 26 inches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't be a Dick
In-progress painting

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

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

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

To see more of Yikui's work, please visit yikuigu.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/907681 2015-09-24T17:00:00Z 2015-10-08T15:24:54Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Lee Lee Chan
Cluster (detail view)
Styrofoam, aqua-resin, aluminum, found brick, metal rod, paper collages, acrylic paint and pastel
50 x 15 x 11 inches

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

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

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

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

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

Acrylic and oil paint on canvas
11 x 14 inches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPP:  What role does reflection play in your work?

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

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

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

To see more of Lee Lee's work, please visit leeleechan.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/906182 2015-09-17T12:34:57Z 2015-09-17T12:34:57Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Adam Matak
The Peripatetic Life of Sandow
MFA Thesis Exhibition

ADAM MATAK employs decidedly mundane media—BIC pens, graffiti markers and rubber stamps— to complicate notions of cultural value. His allegorical paintings of museum goers, for example, use the style of comics to question our always-changing relationship to esteemed art objects. Adam recently graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and was named by the Boston Globe as one of the six Boston grads to watchSome Assembly Required, a three-person show organized by Adam, closed recently at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. His work will be included in an upcoming group exhibition  featuring five accomplished Ontario-based artists. The (as yet untitled) show opens in January 2016 at the Thames Art Gallery. Adam lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario.
OtherPeoplesPixels: Why are acrylic and graffiti marker the ideal media for you?
Adam Matak: These media allow me to work largely and quickly. When I started using the markers, there were very few options. It wasn’t until around 2002 that paint markers began being available and offered many more approaches. They not only helped me get ideas out quicker, but really fueled themes often present in my work: the confusion between the artificial and the real, old rubbing against the now.
I also feel more comfortable drawing with a tool that I do not have to recharge. And there is something very contemporary about holding the plastic body of a drawing tool like a marker. Much of our environment is plastic. Technology is plastic. Newness is plastic. Plastic paint and plastic tools feel right for me, especially when addressing contemporary views of historic objects.

Acrylic & graffiti marker on canvas
48"x 60"

OPP: What role does style play in your practice, formally and conceptually? I'm thinking both of the historic flourishes of the fleur-de-lys in Ornaments, as well as your graphic style of painting, which references comics.
AM: There is a playfulness in my palette and style. This can be both disarming and welcoming. It is also obviously not real, like the signage for a carnival or an amusement park. Actually, some of the embellishments you are referring to are derived from old variety shows and circus wagons, whereas others come from baroque cathedrals.

The style I use reveals a fiction that is taking place. I classicize my sourced images and finish them with real definitive line work much like a comic or cartoon. I exaggerate the colour and often the poses of the character; both become too inflated to be mimicking reality. These references to the comic, the cartoon or graphic let the viewer know there is some kind of narrative at play. Very rarely are these narrative art forms based in the non-fiction.

For me that aesthetic is very plastic and very slick, like many of the material things we are drawn to. An interesting friction happens when this slick aesthetic is used to depict historical stories we may otherwise consider “facts.” This can be the notion of a grand narrative in art history, stories we have of Founding Fathers or stories that teach us morals or virtues.

1975 Twenty
BIC pen on paper
24" x 18"

OPP: That makes me think of your series Objects of Value. What’s the fiction represented in your bic pen drawings of Canadian currency and Canadian politicians?

AM: I stayed pretty faithful to the bills and portraits when completing this series. I didn’t stylize them like my painted works. For me, the tension lies in the use of the the BIC pen, a ubiquitous tool, to create works of reified figures and objects that not only hold value, but a nation’s imagined culture. In the 80s, we had birds on the backs of our bills, then hockey players and now public monuments. . . all those things are full of meaning, but the cheapness of the pen helps propose multiple interpretations of those images.

The Value of Belief
Acrylic & Graffiti Marker on Canvas
60"x 48"

OPP: In your series Museum Studies, works like Philistine, The Scholar and The Critic refer to experiences of insecurity, apathy, misdirected attention and hubris as they relate to art viewing. But across the board, almost no one—except in Common Grave and Diptych (Amsterdam)— is actually looking at the art. Are these paintings metaphors for individual experiences of art or allegories of collective culture values?

AM: I see the paintings as active characters unto themselves. They are surrogates or stand-ins for stories, people, periods of time and specific values.
A few years back I started hearing NBA owners refer to players as “pieces,” as in “we have acquired a few new pieces in this off season which should complete our team.” I was struck by how dehumanizing that was, and also how the players’ value was related to how they fit in with other players. In my painting, The Value of Belief, I used an image from the newspaper of an NBA General Manager and his coaching staff to be the evaluators of works of art. The works in the background are Dutch paintings, one by Vermeer and the other by a Vermeer forger, Han van Meegeren. The van Meegeren is very interesting, as the value of the painting has changed since it was discovered that it was in fact not a Vermeer. It’s a painting of the story of the Supper at Emmaus, where an incognito Jesus reveals himself, during a meal, as the resurrected saviour. The meaning of the conversations and the meal instantly change. Here, value is revealed as extremely relational through the figures and the art objects that surround them.
I am enthralled with the idea of meaning of cultural objects changing over time. That series explores that conceptual space. Since studying (and living) in Boston, I have become obsessed with public monuments, what they used to mean and what meaning they have today. That heavily influenced my thesis show.

Harvard Lion Arch
Rubber stamp ink drawing

OPP: Tell us about your thesis show.

AM: My thesis show at the Boston Center for the Arts relied the most on audience participation of any of my previous work. I wanted to take advantage of the sheer volume of people that would walk through the space opening night. I think about 1200 people came to the opening, which makes it difficult for more intimate work to be appreciated. I created this giant, heroic male nude on a monumental pedestal. I ramped up his perceived importance with elaborate embellishments around him, like a niche. The figure was tethered to a rope and viewers were invited to topple the hero, leaving the niche empty for the viewer. With the empty niche, some people began taking selfies, ornamenting themselves as the people of value. However, when the rope was released, the hero magically returned to his position of power. Those that ventured into the niche saw the back of the figure and pedestal, which revealed the hydraulics and exposed the trick.

For the less active, I created mirrored works to draw the viewers in, and again be ornamented. In both cases, people could replace reified objects with themselves.

Object of Virtue
Acrylic & graffiti marker on wood & mirror
34"x 38"

OPP: You completed your BFA in 2002 and earned a Bachelor of Education in 2004. But you didn't go on to pursue an MFA until 2013. What led you to return to school after a decade of successful solo exhibitions? Do you think more artists should wait before heading to graduate school?
AM: The art world had changed so drastically in that time—perhaps because of the internet—in terms of the way people were making art, consuming art and teaching art. I wanted to unpack a lot of that in returning to school.

For me it was a classic case of needing to know what I didn’t know, so I could go to a place asking the right questions. I had also become too comfortable with the way I was making, and I was a bit worried about that. Grad school allowed me to dig deeper into my ideas and to see what I could produce in this new arena if I gave my art some undivided attention.
I’m not sure about timing of graduate school for others. I find that is always going to vary. But I do believe those considering grad school know what they want to get out of it and be aware if the institution they chose can provide what they want.

To see more of Adam's work, please visit adammatak.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/903385 2015-09-10T12:44:44Z 2015-09-10T12:49:28Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Austin Sheppard
All That Glitters (detail)
Mixed media

AUSTIN SHEPPARD's mixed media sculptures and drawings are self-reflective and phenomenological in the sense that he begins from his personal experiences as an individual. But through the vehicle of the human figure, he also explores the shared human condition by expressing emotional experiences like anxiety, anguish, endurance and resilience. Austin earned his BFA in Studio Art from University of North Carolina, Pembroke in 2007 and his MFA in Sculpture from East Carolina University in 2010. In 2013, he was a finalist in the Young Sculptors Competition for the William and Dorothy Yeck Award at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In 2014 Austin exhibited in Lilliputians March at Purdue University and was an Artist in Residence at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Previously, he's been an Artist-in-Residence at Franconia Sculpture Park (2010), Salem Art Works (2011) and has participated in International Sculpture Symposia in the UK, Finland, Costa Rica and Latvia. Austin lives and works in Davidson, North Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your statement, you talk about your work growing out of a personal narrative, but do you think of your work as self-portraiture?

Austin Sheppard: All of my current work is either a literal self-portrait, or it is designed specifically for me to wear, which serves to alter or enhance my perception of self. While this may seem egotistical or vain, it’s simply the work of a strict individualist and self-reliant person. My work is simultaneously a diary and a therapist, and a perpetual attempt to firmly establish an identity. Its somewhat ambiguous nature (as the viewer is concerned) is a reflection of my difficulties with expressing my emotions to others.

Apocrypha (Unread Letters)
23K Gold leaf, mixed media
30" x 22"

OPP: Words that come time mind when looking at the facial expressions of your sculptures and drawings are anxiety, anguish, angst. Is one more accurate than the others from your point of view?

AS: I would say they are all equally applicable. I think a lot about the struggles of navigating life as a human, particularly when it involves interaction with others. I think many of us go through periods where our minds are filled with regret, second-guesses and thoughts of missed opportunities. I try to constantly remind myself that these times are temporary, like seasons, and they are also a natural part of life. Though the work seems filled with negativity, the anticipations of better times are tucked away in there, too.

OPP: But you definitely don’t explore the joyous seasons in your work. How come?

AS: Oh, they are there, just in a more subtle way. For example, if I say there's a "dry season," that implies the existence of a wet season. When Winter is at its coldest, we know that Spring will be coming soon. If I present an empty birdhouse, we think of next Spring when the birds may return. I put indicators of these things in the work, but it's up to the viewer to pick up on them.

I will concede that by presenting these seasons in a more desperate manner, we suddenly find ourselves in a holding pattern or a waiting cycle. I think a lot about unfulfilled hopes, the danger of lingering too long and trying to decide when it's time to let go.

Model C

OPP: Your figurative sculptures often evoke torture devices. Often, the body is pierced, as in Model C, or disembodied mouths, hands and heads are treated as relics. While I do read this as metaphoric, I'm curious if horror movies are an influence for you?

AS: You’re close! I was raised on Sci-Fi films and TV. Trippy stuff. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Ridley Scott’s early films, and Guillermo del Toro’s work are among the most personally influential.  Metropolis, Alien, Blade Runner all have a sense of struggle at their core, which is really what my work is all about. They all explore the darkest corners of the human psyche in a variety of ways. The main characters navigate their way through this setting while questioning their assumptions about themselves and others. Another major influence is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which is my favorite book of all time. The title character must confront his dark side in the form of a monster of his own making. This is a direct correlation to the way I perceive my work as I'm producing it and my primary motivation for making it.

I also just enjoy sci-fi visuals. Del Toro's work is pure eye candy. The elves from Hellboy 2 were really great, and they relate to the seasons that have appeared in some of my work. A new favorite is George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road. Gorgeous color pallet, and the costumes are outrageous, but in a very practical way. I've started to look at a lot of this stuff as I'm becoming increasingly interested in making wearable work.

Cathedral 3

OPP: Could you talk about the Cathedral pieces from 2009? What is being worshiped?

AS: The pursuit of Knowledge. As a kid, I would go visit my grandfather, and he always had a cathedral radio sitting on his workbench. It was a relic of the days when he owned a radio repair business before the war. My Grandpa always taught me to never stop learning. . . and the recurring motif of the cathedral relates to this notion. In my work, this idea is slowly evolving from a personal challenge into the burden of the ceaseless desire for improvement. The idea of never quite being good enough relates back to the anxiety, anguish and angst.

Split Decision
Cast iron
Figure is life-size

OPP: To me, “the burden of the ceaseless desire for improvement” seems like a collective problem exacerbated by our culture. What do you think?

AS: It depends on how you define "improvement.” I think most of us don't really know how to find a sense of fulfillment. TV says we need a new car or a larger house; this is really a form of societal peer pressure. So we have learned to equate "more" with improvement, which is problematic in my opinion. I think every individual should define the concept of improvement for themselves. That's what I'm trying to do through my art; I'm trying to figure out what improvement means for me.

OPP: What's the role of isolation in your work?

AS: It’s a beginning, a middle and an end. It serves as inspiration, response and subject matter. There is certainly a precedent to the idea that isolation breeds creativity, and my most recent work in particular deals with the ramifications of this practice. David Bowie sang about it in Sound and Vision, and of course the Buddha was said to have reached enlightenment only after a great period of isolated reflection. 

To see more of Austin's work, please visit austinsheppard.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/900957 2015-09-03T14:07:21Z 2015-10-08T15:25:13Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Daniel Kornrumpf
Coy Gu
Oil on canvas
42" x 48"

DANIEL KORNRUMPF's oil paintings of close friends and family members and embroideries of strangers found on social media remind us to consider the intimacy and agency of looking and being looked at. While the paintings harken back to the tradition of sitting for a portrait, in which there is a tangible interaction between the artist and the subjects, the embroideries hint at the disembodied way his subjects present themselves online: they know they're being seen, but never experience the Gaze directly. Daniel earned his BFA in 2005 from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and MFA in 2007 from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. His solo exhibition Observing Energies opened at Emmanuel College in Boston in January 2015. Daniel is represented by Blank Space Gallery in New York. He lives in Berkley, Massachusetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Portraiture is one of the very oldest genres of art. Why is it still relevant today?

Daniel Kornrumpf: Portraiture remains relevant for so many reasons. The human figure is a recognizable, universally relatable subject, no matter how realistic or minimally abstract the person is depicted. Through fashion and through the application of material, portraits can speak to the zeitgeist of a certain era. Portraits will continue to be relevant as long as they offer some record or document that speaks to the time period in which they were created. The most interesting portraits tell more about the artists who created them and their way of seeing than about the personality or likeness of the individual they’re depicting.

Austin Texas
Hand embroidered on canvas (detail)
42" x 36"

OPP: You paint portraits and embroider them. What's the distinction for you in terms of subject? Who becomes an embroidered portrait versus a painted one?

DK: I was trained as an observational painter, and I would ask friends of mine to come and sit in my studio to pose for a painting. As I eventually started to run out of friends, thoughts about other ways to represent the figure entered into my work. In my down time between models, I began drawing people’s portraits from their social media profile photos. I started to think about the ways in which people are connected online and felt that embroidery thread could be a powerful metaphor for this idea of connectedness. The thread of the portrait is the same as the thread of the linen that it is woven in to.

The portraits that I choose to embroider are from images that I have found through countless hours of viewing online profiles, saving photos of people I find attractive, humorous, overly vain or compelling to me in some subjective way. I have never met any of the people I have embroidered. They are all strangers. My desire to connect with these virtual people compels the act of making something physical, an object, developed over time where a different, internal connection has been formed from something intangible.

The people I choose to paint, however, are my close, personal friends and family members. The act of sitting in a room with someone, having conversations that take place over multiple sessions, all while building a painting, is an experience that forces me to slow down and be present, creating a state of awareness that I don’t reach in any other of my other daily experiences.

no mold gold teeth
Hand embroidered on linen (with detail)
42" x 36"

OPP: This brings up issues of intimacy and agency. When you ask your friends and family to sit for a portrait, they can say no. Do you ask permission to use the likeness of the compelling strangers you find online?

DK: No, I don't ask for permission beforehand. But I have, once the embroidery is finished, sent the person an image of the work. I expect them to be slightly creeped out or confused, but they've always been impressed and grateful, asking me to let them know when or where it will be exhibited.

OPP: Could you talk about the ratio of image scale to canvas scale in the embroidered portraits?

DK: The choice to create small portraits floating in the centers of large stretched canvases was to give the viewer a bit of context as to where the images came from; that it was not only a photographic reference, but one that was appropriated from online. The heads float like computer icons in a non-space similar to that of the computer screen. I also wanted to call attention to the linen as a material, not simply as an armature but as a woven surface, made up of individual threads, similar to the portrait. In addition, the space around the heads help to pull the viewer in to the work, allowing a closer inspection of the more intimate details without the distractions of the edge or supporting wall. 

Dena with her purse (in process)
Oil on canvas

OPP: Empty space also shows up in your painted works. In pieces like Mr. David Lasley (2012), Tom (2007) and Dena with Arms Crossed (2007), the figures are not completely painted in. On the one hand, I think about your conscious decision as the painter to "not finish." But it also reads like the color has been drained from the person or that the figure is disappearing in some places. How do you think about the transparency in these pieces?

DK: The unpainted areas in the paintings do a few different things for me. For one, there is a “matter-of-factness” to some of the outcomes. For instance, in the painting Tom (2007), he could only pose for two hours, so what is shown is all I was able to get on the canvas in that window of time. I enjoy that element of urgency and spontaneity, and it showcases what I find to be priority in a portrait.

I also value artists that let you see their process in their paintings like Paul Cezanne, Alice Neel, or George Baselitz. The unpainted areas in my work allows the viewer to see the tricks or steps that go into creating an image: the evidence of drawing, the correcting or restating of a pose or gesture. They also create moments for visual rest or places to “breathe” in the painting. I find that when I make paintings that cover the entire surface, it not only hides my process but removes some of the life in the painting, zapping some of that spontaneous energy that I’m trying to preserve.

Ben Bois
Oil on canvas

OPP: What's going on in your studio right now? Any new work in progress?

DK: I just completed an eight month fellowship at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts that ended in June. It was a very productive year and I was able to make new paintings and reconnect with friends that I haven’t seen in awhile. I have a few exhibitions in the works this winter, one at Simmons College in Boston and one in Cambridge, Massachusetts, both of which will be exhibiting some new embroideries that I have recently started. My work is represented through Blank Space Gallery in New York so if you are interested in owning one of my pieces please contact them and please check back soon for some new work on my website. And thank you to OPP for creating an easy to use, professional looking platform to showcase what I make!

To see more of Daniel's work, please visit danielkornrumpf.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/897679 2015-08-27T17:00:00Z 2015-10-08T15:26:24Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kristen Schiele
Love and Eternity (detail)
38"x 44"
Acrylic, silkscreen, oil on canvas

KRISTEN SCHIELE is inspired by "stage sets, cinema, folklore, allegory, kitsch, and storytelling." Her paintings and sculptures combine color and pattern with appropriated silkscreened images from films and magazines. The result is frenetic and tumultuous surface intensity that belies the complexity of the interwoven stories of youth culture. Kristen earned her BFA from Indiana University in Bloomington and her MFA from American University in Washington, D.C. and went on to study at Hochschule Der Kunste in Berlin. Her work is a currently on view in Summer Mixer, a group show at Joshua Liner Gallery (New York City). Upcoming group exhibitions include Your Bad Self at Arts and Leisure Gallery (New York) and An Odyssey at Torrence Art Museum in California, both opening in September. OOOT MMMMM, a silkscreen book collaboration with Abe Smith published by Kayrock Screenprinting, will be available at the Printed Matter Book Fair at PS1 MOMA in New York City (September 17-19, 2015). Kristen lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Pattern features prominently in your work, but so does the figure. . . how do the two relate to one another?

Kristen Schiele: I paint to tell stories, usually inspired by books, film and memories. The figure is either in the work or is the viewer seeing the work. In the same way a graphic novelist designs the page to tell a story, I use pattern as a framing element. Giotto would break up stories with intricate panels and borders in order to make the stories ornate and to lead the viewer. I'm obsessed with researching patterns in any books I can find. Carl Jung talked about ancient, primal, universal language, and since every culture has created pattern and design, there is something of this universal, primal language in pattern and symmetry.

Halston disco
27"x 36"

OPP: Tell us about a particular go-to pattern and what you’ve learned about it in your research.

KS: I love geometric patterns: German, Swiss, Finnish, Swedish, Russian 1920s-1950s era. In the 1950s, the Marimekko and later 1970s California pattern designers did something amazing from the 1920s French design work of simplified, large scale patterns. But no pattern is a go-to pattern. I'd say love of the diagonal brings me to the Chevron pattern, as in the painting Melanie Malone. It mirrors the space.

OPP: Can you talk about layers in your work, both literally and figuratively?

KS: I have always loved to allow simultaneous readings in my work, and I probably think of too many things at once. Rather than make a reduced, perfect image, I layer work so the viewer is in several places at once. I often work from unruly, meticulously cut piles of collage material from hundreds of vintage magazines, books or movie screen shots. I start from the collages, drawing in the work, painting in acrylic paint, or sometimes adding layers of silkscreen. Silkscreened images can sit on the surface, but a viewer can see through them and cannot miss their shape and meaning—like in the newspaper or  Lichtenstein and Warhol pieces. I often go one more layer of color or use oil at the end, as it is dense and sits on the surface.

Disco Sucks
34"x 36"
Acrylic on board

OPP: The layers of pattern give me a little bit of a voyeuristic feeling, like I’m looking through blinds or curtains to see what’s happening behind them. In some more recent pieces, like Halston Disco and Disco Sucks, that feeling is especially strong. There’s the visual attraction of the pattern and color, and then there’s the frustration of having my view obstructed and having to push past it to see the story. Thoughts?

KS: I do like the idea of a journey or voyeurism. I like there to be a journey in layers rather than the amazing, Japanese elegance of pictorial design and flattening of space. I think more in terms of a video game going front to back. Halston Disco is from the 70s/ Studio 54 era, and Disco Sucks is an image from a vintage Easy Rider magazine of a 70s biker, with his slogan T-shirt and adorable could-be-a-guy-in-Williamsburg, Brooklyn look. I pretty much smashed disco cuteness on cool people. I'm making myself laugh, essentially, and spending tons of hours on individual-taped off squares of color. In a similar piece Tiga, the aggressive, silkscreened image of a tiger is the negative space in what is really, a painted quilt of pattern. I like to play with what I think is masculine authority and give sweetness or craft the authority.

38"x 44"
Acrylic on canvas

OPP: In what ways have you been influenced by stage sets, cinema and the theater?

KS: My first experiences of being deeply moved by art were watching the stop animation movies by Czech masters of the 1930s, like Berthold Bartosch’s L'Idee or Dada films, which also influenced Chilean director Jodorowsky. These artists create poetic space for a story, with pieces of bedrooms or houses, dense color and abstractions. This informs how I create space in my work. For me, the bedroom should include the dark sky and moon if you are, say, thinking of the lead character reading her husband's diary in Ingmar Bergman's film Hour of the Wolf. In the painting Futurismo, for example, there is a figure in the foreground, eating and reading an Italian Futurism manifesto. She is in her bedroom, but the moon and the suburban house are there as well.

OPP: Are the characters you are influenced by archetypes? How often do viewers “get” your cinematic references and does it matter if they don’t?

KS: Archetypes can be found in everyone, and I think about them a lot. No one needs to get a cinema reference, but I usually include the reference in the title or on the backs of the work. If I choose an image from a movie, it is the greater story or meaning that draws me in, so referencing the specific movie is just to pass on the appreciation of what an artist was seeing. I see something in it myself, then pass it on to you.

Spirit Girls
Lu Magnus Gallery

OPP: You've made sculpture and installation work before, but it seems that you broke out of the rectangle, as it specifically relates to painting, in your most recent solo show Spirit Girls at Lu Magnus Gallery. Is this a new direction for you or was it specific to this body of work? What led you there?

KS: This was the first time I installed patterned, colored strips of wood. There were paintings on cut wood panels and some works on canvas. The installation and panels were not a new approach but more like combining groups of sculptural work I've made on layers of painted wood and taking it linear. The show was specific to the Spirit Girls theme. I was literally allowing myself to be super happy and free. I installed the wood patterned strips free-form all the way up and around a two story wall, and I allowed the panels to be in shapes and parts. I had not done that before because I was holding to the tradition of the rectangle-painting space. In the studio now I am pushing more literally into theatrical space. I am printing patterns on fabrics and draping them into a space. The space is a stage I'm setting up for live drawing in a group of artists, and I will see how far I push the next installation.

Berlin Girl
38"x 45"
Silkscreen, acrylic on canvas

OPP: You exhibit all over the world. Tell us a story about a great experience exhibiting outside of the U.S.

KS: I love showing in Berlin. An opening there means underground bar late nights, a mural painting at 2 am, an art and clothes trade, long talks (trying not to be suffocated by cigarette smoke) and finding new books. The city inspired me to make a studio cooperative in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in order to keep my Brooklyn community as tight. I have old friends in Berlin. We grew up in our 20s together, and they are inspiring with fashion, music, film and painting. Berlin is less expensive, and the government has protections for rent stabilization. I wish we would do the same here in New York. I plan on staying in amazing Brooklyn and going back to spending my summers making work in Berlin. It's ideal!

To see more of Kristen's work, please visit kschiele.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/895077 2015-08-20T17:00:00Z 2015-08-21T16:52:19Z A few tips from someone who looks at A LOT of artist portfolio sites

Over the last three years of interviewing artists for the OPP blog, I've reviewed hundreds, maybe thousands of portfolio sites. I approach all the interviews as an artist interviewing an artist. I don't think of myself as an art writer or a critic. But I have a wealth of experience navigating artist websites from the point of view of a person who wants to get an overview of each artist's work. So I've decided to share some tips about the user experience of your websites. Below are tips that are based on my personal experience looking at artwork online, and everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

Tip #1: DON'T isolate images with no context

As an artist, I know that we often want to control the viewer experience of our paintings, sculptures, photographs, etc. But a portfolio site is not the same as a gallery. You may want a lot of physical space around a particular work in a gallery, but our attention works differently when looking at work online. If you want to control the order that a viewer looks at your images, I recommend the new side-scrolling galleries. They are perfect for photo essays, for example. But I don't recommend setting your site up so that I have to click through every image to get to a particular piece of work. This is frustrating when I've looked at all the work but want to go back to a particular piece.

If you haven't switched over to New Thing, consider it. As a person trying to quickly get a sense of whether or not I want to interview any particular artist, I'm thrilled about being able to see whole images instead of thumbnails all on one page. It makes my job SO MUCH easier. It's a thrill to get a quick view of a particular project or exhibition in one fell swoop. It allows me to see threads that run through an artist's work very quickly. It doesn't mean I don't look closer. I always do, but with a sense of context.

Tip #2: DON'T over-nest

Yes, one great thing about OPP is the ease with which we can organize our work. It's great to be able to divide work into specific projects, exhibitions and media. But I highly recommend using the nesting option with discernment. Clicking into a folder that has one work and having to click back out to get back to other work frustrates my viewing experience. I believe I have more patience than the average person online and a longer attention span, so if I'm getting frustrated enough to stop investigating work, I KNOW others stopped long before. If you have folders with less than five images, consider putting these images somewhere else on your site.

Tip #3: DO include a statement about your work

Many artists HATE writing statements about their work. They say that the work should speak for itself. Or they don't want to limit the experience of the viewer, but honestly, stop worrying about that. You won't. Think about it this way: many viewers will disregard your text, but those that seek to write about you or may want to contact you for a studio visit want to do their research before reaching out. Everyone is a little afraid of looking stupid. Remember when you were in art school and you sometimes didn't say something in critique because you were afraid of looking stupid? Writers, curators and collectors sometimes feel the same way.

Also, there are times when I look at work, and I am very aware of my own viewing biases. Like every human, I have preferences and ideas that I believe—confirmation bias is real. I may see something in your work that you didn't intend. I may view your work through a feminist lens or a spiritual lens or a political lens, so it helps me to understand how you see your work. Most viewers want to know your intention, even if they choose see the work in a different way.

To be really frank (with the intention of helping), a lack of statement always reads to me as unprofessional, like an artist doesn't really know what they are doing. If you think you are a bad writer or don't know how to articulate about your own work, I recommend soliciting help. Ask friends and peers to talk about your work to you. What do they see? How do they understand what you are doing? Sometimes you just need help finding the right words for what you already know to be true.

If you still don't know exactly what you want to say about your work, consider stating what informs the work you make, including theoretical, art-historical, personal or cultural influences. I also find it really illuminating when artists address why they choose the materials they choose or say something about their process. Your statement doesn't have to be long or even perfect, but even a few sentence about your intent is valuable. Please write something.

Tip #4: DO include media, dates and dimensions, especially for 2D work

Many viewers, especially writers and curators will want to get a sense of your development over time. That's one of the major benefits of looking at an artist's work online—I get to see how the work has changed and it allows me to see which formal and thematic concerns disappear and reappear over time. You know your work so well, that you may forget what it's like for a random viewer to stumble on your site through a link. Sometimes I encounter work and can't tell if the work is a photograph or a sculpture. Painting sometimes looks like drawing. Collage sometimes looks like digital photography. Especially difficult to make sense of online is wearable art or performance documented in photography. Remember all work online (except video and web art) IS encountered as photography, so be clear when it is something else.

Tip #5: DO include detail shots!!!!!

I can't emphasize this enough. Especially if your work is three-dimensional or has a lot of small parts. Especially if the texture of your work is a wonder to behold. I've seen some amazing work that begs me to look closer, but the artist hasn't included details. Some of it is work that I will probably never have the opportunity to see in person. The wonder of the internet is that you can show me the exact spot of the detailed surface that you want me to see.The point of a portfolio site is to communicate about your work, so please give me all the details I want.

Tip #6: DO update regularly

I would recommend updating your site after every new project or exhibition. I've reviewed so many sites which have interesting work, but it's from 2011. Sometimes, I can't tell if the artist is still practicing or not. As an interviewer, I want to know what has been made in the last two years. I imagine the same goes for curators, writers and collectors who look at your site.You might be missing out on opportunities you aren't even aware of because your site is out of date.

Tip #7: DO include an updated CV and short bio

I want to represent the artists I interview as they want to be represented. In my experience, most writers, critics and curators will value the information you provide about your work. They may have their own interpretations, criticisms and experiences of your work, but I don't believe they want to misrepresent you. It's true that many writers these days don't check their facts. Or they use the internet to fact check and sometimes confirm incorrectly based on errors on gallery websites and other postings. I've had works of mine factually misrepresented numerous times. But for those of us that do check our facts, make it easier for us to find information about you and your work on your own site.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/893314 2015-08-13T13:29:47Z 2015-08-13T18:30:04Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Becca Lowry
Bows and Arrows
Mixed media wood carving
36" x 30.5" x 3.5"

BECCA LOWRY's "carved warrior shields" are a harmonious orchestration of color, texture and pattern. She carves away at planks of plywood with power tools, but the elegance of her final forms belie the lumber yard origins of her materials. Her  exhibitions include shows at David Findlay Jr. Gallery (New York, NY),Jeffrey Leder Gallery (Long Island City, NY), Galarie Zürcher (New York, NY), as well as repeated shows at Fred Giampietro Gallery (New Haven, CT), where she is represented. Her work is currently on view until August 23, 2015 in Summerset, a group show at David Findlay Jr Gallery in New York. Becca lives and works in Mount Rainier, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a bit about your history with wood-working. Has this always been your predominant medium?

Becca Lowry: Wood was ever-present in my childhood. My father is a builder and, loathe to throw anything away, has always kept a vibrant scrap wood pile in the side yard. So I am quite sure that I have made art with wood for as long as I have made art. As an adult, I used plywood as a surface to paint on, in part because scrap wood was free and abundant, but also because I didn’t like the hollow feel of painting on canvas. 

I painted on wood for many years before it occurred to me to treat the wood as a medium in its own right, to try to carve it. I started timidly by incorporating very low relief carving, texture really, into the surface of my paintings. But as I continued to experiment, the carving became more aggressive and deeper relief until eventually the balance between painting and carving flipped. 

Although I grew up around wood and woodcarving tools, much of the technique I am using in my work now is quite new to me. Playing around with scrap wood as a child does not a sculptor make—nor a carpenter for that matter. What I’m doing now is much more akin to wood-carving than it is to wood construction, though there are still built aspects to my process. I’ve done a lot of experimentation over the past years, starting with tools and materials that I am most comfortable with and gradually incorporating input from the woodworking and fine art worlds.

Mixed media wood carving, upholstery fabric, wire
33.5" x 14.5" x 2.25"

OPP: What tools do you use? How do they define and expand the limits of what you can do?

BL: My primary tools for woodcarving are a jig saw and an angle grinder, which I use mostly with masonry grinding disks. I use a skill saw occasionally for very severe, straight cuts. For more detailed carving, I use a die grinder and a flex-shaft tool with various wood carving bits. I also have a handful of chisels and other hand-carving tools, but the bulk of the carving is done with power tools.

I have a long wish list, of course, but I like to add new tools slowly. Too many new variables all at once can be overwhelming. Each time I add a new tool, my work changes a bit as a result of the functionality of the new tool and the new kinds of cuts I can make. I open myself up incrementally, so as not to get overwhelmed with too many choices.

Red Right Return
Wood carving, oil, latex, spray paint
33”h x 30.5”w x 1.5”d

OPP: What role do addition and subtraction play in your process? At what stage does color enter the development of a piece? Is it purely additive, or does it ever get stripped away?

BL: Perhaps because I was initially just painting on plywood, I have developed a process of “sculpting” that is in some ways more additive than it is subtractive. At first I was carving low relief texture into one sheet of plywood and then, as I broke through the surface, adding another layer on the back of the first, and so on. Eventually I shifted to a thicker stock of plywood, but I still use the same process, more or less, of beginning the carving in one piece of wood and, as the piece starts to take shape, adding additional layers onto the front and the back. So the piece, overall, gets thicker as I go, not thinner, though I am of course carving away wood as I go.  

Color usually comes in after the shape is more or less solidified. There’s still some refining to the shape that happens after I start adding color, but I try to get the rough form sorted out before a lot of color comes into the picture. And then there’s an iterative process of carving and painting and patterning that happens until the piece is “done.”&

All of this
Crayon rubbing of original wood carving, oil on rice paper
24" x 36"

OPP: You also make crayon and pastel rubbings on paper of your sculptures. When did you first do this and why? Was it a practical or a conceptual decision?

BL: People had been telling me that my earlier low-relief carvings looked like the block of wood-block prints, and some suggested trying to take prints off of them. I did try but with little satisfaction. Upon the suggestion of an artist friend, I tried rubbings instead and found it to be quite magical. 

I started doing these rubbings as a compliment to the carvings and a means of having more time to play with texture and pattern. It allows me to select out elements from a carving and reuse those elements in new ways. And the paper pieces are physically less demanding, so when I feel I need a break from the carving, which admittedly is not that often, I can spend some time with paper. Increasingly these paper pieces lead me to new compositions that I’m interested to try out in wood. So the paper pieces may start to be part of a feedback loop of experimentation, where carving informs paper informs carving and so on.

RIP 06
Wood carving, oil, latex, spray paint, steel
39"h x 30"w x 2.5"d

OPP: For me, your work reads more as having a ceremonial/spiritual function, rather than a purely aesthetic one. The tangibility of the three-dimensional texture adds to this sense. Each piece beckons to be touched and used, not simply looked at. The material and the process carry references to totem poles and carved altars, and occasionally the titles—i.e. RIP 06 and Family Crest—hint at memorial functions. Admittedly, this is my particular lens. . . I'm very interested in the spiritual and emotional functions of art. What are your thoughts?

BL: This is really nice to hear. I always enjoy when someone comes away feeling that she wants to hold on to one of these pieces or that the work resonates on some level other than aesthetic. In my head, I’m making modern interpretations of carved warrior shields like you would find in innumerable forms across time and cultures, from Oceania to Europe. Besides the most obvious, G.I. Joe symbolism, there’s a ton of room to play with the concept of a shield.

I love that shields operate on both a symbolic and a functional level. For centuries they have not only served as a physical barrier between self and other, but their surfaces have been carved and painted with symbols and images meant to intimidate foes and flaunt the prowess of their bearers. And I love, too, that so much of this flaunting is a sham, that what we think of as bravery is merely fear masquerading. I am both fascinated and confused by what I see as a very fine and shifting line between vulnerability and strength, by the strange truth that often the bravest thing we can do as humans is to expose the most tender aspects of ourselves. These shields I am making try to speak to that, to the relationship between the soft and hard parts of the human experience.

Sometimes I am aware of making a shield for a particular person or being, as in the case of the piece you mentioned, RIP 06, which was made in honor of a legendary female grey wolf. But most often I have no idea what particular function the shield will serve or for whom. For me, this is what feels most spiritual about my work: that by some strange alchemy, in the pretend world of my studio, I am forging from wood some very vital protection for some very vulnerable soul somewhere out there in the world.

To see more of Becca's work, please visit beccalowry.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/890956 2015-08-06T15:06:14Z 2015-10-08T15:26:11Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Diana Gabriel
String and wood

DIANA GABRIEL’s expansive, angular string installations are conversations between her, the material and the exhibition space. Her enduring exploration of the line is born of her training in painting and drawing, and the architectural space of the gallery is simply a new blank surface on which to make marks. Diana earned her BFA from Northern Illinois University in 2004 and her MFA from Illinois State University in 2007. She currently teaches at Harper College in Palatine and College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. She is the co-founder of TheCGProject, a creative platform for artists and audiences with a shared vision of increasing appreciation and accessibility of art in our culture. Recent exhibitions include All In (2015), curated by Karen Azarnia for the Riverside Arts Center (Riverside, Illinois) and Transcending Boundaries (2014) at the Bridgeport Art Center (Chicago). Most recently, she collaborated with Rita Grendze on an installation inspired by the bobbins donated from an American textile company that closed its doors in 2009. American Spinner (1903-2009) is on view at Water Street Studios in Batavia, Illinois until August 22, 2015. Diana lives and works in Elgin, Illinois.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What does linearity mean to you? What's appealing about a straight line?

Diana Gabriel: A line is more than just the distance between point A and point B. It's one of the most basic and versatile of the art elements. We use line to communicate by changing its direction and length to create shapes in the written language. We’ve empowered it to create and negate, divide and connect, to add (+), subtract (-), and bring equality (=). Even within the context of our messages, we use line metaphorically. It’s cross-culturally embedded into our vulgar verbal and physical expressions. 

String and wood

OPP: Your large-scale string installations respond to the architecture of the exhibition space and capitalize on tautness and tension to create straight lines in pieces like Trifecta (2014). But string also has the capacity to curve, and you make use of that in drooping pieces like Tracing Time (2012) and Under the Table (2013). What led you to include the curved line?

DG: In my practice, the straight line provides an underlying structure and sense of control. I’ve made it a rule to use straight lines as my starting guide to set the parameters of what I will and won't allow. However, another one of my rules is to keep my process organic and change those parameters as I go. In other words, I always bend the rules I set for myself. The straight line and its rigidity, visually and metaphorically, are the starting and finish line. The curved line, on the other hand, is the precarious improviser. It provides my process with a healthy balance. Maybe it’s my Libra nature, but I always find myself in the pursuit of balance. The straight, the curved, the taut and loose, the thick and thin are all ways of finding the perfect amount of balance within the work.

Reach Across
12" x 12"

Thinking about your string installations, your acrylic paintings of lined pattern and some early pieces using marking tape, I imagine a similar process of unrolling, unspooling and squeezing straight from the paint tube. How do these processes relate to drawing?

DG: I’ve always loved drawing. Its immediacy and spontaneity are playful traits I find important in art making. Most people have a studio in art school, but when you graduate you're faced with the fact you might have to use a corner of your room or a dinner tray as your studio. That was the moment when I began to think about making work out of existing spaces. It’s very liberating to have a different “surface” every time I make a piece. It also feels very natural to start a piece without the “blank canvas jitters” because the conversation has already started before I even get there. In my installations, I’m just responding to a space by drawing lines there-dimensionally from one edge of the room to another.

Under the Table
Wood and mason line
10' x 13' x 13'

OPP: Is your response to those spaces improvisational or planned? Tell us a little about your process of installation.

DG: I normally study the space and do a few sketches that help me figure out color, mark and a general idea of the structure for each piece. I really enjoy making meticulous perspective drawings of the space. It helps me understand the height, width and distance between the multiple planes with which I’ll be working. Then I think about the type of marks I want to incorporate and how they’ll interact with the space.

I do, however, need to keep my process organic. Once in the space, I modify the piece as it develops. I see it as a conversation, not a lecture. It’s a two-way street, a give and take relationship. Sometimes I want the string to do a certain thing, like go in a specific direction or be tight in a certain spot, but the light won’t be right or the logistics of the space simply won’t permit me to do it. So improvisation becomes a large part of it. Those situations are nerve-racking but exceedingly exciting. That is when the magic happens because I have to put my plans and rules aside and work "with it.” It starts to feel like a collaboration of sorts.

Looping System (detail)
String, nails and gaffers tape

OPP: What about the experience of deinstallation? Do you reuse the string?

DG: I get a lot of my drawing/ mark-making ideas for installations when I deinstall. I usually take many photos during this process. The breakdown is in some instances more enriching than the build up of the work. I’ve made it a habit of creating new “pieces” as I take others down. It's very exciting to cut the edges off of one plane and see the limpness versus the tautness of the string. I fall in love with those moments and try to incorporate them in creating new pieces. It’s pretty evident in a piece from 2012 called 342, which is when I first started incorporating this practice. The whole right side is one of my favorite parts of the piece.

Perhaps it’s because I see these new ideas under certain light and and with a specific material that I do tend to reuse my string. I also hate how wasteful art can be, so I work extra hard to save most of my materials. I have bins of string I hope to use one day. Art is the only aspect of my life where I allow myself to do a little hoarding. That and scarves.

Blue Window
Acrylic, nails, and string on panel
8"x 8"

OPP: Your background is painting and drawing, but I see such an affinity for Fiber and Material Studies (my own background). Both weaving or crochet use the line in different ways. Weaving is a system of interconnected lines on a grid, while crochet is more akin to drawing in space with one looping line. Do you have any experience with these textile techniques?

DG: I never knew what drove me to the linear until I visited my childhood home in Colombia. I noticed all the baskets, plate settings, tablecloths, even the “carpetas” under the flower vases were woven, made through macrame or crocheted. I’ve always enjoyed lines and patterns because they felt familiar, but my connection to them has been solely through drawing. Being around all these hand-made things made me realize my linear bias made sense; it all suddenly clicked. I recognized that I come, not only from a long line of artisan women in my family, well versed in the “handy crafts”, but from a culture of talented people who resourcefully use these skills to survive.

Oscillating Reciprocity
Cotton Yarn

What can you tell us about what it's like to walk around in the string installations, since our readers can only experience your work online. I'd like to hear about your own experience and how they relate to your body, as well as any interesting comments you've received from viewers.

DG: I like to hang around the space while others experience my work. I enjoy when they find their favorite ”moment” and nook within the work. I especially like to hear them question and make assumptions about the process. I feel most connected with the viewer when the work triggers motor memory. We all know the motions of tying and pulling, or bunching and stretching. I use that as a way to connect the viewer with the process of making. With so much technology nowadays, we are losing touch with the instinct to pull and push, tie and unravel. . . to physically build and create. The idea of manual labor is somewhat repulsive to some and seen as unnecessary to most, but it’s extremely important to me. It’s honest, primal, human; a connection to our natural state.

To see more of Diana's work, please visit dianapgabriel.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/887873 2015-07-29T16:00:53Z 2015-08-17T19:35:43Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Cable Griffith
Deception Pass
Acrylic on panel
24 x 30 inches

CABLE GRIFFITH creates and explores fictional worlds in landscape paintings informed by the aesthetics of early video games, visually triggering the nostalgia of a generation. Fictional worlds, of course, are simply analogs for the world we live in, and these colorful, cartoony landscapes use formal reduction to hint at the expansive complexity of imagining what might still be left to discover. Cable earned his BFA in Painting from Boston University in 1997 and his MFA in Painting from the University of Washington in 2002. His numerous solo exhibitions include Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start (2013) at Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, Washington), FlotsamJetsamLagan: The Oneness (2013) at SOIL Gallery (Seattle), Domestic Landscapes (2014) at two shelves (Seattle). The forthcoming Sightings will open in December 2015 at G. Gibson Gallery (Seattle). Cable is a faculty member at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The earliest work on your website (2006-2008) is characterized by intense, accumulative mark-making. Works like Orange Jungle (2008), Green Canopy (2007) and Vertical Shear (2007) hover between abstraction and chaotic environments. Did you consciously shift towards the more designed, organized landscapes that came later or was this an organic evolution in your practice?

Cable Griffith: That transition was definitely organic and happened gradually over several years through several bodies of work. Looking back at the shift, I can try to make sense of it now. The earlier work was a record of me arriving at an invented place, mark by mark, with little-to-no pre-defined plan. I still rely heavily on improvisation, but in 2009, I made World One Overview, my first “map” painting, which attempted to conceive many separate locations into a more fully connected world. Using the maps, I began to locate myself in a more intentional way inside that world and the continuing description of it. Now, some paintings take a vantage point from far above, and some are at ground level. In short, I think that as the invented world became clearer in my mind, aspects of my process became more deliberate.

World One Overview
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 60 inches

OPP: In your most recent work, I see clear influences from both the aesthetics of early video games—specifically, Nintendo and Atari—and Modernist painting. Do the discourses of these seemingly disparate fields share territory? What are the connections for you?

CG: I grew up with Atari and Nintendo and have played video games ever since. More recently, I’ve realized that my understanding of landscape has been heavily informed by video games’ systematic and formulaic way of reducing the complexity of natural environments. This influenced me long before I knew what Modernism was. I’m attracted to the reductive qualities of both and their potential as language. Once I identified that my work was influenced by the history of virtual space as much as painted space, I set out to explore that territory.

One of the crossovers is how reductive form is used in both modernist painting and early video games. Many modernist painters were trying to reduce form intentionally towards a simple and efficient result. They might say they were trying to capture the “essence” of something. In early video games, however, the reduction wasn’t intentional, but rather a limitation of the technology of the time. Because of the limited colors, chunky resolution and minimal memory, the game designers needed to be very inventive with how they maximized the given set of parameters. Some of my favorite games—Zelda and Mario Bros., for example—felt like expansive worlds, when in fact they were entirely made up of only a few variants. In many ways, I’m trying to do the same thing by limiting my parameters while trying to built something that feels limitless.

OPP: What can games do that paintings cannot, and vice versa?

CG: Some games sell millions of copies? And some paintings make people travel thousands of miles to see them in person. Honestly, I’m having a hard time with this question. There are many painfully obvious answers one could come up with that separate the two. But the more I think about it and consider the vast range of things that people have done already and the unlimited potential of both fields, I’ll go out on a limb and say that hypothetically, there’s nothing one can do that the other can’t.

Mountain Stream
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 36 inches

OPP: Tell us about your collaborations with programmer/artist Brent Watanabe.

CG: In 2012, I was working on a large painting installation Side-scroll World One for my exhibition Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. It was my first body of work that explored the crossover of video game space through painting. Side-scroll was composed of over 20 connected/sprawling paintings and referenced the classic platformer video game convention. I posted an image of the paintings in progress on Facebook, and Brent made a comment about mapping a game projection on top of the paintings. I really wanted to see that happen, so we started talking seriously about it.

Although we didn’t use the Side-scroll installation at the time, we got together and came up with a game and world concept, then went our separate ways to work. Brent designed the game system, and I developed the background environment. The final piece was called for(){}; and was a playable triptych, very loosely based on the Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. This year, we revisited the playable painting/video game collaboration on the original Side-scroll World One installation and the game used much more of the wall space in between and around the paintings, including various objects in the room. Both games shared a lack of any clear objective. And this was intentional. As the "player" you could explore the world freely, interact with the environment, try to figure out various cause and effect relationships, consume and leave waste behind. Kind of like humans on earth! We’re continuing to develop these ideas and are looking forward to a new collaborative project in 2016.

(collaboration with Brent Watanabe)
Projection mapped video game, acrylic on canvas

OPP: Recent paintings from 2014—Desert, Landguage I, and This is the place - Be prepared to defend yourself, among others—read like pictographs, hieroglyphics or maps key symbols, while still maintaining a clear connection to both video games and landscape. Are these new works landscapes or texts?

CG: They’re both. To me, all landscape paintings are texts. Of course, the more we know about a painting, the more it tells us. And the perspective of time gives us a much different reading on paintings now than 300 years ago. Or even 20 years ago. Everything about a painting is part of its story, down to the pigments and tools, the artist’s social or political relationships, patrons, and trends of the time. Generally, I’ve found that the more you look, the more you find. Of course, the artist’s intention is important, but that’s not where meaning always resides.

The code paintings are, in some way, are a further reduction of natural forms from my map paintings. But I’ve become increasingly interested in the domestic function of paintings. Generally, domestic space is where paintings eventually spend their time. Paintings have a very strong connection and history with living spaces. And yet, artists like to think of their work in a clean, white, empty gallery space. I certainly do. The code paintings and  “tapestries” (painted on loose, raw canvas) are explorations of landscape with a relationship to a domestic site in mind, referencing wall paper and textile patterns.

Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches

OPP: Tell us about your upcoming solo show Sightings. This body of work takes an entirely new inspiration as its jumping off point.

CG: The Sightings series was conceived in conversation with the history of landscape painting, notions of the Sublime and the role of painting as documentation. The paintings are all inspired by reports of various unexplained phenomenon in contemporary culture. I’m hoping to evoke a similar sense of wonder and awe as the Romantic landscape paintings of the 19th Century, but in an updated way.  Artists like Thomas Cole and Casper David Friedrich depicted a magnificent and untameable world that suggested the insignificance of man in the face of overwhelming natural forces. Today, much of that landscape has been conquered and covered by a civilization whose aspirations now aim beyond the terrestrial. In a world where anything seems possible, perhaps we give the most pause to things that seem impossible.

Many of the paintings are based off of actual UFO reports in the Pacific Northwest. I use part of the witness’s actual description as the title and research the location and time of the sighting as a starting point for the painting. I don’t take a position on the validity of any of the claims. I’m mainly interested in the sighting phenomenon overall. There are images of several studies of the series on the G. Gibson Gallery's website, but the full show will open in December 2015.

To see more of Cable's work, please visit cablegriffith.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/885432 2015-07-23T12:43:42Z 2015-10-08T15:25:33Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Melissa Leandro
Fracturada, Monument
Woven fabric, plastic, vinyl, electrical tape on linen. Heat fused
82” x 100”

MELISSA LEANDRO creates complex, sumptuous surfaces using traditional textile techniques in unconventional ways. Her diverse repertoire includes drawing, hand embroidery, machine sewing, paper-making, felting, heat-fusing and weaving, and she ultimately balances all these in a symbolic exploration of her cultural identities as both Latina and North American. Melissa lives and works in Chicago. She is currently pursuing her graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, while maintaining an active exhibition record. After winning the Juror’s Award at the 57th Annual Beloit and Vicinity exhibition in 2014, her solo exhibition Recuerdos de Un Paseo is on view at the Wright Museum of Art in Beloit, Wisconsin until August 2, 2015. Her work is included in the group exhibition, Mom & Pop: Family Business in Art and Life, curated by Anthony Stepter. It opened last week at Arts Incubator at the University of Chicago and will be on view until September 11, 2015.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a little about your history with the various techniques you use in your practice. How does each feed into the others?

Melissa Leandro: I originally began with traditional floor loom weaving and then quickly moved to weaving with the aid of a digital Jacquard loom. I also have an obsession with learning and inventing new techniques while using my hands for repetitive and methodical systems of making.

Weaving and stitching follow a particular pattern—over under, up and down—but intentionally causing inconsistencies in that pattern to achieve an unconventional outcome is extremely satisfying. I’d like my work to constantly generate or branch off into new ideas. My process of making and thinking through ideas never completely ends. I often go back and fourth with imagery and process by using reoccurring marks and patterns from finished or in-progress works.

At the root of my practice is a perpetual interest in considering how to create harmonious combinations of process, material and pattern within a given object or textile. Over time, I’ve developed a working method that often calls for the fusion of materials into new textiles and surfaces through processes like heat-fusing, weaving, felting and paper-making. For example, I often build up multiple layers of plastic, paper, felt, yarn and fuse them together to create a new substrate. The materials are often cheap, cast-away domestic objects, like upholstery, tablecloths and polyester fabric. Through the process of weaving, elements of the original materials are hidden, exposed and thus fragmented. I use embellishment techniques like embroidery and stitching to further build up, expose or hide pattern and color.

Recuerdo, this and that
Woven cotton, electrical tape on linen. Heat fused.
44” x 64”

OPP: What role does translation—in terms of materials, media, and language—play in your practice?

ML: I’m interested in moving sourced pattern and drawn lines through multiple processes of translation. I often begin with a base process—small-scale line drawings, two-dimensional collages or cyanotype prints, for example—that is consistent and has limited freedom in its output. I create these intimate, abstract works during moments of transit, extended travel or moments of boredom, usually in a sketchbook. Then I translate them through embroidery, machine sewing, paper-making, felting, heat-fusing and weaving. I enjoy the idea that my paper pieces can move through multiple iterations until they are drastically different from their original form, both in scale and texture.

Lately, this has been through the use of cyanotype or “sun prints.” Cyanotype, a photographic printing process that uses the sun for exposure, leaves only an impression of the original object. I imprint family trinkets and mementos, fabric, lace, leaves, rocks and small sculptures, but their nuanced textures and colors are stripped away. What remains is a distorted—translated—image of shapes and lines.

From here the image is traced, photocopied, cut and collaged to create new drawings, weavings and sculptural objects that only slightly echo the original linear elements of the cyanotype. The sentimentality of these objects becomes blurred and sometimes totally lost. My titles connect the final work with its original inspiration. Spanish phrases, words and slang in my titles often refer to being on journeys, endless paths, lost in mazes. Alternatively, there are more specific cultural adjectives about character and class.

I am conflicted by being a part of two different cultures, identifying myself as both American and Latina. I struggle with bouncing back and forth between thinking and speaking in English and Spanish. I’m continually concerned that one culture is becoming more dominant than the other. My practice has become a means to seek out systems that highlight these stark differences while forcing them to coexist within the same plane.

I'll make my own
Jacquard weaving
26.5" x 36"

OPP: I love your idea of language as the "warp and weft of a mixed culture." Can you expand on that as it relates to Spanglish?

ML: In Miami, it’s common for people to speak in English but regularly use Spanish words or phrases as a form of slang. Although, I don’t live in Miami any more, I still occasionally use Spanglish and process thoughts and memories in both languages. As time progresses, it becomes difficult to differentiate whether memories were in one language or another; things are lost in translation.

This mixing of languages has often lead to the creation of new slang words, which correlates to the mixing of material textures in my practice. I combine natural with synthetic, bright with muted, digital with analog, just in the same way Miami was a collision of cultures, music, food and so on. There is also a huge contrast between the rural landscapes of Costa Rica—my family’s home country—and the more urban, party town that is Miami and now my urban home of Chicago. I find comfort in merging the physical qualities of a very rural landscape with the rich, hyper extreme colors that surround me in the U.S. Through material investigation, I believe this play between local and foreign influences will impact my work for some time to come.

Waist Side
Jacquard weaving, gradient stitching

OPP: What's a "gradient stitch?" Tell us how you use it in your work.

ML: A “gradient stitch” is a term I use to describe a very dense zig-zag machine stitch that requires gradated sewing thread. Every sewn inch, changes thread color, fluctuating between three-five colors in one given spool of thread. The thread has a smooth transition between each color, allowing for solid, colored lines to be “drawn” on fabric. I frequently choose colors that are vivid or neon because they give a desired effect of vibrating on the fabric’s surface. Similar to my pen drawings on paper, I use sewn stitches to draw repetitive lines, dashes and shapes. By making crucial decisions on thread color, the sewn plane is alive and in constant transition. The end results are illustrations that resemble warped and deconstructed topographical maps.

Braided tapestry warp on jacquard weaving
28" x 26"

OPP: In works from 2011 like Mi Mama, Mi Papa and La Familia, there were more literal references to your family and heritage. But in recent years, you have shifted more towards symbolic abstraction. In your statement, you say, "I create an inventory of symbols connected to [childhood] memories based on abstract structures, systems of map making, topography, and landmark images." Could you highlight a favorite recurring symbol for us?

ML: One repeating symbol in my work is a cluster of linear, mountainous forms, forming landscapes. Specifically, they are hill-like shapes that stack on top of one another, often consuming the paper, woven cloth or stitched fabric I’m working on. This symbol represents my affinity for rural environments. Growing up, I spent many summers in Costa Rica. I later realized the rural, mountainous and lush landscape subconsciously influenced what I was doodling in my sketchbook. As the imagery became more pronounced, my doodling turned into a body of drawings that depicted mountains, valleys, dirt mounds, roads and river paths. Now I spend much of my time in urban cities, so my drawing practice reconnect me with surroundings that are currently quite foreign to me. My drawings shift between landscape and aerial views. The symbols have also begun to mesh urban and rural elements together. I associate squares and straight lines with urban environments, while circular shapes represent rural/natural environments.

Synthetic weaving, plastic, rubber, electrical tape. Heat fused

OPP: You've also been working with the doily as a material symbol. What does it mean to you?

ML: Doilies have recently become an incredibly prominent symbol. The doily has a rich connection with home decoration, dinning and social class. I’m interested in thinking about how the doily has moved through materials; first as silk ornaments made for furniture coverings, then cotton doily placemats, to recent uses as plastic coasters and tablecloths. There is a fascinating juxtaposition between a handmade cotton doily heirloom and a mass-produced plastic, disposal doily coaster, which hints at a huge shift in class status and value for the handmade. The disposability of this symbolic object make me want to invest in it as pattern.

I have begun to weave with plastic doily tablecloths. I cut the material into strips, weave them together using a tabby construction and then heat-fuse the whole piece; the heat melts the plastic strips to form a new substrate. The imagery of the doily is fragmented and obscured by other woven-in, synthetic materials like plastic rug liners, disposable tablecloths, fabric gimp, trim and sequins. These cheap, domestic materials were a huge part of my childhood home, which was decorated with plastic dishware, textiles and furniture. My work reincarnates these utilitarian and disposable textiles into something surreal, gaudy and precious.

To see more of Melissa's work, please visit melissaleandro.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/882027 2015-07-16T12:43:49Z 2015-10-08T15:22:34Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Natalie Loveless
Victoria Singh: SON/ART- Kurtis the 7 Chakra Boy: 07/07/04- 07/07/11
22-minute video loop (documentation of seven-year performance)
Soundtrack by Derek Champion

NATALIE LOVELESS is an artist, academic, writer and curator with a specialization in feminist and performance art history. For this interview, we’ll be focusing on her curatorial project New Maternalisms (2012), as her website for the exhibition first brought her to OPP’s attention. In 2004, she simultaneously earned an MA from Tufts University and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She went on to earn her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2010. Natalie has a chapter in the forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Feminist Art Practice and Theory, co-edited by Hilary Robinson and Maria Elena Buszek. She will be a participating artist at the upcoming SLSA in Houston, Texas in November 2015 and will be presenting research at the Sea Change Colloquium in October 2015. Natalie is an Assistant Professor in History of Art, Design & Visual Culture at the University of Alberta in Canada.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a bit about your history as a curator, an academic and an artist.

Natalie Loveless: I wrote an autoethnographic essay about this once!  The short version is: I came up in art school at a time when crit sessions were still dominated by the language of post-structuralism popularized by Art Forum and October in the 80s/90s. It was all "performativity" this and "deconstruction" that. I found myself curious about what Austin and Derrida were trying to build with these concepts. I wanted less to use these ideas in my artist statements than to figure out, social-sculpture-style, what these thinkers were doing with these ideas—the politics and passions behind them. So I talked to folks at the School of the Museum School of Fine Arts and our sister school, Tufts, and convinced all involved to let me do an MA in Contemporary Art History at the same time as my MFA. No one had done that there yet; they didn’t have a structure for supporting work that crossed practice-theory lines. But they supported it anyway. My experience of SMFA was that it was a very visionary place when it came to interdisciplinarity. Their approval was the gateway drug I needed to say to myself, as I was researching and developing my MFA show: “Uh, maybe I should stay in school and do a PhD next. . .”

At the time, in North America, the world of “practice-led” and “fine-arts” PhDs was really, really nascent. No one had ever mentioned it to me as a possibility. I was completely in the dark about the few programs that did exist in the U.S. and even about what had already been happening for quite a while in Europe. No one was talking about art practice at the doctoral level at the Museum School, or in Art Forum, or October, or at CAA. Times certainly have changed! Instead, I ended up attending a really visionary PhD program—colloquially referred to as “HistCon”—at UC Santa Cruz that let me pursue my work as an artist and curator alongside my academic work, in ways that ended up tangling the three together.

I want to give a really big shout out to the two people who were my primary supervisors at each institution. Their vision, passion, politics and pedagogy provided a model and road-map for me. Was it Korzybski who said “the map is not the territory?" They made the territory the map for me. They walked the walk. They not only taught me the stuff they knew in the areas that they were interested in, they modeled an affirmative, incisive, generous, unflinching approach to creating artistic-intellectual-political spaces without which I don’t even want to think about what my life would look like today! So here is the shout out:

Marilyn, Donna, I am forever, and gratefully, in your debt. I literally could not have done it without you. Thank you for everything.

Ok. Almost everything. There is someone else whose affirmative, incisive, generous, unflinching approach to life made it possible for me to gravitate towards the mentors that I did, because she modeled it for me from the get-go: my momma, Evelyne Lord. Thank you, mom. Your generosity and vision and bravery will never cease to inspire me and (my sister) Stephie.

Lenka Clayton: Maternity Leave
Skype-based Durational Performance

OPP: How was New Maternalisms (2012) first conceived?

NL: In 2010, I gave birth to a little human who was born eight weeks prematurely and totally topsy-turvied my life. I had been planning on giving birth in my mother’s house in Canada and submitting my PhD before D-day. So there I was working on the PhD, in the last two months of revisions, and suddenly found myself in the hospital with a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Over the next few months, I just kinda held on, taking it one day (hour, minute, second) at a time, trying to survive and build a livable system to support this new, intensive, immersive, daily practice/labour. I began working on what became a three-year, daily-practice art piece called Maternal Ecologies. In effect, I took all the artistic and intellectual literacies that I had at hand and applied them to my lived situation out of desperation.

In art school, Mary Kelly was a huge (HUGE) influence on me, specifically in the way that she brought daily practice, feminist politics and psychoanalytic theory together. So, inspired by my memories of her work, I started looking around for models and support structures. I came across Andrea Liss’ 2008 book Feminist Art and the Maternal. I came across the UK-based research network MaMSIE and their journal Studies in the Maternal. Myrel Chernick and Jennie Klein’s edited volume The M Word came out in 2011, and I was introduced to both of the incredible exhibitions they had curated. Then Shannon Cochrane (Artistic & Administrative Director of FADO Performance Art) asked if I would be interested in curating something for their upcoming season. The rest, as they say, is herstory.

Alejandra Herrera: Challenge
3 hour durational performance

OPP: What was the curatorial premise of the show?

NL: I started by asking myself what was most interesting in the field of contemporary art and the maternal, and I decided to build an exhibition that focused on performance-based practices. Performance-based work (of all stripes) makes a lot of sense to me when looking critically at the early years of maternal labour. The ideological politics of visibility that inform and surround the maternal body are important, as is the historical censuring of the professional female body on the basis of its maternal status. Performance-based practices interest me for the many ways that they can comment on and intervene into these politics and histories to foreground the temporality and complex materiality of labouring bodies, making the texture of that labour central to the work itself.

OPP: New Maternalisms was first mounted in 2012. In 2014, you co-curated New Maternalisms-Chile with Soledad Novoa Donoso for the National Museum in Santiago, Chile. What was different in this second exhibition?

NL: Alejandra Herrera, one of the artists in the original show, suggested developing an iteration of the exhibition in Chile. She knew Soledad, a curator who has been committed to the discourse of feminist art in Chile for decades. I curated the non-Chilean (largely North American) artists, and Soledad curated the Chilean artists. The exhibition was an experiment in bringing two different national perspectives together for conversation and reflection.

What neither of us expected when we began organizing the exhibition, held concurrently at the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art, was that the president of Chile would, in the months leading up to our opening, announce that they would be re-evaluating Chile’s strict national laws forbidding abortion. We were interviewed non-stop by radio, television and newspapers and were sometimes quoted inaccurately in ways that tried to polarize the exhibition as “pro-natalist” in the context of these abortion debates. The positive side is that we had over 600 people at the opening.  

Jill Miller: The Milk Truck
Ongoing Social Practice Performance

OPP: What changed in your understanding of the discourse of motherhood between the two exhibits?

NL: For one thing, I had two more years of research and thinking under my belt. Over the last five years, there has been a notable surge of exhibitions, books, journals, networks and conferences at the intersection of feminist art and the maternal. (Of course, the moment you start looking for something you tend to see it everywhere.) I just returned from two conferences on the topic, one in London and one in Rotterdam, and an edited volume is about to be published taking my first exhibition as the inspiration for its title! I have two hypotheses as to why this is happening right now.

Firstly, I see the maternal as a really interesting test case for feminists of my generation who were born in the seventies. At that time, Mary Kelly made Post-Partum Document, Miriam Shapiro and Judy Chicago founded on Womanhouse and Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance Art was circulating. I, for one, was raised with the idea that my status as a middle-class, cis-gendered woman in North America translated into a future in which a choice between maternal and professional status did not have to be made. I could be a mother and an artist and an academic; this was the territory my mother’s generation fought for. The maternal didn’t occur to me as a political problem until it hit me in the face (uterus?). In gathering artist-mothers of my generation together around me, I discovered that this “rude awakening” was not unique to my experience. I consider the maternal to be a potent location from which feminists of my generation can ask questions about the status of feminist art and political practice today.

Lovisa Johansson: Jumping Lullaby
Performance action
30 minutes

OPP: And the second hypothesis?

NL: There is another pressing social and political issue that I see as linked to the maternal: the current ecological crisis. To ask questions of the maternal as a structure of care, labour, pedagogy and sustainability—that is, to examine the maternal as an ecological matrix—is to ask questions relevant to global climate change. As dominant norms, the individualistic, nuclear-familial ideologies that structure much of contemporary North American family life are part of what is killing the planet. Phallogocentric, global capitalist social ideologies and kinship structures have given us anthropogenic climate change. To address the maternal in this day and age is to address the structures that have led to and support global ecological collapse. I have found myself in conversations over the past few years with colleagues who work politically in the university and who parent small children. We have to ask ourselves what our duties are in training our students and our children. It is they who will have to face the worst of it. What approaches to learning, living and critically creating in the world are relevant? How do these affect the art I make, the syllabi I construct, the articles I write and the conversations I have with my five-year-old son? This line of thinking has expanded my thinking on the maternal, and it structures the exhibition I am currently working on, New Maternalisms Redux (May 2016).

Hélène Matte: L'Essence de la Vie
Performance action, 45 minutes

OPP: What about fathers? Do you have any interest in male artists making work about fatherhood? Have you encountered any?

NL: In short: Great question. Yes. Few.

One of the glaring things I’ve had to contend with in this work is the overwhelming gender, sexuality, race and class biases that seep into it. When my child was born, I was a finishing PhD student, without a job or guarantee of one and in crazy debt (which I will likely carry for the rest of my life). But I was also incredibly privileged. I went to art school, earned a PhD and passed as white, hetero-normative, middle-class and cis-gendered (though I don’t identify with all of these). I have a biological and daily partner in parenthood (Sha LaBare) who is willing to parent with me. I have a mother whose house I stayed in while I recovered from my son’s premature birth and finished my PhD. I had folks that I could draw on as allies for emotional and intellectual support… all of these constitute incredible privilege. No matter how tough things have been at times, they have not been so tough that I couldn’t turn to art and theory and political action as part of my arsenal of survival techniques.

Mother and father are identities and roles that, like male and female, have difficult, enduring histories that have been used in service of a sexist worlding practice. These histories are thick and sticky, and there is a real need for more critical art practices dealing with fathering—fathering done by men, women or other-identified folk. I know few cis-men or trans-men (or trans-women for that matter) making performance-based art work from their experiences of early maternal labour, or folks of any identification dealing with early paternal labour through performance-based practices. I am currently writing on work that queers the maternal. For example, Sadie Lune's performance-based work not only deals with queer insemination but also queers insemination, and Lissette Olivares' work explores trans-species mothering or what she calls the post-humanist maternal. I know folks attempting to sidestep the gendered frameworks of mother and father entirely by working on the discourse of parentingEnemies of Good Art in the UK and Cultural ReProducers in the U.S. I ally myself strongly with these projects, but still find myself interested in the metaphorics of gendered performance and its genres. When it comes to the debates raised by this work I say: the more the merrier. It takes a village. To raise a child. To have a debate. To change the world. 

In the shout out above I named three "mommas"—one domestic, one artistic, one academic. But there have also been lots of sisters and aunties, brothers and uncles, critters and widgets, lovers and partners of all persuasions, and, of course, fathers. I love creative kinship maps. And I love the idea of aligning these functional roles, these kinship identities, with the language of “persuasion.” My parenting and life partner, Sha, performs both "mother" and “father” with care, compassion and attention that inspires me daily. He and I are co-writing a piece that takes a critique of hetero-and-mononormative, capitalist patriarchy as a basis for thinking about ecological and maternal ethics together. If he hadn’t chosen to stay home and mother our son while I started my tenure-track job at the University of Alberta, I never could have accepted the position and wouldn’t have the support to be doing what I am doing.

Mark Cooley and Beth Hall: Safe
Video projection
60 minute loop

OPP: Tell us about The VACCINES Project.

NL: While my academic and artistic work on the maternal is topically grounded, my methodology is indebted to what we call Research-Creation here in Canada. (I recently published something on this.)  The VACCINES Project (our working title) is a collaborative research-creation project initially proposed by Dr. Steven Hoffman, the director of Global Strategy Lab at University of Ottawa as part of a larger initiative funded by the Research Council of Norway. Steven asked my colleague Sean Caulfield and myself to join him in developing an international collaborative project bringing research-based artists together with health-policy academics and activists around the issue of vaccines and the public. We are starting off with a workshop in Ottawa this summer to begin work towards a research-based exhibition on vaccination in Geneva in 2017.

Some of our objectives for the first workshop are to (a) identify and examine challenging issues surrounding global vaccination from scientific, artistic and social perspectives; (b) foster mutual understanding and interdisciplinary dialogue from across the arts, academia and activism; and (c) problematize and deconstruct existing perceptions of the role that art, research and advocacy can and should play in informing and challenging global governance related to vaccines. These objectives will be guided by a set of questions such as: (a) what key issues around vaccination might benefit by being interrogated by artistic practice?; (b) how important is formative and impact evaluation in assessing the importance of research-based artistic and creative practice?; and (c) how important are different understandings of the “public” in public policy and the “public” in the context of socially engaged/research-based contemporary forms such as “art as social practice” and “new genre public art”?

One link between this and my maternal work, other than methodology, is that Jill Miller has joined the team and will be doing work on maternal anti-vaxers. The vaccination and autism scandal is a perfect example of a sophisticated misinformation campaign orchestrated to breed maternal and ecological anxiety. . . but that is a conversation for another day!

To learn more about New Maternalisms, please visit newmaternalisms.ca.
To learn more about Natalie's other projects and research, please visit loveless.ca.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/878729 2015-07-08T18:09:18Z 2015-10-08T15:21:54Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ian Monroe
Installation view of Currents 105
Saint Louis Art Museum.

IAN MONROE is drawn to edges, literally and figuratively. Influenced by both architectural and virtual space, he explores the illusion of perspective and our related "complicity and a potential sense of disembodiment" in large-scale, two-dimensional collages, predominantly made from adhesive vinyl. Ian received his BA from Washington University in Saint Louis (1995) and his MA from Goldsmiths College in the United Kingdom. Since 2003, he has had solo exhibitions in five countries: England, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the United States, not to mention group shows in at least five more. He is currently working on a major public commission for a new building in Leicester Square in London. His upcoming solo exhibition (title TBA) at Horatio Junior (London) will open in November 2015. He is represented by Galeria Casado Santapau (Madrid), where he will have a solo exhibition in 2016. Ian lives and works in London.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Talk about the wonders (and the challenges) of your staple material, adhesive vinyl.
Ian Monroe: Vinyl allows me to paint without using paint. I am able to build the image, layer by layer. All of my early work was sculptural and I still primarily gravitate to the three-dimensional, hence the perspectival nature of the images. This is also reflected in my tendency to consider them as built rather than painted images. It's a subtle distinction, but it allowed me to use carpet, linoleum flooring, Formica and paper in two-dimensional works. Had I used paint, I may not have not considered these alternative materials. There are, of course, frustrations with vinyl. The biggest is the industrially-limited colour palate of the material. I can't just mix a new colour! On the other hand, limitations sometimes force creative solutions, and I find the process of squeezing the most out of a constrained palate an interesting challenge.

Ideal Pursuits
Vinyl on Aluminum
176cm x 331cm

OPP: Formally, your older work is all hard lines, angles and edges. Did this formal quality grow out of the material itself or is it more about source imagery? What influences you visually?
IM: Conceptually, architectural space certainly is an influence, but so is the notion of a virtual or invisible-yet-collectively-agreed-upon-space like the internet. Like the perspectival image, which is simply an agreed upon illusion, many of the spaces—airports or modern banking systems, for example—we deal with today rely on us all behaving according to an unspoken, but very constrained set of rules. The work is therefore meant to play both with our complicity and a potential sense of disembodiment that these spaces create.

Materially, the hard edges and angles were initially driven by the slice-and-cut nature of collaging the material. When you collage one material to another, it very rarely has any blending (except perceptually or metaphorically in the way two things may be visually or conceptually conjoined). I started making very thin lines with the vinyl and filling in geometric forms with the basic shading of a light, medium and dark colour. In the process, the schematic—as opposed to the rendered—possibilities of the images really excited me. I started to see all kinds of possibilities for images freed from the constraints of virtuosity that paint usually requires; I could deploy the language of diagrams or technical drawings for potential spaces or structures. In this way, they operate like huge architectural-conceptual proposals. I also enjoy that they run counter to a kind of expressionist language often found in painting, and so I embraced the razor sharp and unequivocal edge of the collaged material. 

The Registered Movements of a Thing
Vinyl on Aluminum
176cm x 301cm

OPP: Could you talk about how "collage can be seen as a function of 'edges," an idea that you first explored in an essay titled "Where Does One Thing End And The Next Begin?"
IM: I hinted at this in the questions above, but the essay essentially develops a set of tools to understand how various collaged images seem to function and how they can be read. There was an open call for an essay in the catalog entitled Collage: Assembling Contemporary Art, put out by Black Dog Publishing in 2008, and I had been thinking about the idea for some time. I was musing about how a collage by John Stezaker operates totally differently from one by Ellen Gallagher or one of mine. That led me to see that the one unifying element across all collage, regardless of the imagery or conceptual drive of the work, is the cut or torn edge. Unlike a painted or a drawn image, in which there is (usually) no absolutely clear edge between various images or materials, collage is a collection of things colliding and interacting at their edges. I thought that this may be the key to understanding how collage actually functions, so I used the essay to explore how various types of edges interact and form meaning. Some types of edges I delineate include 'the corrosive edge', 'the municipal edge' and 'the chimeric edge.’ The entire idea is fully developed in the essay, so I’ll refer anyone interested to have a read. 

The Instantaneous Everything
Installation view

OPP: Your two-dimensional collages have always manifested a dynamic sense of space and depth. But you also make three-dimensional sculpture, which compliments the wall-based work. How did these works interact and inform one another in your 2008 show The Instantaneous Everything?
IM: I was very loosely playing with a concept in physics that entire universes arise with their own unique rules and structures, seemingly instantly and as complete structures. The big bang is the theorized, instantaneous genesis of our universe. The strange conundrum here is that we as humans are simultaneously the creators of this theoretical structure and the actual product of it! So which came first? I saw some parallels to my art practice where the ‘rules’ for making work—perspective, diagrammatic and hard-edged shapes, encoded language—all seem to arise with their own theoretical structure and yet at the same time I am the supposed author and am in control. Visually, I sought to highlight this sense of a complete but co-mingled universe in which the distinction between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional was unimportant. Sculptures appeared to fall out of the images and images flowed out of sculptures and onto the floors and walls. I think it was a first step, and like all shows one does, you realize that the ideas can be pushed and developed. So I am working on a follow-up show.

'. . . many long hours'
Vinyl on Perspex
50 cm x 35 cm

OPP: Recent work from Currents 105: Ian Monroe, your 2011 solo show at Saint Louis Art Museum, had numerous references to in-transit spaces like airplanes and airports, as well as hotels, pay phones and swimming pools. There's way more empty space than in earlier work and the figure is present. How did this apparent shift in focus grow out of older work?

IM: As I mentioned in one of the answers above, airports and other ‘non-places,’ to use a term coined by Marc Augé, have held a long-standing interest for me. For the show in Saint Louis, I decided to make a new body of work that reacted to and reflected a specific local architecture, but not in a site-specific way. Saint Louis has a long history of architecture and flight and has many mid-century buildings of note. Lambert Airport has a particularly interesting story. Completed in 1956, the building was the first major commission by a young architect named Minoru Yamasaki and was an icon of mid-century modernism and optimism in a newly global world. In a strange and ominous coincidence, I discovered one of his last major commissions was the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan. This trajectory, embodied so succinctly in these two places and spaces and in his buildings, was one that transitioned from a glamorous new optimism of the jet-setting global population to that of an increasing anxious, overcrowded and weaponized society.
I did a lot of research on Yamasaki, the airport, Saint Louis and also worked with the Saint Louis Art Museum collections. The artwork all grew out of that material. The figures entered perhaps because there is a very specific story to tell. I found images of the architects working late into the night, of women on holiday in advertising campaigns about destinations reachable from Saint Louis, and the telephone booths that have now been removed because we all have mobile phones. I didn't want to directly reference the towers and all that they now embody. It was a way to sit on the edge of a changing world that is both in love with its systems and one that is deeply threatened by them.

To see more of Ian's work, please visit ianmonroe.net.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/876160 2015-07-02T17:00:00Z 2015-10-08T15:26:44Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Fafnir Adamites
Interiorization of the Outward. Exteriorization of the Inward. (detail)
Felted burlap, paper, felt
11'x 8'x 6'

Using the traditional craft techniques of felt-making, paper-making and embroidery, FAFNIR ADAMITES  creates both intimate, personal memorials and large-scale, abstract monuments. Influenced by theories of inherited trauma from previous generations, she employs the forms of the hidden mass, the implied void and traced/retraced text to provide viewers an opportunity for ongoing contemplation because, as she writes, “the surest engagement with memory lies in it's perpetual irresolution.” Fafnir graduated Cum Laude from University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a BA in Women’s  Studies and Photography in 2001. In May 2015, she earned her MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in. Her work will be included in Materialities: Contemporary Textile Arts, juried by Namita Gupta Wiggers. The show opens on August 27, 2015 at Arrowmont School of Craft in Craft in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Fafnir lives and works in Turners Falls, Massachusetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: One of your staple processes is felt-making. Can you briefly describe this process for those who have never thought about felt before. Why do you choose this process? What's compelling about it conceptually and/or viscerally?

Fafnir Adamites: Felt is the oldest form of fabric, pre-dating knitting and weaving. It is the process of transforming loose, unspun wool into a tight, non-woven fabric. By adding hot, soapy water to the wool and agitating it—my particular process involves rolling and hand-manipulation—the wool fibers shrink and form a dense mass. I’ve always been drawn to intensive processes in the studio. I was a black and white darkroom nerd in undergrad. There’s something about the sharp grain of a perfectly developed photograph that relates to the fine surface of a well-felted object. Processes like these suit perfectionists. They can be unforgiving to the cocky and ultimately rewarding to the person who can slow down and collaborate with the materials and tools.

Handmade felt, muslin, image transfer
Series of 6, each piece approximately 7"x 7"

OPP: What's compelling about felt-making conceptually and/or viscerally?

FA: The repetition of felt-making is part of the appeal for me. The time that’s required allows for meditation and demands physical stamina to see the process through to the end. The transformative quality of felt also intrigues me. Through the shrinking of the wool, I transcribe my actions and embed meaning into the surface of the material.

Felt is a chaos structure that is not constructed in a rigid, striated method like weaving. Felt, like paper, is a mass of unruly fibers. Deleuze and Guattari wrote about the smooth and the striated in A Thousand Plateaus. They make an interesting distinction between the infinite and open nature of felt-making and the spatially limited nature of a process like weaving which always consists of mobile and passive parts. These two distinct forms are inherently different yet wholly inseparable. The felted burlap technique that I have used in a number of recent sculptures is a combination of the smooth and the striated. The smooth, chaotic structure of the felt disrupts the rigid, striated formation of the woven burlap, creating a new beast all together. Chaos overtakes the ruthless grid.

Monument for the Irresolvable
Felted burlap, paper, plastic, air
Approximately 16' x 10' x 4'

OPP: What Conceals and Monument for the Irresolvable, both 2014, formally represent unseen masses. The viewer only has access to the shell or shroud. Both pieces make me think of the idiomatic elephant in the room. What's the elephant in the room in these works?

FA: There is no discrete thing/trauma/experience that I am shrouding or covering up. So maybe the elephant in the room is in fact the elephant in the room. My intent was to designate space for contemplation on absence. The purpose is to shift the authority or the prescription of what is to be mourned and what is worthy of our grief and attention. Pursuing a void form was one method to fill the space and avoid a reference to any particular moment in time or any kind of conclusion.

My research on the counter-monument movement in Germany helped bring me to these void forms. I am particularly interested in how the counter-monument artists approached the conundrum of representing an absence. They were not moved to find closure or seek an end point to the traumas they were memorializing. Instead, they worked with the notion that the surest engagement with memory lies in its perpetual irresolution.

These pieces are less about what is being remembered, suppressed or hidden, and more about leaving space for whatever that phantom is that haunts us. Whether you do anything about it or not, I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that it is indeed there.

What Conceals
Felted burlap, debris
7'x 7'x 4'

OPP: Please talk about your text-based, textile works Writing Adamites (2014) and He Was a Worker (2014), in which you use embroidery to trace written language that relates to your ancestors. How do these pieces relate to your interest in patterns, both personal and collective?

FA: This work began with my research on Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance. This is the theory that environmental events, traumas and anxieties can be imprinted on a person’s DNA and passed down to future generations. I’m fascinated and frankly horrified by the idea that I may be trapped within the events and emotional fallout of generations before me, that I may be pre-programmed to react and exist based not on the current positive or negative forces in my life, but by the forces that were in place decades before me.

In trying to shed some light on my own family’s history, the act of retracing became a potent symbol and method of research, meditation and intimacy. I used the writing of a family friend, poet Robert Francis, to enter their lives and search for a likeness or some shred of familiarity. Physically tracing the words that described my grandfather, his parents and siblings was an act of reverence and a way to slow down and choose to exist within a storyline that I originally saw as a hereditary trap. Retracing someone else’s words, footprints or habits by choice rather than by force can lead to a power shift.

Writing Adamites
Muslin, cotton batting, cotton thread, graphite
7'x 5'

OPP: Highlighting and obscuring are conceptual and formal strategies that overlap with one another in your work. Are these sometimes the same thing? Are they always the same thing?

FA: These strategies are definitely not static, which is part of what draws me to them. Sometimes I think I’m visually highlighting something when actually what I’m doing is obscuring it. As the maker, I can’t always pinpoint which is happening until after the fact. There’s a fluidity that exists in the searching. I’m intrigued by the way that the actions of underlining and redacting can contradict their own intended purposes. Frustratingly, clarity often eludes you when you search too forcefully. Obscuring, or allowing something to be opaque, can make it more approachable. Mucking around in the grey area ultimately dislodges something that is fundamental to a final exposure. Sometimes a guide is revealed in the process. This occurs in my work through the dislocation of meaning when words are redacted or highlighted within a text or when an image is physically altered during the felt-making process. Similarly, the visual signs of concealment are the best way to draw attention to it. 

56"x 32"x 32"

OPP: You literally finished graduate school a month and half ago. It's an experience that many artists have had, and we all know how intense, rewarding and difficult it can be. What was your experience like?

FA: Going back to school for my MFA degree at SAIC after over a decade of being out of school was a jarring experience for me. It forced me to examine a lot of my habits: as a student, an artist and a slightly misanthropic human. The advising sessions, critiques and constant examination of the minutiae of my thinking and my work was a lot like therapy. And it was just the kind of intensity that I needed. I entered knowing that I had to shed some old tendencies and blockages to be able to get deeper into the conceptual intentions of my work and to re-commit myself to my studio practice.

OPP: How does it feel to be entering the next phase of your artistic life? Are you on to new projects yet?

FA: It will take some time for me to fully process my MFA experience and reacclimate to my normal life. While I’m doing that, I have a day job at a special collections archive at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and will begin teaching felt-making and other fiber processes at Snow Farm in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. I’ve been researching for and designing a college level class which combines an intellectual investigation into the history of making and integrating traditional craft processes into fine art studio practice. I’ve also been writing an article on the marginalization of fiber art in the contemporary art world.

To see more of Fafnir's work, please visit fafniradamites.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/873913 2015-06-25T20:29:29Z 2015-06-25T20:32:55Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Matthew Schlagbaum
If I could have feelings at all, I'd have feelings for you
Inkjet print, hammertone acrylic, artist frame

MATTHEW SCHLAGBAUM's sculptures, installations and photography explore the muting effect of romanticism and expectation on our lived experience. Various visual filters like frosted plexiglass, colored mylar, screens obscure clichéd imagery of natural phenomena including sunsets, rainbows, lightning bolts. The viewer is repeatedly viewing one thing through another, which creates a frustrated desire to experience the imagery directly, and this perceptual frustration is echoed in titles that add interpersonal, emotional narratives. Matthew earned his BFA in 2009 from University of South Florida and his MFA in 2011 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His solo exhibitions include Don’t Stop Now, I’m Almost There (2012) at Vitrine in Chicago, It’s What’s On The Outside That Counts (2013) at Contemporary Art Center in Las Vegas and Wearing Myself Out Trying to Get There (2015) at Bert Green Fine Arts in Chicago. He is currently an artist-in-residence at the Arquetopia Foundation in Puebla, Mexico. Past residencies include Vermont Studio Center (2013), Hatch Projects (2013) at Chicago Artists’ Coalition and ACRE (2011). Opening on September 11, 2015, his work will be included in the upcoming exhibition Making Chances at Gallery 400, which is part of the citywide program Platforms: 10 Years of Chances/Dances. Matthew lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does longing play in your practice? 

Matthew Schlagbaum: Longing is a major aspect of my work, but I am no longer very interested the longing related to nostalgia or a yearning for the past. I am interested in representing the desires of the present.

I often feel persuaded into believing that Love and Happiness are obtainable, permanent states of being. In reality, happiness is experienced intermittently, dispersed throughout a gradient of other feelings, most of which are probably pretty neutral. But I often feel the expectation to constantly exist in a high-key. There is a pervasive, erroneous notion that equates not feeling strongly with not feeling at all. Like, if I do not love you so much it makes me sick, then I don’t really love you. 

These unrealistic expectations result in a constant state of longing for something more. Some promised state that is recognizable in others on the streets and in the movies, but that I find difficult to experience. Perhaps Marina and the Diamonds described this more succinctly than I can with their line “TV taught me how to feel, now real life has no appeal.

And all those in love and for those who can remember it
Inkjet print

OPP: I relate to this so much! And, as much as I believe that TV has many positive emotional benefits, unrealistic expectations about the experience of love is a negative side effect. Pop songs certainly play into this, too. Rarely do they capture love, but I do think they are very accurate at capturing infatuation and calling it love. Could the longing to feel more just be a symptom of semantics? Does fine art play into this collective misunderstanding?

MS: I don’t want to give the impression that I am anti-television or popular culture. On the contrary, I’m actually quite fond of them. I do believe that this might be an issue of semantics, in the sense that I often feel disconnect between an emotional reaction and its cultural signifiers. This is a situation that seems pervasive in pop culture, but the Art World is not immune to this either. There is so much work I cannot fully relate to because it’s either assaulting me with its saccharine idealism or smothering me with the horrors of the world. It seems rare to encounter work that addresses the notion of emotional neutrality or explores an ambivalent viewpoint. In response to this, my work is about the person who feels guilty for not crying at a funeral or struggles to muster the level of excitement required to ensure others of their appreciation of a gift—in other words, the person who feels like they are not feeling enough.

The aspirations of the yearning individual in a valueless world
Galvanized steel mounted onto corrugated plastic, refrigerator magnets and imitation gold leaf

OPP: Gold is a recurring color and symbol in your sculptural work. In 2013, you used imitation gold leaf in installations like Treasured, Everything and The Aspirations of the Yearning Individual in a Valueless World. You've also used gold spray paint, gold scrapbook paper and found trophies. What are your thoughts about the color gold and it's conceptual content in your sculpture?

MS: My initial interest in gold came from my inability to convincingly mimic it for a project that I did not have the funds to create out of the real thing. It quickly dawned on me that I had never owned anything made out of gold and didn’t really even know what it was I was trying to replicate. After that I became interested in the value and superiority placed upon the material, its art historical references and the myriad of colors that attempted to imitate it. The imitative materials sort of had this drag quality that I found appealing. They are not convincingly mimicking the original, but that isn’t the point. The act of imitation becomes an exaggeration, and that exaggeration results in something altogether new.  

Now you change. Please. Don’t make me change you. Must I? All right I will. You’re changed now. You are. You did it too. I did it to you but you did it. Yes you did.
Window, wood, paint, Venetian blinds and color changing LED light bulb

OPP: Your titles often contain emotional content that is integral to the work. In some cases—Now You Change. Please. Don’t Make Me Change You. Must I? All Right I Will. You’re Changed Now. You Are. You Did It Too. I Did It To You But You Did It. Yes You Did. (2012), for example—I would consider language a material on par with physical materials. When in your process do you decide on titles? Does thinking about titles shape the evolution of the piece?

MS: Titles are incredibly important to me. They are a way to add an additional reference, layer of content, or entry point into the work. With that being said, titling usually happens after the work has been completed. Like my imagery and materials, I appropriate many of my titles from other sources. I keep a running list of things that I read or hear that resonate with me. When I read, I do a lot of underlining.

Once a work is finished, I comb through all my notes and books and sometimes search for quotes online using keywords or phrases that are related to the conceptual aspect of the work. I like mixing the sources of my titles, and have previously taken titles from movies, television shows, musicians, novels, critical theory, overheard conversations and self-help books.

The title you referenced in your question was taken from the Ernest Hemingway novel The Garden of Eden. The female protagonist convinces her new husband that they should have the same hair, clothes and tanned skin in order to be like androgynous twins. She is constantly altering both of their appearances to suit her desires. In the section this title is taken from, she is trying to convince him that they can switch back and forth between genders, and in that moment she wants him to be the woman and her to be the man. He doesn’t really understand why she wants this or how it would even work, but allows her to assert that this change has taken place anyway. 

Much better
Inkjet print on backlit film and lightbox

OPP: Please talk about the various obstructions/filters that you use to block out or mediate some romantic, natural phenomena like lightening bolts, rainbows or the sunset.

MS: The imagery I choose to work with is meant to represent an extreme emotional state that I often struggle to relate to. Landscapes and natural phenomena work well for this because they tend to be overly romanticized— perhaps a little threatening, but also enticing. I want the images I use to be so familiar that they are simultaneously potent and lacking content. Stock photography has this unique quality of being specific and generic at the same time.  A stock image has to be specific enough to anchor it into a perceived reality, but generic enough that lots of different realities can be projected onto it. 

The plexi, window screen, blinds, etc. that I use to obfuscate imagery are meant to create that sense of longing you mentioned earlier. It allows the viewer to know exactly what it is they are looking at while denying them that full sense of visual satisfaction. I want to manifest a sensation of desiring something that is always just beyond reach.

To see more of Matthew's work, please visit matthewschlagbaum.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/870494 2015-06-17T16:33:40Z 2015-06-18T14:03:58Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Maria Gaspar
Making the Unknown, Known #1 (Site-Specific projects for Little Village, Chicago)
Digital Rendering for sound installation proposal

MARIA GASPAR seeks to make "what is invisible more visible, what is unknown known." As a studio artist, facilitator, collaborator, performer and audio archivist, she explores power and the social and political meanings of geographic spaces, especially in Chicago’s West Side, where she grew up. In 2010, she collaborated with young residents (aged 14-21) of the North Lawndale and Little Village neighborhoods in Chicago to create a series of temporary public art projects known as City as Site. Her long-term project 96 Acres is a complex, collectively-produced portrait of the massive Cook County Jail and its effects on the surrounding neighborhood. Recently, Maria was awarded a prestigious Creative Capital Award for a set of public sound installations to further her work in Little Village. She received a Maker Grant in 2013 and was featured in the Chicago Tribune's Chicagoan of the Year in the Visual Arts in 2014. In 2015, she will be in residence at Project Row Houses in Houston. Maria is an Associate Professor at SAIC in Chicago, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What early influences have impacted your community-engaged public art projects?

Maria Gaspar: I was greatly impacted by the work of local artists who engaged young people and residents in a creative process of art-making. In Chicago's mural movement, artists and community folks worked together to represent positive images of their neighborhoods. Spaces like bodega corner stores and community buildings became visual sites for dialogue and civil rights. I understand this work as not only having symbolic power, but also political, social and cultural reverberation. This approach continues to influence my way of translating issues around displacement, contested spaces and the politicized body. 

City As Site
(Viaduct study, Kostner Ave.)

OPP: Tell us about the public interventions of City As Site.

MG: City As Site was very intentionally located on the West Side of Chicago, where I could examine the spatial subtleties around landscape and power with young people within the Lawndale communities. Young people are constantly negotiating their social behaviors within the often-authoritative and oppressive realities of so-called public space and a growing hyper-surveillance normalcy, especially towards brown and black communities. Through City As Site, we created performance interventions with our bodies; mediated vacant lots by way of temporary installations; invented new stories around an isolated viaduct, inserting performance art into the architecture of a bleak space; created drawings on sidewalks using found street detritus; and staged comedic tableaus at the local public park.The most compelling experiences occurred during our daily collective walks as we interacted with architecture through improvisation, where youth made beautiful, poetic, and powerful gestures. At the same time, we also faced misperceptions around our collective walking. What we considered to be a positive and imaginative set of dérives through the city was interpreted as threatening to some strangers. Walking with youth of color became a radical, political act. 

City As Site led to my thinking around specific contested spaces in the Little Village community. In my ongoing conversations with other artists and activists in the area, we speculated about potential art pieces on the jail wall. In 2012, that speculative conversation turned into meetings with community stakeholders, including the Sheriff's Department, and that led to 96 Acres.

OPP: What’s been most challenging about 96 Acres?

MG: The jail is the largest architecture of my community and grappling with what that means on the social and political level is difficult to say the least. The project begets questions around impacted communities of color, the prison industrial complex, mass incarceration, and works closely with transformative justice approaches. Its complexity is also in its diversity of voices, including an organized 96 Acres Steering Committee and 96 Acres Education Initiative, all facets of 96 Acres that grew out of an organic conversation around the needs of the project. It includes artistic contributions from many other artists and activists around the city and beyond that creatively intervene in the Cook County Jail site using art that engages its surrounding communities. 

Tangled Brown Cloud
Cut paper
24" x 18" x 7"

OPP: How does your more traditional studio practice influence the community-based work?

MG: My collective projects are durational and community-specific, which entails a lot of time and sensitivity to the conversations that surface through a very thoughtful and open set of questions. This is very different from my individual work where the durational element is in a space of solitude. That space allows me to not only make installations or objects, but also reflect and identify new questions for my work and contend with them. As someone interested in community engagement, the process through which radical community ideas emerge is the most powerful element to this work. I’m influenced Augusto Boal's Games For Actors and Non-Actors and its improvisational methodologies—performance, the body and translation intricately negotiate the gesture, personal and political histories, collaboration and participation. To me, the power lies in the orchestration of situations that create a range of provocative images, interrogate language, and generate innovative ideas. And ultimately, that the spaces I create with others are also spaces for freedom—to be, or to become—fluid spaces of reimagining.

You Think You See Things (Detail I)
Latex paint, plastic sheets, aluminum paper
Dimensions Variable
Installation at O' Conner Gallery, Dominican University, River Forest, IL

OPP: Tell us about your ongoing exploration of the color brown. What does brown mean to you, formally and symbolically, and how have your explorations of it changed over the last few years?

MG: The color brown is persistent in much of my work. Originally, I was interested in the way that Chicago's Graffiti Blaster program removed graffiti by covering it in brown paint. All along my neighborhood, I saw patches of small and large brown areas that obscured signs, words or images along viaducts or buildings. The color brown was meant to cover the signs and assimilate into the architectural landscape, but instead the brown color became more visible and the small patches turned into entire sides of buildings. Along with the color, the gesture of "blasting" brown was an interesting act to me. So, I decided to do the same action in an installation at 6018 North, where I spray gunned an entire room brown—ceiling to floor. This action was meant to amplify brownness as an act of power. It was about dislocation and belonging and asserting a brown space into what is traditionally a white gallery or exhibition space. In my series of "brown outs," I've completed a series of shadowy forms that conceal and reveal themselves within interiors of buildings. The forms demarcate space and territory and rouse issues of proximity and subjectivity.

Oblation For Another Parade
Muslin, Latex, Wood, Streamers, Confetti and Other Found Objects
Dimensions Variable

OPP: I was particularly struck by the documentation of Oblation for Another Parade Performance (2009) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. It was sad and powerful to watch how few people even noticed the slow-moving group of people of color. The symbolic social and political implications about visibility and space are clear, especially in the context of MCA's First Fridays. I also ended up thinking a lot about how human beings have different capacities for spatial awareness. In crowds, there are patterns of behavior for claiming and asserting space, which may be culturally conditioned. Some people weave in and out, predicting movements of other people, while others simply plant themselves or barrel ahead, oblivious to the bodies of other people. Was there anything really surprising to you about the crowd's response or lack of response to the performance while it was happening?

MG: So much of my artistic practice has used interventionist strategies within public or private spaces. I am often examining the ways that spaces elicit a certain kind of behavior, such as within the confines of a museum. My inclination is to subvert it. I wasn't completely surprised at some of the lack of acknowledgement at the MCA because it was during the First Friday's event, which is like a museum-turned-nightclub. Most people were interested in the socializing aspect of the event, which is exactly why I wanted to create a performance that punctured that environment. The performers made a kind of shape shifting architecture that necessitated an alternate pathway. I was more interested in the ways that people were redirected around the performers and the power that the performers attained as they moved through the first floor of the museum. In addition, the performers were a mix of people, such as modern dancers, a former student who performs in professional drag shows across the city, as well as my community of friends and colleagues who were not experienced performance artists, but enthusiastic and committed to exploring this idea with me. It was a great experience, overall.

Making the Unknown, Known #2 (Site-Specific projects for Little Village, Chicago)
Digital Rendering for Sound Installation Proposal

OPP: In 2013, you produced a short, audio documentary called Cook County Jail: The Visible and the Invisible, which investigated what it means to live next to one of the largest pre-detention facilities in the country. On your website are images of proposals for a series of sound installations based on the proximity of a jail. Have these proposals become a reality yet? Will these sound installations make use of audio from The Visible and the Invisible or have you continued to interview Little Village residents about the jail?

MG: The proposals are meant to provoke a dialogue about who sees the jail and who doesn't and why/why not. The idea is to place three sound installations in three parts of a major street, 26th Street (same street as the Cook County Jail), and program them with interviews and personal stories about incarceration. A version of this proposal is currently in development. For now, the audio archive is growing. On the 96 Acres website, the public is invited to upload their personal stories. At an upcoming 96 Acres exhibition at the Hull House Museum (Fall 2015), we will set up a recording table for visitors interested in contributing a personal story. I recently began a residency at the Experimental Sound Studio where I am producing a new set of audio pieces that deal with the sonic landscape of the jail vicinity. I have been documenting the informal architectures of the jail periphery the past few years, which include photos and audio of cultural events located just outside the jail walls, including a recent carnival last week. Audio is a powerful medium that transcends boundaries and geographies and grants the listener the freedom to imagine a space, people and places.

Monument to 26th Street (Side)
Paper, Rubber, Wood and Found objects
Dimensions Variable

OPP: In 2014 you won a Maker Grant, which is cosponsored by Chicago Artist Coalition and OtherPeoplesPixels, you were featured in the Chicago Tribune as Chicagoan of the Year in the Visual Arts in 2014, and you were just awarded a Creative Capital Award. How have these prestigious awards impacted both your practice and your career?

MG: Receiving these awards has been a tremendous honor, to say the least. Lori Waxman, who wrote about my work in the Tribune, is a person I greatly respect and admire. Her writing on my practice means a lot to me. The Maker Grant is special because it means that people in my own city have recognized my work as a Chicago artist. Whereas on a national level, Creative Capital has been supportive in funding my long-term art projects that are generally riskier and more challenging to fund. They are willing to take that long ride with me and are invested in all aspects of my creative life. This is an incredibly profound experience that is entirely new to me. I am very motivated by the opportunities and possibilities. I am also very grateful to my friends and, especially my family, that have been there for me every step of the way, and who have indeed been taking that life/art ride with me for a long time regardless of awards or recognition.

To see more of Maria's work, please visit mariagaspar.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/868019 2015-06-11T17:00:00Z 2015-07-08T18:07:00Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Johana Moscoso
Machera Series 1

Colombian-born JOHANA MOSCOSO’s embroidery, performance and sculptures are a response to and an expression of her experience as a Latin American woman and a resident alien in the United States. She renders the migratory movements of generations of her family in dense embroideries that combine machine and hand stitching. The absence of a male dancer is conspicuous in Machera, her series of salsa performances, questioning traditional gender roles as they are manifested in Latin American culture. After earning her BVA at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Johana came to the United States in 2007 as an MFA student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she received an Artistic Honors Scholarship. Since then, she has exhibited extensively in both Columbia and the United States. She is represented by Otros 360 Grados Gallery in Bogota. Johana will attend ACRE Residency (Steuben, Wisconsin) in the summer of 2015 and is a 2015-2016 BOLT resident at Chicago Artists’ Coalition. In February 2016, she will mount a solo show at the Lakeside Legacy Foundation in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Johana lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You use an uniform color palate of red, black and white in your embroideries, performances and installations. Why do you choose this palate? Do you ever feel limited by it?

Johana Moscoso: These particular colors reinforce concepts that I explore in my work. Red allows me to address gender stereotypes relating to Latin women. For example, the red dress, red lipstick and red nails are clichés of attractiveness, especially in Latin American culture. On the other hand, the dancers in my performances uniforms wear black because it directs the viewer's attention to the performer’s movements. Ultimately, the color choice supports the work and unifies the performers as one.

Many of the threads in my embroideries appear to be black but are actually just very dark colors like blue and gray that have been built up through layers of stitches. The best way to appreciate all the colors in the embroideries is in person. I use white simply because it complements the whole of each piece and helps emphasize the content. In Machera Series 2, the white powder acted as a document of what happened on the platform, allowing the performers movements to be visually traced. Furthermore, white in my embroideries creates contrast and highlights the traces made by stitches. 

Ah-moor (detail)
99 inch x 64 inch

OPP: What’s the relationship between the hand-stitched, red lips and the accumulated, machine stitched lines in your embroideries?

JM: My embroideries are abstract maps of my family’s migration, both my immediate family and over generations. They celebrate the places where my family has migrated, the languages and traditions related to these locations and the memories that have passed from generation to generation. The lips in my embroideries are personal; they are located at the longitude and latitude of actual locations where my family migrated. They are very static in comparison to the machine-made lines in the fabric that act as a trace for the time, labor and nostalgia of our journeys. The trace made between the first and the last stitch represents an intangible timeline. 

35 inch x 23 inch

OPP: The interactive sculptures from the Emotional Prostheses Series address themes of safety, comfort and adaptation in relation to emotional, physical and social needs. Each piece hints at an isolated individual in relation to a potentially threatening environment. Did these works grow more out of your experience growing up in Bogota, Colombia or moving to North America?

JM: This body of work was first conceived in Bogota, but it certainly evolved when I moved to the United States. The series examines situations and emotions that occur in everyday life through sculptures that affect the body. In Bogota, many of my Emotional Prostheses projects focused on relationships and the absence or presence of loved ones. When I moved to the United States, I became more interested in the idea of protection. As an immigrant this seemed to be a natural progression for the work.

Even though I have used public transportation all my life in Bogota and other cities, using the MARTA in Atlanta made me feel vulnerable. On many occasions I was the only person in the bus, train or station! This inspired the piece MARY KAY Protection Device, which attempted to protect my identity, in the sense of both preserving and hiding it. It is ironic to think about protecting your identity as an immigrant; your daily goal is to try to fit in! When I wore the piece and tried to enter the train station, a MARTA agent stopped me to ask many questions. It became uncomfortable, so I left the station before catching a train. When I toke the piece off at the entrance of MARTA, the same person came and asked me why I was wearing that piece and where I was from. She was worried because people were calling me a bomb girl and calling me different nationalities and ethnicities, even though they could only see my eyes. I was afraid of getting deported.

MARY KAY Protection Device

OPP: You've danced Salsa on top of sticks, flour, in the back of a U-Haul-style truck as part of Trailer Park Projects, a space supported by the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, and at various gallery spaces. Tell us about Machera, your series of salsa performances. Are any cultural nuances in these performances lost on United States audiences?

JM: Showing my performances in the States has been an important process for me. It has allowed me to analyze and explore my interests in “otherness.” What I have found is that there is a clear distance between the viewer and the performers, and sometimes it seems as though these performances reveal the divide between the two cultures. For example, in Machera Series 1 at Roots and Culture in Chicago, we danced behind a false wall. We were so curious about the viewer's perspective because everyone was so quiet as we performed. Many of my performers are Colombians, and we joked that if we did this performance in Colombia, people would climb under the wall and begin to dance with us, turning the show into one big party!

OPP: The absence of a male dancer, which is not common in Latin cultures, is significant in these performances, right?

JM: In some Latin dances such as Salsa and Merengue, the absence of the male partner is not common. I embrace that women stand up for themselves and celebrate sisterhood between girlfriends in my performances.

Machera Series 5
Performance, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago

You are represented by Otros 360 Grados in Bogota, Colombia, your home country, and have a show there in August 2015. Tell us about the show. What are the practical realities of exhibiting internationally? What’s different about exhibiting in Colombia, as opposed to the Unite States?

JM: One of the goals of the Otros 360 Grados gallery is to address an inequality in the number of women and men exhibiting in and represented by commercial galleries. The show (title to be announced) in August is a dialog between fiber, drawing and painting from a Latin American, feminine point of view. Aside from me, the show includes Gabriela Lascombes (Argentina), Maria Jose Mir (Chile), Maria Jose Concha (Chile), Nayibe Bechara (Colombia) and Carmenza Kafarela (Colombia).

Exhibiting in the United States has taught me to feel competent in terms of the logistics and research that goes into working towards an exhibition. This process has been made easier because my husband Scott A. Carter is also an artist. We help each other in our practices and even more so during the installation of each other’s exhibitions.

Exhibiting internationally requires substantially more logistical planning, research and culture awareness. For the show in Colombia, I adjusted to working in a way. It is also a great experience because my family and I are a team that works together towards the installation and exhibition. They help me choose the right materials, go to the right places to get what I need for the installation and support me by giving me their opinion on hanging the pieces. In addition, they help me pack and unpack the pieces. Ever since Otros 360 Grados began representing me, they have been attending the openings, artist lectures, and have a good relationship with the gallerists. Their support is vital for me.

It took me many years of being an artist in the US before I finally had a chance to have an exhibition in my home country of Colombia. This is a huge achievement for me. I am very excited and thankful for all the opportunities to show my work, however, showing in Bogota is very special to me as part of my heart lives in Colombia. 

To see more of Johana's work, please visit johanamoscoso.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/865420 2015-06-04T12:59:55Z 2015-09-01T16:46:24Z NewThing Is Coming. . . You're going to love it. It's a set of super-modern new Layouts and features for your OPP website. Of course, because OPP ♥s artists, you'll get everything NewThing has to offer completely free and with no need to re-upload a thing. NewThing offers four gorgeous, new full-screen Layouts, so your viewer's experience of your artwork is dynamic, visually-driven and easy to navigate. Please visit our Featured Artists' websites to see the new layouts in action.

Layout A

A minimal, centered layout with horizontal navigation. Artwork is arranged in full-image, brick-style rows. It's great for artwork that looks good in a collection, especially when you have installation shots alongside details.



Layout B

A classic style with vertical navigation in clear sections on the left. Artwork is displayed in masonry columns, which looks fantastic if images from a particular project are a variety of sizes.



Layout C

Called "the Editorial," it sports horizontal, scrolling for gliding through artwork, alongside vertical, centered navigation. This layout is ideal when sequential relationships between images are paramount.



Layout D

Another classy style with vertical navigation on the left that shows two levels of nested galleries. Artwork scrolls vertically, so this is a great alternative to Layout B's masonry columns.


Mobile-friendly and Responsive!

NewThing is also super mobile-friendly and responsive, meaning that images will automatically resize to fit the screen it is being viewed on, whether it's a huge desktop monitor, a laptop, an ipad or a smartphone.

Be sure to resize the browser window to see how the image rearrange themselves.


Can't wait for NewThing? Neither can we!
We're working as hard as we can to sort out the last kinks with our lovely Alpha-testers. . . and guess what comes after Alpha? Beta! And that means that testing NewThing will soon be open to EVERYONE on OPP! If you want to be a Beta-tester, you'll be getting an email soon, but you can also email Customer Support and tell them you'd like to be first on the list!
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/862101 2015-05-28T13:14:53Z 2015-05-28T13:14:53Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Heather Brammeier
Inside Outside
Oil on canvas
36"x 54"

HEATHER BRAMMEIER’s flowing, curling lines—rendered two-dimensionally in paint and three-dimensionally in PEX piping—evoke vines, waves, hair, intestines, smoke and even cursive writing. Her paintings and installations are unified by the balance abstraction and representation, or expressions of the internal and the external. Heather earned her BFA from Bradley University in 2000 and her MFA from University of Pennsylvania in 2002. Her representational works will be exhibited alongside abstract reinterpretations in She Defines Herself, a solo exhibition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that opens on June 26, 2015. A rooftop installation at the South Bend Museum of Art in Indiana will be on display from June, 2015–May 2017. Adorn, another rooftop installation, will be on view for the month of September 2015 at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago.  Most recently, she was chosen to take part in the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art's SENSE exhibition, as part of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Heather is an Associate Professor of Art at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a little about your process in general. Are you a sketcher/planner or an intuitive maker?

Heather Brammeier: I love planning and sketching, but I always know the finished works will be very different from the plans. At the beginning of a studio day, I allow myself to follow any line of thought and imagine ambitious new directions. I mentally undertake any project and see where it goes, forgetting about physical limitations, even discounting the effects of gravity. It’s just like when I was a little girl, trying to balance huge Lego houses on a tiny base. This over-reaching is part of my process, because it gives me interesting problems to work on. I often find myself looking at a sketch and asking myself how I can achieve similar results with simpler, more direct means. This is how I devise new ways of working, or new ways of addressing current work.

Painting in Space 5
Repurposed paintings, fabric, play balls, suitcase, chair, and other mixed media

OPP: I'm utterly enamored with the installations that you refer to as Painting in Space. Personally, I think of these more as sculptural quilts than paintings because of your decision to include found objects like chairs, suitcases, and balls as well as repurposed art work. Why do you think of these works as paintings instead of installations?

HB: I tend to see visual characteristics—shape, color, space—before naming objects or identifying things. This makes me very aware of the way our brain flattens visual input into an image. When I started assembling objects to make the paintings in space, I imagined myself “fattening” my paintings by giving them dimension and then “flattening” them again through photography. During construction, I definitely anticipate how the photograph will flatten out all dimension (as the brain does). The paintings in space still hold up as installation in an exhibition setting, but my primary focus is the image created, rather than an environment. Your term “sculptural quilts” is apt, as it describes both the dimensional and flattened qualities. I have an interest in the area between two and three dimensions, and I have explored sewing to work in that realm.

Ribbed Cave (With Uccello)
Oil on canvas
45"x 30"

OPP: You return again and again to loopy mass of curls and coils in your Invented Landscapes and PEX sculptures. At times, these organic lines evoke vines, waves, hair, intestines, smoke and even cursive writing. Could you talk about your attraction to this form, as well as its counterpart, the triangle, that shows up in many of your installations?

HB: Loops and biomorphic forms have the potential to refer to interior and exterior simultaneously. I welcome all the associations you identified. I tell people I am “aggressively introspective.” I’m being a little self-deprecating, but also completely honest. My introspection over the years has led me to view experience of the mind, body and physical world as very fluid and continuous.  My imagery can easily shift from being read as interior to exterior space and from mental struggle to physical struggle. 

I use circles and triangles to evoke strength and stability. Just as the stability in our lives can turn quickly into chaos, carefully measured structures can transform into masses of lines that spin out of control. My return again and again to biomorphic tangles creates a physical manifestation of the constant search for meaning that we all experience.

She Defines Herself (Bordone's Princess, Jess)
Conte on Rives BFK
30"x 22" each

OPP: Your Masterworks Interpretations began are based on famous paintings of the St. George and the Dragon story. In paintings like Waterfall (With Moreau's St. George) and Ribbed Cave (With Uccello), you  reinterpret isolated parts of the original paintings and place them inside your characteristic coils. But in 2015, you've made a major stylistic shift with drawing diptychs like She Defines Herself
(Uccello's Princess, Tura's Princess) and She Defines Herself (Bordone's Princess, Jess). What led to this shift?

HB: The masterwork reinterpretations began a few years ago when I used the language of biomorphic abstraction to reinterpret a master’s composition. I recently started allowing myself to start copying portions of the masterworks. I began to see that representational imagery can provide metaphor for internal struggles, just as abstraction does. This gave me permission to mine personal experience—through snapshots—and combine it with the masterwork imagery I was studying. These drawings were my way of breaking through the barrier I had set between abstraction and representation, but they do not represent an abandonment of abstraction. My plan is that the portraits will lead to paintings that combine abstraction with representation.

Incorporating the study of masterworks into my studio practice has taught me things I didn’t anticipate. While I am nothing like an art historian, I think I may understand now how connected an art historian feels to artwork. I also feel like I understand portraiture in a way that I never had before. A similar sense of longing arises in working from either a snapshot or a reproduction of a painting, as both have limited visual information. When drawing from a snapshot, I have to strain to find detail in the image, but I am compelled by my interest in the woman pictured. When I draw a woman from a reproduction of a painting, I am also constantly straining to see more in the image, but I begin without knowing the woman. The process of visual searching leads me to feel more connection with the woman in the painting. The gap separating real women I know and fictional women I can never meet is closed by visual study and interpretation. 

No matter the medium or approach, I tend to take disparate elements and put them on equal footing. In the paintings in space, objects stored in my basement are considered raw material on footing with oil paintings. In the masterwork interpretations, my approach to abstraction and the representational approach of the master artist are both on the table for me to use. The women in the conte portraits are considered equally, whether they are toddlers, young women or princesses. I put aside the distinctions that most people would consider first in order to present more universal qualities. Each woman’s expression suggests complicated thoughts and even inner conflict. I like to pair these portraits as diptychs, but I also like grouping them in different ways. Exhibited in one long line, the women seem almost to talk to one another, and the cropped horses and dragons from masterworks create a sense of absurdity.

Seeing Through (wall installation)
PEX plumbing pipe, zip ties
20'x 15'x 4'

OPP: You have two upcoming rooftop installations, one at the South Bend Museum of Art and one at the Lilllstreet Art Center in Chicago. What are you planning? What's exciting about a rooftop space and what's difficult?

HB: I actually have three rooftop projects coming up! I was just chosen to do a piece at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I will be working in their Terrace exhibition space on the roof of the building. My outdoor installations utilize PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) because it is very resistant to the elements. PEX is more flexible and light than PVC and more rigid than most hosing, so it holds curves very well.  The cross-linked fibers allow me to drill holes through the PEX; red and blue zip ties are threaded through to hold curves in place. I make large, elegant tangles that can drape across walls and tumble over edges. 

Each space holds its own challenge. The piece I am making for the South Bend Museum of Art will tumble over the edge of a twenty-two foot high wall. Creating a piece that has a substantial visual presence viewed from the sidewalk as well as from the various tall buildings surrounding the Century Center will be a challenge. I am using some wooden structures with arcs and triangles to help establish a strong visual profile and to physically anchor the piece. The Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago has four flagpoles on the edge of its rooftop, and I’ll be draping PEX loops from one to the next like a necklace or adornment for the building and the sky. At the UICA in Grand Rapids, I have a much larger space than I ever have before.  Some of my plans for this space are still in the works, as I have a lot of research and testing to do. I can tell you I will be building more structures for the PEX to climb on, and I’ll be making striped walls with red and blue tape.  The optical effects of red and blue PEX in front of red and blue stripes will be exhilarating for some, and disorienting for others because of the strong color vibration. The red and blue lines invite associations with arteries and veins, which can lead to contemplations of the visceral experience of artwork.  I also embrace associations with toys and hula-hoops. As in much of my other work, I am addressing the fact that apparent opposites often exist together and that ambiguity reigns over clarity.

To see more of Heather's work, please visit heatherbrammeier.com

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/859498 2015-05-21T21:18:48Z 2015-05-21T21:19:35Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Elkpen
Acrylic on recycled cardboard
Each sign approx 13" x 17"
These signs were made from one half of a found fed ex shipping box. The signs were then sent out to people to hang in their neighborhoods, including New York City and Palo Alto.

ELKPEN’s ecologically-oriented work takes so many forms: screen-printed T-shirtspostcard drawingsmuralschalk drawings in public spacesinformational placards on recycled shipping boxes, all of which live out in the world, where they can have the biggest effect. She began her ongoing project Elkology in 2009 in the hopes that "seeing would beget more seeing." Her hand-painted, informational signs on recycled cardboard reference both advertising and protest placards. She inserts them into the urban landscape to highlight the overlooked wilderness that still exists and to memorialize the numerous losses of species and changes to the natural world. Currently, Elkpen is working on a large mural project about the natural history of the San Fernando Valley. She lives and works in Los Angeles. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a bit about your upbringing and background as an artist.

Elkpen: I grew up between rural Nova Scotia and Brooklyn, New York. . . divorced parents!!! I think that split between country and city deeply impressed me and had a lot to do with my beginning my Elkology project to find nature in urban environments. Once I embarked on that, I discovered urban ecology is a growing field. It completely preoccupies me now.

I have not had a lot of training as an artist. I dropped out of art school after a year. My biggest education was a Saul Steinberg book I got when I was a kid. I heard he never drew in situ, but traveled and remembered what he saw. Observation is so key. I’ve since collected a lot of graphic material from Little Nemo to Tony Millionaire. Inspirational. . . as are outsider artists, sign makers and maps. I worked as a sign painter and cartographer before going full time freelance with illustration.

Acrylic on recycled cardboard
84" X 24"

OPP: Could you introduce us to your project Elkology? When did you first begin this project?

Elkpen: I had just moved to a pretty beaten down part of Hollywood in Los Angeles. My workroom was a tiny, rickety built-on porch on the second floor. I was astonished at how many birds I could see from there. At the time I was collecting old nature guide books, and I had an idea to make a guide for birds on the street. I thought, wow, nobody thinks this crummy place is worth anything, and yet there is all this life here!

That was the impetus. Then came a lot of experimentation about what medium was appropriate. The form of the sign fit exactly what I had in mind. We are so bombarded with signs that have completely useless information. I liked the idea of re-appropriating the space for signs on the street. And I liked the idea of impermanent materials. . . the signs, whether chalk drawings on the sidewalk, or twine and cardboard tied up somewhere are subject to vanish: just like wildlife.

7th Avenue, NYC

OPP: Do you ever exhibit in galleries? Do you have any desire to?

Elkpen: I have occasional gallery shows. Nothing too consequential. I don’t really think of that as a venue for me. But I do want to do a lot more work outside. I get excited thinking about places to put images where they might be least expected: napkins, the bottoms of shoes, a gutter. I have wanted to do a matchbook campaign forever. I want to put something of value where you don’t expect to find value. I think we kind of look at wild environments in this way, which is to say we overlook them.

Acrylic on recycled cardboard

OPP: Do you insert your signs guerrilla-style or with permission in to public spaces? 

Elkpen: Most of the time, it’s guerrilla-style. I do approach shop keepers to leave signs at their stores. That’s often a really nice transaction, an opportunity to talk directly to people about the content of the signs. I’ve put signs up in the neighborhood to later find them gone with a note from someone in the neighborhood in their place talking about whatever species I have referenced. I choose spots for a few reasons. Often you can see the species I name in the sign there, as in Phoebe. Other times the site has some resonance with the content of the sign. For example, I wanted to make a sign about the overlooked pigeon, and the park bench was a natural choice for Pigeon Trivia. Sometimes it is simply a nice spot or a highly visible spot. But it is not random where I put the signs. Sometimes I find the spot after I have a sign, but other times I see the spot first. There's this giant, pink behemoth of a building on Sunset Boulevard. It's all one color and so enormously bland. I think of it as a strange kind of blind spot, so I made a sign for it that was not easy to see in order to talk about other things that are not easy to see.

Cut out painted cardboard, Sunset Blvd.

OPP: Could you talk about the relationship between elkology and graffiti art?

Elkpen: I don’t think what I am doing is graffiti art. And it is not really street art either. Even though it shares some things with these two art forms. It’s just an idiosyncratic thing I am up to. I am trying to think of ways to have conversations with people about natural history and wildlife and conservation. I do not want to be didactic, depressing or heavy. I want to create wonderment about the natural world. Because, if you stop to think about it for a minute, it is wonderous.

Painted wall in vacant lot

OPP: What are you up to right now and what’s on the horizon?

Elkpen: My present project is not a sign project. Though if I were a bolder artist, I would have made it into a giant sign project. I’ve been commissioned to create a three-part mural about the natural history of the San Fernando Valley. It is a new thing for me to work with a big team and install the mural on site. I have an idea to make a comic book from the mural because it has so much detail in it. I’ve always wanted to do a comic book. The intermediate step will be a QPC code that brings views of the mural to a website which will have the details of the mural itemized with topical information. That will be the rough draft of the printed book and a way to access people's interest through the platform of smart phones.

I've also been thinking about a water conservation project. There is this huge issue right in front of us Californians that most of us really know so little about. I’ve been really disappointed with public service announcements about water conservation. I am not sure how the project will take shape yet, but I keep returning to this idea that if we thought of water as gold, we would treat it much differently.

To see more of Elkpen's work, please visit elkology.com and elkpen.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) andEverything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Nowa two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/855990 2015-05-14T13:57:38Z 2015-05-14T14:03:37Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Travis Townsend
Another Tankard
Wood and mixed media
100 x 100 x 100 inches

TRAVIS TOWNSEND’s large sculptural vessels appear to be part boat, part RV, part space ship, part ark. Tiny chairs and ladders occupy these vehicles, hinting at vague narratives of human cultures—past, present and future—in transition or possibly on the brink of extinction. Travis earned his BS from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. He received the Virginia A. Groot Foundation Sculpture Award in 2006, 2008 and 2009. His numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas (2008), Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati (2012) and Washington State University (2014). As part of SmithTownsendCollaborative, he recently created a new installation with Brandon C. Smith titled view of the big nothing from an abandoned perch atop pink meat pod island (with Godbird watching) for the Lexington Art League’s Loudoun House. Travis teaches at Eastern Kentucky University and is represented by Ann Tower Gallery. An exhibition of Travis’ paintings will take place in Fall 2015 at the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington, Kentucky, where he lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What came first for you: painting or sculpture?

Travis Townsend: I thought of myself predominately as a painter in high school and early college, but I’ve always made three-dimensional stuff. Looking back, the objects were always more interesting than the paintings. Throughout my first few years at Kutztown University, I thought sculpture was either boring, old statues or rusty chunks of big Modernist metal. It took me a while to realize that my woodworking/sculpture could be as weird and fun to make as the tree forts and skateboard ramps I built as a kid. I spent my last two years planted in the wood shop, making oddball furniture objects with heavily painted surfaces that I believed a wide range of viewers could understand, appreciate and live with. I sold a bunch right as I was graduating, so I thought I had it all figured out. Of course, then my work changed.

The paintings that came next had a strong resemblance to the surfaces of the furniture. Since graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University, the creative process has become more evident in the finished paintings and sculptures. The more recent paintings are, to me, more interesting hung in clusters near the sculptures. I often think of them as some sort of information tablet that presents a layered history without ever really explaining it.

Since my first serious work began as furniture—albeit not in a traditional sense—the vessel has always been an appealing starting point for me in terms of form and potential meaning. Early on, the sculptures were more about what it meant to craft, and then re-create, objects that nostalgically relate to furniture objects, tools and toys that we live with. This series was called Rebuilt Domestic Devices. As the work shifted into a larger scale and began to look a bit like sad, homemade machines that were insufficient to do their tasks, the series became Renovated Flightless Devices.

Renovated Newky Toy
Wood and mixed media

OPP: Could you talk about the relationship between the sculptures and the wall drawings in your solo show Anxious Accumulations (2008) at Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas?

TT: That show was very important to me. It was a big space that needed some fairly sizable objects. I had previously made a contraption-like sculpture connected to a wall drawing, but this was the first time I changed wall colors and pedestal colors and drew on the walls. The pronounced use of string as a three-dimensional line was new, too.

The act of drawing is very important to the creation of my sculptures, which evolve from continually-accumulating small doodles. When complete, the sculptures are a bit "sketchy" in the sense that they might seem unfinished or in-progress. From the beginning, I drew and painted on the sculptures, but it took a while for me to feel confident putting images on the walls. Most of my three-dimensional work has a strong linear gesture. So, building on this already present "drawing" sensibility with string and charcoal on walls has been a good fit. My vocabulary of simple symbolic images became more distilled with this show. The image of the dead bird could stand in for innocence and the cartoony army tank could be brutish, clumsy violence. These images are usually secondary and play a supporting role to the sculptures, but that may change in the future.

Vehicle of Strange Conception
Wood and mixed media

OPP: The lo-tech, DIY quality of your large sculptural vessels leads me to imagine large groups of people being forcefully exiled from their homelands. I think of diasporas in fictional outer space (the humans of Battlestar Galactica) and in history (the transatlantic slave trade). I also imagine the intentional exploration of new frontiers in history (colonial explorers) and in our contemporary world (Cuban immigrants crossing the Gulf Stream by boat). In all cases, these works evoke thoughts of the major upheaval of confronting the unknown. What narratives do you imagine for these vessels?

TT: Yes! Thanks for that. I appreciate hearing your ideas about what my work suggests. It is all of those things, without being any of those things specifically. I always hope that the layered possibilities become a jumping off point for viewers to fill in the narrative for themselves. There is more than one answer to the question of, So what does this mean?

The use of small boats, chairs, ladders, mini dwellings and the image of the dead bird is the most pronounced attempt at a narrative, however. I like the way these indicators of previous habitation change the associations of the larger vessel-like objects. From across the room, a viewer sees something that is human scale, but upon closer examination of the small built structures, docks, and flotilla of boats, one might start to think of the sculptures as massive arks for a possibly-extinct group of small people. What do the symbols suggest about the people who once inhabited the now-empty chairs? Did they build the boat-like contraptions? Did they abandon these vessels or did they die out? I keep thinking of those colossal heads on Easter Island and the abandoned cliff dwelling culture in the American Southwest. Also running through my mind are ideas about building machines we don't need, fouling up ourselves and others, then fleeing to start the whole process over again. Lately, some titles suggest this by using words like infected, abandoned and evacuation. Raft for __________  (with Infected Systems Drawing) does this most emphatically.

Randy Shull, one of my teachers at Penland, has made many works with a simple iconic chair-shape, and I've always loved Charles Simond's tiny, clay dwelling pieces. I probably wouldn't be creating the chairs and little clay bricks if had I never seen their work. Certain images stick with me for years before I see traces of their influence in what I'm making.

Ladder and Three Chairs
Wood, graphite

OPP: I'm curious about your choice of the word "renovated" to describe many of the pieces, as in Renovated Quarry Pot, Renovated TLC or the Renovated Flightless Devices. In what way are they renovated? What was their former state?

TT: The titles are mini artist statements that suggest the process and the type of object: toy, ark, tank, device, pot. The word renovated hints at a positive-sounding narrative of handmade improvements. I really do make and remake some of these things over and over again. But I also hope the viewer will wonder, why would someone keep "fixing" such useless-looking, slightly pathetic objects? A dominant theme in my work is the creative act of building itself. My studio practice is not unlike the tinkering of other middle-aged guys in their garages after their kids have gone to bed. Although, I was working this way long before I had a house with a garage. . . or three kids.

Raft for____________
Wood and mixed media

OPP: How has having kids changed your art practice or your art career?

TT: Time in the studio is much more precious. I don't waste as much time as I used to! My wife, Felicia Szorad, would probably say the same about her own studio activity. Our twin daughters are three, and our son is six. We recently purchased a home that needed renovations, so we've been extra busy these last few years. Gradually we’ll be able to get more studio time as they get a little older. Professional decisions are different now, since certain opportunities for exhibitions, residencies or teaching could disrupt the entire family. I concentrate on what I really want/need to do, rather than applying for or agreeing to whatever sounds interesting.  

Building an O gauge train layout bookshelf for my kids has been a surprisingly arty experience, so the line between it and my sculptures could get pretty vague. Would it be too dopey—or awesome—if model trains started popping up in my sculptures?

To see more of Travis's work, please visit travistownsendart.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/852750 2015-05-07T12:35:04Z 2015-05-07T12:37:55Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Lynn Aldrich
Un/Common Objects
Installation view

LYNN ALDRICH is "seeking a reinvestment in physicality." Her sculptures employ the accumulation and organization of found objects and material—often purchased from Home Depot—to reorient viewers to their experience of their bodies. She transforms the excess of mass production into an opportunity for contemplation of our relationship to consumption and its effect on the natural world. In 2014, Lynn was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work joined the permanent collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. She will debut a major new steel sculpture titled Future Water Feature on July 25, 2015 at Edward Cella Art+Architecture, where her solo exhibition More Light Than Heat will open in October 2015. Lynn is represented by Edward Cella in Los Angeles and Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco and New York. She lives and works in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Many of your materials—garden hoses, plastic tubing, rain gutters—reference the flow of water. Could you talk about this recurring metaphor in your work?

Lynn Aldrich: I wanted to use materials that were ordinary, usually part of a middle class life, which is at times overwhelmed by products and options. From this banal bounty, I decided to select only what carried potential for a kind of revelation. Twenty years ago, we were not so concerned with water environmentally, but it has consistently been a powerful and layered metaphor for spiritual and physical renewal. So water-related materials seemed inherently capable of meeting my conceptual criteria. 

Garden hoses, brass ends, fiberglass, steel
60 x 55 x 32 inches

OPP: What other recurring material metaphors do you use?

LA: Other material choices also bear some sort of relationship to my observations of and appreciation for the natural world—light and dark and color in the landscape, flora and fauna diversity, cosmic extravagance. For example, in Constellation, I purchased lampshades in various shapes, fabrics and sizes. They already evoked metaphors associated with wonder and transcendence. The decision to fill each one with a modeled, concave center, painted to reference diverse experiences of light, seemed like a simple, direct means to reveal spiritual mystery already present in these objects.

Light Sucker
Lampshade, wood, modeling compound, gesso, acrylic, oil
20 x 20 x 16 inches

OPP: You employ the strategies of repetition and accumulation in the creation of found object sculptures. Each piece has the potential to go on and on. How do you know when each piece is done? What stops you from expanding these discrete sculptures into immersive environments?

LA: I have a sculptor’s interest in form and differences in scale relating to space. So at a certain point, the quantity of something seems to be appropriate for what the work is intended to accomplish. My artistic choice is to confront, to call the already immersed viewer out of the fog and say, stop, be still, consider this.

For me, the repetition is not about infinity, but about revealing paradoxical truths inherent to physicality – something like the New Testament’s concept of Incarnation. This is the idea that God signifies matter, the “stuff” of creation, as good, by entering history in the flesh (Jesus Christ). Artists continually explore this paradox whether they realize it or not—what is obvious and ordinary also bears worth and meaning beyond its material presence.

Seeking Sanctuary
Corrugated plastic panels, fiberglass, aluminum.
55 x 19 x 68 inches

OPP: In your statement, you refer to a “spiritual or sacred longing for revelation and authentic transcendence” that “is the profound paradox at the core of all true religion and artistic activity.” How do you reconcile that longing with our contemporary consumer society, as represented in your materials?

LA: Actually, it’s not possible to reconcile this longing, this desire beyond desiring, with being in the world – therefore we have art and religion. I am using the word religion in its original, etymological sense as from the same root word for ligament, a tie back to God. What used to be the “bounty of nature,” the extravagance we appreciated as coming from God’s provision, we now believe to be of our own making. I walk through the aisles of Home Depot and see products literally pouring down the sides. But am I in a “garden of delights” or a spiritual wasteland? Or as T. S. Eliot asks, can we experience being in the garden even though we are walking through a desert?

Sponges, brushes, scrubbers, scouring pads, mop heads, plungers, plastic gloves, plumbing parts, wood
42 x 30 x 28 inches

OPP: In 2013, you mounted a mid-career retrospective, curated by Jim Diechendt and Christina Valentine, called Un/Common Objects at Williamson Art Gallery at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. What’s it like to see work spanning two decades exhibited together? Did this lead to any insights about your own work?
LA: I can only say that it was an incredible experience. Bringing the works together (many borrowed back from collectors which I had not seen in years) and arranging them in a beautiful, spacious architecture finally produced the immersive experience you mentioned. The curators allowed a kind of “compare and contrast” placement that brought up interesting analogies I had not seen before.

Shell Collection is a work from the 90s made from T-shirts dipped in resin, in ten successive sizes from newborn to adult. The viewer peers through the waist or neck and sees a kind of infinite tunnel of “shells” implying one’s passage through life and time. Now this work could be experienced next to Wormhole, a huge nesting of fake fur in cardboard tubes made 15 years later—another compelling tunnel into infinity. I thought these connections existed as I made the work over time, but now I would walk through the gallery sometimes when no one was there and give myself a high five!

Fake fur in 10 colors, cardboard construction tubes in 16 diameters, electric light (optional)
4 x 4 x 25 feet

OPP: What role does mystery play in your practice?

LA: My work has a kind of simplicity and stillness that belies the struggle and doubt I often have while making it. For example, in constructing a minimal box out of white, wood pickets titled Subdivision, I began with only one material. I was sure it would end up being white, but at every turn there were decisions to make and problems to solve. How many pickets will reach just the right scale? The points aren’t as sharp as I want, so instead of buying them, do I need to make them myself? How do I put it together and take it apart? The physicality of the thing was wearing me down. I started to doubt it would be anything more than a pile of fencing. But in the end, I felt there was a lovely mystery to the surface of a “community” of pointed wood stakes.

Author, Flannery O’Connor speaks of the necessity for the writer or artist to “maintain a respect for mystery.” We live in a material age where science and technology rule, yet there is a throbbing mystery at the core of existence. It’s the role of artists, poets, students of philosophy and theology to wrestle with this.

To see more of Lynn's work, please visit lynnaldrich.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/849443 2015-04-30T12:39:22Z 2015-04-30T19:11:46Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jaclyn Jacunski
Site and Source
Stoneware, porcelain, and plywood
23" x 12" x 42"

JACLYN JACUNSKI has a background in activism and works primarily in printmaking, installation and sculpture. For several years, she's created work in response to the empty lot next to her apartment, exploring the intersection of personal and collective rituals as they manifest in the cityscape. She looks for evidence of gestures of resistance, examining the ways individuals assert claims to public space. Jaclyn earned her BFA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1999) and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2007). In 2013 she was Artist-in-Residence at Spudnik Press (Chicago), where she debuted her solo exhibition Site and Source, and was the Director of the Chicago Printer’s Guild. Since 2013, Jaclyn has worked as a Research Associate at Earl & Brenda Shapiro Center for Research and Collaboration in Chicago, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What are some examples of the personal and collective rituals you refer to in your artist statement?

Jaclyn Jacunski: I’m thinking specifically about the realm of the commons and a reciprocal exchange between individuals and their surrounding communities. I am interested in small acts of resistance, defiance, public exclamation and protest. I look for evidence of these types of moments visible in the landscape. It is hard to speak of it so specifically; I love disparate happenings, handmade gestures and signs. I am interested in situations like when people save their shoveled parking spot with a chair in a Chicago snowstorm. Or the way people insert found items— sets of keys, a lonely mitten, or once I saw a black patten leather high-heel shoe—into a chain-link fence in hopes the owner will walk past and find them.

Another example of a compelling social ritual is the sparing match between the City of Chicago and graffiti writers. I find it so strange that an ugly vacant lot tarp would get tagged, and then the City would go as far as finding matching green tarp paint and paint over the graffiti meticulously. Their efforts did not really cover up the tag, but enhanced it into something a bit more elegant and disguised. At the right angle or in the right light, the tag was still incredibly clear despite the new paint job. Yet, this strange left-over gesture seemed to pacify the community’s need to be graffiti-free. My block got heavily bombed almost every night, and I thought, Man, just give the kids a space to write! But I imagine the city workers take a secret pleasure in this painting activity, and everyone has an unique role their community’s public space. 

NO! Site and Source (detail)

OPP: You've been exploring the chain link fence, formally and conceptually, through print, ceramics and installation for several years now. What's fascinating to you about this particular object and all the ideas it contains?

JJ: There was a very specific moment I decided to take on the loaded symbol one day. I was randomly the looking through old German design and architecture magazines at the library. I read a long article about the design of chain link structures and webs in the build environment. I xeroxed the images and paneled them on to my studio wall where they hung for a long time, just as thought.

This ubiquitous object, which I encounter everyday on my walk to work, is complex symbol for a vibrant city with many contradictions. It represents a border between public and private, wealth and poverty. It indicates what is built, vacant and developing. The fence contains its own script for social relations. It acts as a barrier to entry, meant to demarcate zones of ownership or membership. It is to be climbed, torn down, obeyed or defied. In my practice, the fence is a useful tool for production: slicing shapes, forms and material, re-distributing surfaces. It acts as a viewing device with the linear components and negative spaces serving as viewfinders that frame the territory of the other.” The repeat pattern abstracts and re-orients spatially. Its linear repetitions confuse one’s focus, shape-shifting forms. . . the eyes begin to play with objects in space creating new possibilities.

Brick (detail)

OPP: Please describe the process of creating the ceramic piece Brick (2013), in which you make tangible sculptures of empty space. Could you talk about how this gesture relates to the empty lot surrounded by the fence?

JJ: In the work with the bricks, I brought in bags of porcelain clay into vacant lot adjacent to my apartment on a busy Chicago street. In the lot I would systematically pressed the clay through the wire of the fence, using the shape of the negative space to be filled and space the brick with chain link wire cutting the shape. I did this repeatedly for several weeks systematically working up, down and across each open space until I made enough bricks to form a panel. Each brick varies in size, length, shape, color from using different clay along with letting the bricks go in to random community kilns to be fired. Some bricks clearly show my fingers prints and others came out clean and smooth. While doing this I had talks with my neighbors about nothing particular, but it was nice. It was rare that I had opportunity to be outside and talk beyond the basic “how are you” and the all-important Midwest weather talk.

At the time I was thinking a lot about the neglect of things, why places become marginalized and how bricks are part of the Chicago lotscape at demolition sites. The bricks are leftover artifacts of plans, development, investment and creativity. Bricks sit in empty lots leaving evidence of the rapidly transforming character of the neighborhood that became personified by the abandoned lot adjacent to my apartment. Fenced off from the rest of the world, the lot acted as a gathering point for neighbors and a repository of the history of the place. The land lay dormant, awaiting the tide of gentrification that would make constructing condos profitable, but the looming development was always present. The gesture of making bricks was the hope to build anew, laying claim and taking over the space without permission. Making the bricks was an act of considering our productive and cooperative selves moving beyond the typical order that creates and sustains blight.


OPP: I recently saw your work at Comfort Station in Chicago. Tell us about the unexpected occurrence with your indoor/outdoor sculpture Pipeline.

JJ: My sculpture at Comfort Station was made of household ductwork that forms a pipeline. With elements inside and outside of the gallery, it simulated movement through the lawn, down through the concrete and into the gallery, where it came to a halt, hanging from the ceiling, knotted and bound. The metal outside the building was sawed off and stolen about three weeks into the exhibition. (I blame Chicago metal recyclers—jerks!) I was shocked that someone would take a risk of getting caught for something that didn’t have much value. The work was in a highly visible, high traffic, public area.

However, it got me thinking a lot about value. A few bucks were worth more than the public art to whomever stole it. A city planner can never dictate the experiences we have in public spaces, how we value those spaces or how we feel valued in those spaces. It hits home the complications of property in any neighborhood. Logan Square is an interesting example: a private landlord owns the grassy area next to Comfort Station that looks like an open, public park. Before the establishment of the gallery, the grounds were widely used by neighbors for summer picnics, but this use has been in noticeable decline. This highlights the underlying tensions from the changes in the neighborhood. I see these instances as clues that some people are not considered or included, nor do they feel part of this space.


OPP: The sculpture was accompanied by a print take-away. Could you talk about the "populist ethic of print" and why it is the perfect medium to explore the social and political implications of shared space?

JJ: Prints are significant tools for creative resistance and protest. In my twenties, I was involved in a lot activist campaigns. Agitprop was all around me. I appreciate print's wide distribution to the masses and its role in the women’s movement. Posters, zines and flyers are non-precious ways to communicate, to be opinionated and to be powerful.

The take-away newspaper is also called Pipeline and was placed a pile on the gallery floor for visitors. It juxtaposes collaged internet images of pipelines with people waiting in line to question what is the perceived agency of the community in their neighborhood. I used media images of the lines to build and draw meandering forms in order to play with ideas of drawing, but also to respond to what seems to be years of daily news reports on the Keystone Pipeline. I was really intrigued by one report in particular by an Alberta artist, Peter von Tiesenhausen, who stopped oil corporations from putting a pipeline through his 800 acre property by copyrighting the top six inches of his land as a work of art.

I love every aspect of the field of print: the materiality, its process, history, tools, strategies and concepts. I especially love the versatile way print can exist in the art world and public spaces. Felix Gonzales Torres' work has been such an inspiration to me. I've put his silver posters in my office, his skyscapes in my studio and his candy in my pockets. I would think about him and Ross long after I left the exhibition. I love that I can give art away for free, share my questions and promote my point of view in both serious and playful ways which can extend beyond an exhibition. The flexibility of print allows a viewer to look at my work later, then pass it on. It all seems like a fair equitable exchange in the commons of ideas.

To see more of Jaclyn's work, please visit jaclynjacunski.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/845467 2015-04-23T14:07:52Z 2015-04-23T14:13:07Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Everest Hall
Untitled (Crystal Skull 3)
Oil on panel
11" X 14"

EVEREST HALL oscillates between flatness and linear perspective in paintings that merge still-life and geometric abstraction with photographic sources, sometimes combining them all in a single piece. Skulls made from semi-precious stones, snakes, candles, flowers, shells, moons and patterned wallpaper all make repeated appearances, referencing Dutch and Spanish Vanitas painting and revealing the intersection of the personal and the art historical. Everest earned his B.F.A. in 1996 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his M.F.A. in 1998 from Yale University School of Art. His numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Bellwether Gallery (2006) in New York, Richard Gray Gallery (2010) in Chicago and Dunham Place Salon (2010) in New York. From September 26, 2015 to January 10, 2016, his work will be included in Prime Matter, a drawing show at the Teckningmuseet in Lahom Sweden. Everest lives and works in New York City.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Earlier paintings, such as Untitled (Crystal Skull) (2006), resemble traditional Memento Mori or Vanitas paintings. But more recently, the perspective and the space in paintings with these repeated visual motifs has changed. How does the flattened space relate to themes of mortality and death?

Everest Hall: Subject matter is very important to me, but style and technique are only a means to an end. I choose objects like coins, crystal skulls, shells and candles that have both art historic and personal symbolism. For example, the crystal skull is important to me because it belongs to my mother. She is Mayan Indian, born in Central America and a well-respected healer. When I paint the crystal skull, I am connecting to my family heritage—with all its loaded meanings—and to the history of painting, especially Dutch and Spanish Vanitas paintings.

The shift towards a more flattened space with bigger color as in the painting Tides (2011) happened fairly organically through experimentation and allowing the painting to take its own path. I don't think it has anything more or less to do with death and mortality than the silk drapery used in the earlier pieces. Both styles of painting serve the same purpose in the world I am building: to fill space, create an atmosphere and distract from the focal point. Because I am rendering less in the newer works, I needed to push the flatness to create an reality equivalent to the classical perspective.

Untitled (Fly)
Oil on panel
12" X 16"

OPP: Will you pick a painting and reveal the personal narrative to us?

EH: The painting Untitled (fly) from 2006 is a good example. It was early spring in New York, and I was living in a small apartment in Washington Heights. My studio was in a tiny bedroom with a window that overlooked the building’s garbage. A small house fly flew up from the dumpster below and got caught in my studio. Without much thought I smashed the young fly dead. At the time I felt really bad because killing it seemed cruel and unnecessary. It was not very difficult for me to relate to the fly with its fragility and primitive nature. I felt like a little bug at the time, trying to scrape out an existence with powerful uncaring forces swatting me around. So I built a tomb for it out of paint taking great care to articulate its husk of body and lack of vitality. The fly is accompanied by other corpses that I had collected during my morning walks with my dog: an interesting leaf blown down by the wind from a high branch, a snail shell from the park and a discarded scallop shell from an intimate dinner. Like the fly, these husks seemed so noble and elemental. The sea, the earth and the air all gathered together to bear witness to the smallest of deaths.

Pink Flair
Oil on canvas
72" x 60"

OPP: Several works from 2010—Lake of Dreams, Ocean of Storms, Sun and Sea of Nectar, to name just a few— are oil paintings of the backs of canvases with overlaid, geometrical gestures. You've also addressed the canvas back in mixed media works from 2011 like Bouquet and Roses. What led you to this work?

EH: I came to these paintings in a curious way. One day I caught my self staring at a painting for a very long time. It was so long, in fact, I lost my footing in the world and could no longer see the painting at all. I only saw the daydream that my mind had led me to. The force of my stare dissolved the painting’s surface, the stretcher bars, the wall behind it and the very structure of the object into nothing. These back of the canvas paintings are physical manifestations of this experience: meditative force and cubist space captured in a trompe l'oeil. Many of these back of the canvas paintings were intended to be show with images of the moon and flowers. I saw the voids described by the gestural marks and geometry as equivalent to what might be on the front of the canvas.

Oil on canvas

OPP: Could you talk about your shift away from using found photos as source material for your paintings as a result of Jerry Saltz's 2004 essay "The Richter Resolution?" Looking back now, what are your thoughts on this essay and how it influenced your practice?

EH: This is a big story for me, a turning point in my career. I was a young impressionable artist at the time and wanted desperately to be someone. I worked very hard to impress my young Brooklyn gallery and hoped to carve out a name for myself. I was doing well for a while. . . until "The Richter Resolution" came out. My dealer at the time told me the article was about me, and my career was in big trouble and I should fix it fast. I dumped the photos and dove head first into the most uncool genre I could imagine—still life. I dug deep and really owned it and made many great paintings. Eleven years later, I still work in still life more or less. . . photos are at play, but so is everything now. Thinking back, it was a good change, but I was very damaged by my dealer’s interest in the bottom line.

OPP: I think that experience would be challenging for most artists. How do you go about balancing that bottom line with your artistic development now?

EV: The answer is easy. . . I got a day job and rely on that money instead of art sales to live. Because I am self-sufficient outside of the art market, I really don't care what people think anymore about what I do or how I do it. I make paintings that I want to see, not what a gallery, critic or collector is expecting or wanting. This is a much better way of living for me, and the work has really benefited from this attitude. I exhibit fairly regularly and really enjoy people seeing what I make.

Invisible Object
Oil on panel
20" X 16"
I was so poor and desperate at the time I made this painting. I intended this painting to be a battery that would generate money and success.

OPP: And now a practical website question: could you talk about your choice to mix up all your works on your website as opposed to putting them in chronological order? It seems like an intentional choice that most artists don't make on their websites. Is this a conceptual choice?

EH: Well.... I get mixed reviews about my the jumbled format. Some people really hate it; some people like it. But I’m not really interested in the site being an archive of my development or a tool for business. It’s more of a memoir. I play with it a lot, changing formats, adding works and removing them and juxtaposing images to highlight the similarities and differences. I add to the conversation by offering personal anecdotes and information on individual works.

All of the looking back and rearranging has renewed my interest in some of my older ideas. Now I find myself mixing photography and abstraction with still lives. Nothing is off limits now. I just experiment with seeing what is possible. I have a new section in the website called Studio where I have recent images of in-progress works. I'm a bit of a slow painter, so this section is a good way of showing new work, even when I know I won’t complete it for a few months or possibly even years.

To see more of Everest's work, please visit everesthall.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/841599 2015-04-16T12:29:32Z 2015-04-16T12:29:32Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Andréa Keys Connell
The Pursuit of Hercules (detail)
Clay, paint, gold luster, wooden canoe
11'x 30'x 12'

ANDRÉA KEYS CONNELL's slightly-larger-than-life ceramic figures are monuments to human vulnerability. Exhibited in groups, they nonetheless appear isolated and longing for help. . . or possibly connection. Their dense, fragmented bodies, drooping heads and extended arms poignantly register the weight of the world. Andréa earned her BFA in 2002 from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and her MFA in 2009 from Ohio University in Athens. Solo exhibitions include Un-Home-Like (2010) at The Sculpture Center in Cleveland, Gently Down the Stream (2012) at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia and Being With, exhibited at Maramec Contemporary Gallery (2014) in Saint Louis and the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center (2015) at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Andréa lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an Assistant Professor and Clay Area Head in the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a little about your sculpting process and your choice of ceramics as your medium.

Andréa Keys Connell: I had my "coming to clay" moment when I was a junior in college. Prior to that, I was focusing primarily on painting and photography. When I found clay, a connection between my brain, heart and hands clicked on, and I never left the clay studio. When I think about it now it makes a lot of sense. My mother collected Majolica, Zsnolnay and Herend. When I was little, I played with the figurines as though they were dolls. When she would catch me, she would take them and place them back on their shelves, reminding me of their preciousness. Their "preciousness" only made them more valuable to me and the narratives that I would impose on them.
I think I am also just more of a three-dimensional thinker when it comes to making. It was such a relief to me when I found clay. . . to be able to discover a form through the ability to touch it in the round. It is such a physical relationship, and when making life size or larger figures, I find myself hugging and pressing up against, pushing and pulling on the clay. All of this contact is imprinted on the surface of the clay. . . it's a pretty delicious way of making!

I build my pieces hollow, moving between coils, slabs and pinching. Building hollow provides me with the ability to form my figures by pressing from the inside. This feels very natural to me in thinking about the body: the skin/clay is shaped by what is beneath it. In this case, it is the internal pressure that I am using to shape the skin. There is an endless supply of metaphors in this way of making and representing the figure.


OPP: There are a lot of disembodied heads, arms and legs in your work. In installations like Un-Home-Like (2010) and The Pursuit of Hercules (2011), the partial figures read as adrift, drowning or swimming in a floor made of water. But the isolated heads and torsos from Gently Down the Stream (2012) don't read that way at all. They seem more severed. How are these figures different?

AKC: I thought of the figures in Gently Down the Stream as being submerged, like in a swamp, stuck in time and certainly fractured. I was also looking at a lot of photojournalism during the making of this installation and thinking about the fragmentation inherent in a photograph: the physical fragmentation of the frame and the emotional fragmentation as the person looking in on the moment captured.

OPP: There’s another metaphor! I often think that way, too, about processes I use in my own work, but I’ve found that not all viewers think that way about the objects in front of them. How often do viewers comprehend the metaphors that you see naturally as part of the process? If they don’t think metaphorically, are they missing the point?

AKC: Hmmm. . . I don't know if they would be missing the point because I am totally open to individual interpretation. I would never expect someone to see or think about things the way that I do, but I do hope that the essence of the content is felt. For example, if a person views a leg sticking out of the floor as a glimpse of a part of a whole body or a broken section of the body, the idea of fragmentation still exists in both interpretations. Whether metaphorical and literal, each read carries similar anxieties. I think of my content as a means for making an image, and that image has endless ways of being interpreted. I guess you could say that my content development is more a part of the process. I have never made a piece and I felt strongly, "THIS is what I want the viewer to take from this piece." Viewers tend to try to relate to my work in a humanistic way; they bring their own individual experiences to their interpretation of my figures.

Gently Down the Stream
Clay, paint, cardboard boxes
12'x 13'x 30'

OPP: Your figures, which seem to be either young children or old adults, are generally slightly larger than life size and sometimes out of proportion. How do scale and age intersect in your work?

AKC: I work very deliberately to blur the lines of gender, age and time. In a sense, I am attempting to create an internal portrait, and I don't believe in gender or age or even time when confronting the inside. I watch people a lot, and I think about how we carry ourselves. You can read a lot about a person in their body. These are all observations that I take to studio and at times exaggerate.

Much of  my research is preoccupied with how the perception of objects can either represent or obscure complex social realities. The Hummel figurine is an example of such a visual trigger that I have used throughout my work. The Hummel began production in Germany in 1935, the same year the Nuremburg Laws were passed. Though production ceased during WWII, it immediately picked up at the end of the war. The popularity of Hummel figurines grew as American soldiers stationed in West Germany began sending the figurines home to their loved ones as gifts to ease the anxieties of those who awaited the soldiers safe return home. Hummel figurines ultimately became an emblem of a pastoral, healthy and safe Germany. In my early work, the youthful chubby cheeks of the Hummel have been stretch and deflated, and the healthy round bellies have become distended and heavy. This is all a result of the internal pressure that I am using to form the figures. By manipulating the pastoral qualities of the Hummel and by incorporating realistic human features such as defined fingernails and lips and a very intentional gaze, I seek to represent a more complex social narrative than exists in the original figurines.

Un-Home-Like (detail)
Stoneware, house paint, wooden cabinet
5.5'x 12'x 10'

Up through 2012, whole bodies of work were monochromatic, not just individual pieces. Why was monochrome the right decision for earlier bodies of work like (dis)Placement (2009) and Un-Home-Like (2010)? What led you to pursue a more accurate rendering of color in recent work like Then the Wind Blew... (2015), and several works from Being With (2014)?

AKC: The monochromatic work was often trying to represent the look of wet clay, such as in (dis)Placement, Gently Down the Stream, and The Pursuit of Hercules. (dis)Placement was specifically referencing terracotta because the original Hummel was sculpted out of terracotta, then a mold would be made and it would be cast in porcelain. For that piece, I was interested in the idea of the discarded. Essentially, I wanted the pieces to refer to malleability.

In Un-Home-Like, the pieces actually have house paint that I had mixed based on the primary colors used in Delacroix's painting The Barque of Dante. I made washes of these colors and dripped them in many layers over the figures. Being With and Francis were painted with oil paints. I was looking at a lot of religious statuary, particularly 17th -18th century wooden saint statues. I loved the look of them and was making pretty specific references to them in these pieces, so I just went for it. And Then the Wind Blew is essentially a giant figurine and I wanted it to look like that, so I glazed it. 

Being With

OPP: I love the cardboard boxes as both pedestals and containers in Being With (2014) and Gently Down the Stream (2012). They seem to add to the feeling of despondency in the figures. What led to this decision?

AKC: You got a lot of the references right. They are pedestals and containers. I also wanted these very heavy ceramic figures to appear simultaneously lighter than they are and on a precarious edge, which can be quite unsettling when standing in front of them. The figures stand at a slight lean, and they really tower of over you. There is the feeling that they could collapse at any moment. I think this lends to their own vulnerability, which also points to the viewers vulnerability by being in their presence. They are referencing monuments, but they are quite pathetic in their structure. They are trying really hard, but pointing very clearly to their own weakness.

OPP: Could you talk more about why you choose to represent vulnerability in your sculptures and elicit vulnerability in the viewer key? Would you say this is the key theme that runs through all your work?

AKC: I think that is a really good observation, and I don't know if I totally realized the presence of vulnerability in pretty much everything that I make. What a great thing to see—thank you!

I do think about vulnerability often, perhaps because I feel it so often. There can be so much beauty and destruction in vulnerability, and to open oneself up to another requires so much trust. My interest in that kind of vulnerability runs parallel to my persistent thoughts around responsibility to one another. I am always concerned with the ripple effect of actions, the necessity of vulnerability, and the responsibility involved in the awareness of another person's vulnerability.

To see more of Andréa's work, please visit andreakeys.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/838385 2015-04-09T14:41:56Z 2015-04-09T14:50:59Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jonny Green
Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste

JONNY GREEN’s meticulously-rendered paintings of slapdash sculptures merge still life and portraiture. The crude, tiny objects—built from plasticine, ribbons, electrical tape, screws and mismatched clock parts—further his exploration of the human experience of smallness in the face of disaster, loss and uncertainty by portraying these flawed creations with unabashed dignity. Jonny earned his B.A. from Norwich School of Art in 1989 and his M.A. from Royal College of Art in 1991. He has exhibited widely throughout the United Kingdom. Most recently, his work was included in the juried exhibition Contemporary Visions V (2015) at Beers Contemporary and in Saatchi’s  New  Sensations  and  The  Future  Can  Wait (2014) at Victoria  House in  London. In 2013, Jonny was shortlisted for the prestigious Threadneedle Prize. You can see his work until May 8, 2015 in Still Life: Ambiguous Practices, curated by Frances Woodley, at the Aberystwyth University Galleries in Wales. His work will also be included in Distorted Vision, the inaugural exhibition at The Dot Project in London, where Jonny lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Past works have focused on disaster scenes, masquerading as landscape and influenced by famous paintings from art history. Carpark of Earthly Delights (2012), for example, references Hieronymus Bosch's masterwork from the 15th century, and many works are reminiscent of Albert Bierstadt, not just Dead Lake (After Bierstadt) (2012). Are these natural or man-made disasters?

Jonny Green: Both. That series of works began in 2008, right after the big financial crash. My studio at the time faced onto Canary Wharf, one of London's financial centers. I was listening to the news reports of the panic and looking out onto the bank buildings. That particular atmosphere of shock and fear are what triggered and informed those paintings. I started looking at the apocalyptic works of people like John Martin with their strong sense of human smallness, something his work shares with the Hudson River Group, particularly Bierstadt. What interested me in particular was the notion that the whole thing was a fabrication, Bierstadt's visions of the Rockies are exaggerated and romanticized in order to instill awe in the audience. It's very Hollywood. So in my paintings of that period, people are reverting to primitive states within these apocalyptic environments, making peace with their gods, seeking absolution or having sex.

The Cleansing
Oil on linen
136 x 200 cm

OPP: The Oil Cloud Series (2012-2013) isolates the colored smoke/clouds from the disaster landscapes. You give the amorphous forms personality by giving them human names, referring to the convention of naming hurricanes. Beryl and Alberto, both hurricanes from 2012, even have eyes, further supporting the personification of natural disasters. What else can you tell us about your intentions with this series?

JG: This series is an ongoing one actually. I've recently made a couple more of them. I'd been looking at a lot of archival photographs of early ecological and industrial disasters. I found a series of daguerreotypes of fires in early oil fields and began to use them as a very loose source material for that group of paintings.

At the same time I’d been researching the convention of attaching human names to hurricanes, which has its beginnings in the Caribbean hundreds of years ago. Storms were initially named after the saint of the day the hurricane occurred on from Roman Catholic Liturgical calendar. I felt that it was a symptom of our need as humans to anthropomorphize the things that we don't understand or that frighten us. We have a habit of seeing faces or consciousness in almost anything. It's an evolutionary throwback that’s still pertinent to our survival.

Oil on linen
68 x 61 cm

OPP: Now let's turn to your most recent paintings of haphazardly-made sculptures. These are part portrait, part still life. What led to this shift in your work?

JG: I'd had to take a break from the painting studio for family reasons and leave London for a few weeks. I was staying with my  family in Yorkshire in the North east of England. Unable to paint, I found a box of filthy old plasticine from my childhood and began modeling with it late at night when everyone else had gone to bed. I then photographed these weird little objects, using the materials available to me, i.e. kitchen towels as a backdrop, an old lamp as the only lighting. I was surprised by the power of the images and decided to try and make paintings from them on my return. I think the reason they worked is that I have absolutely no personal investment in sculpture as a practice, which allowed me to be completely free and open with their construction in a way that is perhaps impossible for me with painting.

I really just free-associate and slap things together. Their flaws and lack of artistry are what makes them interesting to me. This is completely at odds with the process of photographing and painting them, which is really painstaking. I think every artist is looking for a process for making their work that suits their temperament. It's a surprisingly difficult thing to find, but this combination of carefree and painstaking works for me.

The First Cut Is The Deepest
Oil on canvas on board
88 x 122 centimeters

OPP: The tendency to anthropomorphize and our neurologically-wired habit of seeing faces is of course also at play in this body of work. All this has got me thinking about the human brain, which is a recurring motif in the sculpture paintings. How do you think about the brains in pieces like Tipping Point (2014) and Fracaso (2013)?

JG: I think about the brains as characters just like the sculptures that are more suggestive of human beings. A couple of years back I'd gone to visit my father in hospital. He had pneumonia and was also being treated for a particularly aggressive water infection. Although temporary, the change in his behaviour was dramatic. His memory had gone, and he had lost all sense of time and place. He was extremely confused. On speaking to the doctors, we found out that the infection was the cause of this. It was bewildering to me at the time that something so minor as a urine infection could cause such a change in personality, and I began to investigate the condition. I began thinking about the brain as this fragile, sensitive jelly-like entity, that contains everything about a person. The rest is just dressing.

OPP: Have you ever considered exhibiting the sculptures themselves?

JG: Not so far, but I wouldn't rule it out for the future. I don't think they work as they are largely because I work on them from one angle. I’m looking for an image to paint so I rarely consider what the back, top or bottom looks like. It might be quite interesting to play with the scale of them, to make them human-sized for instance, which would be quite a challenge technically as most of them are only a couple of inches tall.

White Wedding
Oil on canvas on board

OPP: Some of the paintings are not large at all—Romeo (2014) is 21 x 16.6 centimeters and Grand Mal (2014) is 21 x 17 centimeters—while others shift the scale of the sculptures dramatically. Babel (2013) is 145 x 122 centimeters and Agitant (2013) is 122 x 153 centimeters.

JG: Making choices about scale is largely intuitive. Sometimes I get it wrong the first time around. For example, The Rt Hon started off as one of the really small paintings. When it was complete, I realized that it didn't resonate the way I'd hoped and needed to be substantially bigger.

There is something about the nature of little objects—their abject and pathetic demeanor, the fact that they appear to be trying to validate their existence with flowers and the draping of ribbons—that drives me to give them a voice, assert their rights. I’m aware that there is something ridiculous about the notion of asserting human rights for a lump of dirty old plasticine, but it's that anthropomorphism that makes them more than bits of old rubbish.

To see more of Jonny's work, please visit jonnygreen.net.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/834301 2015-04-02T17:00:00Z 2015-04-02T14:33:11Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Amy Santoferraro
B.B. Baskets

Trained in Ceramics, AMY SANTOFERRARO applies the spirit of that medium, which she says is "best at masquerading as other things," to whatever materials attract her attention: plastic, pool noodles, wood aluminum, foam. Her own inclination to collect informs her work in a variety of media as she tackles the themes of nostalgia, attachment, desire, value and imitation. Amy has a Bachelors of Arts Education and a Bachelors of Fine Art from The Ohio State University (1998-2004). She earned her Masters of Fine Art in Ceramics from Alfred University in 2012. She has had solo exhibitions at The Clay Studio (2009) in Philadelphia, c.r.e.t.a. rome (2013) in Italy and Add to Basket will open at MudFire in Decatur, Georgia in May 2015. She is a 2015 Spring McKnight Resident Artist at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis and will give a lecture on her work on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm in NCC’s Library. Amy teaches Ceramics at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Ceramics as a medium is intimately connected to the history of the vessel, which is really the history of human progress. I'd like to hear you muse on vessels in general, in ceramics, in your life or in your practice.

Amy Santoferraro: At the risk of sounding like Miley Cyrus. . . vessels hold stuff, and stuff makes up our world. The vessel strongly influences my work because my practice revolves around ideas of collection and the questioning of value and sentiments associated with stuff we choose to surround ourselves with.
The vessel was my first entry into ceramics. I fell in love with creating a useful object that had a built-in guideline: if it holds water and you can drink out of it, you have succeeded! The cup remains present in my practice as a way to get the work out of the studio and into hands. I always make a “take away” or a smaller more practical, more attainable object that represents the larger work but can fit in your hand or not break your wallet.

One of my grad students recently reminded me of possibly the first use of clay to form a vessel, in which woven baskets were lined with clay to transport water from stream to home. In the BaskeTREE series I like to believe that I am quite literally flipping that idea on its head. Vintage and modern day baskets have been translated into plastic and flipped upside down to hold the now all-important junk we need for survival. . . more plastic relics of our existence.

Although I am reluctant to admit it, I am very thankful for Peter Voulkus, who was the first ceramist to buck the system and have his way with the vessel. He fought this battle 60 years ago and his work represents a sustained victory for all ceramists. Now we can both embrace and reject the idea of the vessel. That said, there is nothing sadder than an ironic teapot, but nothing quite as ballsy as a not-pot in contemporary ceramics (of course there are fantastic exceptions to this idea).

Blue/White Ware

OPP: The B.B. Baskets are so seductive. I like the malleability of those simple orbs. They can be so many things: marbles, berries, bubbles. What are they for you? Are the baskets themselves found ceramics?

AS: You nailed it! Sometimes the balls are just balls. But they are also bubbles, fruit, wishes, vomit, bubbling crud, excuses. . . pretty much anything that can build up to be overwhelming, disgusting and/or beautiful. The found baskets in this series fulfill my need to collect evidence of ceramics doing what it does best: masquerading as other objects and materials. One thing mimicking another due to nostalgia or sentiment rather than function or design, or skeuomorphism, is a huge part of my work and practice. I like to think of it as "materials behaving badly." The materials or objects at home depot, the thrift store, or in my studio are kinda like Girls Gone Wild: they reveal too much, are too fake and are too cheap. The B.B Baskets are an ongoing quest; I am always on the look out for small ceramic baskets and new B.B. colors.


OPP: What inspired this series?

AS: They started innocently enough as just airsoft BBs in a basket. My home is across a valley from Fort Riley, Kansas. The Kansas landscape mimics that of Afghanistan and Iraq in color and flatness, making it an ideal training ground for soldiers at the Army base before they head off to war. Everyday I hear and feel the rounds of firing and bombing practice while watching the neighborhood kids shoot each other with BB guns in the convenient overgrown bush hides of my yard. It is quite possibly the most surreal thing I have ever repeatedly experienced.  

I started collecting the BBs the kids left in the yard without any clear direction other than picking up and collecting the beautiful balls of color. The collection grew as the days passed, and I gradually began seeing them as material. I love that they can be so many things and don’t readily volunteer their origin story. It’s not essential to appreciate the resulting object and in no way is a statement about war or only a personal narrative.

2012 MFA Thesis Exhibition at Alfred University feels like a well-designed, but nonfunctional playground. Tell us about how you conceived of and developed this project?

AS: Again nailed it! I was thinking a lot about yards (which is now kinda wild considering the above story was two years after my thesis exhibition). Yards act as an outward expression to the world about the people who maintain them. Many of the objects featured it the exhibition are my recreation of objects you might find in yards: mailboxes, bunny hutches, decorative wagon wheels, that old camper that won’t travel and festive displays of unnecessary motion and lights.  

OPP: What about your inclusion of non-ceramic materials?

AS: Ceramics is never the only solution. My relationship with the material is best described as complicated or open. At times I am in love with it and am exclusive, but far too often I am lured by other materials because they are so very different and will never offer what clay or the ceramic surface can. In many cases I reconcile my devotion to the material because it’s what I know best and can cheaply and effectively manipulate it to work for me. There was a great fear before grad school of wasting or ruining rare, vintage, limited or oddly sourced materials because they are the complete opposite of clay, which is cheap and plentiful. This exhibition was the first time that I let those old hang-ups go. Nothing is precious in ceramics; breakages and surprises are plenty. I have found the same to be true with other materials. Bendy straws can be unbent. My sensitivity and ability to fearlessly adopt any material is a result of embracing the heavily process-oriented nuances that ceramics demand and my unwavering curiosity and desire to make everything work for me. I’m a boss.

plop block

OPP: BaskeTREE (2012) is a series of bonsai-like sculptures in bright, luscious colors. Each one seems to be a mini monument to visual pleasure. Have you ever cultivated an actual bonsai tree? How is your practice like this ancient Japanese practice?

AS: BaskeTREEs are personal landscapes. I think of them as executive desk attire and hope that they may replace mini zen gardens, finger labyrinths or those clanky ball thingies. BaskeTREEs are maintenance free houseplants but can still die. They are the longing for something to care for but not really. I am an avid succulent keeper and realize it’s easy. Bonsai might be next, but it’s a big commitment, like owning a parrot that could possibly outlive you. I am currently the heir apparent to an African Grey parrot.
BaskeTREEs are marketed and sold separately as floral arrangements. They are temporal in nature because they employ a wide variety of delicate and non-archival materials (Will floam ever die? Maybe it’ll lose its clumping quality over time. Who knows?) By using plastic, ceramic, aluminum, foam, and a variety of other materials interchangeably, I represent our disregarded and discarded junk as carefully organized and reconsidered, encouraging the celebration and questioning of a possible shelf life attached to an item for sale in a gallery. Acceptance, recognition, imitation and appropriation of these gleaned objects and materials allow a new identity to develop, a new sentiment that is a nod to the past, a charge to the future and highlights our need and affection for objects and materials. It is no coincidence that I lean towards stuff of little to no value. I beg these materials to acknowledge and engage their own artificiality and actively retain a bit of apathy in their new debut.


OPP: I love what you say in your artist statement about collections: "Collections are spectacularly selfish satisfactions that are classless and limitless. Rich, snooty museum collectors in search of obscure works of art and unemployed QVC shoppers looking for one more crystal unicorn are essentially doing the same thing as me; strategically collecting objects to organize and make sense of our surroundings through interactions with the material world." I couldn't agree more. Why do you think our society primarily raises the first up as valuable and denigrates the second as wasteful?

AS: Oh man, this is a big one to tackle. I think it really comes down to the fact that money trumps feelings. Or maybe that money is measurable and feelings are not. I came a cross a beautiful passage The Sportsman’s Complete Book of Trophy and Meat Care as a young artist, and it has shaped how I think about the questionable value of objects and feelings.

"Men collect all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Some dote on fine art because they have developed a very special hunger for beauty that can be satisfied only by being around or by owning, great pictures. Others collect the very same pictures purely as a financial investment. Paintings, sculpture, artifacts and all manner of other items in limited supply (some of which make a reasonable man shake his head and retire to a corner to contemplate) have been used as currency hedges in recent years.

The point, rather, is that when you actually lay it out and analyze it, practically all of our most commonly accepted collecting hobbies have less reason than that of trophy collecting by the hunter or fisherman. That’s because the sportsman is commemorating a very special moment. . .”
(Tom Brakefield, The Sportsman’s Complete Book of Trophy and Meat Care)


OPP: Do you remember your first collection? Do you have a collection that has nothing to do with your art-practice?

AS: My first collection was "shoe poison," better known as gel silica packets. I kept records of each pair of shoes that helped contribute to my coveted collection of gel silica. Diagrams, dates of purchase, sizes, colors and materials were all meticulously cataloged. Only my best friends were invited into my top-secret laboratory/closet to view it and hear of my somewhat sinister plans to poison bad guys.  

I keep a couples collection, but only add to it when I'm in a relationship. I collect ceramic dogs, but only if they are black, white or a combination of both. I collect commemorative plates, but only if they are already outfitted with a hanging device. Every collection has a caveat otherwise it'd be completely out of control. Carefully chosen and organized collecting lets me believe that I am a collector and not a hoarder.

To see more of Amy's work, please visit amysantoferraro.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/830928 2015-03-26T15:33:02Z 2015-03-26T15:46:39Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Leslie Bell
Cosmic Wall-Les Territoires (installation view)
Water-based paint, chalk and pen on Mylar, paper and wood cut-outs
8' x 40'

LESLIE BELL's immersive, colorful collage installations hover in the threshold between abstraction and representation. The organic, rhizomatic lines evoke explosions, sea life and planetary movement, but formal decisions are often influenced more by materiality than imagery. Leslie received her BFA from Alberta College of Art & Design in 2002 and completed her MFA in Painting and Drawing at Concordia University, Montreal in 2009. In 2008, she attended the Cosmic Ray Research residency at The Banff Centre, and has been the recipient of numerous project grants from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (2008, 2010 and 2011). Leslie's stop-motion animations of water-based paint over back-lit glass have been screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival (2013) in Australia and the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival (2014) in Toronto, among others. She has exhibited widely throughout Canada, including solo shows at Skew Gallery (2011) and SQ Commons (2013), both in Calgary, where Leslie lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Are your collage installations pure abstractions? What visually influences you in the creation of these works?

Leslie Bell: These collages, composed of over a hundred paper and paint-on-Mylar cutouts, were developed from two different directions. The paper shapes are made by tracing projected photographs of trees, plants and fireworks explosions as contour line drawings and then cutting them out by hand with an X-acto knife. This process is a holdover from older works. In undergrad, I was primarily a landscape painter who worked from image references that I projected and traced. When I switched to abstraction, I incorporated these contour drawings into the layering of the paintings and later into stand-alone drawings on paper. Over the years I have shot hundreds of photographs on hiking excursions in British Columbia, on holidays in Europe and of my own houseplants. These photos are now my source materials for the white paper collage pieces that are a direct development from this early abstract work.

The paint-on-Mylar shapes fall under the category of pure abstraction. The material conditions, rather than any outside images, dictate the formal language, but those abstractions sometimes lead me to think about sea-life, mucous and cellular organisms, which in turn influences the work. I work on the floor, pouring out puddles of FW ink and acrylic paint and allowing them to blend and mix as they dry. Saturated puddles of ink on Mylar dry in a particularly interesting incremental way, leaving thick lines and edges and creating smaller shapes within the form. I started out making jellyfish-like shapes, and I embraced the way folds in the plastic or uneven floors would allow "tumors" or new "limbs" to sprout overnight. With jellyfish in mind, I considered giving the shapes "tentacles" and then began to incorporate gestural lines of paint, mirroring the action of a swinging wrist and arm into the shapes as outcroppings. From there, the shapes made me think of the mind maps I draw in my sketchbook composed of circled text and lines, as well as strings of sap or snot, so I began adding intricacy to the forms by making multiple puddles of paint or "nebulae" connected by swooping and drooping swaths of lines made with large flat brushes. The frosted Mylar I use comes on four-feet wide rolls, so I would make larger shapes by stretching the "snot strings" lengthwise. At a certain point I became fascinated by the texture that can be created by splashing and dripping concentrated ink into the puddles with an eyedropper—it looked like leopard spots to me—and I went through a whole period of making "leopard amoebas."

Cosmic Wall-Banff (detail)
Water-based paint, chalk and pen on Mylar, paper and wood cut-outs
8' x 20'

OPP: What first led to the shift from painting to installation?

LB: I first started the Cosmic Collage in 2008; my goal was to solve a problem in my painting practice. At the time, I was really into the work of Julie Mehrutu, Matthew Ritchie, Dil Hildbrand and Melanie Authier, and I was struggling to emulate their work. I sought a level of layered complexity that just wasn't happening in my paintings. It occurred to me that pre-planning the compositions through collage might achieve the level of intricacy and layering I was looking for.

My work took on an unpredicted trajectory. The collage itself became a satisfying, exciting, fully-realized body of work. New material explorations changed the aesthetic, and I began to consider installation and space. But I always kept my original goal in mind. Over the next year or two, I poked away at some paintings, working from the photo documentation I took of the first collage-installations at The Banff Centre and Galleries Les-Territoires. Thinking of my favourite painters, I switched to oil paint for these studies and began from some simple questions: canvas or birch panel? Paint loosely or photo-realistically? Masking tape hard-edges: yes or no? I considered these initial studies to be failures up until SIM 1 when something "clicked" aesthetically.

Pith 4
Oil on birch panel
48" x 60"

OPP: Could you talk about the intersection of dimensionality and flatness in Simulation Series (2014)?

LB: The paintings from Simulation Series are essentially photo-representational paintings of abstract source material. I place two-dimensional forms into three-dimensional systems, photograph them and then paint the resulting abstraction with the same representational techniques that I developed when I painted from life and landscape. I love the idea that the viewer can recognize and appreciate the tropes of traditional, representational painting, including cast light and shadow, colour value and focal depth, while the subject is unrecognizable: I’m literally simulating abstraction.

With my earlier abstract paintings, any sense of flatness or space was an unintentional byproduct of trying to develop an abstract aesthetic through a combination painting and drawing while being unsure of my direction. I was trying to achieve a virtual space through a mental process without any real reference points. But with the Simulation Series, which references Baudrillard's notions of hyperreality, I embraced the ambiguity between abstraction and representation, between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional.

The initial source materials are flat shapes that occupy real space, casting interesting shadows that I exaggerate in the paintings. The bends in the paper in the collage and the source lighting create highlights and shadows that add value and ambient light to the original local colours. The photos I take of the three-dimensional installations distort the forms through cropping and a combination of sharp focus and blur that can be emphasized through a combination of hard-edge and gestural blending techniques.

Cosmic Wall-Skew
Wall collage, water-based paint, chalk and pen on Mylar, paper and wood cut-outs
15' x 40'

OPP: Are your Cosmic Wall installations planned or improvised? What are some of the practical logistics of hanging your installations?

LB: The installations are loosely planned. I reuse the shapes with each new installation. After finding out where the work will be shown next, I get a general idea of what kind of superstructure I'm going to go for based on the conditions of the space (on the wall or hanging from the roof, horizontal swoop or water-fall, one main shape or small clusters, etc.) With this in mind, I make as many new shapes as time allows with the specific space in mind. I always start out with a general idea of the composition, but the installation grows incrementally and decisions are made organically in the process. I'm never very picky about exact placement of every piece. It is an abstract collage after all, and I personally enjoy accidental formations and surprises that happen through the process.

Through the different installations, the individual pieces have suffered some wear and tear, and I often need to patch some chipped bits up with paint or retire them altogether. All the individual bits have a maximum size of 4 x 8 feet because everything is stored in flat, cardboard portfolio packs—with the exception of some 20 foot ribbons that get rolled up for storage in a box. I've learned through experience that the paint shapes need at least a week of drying time before being packed away, and I need to separate them with newspaper or they will stick together.

Oil on birch panel
60" x 60"

OPP: Do you use assistants?

LB: At first, I did all the work from creation to installation myself, but as early as the Les-Territoires installation I began to delegate tasks and rely on installation assistants. I invited my friends to help me X-acto knife out my paper shapes to save time. The more complicated wood shapes were made by a professional printing company using computer laser cutting. My husband would hang my wood bits for me because I'm not strong enough to lift them. He's a commercial electrician and figured out the framework for hanging the heavier wood pieces, which are anchored to walls with metal rods painted white or hung from the roof with aircraft cable, using supplies he pilfered from construction sites. The collage itself is hung with clear push pins and fishing wire.

With the Glenbow Museum and Art Gallery of Calgary installations, I had a team of professional installation technicians helping me. I spread out all the shapes on the floor and handed them pieces one at a time while they were up on ladders. I told them where and how high to hang things, and they problem-solved to make it happen. The installation process is generally a fun and stress-free collaboration with the installation technicians, and I'm open to their suggestions in terms of installation and lighting.

Cosmic Wall-Glenbow
Wall collage, water-based paint, chalk and pen on Mylar, paper and MDF cut-outs
12' x 20' x 5'

OPP: In general, are your animations pure stop-motion or do you ever employ digital editing techniques?

LB: I try to achieve as much as possible in-camera with the hand-painted stop-motion techniques, but there are some digital effects added in post-production using AfterEffects. But with every digital effect added, the original source material becomes slightly degraded. I am compulsively obsessed with maintaining as much high-definition detail as possible. (I abhor seeing these films projected in SD!) So I make sure the lighting is perfect before filming and for the most part, I use the original paint colours and light levels. I crop and blur with the camera set-up instead of using computer scale change and blur filters.

When I first started Chromafilm, I was still learning animation, and I had some strategic struggles trying to achieve pre-set goals based on combining existing aesthetics of paint animation with my own pure abstract painting technique. I was thinking about animation as a way to create a living painting, emulating the experience of painting as the mind works through the possibilities and permutations of abstract composition. But I mostly wanted to make moving versions of the paint-on-Mylar shapes from the Cosmic Collage.

Stop-motion animation, water-based paint over back-lit glass
3:38 minutes

OPP: What about speed and mirroring in Chromafilm (2011)?

LB: I was never really satisfied with the level of frenetic activity of Chromafilm. Throughout the process, I did as much as possible to slow the paint down, but paint dropped into water moves at a certain speed and the camera takes a certain amount of time to capture each individual picture. The paint-on-glass painting technique is achieved with Golden fluid acrylics mixed with water and some glycerin (which never dries) poured over a glass window on a light table that is tipped slightly by a margin of millimeters. I wanted the final film to be HD, so I needed to capture the largest possible image files. Each individual frame took about two seconds to capture. Those two seconds felt so long as I watched the colour explode on the table into the water.

I learned a lot while tinkering with AfterEffects. I discovered the mirroring effect, which anchors the movement centrally and alleviates a previous sea sickness that came from watching the fast-paced movement flow rapidly from side to side. I learned to colour reverse by switching the curves, which turned the white background to black and altered the original stained glass-like color palate to an ultraviolet one. This aesthetic turned the recognizable paint on a light table into a cosmic and psychedelic field. 

Stop-motion animation, water-based paint over back-lit glass
16 minute loop

OPP: Your animation Apollo (2011) pulses back and forth in imagined scale. One second I see outer space; the next I'm looking at carbonation bubbles rising in a glass. As I watched the 16-minute loop, I fluctuated back and forth between wondering how certain effects were achieved and surrendering to the visual pleasure. What’s different in the process of this piece?

LB: One day while shooting Chromafilm, I took a break to go for a walk and when I came back, the paint had dried somewhat and mixed into a thick gooey puddle with some air-bubbles in it. On the computer screen, this shot looked like a starry sky. This moment was the impetus for Random Peter, Aquarius and Apollo. I shot Random Peter that same day. I used a brush to scrape away paint, and then shot image sequences as the paint slowly spilled in and filled the mark. In real time, the paint was moving at a slug’s pace because the paint mixture had less water in it than what I used for Chromafilm (speed problem solved).

The sequences I used for both Aquarius and Apollo were made by using a sponge off frame to soak up paint from under the bottom of the frame and squeeze it out over the top. When you see an explosion of dots in the frame, that was achieved by whipping a goop of paint from a paintbrush from out of frame. This process took more than half a year, and I ended up with 48 minutes of raw footage.

There is a particular effect that is more predominant in Apollo where the bubbles seem to streak in chains or lines. I copied the clip multiple times and repeatedly offset it by a single frame. When it looks like molecules slowly popping in and out, that’s actually a set of clips multiplied and offset about 40 times. I personally consider it both the success and bane of Aquarius and Apollo that the animation is so seamless that it is not readily apparent that it’s origin is hand-painted. Typically stop-motion animation is appreciated largely for the amount of work that goes into it. Because these films seem to be digitally created, that aspect goes unnoticed.

Acrylic and pen on masonite panel
4' x 6'

From a purely process point of view, do you prefer painting, installation or animation more?

LB: Overall, my practice is a combination of intuitive and analytical approaches. These varied processes fall somewhere along a spectrum between active/reflective spontaneity and compulsive methodology.

Painting is challenging and makes me think at every step. It is an energetic process where I am reflecting and responding to each and every brush stoke. Discoveries are made, boundaries pushed and surprises happen. When I feel like I've mastered a particular technique and I'm sure of how a painting will turn out, I move on to a new series of paintings. I don't like going through the motion of painting when I feel I already have the answers. To me, painting is a thought process as opposed to a technical one. Installing my collage work is downright fun. All the production work is already done. I literally wave my hands around, and, like magic—the magic is that other people do all the labour—a massive art piece comes to fruition.

I like animation because, I get so involved in the rhythmic methodical making and the rabbit-hole of editing that I can spend hours at it without stopping. By the time I was working on "Aquarius", capturing the stop-motion paint reached a point where I repeat the same action hundreds of times without the need for much reflective thinking or interpretation. The same could be said for hand-drawn cel-animation; although it leads to new forms, it involves an iterative process where I am basically tracing the same shape over and over again with only a small set of slight changes. These methodical actions put me in a meditative state where all thought or stress leaves my head. Video editing also satisfies my masochistic need to focus on very small details and set-up overly complicated processes where I create an unnecessarily labour-intensive procedure that could not be explained in simple terms.

I feel like you just asked me to pick my favourite child!

To see more of Leslie's work, please visit lesliebell.ca.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/826958 2015-03-19T12:37:18Z 2015-03-19T12:40:57Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kris Grey/Justin Credible
Performance Still (Clifford Owens Seminar at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY)
Performance and Concept by Kris Grey
Photograph by Kris Grey and Fivel Rothberg

Gender queer artist KRIS GREY/JUSTIN CREDIBLE’s interdisciplinary practice includes video and ceramics, as well as a variety of performance modes: storytelling, drag, educational lectures, social interaction in public space and endurance. They explore the intersection of gendered embodiment, authority, intimacy and social justice. Kris received their BFA in Ceramics from Maryland Institute College of Art (2003) and their MFA in Fine Arts from Ohio University (2012). They perform and lecture internationally, most recently at Performatorium: Making It, Difficult at Neutral Ground Contemporary Art Forum at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada and Performing Franklin Furnace, curated by Clifford Owens at Participant Inc. in New York. Gender/Power, a collaboration with Maya Ciarrocchi, will begin a series of 2015 residencies at Baryshnikov Arts Center in March, Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn in the summer and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Process Space in the fall. From March 25 - 28, 2015, you can see Gender/Power performances at Gibney Dance Center in New York City. Kris will be the 2015 Perry Lecturer at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Kris’s home base is Brooklyn.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Both your BFA and MFA are in Ceramics, but it seems that you are now focused on performance, video and social activism. What led to the shift from object-making to performance? Do you still find time for the studio? Do you ever miss object-making as a practice?

Kris Grey: I’ve been making objects and performances in parallel for as long as I can remember. I developed a performance persona named Justin Credible as a parallel to my studio practice in the early 2000s. That character allowed me to perform an array of alternative masculinities through drag performance. As Justin, I organized and performed with the Charm City Kitty Club from 2005-2009. I also performed in bars and on stages all over Baltimore and the Washington DC metro area. It wasn’t until grad school that I started producing performance and live art under the banner of visual art—in essence combining my creative identities.

I come to my work through craft. The way I use my body is closely tied to the way I use clay or other sculptural materials. With clay I work through form and build objects that exhibit, subvert or superseded gendered expectations. Ceramics is magical alchemy! You combine materials, manipulate forms and then place them under extreme duress to produce beauty. The material qualities of the body are similar. Bodies are always marked by socialization. Much in the way that clay records its own history, the body reveals its own stories. Flesh is pliable and plastic. It can be formed and reformed just like clay. 

I have taken that methodology on as a life project. My body is my main raw material. I use hormones and surgeries as a way to craft a queer form outside the binary of male and female. The material may change, but the core interests are constant—namely gender, authority and social justice.

Bottoms Up
Porcelain, glaze, decal
6"x 6"x 3"
Butt Plug service, microwave and dishwasher safe.

OPP:Ask A Tranny is an ongoing, interactive, public performance, social action and online project" which has been performed in Newark, London, Baltimore and Kuopio, Finland. How do you pick where to perform this piece? Has one place been more challenging than another? Where did you receive the most welcoming, enthusiastic response?

KG: The first time I performed Ask A Tranny (AAT) I was in London on a study abroad trip. I didn’t even have a passport before that summer. I was 30 years old, and travel was something I thought to be beyond my class status. Getting a passport probably seems simple to most people, although costly. However, for me there was a major consideration about what “sex” I should list myself as. I am gender-queer identified with a transgender history. I don’t self-identify as either male or female exclusively. When I applied for my passport, I had begun to take testosterone and my appearance was somewhere on the masculine spectrum though I didn’t have facial hair. I’ve never had the intention of changing my ID sex markers since I feel the M/F binary is arbitrary and insufficient. I am listed as “F” on all of my IDs including my license and my passport. I like to think of that F as standing for feminism. I saw my new passport as a conversation piece that made passing through security checkpoints particularly contentious. Whether I’m holding a passport or a sign, I’m enacting the same “performance”—performing myself as gender-queer for an audience of strangers and with differing stakes. At a border I risk detainment. In the public there are different risks. The passport and the cardboard sign both function as prompts for conversations around gender, embodiment and self-actualization. 

Since travel provoked this work, it seemed appropriate to perform it in many different geographical locations. I made a sign that fits into my suitcase and I take it along wherever I go. I usually perform in places of public gathering. Some sites have a particular resonance their history, for example Speakers Corner. I’ve run AAT in public parks, shopping centers and on college campuses. Sometimes there is resistance from police or authority figures who think, at first, that I am soliciting money. It helps to know and understand local laws for public use, which can vary greatly across cultures. In general, it is not illegal to hold a sign and conduct conversations in public spaces. That is what happens in AAT. The result, when I appear in public and make myself vulnerable, is that strangers meet me there with their own care and vulnerability. We exchange stories and create empathetic connections. Gender and my transness is the place we start but the conversations are as varied as the participants. Every single time I’ve performed AAT, I have had genuine, interesting and transcendent experiences with people I’ve never met before and will likely never see again.

How To Perform Trans Visibility in Three Easy Steps
A quick "how to" for those interested in performing trans visibility in the public.

OPP: Correct me if I'm wrong, but it is my understanding that tranny is generally considered a derogatory term these days. I can definitely see that you are reclaiming the term and therefore controlling it's perception with your performance, but I wonder if you ever get push back within the trans community for using the term tranny?

KG: I use the term tranny to identify myself. It’s personal to me. You are correct. Tranny is a trigger word that makes some folks feel unsafe. Though I’m very intentional in my use, I know that this particular word can be difficult and potentially harmful for those people. I would never say I’m “reclaiming” the word tranny. As someone on the trans masculine spectrum, it is not mine to reclaim. There is a great wide debate about who may use the term and who should not. I am certainly not advocating any position by my use of the word to identify myself.

I make my work with sincerity and I am always open to being challenged or critiqued. When people attend the public performances or see video footage I think that sincerity is communicated.

Performance Still (The Ice Palace at Cherry Grove, NY)
Performance and Concept by Kris Grey
Photograph by Kris Grey and Gordon Hall

OPP: While looking at all your work online, I was reminded of Bob Flanagan nailing his penis to a board, Stelarc's suspension and body modification and Marina Abramovic's 1974 performance Rhythm 0. Suspicious Packages (2010 and 2012) also reminds me at times of Martha Rossler's seminal feminist video Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975). How does your work relate to the art historical trajectory of endurance work?

KG: I’ve certainly been influenced by all the artists you list. I hope that my work continues in a legacy built of live art/body work, AIDS activism and feminism. I could make a list a mile long of writers, artists and activists I admire and seek to emulate. Trans* and gender queer artists like Kate Bornstein, Del LaGrace Volcano, Vaginal Davis, Leon Mostovoy, Heather Cassils and Tobaron Waxman come to mind. Body/live art artists including Linda Montano, Annie Sprinkle, Elizabeth Stephens, Barbara Hammer, Martha Wilson, Julie Tolentino, Rocio Boliver, Franko B, Dominic Johnson and Ron Athey, inspire me. I owe a great deal to the leadership and guidance of my teachers and mentors from high school to the present. While I look to other artists for inspiration, I am also indebted to the body workers and healers, trans* people, queers, crafters, sex workers and outcasts who have made their lives and work outside the frame of visual art.

Intergenerational dialog has been the key to my development in performance. I’ve had the great pleasure of performing for and working with amazing artists. Ron Athey’s work and writing have deeply influenced me and I’m so humbled to have built a relationship with him over the past two years. The first time I performed Homage, in 2013, Ron installed my chest piercings. In January 2015, we both performed in Regina, Saskatchewan, at Performatorium. We had the chance to participate in each other’s work again. This time, Ron worked together with another artist, Jon John, to help prepare my body for my performance. It’s an incredibly intimate thing to bring other people into your work through your body. And it’s such a gift when the people you admire invite you to perform in their work, as Ron did at Performatorium. That’s the best kind of mentorship for a live artist! 

Suspicious Packages (Finland)
Single Chanel Video

OPP: Whether in casual conversations in public spaces, in videos like How To Perform Trans Visibility in Three Easy Steps (2012) or in storytelling performances like Body Dialectic (2012), you project a warm, down-to-earth presence. You put people at ease and make it comfortable for them to ask questions. Is this just your personality or something you to cultivate and maintain?

KG: It may just be my personality. I was always coming home with report cards from school with teacher comments that read “too social in class.” I’ve always been interested in people; I just want to tell stories and hear stories. In a way I’ve built my practice around that desire. But being welcoming is a practice I’ve cultivated over time. I grew up in hospitality. My parents owned a small, seasonal motel in Upstate New York. I worked there from the time that I was in diapers until I left for college in Baltimore. While other kids were on summer vacations with their family, I was working. The motel was very formative. It brought strangers from all over into my life. I learned how to entertain.

OPP: Do you generally feel drained or jazzed after a public performance?

KG: Some of the content of my work is challenging. The core of my identity is an agitation to the very structure of binary socialization. I work through the lens of gender, but I’m ultimately interested in disrupting systems of power and dominance. I find it most effective to lead with vulnerability. I get nervous before I perform, sometimes for weeks before I appear on stage or in public. I’m an extrovert and something of an exhibitionist, but when the content of the work is so raw and personal I find it necessary to recharge after. During and immediately following a performance I feel elated. Some works, like Homage and (sub)Merge, take me through my body and out. Homage is really a meditative transcendence. Afterwards, I feel very vulnerable and fragile. I try to treat myself tenderly and with extra care. Sometimes that means that I need to be alone in a space that feels safe.

Intimate Gestures
Performance Still (Athens, OH)
Performance and Concept by Kris Grey
Photograph by Kris Grey and Paige Wright

OPP: I love what you say about leading with vulnerability. Personally, I believe that social and political change can be best brought about through activism based in storytelling, as opposed to protest, although they can certainly work in tandem. I’m thinking specifically about the changes in representations of LGBTQ characters in TV and movies over the last decade.

KG: I agree. Storytelling is an incredibly effective tool for social change. I cannot say if it's more or less effective than protest or if there is a clear delineation between the two. ACT UP and Gran Fury created an incredible amount of social change through protest. There is a vast difference between mainstream media storytelling and street-level activism, but it's hard to totally dismiss television programs because they have an incredibly wide reach. I think it's dangerous to judge work based on political efficacy alone.

We may also be thinking about storytelling in different ways. In my practice, direct community engagement through storytelling—and by storytelling, I mean people saying their truths of their lives in their words out loud to others for witness—can create revolution.

Body Dialectic
Performance Still (Athens, OH)
Performance and Concept by Kris Grey
Photograph by Kris Grey and Louise O'Rourke

OPP: What are your thoughts on recent media representations of trans characters, specifically Sophia Burset from Orange is the New Black and Maura Pfefferman from Transparent?

KG: The radical potential of trans* narratives is that they could disrupt a central power structure which touches every part of our lives: binary gender. I will say that we’ve never had a champion like Lavern Cox. She is such an incredible force, and I’m proud of the conversations she’s creating off screen. I admire her tremendously.

I am wary of mainstream media. Some of my earliest memories of trans* people come from daytime talk shows I saw as a kid. Someone would come out and be introduced to the audience who would be waiting with placards to guess if the guest was a man or a woman. From that kind of sensationalism, which still happens today, we have newer exploitations where after a lengthy introduction, the trans* guests break down and thank the host for letting them tell their story. . . except they hadn't just told their story! The host had interpreted and mediated it for the audience.

Consistently, in movies, on television and in the news, trans* people are portrayed as pathological. The dominant narrative produced is of being trapped in the wrong body. The wrong body narrative, so closely tied to the definition of transexualism from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, centers heteronormativity and distracts from any variation on the male/female binary. This dominant narrative reaffirms trans* folks as a strange apparition in need of medical and psychological intervention rather than a part of human diversity and who need access to life chances in health, housing, education and employment. Further, it skirts the real societal ills— sexism, misogyny, patriarchy and racism—that produce violence.

I suppose what I want to say here is that it depends on who's doing the telling. Trans* characters are increasingly complex; this is a good thing. The media machines that produce them are starting to cast actual trans* people, though not all the time and certainly not enough. I think trans* roles can be played by trans* people but I also think trans* actors can play non-trans roles. We often hear backlash when a cisgender person gets cast as a trans* character, but I'd like to see more diverse casting across all media, on TV, on stage, in movies, etc. Instead of casting for the lead “female” role, why not just cast for the role? Don’t immediately limit the possibilities of who could play that person. I want to see new representations of gender-queer and non-binary folks. It’s totally fine for people to feel like they’ve been “trapped in the wrong body,” but I don’t feel that way. I’d like to see more visibility for other non-binary people who feel differently.

To see more of Kris's work, please visit kristingrey.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.