tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:/posts OtherPeoplesPixels Blog 2014-09-25T12:59:03Z OPP tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/746520 2014-09-25T12:45:09Z 2014-09-25T12:59:03Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Caleb Brown

Shark Drop 1
Oil on Canvas
30" x 25"

Monstrously-large praying mantises, open-mouthed sharks hurling through the sky and docile, gigantic otters populate the allegorical paintings of CALEB BROWN. Influenced equally by the visual vernacular of internet meme culture, Creature Feature films and classical Flemish painting, his "ridiculous and implausible scenarios" reflect anxieties of contemporary life surrounding economic and environmental change, the mass media and the relationship between humans and animals. Caleb earned his BA from the University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, Washington) and MFA from Boston University. He is represented on the west coast by Merry Karnowsky Gallery, where he currently has work on view in the group show Parallel Universe through October 4, 2014. Caleb currently lives and works in New York City.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about your process of composing digitally and painting hyper-realistically.

Caleb Brown: I base my paintings on Photoshop collages that I create by combining and manipulating various found digital images. I use the resulting elastic and ephemeral digital collages as preliminary drawings and then translate them into the physical and permanent medium of oil paint. I look at contemporary pieces like Christian Marclay's The Clock and think about how he elevated the form of internet supercuts into “high” art. I try to see if I can do the same with the visual language of memes and Photoshop battles. I'm attempting to create pieces that marry the emerging modes of digital visual expression with classical composition and materials in order to make paintings that reflect the modern world in their methods of construction as well as their content. I think that hyperrealism can function as a demonstration of an artist's commitment to an idea (no matter how ridiculous the idea is) and forces the viewer to engage an image more actively as a result.

Otter City 1
Oil on Canvas
35" x 28"

OPP: What’s your favorite internet meme?

CB: Although my work is inspired more by photoshop battle-style memes, I love the Doge meme. I’m fascinated at how it’s progressed from the original Doge meme, to the semi-ironic Dogecoin cryptocurrency, to the Dogecoin-sponsored NASCAR car. It’s like the internet meme manifested itself into our physical existence through sheer cuteness.

OPP: You mention in your statement that you are "inspired as much by the fledgling visual vernacular of internet meme culture as by the materials and composition of classical Flemish painting." but my first thought was disaster movies and Creature Features, like Godzilla, The Blob and Tarantula. Are you influenced by cinema?

CB: My work is very influenced by film. Most directly the Otter City paintings are a direct response to the Godzilla films. Godzilla is an allegory of the dangers of irresponsible nuclear testing, where the consequence of humankind's transgression against the natural world is sudden and disastrous. My otter paintings present a much more ambiguous view in which the natural world is changed in enormous and irrecoverable ways by the modern human world. The relationship between the two has evolved in strange and unforeseeable ways as well. One thing that I have complete faith in is our ability to accept and adapt to circumstances that seemed inconceivable or nightmarish just a generation earlier.

Tiger Diver 2
Oil on Canvas
20" X 26"

OPP: I have that faith, too, but what seems nightmarish to me at the moment is the collective inability to be in the present moment, physically and mentally, as represented in ubiquitous use of all our digital devices. Multitasking has its place in a work environment, but I think if we don’t all practice slowing down more and being right here, we are endangering our mental health. And yet, I totally support the creative, connective uses of new technology. This is one of the reasons that I enjoy your work. Representing those “modes of digital visual expression” in painting is great. Not because painting is a superior form, but because it’s imperative that we shift our brains out of virtual spaces more often. Thoughts on this?

CB: I admit, I have a kind of leery affection for both worlds. I suppose that my paintings represent a kind of extreme balance between the kind of manic, ephemeral digital world and the meditative, physical act of painting. The dichotomy between the impulsive nature of digital imagery and the stolid commitment of oil paint creates an interesting tension in my work. That tension works as a metaphor for the contradictions of modern life.

Bug City 1
Oil on Canvas
20" X 26"

OPP: In Bug City 1 and 2, we view some of the action through the rear view mirror. In several of the Shark Drops, our view is from the safety of the inside of the plane, looking out the window. Could you talk about this repeated visual motif of the frame within a frame?

CB: I like to compose paintings that put the viewer in a very rigid and specific point of view in the hopes of involving them more completely in the world I'm creating. A lot of my paintings actually begin with a compositional idea. For instance, the Bug City paintings began with the idea of trying capture the feeling of having your life affected by a global crisis that is as incomprehensible in nature as it is in scope by creating an image that literally surrounds the viewer with chaos on all sides. I came up with the idea of the rear-view mirror as a device to situate the viewer in a very specific participatory position as it relates to the events in the painting. It’s also a method to describe the space behind as well as in front of the viewer, therefore depicting the their entire world. It's kind of an attempt at a visual representation of the inescapable and unfathomable forces that affect us all.

OPP: Your paintings certainly present a grim and terrifying world, and you speak of them as allegories for contemporary life. Are you deeply pessimistic about the future of the world we live in?

CB: I believe that the combination of severe and seemingly irreversible climate change and genetic engineering of crops and animals are evidence that we're entering an age in which the balance between humans and nature has been upset indefinitely. I don't want to sound overly pessimistic about the future (except for the climate change, that's obviously pretty terrible), but I think that the human manipulation of the natural world has crossed a rubicon and, whether good or bad, our world will soon look very different than it ever has.

While my paintings reflect my observations and opinions of modern life by exaggerating them into some pretty nightmarish scenarios, I try to inject the humor and excitement that I see in the modern world as well. My paintings usually capture an almost slapstick moment where a figure or the viewer suddenly locks eyes with a great white shark as it falls through the sky or a giant otter as it wanders through a hazy cityscape. It's usually a kind of stunned and uncertain meeting of the two worlds.

Bug City 2
Oil on Linen
25" x 30"

OPP: What gives you hope?

CB: The one thing that gives me the most hope for the future is the incredible human aptitude for innovation. Even though it can be terrifying to imagine what our world may become as a result of mankind’s interference with the natural world, it’s also kind of thrilling to imagine what solutions we might be capable of achieving.

OPP: Pick your favorite piece of your own work and tell us why it's your favorite.

CB: My favorite piece right now is Bug City 2. I think the composition works well in the way that it slices the space up and repeats the colors and forms throughout the painting. I was able to build a crisp, layered atmospheric space, using multiple framing devices to compose a pretty complicated yet coherent world for the viewer to explore. I definitely spent more time composing this piece prior to painting it than any of my other work.

OPP: And finally, Sharknado: yey or ney?

CB: It’s funny. I think Sharknado is actually reflecting some of the same notions of arbitrary fear (exaggerated to almost comic levels) that I had when conceptualizing my Shark Drop paintings—although, I have to admit to not having seen either Sharknado movie. Unfortunately, the cultural impact of Sharknado now overshadows any conversations I was hoping to provoke with my Shark Drop paintings, so I haven’t made any new ones since the movies came out. About six or seven years ago, I made a painting called Sports Explosion depicting our detached experience of the world through digital media in which several track & field athletes fly through the air with an over-idealized Hollywood explosion behind them—having just finished graduate school at Boston University, I included a Boston jersey-ed athlete. I don’t really know what to do with that painting now. I guess the viewing context for artwork is as fluid and unpredictable as the world we live in.

To see more of Caleb's work, please visit artistcalebbrown.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/743395 2014-09-18T12:34:48Z 2014-09-18T12:49:40Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Eric Valosin

Hyalo 2 (Rose)
Acrylic Paint and Digital Projection Installation
50" x 50"

ERIC VALOSIN merges the digital and the analog, conflating cyber space and sacred space, in his exploration of the techno-sublime. He navigates the tenacious, long-historied relationship between mystical experience and art in his performances/meditations on the impossible pursuit of the perfect circle, in virtual stained glass windows that require the viewer's body to reveal themselves and in hand-drawn mandalas with QR codes at their center. Eric received his BA from Drew University and his MFA from Montclair State University in New Jersey. He recently exhibited work in See the Light at the Attleboro Arts Museum in Massachusetts (July 2014) and created a commissioned piece, As Above, So Below, at Trinity United Church in Warren, New Jersey. The installation was accompanied by an artist talk, a discussion forum and a contemplative service. His upcoming solo exhibition at Andover Newton Theological School's Sarly Gallery opens this fall (exact date TBA). In November 2014, Eric will be teaching a graduate continuing education seminar on worship and the arts at Drew Theological School in New Jersey. Eric lives and works in Montville, New Jersey.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Explain the term techno-sublime for our readers.

Eric Valosin: It’s something to which I aspire in my work, and it threads together my interests in mystical experience and its application to contemporary life. The term originally comes from the critic Hal Foster, who used it to describe the intensely-mediated spiritual immediacy he saw in Bill Viola’s video installations. Typically, traditional mystics spoke of the “unmediated immediacy” of their encounters with God. The techno-sublime asks if there can be a space for that immediacy in an era in which, allegedly, everything is mediated. It’s a meeting point between the 14th Century and the 21st, where old and new media collide and world-views come to a head, coalescing into something complex and truly ineffable.
In my art, I strive to co-opt traditional mystical strategies and push them through these heavy layers of mediation in an attempt to open new spaces for a sublime experience. According to Immanuel Kant, the sublime confounds—even overpowers—the viewer and yet is somehow recollected as a net gain rather than a loss. So experiences of the sublime are in line with descriptions of mystical experiences. I think the sublime is what gives all of the most powerful art that extra something on which you can’t quite put a finger. The techno-sublime is perhaps what happened to the sublime after it met Marshall McLuhan.

Performance and Installation using cyclical rear projection table, chair, digital projection, and charcoal and erasure on vellum

OPP: Circle (2013) is a "ritualized performance" in which you attempt to draw a perfect circle over and over again. The ritual is performed publicly during exhibitions and also practiced privately in your studio. How is the experience different for you when you are alone in your studio versus when there is an audience?
EV: I originally intended it solely to be a conventional performance, but as I started practicing, it began to feel disingenuous of me to put on airs and carry out this “meditative spiritual act” solely for show. So, I began documenting my practice and treating every run-through as a full performance, a dialogue between me and the medium itself. An audience became incidental. In many ways this helped me to grow more comfortable with the piece and connect with it, getting out of it something beyond the initial logistical anxiety and determination.
The entire project turns out to be a constant exercise in acceptance. As I attempt to draw the perfect circle, everything that happens on the paper is recorded, delayed 20 seconds, and then projected back onto that same paper. When my hand reaches the top of the first lap around the circle, I then begin trying to match my hand to the projected hand from the prior laps, synchronizing the physical and digital self. But a perfect circle is far too Platonic to be practical, and the looping synchronization ends up rehearsing, compiling and accentuating every inevitable flaw and eccentricity. Yet, eventually even these flaws amount to something really optically beautiful.

Furthermore, I decided that I wouldn’t discard any run-through as a failure. I learned to accept broken charcoal, technological glitches, and the like as just part of the performance. Once an audience member even interrupted the performance to ask me a question, I guess not knowing it had started. I decided to oblige her question and then continue on. I didn’t want to consider the performance so holy that I became inaccessible, nor those imperfections so unholy that they didn’t merit inclusion in the performance. It simply is what it is. Theologically this was very important to me, that my art acknowledge that our beautiful, ideal reality is comprised of messy, complex imperfections and interactions. That’s one of the big differences between the neoplatonic idealism of classical metaphysics and the relational way contemporary thought tends to see the world since postmodernism. My work ultimately seeks some sort of marriage of the two, a sort of relational metaphysics.

Circle 2.0
March 14th, 2013
Charcoal and Erasure on Vellum

OPP: What goes through your mind? What does it feel like?

EV: It offers a gradual escape from thinking or feeling anything, really. Not in a numbing way, but in an emptying way. Eventually I step back from drawing and erasing the circle over and over and begin just watching the compiling footage play out on the paper in front of me. Gradually, even the slight projection hotspot becomes so accentuated that the whole image dissolves into this odd, luminous, blue/white, watery mush of compounded footage. I get a real sense of peace as I watch it all dissolve. The act of drawing is a time to dive deeply into a meditative, repetitive focus. Stepping back and watching it dissolve is an escape away from thoughts and from anything concrete.

Latex Paint and Projection Installation
56" x 68"

OPP: In projection-based works like Hyalo 2 (Arch), Hyalo 2 (Rose), Triptych and Unknowledge, all (2013), the viewer's body is required to complete the experience of the piece. Without the body to block the projected light, the beauty of the sacred geometry is not available. What can you tell those of us who've only experienced these works online about how viewers interact with your projections?

EV: They hinge around that moment of discovery in which the viewers unwittingly walk in front of the projector and, to their surprise, reveal the imagery in their shadow instead of obscuring it. Or, in the case of the Hyalo projects, they discover that their optical experience changes dramatically depending on their position around the work. I love watching them play and exercise an almost child-like curiosity at what initially confounds their perceptual expectations. This is the moment of the techno-sublime I spoke of earlier, when the piece defies logic in a way that simultaneously stupefies and enlightens the viewing experience and causes viewers to second guess the way they see. It’s sadly true that this is something you can only fully get in person.
I used to devise ways to discourage viewers from making shadow puppets in my artwork, but soon I came to realize it was a somewhat inevitable occurrence. I went to the James Turrell retrospective at LACMA last year and watched adults give their friends bunny ears in his hallowed light-cube projection Afrum (White). Even the great Turrell is not immune to the shadow puppet! That sealed the deal for me; I decided to embrace interactivity as a valid urge within the viewer. The piece was in some way less complete if the viewer was taken out of the equation and expected to remain aloof as an observer.
All spiritual experiences are necessarily interactive, and as we enter an age of increasing technological interactivity and user-definability, the viewer’s body becomes more and more important. The philosopher Marcel Mauss—and to a certain extent Foucault as well—points out that “techne” refers not only to technology but to bodily techniques, which, Mauss says, underpin all our mystical states. It’s the reason we kneel to pray, do yoga, or practice zazen. It’s also the reason I’ve begun working more and more with interactive technologies and new media in my work. What might these mystical postures and movements look like in a hyper-connected, technological world in which the body is just as much virtual as it is physical?

Meditation 1.1 (Thusness, Elseness; Omnipresent)
Pen and Ink on Paper

OPP: Your hand-drawn Mandalas with QR codes at their center send the viewer to a different, random website every time they are scanned. I don't have a smartphone, so I haven't had the experience of "completing" this meditation, but I like the idea that you could end looking at art, merchandise, news, celebrity gossip, wikipedia or porn. It really echoes the Buddhist idea that the sacred is right here in the present moment, no matter what that moment contains. When you've scanned it, where have you ended up?
EV: Once I ended up at some photographer’s website. It was a strange experience to have my artwork catapult me to a meditation on someone else's. I’ve landed on a lot of merchandise websites and a couple very bizarre conspiracy theorist sites. I’ve also gotten my fair share of 404 Error messages. Many people at first don’t realize it’s randomized. This confusion is one of the weakest and strongest aspects of the piece. On one hand, they may end up thinking I’m intentionally supporting a given website’s agenda (which was particularly disconcerting to me the time a friend of mine ended up on a satanist website), but on the other hand it urges them to intentionally comb their destination for some spiritual content, assuming it must be “hidden in there somewhere.” In many cases, only upon rescanning and landing elsewhere a few times do the randomness and Buddhist implications you mention come to light.
Uncertainty is the only certain thing about faith. Uncertainty begins to dig into mystical “unknowing,” the apophatic “negative theology” that attempts to get at the unknowable by surpassing and negating all that’s knowable. Even the person who cannot scan the QR code is left with a similar open-endedness as the person who does scan it.

Cosmos on Gray 1/0
Erasure on 18% Gray Card
10"x 8"

OPP: You have plenty of experience of bringing the spiritual into the gallery. What was it like to bring art into a religious space in your commissioned piece, As Above, So Below, at Trinity United Church in Warren, New Jersey? 
EV: It’s a really interesting challenge. I ended up creating an interactive projection piece mapped onto the slanted ceiling of the church’s chancel area. It used a hacked Microsoft Kinect sensor to integrate congregants into the video, and randomly recomposes itself every 50 minutes. I wanted to create something aesthetically pleasing, engagingly interactive and potentially meditative, but also to challenge the space’s implicit hierarchies and push people out of their artistic comfort zones. In the gallery, the struggle is to bring spiritual connotations into a traditionally secular setting without being didactic or polemicizing. In a church, however, those spiritual implications are inherent in the setting, and the challenge becomes making the art accessible without watering it down. I had to really refine the big questions driving my work in order to develop something I think is substantive enough to hold up in both arenas.

There’s a lot of historical baggage to trip over. Spirituality and art had walked hand in hand for millennia. But when Galileo came along and inadvertently told the church they might not have the market cornered on objective truth, a proud and dogmatic church shut its door on subjectivity. This was the first crack into the schism between the sacred and secular. The result was that art, which thrives on ambiguity and an earnest investigation of big questions, began shifting toward the more hospitable realm of secularity, where it had more room to breath. This was reinforced in the late Baroque by the emergence of non-religious patronage and a cultural appreciation of the real and mundane (as opposed to the ideal).
If the sacred-secular divide weren’t enough, a secondary rift developed within secularity itself. Mass media, which changed the way we process images, and the heavy hands of Clement Greenberg and others divided high art from accessible art. Throw into the mix the growing humanism in 19th/20th century philosophy, and you end up with a huge mess where almost nobody understands the “art world,” let alone the spiritual in art, least of all religious institutions, now twice removed (not to mention the argument that it’s all moot because “God is dead” anyway). There are certainly exceptions, but I have found that many religious institutions today are pretty impoverished in their use and understanding of art as a result.

As Above, So Below
Installation at Trinity United Church

OPP: Did you have an agenda related to the schism between the sacred and the secular in As Above, So Below?

EV: The events I held at Trinity United Church were about mending that rift. I wanted to afford people who may not know what to do with contemporary art a chance to really engage with it and to open a dialogue about how art really works when it’s working well. I wanted to encourage the church to embrace art as a relational tool for broaching challenging subjects and heightening the spiritual life of the church. After the contemplative service there was a time for discussion, and I was blown away. People first approached my installation with, “Great, so what does it mean?” and “What am I looking at here?” When given the dedicated time and permission to investigate it without fear of being wrong, they started to be able to read the work in real substantive ways (ways which I had to go to grad school to learn). Not only that, but they started to measure that experience against their own preconceptions and translate it into meaningful dialogue and even some spiritual epiphanies. 

It’s not about reclaiming art as a pawn in some dogmatic agenda, but about being comfortable enough—especially in churches—to trust the Spirit’s interactions amid those ambiguous, complex spaces where world-views collide and art is at its most powerful. It’s about learning how to use the artistic sublime, as it were, toward a greater church experience. It’s about urging the church to think like an artist, and even urging churches to become artists themselves. It’s about unknowing a lot of what we take for granted and reacquainting ourselves with mystery. Ultimately I believe this transcends even the religious/secular dualism and applies to the most fundamental ways in which we all experience the world and each other.

To see more of Eric's work, please visit ericvalosin.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/738767 2014-09-11T17:00:00Z 2014-09-11T12:56:05Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Anna Jensen

She Would Rather Imagine Herself Relating To An Absent Person Than Build Relationships With Those Around Her
Acrylic, goldleaf, glitter, and oil stick on canvas
60"x 72"

Van Gogh, Picasso and Andy Warhol meet family snapshots, Britney Spears and Mister Rogers in ANNA JENSEN's densely-patterned, psychological landscapes. Anna is deeply in touch with the Jungian shadow. She expertly balances humor and darkness, referencing her personal biography in a way that points to a universal, human vulnerability. Anna attended the University of Georgia in Athens and Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Her work has been featured three times in Studio Visit Magazine and on The Jealous Curator. She has had solo exhibition at Honour Stewart Gallery (Asheville, North Carolina), Dockside Gallery (Atlanta) and, most recently, Nouvel Organon (Paris). Anna lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk generally about the balance of funny and sad in your work? How do you know when you've got it right?

Anna Jensen: I generally start painting without any conscious intention. A painting can begin as a figure drawing or me riffing off of a family photograph that moves me at that moment. Or I will just start mark-making and finger painting to see what memories or feelings are evoked. I go from there. I was playing with paint loosely on top of a more tightly-rendered piece and had this flash of memory from an incident when I was a child on a road trip with my family. The yellow and white splotches I was compelled to add to the image in the present all of a sudden represented the mustard and mayonnaise that my father once smeared on my brother's face in an inappropriate attempt to reprimand him. So the innate actions of my hands and the paint brought about this unexpected connection that was personally significant to me, and so I decided to keep it. It's always comforting with paint to know that you CAN paint over something if you choose to. And I often do. I paint and repaint my surfaces an insane number of times until I stumble—often through great effort—onto that perfect balance of funny and sad. It's a gut thing when I know I've found it. There's no formula. It's both difficult to find and effortless. C'est la vie!

A Foreboding Shadow Befell Her So She Drowned Her Future Sorrows
Acrylic, goldleaf, and glitter on canvas
40"x 30"

OPP: Tell us about your saddest piece.

AJ: They all break my heart and save me at the same time. I think life is so incredibly sad and yet SO amazing and wonderful. I love that paradox, although that in itself is gut wrenching. A Foreboding Shadow Befell Her So She Drowned Her Future Sorrows is, at first glance, happy and bright, familial. . . love filled. But, there is major sadness or doom waiting in there. A man looking at it in Paris said aloud, "this is like a knife in my heart." It was so touching to hear that he had such a strong response to the image. This piece is based on a found photograph of my mother holding my little sister in our childhood kitchen as I sit to the side morosely glugging a goblet of golden liquid. There is a double exposure creeping over the left side of the frame. It forebodes trouble to come. My eyes have dark circles around them, and I chose to accentuate the red-eye effect in my eyes while removing it from my sister and mom. There is also a spider hanging over my mother's head, likely a leftover Halloween decoration but also adding an eery sense of imminent danger.

My mom died suddenly when she was way too young. It was, of course, a terrible tragedy. It has been very difficult to accept living without her. I had some pretty serious issues with alcohol abuse as a teenager/young adult, so the photo was telling in many ways. I just had to make a painting from it. The patterns in my work most likely stem from these times in my life when I had a living Mom and a more traditional family situation. She decorated with many competing and/or complimentary patterns. At times, it felt very busy, but there was a certain flow and comfort in the partnering and placement. I'm definitely a nostalgia junky, so things like that really get to me. I can find the ugliest thing drop-dead gorgeous if it evokes a certain feeling. . . that feeling of heartbreak in the name of love.

OPP: Tell us about your funniest piece.

AJ: I think Finally I'm A Functional Alcoholic is pretty darn funny. The goofy, starry eyed look on her face while the fire burns behind her. The landing-strip pubic hair (as my eccentric friend coined it). Of course there's some sadness going on. She's perhaps blitzed in the face of impending doom. The flowers I painted flanking her were from a gardening book I found which belonged to my late mother. But, over all it is humorous somehow. . . at least for a moment.

What's Happening To Us, Daddy?!
Acrylic, goldleaf, and glitter on canvas

Your portfolio includes several commissioned pieces, which fit stylistically with the other works, but don't have the same content as the "psychological landscapes."  But I wonder if pet portrait commissions like Portrait of Laila for her daddy, Mr. Todd Shelton (2014), Brando Plays Ball In The House (in Heaven) (2014) and Portrait of Amazing (2014) actually have a conceptual connection to the other paintings that explore intense emotions like anger, fear, resignation, shame, sadness. What do you think?

AJ: I try to infuse whatever I do with some level of emotion. My dog Beulah is like my child, so I totally love and respect animals and want to convey that in the portraits. They really do have personalities. One little mark in the wrong place and it looks like a totally different creature and would be unsettling to the pet parent! Those were basically gifts. I am glad I did them, but I have decided to cut back on stuff like that because I really do need to eat!  And I can't seem to NOT put my all into whatever it is that I am working on, whether I am being payed for it or not. The Brando piece took me weeks for example. That wallpaper!

OPP: Do you have any rules about what kinds of commissions you will take?  

AJ: I'm doing a pet portrait for my uncle right now and a piece for a friend's family who lost their youngest son recently. After those, I think I might be done with commissions/trades/gifts for a while! I have a million ideas for paintings I NEED to realize. If I could crank out work really fast that would be one thing. . .  or if I was independently wealthy. But I can't, and I'm not. I recently spent ten days on a painting of a mummy for one of my sister's low-income students because in passing he said, "hey, could you draw me a mummy?"  and I said, "sure, kid!  I'll draw you a mummy!" Again, I don't regret doing those things and honestly it is unlikely that I will really stop. But, it is my plan to strictly focus on my personal vision for a good while starting soon.

NEW work in progress
Automobile series
Acrylic on canvas

OPP: Tell us about the Automobile Series, which you note on your website is "NEW work in progress." What's the inspiration for these new paintings?

AJ: Cars, especially older cars, are so structurally and energetically beautiful. They hold so many hopes and memories. . . from the mundane to the grandiose. It is about the physical aspects—color/shape/shine—as well as the nostalgia and personalities they evoke. I didn't think too much about it at first, but have since been flooded with all kinds of memories of the cars in my personal  history. My mom was a traveling saleswoman, so she always had a company car. As she moved up in her job, the cars got better and better. It was always so exciting when she would get a new one. . . that new car smell! And when she would pick me up, the air conditioning was such a relief from the Georgia heat. But, my dad always had junkers.  He is a mister fix-it type. . . he was an engineer, but circumstances landed him in home repairs/renovations. As a family we were never super well off, so my mom's company cars were a real luxury. My first car was a 1983 Volvo. It had been sitting in a field for years before I got it, so the inside was completely green with mold. Although I cleaned the heck out of it and smoked a million cigarettes in it with my friends, I don't think it ever lost all of that moldy smell.

I started the Automobile Series in an attempt to produce a bunch of work more quickly, less obsessively. But, they took on a life of their own, and now I am in over my head with all of the ideas I have for how to complete them. They are probably more involved and OCD-inducing than any before. There are a few more that I haven't added to my website yet because they are just TOO personal or not nearly ready for show. I just wanted to let people know that although I haven't presented finished new works in a while, I HAVE been busy. There is just never enough time in a day, as we all know.

OPP: You've just returned from Paris, where you had your first international solo show at gallery Nouvel Organon. Tell us about the show and your experience. Also, how do you decompress after a big solo show?

AJ: That show was an incredible experience. It involved so much risk, investment and hard work, but it was beyond worth it. I just can't say enough about it. I learned so much about the city and about myself. I made lifelong friends, which is priceless! I sold eight pieces—not too shabby! We had multiple events in the gallery to keep it creative and exciting. Spoken word, poetry and musical artists performed in the space. An amazing Butoh duo created a piece relating to my work, and they even had me paint their feet in the performance. The whole month was a beautiful time for everyone involved. That being said, I'm happy to be "home" and back in my studio.

At Least We Got Together For Lunch Last Week
Acrylic, goldleaf, and glitter on canvas

OPP: How do you decompress after a big solo show?  

AJ: In the earlier days after a big show, I was so frazzled from all the build-up and hours of talking to strangers—immediately following the concentrated solitary time that went into creating the work—that I hightailed it to a Mexican restaurant to have a LITTLE food and a LOT of frozen margaritas. I found that I didn't leave there feeling much better. As I've become more seasoned, I have learned that some down time simply hanging with my dog is an immediate stabilizer. Exercise and, of course, more painting helps as well. The social and showing/talking part of this job always leaves me feeling a bit shell shocked. But, I'm so appreciative of the human connections I make on those occasions. I'm honored and grateful that people show up and make themselves vulnerable to speak up and share their response to the work. It's incredible. This is a mysterious and perplexing "job" to have, and I question it all the time. But, art has existed all this time for a reason. A BIG reason. So I always come back to realizing the value in staying on this path. However winding. . .

To see more of Anna's work, please visit annajensenart.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/736419 2014-09-04T12:10:58Z 2014-09-04T12:17:29Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jacinda Russell

Barton Springs, Austin, Texas
June 13th, 2010
Archival Inkjet Print
20" x 30"

The objects we collect and accumulate serve as vehicles to both cling to and let go of our identities and personal experiences. JACINDA RUSSELL reveals the nuances of this continuum in her photography, sculpture and installations.  Some collections are extensions of her own body—fingernail clippings, old swimsuits and a broken comb she used for 25.5 years—while others present the obsessions and fixations of others. Jacinda received her BFA from Boise State University in Studio Art and her MFA from the University of Arizona in Photography. Her work has been exhibited at Texas Gallery, DiverseWorks, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Houston Center for Photography and the Academy of Fine Art & Design in Wroclaw, Poland. Faux, also featuring the work of Alexis Pike, opens on September 5, 2014 at Boise State University Visual Arts Center in Idaho. She a member of the Board of Directors and participant in the Postcard Collective. Jacinda is an Associate Professor of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You've said you come from a family of collectors. What kinds of collections did you witness as a child?

Jacinda Russell: Growing up, my father's major collection was balloon tire bicycles. At one time, there were nearly 200 inside the house, suspended from the ceilings or propped against any available wall space. He also accumulated soda bottles, porcelain signs, rusty toys, wheels, odd pieces of metal and wood, photographs and old advertising signage that he someday hoped to use in art projects.

Installation of 12 for 7 Years as an Adjunct Professor: 2002 - 2007, Oregon State University
Archival Inkjet Prints
Each 45" x 30"

OPP: Do you remember a favorite collection from childhood?

JR: My favorite collection as a child is so hard to answer! I owned a lot of small wooden boxes that contained pins, stamps,tiny toy animals like plastic elephants and old rings. I also saved artifacts from places I visited: shells, rocks and purple-tinted glass worn and shaped by waves. Those are the items I still remember and even have one representation in a display case in my living room today.

OPP: There are probably as many idiosyncratic collection practices and purposes as there are humans, but I see collections as falling into two primary categories: collections that can be completed and those that can't. Thoughts? Do you tend towards one or the other?

JR: That's an interesting question, and I've never thought about it in that manner. I can see how that pertains to a comic book collection where someone owns every single issue of a publication, however, my collections exist as finite units. No matter how many objects are accumulated, when I say it is done, that is it. For instance, I don't need all the teeth my brother and I lost as a child photographed on a white piece of cotton. I only use what I have, and that is fine.

1045 Lists (1st June 2010 - 31 May 2013)
In progress

OPP: How do you decide when it is done? Is it a strictly artistic decision or is it something else?

JR: I stop when a collection overwhelms me. The best example I can give is of a small series of photographs that I am currently working on that features every single list I saved from June 1, 2010 - May 31, 2013. I kept them as long as I could before the stack made me physically uncomfortable and took up too much space on the shelf. I am currently sorting these into categories and photographing each pile individually and in small groups. There are 1045 of them.

OPP: Your project A Tale of Two Obsessions: David C. Nolan & Marilyn Monroe and Arline Conradt & the Cat Scrapbook, 2011 - 2013 investigates the collections of two strangers. How did you first encounter these collections? How did they become part of your work as an artist?

JR: I've known about the David C. Nolan photographs of Marilyn Monroe for years. They have haunted me since I was a teenager. I never thought to make art about them until my father gave them to me. He has always been a great source of material, perhaps knowing better than I do that I will someday turn it into artwork. If you would have told me when he first gave me the cat scrapbook that I would make an installation featuring 7500+ cats as a serious art project, I would have scoffed at the idea. I love this series because it is a step away from myself, a look at two individuals from a different era that are not too dissimilar in the manner in which they organize and structure their collections. The source of their material is very different, and I feel connected to—and repulsed by—both.

Arline Conradt & the Cat Scrapbook Mock-up Installation
Archival Inkjet Prints

OPP: In what ways are you a documentarian? In what ways are you not?

JR: I define documentary work as an objective viewpoint, and everything I do is subjective. I have always considered myself a pseudo-archivist rather than a documentarian. I fiddle too much with the truth, preferring to manipulate what I see rather than leave it alone. It is very difficult for me to take a photograph that is not staged in some manner and consider it artistic (although I appreciate documentary photographers like William Eggleston and Robert Adams).

OPP: "Despite its beauty, Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water comes from a dark place—one that was momentarily forgotten as I traveled across the country searching for pristine water." That's a mysterious statement. Will you tell us more about the beginning of this project?

JR: I allude to the "dark place" at the beginning of the project statement: "Spring 2010 featured several personal and career-related disappointments, and for the first time in my artistic life, I was devoted to a project that’s main premise is beauty, escapism and desire. . . Complete immersion in finding inviting bodies of water to float Styrofoam and acrylic-tinted, caulk cakes was a coping mechanism to come to terms with loneliness and unhappiness with place." I have a habit of saying too much with my artwork and this series was a challenge to step back and not explain everything in detail. I wanted the photographs to stand on their on and for the most part I think they do.

Scott & Kim Anderson’s Backyard, Hartford City, Indiana
June 18th, 2010
Archival Inkjet Print
30" x 20"

OPP: This project gets at the idea that collecting can be a consciously or unconsciously evasive maneuver. But it can also be an opportunity for transformation. Where did the project lead you?

JR: I don't consider the cakes a collection, rather a depiction of an action or performance. Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water consisted of many components which I documented extensively on my blog: the construction of the object, choosing the locations, the travel mishaps that often took place because so many variables were out of my control, the encounters with the general public that interfered with the documentary process, the begging, bribing and excuses I made to explain my actions. They are all part of the series though not evident in the end product.

The following summer, I received a grant for a project entitled From Venice Beach to the Venice Biennale. It involved many failures but led me to several series that I am currently working on: my explorations with water and stalking artists. The Venice Beach portion featured my attempt to meet Ed Ruscha. I had a couple weeks in between my trips to California and Italy to create art in response to whether or not I met the famous conceptual artist. Whatever came from it, I would bring to the Venice Biennale. I sent him a letter before flying to Los Angeles, outlining my plans and included nine postcards of the fake cakes. Needless to say, I did not meet him but a couple days after I returned from California, I received a postcard from him stating: "Jacinda - Thanks so much for 'Nine Fake Cakes: . .' Those cakes never had it so good and niether [sic] did those bodies of water! Rage on! Ed Ruscha" I would like to think I took his advice seriously (or at least I am still trying).

Clear Water Sample: Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME
Archival Inkjet Print
20" x 30"

OPP: You recently completed a summer residency, correct? Where did you go and what did you make?

JR: Since I finished Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water, I have often wondered if I were to redo it, how could it be better? The answer lies in the location. Although many of the bodies of water in that project had a purpose, they were not as meaningful as they could be. I started a series last summer based on my autobiography as told in water (the opening image on my website is the first photograph, but the series is in-progress and currently untitled, hence not referenced anywhere else yet). I have a list of 14 locations that I must document and collect materials from in order to finish this work. They range from locations important to my family history to destinations I have longed to visit because I thought they would change the way I perceive water and thus, my relationship to the world (the glacial melt of Lake Louise is an example of the latter).

I was invited to attend a residency at Surel's Place in Boise, Idaho, which is conveniently located next to five of the locations on my list. I spent the entire month of May revisiting many of the places where I vacationed as a child. I collected water samples, made sound and video recordings and took photographs. I am halfway done with the list and hope that I will have completed it in two years. I am still editing and thinking about the images I acquired. Some will exist as photographs while others will be featured in a mail art project, an artist book and a mixed media installation. I have always wanted my work to extend further into the third dimension, and I hope this series will be a breakthrough in that direction. 

To see more of Jacinda's work, please visit jacindarussell.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/733267 2014-08-28T12:41:46Z 2014-08-28T12:45:55Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Geoffry Smalley

Paper Tiger
Graphite on Paper, Cut Paper Overlay

According to GEOFFRY SMALLEY, "to understand the history of American team sports is to understand our national development." To this end, he thoughtfully and humorously examines the "Big Three" (baseball, football and basketball) in painting, drawing, collage and sculpture. Painting on top of existing reproductions, he injects sports arenas into famous Hudson River School landscapes and mashes up team uniforms and mascots with the animals that inspired them. Geoffry earned his BFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago and his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited extensively in and around Chicago. Most recent was his solo exhibition Past Time at Packer Schopf Gallery in the summer of 2014. When he isn't making art, Geoffry works as an art conservator at Joel Oppenheimer, Inc. in Chicago, where he lives.

OtherPeoples Pixels: Tell us about the work in Past Time, your most recent solo show at Packer-Schopf Gallery in Chicago.

Geoffry Smalley: For several years I've been exploring social and political issues related to American sports, and Past Time is the latest body of work. In my daily dealings as an art conservator, I think about the works I treat, their place in American art history and the nature of authenticity. I have to hide my hand when treating an art work, and because of that I began to think of ways I could use historical images for my own purposes. At the time, I was also reading about the rise of sports during the Industrial Revolution, which reflected America's progression into the modern age.

Catskill Creek, Citi Field
Acrylic on Ink Jet Print

OPP: I'm especially interested in the sports vistas, in which you insert contemporary arenas and stadiums into romantic landscape paintings. 

GS: The vistas are reproductions of Hudson River School paintings onto which I have painted images of various sports arenas. Painters like Thomas Cole and Asher Durand held cautiously optimistic views of society's progress. They believed in the sublime, the closer-to-God power of untamed nature. They captured these unspoiled vistas at the very moment our country steamrolled west and grew into the industrial superpower it is now. Sports flourished in the same way. At a time when workers first began to have leisure time, baseball emerged from rural America. It was played at what was then considered a rapid pace, under the sun, during the growing season, affected by the elements. Football is industrial manufacturing plus military readiness: taking land by force, specialized individual moving parts choreographed to achieve a singular, larger goal. Basketball picked up football’s individualized machinations but added a more free-form individualism to the mix. As Americans left the rural landscape to congregate in cities, immigrants, settlers and native-born people tried to assimilate their variegated histories into an homogenous American identity. Sport offered a common site and a common language where that diversity could be bridged.

OPP: Team names and mascots are a jumping off point in many of your drawings on found images, as in Chief and Cowboy from 2014, as well as Seahawks, Orioles and Eagles from 2011. It seems like most professional sports team names are either history or animal references. Is this the case? Why do you think that is? Can you think of any exceptions?

GS: I believe team names are derived from the tradition of using animal totems as a way to harness the mythic powers, internalize the traits and externalize the characteristics of certain creatures. In football you have the Eagles, Lions, Panthers, Bears—all predatory, strong animals. Baseball gives you Cubs, Orioles, Cardinals and Blue Jays—not really striking fear into an opponent with those names. But there are also historical and social references—49ers, Cowboys, Brewers and Steelers—which reflect each team’s hometown industry/identity and blue collar fans. Of course you have the tradition of “honoring” Native Americans by making them mascots. From Chief Wahoo to Chief Noc-A-Homa to the tomahawk chop, there are racist slurs appropriated with great popularity across all sports. The traditional Thanksgiving NFL matchup of the Cowboys vs. Redskins is also indicative of historically entrenched nationalism and racism that still bubbles beneath the surface. Team names are meant to carry with them meaning and identity, and do so quite powerfully, sometimes with unintended consequences. There just a couple exceptions to the animal/historical references, where a team name actually invokes either more etherial or benign powers. The Heat, the Thunder, The Sox from Chicago and Boston. . . hard to take umbrage with the fact that Miami is hot or that Chicagoans wear socks.

Acrylic on Book Page

OPP: Could you talk generally about the strategy of the cut-out in your work? You've used it in collage, drawing and sculpture, and it appears to be both a aesthetic and conceptual strategy.

GS: I have used the cut-out for about 15 years, originally as a way to isolate all or part of a specific image from the collage-like paintings I used to make. It began as an attempt to understand why I used a particular image, how re-contextualizing an image changed or added to its meaning. That isolation evolved to be more of a strategy of simultaneously concealing and revealing, taking images past straight representation and into a more mysterious place. The cut-out also acts as an interruption, a pause or glitch in the image a viewer is trying to decipher. Not being given the whole story at once allows for a slower absorption of information and keeps the question alive longer. It's always more interesting when you don't know the answer. On a base level, cutting and collaging is an extension of my drawing practice, a way to regroup and quickly realize thoughts.

Ring Stock Ballyhoo - Swarm
Variable (16x19)

OPP: I'm seeing a lot of forms that evoke the Fleur-de-lis and other coat-of-arms designs. Some examples include the graphite helmet designs in Starbury (2011), the decorative flourishes in Antique Sorrow (2008) and the cut-out gold foil in Dale Earnhardt Portrait Cartouche (2007). What do these flourishes mean to you? How has your use of them changed over time?

GS: Those forms mostly come from the Rococo. I was picking on NASCAR, talking about the spectacular, florid, over-the-top displays of eye candy that NASCAR embodies. The Rococo is often discounted as a movement entrenched in frivolity and poor taste, one of shallow and selfishly playful intent. Just beauty. I used the forms to create what I called “portrait cartouches” of NASCAR drivers, comprised of all the sponsors’ logos on their fire suits. As with the cut-out, decorative forms serve dual purposes. As aesthetic forms, they bring shape and content to an image. In Starbury and similar images from Past Time, I conflated athletic and military display, imagining athletes “in the trenches” or as modern-day gladiators and warriors. I began to think about contemporary athletes’ tattoos as parade armor worn by Medieval and Renaissance kings. That armor was never worn in battle. It was a narrative display of power.

1:24 Scale Hobby Model, Cut-out and Bent Sintra, Enamel, Decals
16" x 22" x 15"

OPP: How do you decompress after a solo show or the completion of a big project? Do you need a break before returning to the studio?

GS: I definitely need to take a break. I usually spend a little time away from the studio after a show, until my feet get too itchy to keep me away. I see an exhibition as an opportunity to get some perspective on where I am with my work in general. It’s good to see all the pieces out of the studio, having a dialogue together. I take that back to the studio with me. After cleaning and rearranging, I research, make drawings and listen to a lot of baseball on the radio to prepare for the next thing. 

OPP: And what's your next thing?

GS: While making work for Past Time, I had thoughts and ideas bouncing around that didn't fit with that show, so they got put on the back burner. But as I stated above, feet get itchy. I have been thinking about how the landscape/stadium idea relates to religion. Certain stadia and arenas are considered pilgrimage sites for fans. Naturally, inside those sites are relics, items imbued with the history and iconography of the residents housed within the building. I’m working on ideas for sculptural forms that play with sports reliquaries and trophies. . . nothing fully-formed yet. But I’m excited to get back to work.

To see more of Geoffry's work, please visit geoffrysmalley.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/730259 2014-08-21T17:00:00Z 2014-08-21T12:49:19Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Deanna Krueger

Elusive Vector
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), paper, ink, staples
54" x 63"

DEANNA KRUEGER’s work sits at the intersection of sculpture, painting and textiles. Her wall-hung Shards, composed of ripped, angular pieces of acrylic monotypes on X-Ray/MRI film stapled together, reference quilting, Minimalist painting and primitive surgery. Deanna graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA from University of Michigan and received her MFA with Highest Honors from Eastern Michigan State. In 2014, her work was included in the group exhibitions Meditative Surfaces at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (Indiana) and the Rockford Midwestern Biennial, on view until September 28, 2014, at the Rockford Art Museum (Illinois). She is currently preparing for a forthcoming solo exhibition at The Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art (College of Lake County, Grayslake, Illinois) titled Deanna Krueger: Shimmer. The exhibition opens on February 27, 2015. Deanna lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you explain the different parts of the process of creating the works in your series Shards.

Deanna Krueger: I begin by printing acrylic monotypes onto recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film). The film is then torn apart and the shards are reconnected into new configurations using thousands of staples. The process yields large wall-hanging pieces that are semi-translucent and slightly dimensional.

Installation shot, River Gallery (Chelsea, Michigan)

OPP: What's your favorite part? Least favorite part?

DK: The painting and printing is probably my favorite part. It always seems to happen too quickly, though I also really enjoy combining the various nuances of colors on the shards. Tearing the film creates quite a bit of noise. It sounds like I am taking out my aggression, but it just makes me laugh as that is usually not the case.

I assemble the pieces while seated on the floor of my studio, which is tile that I painted white so I can see the translucent colors. I set out the shards into little piles of color, much the way a painter lays out her palette. Then it is kind of like a game of seated Twister as I reach and staple, reach and staple. The repetition is meditative. At times I wish I could get my process off the floor to lessen the physical strain, but I always go back to that tile.

Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
45" x 45"

OPP: When did you first start working with recycled medical diagnostic film? Where do you get so much of it?

DK: In grad school I was experimenting with translucency on small discarded Mylar retail signs. My adviser saw what I was doing and mentioned that someone had dropped off some medical film years ago to the studio. She gave me about twenty sheets of 14” x 17” film. I instantly fell in love with the stuff. Acrylic won’t usually stick to plastic, but the film has a chemical substrate designed to absorb pigment. At that time, I was working as a preparator and assistant to the Visual Arts Coordinator at an arts program at the University of Michigan Health System. I made a lot of contacts with clinics and stockpiled the stuff. Most of what I got are clear “cleanup” sheets. They are run through the diagnostic machines between scans to clean off the print rollers, so when you go for your brain scan there are no accidental ink blobs on your results. Sometimes people give me their own personal X-Rays and MRIs, and I have also gotten some over-exposed film. I did some other things with the film for my MFA thesis show, but my Shards series started the year after I finished.

OPP: Tell us about your choice of staples as the connecting element for the Shards.

DK: In undergrad, I found a used, specialty hand-held stapler. I appreciated its elegance and simplicity. I am a bit obsessed with tools! After my MFA, the medical film and the staples came together. They seemed the perfect match. There is also the connection that staples are often used in surgery. The staples add an edge to the work. I welcome this bit of darkness. . . though they also add sparkle. So there is dark and there is light.

Alcyone (detail)
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples

OPP: Let's talk about how practical concerns affect art-making. I imagine these works are difficult to transport. They seem like they might crack or break if rolled up. How do you move this work from one space to another? Has it ever affected where you exhibit or the scale of your work?

DK: Though the pieces look quite delicate, they are actually very sturdy. The film is .7mil BoPET (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate). I roll the work up and make long narrow boxes for shipping. Unlike paper or other plastics, it pops right back to flat when unrolled. They have safely shipped to numerous states and to Rome and Berlin. I once shipped eight pieces to Florida all in one box. My largest pieces so far were 75” x 75.” Even those were less than two pounds each. When I am pressed for time, UPS makes the boxes for me. I love to work large. I am disqualified from a lot of shows for it, but I don’t care. I have recently made some at 36” x 36,” but I think the larger ones have more impact. In my current studio I could probably make something as wide as 14 feet. I am waiting for that commission to roll in! Work has only been damaged once. A bunch of rowdy children were running around and yanked on it. It was torn beyond repair. The force required would probably have punctured a typical canvas as well. Thank goodness the venue had insurance.

Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
50" x 69"

OPP: Although your Shards are hard and sharp and don't have the same associations of comfort and care, I see quilts when I look at them. Like quilters, you break apart and recombine materials that could be thrown away. And there are embedded stories that aren't legible to the viewer. Are you influenced by quilting or its history?

DK: Yes. I had a duel major in undergrad: Drawing/Painting and Fibers. My MFA was in Textiles. A lot of viewers have mentioned the similarities to quilts and also to stained glass. I like the fact that peoples’ histories are embedded in the material. I am transforming what may have been a negative experience into a more positive thing.

I describe these pieces as sculptural paintings. Unfortunately, I think work in fiber still often has the stigma of being crafty women’s work. I pulled my own little Guerrilla Girl stunt the first time I entered Shards in a juried exhibition. A postcard produced for a show during undergrad had a typo in my name. They spelled it Dean. I got to thinking that the gay, male juror might like a Dean better than a Deanna, so I entered as Dean. I got in and won best in show. I would like to think it would not have mattered. I dropped that charade after the gallery took me into their stable and gave me a solo show. 

Acrylic on HDPE on Panel
30" x 30"

OPP: The surfaces of the two-dimensional works in Liminal have an amazing, scale-shifting effect. I switch back and forth between seeing relief maps of landforms and microscopic views of ice crystals. Could you talk about the relationship of the very large and the very small in this work? How does this relate to your overall interests in making art?

DK: Geology, fossils, crystalline structures, growth patterns and topographical maps all inspire and fascinate me. In fact, a Swiss friend of mine calls me Map Girl, because when traveling I must know at all times know where we are on the map.

I enjoy creating the fluctuation of micro and macro. That is one common thread between the Liminal and Shards pieces. I love it when people say the work looks so different from far away than it does close up. More intimate observation reveals the layers of intricacy.

Epsilon Indi
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
63" x 63"

OPP: Your titles also get at that fluctuation if you look at them as a group; they reference geology, astronomy and mythology. How important to understanding the work is it that viewers read the titles and get the references?

DK: Viewers can take away as much or as little as they like, though I do enjoy it when people understand or at least explore the conceptual nuances embedded in the work. The geology and astronomy references stem from my interest in science in general. In the astronomical field, many celestial bodies are named after mythological characters. Referencing mythology is my way of calling into question various belief systems. We now know that things the ancients believed are false. Pointing this out is one way of questioning the validity of many beliefs strongly held today. 

To see more of Deanna's work, please visit deannakrueger.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/725955 2014-08-14T17:00:00Z 2014-08-14T13:30:45Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Wesley Harvey


Drawing on Queer Theory, ceramic artist WESLEY HARVEY explores what the terms"normative and deviant" mean for the contemporary, gay male. His visual influences range from the pottery of Ancient Greece to kitschy figurines, and his work sits on the line between functional object and sculpture. Wesley received his BFA from Indiana University (2002) and his MFA from Texas Tech University (2007). His work is included in the permanent collections at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Ceramic Research Center at  Arizona State University and the Art & Artifact Collection of the The Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. In 2014, The Cupcake Eaters won First Place in the 20th San Angelo National Ceramic Competition at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. Wesley's forthcoming solo exhibition one night stand opens on October 6, 2014 at Clamp Light Artist Studios & Gallery in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Is it important to make a distinction between functional pottery, decorative pottery and ceramic sculpture, either in your work or in general?

Wesley Harvey: As a ceramic artist, I love that I can jump back and forth between the craft and the fine art. For the longest time, ceramics as a medium was just stuck in the craft movement. But most of my career, I have made ceramic sculptures. About four years ago, I became interested in the pottery aspect of ceramics. Some days in the studio, I absolutely love to sit down and spend the day just making cups. I treat each cup of mine just as I would a sculpture, making sure that every inch of the cup is exactly how it should be. My newest body of work is pottery-based, but I consider the larger vessel forms to be sculpture.


OPP: Could you talk about the intersection of the cutsey-kitschy with the overtly sexual, especially in your 2011 solo show Afternoon Delight at Joan Grona Gallery?

WH: I grew up loving all things kitsch because of the fascination that my grandmother had with tawdry objects. She taught me to appreciate them rather than see them as trash items, as most people do. She had so many objects and figurines in her home; it was like a kitsch museum. My mom is a huge Elvis fan, and she had so much Elvis memorabilia in our home while I was growing up. He was in every room and on every radio, even in the car. I guess I just got the kitsch gene passed onto me by the family. I knew that Afternoon Delights was going to be my last solo exhibition using the kitsch-inspired influence of figurines and collectibles, and I wanted it to be special. Sexuality has been an influence in my artwork since my undergraduate studies at Indiana University. While there, I visited the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender and Reproduction. It had everything and anything in all regards to sex. I loved it!

So for the exhibit, I really wanted to use both of these influences and create something special for the audience that would make them either love the artwork or be somewhat bothered that I put my kitschy figurines in these awkward situations. My favorite piece in the exhibition was come on baby, which consisted of a line of 25 bunnies who where actually having sex with each other. Formally, the piece was beautiful and up close, the viewer could see that each bunny had a phallic part that was going into a hole on the backside of the next bunny. I was blown away by the support; everyone loved it!

Dinnerware Installation (detail)

OPP: Dinnerware Installation (2010) features decals of images created by Tom of Finland, called the "most influential creator of gay pornographic images" by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade. This china set is particularly interesting in relation to the blurred boundary between functional and conceptual uses of ceramics because it brings to mind the marriage tradition of registering for a china pattern. 2010 was the year Prop 8 was finally ruled unconstitutional. Is Dinnerware Installation a response to the ongoing struggle for marriage equality?

WH: Yes and no. It’s more personal than overtly political. This second body of pottery-based work was heavily influenced by my studies in Queer Theory, which defines and examines both normative and deviant behavior. Previously, I was really only looking at normative behavior. I started to create this work because of the feeling that I would not ever get to the point in my life when I would be able to register for a china pattern. This body of artwork was a way for me to become sexual and fantasize about a different life than what I had as a single, gay man. I am really the biggest prude in the world and the worst at relationships. The artwork for me counter-balances those insecurities.

Pussy Stare
Porcelain, glaze, decals, glitter, resin

OPP: It’s important to say that the terms normative and deviant are social constructions that shift and change over time and from place to place. It seems like those terms may have even shifted within the queer community over the last decade, as same-sex marriage is slowly, but surely becoming legal in more states and more same-sex couples are parenting. For readers who are unfamiliar with Queer Theory, can you say more about “normative and deviant behavior?”

WH: Yes, the terms normative and deviant are social constructions that do shift and are always evolving. As with any duality, you cannot have one without the other. Whereas Gay/Lesbian Studies focused its inquiries into natural and unnatural behavior with respect to homosexual behavior, Queer Theory expands its focus to encompass any kind of sexual activity or identity that falls into normative and deviant categories. So, the fact that gay marriage is becoming more accepted in our society puts it in the normative category. But the deviant category, which I do not see society accepting for quite a while, interests me most. While doing my research for my collage process, I sometimes even get red in the face. For example, the cupcake eaters, was inspired by deviant subject matter. I found an ad on Craig's List: a gentlemen wanted men to come into his hotel room and defecate into his mouth by using a special chair, which would already be set up when the callers entered the room. I modified this deviant act, using cupcakes falling into the guys mouth. I felt that was a bit more appropriate.

the cupcake eaters
Stoneware, glaze, decals, luster, silk flowers

OPP: The stoneware pots—the cupcake eaters (2013), daydreaming in gold (2013), B.A.B.S. (2013) and portraits of daydreaming (2014)—covered in decals recall the pottery of Ancient Greece, which tell the stories of what life was like then. Are they meant to be viewed as future artifacts telling stories that might otherwise be lost?

WH: These particular pieces are definitely influenced by the ancient Greek vessels. In pieces like the cupcake eaters, I am referencing acts of deviant sexuality; more than stories that might be lost, these are matters that are not discussed. I find it interesting that people want to talk about the deviant, but not really. It is like a bad car wreck. You want to look at it, but at the same time, you feel bad. What I am doing is not really shocking, considering the imagery of the ancient Greek vessels. When you take a second look at that pottery, you start to notice what is really going on with those men and adolescent boys.

OPP: You have a upcoming solo show at Clamp Light Artist Studios & Gallery in San Antonio, Texas (October 6-13, 2014). What are you planning for this exhibition? How will it be different from previous shows?

WH: For this exhibition, I have changed things up a bit in the studio. I have ditched porcelain and stoneware, and I’m working exclusively in terra cotta. The vessels are going to be much more closely related to the ancient Greek vessels in their forms. I have never really used terra cotta, and I wanted that historical reference to be there with these new forms. I am most excited about the kylix cup forms I’m making for the show. They are a much smaller scale than the vessels, and it has been nice working with the handheld scale again. The imagery is changing also and branches out from the Tom of Finland guys. The kitsch and cute is going to make an appearance again, but only in the two-dimensional imagery. Let’s just say that I’m throwing smurfs and Elvis into the mix!

To see more of Wesley's work, please visit wesleyharvey.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/723471 2014-08-07T17:00:00Z 2014-08-07T12:50:40Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Tamara Kostianovsky

Clothing belonging to the artist, meat hooks, chains
61 x 39 x 15 inches
Photo Credit: Sol Aramendi

Jerusalem-born, Argentinian-raised TAMARA KOSTIANOVSKY "cannibalizes" her own clothing for raw materials, using the body as a site of connection between the violence perpetrated against humans and against animals. Drawing on her history as a painter, she expertly layers fabric to simulate flesh, ligaments and bone in soft sculptures of butchered meat and three-dimensional recreations of masterworks containing slaughtered animal carcasses. Tamara earned her BFA from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes “Prilidiano Pueyrredón” in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1998) and her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2003). She has been the recipient of numerous grants, including a Pollock Krasner Foundation Award (2012), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2010) and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2009). Apocryphal Times, a group show organized by Tamara and Thorsten Albertz, for Friedman Benda Gallery (New York) opens October 30, 2014. In two upcoming solo shows, The Still Lives will be exhibited at the Nevada Museum of Fine Art in Reno (January - July 2015) and then at El Museo del Barrio (January 2016) in New York City, where Tamara lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Most of your work employs both simulated and real butchered meat. But this work doesn't appear to be about vegetarianism or animal rights. They aren't sculptures of whole, slaughtered animal carcasses; they are butchered and ready for consumption. Could you talk generally about your interest and associations with the image of the slabs of meat?

Tamara Kostianovsky: Most of my work came about as a result of my experience working at a surgeon’s office, where veins exploded into waterfalls, cut ligaments set free the muscles they once contained, and chunks of fat poured over tissues of various colors and textures. An ambivalent fascination with these encounters put the torn body at the center of my work, over time allowing me to reflect on history, politics and the needs of the body.

These works are about violence; they express my frustration with senseless destruction, which of course applies to animals, but more so to humans. The recent history of South America and the violence associated with the military dictatorships of the 1970s was in my mind when I started working on the series of butchered cows.

War Map 1810
C-Print mounted on Sintra
52.5 x 36 inches

OPP: The photographic War Maps (2012) and the sculptural maps made from cured meat both explore historical conflicts over land boundaries. Why are the butchered bodies of animals the perfect medium to explore this theme?

TK: I was inspired to print maps onto fresh slabs of meat as a result of my interest in the depiction of the goddess Pachamama (usually translated as “Mother Earth”) that was developed by the South American people of the Andes during the 17th Century. In response to the enforcement of Christianity and its imagery, the native Americans rendered their ancient deity as the Virgin Mary with the body of a mountain: half-human, half-land. Playing on this proposition, I too decided to give a body to the land, printing maps onto fresh slabs of meat that later turned into entire meat continents that I cured in my studio. The series includes maps and pseudo-architectural models that speculate about possible futures for our lives.

OPP: The pieces in Actus Reus are amazing recreations of butchered meat that expertly avoid looking like cute stuffed animals, despite their soft, textile materials. How did you accomplish this? Did you work from images or from "life?"

TK: I work in an artisanal way. . . totally low-tech. Pretty much everything in my work is hand-made. I use discarded materials, primarily my own clothing. I often use photography as source material, but I actually work in a very traditional sculptural way: building forms, working and reworking the images until I am satisfied with their final form.

I usually spend a few of months on each piece. The first phase involves translating the image that inspired the piece into a three-dimensional form so that it feels simultaneously accurate and sculpturally interesting. Then I focus on the detail, paying attention to specific areas of the sculpture to create a sense of realism—which is mostly fictional. I put a lot of effort into exaggerating areas of each piece to make them look bloody, torn and freshly severed. Interestingly, it is the details that come from my imagination that look most realistic.

Still Life I (detail)
40 x 20 x 23 inches

OPP: Before you began using your own wardrobe for material to make art, what were your sculptures like?

TK: I actually did very little sculpture before the introduction of clothing in my work. I was trained as a painter. My paintings were all about color, usually referencing something figurative like landscapes or still lifes. Color was key to me at the time, and I didn’t shy away from strong contrast and high saturation. Those experiences with color live on my current work. I often find myself fighting with painters’ problems such as balance, saturation and hue. I very much enjoy layering tones, especially in the  flesh, which I create by juxtaposing fabrics of diverse transparency levels.

OPP: That painting history makes a lot of sense now, considering The Still Lives, which reference several masterworks by Durer, Goya, Bruñuel, Aertsen and Carracci. Could you talk about this shift towards such well-known art historical references in your work?

TK: De Kooning famously said “Flesh was the reason oil paint was invented.” There are many examples throughout the history of Painting that point to the strong desire of artists to capture the richness of the flesh. The series exists in between realism and illusion. Often based on the experiments of Master Painters, the works play on the idea of recreating two-dimensional images in three-dimensions, which is the opposite of what painters have been doing for centuries.

After Goya (detail)
Articles of clothing belonging to the artist, fabric, wood
101 x 104.4 x 24 inches

OPP: You often cite your predominant material as "clothing belonging to the artist" and you've used the term "cannibalize" to describe how you mine your own wardrobe for material. The term cannibalize really foregrounds the violence you are interested in, but it's such a different way of saying reuse or recycle, which foregrounds a mode of living which is the opposite of violent. Thoughts on this?

TK: Violence is the central theme of this body of work. There is something “sacrificial” about the appropriation of my own clothes. I use clothing to bridge the gap between human and animal violence. I strive to transform fabric into flayed flesh, gristle and bone. The manipulation of this material allows for me to unveil the architecture of violence that starts in the foods we eat and takes over our continents, our history, ourselves.

To see more of Tamara's work, please visit tamarakostianovsky.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive, collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/719672 2014-07-31T17:00:00Z 2014-07-31T13:43:05Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Sage Schmett

Fold away house
Cardboard, acrylic paint, hot glue

Using cardboard, catalogs, magazines and other recycled paper, SAGE SCHMETT returns repeatedly to the motif of the house as a repository for both loss and desire. Her uninhabited, pop-up houses are impressive in their engineering and emotionally haunting. Recently, while indulging in the pleasure of collecting as a strategy, she has turned to domestic interiors, revealing our attachment to the objects with which we share our lives. Sage earned a BFA in Fiber Arts from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2012. Most recently she debuted Dollhouse #1 (2013) in the group exhibition Dwellings, curated by Rachel Gloria Manley, at Center of the Commons in Harvard, Massachusetts. Sage lives and works in Boston.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Houses are recurring visual motifs in your work. Could you talk about the different manifestations of this motif and why it continues to be a staple in your work?

Sage Schmett: I've been making houses in different forms since I was a kid. Back then, I loved making dioramas, especially of little rooms and interior scenes. I also had lots of Polly Pockets (still do!), and would build dollhouses with my dad. So my fascination with building houses goes back even further than my sense of being able to know why, beyond the fact that I just enjoyed it.

By the time I came back to building them in my late teens, houses became more associated in my mind with memory, dreams and the cycle of life and death. I began to see them as imprints of personal experience or repositories of memories and desires.

Georgetown, Guyana (detail)
Cardboard, acrylic paint

OPP: Talk about the form of the pop-up book in general and your material choices of recycled cardboard and hot glue.

SS: I like making art that requires interactivity. I want the person viewing my work to feel encouraged to explore a bit. And with pop-up books, there's an aspect to creating them that touches on engineering and other forms of logical problem-solving. I find this to be a fun challenge. Most importantly, I want the houses to stay safe and somewhat private.

The great thing about cardboard is that it's free. It's also easy to work with and easy to rework when I want to change something. The process gives me a sense of catharsis and relaxation. I like the trance-inducing nature of accumulating tons of miniature pieces, as in the Dollhouse and the repetitiveness of cutting and gluing.

Pop-up Cake House (detail)
Cardboard, acrylic paint, hot glue

OPP: There's something somber about the ghostly pop-up houses and their grey and creamy-white exteriors. They seem dilapidated, possibly abandoned. And yet, because they fold up, they could easily be carried with you. I read these pieces as about nostalgia and clinging to the past. Thoughts?

SS: A lot of the emotional content of the houses is rooted in my past, for sure. Growing up, we lived in apartments. I always fantasized about having my own house, mostly so I could paint my bedroom a painfully bright color and install bead curtains and other tween decor. I also remember car rides with my whole family. We would drive by impressive, old New England homes, and I'd imagine interiors that were filled with adorable nooks and secret passage ways.

After my father passed away, I rummaged through his things. I discovered a box of photographs. The pictures were all of gorgeous, unfamiliar houses. I began my Dream Home series shortly after. The pop-up books are replicas of the houses my father photographed. Building these homes helps me stay connected to him, and allows me to realize our shared dream of having a place that is ours. Going through his apartment and his belongings was such an intense, private experience; it felt like I had stepped into his own inner world. The whole thing left me with this impression of how houses can be so personal and otherworldly at the same time, even just by virtue of the stuff that's in them. Though it probably just indicates a lot about the person who inhabits it, the why and how of accumulating dreams, desires and memories in the form of stuff and clutter. These ideas have stuck with me and show up repeatedly in my work.

Dollhouse #1
Cardboard, catalogs, hot glue, acrylic paint, other collaged materials
2' 9"x 4'3"

OPP: In 2013, you shifted from focusing on the exteriors of houses in your pop-up books to the interior in Dollhouse #1. This piece has a dramatically different tone to it; it is excessively lived in. Who are the imagined occupants of this house?

SS: That shift in focus seemed natural to me at the time. My life had changed a lot. Time had passed since my dad died, and I was falling in love. I felt less vulnerable sharing things about myself in my work. I focused on exteriors before as a way of exploring architectures that my dad and I both liked. But I became interested in how houses' interiors can reflect private parts of the personality, both my own and those of people I care about. They are places to hold all the things we like, all the things we bind to our memories and dreams. I wanted to make a piece that would enliven these inanimate objects come and the space.

My process still involved architecture and kinetic, pop-up influenced elements such as a rotating toy carousel and a ringing phone. But I became much more immersed in basically "shopping" for things that appealed to me. I spent the better part of a year collecting pictures of toys, junk and clutter, mostly from free catalogs, magazines and decorating books. It's actually a rush! Once I had cut out an item and mounted it on cardboard, I felt a lot of satisfaction. It's a bit strange: I'm probably more excited to find a tiny paper version of a beloved object, than the real thing. I love the challenge of being constrained to such a specific scale when choosing an object. Outside of that, I just choose images of objects that genuinely appeal to me. The mess and clutter adds to the intimacy of the scene, but it also makes the house more alive, and it allows me to keep adding more stuff to it over time. The only occupants I can imagine living there are myself and my partner.

Dollhouse #1 (detail)
Cardboard, catalogs, hot glue, acrylic paint, other collaged materials
2' 9"x 4'3"

OPP: Could you talk about the interaction of two-dimensional and the three-dimensional in your work?

SS: This interaction has its origins in the dioramas I used to make, but it also comes naturally as a result of my interest in both architecture and collage. I like how the mixture of both elements plays with the eye in interesting ways, with a kind of push/pull effect happening between flatness and depth. I also love how it photographs, since in the right lighting it can end up looking very realistic, obscuring the true scale of the scene. In this way, it gives even more life and focus to all these flat, throwaway objects.

Past Manicures (1 year) (detail)
Nail polish, toothpicks, glue
12" x 12"

OPP: Speaking of throwaway objects, let's talk about your 2013 piece Past Manicures (1 year). I definitely see a connection to the houses by way of process: the collection of lots of tiny objects. Your earlier description of the houses—"imprints of personal experience or repositories of memories and desires"—certainly applies here, too. Is this piece a singularity or a new direction in your work?

SS: I see that piece as more of a continuation of my previous work, in that, as you mentioned, I was still collecting lots of miniature parts and trying to make them all say something when they're all together.

I took an interest in nail art about two years ago. After I would paint my nails, I found myself looking at them a lot throughout the day. When I was ready to paint my nails again, I would carefully remove the polish and save the pieces. The polish bits resembeled little jewels, and for some reason I loved them. Since the piece is a survey of a year's worth of manicures I had done, there are certain memories attached to each one. I'm not currently working on any other nail-based pieces like that one. For now, nail art is a fun hobby.

For the past six months, I've been collecting pieces for my largest house yet, and  I recently began building the structure that will contain all of them. I love the architectural side of things, but my heart is really in the collecting. Since I find that the most fun, I see it continuing to be a major part of my work in the future.

To see more of Sage's work, please visit sageschmett.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/718039 2014-07-24T12:41:42Z 2014-07-24T12:51:59Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews P. Seth Thompson

The Guttenberg Galaxy
Archival pigment print

P. SETH THOMPSON “photographs” the blurred boundary between reality and fiction and the influence of American mass-media on our contemporary understanding of time, space and death. He digitally manipulates appropriated imagery from science fiction movies, home movies and news media, revealing a glittery, glowing world that is both strange and familiar. Seth studied Film and Video at Georgia State University, where he earned his BFA in 2005, and went on to receive his MFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design (Atlanta) in 2012. His first public art piece, commissioned by the Decatur Book Festival, will be on view Labor Day weekend, 2014. Seth has been named one of Atlanta’s 2014-15 Walthall Artist Fellows. The Last One, his 2013 solo show at Poem 88, was recently featured in Art in America. His upcoming solo show, This Message Has No Content runs from September 13 to October 25, 2014 at Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta, where Seth lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your current aesthetic has a 1980s sci-fi feel to it, but you have a background in "straight" photography. I can see visual precursors to your current work in Jesus in the Bleach (2005) and Face Mask (2009), as well as the many images of space-related sites like The UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico and the Kennedy Space Center. How did your earlier photography lead to your current work with appropriated images from TV and movies? 

P. Seth Thompson: My earlier work was a reaction to the medium of photography. While in school, I grew tired and a little annoyed with seeing the same images and concepts over and over again. There was a lot of work about identity and marginalized societal groups. Not that I don’t think this is an important topic, but if we continue to label these groups as such, they will stay marginalized. I think photography has more to say at this point in its history. Photography needs to move into a dialogue about how it disconnects rather than connects us. As a gay man, I have never felt separate from others, except with regards to my right to marry in my state. But art continues to tell a different story. It’s almost like we don’t want the conversation to move in another direction because then we will become the majority.

So I decided to let go of all that and just start shooting whatever I found interesting. The resulting photos led me to understand that my aesthetic—saturated color, lo-fi and banal—was profoundly influenced by all the films I watched as a kid. (My favorite film is A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.) My next move was to bring back the concept and incorporate images from film and television that visually spoke to the viewer and make them want to know more about the work.

Four Portals

OPP: Some sources are very recognizable: Jason in The Illusion of Death Perception (2010), Patrick Bateman from American Psycho in American: 2001 (2010), Anthony Edwards in The Protagonist (2014), to name a few. But many of your source images have been manipulated beyond recognition. Sometimes the titles give me a hint at the source, as with The Tannenhauser Gate (2012) and Voight-Kampff Test (fail) (2012). Is specialized media knowledge as a prerequisite for understanding your work?

PST: I love this question because I have been battling that since I began the work. I always recognized that most people wouldn’t know the source images. I try to make the work as visually compelling as possible to attract the viewer’s attention. It’s almost like a modernist painter’s mentality; people become transfixed with abstraction, like they figuratively go to another place when they are in front of it. I want my work to cross boundaries and allow for all people to get some sort of message from it whether it be the reference, the aesthetic or the medium itself. As long as they leave with something new, then I am good with that.

OPP: What’s the most surprising response you’ve had from a viewer who didn’t get the references?

PST: It’s a tough one, for sure. I think the most interesting response was to my image of Kim Kardashian titled K is for Kim. People are confused as to why I would choose her as a subject, and my usual response is something like, “I am fascinated by her and what she represents.” We consume her, and she becomes a part of our daily life. She becomes an ice-breaker for conversation at work or at social events. Don’t get me wrong. I can’t stand her. But that doesn’t mean she isn't part of all of us; she is a symbol of America’s consumption.

The Last One (Tommy Westphall's Universe)
Archival pigment print
25 x 33 in.

OPP: As a nerdy, life-long TV fan, my ego needs me to say that I know what Tommy Westphall's Universe is ;-), but I'm not sure it's common knowledge. Could you explain the theory for our readers and talk about its connection to your 2013 solo exhibition The Last One?

PST: Tommy Westphall was an autistic boy played by actor Chad Allen on the series St. Elsewhere. In the series finale, the entirety of the show was only a product of Wesphall’s imagination. To add another layer, the characters on St. Elsewhere show up on other television shows like Law and Order, Homicide, and so on. There are over 256 television shows that are theoretically connected to St. Elsewhere, or a product of Westphall’s mind.  

In my exhibition The Last One, which is also the title of the series finale, I explored the idea of how images never show the truth. The viewer’s suspension of disbelief was active during the run of the show until the finale proved otherwise. The finale made the viewer feel duped into having any sort of emotion, even though the show was intrinsically fiction. I correlate this to our own reality. I believe we are all Tommy Westphall, creating a world inside our heads and never fully understanding the truth. But unlike Westphall, our world is not edited into an hour long television show and written as a common monomyth. We are constantly searching for truth and attempting to explain it to others, but we keep getting blocked by the images we consume daily. Images define of our world. They are false, suggesting all of life is false.

An Event Cannot Have an End Time in the Past

OPP: Two pieces—I knew you, I know you, and I will know you again (2013), a memorial for deceased fictional characters, and An Event Cannot Have an End Time in the Past (2013), a video that blends your personal home movie footage with footage of the 1986 Challenger explosion—add a lot of emotional depth your to blurring of reality and fiction. A common, shallow read of your work (and of others who acknowledge how much TV and movies have influenced their perceptions of reality) is anxiously bemoaning the fact that humans don't know the difference between fact and fiction anymore. But I think that's silly. Humans have always told stories in order to understand their place in the world. Could you talk about how cinema and television function as contemporary myth, especially in relation to our need to understand death?

PST: The advent of the video rental store changed my life because it came with a different viewing experience. I took full advantage of it; I was able to control the film with the remote and have multiple viewings. Because of this, I believe a more extreme paradox of fiction was born. I felt a close bond to the characters and when they died, I had an emotional reaction. The memorial, I Knew You, I Know You, and I Will Know You Again offers a way to discuss the idea that death is not the end, but just another part of the journey.  Even though you are gone, I will see you again. All I need to do is hit the rewind button. 

As an adult, dealing with the reality of death, I know now that the two are not emotionally synonymous. The Challenger explosion was the first time I began to understand the separation between actual death and fictional death, but at six years of age, it was still elusive to me. It was hard to understand how Big Bird and Christa McAuliffe could both exist within the television. It is not the idea that people cannot decipher reality and fiction, but that there is no separation between reality and fiction.

We are curious creatures, and our need to understand death is always at the forefront of our thoughts. My fascination with film and television is a way to understand loss, but also to understand the reasons we are here in the first place. . . to get past the limitations of our eyesight and begin to connect the dots, to figure out our place in all of this. I don’t fear death anymore because I know that it is inevitable. People always say you shouldn’t worry about things you can’t control. The only thing you can do is try and understand it.

In the Beginning, it is Always Dark
Archival pigment print
25 x 45 in

OPP: You have an upcoming solo exhibition This Message Has No Content
 at the Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta. Will you give us a preview?

PST: I started getting emails dated 12/31/1969 and that said “This Message Has No Content.” I thought this was kind of cool, so I looked up that date—nothing happened—and then following date. 1/1/1970 was the beginning of Epoch or Unix time, which is a system for describing moments of time in seconds. For example, the Challenger shuttle is 507296353. I thought the reason I was getting emails from 12/31/1969 was because it was the last day before events were described in Unix time. It was almost like someone was trying to contact me from the past, but it wasn’t coming through because the past never existed.

The new work is about the illusion of time, and I am using the act of watching a movie on VHS as a way to discuss this illusion. With a VHS, you were, for the first time, able to control your viewing experience. The film was measured in time with each scene corresponding to a series of numbers. In the image In the Beginning, It Is Always Dark, I am presenting the viewer a film still from The NeverEnding Story because it is the end of the film, but it is the beginning of the union of worlds.

To see more of Seth's work, please visit pseththompson.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, opens on July 25, 2014 at Design Cloud in Chicago.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/715145 2014-07-17T12:38:51Z 2014-07-17T12:44:20Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Dyan Green

Bailing Hook, muslin and ball pins
6" x 8" x 5"

DYAN GREEN's sculptures are augmented found objects from the early 20th century. They include rusted farming tools—a bailing hook, a muzzle, a harness—and domestic tools—an antique sewing machine, a milk basket and ice hooks. Her signature white, ball-headed pins simultaneously evoke the human decorative impulse and the organic growth of mold, dust and cobwebs that signal the passage of time. Dyan holds a BFA from Kansas State University, a MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a M.Ed. from Texas State University.  In 2013, she had two solo exhibitions in San Antonio, Texas: Colonies at the Clamp Light Gallery and Rust and White at Equinox Gallery. Dyan teaches 3D Arts and Art History at Saint Mary's Hall in San Antonio, Texas, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You have a BFA in Ceramics, but your current work involves modifying found objects with muslin and ball-headed pins. Does your background in Ceramics influence this work or is this a break from the past?

Dyan Green: The aesthetic vernacular of ceramics and the craft world in general are still very much a part of my work. The internal dialogue that I turn to when creating is often the voice of a ceramicist. Ultimately, I am an object maker. My work is still about the relationship between our hands and the tactile nature of material.  

Early in graduate school at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, I realized I needed to explore materials other than clay. I was so entrenched in the ceramics world that it felt like a betrayal at first. But, in leaving ceramics, I realized something really important about being an artist: you have to follow the work and not force it to follow you. I followed my work through all kinds of craziness (laugh), but really all that experimentation was important to my creative growth.

Clay will always be my home base. When I get lost, when I’m seeking direction, I work with clay for a while. These ceramic pieces rarely turn into show pieces, but they always guide me to something. Before I did my most recent body of work, I made a few thousand clay beads. Just rolling clay balls and poking a hole through them. I liked to make them and run my hand through piles of them. Then I started playing with ball pins.


What was the first work you made with the white, ball-headed pin as a staple material?

DG: I did a series of works on pillowed canvases that used ball pins and loads of other smaller items. Most of the works in that series were explosive in color, but I did a couple just in white, including Drift (2011). I fell in love with the white ones. I liked the quietness of them. So I committed to just working with white pins for a while.

OPP: I want to hear more about the “craziness” you mentioned. Can you give me an example?

DG: Well, I did a lot of experiential art in graduate school. I had a show that took place in a swamp and involved a man in a tiger suit and a canoe—that was pretty crazy! I did installations with swings and also invited people to apply make-up to reproductions of Botticelli’s Venus. These kinds of works were intermingled with more labor-intensive works including a piece where I glued several thousands of sheets of paper together and another where I chewed scores of gumdrops and spit them out into medicine bottles. Surprisingly, more people comment that the work I do now is "crazy. They imagine that the physical act of pushing pins for hours must be so tedious and maddening. However, I find a kind of peace in the process of doing it.

Found object, muslin and ball pins

OPP: Could you speak generally about your interest in artifacts? Are you a collector beyond your art practice? If so, what else do you collect?

DG: Well, I grew up around artifacts. As an only child, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ farm in Kansas. It’s been in the family for many generations. I would go exploring in the barns, the old carriage house, the woods and the creek beds. My grandmother made me wear a whistle in case I fell and broke something while gallivanting around on my own.

The farm was like an archeological site in some ways. I still recall seeing that place with a child’s eyes. I pretended the junk-packed barns were museums of ancient treasures. I saw the giant pieces of antique farming equipment protruding from the creek bed as dinosaur bones. 

I never was much of a collector of things, more of a collector of experiences. It is my grandmother who is the collector and really all of the items in my work are hers. She thoroughly inspected my excavations before giving me permission to use them in my art. When I first picked them out, I wasn’t sure how I’d use them, I just knew I liked them for all of the history they held and for their disintegrating beauty. 

Antique Sewing Machine, muslin and ball pins

OPP: The found objects you work with are clearly of a bygone era. But these objects aren't just old. They represent various forms of labor that no longer exist in the same form: the farmer, the milkman, the housewife who sews all textiles for the family, the ice delivery man. How does your meticulous, artistic labor relate to these occupations that have all been rendered unnecessary by electricity and mechanization?

DG: There is something innately somber in the work. For me, each piece is not just an old object. It is something a family member of mine used. So, there is a personal history there, as well as a collective one. For example, the horse muzzle in Muzzle was made from wire by my great, great grandfather. In other objects I used, I could feel where the handles were worn from work. I could see where the buckles have pierced through the leather a thousand times. I am drawn to this evidence of labor and the work of hands. 

My process with the pins is derived from women’s handicraft, but I wanted to invent my own handicraft. I was looking for some way of making that would be all my own.The pins were a natural solution. They are not only tools of labor but a measurement of the labor itself. 

It became clear as I was making, that these weren’t simply sculptures. They are collaborations with the past. Each piece is an intimate dialogue spoken through the language of objects. My work is quite literally built on the work of others. I labor on their labor. I exist because they existed. We are, because they were.

Milk Basket
Antique milk basket, muslin and ball pins
12" x 16" x 9"

OPP: When you talk about rolling all those beads, I think of rosaries and meditation. One thing that gets overlooked about handicraft in general—because the final product is often a decorative object—is the ritual of it. I see handicraft as a practice that engages aesthetics and labor, but is ultimately spiritual in nature. Thoughts?

DG: I always liked Harold Rosenberg’s essay “The American Action Painters.” He described a canvas as an “arena in which to act.” I ask myself these questions a lot: What is my act? What is its purpose? Clearly what has emerged from my action is a sort of ritual. I think this idea of ritual through repetition has been a mainstay in my work for a long time now. Focusing all my energy into the placement of a pin somehow relieves the chaos of everything else. Sometimes my pieces are work. Sometimes they are meditations. Sometimes they are like voodoo dolls absorbing negativity. It’s also important to mention that I think quite a bit about “flow” when working. I want my pieces to have a fluid, oozing quality which does tie into a spiritual metaphor for me. This underlying spiritual essence is also the main reason I prefer to stick to white. I love color, but it seems I keep coming back to white for its simplistic power.

To view more of Dyan's work, please visit dyangreen.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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, opens on July 25, 2014 at Design Cloud in Chicago.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/712654 2014-07-10T13:55:07Z 2014-07-10T14:02:22Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Steven Vasquez Lopez

Some Strings Attached 037 (detail)
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"

The snags and unraveling edges of STEVEN VASQUEZ LOPEZ's colorful, hand-drawn textiles embody the accidental beauty of mistakes, acting as a graphic metaphor for an optimistic way of viewing life's chaotic moments. Influenced by the perseverance of his seamstress mother and mechanic/welder father, he reveals the connections between drawing, textile production and manual labor in his patterned grids, which echo Minimalist painting, the weave structures of plaids and the color palette of Mexican serape blankets. Steven received his BA from UC Santa Barbara and his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is a past recipient of the William Dole Memorial Scholarship (1999, 2000), Abrams Prize (2000), Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship (2006), and the 2012 ArtSlant prize. He has exhibited widely throughout California and is represented by CES Contemporary (Los Angeles), where he had his first solo show Accidental Moments in 2014. His work is currently featured in the San Francisco-based The New Asterisk, now available in print and online. Steven lives in San Francisco.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your paintings and drawings are dense with color and pattern. Where did your love of pattern come from? What influences your color palate?

Steven Vasquez Lopez: I grew up around a lot of sewing and fabric. My mother became a seamstress at a very early age in order to earn her own money. I spent a lot of time next to her while she worked, so I have an intimate relationship with fabric swatches and pattern. Also, I went to Catholic school, where we wore plaid uniforms. Then, during high school I took some architectural drafting classes that nurtured my interested in linear and geometric drawing. Over the last five years, these influences have merged into my current work with pattern and color. Now, I continue to be influenced by plaid and color from uniforms, men’s clothing, and Mexican serapes that I see around me.

Some Strings Attached 043
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"

OPP: The ink drawings from Patches and Some Strings Attached, equally recall Agnes Martin's abstract grids and woven textiles. Of course, the entire history of painting has been covering over the natural grid of the woven canvas itself. Do you have any weaving experience or interest in learning to weave?

SVL: I’m glad you mentioned that. I received my MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute, where there is a real importance on understanding the linage and history of the work you are making and ideas you explore. I’m well aware of and influenced by prolific artists like Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly and Sol Lewitt, as well as contemporaries such as Jim Isserman, Amy Ellingson and Nike Schröder, for their use of color, form and ideas as they relate to art history, culture and technology.

My domestic sewing machine and overlock/serger machine never has time to collect dust because I use both so frequently for alterations and making my own clothing. I’m obsessed with well-tailored clothing. A few years ago, my mom taught me how to crotchet. I have to be careful because I love compulsive, laborious projects, and drawing already consumes a lot of my time.

I would love to get some instruction on weaving or creating textiles on a loom. Do you know anyone in the Bay Area you can introduce me to? Haha! My work has been used with a few research projects in fashion and textiles. It would be fun to collaborate with a designer on avant-garde and conceptual textile designs. I get a lot of recommendations to put my work into fashion. For me, it would need to be the right project. Although the drawings are influenced by fashion, I don’t envision just silk-screening them onto t-shirts. It would be important for me to get my hands and understanding on the technical side of a fashion project, then develop the conceptual parameters. There is a lot of potential there. I’m sure when the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll be on board.

Shelf Life 003
Ink on Paper
22" x 30"

OPP: Tell us about the process and experience of drawing so many straight lines. Free hand or ruler?

SVL: I can’t give up all my secrets! However, I will tell you that I don’t use any pencil or preliminary under-drawing. It’s all hand-drawn with ink, and it’s a one-shot deal. I like that intense precision. I’m obsessed with the notion of a human imitating a machine to produce work. It makes the drawings more personal and valuable on both a conceptual and tangible level. Also, I have to learn a formula for each pattern and repeat the math in my head as I’m drawing. I don’t write down or record any formulas. Instead, I sing the numbering in my head. All these years of drawing, I have developed an ability to measure out the spacing really accurately. The entire process feeds my obsessive-compulsive need to make laborious, challenging and meticulous hand-made work. I thrive off it. It’s fulfilling and rewarding!

Patches 008
Ink on Paper
9.5" x 13.25"

OPP: On the one hand, the drawings from Patches (2013) are pure color and pattern. They evoke plaid fabric scraps and bring to mind patchwork quilts and mended clothing. But these patches seem to have personality. The more I look at them, they become blobby beings hugging one another instead of flat scraps of fabric. Could you talk about your intentions in this body of work?

SVL: After making about 30 of the abstract pattern drawing from Some Strings Attached, which is a ongoing series, I wanted to work on drawings that could be a little more organic, personal, quirky and silly. By using blobby shapes, the swatches transform into these interesting characters with personalities. I come from a very big, supportive, funny, loving Mexican family, and I wanted to use these amoebas to tell stories about the relationships with my family and friends in a vaguely narrative way. The patches are beautiful and resourceful support systems for one another, disregarding judgment based on economic elitism. I’m glad to hear that you see a few of them hugging each other. That is exactly what is going on.

Some Strings Attached 111
Ink on Paper
14" x 17"

OPP: Talk about the metaphors of the snag and the unraveling edge.

SVL: Initially, I didn’t intend on any unraveling in the drawings. I needed a project that I could do while traveling so the series started without “imperfections.” I made about fifteen perfect uninterrupted pattern drawings. Then I hit some turbulence on a plane and messed up a drawing that I had been working on for about five hours. I put it aside and had to deal with the disappointment. When I pulled the drawing out a few days later, I realized that moment of disruption was the precise moment of awareness in the work. It turned out that a happy accident was my awaking into Some Strings Attached.

One metaphor is that we spend so much of our daily lives on autopilot, trying to keep life stable, predictable and consistent. This way of living is so consuming that we forget to look around and be in the moment. We need to get off our phones and devices and pay attention to the real nuances and quirks that make life special and memorable.

On a personal level, I spent a lot of my younger years making sense of diversity. A large part of the population conforms to preconceived ideas of success and lifestyle. We need to teach both our youth and “old dogs” to embrace difference. There’s nothing more boring and depressing than a homogenous culture. Self-deprecation based on the ideals and expectations of others is a disease learned at an early, impressionable age. Let’s embrace and celebrate our uniqueness, rather than oppress and demonize anything or anyone outside of our comfort zone. I’m optimistic that it’s getting better with more awareness and visibility, but there’s still more terrain to cover. A snag in my drawings can either be viewed as a mistake or a beautiful, unique moment. It’s all perspective. How do you look at life?

To see more of Steven's work, please visit stevenvlopez.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include
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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/707483 2014-07-03T17:00:00Z 2014-07-05T02:11:32Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Noelle Allen

Saturn's Shepherd (Green) (detail)
Resin, clay, plaster, wax, acrylic
30" around

Surface texture and color are major players in NOELLE ALLEN's cast sculptures, comprised of wax, resin, plaster, ceramics and foraged organic material. She expertly achieves a variety of familiar, terrestrial surfaces—various types of rock, moss, coral, wood and dirt—while her soft color palette evokes the otherworldly. Repeated use of the orb as a form in both drawings and sculptures reminds us of the natural connection between the earth and the cosmos. Noelle attended Wesleyan University and Smith College for undergrad and received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. She teaches full-time at Domincan University in River Forest, Illinois and was a 2012-2013 HATCH Projects resident at the  Chicago Artists’ Coalition. With four upcoming solo exhibitions, the end of 2014 will be tremendously busy for Noelle. Thistle, an outdoor installation at Terrain South (Oak Park, Illinois) opens tomorrow (July 4th) and runs until August 1. Trellis at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina and Sender Channel Receiver Feedback at the Marquette Cultural Center on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan both run from August to October 2014. A currently-untitled show at Comfort Station in Chicago opens in November 2014. Noelle lives in Oak Park, Illinois.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What's a stronger influence for you: the earth or the cosmos?

Noelle Allen: In 2012, my family and I moved into a bungalow in Oak Park with an overgrown garden that spills into the parkways. Before relocating, we lived in Chicago for 10 years, and my work drew inspiration from fossils, cellular and skeletal structures I studied in books and at the Field Museum. However, once we had our own place, I had an opportunity to use materials that were close at hand, materials that I live with. I was hoping to better integrate my life with my practice.

Now, my work incorporates all of the natural fauna and organic materials found in my own garden, both directly and indirectly. I like to garden with my sons. We gather roots, branches, leaves, weeds, tomatoes, flowers, abandoned birds nests and materials my boys scrounge up from the dirt or compost.

Although I draw immediate inspiration from the earth and my surroundings, the work also invokes celestial forms and structures. The visual patterns and recurring shapes and symmetries found in organic materials, like fractals and tessellations, also reflect larger structures in the universe. Hopefully, my work can invoke that bridge between the terrestrial and the celestial.

My childhood has also played a prominent role in my work. I grew up surrounded by farmland in the Sacramento Valley. In the fall, you could smell the rice fields burning. In the summer, there were lemons, plums, peaches and strawberries. My mother is also an artist, and she always had a drawing studio in our house. My earliest memory of her work is of very meticulous graphite rendering of a ball of boobs!

Astral Layer (Evanston)
Resin, wax, concrete, and ceramic
9' x 26'

OPP: I'd like to see that piece! Could you talk about the use of organic materials such as mushrooms, twigs, branches, thorns and driftwood, both in the final product and in the process of creating your work?

NA: I use a variety of materials and methods to directly and indirectly translate organic material into my work. An artist friend, John Harmon, has also given me many found objects: dragon’s claw seedpods, an entire half of a bovine skeleton and some roots and plant matter. I photograph and even photogram my materials, but never for a final product. Instead, the photographs become an alternative means of viewing or translating my sources.

For the larger installation and sculpture work, many of my methods have roots in traditional sculpture and ceramic techniques. However, I have developed some of my own mold-making techniques that I use with materials like sand, graphite, seaweed and latex. The positives are pulled in porcelain, concrete, wax, resin and plaster. Recently, I have begun flooding my molds with water, which ends up imprinting the surfaces of my materials with details that are both familiar and unknowable. For example, in the recent installation of Astral Layer at the Evanston Art Center, the sheets of resin, which I covered with water during the cure stage, were cast directly onto the floor of my studio, where they picked up years of clay, paint, dirt and plaster.

Iridophore (Green)
Resin and felt
30" around

OPP: My personal favorite pieces are the Iridophores, a series of colorful, globe-like sculptures made from resin and felt. Can you explain the title of the series, the process of creating these sculptures and why you choose to exhibit them sitting directly on the floor?

NA: The title refers to a type of iridescent cell found in some sea creatures and amphibians that allows the squid, for example, to reflect light and alter the color and contrast of the animal. Scientists call it “electric skin.” The mold is created from a tangle of roots and branches. This organic material, along with the introduction of water into the mother mold, a plaster shell, create the negative spaces in the resin and felt.The Iridophores are made with a marine grade resin and are intended to be both indoor and outdoor pieces. For the Osmia exhibit at Riverside Art Center, I placed four of them in the sculpture garden and over the course of the show, the colors shifted from the sun. 

I am reluctant to use a pedestal, which would add another sculptural element to the installation. I would rather have the work appear organically on the floor.

Sender Channel Receiver Feedback (Yellow and Cerulean)
Resin, felt and concrete

OPP: Thistle opens tomorrow (July 4, 2014) at Terrain, an outdoor exhibition space in a residential neighborhood in Oak Park, Illinois. Will you give us a preview of what you are planning? What's exciting and what's challenging about creating work for this environment?

NA: Sabina Ott, an amazing artist and the curator behind Terrain, asked me to do an installation in the Terrain South site, which is basically an empty, grassy lot between two residential homes that sits directly across from a grade school. It was important to me to carefully develop an outdoor, durable piece that children could run through but not climb on or get hurt by, if anything were to fall over. I also had to consider visual impact from the street. Since I do so much mold-making, I decided to create an installation of crazy multiples.

With the assistance of ceramicist Kate Pszotka, I am turning rebar, an industrial building material found in foundations, into an eggshell structure in porcelain. There will be a field of over 100 six-foot-tall, curved rebar “weeds,” bridging the gap between an overgrown lot and the possibility of construction.

In the process, the rust from the rebar has transferred onto the porcelain, so we have played with the color and glazes in response to both that transition and the summertime sun and grass. The color will catch the sun to create a horizon line at the top, where the porcelain shifts into clear resin.

Resin, wax, concrete, and ceramic
Each 56" x 17" x 17"
Installation view, Design Cloud (Chicago)

OPP: You made a global shift in your color palate around 2013. Before that, your work was almost exclusively on the grayscale. What led to this change?

NA: Yes, this is true. It mostly boils down to fun. I wanted to have more fun with my work. I was craving some levity and lightness in the studio. Perhaps also happiness? I have been a much happier—albeit more stressed—person since my children were born in 2009 and 2011.

OPP: Speaking of stress, you teach full-time at Dominican University, you have two children, and you have four upcoming solo exhibitions, not to mention several group shows. You’ve mentioned that your boys help you gather materials for your work. How else do you balance your roles of artist, teacher and mother? Can you offer some practical advice for first-time mothers who are trying to maintain their art practices?

NA: When my second son Zeke was born pretty quickly after Henry's arrival, I realized I needed more help. In order to manage, I had to build and maintain a solid support structure to handle all the different parts of my life. My husband Tim is incredibly supportive of my studio time and as my children get older, they can be more involved. Henry, who is very opinionated about my work, likes to come to my studio. He helps me unload kilns and operate the slab roller. I have also had wonderful part time studio help—hi, Tess and Andrew!—through a grant program at Dominican University. Do not try to do it all alone!

Also, some quality acupuncture goes a long way.

To see more of Noelle's work, please visit noelleallen.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/707496 2014-06-26T17:00:00Z 2014-06-26T12:27:58Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Lisa Nilsson

Female Thorax
Mulberry paper
24 1/2 x 15 x 1 1/2 inches

Detached investigation and emotional reverence collide in LISA NILSSON's beautiful, paper sculptures based on cross-sections of human—and sometimes animal—anatomy. She uses the meticulous technique known as quilling or paper filigree, which has historical roots in the Renaissance, when monks and nuns used it to decorate religious icons and reliquaries, and the Victorian Era, when the technique was popularized as a decorative craft practiced by ladies of leisure. Housed in shadowboxes, her sculptures refer to both religious relics and scientific specimens, highlighting the human need to understand our place in the world, whether through rationality or direct experience. Lisa received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design (1985). She has had solo exhibitions at Wilson Wilde Gallery at Williams College (2008) the Lavender Door Gallery in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (2011) and Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York, where she is represented. Lisa lives in North Adams, Massachusetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: When did you learn the technique known as quilling or paper filigree? Did you pick it specifically for your current project on human anatomy or did you practice the technique before beginning this project?

Lisa Nilsson: I started experimenting with quilling after being inspired by an antique, quilled crucifix I saw in a junk shop. I first used it as an element in the box-assemblages I was making. At the time, quilling was just another technique to include in these tiny curiosity cabinets.

Mulberry paper
19 x 22 x 1 1/2 inches

OPP: Could you talk about the historical associations of this technique as they relate to your anatomical studies?

LN: In doing a bit of research about quilling, I encountered a collection of 18th and 19th century French quilled reliquaries. They employ a great deal of decorative filigree made with gilded-edged paper and velvet backgrounds. I started using gilded paper in my anatomical work, in part, because it looks cool, but also to reference the precious and the divine. The device I used was to make the bones of my anatomical pieces with gilded paper. And later in Angelico (2012), the section of the head is surrounded by a large gold halo.

Mulberry paper

OPP: Admittedly, I know very little about anatomy, but the meticulous detail in your Tissue Series gives the impression that these are pretty accurate renderings of the landscape of the body.

LN: Thanks, I do my best. I’ve maintained that my goal is not to annoy the people who really know what they are looking at, but not to hold myself to the standards of a medical illustrator. 

I made my first two anatomical pieces, Female Torso and Head and Torso, in 2010, then took a year away from the studio to become a certified medical assistant. This actually wasn’t prompted by the artwork. Rather, I had a strong urge to do practical work outside the studio and around people. In the end, I found that the solitude and impracticality of the studio suited me best, but the anatomy and physiology study in school was helpful in introducing me to the basics of what I was looking at in the images of cross-sections.

OPP: Do you work from source imagery?

LN: Yes. I work from a combination of medical illustrations (typically older), 19th century prints and photographic images from the government-sponsored Visible Human Project, in which a cadaver was frozen, encased in a block, then photographed at very fine intervals as it was gradually ground away. The stunning images are a main source of information and inspiration for my Tissue Series.

Head II
10 x 12 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

OPP: Tell us about the process of moving from two-dimensional image to paper sculpture.

LN: This is the interesting and challenging part. . . to interpret what I see in my source material as little paper coils in a way that honors the materials as well as the subject matter. I strive to increase the repertoire of shapes and textures I can make with the paper. It’s been an evolving process. 

I typically start in a central place and work my way out, hoping for the best. I make each little piece as I go. Some are single coils; others are compound coils (several, or many individual coils gathered and wrapped with an outer strip of paper and shaped as needed). I also make some pieces that start out as large loops that fold in on themselves, then I insert other coils if there are gaps—this has been my technique for brain matter. I glue each new element to its neighbor, and the sculpture comes together like a jigsaw puzzle. I work on top of a sheet of styrofoam insulation so that I can pin the coils in place. As the sculpture progresses, the pins migrate to the periphery. When I'm finished, I remove them, and the piece tends to spread a bit. Then I turn it over, re-pin the outer edge to the shape I want and brush PVA (bookbinder's white glue) onto the back. It now has enough rigidity to hold its shape and to be moved about.

I’ve worked on anatomical studies for about five years now. I’ve developed some interesting means of manipulating the paper that I haven’t had the opportunity to fully explore yet because they didn’t make sense within the context of anatomy. But recently, I’ve been moving toward allowing the paper take the lead. I’m making pieces that are more geometric, inspired by textiles, plant forms and leather book bindings among other things. This has opened up my color palette as well.

Abdomen (detail)
15 x 12 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches

OPP: In your 2012 talk at TEDMED, you spoke of common initial responses from viewers. Initially they say the work is "beautiful" and "kinda creepy," then they start looking more closely. Could you talk about using craftsmanship and beauty to get viewers interested in their own bodies?

LN: It’s a very nice side effect. Craftsmanship is what most interests me and drives my work. If it also draws people in and interests them in something they would otherwise find yucky—I’m delighted. But this wasn’t by design.

My love of craftsmanship seems to be hardwired and life-long. As a kid, I often craved more precise, pointed, accurate tools than I was handed. I remember my Dad, a graphic designer and all-around-inventor, talking to me about making drawings that had to be so accurate that the thickness of the pencil's lead had to be taken into account. I thought that was just the coolest thing! I love a snug fit, a clean line, and I'm happiest when monotasking

I've always been attracted to small things, and I feel a rush of pleasure when I look at things that have a quality I've come to think of as contained complexity. . . lots of detail in a very sharply and clearly defined space. However, I derive much inspiration from artists who are my opposite, those who work with an uninhibited abandon. Robert Rauschenberg is a favorite art-hero.

OPP: The overlap of religious relics and scientific specimens is a theme in both your Tissue Series and in older works from 2006 like The Ants are my Friends, The White Cabinet and Hillside Cemetery, which are like curiosity cabinets that include found objects, drawings and photographs. How are relics and specimens alike? How are they different?

LN: As I see it, relics and specimens are alike in that they are actual objects that are collected, protected, preserved and observed or displayed. But the relic is typically revered, while the specimen is studied. 

I like blurring the distinction. In my mind, this has to do with the amount and type of attention paid to the object and its context. If I treat a dead ant with enough reverence, surround it with velvet and gold leaf and imbue it with importance, can it be a relic? If I recognize the common biological and material nature of a saint’s bone can I release it from its lofty responsibility and view it as a “mere” specimen?

The White Cabinet
Plywood support, glass and grout with found objects and mixed media, including Q-tips, aspirin, smalti, and skunk's tooth
12 x 12

OPP: Exactly! I completely agree. I love the way this makes clear that it is not the objects themselves, but rather the way we see them and think about them. The spiritual teacher Krishnamurti, who is not affiliated with any particular dogma or religion, says that if you pick up any random stick and you stare at it for several moments everyday, soon it will become a sacred stick.

LN: Yes, yes. . . I love the way this is stated here. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I've got a friend who refers to the "culturally imbued object." His kids start fighting over some random thing because one of them has paid attention to it, and now the other thinks it's hot stuff.   

OPP: The point is of course that it is our attention that makes an object sacred, which makes me think of all the time you spend creating your objects. Do you ever think of your studio practice as a spiritual practice?

LN: Yes, in that the work is focused and meditative. Words like dedication and seclusion come to mind. I feel a strong affiliation with the people who work like this—the nun in the convent, the monk in the monastery, the scientist in the lab. To put oneself in the service of making something as well as one can for the glory of. . . here's where I part with religion. It's not god for me. I'm happy with the stick.

To see more of Lisa's work, please visit lisanilssonart.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/705227 2014-06-19T17:00:00Z 2014-06-19T12:44:42Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jason Judd

True North
Digital print (Installation view)
16" x 20"
Photograph always depicting the flight of geese as flying north in the gallery

Subtlety is a strategy in JASON JUDD's photographs, videos and sculptural arrangements. Using the contemplative space of the white cube as a context, his quiet gestures revolve around the "boring, infuriating, troublesome" experience of a natural, human longing to stop life from moving, to hold on to this moment, even as it passes away. In 2013, Jason had three solo exhibitions: Adjustments: One Through Five at Open Gallery (Nasvhille), Essays in Navigation, Baltimore at Lease Agreement (Baltimore) and Example: Compass Deviations at Gallery 215 (DeKalb, Illinois). Jason is a Co-Director of the Chicago-based art and contemporary practices website Make-Space.net and Art Editor for BITE Magazine. Along with artist Iga Puchalska, he has recently launched Public Practice, an new initiative aimed at expanding engaging art programming in Rockford, Illinois, where Jason lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could talk about framing nature inside the gallery in works like Shooting Star, Horizon Series and True North? Are these works about the sublime?

Jason Judd: I think my work is more about the finite world than the sublime. I have read a lot on the sublime and existentialism, only to find myself knowing nothing more about it. We have many experiences in our lifetime: the sublime is probably not one of them. I am looking at the limitations of our everyday. They are boring, infuriating, troublesome and can provide a different kind of poetics than speculation of the grand.

A Roland Barthes quote in Camera Lucida has always resonated with me: “I was like that friend who turned to Photography only because it allowed him to photograph his son.” I find myself, as an artist, in the role of that friend—sharing a desperation and urgency to capture something—the metaphor of the son is, at the same time, growing closer and farther away from us. I am not skilled enough in any particular medium to make something that is “beautiful”—by beautiful, I mean capturing the essence of the subject through heightened skill of a medium—nor am I interested in being skilled. Like the friend, my skill is born only out of necessity.

The gallery is one of the few places where technical skill is not a requisite factor for judgment of quality. And yes, quality is a strange word to use while describing a sense of de-skilling of an object. But the conventions of the gallery offer a contemplative space where quality is malleable and the viewer is asked to participate. It is a place where I can say, I have personally spent some time with these images or objects, and these are the conclusions I have come to.

Genesis (a haunting)
Looping video

OPP: You've used yourself and your family members as a subjects in several video works like Genesis (a haunting) (2012), Acts of Consciousness and Other Longings (2011) and Into the Son (2012), all of which emphasize the familial. More recent works involving sculpture, installation and photography center around experiences of nature in the gallery. What led to the shift in focus and means? How are these works more connected than might be assumed upon first glance?

JJ: Both bodies of work are based on the tension between longing and the tangible. In other words, what does longing look like? The videos involving me and my family were becoming very theatrical. I decided I did not want to personify my metaphor. I wanted the medium to be just as important in the metaphor as the subject and the subject not to be overtly autobiographical. If there were to be any theatrics in the new body of work, I wanted it to be made in the gallery. 

In Horizon Series, for example, I confront the space where the mountains meet the sky as metaphor for longing. I force the horizon line to be tangible by cutting it out of the large photograph. The image and medium become one entity. The image dictates the shape of the thin cuts, and the cut line reveals the tangibility of an otherwise romanticized and unattainable visual cue. With these cut pieces, I make physical and abstract decisions about how to deal with them as objects. When they are installed around the gallery, the scale is initially obscured. At first, the viewer experiences the line forming the cube at a one-to-one scale. Upon closer investigation, the immensity of what the thin line represents is revealed. The act of forming a cube with the lines is a physical manifestation of the idea of a three-dimensional illusion. The horizon line is actually something we can experience and understand only in the abstract, just as we experience a drawn cube.

Horizon Line (detail)
Cut digital print of a landscape that is cut where the mountains meet the sky and installed around the gallery wall
Variable dimensions

OPP: You have your hands in a lot of pots. Aside from being a maker, you work at the Rockford Art Museum in Rockford, Illinois, you are Co-Director of and a regular contributor to Make-Space.net, as well as Art Editor for BITE Magazine. How do you balance so many different roles?

JJ: Balancing all these roles can be time consuming, but they allow me to maintain a productive and creative frame of mind. They keep me thinking rigorously and critically. Collaboration acts as motivation—others are depending on you as much as you are depending on them. It takes a lot of mutual respect, patience and vision to sustain a productive collaboration.

My other two co-directors from Make Space, Etta Sandry and Lynnette Miranda, are two of the hardest working people I know. I can truly say that I look up to both of them in many different ways. BITE is a great experimental, online collaboration because I have never met my Features Editor, Daniel Griffiths—or any of the other editors, for that matter. They live across the globe, spanning New York, London and Singapore. The Rockford Art Museum is a comfortable place for me because it is a collaborative atmosphere with passionate people. Everyone at the museum has welcomed my ideas, skills and experience that have came from these other roles. But how do I really balance all of these roles? Barely.

Road brick, plaster casts of road brick
Bricks set in new formation at each exhibition

OPP: And how do these other roles relate to or inform your studio practice?

JJ: I have thought about the relationship between the projects I am involved in and my studio practice many times. Sometimes I throw up my hands in frustration and say, “I guess all of it is my practice!” But that’s not true. That is too easy—it is a simple way to avoid being critical about my interests and myself as a person.

Honestly, I believe the most important aspect of the relationship between the roles and my studio practice is the tension and flux. The very thing that inspires me is the thing that keeps me away from the studio. Visiting other artists’ studios is wonderful. Afterwards, I feel like I not only understand the artists’ work on a personal level, but it also reveals a strength or weakness in my own work. That fact is, I have learned more about what art is and what making means through conversations, interviews and studio visits than I ever have in academia.

Bird, Boat, Now (Detail)
Photograph, cigarette burn
9 x 12 inches

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

JJ: I think Boat, Bird, Now is my favorite piece, probably because it is still fresh to me. It tackles a lot of the same issues that Horizon Series does, but in a more compact, poetic way. The cigarette burn forces a connection between the boat and the bird while intersecting the horizon line. I am trying to control a beautiful image or moment in a physical way, or trying to relate to a moment that has passed but has been captured.

OPP: You've also recently launched a new initiative called Public Practice. What's your mission?

JJ: My wife Iga Puchalska and I moved to Rockford in July 2013. We immediately saw a need for more contemporary art and programming. Rockford is pigeonholed as one of the most “dangerous” or “miserable” cities in America, but it is gaining a lot of energy from creative people who are starting from the ground up.

Public Practice is not a physical site; rather it is a collection of culturally relevant, interdisciplinary projects. Our mission is to provide smart, engaging, challenging art programming to the Rockford community and beyond. These projects materialize through the collaboration between Public Practice and other organizations, spaces, businesses and artists. Each collaborator utilizes its own strengths and resources to formulate a project that is aimed at exposing the public to contemporary art with the goal of developing new social perspectives while expanding dialog between Rockford’s community and contemporary art practices.

We aim to be an educational entity, to the public as well as to the collaborators and ourselves. We invite the public to work with us, not as a means to an end, but in order to emphasize the practice of exchanging ideas through creative foundation. Iga and I are approaching Public Practice with a sense of sincerity, experimentation and resourcefulness. We are very excited because this project can have a very real impact on the community.


OPP: Do you have any projects lined up yet?

JJ: We just had our first successful project called Parade on June 13, 2014. In the spirit of collaboration and public engagement in the arts, we organized an art exhibition with artist Jesus Correa and Rockford Art Deli. We considered the parade as an art medium and the floats as art objects. Parade started in the public and invited the public to participate. Local and regional artists were invited to create "floats" to accompany them during the parade, which ended at an art exhibition at Rockford Art Deli. Along with the artists, the public was encouraged to join our sidewalk parade—which they did in great numbers! We had well over 100 people in the parade, representing the very diverse Rockford community. We hope to make this a yearly occurrence.

We are also teaming up with Conveyor, a space for live storytelling, to create a programming-heavy exhibition series. Because the aim of the project is to approach the artist’s practice as transparent, invited artists will be asked to create an alternative approach to programming. This programming will act as a springboard to demystify or intensify contexts within the work that is being exhibited. We are happy to have James T. Green as our first artist!

To view more of Jason's work, please visit jasonajudd.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/703001 2014-06-12T12:35:40Z 2014-06-12T12:40:42Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joell Baxter

Magic Carpet, detail
Screenprinted paper, glue
5 x 96 x 96 inches

JOELL BAXTER's practice combines screenprinting, weaving, sculpture and color theory in an exploration of visual perception and physical response. The placement of her multicolored, paper weavings-turned-sculptures on the floor evokes minimalist sculpture and interior design staples like carpets and couches, while the simplicity of the weave structure brings to mind grade school craft projects. Beginning in September, she will be an Artist-in-Residence in The Space Program at Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation. Her solo project Coverer will be on view at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut until June 27, 2014. Then it travels to Greensboro, North Carolina to be part of the group exhibition Art on Paper 2014 at Weatherspoon Art Museum from September 27-December 21, 2014. Joell lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a little about your trajectory as an artist and your influences.

Joell Baxter: I studied painting as an undergraduate, and I still think about what I do in relation to that tradition. But I have always made work that sits between disciplines and actively engages the viewer in different modes of looking. All of my work strongly references minimalism, in terms of its approach to space and to creating a one-on-one relationship between the viewer and the work. I use very basic processes and forms that are reminiscent of grade school arts and crafts projects like weaving potholders. I want to evoke an immediate sense of familiarity, almost a muscle memory of how the work was made. But after that initial response, I hope that what at first seemed familiar becomes strange and more complex.

My most important art historical influences include: Sol LeWitt’s visually complex works created from seemingly simple ideas; Agnes Martin’s meditative focus; Josef Albers’ articulation of the relative nature of color; and Anni Albers’ writings on the historical importance of textiles as a kind of portable architecture.

Untitled (Rolled)
Screenprinted paper, hand cut and woven; glue
5 x 17 x 40 inches

OPP: All the paper that you work with is screenprinted, but most of it is solid-colored paper. Is it significant that you don't purchase existing colored paper for use in your sculptures? 

JB: My decision to print all of my own paper is largely practical. I use a carefully calibrated pallet of 12 hues in 8 different degrees of saturation. It would be hard to find these 96 exact colors in a commercial paper. In more recent works—Magic Carpet and Coverer—I have been printing blends of complimentary colors, so the color isn’t solid anymore. After printing full sheets, the paper is cut down, glued into long strips and woven by hand.

I also really love the process of screenprinting. Printing flats and color-blends in particular is a very meditative act, and I find the repetitive action of flooding the screen and pulling the ink to be extremely conducive to thinking through ideas. I like the fact that, as a technology, screenprinting sits in this strange spot between handmade and mechanical. The screen and squeegee are mediating the application of color to the paper, but it still requires a very physical, human action.

Stack Overflow (detail)
Screenprinted paper, hand torn and stacked; tape
1 x 72 x 72 inches

OPP: Is the color distribution in your work more influenced by color theory or intuition? Is this planned in advance of beginning a piece?

JB: I am interested in understanding how light and visual perception work together to create an experience of color. My basic mode of using color is very systematic. As much as anything, it comes from the basic color theory one learns in elementary school: the color wheel, mixing secondary colors from primary colors and mixing compliments.

In planning my work, everything is extremely orderly and can be diagrammed as a set of instructions. I typically use colors in the order of the visible spectrum, so red follows orange follows yellow, and so on. But by weaving these colors together, they start to interact and become harder to name and distinguish. This is due to the inherent nature of weaving, where color relationships are constantly alternating through the pattern of over and under. So there is a kind of glitch introduced into the plans, forcing me to let go of absolute control over the results.

Endless Day, Endless Night (for g.m.b.)
Screenprinted paper, hand cut and woven; glue
2 parts, 5 x 46 x 46 inches each

OPP: Could you talk about the woven, pillow-like form you have repeatedly executed in paper and your choice to exhibit it on the floor?

JB: The pillow pieces are human in scale, about the right size to sit in comfortably, and the sunken void in the middle seems to invite the viewer in. Placed directly on the floor, they share real space with the viewer and could almost be functional. But then the opticality of the work and the fragility of the paper take over, and they become more like paintings or drawings that are holding themselves up in space. So you move between a very empathetic and physical response to the work, and a very visual one, without ever settling on one or the other.

Coverer, detail
Screenprinted paper, hand-cut and woven; glue; push pins
8 x 25 x 25 feet

OPP: Tell us about Coverer, your first solo exhibition, which is on view at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut until June 27, 2014.

JB: The installation at Real Art Ways is the first opportunity I’ve been given to use an entire room, so the work has really taken advantage of that. I began with the premise creating a visual experience of color in space that viewers could enter and explore and that makes use of the architecture. 

I use the same screenprinting and weaving process as the earlier pillows, but this piece is comprised of a modular series of flat, mesh panels laid directly onto the floor and walls in an intersecting pattern. Because of the gridded structure, the work functions as a kind of marking system that measures and diagrams the room. The diagramming is destabilized by an illusion injected into the color pattern of the woven panels; the edges blur and the colors fade as they move across the space. On close inspection, it becomes clear that the color is printed onto the woven paper. But when perceived as a whole, the weaves seem almost prismatic, as if they are catching and dispersing the light or, alternatively, as if the color is emanating from them, like a digital screen. So on the one hand the work clarifies and maps the physical space, but on the other it confuses and destabilizes the viewer’s perception. I am interested in this kind of toggling back and forth between visually grounding yourself and then losing your way again.

The viewer can actually walk into the work, stepping into the voids between the woven panels. In doing so, your view is reframed with every step. While I felt that it was conceptually important to be able to enter the piece, I was surprised by how active the work feels from a distance. The work is almost cubist in the way it constructs space. Just the act of moving your eyes around makes you aware of the way the images in your mind are constantly shifting and recombining. There is a bench in the room, and when you sit still, this constant shifting takes on a filmic quality. The piece seems to keep moving, and the light seems to flicker. So a viewer can move between active and passive modes of looking or watching the piece.

The last aspect of the work that felt important and new for me was its mutability and portability. The piece conforms absolutely to the architecture, while simultaneously affecting the experience of the space. But if the site changes, the piece can adapt and the conform to its new site in a modular way, and it can repeat this process indefinitely. I will be reinstalling Coverer in the fall at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. The floors there are a different color and material, and there is natural light. It will be part of a group show, so the way that the work interacts with the space will be completely different and I am looking forward to seeing how that changes the piece.

To view more of Joell's work, please visit joellbaxter.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/700058 2014-06-04T15:19:22Z 2014-06-04T15:28:50Z The 2014 Maker Grant Recipients Chicago Artists' Coalition and OtherPeoplesPixels are proud to announce the recipients of the 2014 Maker Grant, an award opportunity for two Chicago-based contemporary visual artists who demonstrate a commitment to a sustainable artistic practice and career development. 

Thank you to the 2014 Jury
Greg Lunceford, curator of exhibitions, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events
Cesáreo Moreno, chief curator, National Museum of Mexican Art
Lori Waxman, Chicago-based critic and art historian.

This grant is funded in part by a portion of proceeds from Chicago Artists Coalition’s annual Starving Artist fundraiser and a matching contribution from OtherPeoplesPixels.

The Beast at Hyde Park Art Center

This year’s $3000 award was granted to John Preus, a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist. Preus holds an MFA from the University of Chicago (2005), and studied furniture-making in Minnesota (1996-99) with celebrated furniture-maker John Nesset. He founded Dilettante Studios (2010), co-founded SHoP (2011), and Material Exchange (2005). Preus was the creative director of the Rebuild Foundation shop until 2012, and project lead for Theaster Gates' 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, at Documenta 13. Preus is currently the Jackman-Goldwasser resident at the Hyde Park Art Center, with a current solo exhibition, The Beast, now on view through August 3.

Sound Installation Proposal for Making the Unknown, Known #1 (Site-Specific projects for Little Village, Chicago)
Digital Rendering

This year’s $1000 award was granted to Maria Gaspar, who is engaged in transdisciplinary practices that individually or collectively mediate or occupy different sites to create ephemeral and permanent scenarios. Gaspar has presented work at the MCA Chicago, The Jane Addams Hull House Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art. Her performance work includes presentations at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson with La Pocha Nostra, the Athenaeum Theater in Chicago, and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, TX. She is currently leading a series of long-term site-responsive projects, 96 ACRES, about the Cook County jail, the largest structure in her native community of Little Village. Gaspar is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the departments of Performance Art and Contemporary Practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Congratulations, John and Maria!

(Reposted from our partner on MAKER grant, Chicago Artists' Coalition)

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/700051 2014-06-04T15:03:28Z 2014-06-05T12:21:34Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Courtney Puckett

Sea Lady
Metal, wire, wood, string
20 x 60 x 18 inches

COURTNEY PUCKETT’s work is an exciting collision of color, pattern and texture. Drawing on the history of the Fiber Art Movement, she employs traditional techniques such as wrapping, coiling and sewing to transform cast-off elements from furniture and domestic decoration—frames, fans, coat racks, table cloths—into unexpected abstractions. Courtney earned her BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art (2002) and her MFA from Hunter College (2007). She is a recipient of several National Endowment for the Arts project grants and has been an Artist-in-Residence at Vermont Studio Center, Buffalo National River in Arkansas and the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in Woodstock, New York. Solo exhibitions include Mountain High (2011) at Central Utah Art Center in Ephraim, Utah and Recycled, Wrapped and Sewn (2010) at Valencia Community College’s Anita Wooten Gallery in Orlando, Florida. Courtney lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your sculptures oscillate between formal abstraction—for example, Bug (2011) or Snail Potion (2012)—and "useful" objects, as in the walking sticks and lassos. But in both cases, textile materials and the traditional fiber techniques of coiling and wrapping are center stage. Could you talk generally about your interest in these techniques?

Courtney Puckett: Before I knew about the Fiber Art movement, I studied painting. As an undergraduate, I had reached a technical level of realistic painting that no longer interested me. I could have continued in this vein and found subjects to paint or forced myself towards abstraction. But instead I made a discovery that permanently subordinated paint as a medium for me. While experimenting with alternative painting surfaces, I came across a large, ripped, black duffel bag. With the intention of painting on it, I cut it up and sewed it back together flat. But when I hung it on the wall, I knew it didn’t need paint. The form and physical material already had everything in it that I was searching for. It satisfied my desire to find an alternative approach to painting and to align myself with women artists, particularly those in the 60s and 70s who challenged the (predominantly-masculine) rules of painting. What began as an intuitive gravitational pull toward soft materials has become a intentional reframing of techniques associated with “women’s work” in order to disrupt hierarchical and categorical divisions within art.

Lasso 32
Miscellaneous fabric scraps, string, yarn
19 x 10 x 2.5 inches

OPP: Could you talk specifically about your Lasso Series (2004-ongoing) Is your attraction to this form conceptual or formal? What does the lasso as a form mean to you?

CP: I began the Lasso Series in 2004 while living in New Mexico. I recycled scraps of unused fabric and discarded components from sculptures into long, coiled ropes and hung them in groups on the wall. The lasso is a metaphor for our persistent attempts to acquire, achieve, control, fulfill, capture. But often we fail. These aren’t Wonder Woman’s Golden Lasso.

OPP: Looking at all the lassos together reminds me of Sheila Hicks' amazing book Weaving as Metaphor, in that she has a daily practice of exploring the aesthetics of one simple form—for her, the handheld loom. The variety is astounding. Sheila Hicks is probably the most well known artist who uses coiling and wrapping as a technique. Is she an influence for you?

CP: It is exciting that Sheila Hicks is receiving so much attention right now. I went straight to her work at the Whitney Biennial. However, I only found out about her work about five or six years ago. I took a bus to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia to see her 2011 retrospective, which was the first time I saw her work in person. I was totally jazzed. At that moment, I felt very proud to make the work I make. Her work gave me the permission—that for years I thought I needed—to work primarily with fabric and textile techniques. People have suggested to me a more mixed media approach, so as to not get labeled or pigeonholed. But Sheila Hicks’s work is powerful in its embrace of fiber mediums and disregard of categorization.

Back Yard Boogie Woogie 1
Fabric, wire, wood, yarn
94 x 14 x 19 inches

OPP: What role does time-tracking play in your work?

CP: The act of recording time is not an objective. My goal is more to lose track of time and enter a meditative, quiet, contemplative zone, often with nothing to listen to but the sounds outside my studio window. Time is obviously quite evident in the process; the labor evident in the work. This is more a result of the kind of intuitive physical relationship I have with the materials and processes—cutting, pasting, ripping, knotting—than as a subject itself. I like that the viewer has access to this intimate space that rewards slower reading.

OPP: Could you talk about your drawings on graph paper? Many of them are titled “Study for . . . .” Are the drawings just plans for the sculptures or something else?

CP: The drawings are like epilogues of the sculptures; they only reveal segments of the story. Typically, I do not begin with drawing. When I get lost or am not sure what move to make while working on the sculptures, I draw. It either sends me off in a new direction or helps me find my way back to the original logic of a piece. I think two-dimensionally like a painter, and drawing really helps to flatten things out. Recently, graph paper has been the most useful blank page for working out patterns and formal systems.

Cricket Comb (detail)
Fabric, wire, wood, yarn
108 x 28 x 15 inches

OPP: Materiality is clearly a driving force in your practice. You incorporate fabric, thread, wood, wire, yarn and found textiles like table cloths and men's ties. Are you more of a hunter, seeking out specific materials for your work, or a gather, saving whatever comes your way until you have a use for it?

CP: Both roles as you describe them appeal to me. I have been scavenging thrift stores for cast-off gems since the age of twelve before vintage stores popped up everywhere. It is still one of my favorite things to do when traveling to new places. Red, White & Blue Thrift outside of Trenton, New Jersey, where I teach, is one of the best I have ever been to. I have fantasies about supermarket sweeps there. I hunt cast-offs (usually textiles) that have aesthetic value and character that can play into one of my pieces. Often, I take in the trashed furniture parts from the alleys around my live/work space in Brooklyn. It is important for me to have plentiful fabric and furniture scraps on hand for spur of the moment re-workings. I’m not a hoarder though, and I do take time to toss things back to the curb.

OPP: Could you speak generally about this reworking of cast-offs you’ve mentioned? It’s more than a practical way to get materials or a clever way to recycle. How does this relate to the “reframing of techniques associated with ‘women’s work’”?

CP: I am drawn to art that recycles waste, that makes something extraordinary out of something ordinary, that examines the detritus of everyday life and, in particular, of domestic life. One early influence for me was Art Povera. I will never forget, while studying in the south of France, seeing Dieter Roth’s boiled-over stove at a museum. This was around the time I stopped painting and started using the refuse around me. Another important influence has been my mother, an interior designer, and the home I grew up in, which was an evolving experiment in the decorative arts. There was little distinction between material object and aesthetic experience. Her resourcefulness and creativity built a colorful living space for our family and special, meaningful objects that held a kind of magic. With sculpture you can use the physical, tactile energy of things. You can also transform them. In my work, I try to reconcile the perceived inferiority of fiber and craft materials with the assumed superiority of paint, concrete, steel and the still-hyper-masculine disciplines of painting and sculpture.

To view more of Courtney's work, please visit courtneypuckett.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/697114 2014-05-28T14:30:17Z 2014-05-29T14:30:14Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Frank Oriti

Danny II
Oil and acrylic on canvas
48" x 60"

FRANK ORITI paints psychologically and emotionally honest portraits of “blue-collar, middle-class individuals returning to the hometowns and neighborhoods that they originally attempted to escape.” The juxtaposition of meticulously-detailed figures with flat, hazy backgrounds conveys a sense of limbo and highlights a nuanced experience of conflicted resignation and bold confidence in the face of uncertainty. Frank received his BFA from Bowling Green State University (2006) and his MFA from Ohio University (2011). His solo exhibitions include Return (2011) at The Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland and Homeland (2013) at Richard J. Demato Gallery in Sag Harbor, New York. In 2013, he was the recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize Emerging Artist Award. From September 13, 2014 to January 4, 2015, his work will be included in the group show Get Real: New American Paintings at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Florida. Frank lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was born and raised.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Many of your paintings are based on your friends and family. These paintings are portraits in the traditional sense. But the individuals can also be viewed as symbolic of the "psychological state of settling," which you identify as a major theme in your work. Did this theme emerge from the individuals you chose to paint or did you seek out subjects that embody the theme you were interested in exploring in your work?

Frank Oriti: Originally the theme came from my own realization of what it was like to return home. After I received my BFA from Bowling Green State University, I didn’t really have a plan for the next chapter in my life. Things just seemed very uncertain. Around the same time, I realized that a lot of friends and family had also returned home from college and the military. So naturally, I wondered if they were experiencing the same thoughts and feelings about this return that I was having. Because the theme was sparked by my own sentiments, I think of these paintings partially as self-portraits.

Oil on canvas

OPP: Your blue-collar background and the fact that you worked at Cleveland's American Tank and Fabricating between undergrad and grad school are often cited in the intro paragraphs of interviews and reviews of your work, and I'm obviously bringing it up, too. The return home is a theme in your work, so your personal biography is relevant. Do you think critics, collectors and viewers romanticize these details? Or is this just a reasonable reference to details that inform the content of your work?

FO: I don’t really think it’s my place to say whether or not my personal history is being romanticized. I think any time a writer is doing a piece, it’s up to them to write something that will hopefully entertain and keep a reader’s interest. All I can do on my end of interviews and in talking about my work is be honest and tell my story. I was taught that, as an art-maker, it’s important to be honest about where your work is coming from and why you’re making it. I DO think that my post-undergrad time at home really sparked something. The thoughts and feelings I had during that time became a great reference point for what I was trying to say in my work when I started these portraits in graduate school at Ohio University.

Living Like Teenagers
Oil and acrylic on canvas
70" x 46"

OPP: Now that viewing artwork online is so common, one of the details that sometimes gets lost is the impact of scale. I experience so much artwork contained within my computer screen that I can only imagine what my physical response to seeing the work in person would be. Could you talk about the significance of scale in your work?

FO: I originally made these portraits at a true-to-life scale. I wanted the viewer to be drawn in to the gaze of the subjects. It was important for the viewer to relate to them as actual people, as much as possible, just by looking. Since the beginning of this series, I’ve always made portraits that gave off the presence of an actual person—portraits that were more life-like than a photo but stayed true to my representation of the individual at that time the work was created. More recently, I’ve found that by changing up the size of the painting, I’m able to experiment and have more fun with the format as well as the actual application of the paint.

There Is No In Between
Oil and acrylic on canvas covered panel
20" x 16"

OPP: Clarity (2014), Uniform (2013) and Without (2013)—among others—stand out because the subjects are painted in profile, as opposed to confronting the viewer with their confident gazes. These immediately brought to mind mugshots, although nothing else about the subjects evokes criminality. Could you talk about your choice to paint these subjects this way?

FO: I’ve always loved looking at the way portraits have been depicted through history in painting, and I wanted that appreciation to show through. I was thinking about how the figures in this series previously had their backs turned to the whited-out houses that represented our suburban landscape. Painting them in profile reveals the position of uncertainty: they are neither heading towards the landscape nor heading towards the viewer.  

OPP: In 2013, you won the $10,000 Cleveland Arts Prize for Emerging Artist. What was your first reaction when you heard the news?

FO: It sounds extremely cliché to say I really did not expect to win, but. . . I REALLY DID NOT EXPECT TO WIN! It was only my second year submitting. After seeing winners from previous years, I understood the winners were chosen from a very wide selection of the different categories of arts in town. As someone who is constantly submitting to competitions, shows and magazines, I try not to get too worked up about entering these sorts of things. You have to do your part to enter and then forget about it and get back to work so that you’re not stressing over it. When I received the call last year that I had won, I was speechless. It was a great thing to be recognized by my peers, especially in my hometown. It’s overwhelming to be a part of such a prestigious group of past winners.

Oil on panel

OPP: Practically speaking, how has this prize affected your art practice?

FO: When the art prize came along, I had just left my part-time job to concentrate on painting full time. I had also just moved into a studio space in Cleveland. So winning the prize was perfect timing. It helped out financially, allowing me to concentrate only on my painting as I was getting ready for my first solo show at Richard J. Demato Gallery in New York.

OPP: Now that you are a few years out of graduate school and many of the subjects of your paintings are also older, has the overall level of uncertainty shifted? Have you experienced anything new that might change the emotional nature of the portraits?

FO: I think now that I've become a little more settled in Cleveland and a little more comfortable with the work I'm creating, some of the issues I was dealing with when this work began have shifted slightly. I've gravitated more towards finding people I know who apply a blue collar work ethic to whatever it is that they do. I really enjoy connecting with hardworking people who know what it is like to put in a lot of time and effort into their jobs, even if they aren't the most glamorous jobs. It's that type of work ethic that I use daily in the studio, and I find it extremely inspiring.

To view more of Frank's work, please visit frankoritijr.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/693180 2014-05-22T17:00:00Z 2014-05-22T15:06:04Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Cristi Rinklin

Migration 1
Oil and acrylic on aluminum
36" x 48"
Photo credit: Stewart Clements

CRISTI RINKLIN’s luscious landscapes are dense with undulating forms that hover somewhere between smoke, clouds, waves and vines. Beginning with digital collages constructed from details of existing landscape paintings, she seamlessly combines opposing styles, highlighting the “virtual reality” that has always been present in painting. Cristi graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA from Maryland Institute, College of Art in 1989 and earned her MFA from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1999. Her numerous solo shows include Diluvial (2012) at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire and Paracosmos (2010) at Boston’s Steven Zevitas Gallery, where she is scheduled to have another solo exhibition in January 2015. Before then, you can see her work in Forecasted: Eight Artists Explore the Nature of Climate Change at Northeastern University in October 2014. Cristi lives and works in Boston.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I would describe your style as a mash-up suggestive of illustration, painting, printing and digital manipulation. Your hard, graphic lines evoke Japanese Ukiyo-e landscapes, commercial illustration and comics, while soft fields of color remind me of watercolor landscapes and pictorialist landscapes. How does this amalgamation of styles get at your conceptual interests?

Cristi Rinklin: There definitely is a mash-up of painterly vocabulary happening in the work, and the references you identified, especially Japanese Ukiyo-e and pictorialist landscapes, are among the various works I’m sourcing. I start with elaborately orchestrated, digital collages combining details of paintings and backgrounds that are manipulated to create a seamless, yet impossible space. At times some of the objects in the paintings are in complete opposition to each other: flatness collides with atmospheric depth, and graphic linear forms overlay fleshy, voluminous shapes. I’m working towards a dreamy ambiguous space that is reminiscent of landscape, a familiar place where we feel grounded but which is in flux. It is either being created or being destroyed—or both.

Oil and acrylic on Dibond Aluminum
48" x 36"
Photo credit: Clements/ Howcroft, Boston, MA

OPP: The recurring, visual forms in your work border on abstraction while still evoking ambiguous landscape forms. Billowy, organic shapes appear in some works to be smoke. In others, these forms evoke waves and waterfalls, clouds and vines. Did you set out to create this ambiguity of form or did you discover the versatility during the process of painting?

CR: I’m interested in referencing landscape as something that is part of a deep memory, as if it no longer exists, and our impression of it is ambiguous, abstract or hard to pin down. Because the paintings start as digital collages, the manipulation and ambiguity is achieved in the studies that I create. I use a collected vocabulary of imagery and forms that I’ve been compiling over many years. The studies resemble the final paintings, but they don’t have the fleshy surfaces and great depth that the paintings have. Although the paintings are more or less predetermined, there are certain decisions and outcomes that happen during the process of painting, However, it’s less about improvisation and more about continually nudging the painting towards the thing I want it to do.

OPP: Take us back to the first time you made a painting based on a digital collage. Why did you first start working in this way?

CR: I first started working from digitally manipulated images in grad school, which was in the late 90s. At the time, it was a relatively new tool for art making, and I found that scanning and manipulating source material was a very convenient way to generate images for paintings. At first it was very basic and perfunctory, but the more I experimented with Photoshop, the more I became interested in how the computer has such a specific pictorial language that the way we see has become calibrated to screen space. I intentionally push colors to look synthetic, rather than organic, and I want the images to retain this feel of an artificial space.

Flashe on Duralar
32" x 24"
Photo credit: Clements/Howcroft, Boston, MA

OPP: I have to admit that I can't stop thinking of the black smoke from the television show Lost (2004-2010) and the title sequence from Dr. Who when looking at your work. Are either of these a visual reference for you? Can you give us some specific examples of non-painting influences? 

CR: That’s awesome that you thought of Lost. The black smoke was fascinating to me because I have long been interested in the physical representation of ephemeral things. The best example I can give of this is smoke and clouds in Renaissance prints. They always look solid and fleshy, and often times they’re carrying people, angels, saints, etc. It’s like the divine transportation vehicle. A lot of the billowy forms in my paintings look as if they are sentient, like they’re consciously advancing, sometimes in a menacing way. When the Iceland volcano erupted a few years back, I was enthralled by all of the images in the news and on the Internet of all that billowing smoke. While it was so beautiful to behold from a distance, it was also a reminder of how powerless we are against the fury of nature.

Site Specific Installation, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
Lambda Duraclear prints, wallpaper and wall mural
Photo credit: Jeffrey Nintzel

OPP: In 2012, your installation Diluvial at the Currier Museum of Art (Manchester, NH) was an immersive environment that included printed wallpaper and a wall mural and used the existing window as a light box for your Lambda Duraclear prints. Could you talk about the site-specificity of this installation and how the imagery portrayed a "world undergoing creation and destruction?"

CR: That was an amazing opportunity! I was invited to create this installation specifically for the Currier, in response to its history and its collection. I had done other installations like this previously, and I was excited to take on another large-scale immersive project. The Currier’s collection originated with 19th century American landscape painting, and since I had already been looking at and sourcing a lot of this work, that resonated with me. When I began brainstorming for Diluvial, I also heavily considered the New Hampshire region that was represented in a lot of the paintings in the collection. In my research, I found that many of the artists of this period, such as Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, were deeply interested in geology. Their contemporaries in the Earth Sciences were attempting to prove that the American landscape was forged by the Great Biblical Flood, therefore giving it divine status. The word diluvial refers to geological formations and deposits that are forged by flood or glacial activity. Because I’m interested in cataclysmic and catastrophic phenomena, this idea really resonated with me, so I set about creating an immersive experience that had the feel of the landscape being swept away by a huge force of water. It’s beautiful as well as terrifying, as great change always is. I often think about what it will be like in a post-human world. What will be gone and what will remain? While it’s scary to contemplate, there is also something poetic about nature surviving beyond human existence.

Orphan Series
Oil and acrylic on aluminum
9 individual panels hung in grid, each 18" x 15"
Photo Credit: Stewart Clements

OPP: In your newest work from 2014, there's a distinct collision, not only of painting styles, but also of opposing ethics from painting history: flatness meets perspective. The smoke is now utterly flat to the degree that, had I not seen your previous work, I would not interpret it as smoke. What led to this shift?

CR: If you go back to some of my very early work in the Archived section of my website, you’ll see how the new work has actually come full circle. While making Diluvial, I researched scenic wallpapers and designed one for the installation. I became intrigued by the idea that these scenic wallpapers were created to psychically transport viewers to idealized, pastoral landscapes. I decided that after the installation, I would explore the simplified and idealized space of scenic wallpaper, in which fragmented chunks of landscape float throughout the space. While I was experimenting with sketches and studies for these paintings, I began to ask myself, “what is essential, what is unnecessary and what can I leave out?” When I arrived at the large, flat cloud-shapes in these new paintings, they felt fresh to me. It referred to cloud, but also to a void; it became both positive and negative space. The cloud formation has been a part of my work for a long time, and in these new paintings, it’s simply a new evolution of this form.

To see more of Cristi's work, please visit cristirinklin.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/691602 2014-05-15T16:02:45Z 2014-05-15T16:14:31Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Michael Menchaca

Ondersoort Onderlijnen Bo
25" x 19"

MICHAEL MENCHACA’s signature graphic style combines the aesthetics and recurring visual motifs of cartoons and Mesoamerican iconography. He re-imagines current events along the U.S.-Mexican border as part of a mythic allegory in his screenprints, installations and digital animations. His work is on view until July 27, 2014 in Estampas de la Raza/Prints for the People: The Romo Collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh). You can also see his work in Galeria Sin Fronteras at the National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago) through August 2014. Michael currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is an MFA candidate in Printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What do cartoons and Mesoamerican iconography have in common and how do they support your conceptual interests?

Michael Menchaca: The Codex Migratus print series is my attempt to chronicle contemporary events involving drug smuggling, human trafficking and illegal immigration in the format of an ancient Mesoamerican codex. Codices are pictorial manuscripts that documented ritual, bloodlines and social class. They often depicted supernatural imagery with bold outlines and flat graphic representation. By combining the format of an ancient Mesoamerican codex with Modern-era cartoons, I aim to present a hybrid, pictorial narrative that transcends time and space, allows for multiple perspectives and reflects the complex nature of migration to the U.S.

Spics 'N' Dip
11" x 14"

OPP: In a 2012 interview with mysanantonio.com, you said “I never wanted to do anything that had to do with my cultural heritage because I felt that was just expected of me. I just ended up drawing a cat and then added a mustache. . .  I started researching Mexican folk art, and I realized how out of touch I am with my own culture. I started asking my mom how she was raised up and how I was raised up. I saw how different it is for me in the States because she was raised in Mexico. I grew up like a regular American kid.” When did you first experience this expectation that, because of your Mexican heritage, you should make art about being Mexican?

MM: I don’t think that it was ever a concrete expectation. I never explicitly had anyone say to me in school, “you should make art about your Mexican ancestry.” However, early on in my art education, I did feel an implication directed towards me to make personal expressions that reflected my cultural heritage. The impulse for me at that time was to go in the opposite direction and try and reconcile with a conventional, bourgeois art aesthetic. It wasn’t until my time at Texas State University where I earned my BFA that I began to work out how to address a history pertaining to me in a way that was true to my experience.

OPP: Your project Codex Migratus (2011 - ongoing) uses allegory and the form of the codex to chronicle current events along the U.S.-Mexican border. Rats with machine guns represent the border patrol and cats with mustaches represent the Mexican immigrants. But don't cats usually chase mice? Is this a subversion of the Tom-and-Jerry trope?

MM: Yes. Tom and Jerry has been a great influence. This role-reversal is integral to the allegory I’m working in. However, I prefer not to expand on how natural laws work within this realm, as I’m keen to keeping a level of mystery intact. I am fascinated by mythical stories, and there’s a lot of play and wiggle room when interpreting myths. This, in no small part, contributes to their lasting appeal. I’d like my work to exist within this framework.

Creatio Episodium Megafauna I
Digital Animation

OPP: You've also explored the same themes, allegories and imagery in digital animation. In Codex Vidiot Vidi (2013) your recognizable iconography is combined with what sounds like audio from video games. In Creatio Episodium Megafauna I (2012), I hear music and sound effects that remind me of old-timey cartoons. Could you talk about how audio and animation changes the tone of your static imagery?

MM: There is a sense of infinite space in the prints; the viewers are free to animate for themselves. In the videos, the moving figures and sound create a new level of experience and interpretation. I’m very new to working with sound and am currently invested in it as a means of orchestrating a narrative. For example, sound is the defining factor in Codex Heterogeneous. It carries the story and acts as the container for the content.

Crooked American Boarders: The Beaner Express
Mixed media installation

OPP: You shifted the scale of your iconography dramatically in a three-dimensional installation called Crooked American Boarders: The Beaner Express (2011) and in Autos Sacramentales (2013), a window installation at Artpace in San Antonio. Did viewers respond differently to the work at this scale?

MM: The shift in scale allowed the audience to walk inside a narrative structure. In that sense, these pieces explored the possibility of audience interaction in the physical sense. I could never have anticipated the capacity of a younger generation to see these installations as photo opportunities. I think that’s something worth considering for a future project.

OPP: From a purely process perspective, how was the experience of creating imagery at this scale different than drawing and screenprinting? What did you like? What did you not like?

MM: Working on a larger scale requires more time, a huge substrate and a lot of pigment. It can sometimes get expensive so that’s the part I’m not too fond of. I enjoy the exaggerated, physical interaction between your body and the final piece. For these installations, I had the opportunity to work with vinyl, plexiglass and insulation foam, which are normally used for commercial advertisements. I like the way these signage materials inform the content of my work.

Oculus Ceremonia
Site-specific installation
Photo credit: Jane Long

OPP: You are smack dab in the middle of graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design right now. What's changed about your work since you've been there? What's the most unexpected thing about grad school?

MM: My time at RISD has so far been incredibly resourceful. I’m working amongst a community of extremely talented artists and have a good feedback situation. I have a sense of direction that I haven’t had in a while. My studio practice has embraced working in new technologies that wouldn’t be otherwise accessible. It’s also given me freedom to explore, to spend time, to waste time, to discuss, to write, to read, to study, to fail miserably without hesitation. There’s a lot of digesting taking place, and I look forward to the part where I finally get to excrete it all out.

OPP: You were awarded a travel grant to visit Sri Lanka in January 2014 through RISD’s DESINE-lab. Can you tell us about the program and what you worked on while there?

MM: DESINE-lab@RISD is an initiative founded by Elizabeth Dean Hermann, Professor of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at RISD. The lab focuses on developing solutions for communities in economic, social and environmental need. Following a civil war, Sri Lanka is undergoing a state of transition. Along with a group of very talented RISD students, I engaged with local organizations to address social issues and sustainability. The grant allowed me to visit textile initiatives, sacred Buddhist sites and temples as well as historical sites across the country. I learned the art of Batik, a wax-resist method of dying fabric. I also had the opportunity to host a screenprint workshop for children and widowed women at an orphanage in Kilinochchi. This grant has sparked an interest in global religious practices.

OPP: Is that what led to your most recent piece Oculus Ceremonia? Can you explain the installation for our readers and talk about the connection between the immersive technology you use and ceremonial practices?

MM: Oculus Ceremonia is a piece that uses a virtual reality headset, known as the Oculus Rift, to submerge the viewer into a 360 degree digital space. In order to enter the digital world, the person must put on a mask. I think of the piece as ceremonial in that it gives an individual viewer limited access to a transcendental space where they then perform for an external audience much in the same way as a shaman. I had a platform for each "performer" to stand on and had a looping projection behind them. Luckily no one fell off the stage and got injured.

To see more of Michael's work, please visit michaelmenchaca.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/688256 2014-05-08T13:16:44Z 2014-05-08T13:27:19Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Serena Cole

Black Mirror I (detail)
Colored pencil and gouache on paper
35" x 28"

SERENA COLE positions herself as a “hopeless outsider and wary researcher,” as well as as “a cultural anthropologist and an obsessive, self-aware consumer of highly seductive imagery.” Her drawings in colored pencil, gouache, watercolor and ink explore both the repulsion and attraction to an unattainable fantasy promised by fashion advertising. Serena received her MFA (2011) from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She is currently an instructor at the Art Studio at UC Berkeley. Her solo exhibitions include Through the Glass Darkly (2012) at Soo Visual Arts Center in Minneapolis and I Wanna Be Adored (2009) at Triple Base Gallery in San Francisco. Serena lives and works in the Bay Area.

OtherPeoplesPixels: According to your bio, "[An] extreme isolation from culture and civilization created a fetishized association with anything perceived of as high art, fashion, or wealth. [Serena] can still recall every page of the only Vogue she was ever given as a child. This incurable affliction followed her into adulthood and her art career. . ." How does your personal experience of fashion magazines influence the art work you make based on this source material?

Serena Cole: I cite this little snippet from my childhood to offer anyone interested in my work the specific root of my obsessions. In many ways, my reaction to a lot of this imagery was similar to that of any other teen girl. It's almost ingrained in girl culture to rip a picture of a something you like out of a magazine and stick it to the wall. However, because I was so far removed from the reality of anything I wanted—a pair of jeans or being at a cool art party or buying even a new album at a record store—my obsessions and fantasies became my dreamscape. I lived in them entirely to avoid the fact that I was physically in the middle of nowhere. I didn't need the real thing, so particularly unattainable images like fashion ads weren't and still aren't problematic for me. I much prefer to live in the fantasy of the images I am drawn to. It’s like living in the Matrix. My drawings allow me to stay there as long as I want, but I can also completely control the dream. I can change the colors, change the composition, change the facial features. I can be outside, looking in. But I also create the fantasy from the inside out in my drawings, allowing me to have pure dominion over all my desires. 

I'm Dead, I'm Dead, I'm Dead
Watercolor, colored pencil, ink, gouache, photo transfer, and gold leaf on paper
46" x 36"

OPP: Are your drawings recreations of specific images taken from magazines? How much do you modify the image in your process? What kinds of images are you most attracted to?

SC: I am mostly drawn to images of people. I am interested in the psychological aspects of the facial expressions and of the gaze. I find all the sources for my drawings in expensive fashion magazines because I am deeply fascinated by the model or celebrity as a vehicle for fantasies. These images of people are made to be looked at, but not only that. They are made to exist as avatars. A glimpse of what kind of you is possible with the right merchandise. It is fascinating that the people in these high-end fantasy images are often emotionally distraught or completely vacant, almost dead. It suggests to me that we don't always fantasize about being one kind of person, but many fucked-up versions of ourselves. I modify these images only slightly, sometimes making these avatar creatures even more emotional, dark or sickly. It comes from a need to control them, instead of feeling that they are superior to me in some way. They become an army of versions of me.

OPP: Why do all these women seem so sad? Do you consciously avoid the fashion campaigns that employ images of joie de vivre?

SC: I have no interest in happy paintings in the same way I can't listen to the Cure past 1989 because they suddenly cheered up. I am interested in telling a subtle story with the expressions in my work, and there is no story in happy. It's boring to me because I am still an angsty teenager stuck in my room.

Ecstasy Face V
Watercolor, colored pencil, and gouache on paper
24" x 20"

OPP: The titles in your Tropes (2010-2012) are really successful at highlighting your position as a self-proclaimed "wary researcher," a cultural anthropologist" and "an obsessive, self-aware consumer." You've identified recurring visual tropes in fashion advertising in works like Ecstasy Face IV, We Wish We Could Find the Sublime I (2011) and I'm An Animal, I'm Going to Eat You I (2010). Do you think the average consumer of these magazines is oblivious or savvy to these tropes nowadays?

SC: I'm not sure what the average consumer thinks. I don't feel it is my job to teach anyone anything that they are not already picking up on. I might not even be right about the armchair psychology findings that I'm presenting. I do find that, in talking to people about my source material, I am always asked to choose a side: am I for or against fashion? This comes from a variety of political beliefs that people are entitled to have. But I would really rather be talking with people about the nuances and hypocrisies of our own dreams, fears and desires. I am 100% aware that I am drawn to sick, unlivable, sexist images. It doesn't mean that I REALLY want it. I just want it for a second. Advertising is highly sophisticated and complex, and there's no surprise that what I want is unattainable. That is practically the definition of desire. But I feel like the difference is owning up to those desires, of being able to admit that you sometimes DO want to be comatose, sexually sublimated, socially deviant, etc. Most people are not honest enough with themselves.

Black Mirror II
Colored pencil and gouache on paper
24" x 36"

OPP: Tell us about your most recent body of work Black Mirrors. What are these drawings reflecting?

SC: I was mostly thinking about my relationship and reaction to specific images I gathered of models who were acknowledging their own positions as subjects of desire. As idealized magazine figures, they were photographed for the purpose of evoking someone else's desire. However, they don't give you exactly what you want from them. These are not pin-ups with come-hither expressions. These are images of subjects choosing to confront the viewer. They look back, essentially making the viewer into the subject. This complicated relationship between desiring/being desired/seeing yourself as being desired is an example of Lacan's psychoanalytic theory of the Mirror Stage (a greater 'gestalt' figure versus reality). I found myself looking at these models as versions of who I wished I was. I also wanted to give them more autonomy than they have in the original photos. These mirrors of me as my fantasy selves are also pissed at being made into subjects, so I gave them all I-don't-give-a-fuck expressions.

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

SC: I have my hands in a lot of different cookie jars at the moment. As an experiment, I've been taking my own photographs to paint from, researching objects and figures I desire or find intriguing. I'm working on two series, one of people I know and the other of floral still lives I find. I also have a body of work of narrative, fucked-up, slightly surreal large-scale paintings that are taking a very long time to finish. And I am working on experiments with more three-dimensional, paper headdress projects. It's difficult to prepare for any kind of show working in this way, but all these projects inform each other. With more time, I hope to have a number of paintings I am happy with.

To see more of Serena's work, please visit serenacole.org.

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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/683855 2014-05-01T17:00:00Z 2014-05-01T11:54:39Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Mark Zawatski

Digital photograph
16" x 16"

MARK ZAWATSKI asks us to consider the authenticity of manipulated images in his painstakingly-composed mandalas and fields of color and pattern. Each digitally-constructed photograph takes hundreds of hours to create and involves repetitive, but unique gestures of the hand, subverting our expectations of the boundary between the digital and the handmade. Mark holds a MFA in Sculpture from Yale University and BA in Art from The University of California, Los Angeles. He teaches photography at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse and Ithaca College. His work has been exhibited at the Wright Art Gallery (Los Angeles, California), Fullerton College (Fullerton, California), The Gallery at the Ann Felton Multicultural Center (Syracuse) and the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Connecticut). Originally from Los Angeles, Mark lives and works in Syracuse, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You received your MFA from Yale in Sculpture (1999). How and when did you shift to digital photography as your primary medium? What was your sculptural work like?

Mark Zawatski: Video, installation, performance and photography were part of my sculpture experience. I also made Fluxus-like collections and cases out of plexi glass that contained manufactured objects along with unique systems of hundreds of handmade objects constructed of wax, wire, paint and foam.

In 2008, I started making photograms of manufactured objects as a way of looking at simple image-making. Man Ray’s photograms always appealed to me for their simplicity, abstraction and beauty. There’s a sense of playfulness, performance and the passage of time captured in those pictures. This led to an interest in the process of making pictures.

Digital photograph
36" x 36"

OPP: Are your composites made of photographs you actually took or are the thousands of images that go into each piece scavenged from other sources? How important is it that viewers recognize the objects?

MZ: I photographed the objects individually. Sometimes they are remnants of products I consumed or manufactured, transitory objects I acquired. I wanted to document the physical ephemera of everyday life: objects we've all seen and used many times before but probably overlooked. For example, the objects in Gothic are remnants of products I consumed over a three-year period. I limited the collection to white items made of plastic: lids from juice and milk bottles, contact lens solution caps, dish soap caps, eye drop caps and laundry soap caps.

Circumlocution (detail)
Digital photograph
16" x 16"

OPP: How is the process of creating the fields in Local Places (2013), which are made from "hundreds of manipulations of a single disposable drinking straw" different from the process of creating the Circles and Stars (2011-2012), which include a variety of objects?

MZ: Lines is the first series made from a single photograph of a drinking straw. The image was duplicated and placed into individual columns. I continued to make more and more parallel lines, altering their color as I went. Prior to this, my photographs contained “straight” digital images with no manipulation. Ultimately, these are photographic drawings with a nod to photo history and an emphasis on process through the repetitive duplication and hand placement of each drinking straw. The lines look machine perfect, but there are subtle variations among them.

In Lines, I was interested in how appearance and meaning often don’t match up or can be misleading and confusing. They are meant to be optical illusions, fields of confusion that pull your eye in different directions. I wanted to disrupt the expectations we bring to experiencing photographs, which traditionally rely on single point perspective and lead viewers to see or believe something specific. The Lines have a conversation with Bridget Riley paintings, but the illusion is made of simple yet realistic photographs.

The images in Local Places series are made by fusing two separate line fields to create a single picture that vibrates and moves reflecting how we attempt to reconcile both appearance and meaning simultaneously. I also wanted to make a connection between what we think of as local and impersonal mass-produced culture.

Circles and Stars were even more time consuming than creating the labor intensive Lines. Each image took between one and three months to create, and in some ways could be seen as performance pieces. The largest piece is made from over 1,000 images and required many repetitive yet unique movements. It was a significant challenge for me to stay focused on the work for so long. While I was making the work, I thought about the performance and conceptual aspects of work by artists like Agnes Martin and Richard Serra. But I was also thinking about Jeff Wall and questions of truth in photography. I wanted to examine the possibility of a manipulated digital photograph being a form of authenticity.

Top of The Falls
Digital photograph
16" x 16"

OPP: Have you ever have any issues with carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis?

MZ: Haha. . . no, not yet. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve damaged my eyesight from staring at my computer screen for so long.

OPP: The compositions in Circles and Stars (2012-2013), Dots, and some pieces from Gothic (2011) reference mandalas. What brought you to that form?

MZ: A search for form led me to the circle. Maybe that’s a sculptural concern applied to photography, but a circle is a simple organizing structure. The Dots are meant to be simple pictures. Each one is composed of photographs of tiny, plastic discs. As photographs, the discs become reduced to pixels of color and are barely recognizable as actual objects. It’s the moment when a photograph becomes an abstraction.

While it wasn't my intention to reference a mandala with the circular pieces, I like how mandalas promote a meditative space both for the creator and the viewer. These pictures for me were about process. I wanted to create a photograph that would cause the viewer to do a double-take, to invite them to consider the handmade processes that go into making a digital photograph. 

Digital photograph
16" x 16"

OPP: All art manipulates the viewer, right? And all art media have authenticity. Why do you think people view digital photography as inauthentic? Do you think the average person still expects a photograph to be "true?"

MZ: Maybe it’s the simplicity of the technology that invites distrust. In just seconds and with minimal skill, a picture can be manipulated, its focus altered and its meaning changed.

The photography community still reinforces the notion that there is a truthful photography and a manipulated, false photography through competitions than ban manipulated works. I’ve heard the occasional story of a disqualified, winning photograph that is revealed to have a tiny bit of color adjustment. This is mirrored in the beliefs of most people who also make the same distinction between fake photography and real photography. But when you press people to define that boundary, when essentially all images are digital today, people are uncertain as to the criteria for digital truth. We are only a decade into consumer digital photography, and as in early photo history, people aren’t sure what they’re getting. Most people have no idea what a digital image is or how it’s created. But they can tell you that film is a piece of plastic with silver stuck to it, and that confers truth.

OPP: Does the prevalence of smartphone cameras and Instagram filters affect these perceptions at all?

MZ: Instant, online images only add to the anxiety. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are constantly having this conversation in our heads about the real or altered nature of pictures we consume. This skepticism has become an automatic response to digital images. Not that this is new. Since it’s inception, digital photography—like early color photography—has been disdained by the photographic community. So, there’s already a built-in bias. It’s only now that the technology has become integrated into our daily lives through smartphones and online content that we are confronted with the increasing frequency of these questions. Digital pictures are confusing to decipher and interpret. It’s this uncertainty that I’m investigating.

To see more of Mark's work, please visit markzawatski.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/681004 2014-04-24T17:00:00Z 2014-06-18T19:21:53Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Justin Margitich

Landscape Cache
Pencil on paper
60'' x 84''

Bay Area artist JUSTIN MARGITICH combines undulating landscapes, the imagined angles of digital space and pure, geometric abstraction in an ongoing conflation of perspective, atmosphere and information. Justin received his BFA from California College of the Arts (2008) and his MFA from San Francisco Art Institute (2013). He is represented by Moskowitz Gallery in Los Angeles and has exhibited widely throughout the Bay Area. His solo exhibition Circuiting (2014) recently closed at City Limits Gallery in Oakland, California. You can see his work until May 28, 2014 in the two-person exhibition Atmospheres: Justin Margitich & Chris Iseri at Moskowitz Gallery in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You use a very particular drawing technique for some works, including Data Fragmentation (2012) and Data Fragmentation 2 (2013). What exactly is silverpoint? Why do you choose this technique?

Justin Margitich: Silverpoint is a Medieval/Renaissance drawing technique that uses silver or other metals such as gold or copper instead of the graphite that is most common today. Usually the metal comes in a stick or wire form in varying widths and lengths, and you insert it into a stylus of some sort. It functions the same as a pencil but has a much lighter touch and tonal value. It is most often used for underdrawings and sketches. After much experimentation, I decided to use the process in a slightly unorthodox way. I work on wood panel, making many passes and cross-hatches to build up the surface. After a few days, the surface oxidizes and turns slightly yellow. In person, you can see that the oxidization of the silver refracts and absorbs the light in very captivating ways.

Disassembling Landscape
Pencil on paper
60'' x 88''

OPP: The quality that is most compelling to me in your landscapes is the ordered chaos of the lines. I can see the presence of the landscape, but most pieces transcend physical space and become metaphoric landscapes for me. They could be internal spaces of struggle and growth. But I also gather from titles like Landscape Cache IV (2014) and Assembling Landscape VIII (2010) that these are conglomerates of many landscapes. What are the inspirations or sources for for these drawings? 

JM: Your observations are very apt. I look at a lot of landscape paintings, especially those that were made before art demonstrated a full understanding of perspective. Bruegel and Bosch seem to have a naïve conception of perspective in some of their landscapes. This may or may not be so, but when three or more wonky perspectives are included in one landscape it makes for a disorienting and space-defying world. So when you say they transcend physical space, you are on to something. And yes, they are also like conglomerates. I think of cropping, deleting, cutting and pasting. I use digital or computer jargon to elucidate the themes in the work. I want the viewer to stay and explore. If s/he comes away a little unbalanced or disoriented, then that’s good too.

I sometimes think of the drawings as analogous to early video games: scroll-like, two-dimensional spaces (with some three-dimensional objects) that can be traversed. I am interested in drawing comparisons between the physical and the virtual. Both the physical landscape and virtual spaces are dense with information. I think a lot about the web and digital tech as a facsimile of the natural world and its rhizomatic or decentralized organizing principles.

Disassembling Landscape II
Pencil on panel
49'' x 72''

OPP: There appears to be a subtle shift in your compositions around 2010. The soft, undulating lines are supplanted by more angles and straight lines. Can you talk about this change?

JM: The older drawings were not planned out but radiate from a single point and move out organically from there. They are a simulation of the meme-like growth and process of unfolding that takes place in natural systems. The newer, harder-edged drawings are emerge from a mechanized approach: a cut and paste, copy and repeat system.

Circuit #24
Various metal points and acrylic on sandpaper
9'' x 11''

OPP: You just had a solo show of new paintings at City Limits Gallery in Oakland. The work in Circuiting represents a new direction for you. Tell us about the show. How did the new work grow out of the older work?

JM: Yes, the newer paintings are quite different from the previous work, but they are connected. The small paintings are on black sandpaper. When I was sharpening the metal silverpoint tools on the sandpaper, I found that the various metals rubbed off as subtle colors. The effect was different than when these tools were used as intended. This discovery was a starting point for what eventually developed into a full body of work. The idea of a circuit is a play on the metal point, as a sort of conductor of energy or electricity. I tried to mirror this with the electric and chromatic colors. I see these paintings as individual icons or pictograms that could be communicative. Each one is like a prototype of language without phonetic words, like a glyph with multiple meanings and interpretations.

Since the drawings usually contain a whole bunch of dense information, I do use the same images over and over. The best example I can think of would be from Landscape Cache II. There is a large rectangular and empty shape on the middle right. I lifted this section and singled it out as a new drawing called Cached Landscape. I am planning on doing a series based on this idea. The crowded objects from the dense landscapes will be stripped away and one central object will be the focus.

Circuitous #8
Acrylic on panel
18'' x 24''

OPP: I've noticed that I get a little depressed right after a big solo exhibition closes. It only lasts a little while. I've learned to expect it and channel my energies away from my studio for a temporary period of time until I'm recharged. It feels a little like taking an extended, metaphoric nap. Do you experience this downswing? If so, what do you do to deal with it?

JM: Especially after two shows, that comes on. At the same time as the City Limits show in Oakland, I also had a show of newer drawings at Moskowitz Gallery in Los Angeles. Every time I have felt this downswing—after a show or just after making sub-par work—a new and totally unexpected way of thinking or working arose. I probably should take a break, but I usually don't.  Just by keeping up production, I eventually fall back into making satisfying work again. It is a good opportunity to evaluate the work done for the show and, depending on that evaluation, either begin a new body of work or continue to flesh out the working idea. I see the Circuiting series as complete. Now that the exhibition is over, I am slightly altering the process and media. I'm keeping the fundamental idea but slowly adding two or three new themes. I have found that this process, after many failures on the way, usually leads to a new working method that I can keep until I have made a sufficient amount of new work.

To see more of Justin's work, please visit justinmargitich.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/677703 2014-04-17T17:00:00Z 2014-06-17T22:29:20Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Melissa Manfull

Rising & Falling
Ink, gouache, graphite on panel
40" x 60"

MELISSA MANFULL draws together the domains of nature, culture and the spirit in her densely patterned abstractions in ink, gouache and graphite. Her compellingly ambiguous spaces combine otherworldly architecture, geologic formations, the geometry of sacred spaces like cathedrals and mosques and the manipulative order of game design and graphic design. Melissa received her MFA in 2002 from Concordia University in Montreal. She has mounted three solo exhibitions at Taylor de Cordoba in Culver City, California: Tesseracts (2009), Pattern Constraints (2010) and Schemata (2013). Melissa’s work can currently be seen in two group shows: Thin Space at Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, California) through May 5, 2014 and Temporal Residue at Keystone Gallery (Los Angeles) from April 19-30, 2014. Melissa lives and works in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Sometimes your drawings reference architecture, sometimes landscapes. Other times, they look like the insides of temples and sometimes the insides of pinball machines. How are all these seemingly disparate types of space connected?

Melissa Manfull: I am interested in controlled space, specifically how architecture or human intervention dominates the chaos of natural environments and phenomena. Architecture mitigates our experiences of space and the horizon. It is an intermediary structure that connects sky and land. I use drawing to experiment with space and structure without the constraints of gravity and perceived reality.

Each individual body of work focuses on a specific theme and is informed by an aesthetic, theoretical or topical interest. These have ranged from an interest in the aesthetics of science fiction or mystic architecture from the Southwest to the aesthetics of game design. Over the years, the drawings have shifted from observing architecture from an exterior viewpoint towards an interest in flipping between interior and exterior positions. Schemata’s focus was on the enclosed space of a game, which is a relationship between the interior mind of the player and the interior space of the game. Formally, I play with the depth or ambiguity of the space depicted in the drawing.

Untitled A Frame
Ink on paper
18" x 24"

OPP: Is the meditative act of drawing only the process that drives your work or is it also the content?

MM: Both are very important to me as an artist, and the process is directly related to the content of my work. I develop my drawings in a very controlled, consistent order. From beginning to end, the process is almost mechanical; drawing is the one place where I can control, predict and order the whole experience. First, I research my chosen topic and collect visuals related to the content. Then I plan out the drawing, execute it in pen and ink in the color. The drawing and inking stages are very meditative.

I listen to audio books related to the theme of the drawing. I like to imagine the books are somehow woven into the drawing or affect the choices I make in the process. While working on the drawings from my 2009 show Tessaracts—both the title of a science fiction novel and a geometric form—I listened to books that dealt with time shifts and time travel. I have an underlying interest in dimensional portals, 11 dimensions of string theory and the aesthetics of science fiction. While working on Plato's Cave, Arch, Stylobate and Portico, I listened to Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, among others.

Study for Ludic Space
Ink on paper mounted panel
14" x 11"

OPP: I've witnessed the attitude many times—and I 100% disagree—that pattern, ornament and decoration are insignificant and superficial. Even beauty is sometimes dismissed as not meaningful enough. Have you ever had the experience of your work being dismissed with the descriptor "decorative?"

MM: My work has actually been described as difficult to look at in person. The decorative elements of the work are so dense and obsessively drawn that there’s more a sense of horror than pleasure. This is also changing in my current work. Recently I’ve been using a heightened color palette with fluorescents to create a more challenging visual experience. The drawings are still dense and decorative, but now they have an electric glow which makes it difficult for the viewers’ eyes to focus. The decorative is also a form of order. I am interested in logical, mathematical patterns, such as tessellations, as well as optical and geometric patterns that mesmerize or hypnotize. So, the decorative is a large part of the content.

I do agree that decoration and pattern are sometimes an easy way of not having content and that using it so predominantly puts my work in a position of being viewed as commercial or illustrative. I am okay with this because I feel confident that my work transcends this category and uses pattern in a meaningful way, creating a synergy between the disparate worlds of fine art, the decorative and the graphic.

Ink on paper
16" x 18"

OPP: The press release for your 2010 solo show Pattern Constraints states: "Due to the obsessive nature of her process, Manfull has often viewed the meditative act of drawing as a way to approach her fear of vast, open ended space (the unknown). By creating her minute sculptural drawings, she gives this abyss a meaning and in essence, gains control." How does this “control” show up in a new way in your most recent exhibition Schemata (2013) at Taylor De Cordoba Gallery (Culver City, California)?

MM: For many years, my drawing style involved imposing a structure on an empty space or on less controlled forms (for example, poured ink forms, which were symbolic of chaos). But now, I am more interested in exploring forms of visual control in society and the relationship between power, manipulation and pleasure. It is still related to the chaos/control relationship, but it is more specifically about corporate, graphic design as a visual language that is used to manipulate.

In Schemata, I was interested in how games hypnotize and entrance the viewer with color and form. The theory behind game design relates to the intentions of architects of spiritual spaces—Gaudi is an example. Both have a visual logic with designated points that manipulate the player into making certain decisions. Squares, circles and triangles move game players’ eyes around the space, leading them on designated paths to preconceived outcomes. There are points of choice, possible actions and payoffs, as well as elements of addiction like relapse. I used these ideas to create compositions or abstracted versions of the original games. Symmetry, patterning and the golden ratio were all a part of designing these works and relate back to geometry found in spiritual spaces.

Point of Choice: No Possible Action
Ink, gouache, graphite on panel
40" x 60"

OPP: Could you say more about the overlap of the aesthetics of game design and of sacred spaces?

MM: Geometry has always been a recurring theme in my work. My initial interest in architecture became abstracted into patterning and design, which are forms of order, logic and control. I began to research the relationships between geometry and sacred spaces like cathedrals and mosques, which were designed to inspire awe and explore the human relationship to the infinite. As an atheist, I want to understand how and why geometry and logical forms inspire such a reaction. The geometry found in the rose windows and spires of cathedrals, in the tile design of mosques and in mandalas is referred to as sacred geometry. Basic geometric forms are imbued with meaning specific to each religion or spiritual belief system. There are certain shapes that lend themselves to this—the circle (infinite perfection), the square (balanced symmetry) and the triangle (male/female duality in Hinduism). I use these forms with an acknowledgment that they have very significant historical references.

To see more of Melissa's work, please visit melissamanfull.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/676389 2014-04-11T19:37:27Z 2014-04-11T19:37:28Z "Heartbleed" Bug Not an Issue for OPP Some of you may have heard about the massive Heartbleed security issue affecting over 2/3 of the Internet. We want to assure you that luckily your OPP website was never vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug. However, this is a great time to remind everyone that changing your passwords regularly is a good idea. Please take a minute to go to ACCOUNT ---> Change Password and choose a new Control Panel password and a new email password (if you have an email mailbox through OPP).

If you haven't changed your OPP passwords in a while, you'll notice we now require stronger passwords, so please be sure you follow our detailed instructions on the top of the page, as well as being sure to carefully enter your current password.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/674582 2014-04-10T17:00:00Z 2014-04-10T14:18:59Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Aaron McIntosh

The Bear

Through the lens of his “own complicated narrative as a nerdy Appalachian queer guy,” artist AARON MCINTOSH examines desire and the role mass-media images and text play in influencing our sexual identities. Combining sculpture, drawing, text and textiles, he references the historically gendered connotations of quilting and employs piecework as a metaphor to address identity construction. Aaron received his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. His numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Quirk Gallery Vault (2011) and Russell/Projects Gallery (2010) in Richmond, Virginia. Most recently, Aaron’s work was included in Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community (2014) at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York. His essay "Parallel Closets,” published in the April 2014 edition of The Brooklyn Rail, addresses the twin pursuits of queering craft and crafting queerness. Aaron lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I've read in another interview that your grandmothers were both skilled quilters. Did they teach you when you were a child?

Aaron McIntosh: My grandmothers actually didn’t teach me to quilt or sew. But they were always piecing, making quilts for family members, dragging out their scraps and in-process quilts and showing these things to us grandkids. I begged my mom to teach me to sew when I was nine, and she finally relented and showed me how to hand stitch. When I was 12, I taught myself to use the sewing machine, and off I went. I made lots of little quilts, clothes for dolls and for myself. I would show these things to my grandmothers. They were impressed and offered me sewing tips sometimes. Mostly though, I think they and everyone else expected me to grow out of this “phase.”

from Fragments

OPP: Why is quilting as a medium so well-suited for exploring "how stereotypes of sexual emotions, experiences, and identities are propagated in mass-produced images and print material, and in turn, how these images and text shape our own identities (from artist's statement)? Could you talk about the historical quilt patterns you reference in Big Little Men (2010), Bedroom Buddies (2010) and your 2013 solo exhibition Patterns?

AM: The quilt is an excellent platform for my content precisely because of the family connection and because it is a medium with multivalent trajectories. Whether personal or communal, minimal or maximal, staid or kitschy, high or low, quilts are flexible, open objects that are full of possibility. Piecework itself can be traditional, rigid or structured, but it can also be loose, intuitive, unhinged. Identity is analogous to crafting: it’s something we work on, obsess over, tend to with care. So I’ve chosen this patchwork medium to unload a lot of disparate thoughts about my identities: queer, Appalachian, textile nerd, academic, hopeless romantic, stray son, feminist, artist.

I am simultaneously deconstructing the quilt and my identity. On one hand, I am stripping away the quaint, Americana charm-factory status from the quilt, peeling back its cultural layers and infusing the medium with the realities of what happens beneath quilts: desire, sex, death and birth. On the other hand, I am enshrining that domestic decorative affinity as another burdened facet of gay male identity, a psychological sub-bottom to hyper-masculinity’s top. I use traditional quilt patterns such as Double Wedding Ring, Chain Links and an obscure one named Daddy Hex to further blur and complicate this relationship of parallel concerns.

In a recent series titled Fragments, I address this disjointed, scrappy, unfinished nature of identity. One work, Fragment #3: Roses are Red, is made by piecing a traditional quilt pattern called Roses are Red into an image of a heaving jock stud from a gay erotica magazine. The patchwork fabrics belonged to my grandmother, and the digital textile print is an enlarged, scanned copy of a cover of FirstHand magazine from the 1990s. Initially, I picked this blocky quilt pattern from my grandmother's collection because it could partially mask the cover model’s face—a direct nod to online cruising culture in which some men blur out their faces, focusing instead on their bodies. Deliberately using feminized quilt squares to dominate the figure reveals my hesitancy around body image, appropriate sexiness and gay male objectification. In the same way that this gay, masculine body is out of reach for a fag like me, so too is a fulfilling relationship with my family and their traditions. Both are just tantalizingly out of reach. So in this very literal way, I am forcing my queer desire to intersect my craft heritage and creating a space for what is in between.

Captive Heart Boyfriend

OPP: You've used gay and straight romance novels as a material in numerous ways since you were an undergrad. What first drew you to this material?

AM: Reading has always informed who I am, shaped my desire and sense of self, so it’s no wonder that I turn to printed text as a material. When I first turned my eye to the thrift store heaps of discarded romance novels, I was searching for a more evocative material than the masculinized plaids and men’s pants I had been using in quilts. I initially chose this material for aesthetic reasons—the pattern of text and yellowed pages—and because the novels were feminized objects that represent heterosexuality.

But after receiving several gay erotic novels as gifts, my relationship to the romance novel began to shift. Romance novels intended for straight women and those for gay men are radically different. Romance novels written for women tend to be drawn-out narratives with more focus on all the details leading up to the sexual act; entire pages may describe a mere glance. Gay novels, on the other hand, are typically printed in large type and double-spaced for quick reading. They have horribly loose narratives and a sex scene every couple of pages. I was fascinated by the simultaneous material resemblance and subject opposition. I played with juxtaposing the straight and gay romance novels to highlight their differences and their commonalities.

Notes for Future Romance(s) (detail)
168" x 94"
Straight romance novels fused to cotton and coded with highlighters, markers, pencil, pen & ink; drawings in watercolor, color pencil, stickers, enamel paint pen, acrylic medium, hair

How has your use of these cultural artifacts changed over time?

AM: I was entirely critical of them as reading material for the first several years. But then I decided to seriously read a few and give myself over to the possibility of a romance novel fantasy. I read five novels and was surprised to find my own stories in these novels. I became really intrigued by the small markings, repetitive cursive name writings and underlining by previous readers. I was inspired to start notating the novels, recording my own experiences. I changed (i.e. queered) the text by eliminating female pronouns and devised a coding system for repetitive motifs. I pieced these coded pages together with glue and they became the substrates for many works, including the large Notes for Future Romance(s), Boyfriends Series and Island.

I was drawn more and more to the materiality of sexual identity and began to use printed erotica and eventually porn. This widening spectrum of desire-bound material had one unifying quality: the intended reading space is a domestic setting. The home is the most private space to escape from workaday drudgery into romantic dreaminess or sexual fantasy. These fantasies take flight from the couch or bed. I wanted to make a functional object about reading and taking in desire. The Couch is a very grandmotherly couch covered in hundreds of racy pages. The original novel pages were scanned and digitally printed on fabric, so the couch is wholly functional. When a viewer steps closer, the homey look of patchwork shifts into a barrage of homoerotic titles, colorful straight novel couples, illustrated gay men en flagrante and text from both straight and gay sources. While some images and titles might be aggressive or oversexualized on their own, they are dulled by the conflation of so many disparate desire-driven images and text. As a visitor to my studio pointed out: “There’s something for everyone here!” The Couch has no hierarchy or dominant sexuality. It charts the known and unknown territories of my personal desire, which has been informed by a variety of gendered and sexual experiences.

Chronicles of Cruising (detail)

OPP: Could you talk specifically about the notion of erasure and absence as it is used in many of your works, including Romance Series (2006), Boyfriends Series (2009-2010), Chronicles of Cruising and NSA Boyfriends (both 2010)?

AM: Absence in my works speaks to both the voyeurism and loneliness that can accompany desire. Responding to loneliness and the lack of stable romantic relationships in my personal life, I created a series of larger-than-life boyfriends appropriated from romance novels. The flimsy, cut-paper men in Boyfriends Series are attempts to fill the voids of unattainable love; they are the stand-ins for boyfriends I cannot attain in real life. These boyfriends are “stolen” from their female counterparts in the romance novel covers, but the work is not a statement about removing women. I’m simply calling into question the heteronormativity of these couples and pointing out that straight men are just as desirable to queer men as they are to women. The removed men are made vulnerable and their sexual identity suspect. In eliminating one partner from these cover relationships, I am choosing to highlight what is absent rather than present.

Chronicles of Cruising is a collection of 365—I made one everyday in 2011—paper cut-outs of attractive guys from desire-based, print sources. Each guy is carefully removed from his respective partner, isolated on card stock, and then cataloged by month. Each man carries the traces of his fractured story in his clothing, accoutrement and posture, as well as the absent partner’s removed body silhouette. Such removal creates an overriding sense of loneliness in this set of new bachelors. The act of cruising—taking in quick, furtive glances of other bodies with no specific intention—is echoed in this queer reversal of the male gaze. Men become the objects of scrutiny, and the obsessive nature of desire itself is splayed open, rendered cold, mundane and creepy in the archival act of clipping.

Forest Frolic is my most recent work to take on absence. Two cavorting male figures have been removed entirely from an erotic illustration, The remaining scene is enlarged, printed on cotton and then quilted. This is the first work to completely remove all figures. Suggestive of the dangers of being sexually overt as a queer person in rural spaces, this quilt contains as much personal fantasy as anonymous, pervasive fear.

Weeds: Dandelion

OPP: Untended (2013) was a two-person exhibition with Jesse Harrod. Could you talk about the introduction of nature metaphors into this new work?

AM: The nature-based themes are an entirely new move in my practice, but they have been rising to the top for some time. The exhibition was the impetus for new ideas of embedding queerness into representations of nature. The title of the show is a reference to unmanaged gardens and the surprising, perhaps unwanted, growth that occurs when nature is allowed to freely form itself.

The Bear is a very family-personal work. Like The Couch, this work attempts to reach across generational divides through a language of form, but difference and unease are manifest in the materiality. In my remake of this taxidermy heirloom, the bear has been "freed" from his constraint as a legendary, family hunting trophy. Covered in shredded, gay pornographic "fur," he is the subaltern of my own romantic forays, sexual legends and hunted desire.

The Bear is surrounded by Weeds in an installation mocking "natural habitat.” The weeds—Briars, Pigweed, Broadleaf Plantain—are scourges to the home gardener. I draw a covert connection between these pernicious, unwanted plants and my own anxious efflorescence as a queer person in a tradition-steeped culture. My copies of disregarded, local plants are made strange by their patchwork skins of vintage fabrics and printed, gay erotica. In contrast to most of my other work, the text and images are embedded into the form so tightly that only fragments can be read, favoring subtle meaning over easy decoding.

To view more of Aaron's work, please visit aaronmcintosh.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/670567 2014-04-03T17:00:00Z 2014-04-03T12:54:31Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Bianca Kolonusz-Partee

Staten Island Ferry (Detail)
6” x 76”
Product packaging, colored pencils adhesives, map tacks

BIANCA KOLONUSZ-PARTEE’s colorful, constructed drawings of industrial shipping ports are crafted from repurposed product packaging, directing the viewer’s attention to the tons of commercial goods for individual consumption that move through these oft-ignored, interstertial spaces everyday. Bianca received her MFA from Claremont Graduate University (Claremont, California) in 2007. She has exhibited widely throughout California, including solo exhibitions at Offramp Gallery (Pasadena) in 2012, and Byatt Claeyssens Gallery at the Sonoma Academy (Santa Rosa) in 2010. Having investigated major U.S. ports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco,  Bianca now plans to visit various Asian ports to better understand issues surrounding global shipping. Her first stop will be the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka. She is currently raising funds for her trip with her project Sri Lanka or Bust. Bianca lives and works in Guerneville, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What fascinates you about ports and industrial landscapes?

Bianca Kolonusz-Partee: I grew up in northern California, and I learned to understand the landscape by traveling through it on the roads that intersected it. That we learn about something by basically breaking it apart is at the heart of my work. When I lived in San Francisco, I became intrigued by the container shipping port in Oakland and how ports are minimally-regulated global freeways that link us to the rest of the world. Later, as an MFA candidate at Claremont Graduate University, I experienced first hand the mega-port of Los Angeles. I began considering the effects of the pollution on the local population and the impact of this space on the global economy and environment. Our collective obsession with stuff became more serious for me.

Project: Outward Inward 2
40” x 180"
Colored pencils, product packaging, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: When and why did you first start using repurposed product packaging as your dominant medium?

BKP: When I left graduate school in 2007, I was using fine Asian and architectural papers. It just didn't feel right. I began using product packaging because it is the debris of the goods that travel through these ports. I never include logos or names, but I love the connection that people have to the highly designed product packaging of our contemporary world. Bottom line: I feel most comfortable with fewer fine tools. I appreciate both high-end and low-end packaging and enjoy pulling the colors, patterns, textures I need out of the material. Nothing is left as is.

OPP: What's your collection/accumulation process like?

BKP: I initially thought it was very environmentally-friendly of me to reuse discarded packaging, but I don't actually accumulate a lot in my own life. I asked friends and family to collect it and send it my way. I quickly realized that I was unfortunately spending resources that negate the "greenness" of my efforts. Also, I’ve been inspired to try specific products out because my friends liked them. I’ve realized that I am just as tied into our consumer culture as anyone else.

Keelung, Taiwan
21"x 53"
Recycled product packaging, colored pencils, adhesives and map tacks

OPP: Your work exists somewhere in the gray space between drawing and collage. Do you consider it more one or the other?

BKP: I love this question because it is a real struggle for me. I don't think of myself as a collage artist AT ALL. Collage talks about creating an image out of found images in a historically surrealist way. I think of my work as constructed drawings. I work with the materials in the same way that I would draw or paint. I began in these media. I still think of myself as a two-dimensional artist, but possibly I am a hybrid. The fact that my constructed drawings are created directly on gallery walls brings up the notion of installation. My favorite contemporary work is installation art: Ernesto Neto, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Ann Hamilton, Richard Serra. Erwin Redl does these amazing installations with LED lights that make you feel like you are inside of Tron. I went to see his piece at LAMoCA’s Ecstasy: In and About Altered States (2005) several times and walked through the grid that he created in the room. It was truly amazing.

But I have been most influenced by the great masters like Paul Cézanne. When I was an art student, his two-dimensional work absolutely had a physical impact on me. In my drawing class, we learned about figuring out a landscape by the connection points where elements intersected, and we looked at Cézanne. I drew like that for years: first landscapes, then roads cutting through landscapes and then shipping ports. I eventually discovered others like Turner, who documented the industrial seaport of his time. I often think of myself as a new version of an old master using today's technology to observe and document where we are right now.

Bridge to Bridge (Detail)
12” x 40”
Recyclable materials, colored pencils, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: Can you walk us through the process of drawing with these materials?

BKP: I work from a video of the port. I choose materials from three boxes of collected packaging organized into color groups: cool, warm, black/white/neutrals. My process is just like drawing a line or painting a section of color except that I am cutting out these shapes. I sketch a shape/area onto the packaging with colored pencils while looking at the video. Then I put double stick tape on the shape, cut it out with the yellow scissors—so as not to goo up my nice scissors—and place it on the piece. I am one of those people that has trouble drawing a straight line freehand. I allow my process to mimic my drawing ability by cutting out the straight lines and shaving it off piece by piece until I get it right. It is always about figuring out the space. As I revise, one area often becomes very built up with material. Sometimes I cut sections away with an even stronger pair of scissors. I might cover up an area if the color or pattern doesn't feel right or work to recreate the space. The dense sections of my work result more from my process than my subject matter.

OPP: One of the most significant aspects of your work is the use of the map pins. Was your decision to use them conceptual, formal or practical?

BKP: The pins began as a practical way to hold the work together. When I began working this way, each piece would be partially built and pinned together. Then I would finish building it into the space where I was exhibiting. Eventually, I decided that the pieces typically ended up being a set chunk on the wall, so I started to make sure the pieces were entirely connected before I installed. My largest piece Outward Inward 2, which is 15 feet long, is in three sections. I like the added random mark, which is why the tacks are multicolored, but they do hold the work to the wall. I use the tacks to make some structural pieces appear stronger and more stable on the wall. For example, if there is a big, heavy crane next to a tree, I don’t want the crane to be slipping around on the wall at all. But it’s okay if the tree moves a little.

Rambler Channel, Hong Kong B
20" x 30" framed
Recyclable materials, colored pencils, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: Could you talk about the difference between the larger landscapes pinned directly to the gallery wall and the smaller pieces pinned inside frames?

BKP: The framed pieces are the same as those that are pinned directly to the walls. I frame them on white backgrounds in white frames in order to evoke the white cube gallery wall. When I sell them framed, I do provide instructions and a container of map tacks to those who plan to install them on their walls. I prefer hanging the work out of the square and transforming the gallery space into a mock landscape where the walls become water and sky.

To The Ocean (Installation view at Project_210)
12” x 112"
Product packaging, colored pencils adhesives, map tacks

You've visited ports in Manhattan, New Jersey, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 2011, you shifted focus to Asian ports in your series Countries of Origins (2011). Could you talk about this shift? Have you visited any Asian ports in person?

BKP: Most of the goods that move through the US ports are made in and come from Asia. To see the full picture of consumerism and its global impact, I needed to shift my gaze to those countries providing inexpensive goods to the rest of the world. Countries of Origin, based on images from online videos, explores ports in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I haven't been able to afford to travel to Asia yet, but I have been able to piece these places together remotely. However, visiting the ports in person is a big part of my work. I have decided to kick off that effort by traveling to Sri Lanka to visit the port in Colombo. I am raising funds for my current project, Sri Lanka or Bust, using my website and a Facebook page. I will sell the work that I make before the trip from a series of images that I found on the internet to pay for the trip. I am currently making drawings with elements of the paper work in them. I have a dear friend from Sri Lanka who lives there and will be able to introduce me to her home, which will make the trip even more rich. Good or bad, we all make assumptions about foreign places. I look forward to replacing those assumptions with a real experience and to taking a look at shipping from a Sri Lankan perspective. I'll use my own video, photographs and experience to make work about the port in Colombo, Sri Lanka upon my return.

To view more of Bianca's work, please visit bkolonuszpartee.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/667504 2014-03-27T17:00:00Z 2014-03-27T14:42:12Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Patrick D. Wilson

Laminated C-prints

The photographed-covered, fractured planes of PATRICK D. WILSON's discrete objects read as multifaceted mirrors, reflecting the details of a larger, surrounding environment. He employs the interplay between surface, volume and depth to reveal the complex amalgam of geometry, texture, meaning and memory that comprise geographic and architectural spaces. Patrick received his MFA in Sculpture from San Francisco Art Institute in 2005. He has exhibited extensively throughout California at institutions including the SFMOMA Artists Gallery (2010), Berkeley Art Center (2011), Headlands Center for the Arts (2012) and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (2013). He was awarded a 2012-2013 Fulbright Fellowship to travel to Chongqing, China to document the city’s pervasive construction sites. He recorded his experience on his blog and exhibited new work in a solo show at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (2013). Having recently returned to the U.S., Patrick is in the process of relocating to Brooklyn.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What was your first piece that combined sculpture and photography?

Patrick D. Wilson: Infinity Crate was the first piece I made combining sculpture and photography. I used downloaded images of stars photographed through a telescope to cover the outside of a small meteor-shaped crate sculpture. I made this piece in response to some of the reactions I was getting to my sculptures including Low Earth Orbit, Crash Site (2007). Viewers would often ask, "What's inside?" I always thought this was a strange question to ask about an artwork, as I would assume that the artist is showing me what they want me to see. Ideally, the viewer will imagine what objects are inside any of my crate or box sculptures. I once jokingly replied that the sculptures were filled with infinite space. I initially made this piece as a humorous response, but I felt that the photographs actually created that paradoxical sense of space on the surface of the vessel. So I started to explore other ways of replicating that.

Westfield Centre Skylight
Laminated photographs
12" x 20" x 12"

OPP: Sculptures like Westfield Centre Skylight (2009), Cloud City I (2010) and The One That Looks Like a Cloud (2010) are reminiscent of crystal formation. Is this a visual reference for you?

PDW: A lot of people see crystalline structures in these works, but there isn't really a conceptual link to that. It's not something I am conscious of when I compose them. I think it's just that crystals also have very apparent geometries and form in these conglomerated structures that are similar to the way my sculptures are built up.

I think more about architecture and rocky landscapes when I am sketching these. I hope that the arbitrary geometric formations will create an intuitively habitable space. The sculptures are like architectural models, which invite viewers to imagine themselves inhabiting the space as if the tiny rooms and hallways were real. Photographs similarly lead a viewer to imagine the environment beyond the edge of the frame. Both of these forms encourage a nearly-automatic, imaginary transformation without any form of verbal suggestion. This involuntary image production occurs all the time when we watch television or listen to the radio, whether or not we are fully conscious of it. It's the part of us that stitches stories out of fragmented scraps of perception. I take advantage of this unique function of the human mind to create spatially-constrained objects that also suggest an environmental or immersive embodiment.

Right now, viewers feel very connected to the hard edges and geometric faces because of the amount of digitally-composed imagery they are consuming. I imagine these sculptures will look quite different in ten years, and that my compositions will adapt with the compositional tools that I have access to.

House Crisis
Wood and laminated photographs
33" x 33" x 28"

OPP: There are many steps to your artistic process: taking photographs, designing using three-dimensional modeling software and fabricating your sculptures. Is there any part of the process that you enjoy most?

PDW: I definitely like taking the pictures the most. I imagine myself to be visually mining the environments for their interesting materials and textures. It's sort of out-of-body approach to looking. Really there are two separate phases to the photography. In the first phase, I photograph entire scenes as a way of contextualizing the work and to figure out where my interest really lies. That process informs the three-dimensional models. Then I have to go back for the second phase to get the surface photographs that will fit the sculptural form. I don't generally use pictures of entire objects to get the textures. I photograph smaller parts. That way I get better resolution, and I can photograph from angles that create interesting geometry on the sculpture.

OPP: Is there any part you wish you didn't have to do?

PDW: Assembling the cut photographs is probably the most painful. I always think I am going to enjoy it. But about half way through the process, I start to melt down because it requires a lot of slow, careful handwork, which usually has to be redone at least once. Anything creative is already done by that point, and there isn't even any problem-solving to do other than keeping the dust and air bubbles out of the adhesive. But it's a good chance to space out and listen to a year's worth of podcasts.

Materials Yard

OPP: You were awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to travel to China in 2012-2013. What led you to Chongqing specifically?

PDW: My general topic was construction sites. Chongqing is a gargantuan and rapidly-expanding area of China, so it seemed like there would be plenty of relevant material for me there. Wikipedia puts the population of Chongqing at over 29 million, though the actual urbanized population is probably a third of that. I was fascinated by the idea of this inland, industrial megalopolis that most people hadn't heard of, especially prior to its recent corruption scandals. It was off the radar for people who weren't specifically interested in China, and I assumed that meant that it was sheltered in some ways from the westernization you see in comparable cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The Sichuan Fine Arts Institute is also there. They have a sculpture department that is very famous for public works, especially government-commissioned, large-scale monuments. This seemed to be a very unique part of the sculptural universe, so that drew me there as well.

OPP: What’s fascinating about construction sites for you?

PDW: Virtually all sculptors have a fascination with industry and its capabilities. Construction sites are one field within the industrial landscape. The sheer accumulation of materials—steel scaffolding, concrete, plywood—is exciting to anyone who is a maker. But I am particularly interested in documenting the construction site as a continuous, nomadic event that exists independently of architecture and development. The construction site is more than a stage in a building’s life; it is a roving matrix of material and labor that is the generative edge of the urban world. It's a necessary agent of change, but it creates so much waste, pollution, noise and human toil. It is the dark and dirty complement to the shiny image that is presented by real estate developers. It is this value-neutral beast with its own momentum and economy that is hidden behind the curtain of progress. That conception of a construction site's existence continues long after the buildings are bulldozed.

Kashgar Column
Wood and laminated C-prints
32" x 18" x 32"

OPP: Could you highlight some of the new work created in China that was in your solo exhibition at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in October of 2013?

PDW: The most successful piece in the show was Kashgar Column. Kashgar is in Xinjiang province near the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. It was an extremely inspiring place. I didn't feel like I was in China anymore. The relevant issues in my research shifted; the geography took over. The images on the outside of that sculpture are of the doors saved by the families in the old city of Kashgar. I read that the doors are thought to contain the family history and must be moved with the families when a home is demolished. When I left Chongqing, I gifted that piece to the sculpture department at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and brought a duplicate copy of the constituent photographs home in a plastic tube.

Learning to make sculpture in Chongqing was definitely more challenging than I expected. You would think that a city that builds as much as Chongqing does would have limitless access to materials, but procuring the materials I wanted was difficult. Fractal Architecture is a piece that I made in a furniture factory where they fabricated Ming Dynasty-styled furniture. I was invited to work there after complaining to one of the sculpture professors about the quality of the wood I was finding. When I got to the furniture factory, I found that they actually used a lot of oak imported from the U.S. I lived there several days a week—it was more than two hours away from my apartment—and worked alongside their crew. Most of the workers spoke local dialect, so I could only communicate directly with the two that also spoke standard Chinese. That was a great experience in making because we largely communicated through our shared language of the craft.

To see more of Patrick's work, please visit patrickdwilson.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/665144 2014-03-20T17:00:00Z 2014-03-20T13:44:37Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Janelle W. Anderson

The Chase
Graphite, colored pencil, and ink on mylar
11" x 15"

JANELLE W. ANDERSON's layered, graphite drawings on mylar evoke a surreal sense of loss, nostalgia and confusion. Dreamlike, undefined spaces are populated with juxtapositions of human limbs, gaping maws with sharp teeth, eyeballs, butterflies, birds in flight, bunnies and the tangled web of power lines city-dwellers must peer through to see the vastness of the sky. Janelle received her BFA in Painting from the Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she won the Nagel Art Thesis Award in 2011. Her work will be on view in The Octopoda Invitational, curated by Scott Bailey, at Love Gallery (Denver) until March 28, 2014. Janelle's solo exhibition All Together Now opens in July 2014 at Pirate: Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado, where she lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Are the juxtapositions of animals, objects, patterns and body parts in your drawings random? Is it more important to evoke a narrative or a mood with these juxtapositions?

Janelle W. Anderson: I use a lot of recurring symbols and animals in my work: rabbits, skulls, all-seeing eyes and, within the last year, the open mouths of carnivorous animals. I repeat these symbols because they have complex meanings for me personally but can also be interpreted in numerous ways by the viewer. I enjoy art that I can stare at for hours and still have questions about. The narratives in my work are loose enough to encourage multiple readings. Ultimately, the entire composition is designed to be examined closely and trigger a range of emotions. I want to get an immediate reaction out of my viewer, and I try to direct that through the wide range of emotions and human qualities associated with animals.

Rabbits, for example, are cute and cuddly. But they’re also rodents and will reproduce to the point of grotesque infestation. They’re also lucky, spontaneous, vulnerable, clever and quick-witted. I personally identify with the sensitive, timid side of rabbits, and I always associate them with "time running out" because of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I try to draw my rabbits with a good balance of cute and creepy to make them mysterious. Right now, I’m obsessed with drawing roaring lions and barking dogs because of the sudden burst of that emotional release. It’s like an explosion. I’m fascinated by the texture and physical form of their open mouths. It’s the contrast of sharp teeth and wet tongues. There’s a sense of danger that makes the imagery really enticing.

Self Portrait with Teeth
Graphite, colored pencil, and ink on mylar
9" x 12"

OPP: Could you talk about the interaction of real and imagined space in your compositions? I'm thinking about the differences between your series of paintings Big Empty Sky (2012) and the surrealistic drawings from Voyage (2013).

JWA: Space and time have both been important components in my work since I was in school. The paintings in Big Empty Sky are depictions of real, physical space, but the true subject of the paintings is the uniform blankness and depth of the sky on a dreary day. I’m still really interested in creating that feeling of blankness. The great thing about working with mylar is that I can get that hazy effect from the material. In a sense, I’ve progressed from depicting a blank sky to placing my subjects inside of this ambiguous blankness. The figures in Voyage, and in my current work, transcend time and space. There is much more freedom in working with this indefinable space; it allows me to be more creative with the ideas I’m trying to express.

OPP: Is there a pervasive mood to the blankness? Is blankness truly ambiguous, or do you see it as more positive or negative?

JWA: This feeling of blankness is definitely existential. I keep coming back to the idea that life is inconsequential, due to its temporary, fleeting state. I have both positive and negative feelings about being temporary. I consider my art practice to be an ongoing exploration in finding meaning and purpose in the ephemeral.

Graphite and ink on mylar
18" x 18"

OPP: Many of your drawings on mylar have layered imagery, in which one image seems more tangible, more present, while other images seem like wispy ghosts. This is especially true in your series Entangles. How do you achieve this effect? How does it convey your conceptual interests?

JWA: The works from Entangles are each made up of three to four separate layers of mylar. I drew different elements on each layer and stacked them to create the ghost layer effect. I continue to push the effect in my current work by drawing on both sides of the paper and even creating double-sided pieces that become sculptural.

I’m attracted to the ghost image for several reasons. For one thing, people have to look more closely to see the ghost image. It requires a viewer to spend more time with the piece. I want to reward the patient viewer and give people something to seek out in my work. Another reason I like the ghost image is that it seems like a memory or dream and evokes the feeling of nostalgia. This relates to my interest in the passing of time, our perception of it and the desire to hang on to the single, fleeting moment.

Titanium Expose (detail)
Graphite and colored pencil on mylar
12" x 36"

OPP: In 2013, Curious Nature was a two-person exhibition featuring your work and the work of Myah Bailey. The hybrid animals in this show are less dream-like and surreal than in earlier work. They are more horrific or uncanny. I'm thinking of Beast and Baby Creature, which make me think of genetic engineering, or Seeing Shell and Octopus Flower, which make me think of fantasy and science fiction worlds. How do you think about the creatures you created?

JWA: I read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn for the first time about four years ago and was struck by how the narrator Oly Binewski, a blind, albino, hunchback dwarf, felt that her “freak-ness” was special. She thought it would be terrible to be “normal.” One of my favorite quotes of hers is: “I get glimpses of the horror of normalcy. Each of these innocents on the street is engulfed by a terror of their own ordinariness. They would do anything to be unique.”

For this series, I created creatures that are confident their freak-ness. They’re not hiding, but they’re not flaunting themselves either. They’re comfortable in their own skin. I find them quite romantic and charming.

Baby Creature
Graphite and ink on mylar
18" x18"

OPP: What's happening in your studio right now?

JWA: I’m showing a new piece titled Juice in the Octopoda Invitational. It's part of an ongoing portrait project I’m working on. The starting point for each drawing is a photo sent to me by another person. Most of the time people send me photos of themselves. But sometimes the photos are of loved ones or they contain two or more people. This challenges me with a starting point that I don’t get to choose. It forces me to construct a composition that uses a portion of the photograph and fits with what I’m trying to communicate through my work. The working title of this in-progress series is All Together Now, and the unifying theme of the series is the complexity of the human condition.

To see more of Janelle's wok, please visit janellewanderson.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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 solo exhibitions include 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.