tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:/posts OtherPeoplesPixels Blog 2015-07-23T12:46:47Z OPP tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/885432 2015-07-23T12:43:42Z 2015-07-23T12:46:47Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Melissa Leandro
Fracturada, Monument
Woven fabric, plastic, vinyl, electrical tape on linen. Heat fused
82” x 100”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waist Side
Jacquard weaving, gradient stitching

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

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

Braided tapestry warp on jacquard weaving
28" x 26"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/882027 2015-07-16T12:43:49Z 2015-07-16T12:43:50Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Natalie Loveless
Victoria Singh: SON/ART- Kurtis the 7 Chakra Boy: 07/07/04- 07/07/11
22-minute video loop (documentation of seven-year performance)
Soundtrack by Derek Champion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenka Clayton: Maternity Leave
Skype-based Durational Performance

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

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

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

Alejandra Herrera: Challenge
3 hour durational performance

OPP: What was the curatorial premise of the show?

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

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

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

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

Jill Miller: The Milk Truck
Ongoing Social Practice Performance

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

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

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

Lovisa Johansson: Jumping Lullaby
Performance action
30 minutes

OPP: And the second hypothesis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPP: Tell us about The VACCINES Project.

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

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

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

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

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/878729 2015-07-08T18:09:18Z 2015-07-09T12:33:48Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ian Monroe
Installation view of Currents 105
Saint Louis Art Museum.

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

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

Ideal Pursuits
Vinyl on Aluminum
176cm x 331cm

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

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

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

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

The Instantaneous Everything
Installation view

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

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

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

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

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

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/876160 2015-07-02T17:00:00Z 2015-07-02T12:48:27Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Fafnir Adamites
Interiorization of the Outward. Exteriorization of the Inward. (detail)
Felted burlap, paper, felt
11'x 8'x 6'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

56"x 32"x 32"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does longing play in your practice? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much better
Inkjet print on backlit film and lightbox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City As Site
(Viaduct study, Kostner Ave.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah-moor (detail)
99 inch x 64 inch

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

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

35 inch x 23 inch

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

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

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

MARY KAY Protection Device

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

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

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

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

Machera Series 5
Performance, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/865420 2015-06-04T12:59:55Z 2015-06-10T03:07:01Z NewThing Is Coming. . . You're going to love it. It's a set of super-modern new Layouts and features for your OPP website. Of course, because OPP ♥s artists, you'll get everything NewThing has to offer completely free and with no need to re-upload a thing. NewThing offers four gorgeous, new full-screen Layouts, so your viewer's experience of your artwork is dynamic, visually-driven and easy to navigate. Please visit our Featured Artists' websites to see the new layouts in action.

Layout A

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



Layout B

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



Layout C

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



Layout D

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


Mobile-friendly and Responsive!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acrylic on recycled cardboard
84" X 24"

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

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

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

7th Avenue, NYC

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

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

Acrylic on recycled cardboard

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

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

Cut out painted cardboard, Sunset Blvd.

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

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

Painted wall in vacant lot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renovated Newky Toy
Wood and mixed media

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

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

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

Vehicle of Strange Conception
Wood and mixed media

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

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

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

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

Ladder and Three Chairs
Wood, graphite

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

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

Raft for____________
Wood and mixed media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPP: What other recurring material metaphors do you use?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPP: What role does mystery play in your practice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO! Site and Source (detail)

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

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

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

Brick (detail)

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pink Flair
Oil on canvas
72" x 60"

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

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

Oil on canvas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being With

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cleansing
Oil on linen
136 x 200 cm

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

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

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

Oil on linen
68 x 61 cm

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPP: Have you ever considered exhibiting the sculptures themselves?

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

White Wedding
Oil on canvas on board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue/White Ware

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

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


OPP: What inspired this series?

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

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

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

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

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

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

plop block

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pith 4
Oil on birch panel
48" x 60"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oil on birch panel
60" x 60"

OPP: Do you use assistants?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acrylic and pen on masonite panel
4' x 6'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suspicious Packages (Finland)
Single Chanel Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/823329 2015-03-12T14:15:43Z 2015-03-12T14:15:44Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joshua Schwebel
A black leather glove was stolen from the office of the director of the MFA program at NSCAD. While I never admitted to having taken it, the program director was convinced that I was the culprit, even after the glove was anonymously returned to his home mailbox. I have since collected black leather gloves found on the street, and am anonymously mailing these one by one to his house.

JOSHUA SCHWEBEL repeatedly uses the strategies of displacement, redirection, impersonation and counterfeit in his conceptual, action-based practice. Whether he is leaving counterfeit missed delivery slips on the doors of art galleries, submitting exhibition proposals "on behalf of" other artists or paying people to visit a Montreal art gallery in order to skew attendance statistics, his projects often have the feel of art-world pranks while simultaneously calling into question our perceived distinctions between fiction and reality, as well as expectation and actual outcome. Joshua earned his BFA from Concordia University in 2006 and his MFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2008. Recent solo exhibitions include [Caché] at AKA Artist-Run (2014) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Artspace (2013) in Petersborough, Ontario, and Micah Lexier (2012) at articule (Montreal, Quebec). In January 2015, Joshua began a year-long residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, representing the province of Quebec, where he usually calls home.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Do you relate to the archetype of the Trickster?

Joshua Schwebel: I am really interested in shifting the ways that information refers to reality, and in so doing, constitutes the reality of the “real.” In much of my work, I try to shift or displace the relationship between information and reality, to show how our experience of what “is” is constructed by our anticipation of that expected reality. That being said, I do not identify with The Trickster even though my work has been labeled this way before. The Trickster archetype is expropriated from Indigenous and First Nations mythology, and since I have respect for other cultures’ symbolic integrity, I cannot accept this label. It perpetuates a problematic and privileged ignorance to pick and choose from cultural symbols.

Letter to articule director (from Please Do Not Submit Original Works)
Once learning that my imposter-submission had been accepted, I knew that I would have to disclose my action and the reasoning behind it, so I sent this letter to Julie Tremble, director of articule.

OPP: For Presentation: MFA Thesis Project (2008), you perpetrated to be working intensely on a tangible sculpture only to end up presenting nothing at the opening. In retrospect, you had been working on a year-long performance about anticipation and expectation. You were working the entire year, just not in the way people thought. Were you surprised by the response?

JS: I really enjoyed that project and felt a lot of energy and excitement while preparing for the public encounter with the (absent) work. I wasn’t expecting that people would misunderstand the project or would respond negatively to it. However, students and faculty both reacted quite strongly, and their reactions were surprising. I remember feeling in a bit of a panic over how the atmosphere in the school suddenly shifted. Before the show, I was a relatively unremarkable student, whereas, during and after the show, I found that I had ignited very strong reactions. This was exhilarating, because I really want to make work that creates a reaction, but also, like I said, unexpected. I wanted to create that reaction, but I didn’t anticipate how it would feel for me to be identified as the source of this reaction.

Working (part of Presentation: MFA Thesis Project)
A series of digital photos in which the artist is "working."
Photo Credit: Cam Matamoros

OPP: Can you describe the reactions more specifically?

JS: I prefer not to focus on people’s reactions without more carefully considering the stakes or factors within the work. Setting up my work as provocative of negative reactions reduces what I am doing to how people react to what I'm doing. In many of my works, nobody reacts, or there is no public. I do not consider these works any less interesting or deliberate!

To focus on emotional reactions overlooks the significant risk that I invest personally in enacting a work. For me, the type of critique I am pursuing also deliberately and necessarily involves deep personal risk. This is because I am part of the system, and I can only critique the system as a part of it. However, this means that I also cannot escape the impact of it, and must also examine my own investment in the system and culpability for its flaws while showing how corrupt and inadequate it is. In the case of the MFA project, I was risking my degree. I was daring the faculty and the committee to specify the conditions by which the MFA is granted, by potentially failing the degree as a result of my project's demonstration of the degree's bankruptcy.

Presentation: MFA Thesis Project
Opening reception

OPP: How does the challenge of human emotion aid or obstruct your conceptual agenda?

JS: I am interested in provoking and upsetting systems and social constructs. If people are so attached to these systems and processes that they become upset when I apply pressure to an unexamined aspect of a system, their reaction is only part of the work insofar as it elaborates the limits of the social system I am addressing. I am interested in how people protect systems, and how limits can be articulated by these protective behaviors.

Sometimes people get angry, but this is not the goal of my work. It's merely a byproduct. My intention is to create an intellectual disconnect: I am engaged in challenging values that privilege certain forms of encounter. Sometimes when values are challenged, people react emotionally, and I think in these cases, emotions are an expression of frustration or misunderstanding. But I am not trying to hurt anybody, just make them reconsider what they think, or indicate certain circumstances in which they act or react without thinking.

OPP: How has your MFA project affected the trajectory of your work since then?

JS: I have been refining many of the themes I discovered through that work: the relationship between expectation and absence, the circulation of the fictive or counterfeit and how the art gallery can turn anything into art, since it both signifies and neutralizes all content. Since then, I have looked more closely at these themes, finding new connections and permutations in so doing. Looking back at the project, it still feels familiar and exciting to me since it opened up a large territory of concepts, which I’m still exploring.

He pretended to be JPM
He pretended to be John
He pretended to be Eric Clapton as George Harrison
He pretended to be Don Knotts replacing Brian Epstein
He pretended to be Charlie Brill impersonating John Lennon
He pretended to be Neil Aspinall, impersonating Paul, aka Faul
He was also pretending to be Ringo Starr pretending to be Captain Kangaroo, but that scheme bellyflopped.
You see, not all things are what they seem to be.
Inkjet prints on paper, installation view
36" x 48"

OPP: Impersonation is a staple strategy for you. In Please Do Not Submit Original Works (2012), you submitted a proposal for an exhibition to the gallery articule "on behalf of" Canadian conceptual artist Micah Lexier. In Vertigo: Between the Deaths (2009), you hired an actor to impersonate you in both your personal and professional life. Fonograph (2011) examines "the conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney of the Beatles died in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by an impostor." Could you talk generally about your interest in impersonation?

JS: This is a difficult question, because impersonation is so central to my practice. The more I work with the concept, the further it leads me. Part of my work is a critique of the cult of the artist’s name, and how, as artists, it seems less important to produce any ‘thing’ as it is to produce and circulate our names. Disturbing the artist-brand is sacrilegious, and impersonation is a technique to achieve this disturbance. Another aspect involves the debates around performance art and documentation, and how the live event of performance is made permanent (and no longer live) by its documentation. I see an analogy between the performance document and the role of the impostor or impersonator. I am conceptually attracted to any value system that both requires and denigrates a substitute, impersonation being one expression of this. 

"Fall": refabrication
Pen and ink
I found a letter to the editor of Art in America written by Carl Andre denouncing an unauthorized reproduction of his (mechanically produced) work. I reproduced this letter by hand, and inserted my hand-written copy in the place of the printed letter. I left the magazine in the archives of a library (location undisclosed).

OPP: Is there a meaningful distinction between these impersonations of individuals and your hand-drawn versions of mass-produced printed material in projects like How to Get Into A Major Museum Collection (2012) and Circulaire (2014) or "Fall:" refabrication (2010)?

JS: Not really. I see the drawing work as a direct extension of my interest in impersonation. Both impersonation and drawing stem from a fascination with identity as construction, and  both attempt to study how our personal claims to identity (which we believe to be knowable, visible, self-contained and rational) are haunted by the non-transparent, incomprehensible, secretive and fragmentary. My drawn work is intended to exist as counterfeit. The counterfeit is fundamentally but invisibly different from the authentic object. However, to function as counterfeits, rather than technically sophisticated replicas, they must be circulated as everyday objects amongst everyday objects. The disruption they might enact can only operate in circulation.

How to Get Into a Major Museum Collection
Markers, pen on acid-free paper
1,396 tags each measuring 1.5 x 3"

OPP: Let's talk about the practicalities of documentation as it relates to funding and exhibition proposals. In most cases, one must read a lot to understand your work, which can count against an artist when decisions are made by panels. How have your methods of documenting your work changed over time? Any advice for other conceptual artists whose work does not have a prominent visual component?

JS: I struggle occasionally with the limited attention span of juries and the conservative structures of portfolio submissions. I am not by any means the first artist to work with context-specific work or to evacuate meaning or aesthetic appeal from the image. It bothers me that juried submissions presuppose an image-centric practice. I think the wrong approach is to change one’s work to meet these institutional expectations. I am sure that my career suffers from this position, but I am pretty hard-headed about what my work is and what it isn’t. The work requires explanation, and thought, which I am not willing to abandon or compromise. For other artists, my advice is to keep being stubborn and keep being patient.

To see more of Joshua's work, please visit joshuaschwebel.com.

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/818836 2015-03-05T18:00:00Z 2015-03-05T15:19:34Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Amy Hughes
She's Sweet N' Sour

AMY HUGHES' photographs are colorful, textured and sensual. Combining found props and crafted objects with the human figure, she invites the viewer to imagine the taste, smell and feel of her "fabricated world of surreal imagery and visceral pleasure." Amy earned her BFA in Fine Art Photography (2013) from Texas State University, San Marcos. She's exhibited her work at Flatbed Press, UP Collective and the University Galleries at Texas State University. Amy lives and works in Austin, Texas.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You construct scenes to photograph, as in Conscious Fantasy, and photograph scenes you discover, as in Revert and Enter Exit. From a process point of view, do you prefer one way of working?

Amy Hughes: I do prefer one way of working, but it was a task to find what that was exactly. In general, my process still starts off with street photography as in Revert and Enter Exit, which was photographed in my home town of Midland, Texas. Those photos are not only nostalgic to me because they are remnants of my roots, but street photography fulfills me in that same manner. I love the experience of reloading film and roaming until my senses and eyes grab onto what I find appealing. And I’m enamored with the history of street photography.

But there came a time when I was looking at my street photos littered across that white wall, and I couldn’t help but feel annoyed by the banal. I thought, yes, I do like these photos, but where’s the weird? Where’s the challenge? Where are those bits of funk that exemplify me as the creator? That’s when I decided I needed to take it to a level where I felt like I had stamped a piece of my individuality on every photo.

I began a new approach of executing these odd combinations of visions I’ve always had floating around in my mind. I began to feel overwhelmingly fulfilled by the control I now I had over my work. Layers of pleasure and satisfaction came from directing the models and taking them out of their comfort zone, constructing scenes rather than stumbling across them and using my hands to craft the three-dimensional props I envisioned rather than hoping they fell into my lap. Street photography is not be my main focus anymore, but it certainly got me to where I am. It still warms up my artistic eye and mind to get the ball rolling on what I really love to do: constructing the scenes in Conscious Fantasy.

She Wears the Pants

OPP: Texture and color are dominant features in Conscious Fantasy. The photographs are very visceral. They are visually seductive, but almost immediately I imagine what these scenes smell and feel like. Photography, as a medium, doesn't usually have this capability. Could you talk about sensuality and photography?

AH: The bright colors in these photographs are the initial spark that sets off a trail to other senses. I like my viewers go through the process of being far away and thinking, ok, that’s a bright portrait or still life. Then as they approach, they think, oh gross! that’s actually sardines, PB&J or raw meat. Ultimately, I want that prop to spark a memory of what the object really smells and feels like.

Photographs are powerful visual fragments of documented time. They trigger past memories. It’s pretty remarkable how smell, taste and touch have just as much power to evoke strong memories. I find it fun and challenging to kill a few birds with one stone and incorporate layers of colors, textures and distinct smells or tastes so the viewer does step away having felt that odd visceral combination you don’t always come across in photography. A majority of my photo shoots involve getting messy. That’s what I love about it. I’m leaving the mark of my hand in each photograph.

Potent Gems

How you go about choosing/collecting the props you use in the Conscious Fantasy photographs?

AH: My prop approach comes in different waves, but I have to credit my love for fashion photography and my antique shopping addiction. I’m drawn to retro/vintage anything. Items from my collections work their way into my photographs because I see them as individual pieces of art on their own. I especially love the aesthetic of the 1950s-70s. I try to combine the pieces from that era with contemporary prop choices.

Aside from constantly collecting for my photos and personal pleasure, my approach is to simply lay in silence with a notebook and pen next to me. I love seeing where my mind goes with no restraint. Many interesting blends of nature melting into the artificial world roll across my eyelids. I grab my pen and hurry to write down what I saw, then repeat. From there, I pick what objects on the list are most affordable and what I’m able to get my hands on. For Potent Gems, I wanted wearable food. I settled on getting my hands on some shrimp cocktail. Then thought of ways to push it further to make the shrimp a main focus. I decided to string a shrimp necklace! Then that’s when I go into my stash of retro clothes, bedding, china and style something that appropriately compliments the crafted prop.

I prefer portraiture to still life, so I always incorporate human or animal properties when possible. But mostly I enjoy opposing elements and placing objects where they aren’t supposed to be. It’s like I’m creating these temporary sculptures that are too surreal to exist in the mundane world.  


OPP: Even when humans are present, these photographs are never portraits in the conventional sense. Most often, the face is obscured or only partially revealed. Could you talk about your choice to obscure faces?

AH: I usually don't show the whole face for two reasons. In practical terms, my props often don't scale up to the size of the human body, so I zoom in to display what it is I'm trying to focus on. More poetically, the eyes are the windows to the soul. If I include the eyes, the focus becomes the face and who that person is. I don't want viewers thinking, Is the model pretty/ugly? Uncomfortable? Do I like her makeup? Do I know her? I try to avoid evoking questions which would render the rest of the photograph as a second thought.

Ingrown Hairs

OPP: Do you always carry your camera?

AH: My cameras are like children, so I don’t take them places they may get severely hurt or lost. It really just varies depending on what that day’s plans hold. I always have my 35mm on me while traveling or trekking around unknown territories, but no, the kids don’t accompany me on daily errands. As for my constructed scenes, those photos are mostly set up inside on designated shoot days.

OPP: What's next for you? What's your next planned shoot?

AH: Wrapping up the second part of Conscious Fantasy in Austin, Texas is what’s on tap for me! This city oozes bright, eclectic and inspiring visuals everywhere. I couldn’t be in a better place while working on this series. The next planned shoot is this week. It involves working a mini cactus into my friend’s hair bun. I’m surprised I have friends by the end of these photo shoots. . . hahaha.

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

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/815980 2015-02-26T14:40:06Z 2015-02-27T14:03:16Z OtherPeoplePixels Interviews John Early
Semicolons and salt shakers
Installation View

An existential thread runs through the work of interdisciplinary artist JOHN EARLY. His rearrangements of discarded car parts encountered in his everyday life, a video of his son painting the sidewalk with water and room-sized sheets of paper covered in shoe prints, scuff marks and stains from his studio floor: these all are records of ephemeral marks made by human beings. John received his BA from University of Virginia (2000) and his MFA from Washington University (2010). He has exhibited extensively in group exhibitions including shows at Center of Creative Art (2011 and 2012) and White Flags Projects (2009) in St. Louis and Whitdel Arts in Detroit (2013 and 2014). Recent solo exhibitions include Objects in mirror (2014) at The Garage in Charlottesville, Virginia and Semicolons and salt shakers (2014) at beverly in St. Louis, where John lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk about your interest in mark-making?

John Early: My interest in mark-making is a conceptual extension of drawing, which at its core is the record of a gesture. There’s something very primal and human about the act of making a mark. In reference to why he makes art, Felix Gonzalez-Torres said, “Above all else, it’s about leaving a mark that I existed.” I find that both beautiful and profound. I’m very much interested in this view of mark-making—one that frames the mark in terms of evidencing presence. Looking back, this interest has been with me for at least the past fifteen years. One piece that immediately comes to mind is from a fellowship exhibition in 2001. It consisted of scuffs and smudges made by a basketball on the gallery walls as visitors shot at a hoop I installed at the far end of the space. I think a couple of people were annoyed with this ball ricocheting everywhere, but it was a lot of fun. 

Swivel swing
Graphite and stool

OPP: Swivel swing and Standing snow angel, both 2010, invite viewers to become aware of their own arm span through mark-making. Your static-shot video Star gazing (2011) reminded me that if we are receptive to the information our senses offer, so much is going on all the time, even when it seems like nothing is happening. To what extent is your work about embodied mindfulness or noticing?

JE: My work definitely touches on those themes quite a bit, though they aren’t the impetus for pieces like those you mentioned, which often begin with simple questions. What might it look like to measure the wingspan of everyone in the world? What would it be like to watch a single ray of sunlight travel from the sun to the earth? (The duration of Star gazing—8 minutes and 20 seconds—approximates the time this would take.) Of course, such inquiries could be pursued or “answered” in any number of ways ranging from the scientific to the poetic. My approach to such wondering focuses on experiential knowledge, human scale and the element of time, which, taken together, invite new experiences of familiar things. 

Star gazing
Digital video
8:20 minutes

OPP: I've been thinking about the title of your recent exhibition Semicolons and salt shakers (2014) at beverly in St Louis. The function of semicolons and saltshakers is to bring out the existing flavor of a sentence or a dish. This is a really exciting framework for your dry-wall sculptures that emphasize the boundary between the floor and the wall. That space is always there, but somewhat overlooked unless one is painting the molding. Does my read jive with how you think about the work in that show? 

JE: I really love that read. I’d never given much thought to any associative or symbolic link between the two words. I liked the idea that a semicolon signifies a pause—which points back to the idea of noticing you mentioned earlier—and a salt shaker is a nice alliterative complement that also doubled as an allusion to the everyday. This is a prominent theme running through all the work included in the exhibition: photographs, sculptures and a video of my son painting the sidewalk with water.

The drywall pieces were scale models of the walls of my home studio. This conflation of space in which I both live and work is integral to my recent work, so I felt it was important to transpose elements of that space into the gallery. In planning out and envisioning the exhibition, none of the pieces made sense apart from the context in which they were made and currently lived. Traditional modes of display—white pedestals and wedges; wall works centered at 60 inches or whatever—often don’t work for my pieces. Even with pieces I’ve shown in multiple venues, I tend to install them differently each time they’re exhibited. Context just has such an enormous impact on how we experience any artwork. Anyway, I suppose I view all of my work as installation-based to some degree.

Objects in mirror
Found car parts

OPP: Could you talk about the difference between object arrangements like Untitled (Twain) (2013) or the various works made from found car parts from Objects in mirror (2012) and your photographs of found object arrangements like Salad Spinner (2014) or Cairns (2013)? When do you choose to exhibit a photograph of an arrangement instead of the arrangement itself?

JE: The sculptural pieces you reference are projects in which objects are gathered over time and organized in response to a particular space or context. Untitled (Twain) was part of a pop-up project I did with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis where several of us drove around town one morning collecting interesting debris—literally anything one of us saw that piqued our interest—and created a temporary sculpture that we juxtaposed with Richard Serra’s Twain (1982). A conversation between eight huge sheets of Cor-ten steel and an arrangement of colorful refuse seemed like a nice one to have. Similarly, Objects in mirror—an ongoing project with multiple iterations—consists of collecting automobile parts I see throughout the course of my day and arranging them in the form of a midsize sedan.

The photographs are part of a series extending these interests in modest materials and ephemerality, with each image acting as a “certificate of presence” (to borrow a phrase from Roland Barthes) that bears witness to the commonplace stuff of the world by calling attention to a particular encounter with it. Because the nature of these photographed “arrangements” is typically very temporary—my son dumped out the wooden blocks and bike helmet from the salad spinner (after all, it was his creation to begin with)—I haven’t often faced the question of whether to exhibit an arrangement or a photograph of it. For the beverly exhibition, however, I did include several individual objects that were also present in photographs I showed. 

Salad spinner
Digital image

OPP: As a contributor to Temporary Art Review, you interviewed your neighbor, fellow artist Tuan Nguyen, in March 2014. You asked a really great question about how being a father has impacted his art practice. Now I want to ask you to please answer your own question.

JE: Thanks, that was such an enjoyable conversation. In the nearly five years since becoming a father, I’ve definitely experienced greater freedom in my art making. I mean, sure, part of this is due to the general posture of wonder that children have toward the world. And I don’t mean to downplay that, but I think an even larger reason for my work changing in this way is more of a practical one: I simply don’t have as much time to work in the studio as I did previously. Some of my earlier work could become a bit belabored on occasion, but I feel more freshness in my work now. I’ve been forced to be more decisive, which has been great. Giving up some of those old habits of over-thinking took some getting used to, but it’s been nice to shed that skin and transition into a new phase of making. 

First "a"
Embroidery, peach crate, roll of tape, books, and a jar of dust
Dimensions variable

OPP: What about your most recent forays into embroidery? My assumption about Maroon Alex (2014) and First “a” (2014) is that you are documenting/memorializing/making more permanent your son’s first marks, like the embroidery is a “certificate of presence.” What led you to embroider instead of photograph these?

JE: I’m not sure how this series might evolve, but the impetus to use embroidery stemmed from the practice of sewing cross-stitch patterns to celebrate and remember significant events in the life of a family, such as the birth of a child. I grew up in a home with embroidery, mainly cross-stitch, on our walls—some patterns were quite ornate and included plants, animals, the alphabet and a short sequence of numbers—so I felt a connection to the visual language of the cross-stitch. I thought it would be a fitting vehicle through which to explore commemoration and remembrance, albeit of less momentous "events" in the life of my family today. This required learning the basics of embroidery, as I had no previous experience with it at all. I liked that it made me slow down. In a world where we continuously record anything and everything, to practice a relatively slower, more limited mode of "capturing" was a nice change of pace and perspective. There are several complex early scribble drawings done by my first son that I have visions of translating into cross-stitch form, which really I'm looking forward to. But I’ve been excited about them for about a year already, so we’ll see if they materialize!

To see more of John's work, please visit john-early.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/813359 2015-02-19T14:18:04Z 2015-02-19T14:24:35Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Selina Trepp
Dismount after the Win
Archival pigment print
40 x 29 inches

Interdisciplinary artist SELINA TREPP creates illusions of physical and conceptual space, conflating a variety of distinct artistic disciplines. She makes videos of herself painting her own portrait on a two-way mirror and creates immersive environments in which life-sized projections interact with tangible objects and sound. Most recently, she's been creating photographs of constructions in her studio which include paintings, her body, mirrors and sculpture. Ultimately, she expertly synthesizes each of these disciplines, highlighting the natural and imagined boundaries between them. Selina earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998 and her MFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago in 2007. She has exhibited extensively in Chicago and Zurich,  Switzerland, including shows at Glass Curtain Gallery (2014), The Franklin (2014), the Museum of Contemporary Art (2013), the DePaul Museum of Art (2012), message salon (2012) and Christinger de Mayo (2010).  In 2014, she mounted two solo exhibitions—Val Verità at Document Gallery and Waiting for the Train at Comfort Station—in Chicago, where she lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Surface, reflection and transparency are all present in your work in a variety of concrete ways. Could you talk about your recurring use of mirrors, see-through surfaces and video projection? Do you view these materials and media as symbolic? 

Selina Trepp: In my work these materials and media are not intended to be symbolic. I use them for what they do, not what they imply. Mirrors, in particular, have always been present in my work. I am intrigued by their ability to create simple magic, analogue trickery, and I am challenged by the heavy-handed symbolism that comes with the use of a mirror. Mirrors let me manipulate space, multiply objects, combine images, insert myself and move light and projection.

Video projection similarly can be used to create an illusionistic space or scenario affecting an actual space. Working with projection is as much about the space I am projecting into and onto, as it is about the video that is being projected.

No one is an Island
Mixed media installation
Variable dimensions

OPP: Can you offer an example from your work with projection and talk about how the space it was displayed in was affected?

ST: In No one is an Island (2007), the relationship between projection and space is most obvious. For this piece, four simultaneous projections activate the installation space. The gallery itself becomes the location of the action. The projections inject narrative performance and a sense of passing of time into the space.

Rather than projecting a cinematic landscape rectangle, my projections are matted and upended. They have an amorphous outline and soft edges; they blend with the surface they are projected onto. My goal for this work is for the projections to function as actors in the space, rather than as short films that are projected onto a screen.

Marvin and Ruby, an adult and a child who are completing each other’s reality in this piece, were filmed on a black background. They appear to float, hovering in space, like ghosts. On the floor sits a sculpture made of large pieces of mirror stacked and angled precariously on top of one another. Two projections bounce off the mirrored surfaces of the sculpture onto the architecture, covering the space with abstract shapes slowly fading from cold white to warm white to black.

Space Oddity
Inkjet print on self-adhesive vinyl, lcd monitor-dvd player, 5-minute video loop
150cm x 165cm

OPP: I'm particularly interested in Sherlokitty Surveillance Systems 2003 (2003), Space Oddity (2005) and The Baron in the Trees (2006). These pieces mix life-sized vinyl stickers of various screens with actual screens. Because I'm viewing it online and not in person, there is extreme spatial confusion and an added layer of screen-ness. It's hard to tell what is two-dimensional and what is three-dimensional. I assume that it was less disorienting when you first showed these pieces because the moving video revealed the real screen. As a viewer, did I lose or gain something by only seeing the virtual documentation?

ST: You lost a lot by not being able to experience that work in space. This body of work is disorienting in real life, but in a different way than in the documentation. The works have a distinct trompe-l’oeil effect. Initially they seem to have mass; they look “real.”As you move in closer, they flatten out and focus.

Thinking About Inheritance

OPP: Could you talk about flattening space and condensing time in Thinking About Inheritance?

ST: Thinking About Inheritance consists of a series of 12-minute videos and video stills, in which I trace and paint over my reflection on a two-way mirror. The camera is placed on one side of the mirror, recording the process, while I sit on the other side, painting over my reflection directly onto the mirror. The painted portrait obfuscates the photographic portrait over time. I paint myself away.

Looking at my history as an artist, I noticed that I had consistently avoided painting. Actually it was completely out of the question for me to paint; the form itself felt conservative and affirming of an antiquated understanding of what art is and should do. And a more profound reason I didn’t want to paint was because my mother and grandmother are/were both painters. The space of painting was taken by them, and for a long time it was important for me to work within my own territory.

Given my history, deciding to paint was a transgressive move for me. The issue of time is located in that part of the piece: in examining the progression of means of representation historically and personally through my own progression as an artist and as human. On a more pragmatic level, time is actually not condensed at all. The videos are shown in real time with no edits. They show me painting for as long as it takes to complete the painting.

The flattening of space in the videos as well as in the stills functions on multiple levels. Primarily the space of the photographic image and of the painted image become one through the analogue device of painting onto the mirror and the digital device of capturing this action with a camera. The surface of the mirror, where I paint, is what the camera focuses on. That image is captured by the lens of the camera. It’s a flat surface. There is not much depth of field, or else I can’t focus the lens. On another level I am reversing the historical progression of portraiture, in this case going from photography to painting, from objective to subjective.

The Painter
20 x 30 inches

OPP: The figure has often been present in your work, but usually in performance and video, as in No One is an Island (2007), When I hear Thunder, I take a Bow (2008) and Appear to Disappear (2009). Your newer work feels distinctly lo-fi—although conceptually more sophisticated—when compared to your early work with projection. Could you talk about your turn to figurative painting and its unconventional intersection with video, photography and sculpture?

ST: My earlier work took place outside the studio and was often collaborative and social. In 2010 I decided to invert that mode of working and went from having a social-post-studio-practice to having an anti-social-studio-practice. Now working alone within the confines of my studio, I use all I have at my disposal in that space to make art. Economy (gestural and literal) and improvisation guide my process.

While I use painting, installation, performance and sculpture to create my images, it is the camera that allows me to pull those dimensions together. I use that mix of media because I like to do all those things. It makes making enjoyable.  

OPP: In October of 2012, you made a decision "that instead of buying any more materials for art making, [you] would only work with the material [you] already have in [your] studio." Was this decision practical, ethical or conceptual? Are you still working under that restriction? 

ST: I am still working under that restriction, although strictly speaking, it’s not true. The final product is a photographic print, usually mounted and framed, a new object, which I store in my studio. The decision was both conceptual and political, and the practical, economic and ethical implications of non-consumption are all part of it.

The Jockey and his Wife
Archival pigment print
29 x40 inches

OPP: What surprises have emerged from working this way? What has been illuminating? What has been frustrating?

ST: The biggest surprise is how fruitful and fun it is for me to work under this constraint. My studio time is playful and engaged. I am intimately aware of the materials I have and adept at seeing all the potential ways to use and reuse them. As materials and colors run out my work changes. Things are in flux, always.

Since materials are finite, I overpaint a painting once it has played its part in a photo. The same goes for the sculptural elements: they are taken apart and reused as needed. The act of investing effort into making things and then letting go of them in itself has become a valuable part of my work and my general outlook.

So far nothing has been frustrating. When it gets frustrating, I will stop this project and go buy materials.

To see more of Selina's work, please visit selinatrepp.info.

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/810723 2015-02-12T13:46:44Z 2015-02-12T20:22:30Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Tom Ormond
Inside Out
Oil on Linen
183 x 193 centimeters

TOM ORMOND's oil paintings make visible the unseen energies surrounding the intangible intersection of progress and nature. In layered compositions featuring the hard angles and straight lines of architecture and the recurring visual motifs of the geodesic dome and a column of climbing rays of light, he presents our habitual human attempt to contain the uncontainable. Tom earned his BA in Painting from Loughborough College of Art and Design in 1996 and his MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths in 2005. Recent exhibitions include group shows Disclosure (2014) at Chart Gallery in London, Beautiful Things at Next Door Projects in Liverpool, The Future Can Wait (2013) at Victoria House in London and Digital Romantics (2012) at Dean Clough in Halifax. His solo exhibition Everywhere from Nothing (2013) opened at Charlie Smith in London, and he won The Open West Curator's Prize in 2014. Tom lives and works in London.

Work in Progress
Oil on Linen
128 x 183 centimeters

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

Tom Ormond: I did a BA in Painting at Loughborough College of Art from 1993–96, where I ended up painting stuffed animals and golf courses. Afterwards, I landed an internship at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I did very minor bits of research for the Painting and Sculpture department and the Film and Video department. Then I moved to London and tried to be a ‘proper artist’—dole and squalor. In 1998, I became an artist’s assistant to Damien Hirst. It was still a relatively small set up. At its best it was like a family business and was exciting.

In the relative isolation of my own studio, I painted caves, apes and diagrams. I earned an MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths in 2005. I finished there making mash-up paintings of Prince Charles’ Poundbury—his answer to late 20th century architecture—and Stubbs-esque landscape paintings—horses removed, morphing modernist structures encroaching. Damien bought work from my degree show and later showed it at the Serpentine Gallery. That exposure allowed me to focus exclusively on my practice and led to a period of working with a commercial gallery.

The architectural elements infected the landscape, and I began painting exploding and morphing structures. In 2007, a travel scholarship allowed me to travel round the U.S. visiting nuclear test sites, experimental architectural sites and off grid communities. I made paintings in response to the trip: large canvases with centralized explosive forms—built up from layers of poured paint, marks, diagrams and obliteration—onto which I would impose geometric structures.

Sol Space
Oil on linen
92 x 76 inches

OPP: Many of your paintings seem to be revealing invisible structures within architecture or energy channels breaking through architecture to the sky above. I go back and forth between thinking of these as stills from a sci-fi film sequence in which something is being created or destroyed and imagining that these are static moments and you are revealing the energy that is already always around us. Thoughts?

TO: I enjoy the ambiguity you describe, and I aim for the snapshot versus the constant. I’m interested in architecture in a state of transformation: dynamic, physical and tangible, possibly violent. This comes across in a painting as a snapshot, which is almost contradictory to the slower pace required for the revelation of the something that is unseen, inward or abstract.  I paint as if our eyes could see magnetic fields or even ideas and creativity before their physical realization, using technologies yet to be discovered.

Painting allows me to create the snapshot and look beyond. It starts with an idea which is acted upon, made real, built up, erased, revised, reformed, informed and responded to until a moment is reached that is made up of all those moments. Painting can also show the light bulb above someone’s head.

Oil on linen
72 x 88 inches

OPP: How do feel about the Futurists? Visually, I see a connection to your work.

TO: I can see how you might look at my paintings and think they were made by someone inspired by the Futurists, but really they aren’t. Since early on, I’ve had a block against the Futurists, particularly the paintings, which I’ve associated with a certain dead handling of paint. I’ve never really taken them to be that futuristic, so I’ve not been seeing them in context. I’ve never looked much deeper into the movement and worked in oblivious naivety of them. Weirdly though, I’ve recently embraced that same dead handling of paint, which for me represents an old fashioned idea of the future. I’ve come round to their work on a formal level.

Artist's Studio Viewed from Without
Oil on Linen
34 x 48 inches

OPP: Do you share any conceptual ground with them?

TO: I’m with them on wanting to express dynamism in painting and also their celebration of the industrial as beautiful. But in other ways, I’m almost an anti-futurist. I don’t hate the past. In fact, I often revel in it for Disney-esque consolation. I look to the past as much as I look to the future, which at times I view with trepidation. I admire the optimism and true belief of the Futurists. I can see it was born out of a frustration with a particular situation and the weight of European (Italian) history, yet I am almost nostalgic for a time such as theirs where the future seemed so hopeful.

We’re at the other end of a century and have seen how many of the Futurist beliefs have panned out—war cannot be viewed in a positive way as a cleansing process. Science is still glorified, yet it is tainted with doubt, informed by many developments of the 20th century. Today we, too, struggle to believe in man’s triumph over nature.

In thinking about the future today, I look back at markers of progress and former visions of the future—science, war and architecture—subjects to which the Futurists were drawn and looked forward to. I picked up on similar visual motifs: painterly explosions, geometric architecture, collapsing space, creation of light, effects of gravity. But if the Futurists were around to today, they probably wouldn’t paint, and it’s the anachronism of painting the future which draws me.

Hardtack Moon
oil on linen
60 x 70 inches

OPP: Could you talk about your use of hard angles, rays and straight lines?

TO: The hard angles and lines balance the more fluid gestural parts of the early layers of each painting. These marks suggest architectural fragments, part of a futile attempt to give a quantifiable shape to a morphing, shifting, unquantifiable form. I like the idea of trying to build an Epcot-like dome around a nuclear explosion.

Linear elements allow me to suggest varying degrees of plausible architecture. Straight lines aren’t immediately present in nature yet everything we build involves them. In older works, I exploited an ‘offness’ of perspective and scale. More recently, I’m basing works on existing spaces or architectural models, so it makes sense to use perspective as a tool to create a ‘believable’ space in which the impossible or improbable can be believed and tested. The three-dimensional grid is a means to locate one thing in relation to another. Our modern mind understands the logic of these spaces. The two-dimensional illusion of the three-dimensional space can temporarily support the illogical in a way the actual three-dimensional realm cannot.

The rays, forming along x, y and z axes, represent an artificial light generated or received, a non-religious halo. These are the visible product of something abstract. . . as if thoughts, actions or aspirations could be viewed through a pair of first-generation-philosophical-glasses. Their blocky graphics are the precursors to the more sophisticated three-dimensional enabled lenses to come.

Oil on linen
22 x 18 inches

OPP: I’m curious about older works like General and Figure, both from 2010, and Fusileer, Guardian and Vela Uniform, all from 2008. These non-traditional portraits are of figures of military power. How do they relate to your landscapes?

TO: Portraiture can give away answers to questions about time and scale that I hope remain open, so I’ve always been cautious. People feature in my research as influential characters—architects, scientists, ecologists, etc— but rarely make it beyond the sketch-book.

When I was dealing more directly with images of nuclear blasts—which are essentially scientific records—I began to view these fleeting, morphing spheres as the ultimate expression of the modern era. . . a scientific global architecture of humans grappling with their control of nature. I want that to stretch beyond the reference to the historical document, and I treat the figures in those paintings the same way.

They are based on images of people involved in the Manhattan Project, selected for their look rather than their individual significance to history. I didn’t want them to be recognized as specific individuals or as historical heroes or villains. I see them as representing what humans are capable of in the modern era. The paintings only began to work when I treated them like architecture and landscape. With all distinguishing traits removed, they could become constructed god figures.

To see more of Tom's work, please visit tomormond.com.

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/807244 2015-02-05T18:00:00Z 2015-02-05T14:35:22Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Courtney Kessel

In Balance With

Mother, artist and academic COURTNEY KESSEL collapses the divide between public and private by performing with her daughter Chloe and bringing the objects of her everyday life into the gallery. In performance, video and installation, she "strives to make visible the quiet, understated, and often unseen love and labor of motherhood." Courtney received her BFA in Sculpture from Tyler School of Art (1998) and completed an MFA in Sculpture & Expanded Practices and a certificate in Women’s & Gender Studies (2012) from Ohio University. In 2014, her solo exhibition Mother Lode opened at David Brooks Art Gallery, Fairmont State University in West Virginia, and she performed as part of New Maternalisms (2014) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago, Chile. Jennie Klein has covered her work in a chapter titled “Grains and Crumbs: Performing Maternity” in the hot-off-the-presses Performing Motherhood: Artistic, Activist, and Everyday Enactments. E.g. Courtney Kessel: You and Me is on view at Brigham Young University Art Museum (Provo, Utah) through May 2015, and her work is included in the upcoming group show Mother at University of Southern Queensland Arts Gallery (Toowoomba, Australia). Courtney is the Exhibitions & Events Coordinator for the non-profit arts organization, The Dairy Barn Arts Center and teaches in the School of Art at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your sculptural installations and performances mostly revolve around the themes of balance and space as they relate to motherhood. You've collaborated with your daughter in the creation of works like In Balance With, which has been performed a handful of times, the video Sharing Space (2012) and the cut plywood sculptures of Spaces in Between (2012). How did this collaboration begin and how has it evolved? Is your daughter a decision-maker in the work or a performer?

Courtney Kessel: In Balance With was first performed in 2010.  At the time, my daughter Chloé was 5 years old. She informed the work and was an active participant, but she was not so much a collaborator. During that first performance, which was for a small audience of maybe 20-30 invited guests, I didn’t know exactly how the piece was going to end. I had been communicating with Chloé throughout making sure she was comfortable and okay. After I reached a balance, I asked if she wanted to come down. She said no. It was then that I realized the performance is over when she is no longer interested and occupied. It is a metaphor for our lives together. I can only do my work so long as she is content.

Now that she is older and understands the work differently, she has had an influence on things. We were at a restaurant one day, and she was cold. I had on a cardigan. She sat on my lap and put her arms inside my sleeves. It was she who said that we should do this as a performance. That’s where the video sketches became Sharing Space.

Sharing Space

OPP: In your recent solo exhibition Mother Lode (2014), you created three sculptures made from "curated household items." For anyone who has ever been in a home with children, it is clear that all this stuff takes over. It is constantly being moved, cleaned up, reorganized. It encroaches on the environment. I love the way these "monuments" allow you, as the mother, to play and build like a child while simultaneously reclaiming the adult space of having a art practice and art career. Can you describe the process of curating the objects?

CK: I love how you understand these pieces! They are very much monuments that tower from floor to ceiling. Not that my house looks this way. . . but it feels like it! These sculptures derive from In Balance With: they include the household items that were on the seesaw. These things from home became like self-portraits that change each time. They are specific to us, though not so specific that others cannot relate.

The curated aspect of the selected objects truly holds the meaning; those proximities and juxtapositions make each work different. That was the fun part for me! Like you said, it allowed me to pretend and play the same as Chloé does at home, but in the gallery in a very formal way. I actually took a U-Haul trailer to my parents’ house to get some of the stuff. THEY had children (three of us and then grandkids) and still had mounds of toys, books and things lying around. They are preparing to retire soon and will downsize, so I just gave them a head start! The work really is to visibly demonstrate that children do take up space, both physically, but also mentally. Once they are in your life, they are always there. . . no matter how old they get. I call this the “eternal maternal.”

As I went through the objects at our house and my parents' house, I was looking for things that could create structure like furniture, drawers, a dollhouse built by my dad, a car seat, a TV. Then I looked for sheer quantity. I went through books, stuffed animals, small plastic toys, VHS tapes and more with the intention of these things telling a story. From Cabbage Patch Kids to Finding Nemo, there is a timeline of "stuff." But there was a limitation: I couldn't take things that my siblings would get mad at me for taking. . . :)

Mother Lode (installation view)
David Brooks Art Gallery, Fairmont State University

OPP: Was there a construction plan before you began?

CK: Once the truck bed and U-Haul were unloaded into the gallery, I had absolutely NO idea how the towers would look.  Initially, I had planned to take rope, yarn, twine and bungee cords to attach everything together. But once I got started, it became a balancing act. Could I connect the ceiling to the floor in order to architecturally change the space? How did the individual objects change once they were turned on their side and stuffed with other objects? What kinds of meanings were formed by the side by side placements? It was very intuitive, but it was also very formal. Like the formal balance of a post-modern sculpture or putting a mark on a canvas, there were very specific decisions that weren't necessarily based on color per se, but rather based on aesthetic decisions. 

OPP: Was your house empty for the run of Mother Lode?

CK: I have an ongoing joke in our house that if I can’t find it, it’s probably in the gallery. . .  I really do the take things that we are currently using and put them in my work. One day, I was looking for a jar of dried beans that I knew I had just had in my hands. I wanted to make soup and was determined to find those beans. I eventually realized that they were in fact in the show.

Mother Lode

OPP: Will you ever recreate these sculptures as they were in this show?

CK: The sculptures from Mother Lode will never be recreated. Like a portrait, the work will always be different; evolving, changing, and growing. Each time these objects are restructured into a new work, they tell a different story and take on new meanings. In Symphony of the Domestic II, I added to the "stuff" from In Balance With, which represented my daughter and I. It grew to include people who formed my foundation. Like a pedestal holding something up, the base is comprised of items that represented my family, friends and mentors who continue to support me.

The pedestal holds up a 16mm projector which plays a stream of consciousness text: love every body as any body of water mater water under the bridge the gap gape gap her words her story write her story word for word for word for word forward. I used a script typewriter to stamp, print, embed the words onto the film. I am interested in the non-gendered, non-hierarchical aspect of printing or stenciling. Where a pen to paper or brush to canvas has the element of “acting” upon something, I am more engaged with leveling that or flattening the hierarchy. By stamping, printing, imprinting and stenciling, I am able to mechanize/mobilize language to becoming one with the substrate or at least to become equal to it. Each time the film passes through the projector and the other items for that matter, the words slowly degrade and will disappear eventually.

Symphony of the Domestic II (detail)

OPP: Who influences you in thinking about the labor of motherhood?

CK: I think about the labor that Mierles Laderman Ukeles’ work was about. That was the labor of maintenance. It was gendered, but not specifically about mothering. It is important that she put that in the gallery. I reference her because of the politics of placing that gendered and private practice into the gallery. I think about the work that Mary Kelly made that was about her son through the lens of psychoanalysis. That was about mothering, but not so much about the subjectivity of maternity. By placing psychoanalysis in there, she was able to distance herself as a mother but still sneak it into the space of the gallery through the didactic referencing of the objects.

Spaces In Between

OPP: Do you ever feel like your work is not taken seriously because it is about the labor of motherhood? Have you had any dismissive comments from viewers?

CK: So far, I have not received any dismissive sentiments from viewers or critics. I’m sure it exists, but I haven’t heard any yet. Many people have the ability to relate to my work. Whether they are mothers or children of mothers, viewers witness a little bit of their own experience or that of their mother’s.

I do this work in part as a protest. For all the amazing women artists who have gone before me, who had to hide their maternity for the sake of their careers and for so many who chose NOT to have children for their careers. . . that was one kind of “choice” from the second wave of Feminism. I always wondered why it was so frowned upon to be a mother and a professional. It’s the gendering of those stereotypes that I really can’t stand. Why do girls have to have pink things and boys blue? Why are women trying to hide wrinkles, fat and gray hair, but for men it is fine?

I am interested in putting the specific, subjective experience of the mother in the gallery whether you want to see it or not. It is not some idealized/generalization of the mother, but rather a specific, real experience.

To see more of Courtney's work, please visit courtneykessel.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/804323 2015-01-29T13:09:24Z 2015-01-29T13:10:40Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Colin O'Con
Untitled (Black Mountain)
Acrylic and Oil on Canvas
53" x 78"

COLIN O'CON presents viewers with the mystery of nature in paintings and immersive installations. His fluorescent palette appears at times otherworldly or manufactured because we sometimes forget that nature itself creates such intense colors. Colin graduated Cum Laude with a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of North Texas in 2000. In 2004, he earned his MFA from Hunter College in New York (2004) and won the Tony Smith Sculpture Award. His work has been included in exhibitions at Fresh Window (Brooklyn), Rawson Gallery (Brooklyn), Lesley Heller Workspace (New York), The Alexandria Museum of Art (Louisiana), Boston Center for the Arts, Artspace (San Antonio), and CSAW (Houston). Alongside his visual art practice, he plays in the bands Dark Carpet and Sportsman's Paradise. Colin lives and works in Brooklyn.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your color-saturated landscapes appear otherworldly, like they might exist on a planet with a different atmosphere. Are you painting our world or another?

Colin O’Con: All of my experiences come from this world, so I'm definitely painting our world. It's more a questioning of what our "world" is and how we perceive and create that idea. The palette is a conceptual choice. I use fluorescents for their visceral punch, their popular culture implications and the otherworldliness that they evoke.

But it's an interesting question. . . what other worlds are beyond our planet? I am certainly fascinated by pictures of space but mostly because of how fictitious they are. I'm interested in that illusion. And it’s not only the images. Take the recent satellite comet landing and the so called "song" it was emitting. Listen to the "song." Someone made that song. It is made from a frequency that is sped up so we can hear it and whoever "produced" it put a bunch of reverb on it and panned it back and forth to make it sound "spacey,” I guess. It’s a complete fabrication!

Untitled (Earth Like Planet)
Acrylic on Canvas
40" x 41"

OPP: Does that fabrication relate to art-making?

CO: Yes, both involve illusion masquerading as fact. It is this illusion of nature or representations of that I'm most interested in.

OPP: What does the Sublime mean to you?

CO: It is the awe that ensues when you see something horrible but have that safety net of distance or reproduction. I often paint images of the sun, which is the most constant thing in our lives. It literally gives us life. We gaze upon it in awe and bask under it. . . yet it's a giant explosion in the sky. That is the sublime.

Untitled (Big Sun)
Acrylic and Oil on Canvas
60" x 60"

OPP: What is your most memorable experience in nature?

CO: This one is very hard for me. I grew up near the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana, and the swampy bayou landscape seeps through in most of my work. I've spent an enormous amount of time hiking and camping. I’ve had so many great experiences, but two memories come to mind. One is the swirling toxic colors in the hot springs at Yellowstone. I was in the third grade, and I couldn't quit looking at those colors. More recently, I hiked to the base of a glacier in the North Cascades in Washington with my wife and some friends. It was incredible, like being on the surface of the moon. We hit the summit right at dusk. Then a full moon rose and spot lit all of the mountains and glaciers around us. Amazing. The next morning we saw an avalanche. It was very far away, but the sound and the sight was an insane experience.

OPP: Tell us about commissioned installation for Immersive Space (2013) at the Alexandria Museum of Art. Is this your only installation to date?

CO: Actually, it is not. I came to painting through the back door. I was making installations and conceptual work most of my academic career. For example, I made large, walk-in gardens with trails that viewers could stroll through, composed mostly of objects bought at dollar stores. My first painted floor piece, composed of hundreds of two inch flowers, included a viewing platform and every wall was painted and collaged with trees.

My work has always been based in nature, and I wanted to translate those ideas into paintings. An installation physically solves or completes everything for the viewer. With painting, the viewer has to complete the experience in their minds. But even while primarily painting on canvas for several years, I continued to make sculpture, particularly the arch sculptures.

Untitled (Installation), Alexandria Museum of Art Commission for Immersive Space
Plywood, acyrlic/latex paint, styrofoam
21' x 26'
Photo credit: Jeff Stephens

OPP: What inspired the arch sculptures?

CO: They were inspired by the mountain forms I was painting. Several years before, I had seen the Delicate Arch in Utah. That area of the country had a big impact on me. The forms are so surreal that they almost seem fabricated. You see the arch form as well as the rainbow form over and over in contemporary signage, and I was interested in exploiting that idea.

And then, the arch sculptures led me back to creating installations mostly because they needed a place to live and the painted floors were the perfect environment. In turn, the sculptures influenced the paintings, resulting in the more abstracted Rainbow Paintings. It's an exciting conversation between the paintings, the sculptures and the installations. The viewer can have the visceral experience of the installations or the intimate experience of the paintings.

Untitled (Rainbow #2)
Acrylic on Canvas
9" x 12"

OPP: Dark Carpet, also featuring the work of Jeff Byrd and Tracy Grayson, at Fresh Window in Brooklyn just closed on December 13, 2014. What was the organizing principle of the show?

CO: The show was named after our band Dark Carpet, which played a few shows in conjunction with the exhibition, including the closing on December 12th. Our music started out as improvised noise but quickly became more straight-up rock n roll diverging into noise freak outs. Jeff Byrd comes from an improvisation background. I've done a lot of that as well, but have also played in several traditional bands. However, in Dark Carpet I moved from drums, my main instrument, to guitar and vocals. That was a big change for me. Our third member, Tracy Grayson, had never played an instrument before, and we convinced him to try it. We are all pretty limited musicians, but we use that to our advantage by crafting simple songs and creating interesting sonic textures.

The three of us are all visual artists and musicians. Dark Carpet is our collective music project, but we each maintain separate studio practices. It was interesting to see our visual work together in the show. We spend an enormous amount of time together. We all share a common sense of humor and a love for the history of music and art. We are constantly introducing one another to new music, artists, books and movies. There is a shared aesthetic that is flowing between us.

OPP: How is creating music different than making visual art, aside from the obvious?

CO: They are very different mostly because music is collaborative and art making is usually a solitary endeavor. However, I feel that they have a lot more in common than most people think. Mike Kelly said that even though he didn't know how to play an instrument he realized that he didn't have to know, and that noise and sound could be his instrument. I realized that early on as well. I knew that I wasn't a virtuosos. Virtuosity rarely leads to anything good. It's the approach that matters.

To see more of Colin's work, please visit colinocon.com.

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/799831 2015-01-22T13:34:55Z 2015-01-22T13:42:07Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Alana Bartol

Wrapped Rocks
Performed at Artcite Inc. in Windsor, ON

ALANA BARTOL "hopes to create spaces in which transformation, moments of connection and reflection can occur." In both community-engaged and studio-based projects, she acts as a facilitator and a catalyst for communal creations, inviting viewers and participants to actively shape the work. Alana earned her BFA from University of Windsor in 2004 and her MFA in Sculpture from Wayne State University in Detroit. She has received numerous grants through the Ontario Arts Council, including the National and International Residency Grant to fund her upcoming residency with bioart pioneer Joe Davis at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in spring 2015. She will also be participating in a six-week residency with Lucy + Jorge Orta at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Upcoming exhibitions include Bioart: Collaborating with Life at Karsh-Masson Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario) and Far Away So Close: Part III at Access Gallery (Vancouver, BC). Along with friend and collaborator Arturo Herrera, she will debut the first issue of ARTWINDSOR, a quarterly publication that focuses on art created in Windsor, Ontario, where Alana lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Do projects like Detroit Windsor Journal Project (2006), Wrapped Rocks (2009 and 2013) and Hands to the Earth: After cj fleury (2012) have a shared aim? How do these projects fulfill your conceptual concerns?

Alana Bartol: I am interested in how humans find, confront and engage with the living, non-human world. We are part of nature, yet we separate ourselves from it. We control, manipulate and contain it, while longing to find our place within it. My work is based in the idea of micro-transformations. Through everyday, individual actions, we can effect change in our relationships with the environments and one another.

In Wrapped Rocks and Detroit Windsor Journal Project, participants were invited to create an individual piece that is then presented as part of a larger installation. Often the methods of “art making” are simple, everyday actions: wrapping, arranging, collecting, tying, weaving, walking, journaling. If objects are produced, they often exist temporarily or are given away to the participants. For Hands to the Earth, the mandala was left in the community garden and dispersed by the elements. In Wrapped Rocks, participants have the option to contribute their rock to the pile or take it with them.

For the Detroit Windsor Journal Project, journals were created on the same day by hundreds of people of all ages in both cities. As the journals arrived by mail, my collaborator, Ben Good and I documented and installed the journals in the gallery. We invited the participating students to see the show. Many had never been to an art gallery and were excited by the scale of the project and the fact that their contributions were important and unique. I hope it instilled a sense of confidence and pride.

Since 2009, I have re-created Wrapped Rocks over five times in different environments including galleries and community organizations. In some spaces, what begins as a quiet, reflective activity slowly turns into a room buzzing with conversations. The first time it was created, a woman was adamant that I explain what the piece meant, “was it a comment on climate change or a reference to war?” My response was “both.” In all of my work, I am concerned with how we relate to the earth and one another. These relationships are deeply intertwined. 

Detroit Windsor Journal Project
October 2, 2006
A field trip was arranged for participants from Christ the King Elementary School in Detroit to visit the Elaine Jacobs Gallery where their work was on display.

OPP: How do you solicit participation?

AB: My approach has generally been to set up a space and invite people to participate. For example, Hands to the Earth began with a small group of community gardeners, but quickly attracted many people. There were many reasons for this: we were working outside, food was offered, it was part of a MayWorks celebration, it was promoted in various ways and it was visually pleasing. People wanted to be part of it. Passersby became participants, assisting in the design and placement of materials. One man went home and came back with yard waste from his garden to contribute to the creation of the mandala. Another man left and came back with a camera and a ladder so he could document the work. It is amazing to see how a work can have a  ripple effect in a community, even a small one can leave a lasting impression. I still get requests to re-create this piece by groups all over Windsor.

Hands to the Earth: After cj fleury
A community arts project in collaboration with the Campus Community Garden Project at the University of Windsor, local artists and community members.

OPP: Please introduce your curatorial projects Artist For Hire (2013) and Art S.E.A.L.S. and talk about responses from the public. Are non-artists generally surprised to find out the kinds of jobs artists do?

AB: Both projects arose from community discussions regarding the often-poor working conditions and levels of remuneration within the arts. In 2013, I had just finished a contract with the Ontario Arts Council, working with artists and organizations to develop community-engaged projects and secure grant funding. I was struggling to find a balance between my work in the arts and my own art practice, as is the case for so many artists. Artist For Hire: All Skills Required (2013) was a series of performances. I invited 16 Windsor, Ontario-based artists and arts workers/administrators to perform skills that they have used to generate income in the gallery space. These included housekeeping, dish washing, holistic energy work, dog walking, nude modeling, administrative, data entry and office work. Artist for Hire didn’t draw a large audience outside of the arts community, but it served as a starting point for these types of conversations in Windsor and lead to the development of Art S.E.A.L.S. (Skills Exchange and Learning Series): Survival Skills Training, a project I co-curated in 2014 with Andrew Lochhead.

For Art S.E.A.L.S., nine artists from Windsor and Hamilton, Ontario each presented a skill they use in their art practice at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market and the Windsor Public Library and a “non-art” skill used in employment outside of their artistic practice at the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Workers, Arts and Heritage Centre (Hamilton). Audiences in both cities were curious about what it was like to work as an artist. There was a lot of interest in having conversations with the artists to gain insight into their working processes and the ways in which their work outside the arts influenced their artwork. It broke down the audience/artist barrier. Depending on the nature of the “performance,” audience members felt comfortable approaching the artists and initiating conversations. It made visible and acknowledged the time, materials, resources and labor required to create artwork.

Artist For Hire
Srimoyee Mitra, Curator
Skill: Cleaning
While pursuing her MA in Art History, Mitra worked as a housekeeper.

OPP: How persistent is the myth of the starving artist?

AB: The myth of the “starving artist” does persist and is somewhat warranted. Like many artists, I have held a number of jobs including a nude model, factory worker, cashier, server, janitor, educator, arts administrator, sessional and adjunct instructor, arts consultant and grant writer. I also worked as an employment advocate and a career counselor for art and design students. I have had a lot of experience working with people in the arts and it is incredibly difficult to make a living as an artist without additional employment or another source of income or financial support. Many artists can expect to spend 75% of their time on administrative work for their practice: responding to emails, applying for exhibitions, balancing budgets, promotion through social media, updating websites, organizing documentation, adjusting images and writing grants, creating application materials or developing proposals. On top of that, you need a space to create, time to connect with other artists, resources and tools, the ability and means to travel and take time off work to participate in residencies, professional development activities, conferences, workshops or exhibitions. These are all important aspects of a career in the arts. In my experience, these are not skills that students of art always learn and they are not easy skills to attain. If you have representation, a dealer, curator or agent might do many of these things for you. However, if you don’t create works that can be distributed in the commercial art market, you probably need to learn how to do most of these things on your own or find good collaborators. Skill sharing and bartering are central support systems in many arts communities.

Un-camouflaging #16
Photo Credit: Brigham Bartol

OPP: What's a ghille suit? Could you explain the idea of "un-camouflaging?"

AB: A ghillie suit is traditionally worn by military snipers and hunters to camouflage the human body in natural landscapes. It is created with a combination of synthetic and natural materials. I order ghillie suit kits from hunting supply stores. I sew the netting into wearable forms and tie the jute onto it. Burlap and other materials can also be used. It is a time-consuming process. The colors, textures and form are important considerations. Plants, grasses and other natural materials from the landscape are then gathered and woven into the suit. When moving through various landscapes, the threads of the suit pick up leaves, burs, sticks and sometimes garbage from the environment.

I find inspiration in environments that are familiar to many North Americans: urban pathways, community gardens, parks, domestic spaces, backyards and suburban neighborhoods. The term “un-camouflaging” explains what I do as Ghillie. A shift between concealing and revealing is integral to the work. I began to do public walks in the suit, deciding where I might stop to camouflage and choosing when to reveal and conceal myself, altering my form. The suit allows me to become part of, while also standing apart from, the landscape. As Ghillie, I am still and quiet. I do not speak or respond verbally. I become invisible and watch, much like a hunter or sniper. I sit, stand, crouch or sometimes fold my body in on itself, becoming a pile of grassy material.

I first learned about ghillie suits when I was living in Vermont, but the character Ghillie evolved after I moved back to Windsor, a city fraught with many environmental and socio-economic issues. Around this time, I was reading trickster stories from different cultures and began thinking about how these tales often revolve around modes of survival. These stories offer insights into how humans make choices about what we need and value and how those choices affect the world. In Windsor, Ghille may serve as a foreboding or protective guardian figure, but she is also a trickster of sorts. She moves between human-made and wild environments. As a non-human entity that can travel between worlds, she embodies the masculine and feminine and transcends the body.

Ghillie Crossing
Photo Credit: Brigham Bartol

OPP: If money and resources were not an issue, what's your fantasy community arts project?

AB: It’s hard to imagine a project where funding, time and resources are not an issue! I would create a sustainable community arts project that could serve as a support organization and residency program of sorts for artists. The program itself would be envisioned as a community arts project, one that would allow artists to work alongside professionals in other fields and be properly compensated for their time, much like the Artist Placement Group, a radical artist-run organization founded in Britain in the 1960s that temporarily “placed” artists in businesses and government offices. Though each artist was paid for their time, labor and expertise, there was no expectation that they produce ideas, objects or projects for the place of work.

I have always found ways to work and create opportunities for other artists to work in spaces where they “don’t belong.” Artists, through their inherent creativity can bring new insights, perspectives and ideas, contributing to and transforming society. Bioartist Joe Davis is a great example. An Artist, Researcher and Scientist, working in the Biology Department at MIT and the George Church Lab in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, he is able to connect with scientists and collaborate with them to realize projects that most artists could only dream of creating. 

In my hypothetical program, a team of artists and professionals from other disciplines would work to develop the project philosophy and program structure. Securing places for artists to work would be part of my job and practice. With a supportive work environment, a good wage (including benefits) and a schedule that allowed me to sustain my practice, it would be a dream job.

To see more projects by Alana, please visit alanabartol.com.

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

tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/795877 2015-01-15T18:00:00Z 2015-03-15T14:31:05Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Maskull Lasserre

Incarnate (Three Degrees of Certainty II)
Books, steel, hardware
40 x 8 x 11 inches

MASKULL LASSERE creates a profound mood of mystery through a combination of skilled material manipulation and the juxtaposition of disparate ideas and objects. Whether expertly unleashing carved skeletons from static everyday objects or merging the refinement of a well-crafted violin with the blunt violence of an axe, he leaves us to contemplate the tension between life and death, creation and destruction. Maskull has a BFA in Visual Art and Philosophy from Mount Allison University (2001) and an MFA in Sculpture from Concordia University (2009). He is represented by Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain in Montreal, Quebec, and his next solo exhibition Pendulum will open on March 6, 2015 at McClure Gallery, Visual Arts Centre, also in Montreal. He was a recent participant in the Canadian Forces War Artist Program in Afghanistan (2011), is currently in residence at The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (2014-2015) and will be an Artist-in-Residence at John Michael Kohler Arts Center's Arts/Industry Program in the summer 2015. Maskull splits his time between Montreal and New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Many works rely heavily on your impressive carving skills. Early works reveal the bones of animals and humans in industrially-produced objects like hangers, newspapers, headboards and tools. Could you talk about the nature of carving as a sculptural process?

Maskull Lasserre: I think a lot about the humility of carving, about the simplicity of it and about how honest it is. There is no magic, no technology, no disguise to this kind of subtractive gesture. Because it is so plain, it has this extraordinary potential to reveal unexpected truths about the materials with which it converses. 

Chair, axe
26 x 23 x 37 inches

OPP: Could you give us some examples of the materials you have carved from and what is particular about each one?

ML: I chose to carve materials I want to explore and understand as matter—as opposed to form. I have carved into a variety of objects from books to boulders, musical instruments to tree trunks. Each is unique in how it handles physically and in the potential it holds as symbolic or conceptual gesture when carved. My favorite materials to carve are those that are difficult and obscure. The process of negotiating between the material and the carved form is often what makes the finished piece interesting, and it is definitely what holds my attention during the process.

OPP: Whether it is combining a violin with a rifle scope, a grenade with a music box or turning a blade into a string instrument, you repeatedly conflate the tools of the disparate fields of carpentry, the military and music. There's something jarring about the juxtaposition of violence and danger with the refined skill of woodworking and music. What's the connection for you?

ML: I think that we understand things by their edges, by that contrasting line between what they are and what they are not. By conflating disparate elements—whether a technique and a material, a material and motif, or any other physical or metaphorical element of the work—the contrast is sharpened between the characters at play. Combining contradictory or unexpected subjects is like mixing elements from the periodic table. By testing the space between them, the nature of each can be observed and explored.

Installation view of Grand Narrative and Safe

OPP: In 2010, you participated in the Canadian Forces War Artist Program in Afghanistan. Tell us about this unique program and how this experience changed your work.

ML: The Canadian Forces Artist Program is a a voluntary program where artists of various disciplines are placed in the context of the Canadian forces in order to experience inspiring work representative of the forces' activities. I spent two weeks in Afghanistan where I accompanied members of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Regiment of the Canadian Forces and the Afghan National Army on various activities in and around Kandahar and the forward operating base in Masum Ghar. The experience really defies a short explanation. It was both an incredible challenge and a privilege to share experiences with the members of the service. It is something that I continue to resolve through both the work that deals directly with this subject and my broader practice in general. The consequences of this experience continue to uncoil through my work. In Afghanistan, I encountered instances of the Absolute—something that is greatly missing in normal, everyday life. My work is often a counterweight to my experience. Since my time in Afghanistan, a new weight has been added to it. I feel a new sense of necessity and responsibility for the life I get to live.

Progress Trap (Chair No.1)
Functional steel-jaw trap / chair: steel, torsion springs, hardware, chain
32 x 16 x 18 inches

OPP: Could you talk about your use of trigger mechanisms in Progress Trap (Chair No. 1) (2014), the musical grenades from Beautiful Dreamer (2014) and Mechanical Equation for Determining Meaning given Mass and Velocity (2011). Are these works meant to be activated by the viewer or simply thought about?

ML: The potential suggested by these objects is much more important than the actual release of any of the mechanisms you mentioned. There is a sense of agency in suggestion that is lost when fully explained. Suspense is often more powerful and sustained than a simple fright, and an inference can be much more interesting—even more accurate—than an explicitly articulated fact.

It is important that each of these objects does function in the way it suggests, but this mechanical truth is only necessary to infuse each piece with the true potential that provokes the viewer into imagining the mechanism's release. The work itself is unfinished until this process is invoked in the viewer. While the physical potential of each mechanism can only be released once, the viewer can imagine endless variations to an implied event, and through this experience, many different completions of the same object.

Grenade Birds
Bronze, spring and stainless steel, patina
3 x 3.5 x 5 inches each (approx.)

OPP: This summer you will be an Artist-in-Residence at John Michael Kohler Arts Center's Arts/Industry program. Any plans for what you will work on while there? Which facilities are you most excited to take advantage of?

ML: I will be working primarily in the Foundry (Iron works) of the Kohler Co. Facility. It is a rare opportunity to have access to a resource like this, and I am excited to see how its potential translates into my work. Because I have never experienced working in an industrial context of this scale, I am cautious about putting too fine a point on the type of work I hope to make. I imagine some exploration of weight and mass and multiple iterations of cast objects would be a good starting point. Like most new experiences, the more open I am to the potential they reveal in the moment, the better the work will be as a result.

To see more of Maskull's work, please visit maskulllasserre.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/793135 2015-01-08T13:51:34Z 2015-01-08T14:04:53Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Ya-chu Kang Reservation
Bamboo, recycle chairs, sisal rope, oyster shells, natural cotton fabric, Cyanotype made with discarded cooking pots, kitchen tools, found objects collected at the seashore and shapes from the children

YA-CHU KANG's interdisciplinary practice includes a wide range of processes and media, including plaster casts, photography, sculpture, video, sewing, basket-weaving and performance. She seeks to raise awareness about the economic, environmental and emotional effects of globalism through installation, collaboration an object-making. Ya-chu earned her MFA from Tainan National University of the Arts in 2005 and her BFA in Sculpture from National Taiwan University of the Arts in 2002. She is currently participating in a cultural exchange project between Taipei Artist Village (Taiwan) and the Silpakorn University (Nakhon Pathom, Thailand), which will result in a two-person show in April 2015. With collaborator Christian Nicolay, she will create a floating sculpture called Inverted Smoke for the 2015 Yuejin Lantern Festival in Tainan, Taiwan. She has received a Culture Research Travel Grant from Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation to travel to Peru in January 2015 to study traditional textiles and sustainability. In February 2015, Garden City Publisher will release her book Textile Map: An Artist’s Trips of Weaving and Dyeing. Ya-chu lives in Taipei, Taiwan.

Out of Breath No. 1

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do you choose what process to use for a given project? Do you have a favorite?

Ya-chu Kang: Usually, I will imagine an installation view in my mind. After that, I start thinking about what kinds of materials and techniques will be perfect for the idea. I am most interested in the meanings and histories of the materials and techniques I choose. A work which combines different processes and media has more potential to elicit dialogue.

I love sculpture and sewing. For me, sculpture is a form and sewing is the method. If I really need to choose a favorite, I will say sewing. Sewing has a lot of possibility. I enjoy the sound of the sewing machine—it is like the sound of train. Therefore, my mood is like traveling while I am in studio working instead.

Transparent Border
Light boxes, acrylic board, tracing paper
Photo location: Chateau de Chine Hotel, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

OPP: Many works over the past decade—Bag Shelter (2008), A Carrying Pole (2008), Transparent Border (2012), and the Bag-Self Portrait Series (ongoing), to name a few—relate to traveling or being nomadic. How do these works relate to globalization and your interest in "the relationships between environment and human bodies?"

YK: The world is shifting all the time. The cultures in different countries could be very different and still have some similarities. I am very interested in traveling and the cultural difference around the world. We can’t ignore the relationship between environment and the human body when talking about culture. Human bodies are the container of our souls, and the surrounding environment is full human bodies. We must care for our bodies, and environment is the main factor that influences our physical condition through diet and clothing. Bags, luggage, baskets and clothes are the carriers of the culture around the world. Thus, our immediate environment is changing all the time, and it presents the effects of globalization everywhere. Different containers have different meanings in my work, but I am most interested in the visible-invisible things carried inside those bags, baskets, suitcases and outfits.

Boom and Bust
Video installation
2:00 minutes

OPP: Tell us about 4Hands, your ongoing collaboration with Christian Nicolay. I'm particularly interested in your 2013 exhibition Boom and Bust, which contains both solo and collaborative work by the two of you. Could you discuss the metaphor of the balloon as it is used in this show?

YK: We were invited to do an exhibition by Art Experience Gallery in Hong Kong after our video Recoil screened in ART TAIPEI 2012. Recoil represents the human body’s reflex and reaction to external energy by expanding and blowing up balloons. The tension created between the balloon and the human body reveals the different responses from man and woman, western and eastern.

The main theme of Boom and Bust is the ups and downs of the global economic cycle. We now live in a highly globalized era. The politics and economics of countries are inter-dependent. Financial crisis cannot be contained; rather, it will certainly spread around the world. We kept the concept of the balloon as a metaphor for the global economic bubble; popping the balloon is like bursting the bubble. Boom and Bust attempts to mirror the vulnerability in such economic entwinement. We adopted a simple and humorous approach to this serious topic. In between absurdity and reality, we live in a world where the rational and irrational interact, fragile but unbreakable. We filmed participants from Canada, Taiwan and Hong Kong popping the balloons in front of their faces and edited their reactions, one after the other into a mélange of explosions. The repeated popping of balloons reflects the economic bubbles in the stock market that lead to a period of accelerated investment and over-borrowing and then an inevitable crash. The balance of opposing forces can be found everywhere in nature just as market systems accelerate and then slow down, constantly fluctuating like a heartbeat, expanding and contracting. Using the material of balloons and people’s reactions to popping them represents these forces and reflects their unpredictable and fragile natures.

Reservation-Part 2
Working process
Collaboration with the students from ChengLong Elementary School (Yulin, Taiwan)

OPP: Could you talk about the large-scale cyanotypes you made with students from ChengLong Elementary School in Yulin, Taiwan? How did this collaboration work?

YK: This is the ChengLong Wetlands International Environmental Art Project, organized by Kuan-Shu Educational Foundation to raise awareness of environmental issues for the community at ChengLong village. The theme in 2013 was “On the Table,” which encouraged students to think about the ecological link between humans, food and the environment. I invited them to play with me and learn some new techniques for making art. We first played some games with discarded cooking pots, kitchen tools and objects before we made the Cyanotype. Then the students knew how they should position themselves when they laid down on top of the fabric. The Cyanotype photographic chemicals were applied to that fabric and allowed to dry. I helped the students find better positions on top of the fabric like dining around a round table together and was the last to lay down. We were still for about 25 minutes, exposing ourselves and the objects under the sun. Then we rinsed the exposed fabric with water, fixing the image permanently. The students were all very exciting to see their own bodies captured on the fabric and had so much fun, even though it was pretty hot. 

The Loop
Sculpture installation: ready-made daily baskets, bamboo, coconut leaves, wire, dirt

OPP: Recent projects The Loop (2014), Faces to Faces (2013) and Cradle Umbilical (2013) draw on the tradition of basketry, one of the earliest-known crafts of human civilization. What do these vessels, created from organic materials like straw, bamboo, coconut leaves, branches and reeds say about our contemporary world?

YK: The contemporary world now is very far away from a natural life system. Humans think we are the best creatures and that advanced technology can replace everything. New construction and policy decisions often destroy traditional cultures and the natural environment. However, we should not ignore the natural cycles and what the ancient, traditional culture taught us. Every one of us is part of this universe. There are so many plastic and synthetic materials replacing natural materials in production nowadays. Meanwhile, plants continue to grow depending on the weather and location, which can present the effects of culture around the world. Using the traditional wisdom and knowledge from weaving with organic materials is a way of raising consciousness about how contemporary life is changing us. It is a way of inviting people to think about our contemporary world, bringing the mentality of Cradle to Cradle design into our daily lives.

To see more work by Ya-chu, please visit yachukang.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.
tag:blog.otherpeoplespixels.com,2013:Post/788659 2015-01-01T18:00:00Z 2015-01-01T18:12:10Z OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews AC Wilson

Mother and child
Photograph, chair with permanent impression

AC WILSON’s arrangements of found objects—clippings from newspapers, beds, taxidermy animals, magician's tools—evoke absence, tragedy and loss. He uses these objects as props, barely manipulating them, except through their placement, allowing ambiguous narratives to emerge. AC received his BFA in sculpture from the University of Tennessee in 2012 and attended the Summer Studio Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013. He has exhibited at University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery, Flourescent Gallery, Knoxville Museum of Art and Virginia Commonwealth University. In December 2014, he exhibited in the group show Fresh Punch at the artist-run Era VI VII VI in Queens, New York. AC lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement, you say, ""My work deals with tragedy, failure, and fate. The work speaks softly, under the guise of familiar objects and simple or clichéd symbolism. Under that surface lies a violent undercurrent of doubt, regret, and confusion." Could you talk generally about cliché and how you use it to address these themes?

AC Wilson: A majority of my work is influenced by my mother’s death from leukemia in 2010. At the time, I had two more years at the University of Tennessee and decided it would be healthy to make work about what I was going through. Tragedy is closely tied to failure—the failure to prevent it or the idea that life has failed or cheated you in some way. My personal tragedy was difficult in that there was no one I could blame. Fate had prescribed this tragedy on a genetic level I cannot understand, and I have nothing but gratitude for the incredible medical care that attempted to stop it. This left me with some anger and nowhere to direct it. The whole ordeal was and still is confusing to me.

There is a danger of alienating the audience in making work that is too specifically personal. I want my audience to be able to relate to the work whether or not they have experienced something similar. In order to bridge this gap, I use familiar objects and simple metaphors in my arrangements. It allows the work to be more approachable and less daunting to investigate. This is where cliché becomes a tool. It allows me to use a vocabulary of metaphor and meaning in objects that has already been well established. For instance, in Rut (2012), I am working off of the cliché of ducklings following their mother in a line. I’m able to subvert this however by removing the maternal figure and looping the line into a circle. Then, the work can have a more complicated discussion about personal loss and loss in direction without my having to explain what the objects mean. 

Taxidermy ducklings

OPP: The dominant characteristic in your work is evocative simplicity in the arrangement of found objects. What's your process like? Do pieces come to you like fully-formed visions or do you move things around until they make sense?

ACW: Early on in school, I was drawn to the clean aesthetic of artists like Tom Friedman, Damien Hirst and Jason Dodge. There was something about their tone that seemed unattainable and supernatural to me.

With a clear standard in mind, I began working methodically to bring these elements into my own work. I wanted to use a light touch and to do the most with the least. Using objects that already exist affords me that ability. I simply compose objects and allow the relationships between them to be the basis of the expression. The nature of our everyday material surroundings allows one to understand and relate better to the physical presence of an object rather than a drawing or other iteration of the same object. Titling a work is also an important opportunity to influence the relationship between object and idea.

I began to put other limitations—to only use objects a child could understand or to use no more than two or three basic components—on myself, which propelled my work to a new level. At the time, I would spend a considerable amount of time with an idea, generally only working through sketches. When I thought it was ready, I would execute it, knowing how I wanted it to look.

While this may have created more succinct, confident work, I realized the potential for missed opportunities with this approach. These limitations began to inhibit my possibilities at a certain point. More and more, I’m allowing accidents and experimentation to happen, sketching with physical objects and materials. I’m surrounding myself with things I want to work with and getting out of my comfort zone, allowing uncertainty to be involved. 

Newspaper clippings of Carina Dolcino, senior class president at Concord High School, before and after the Challenger space shuttle explosion; display case

OPP: You've made several recent pieces using clips from the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, including Aftermath (2013). It's been almost 20 years. Do you remember the day the shuttle exploded? Why use such a distant tragedy, when there are so many recent tragedies—I'm thinking of all the school shootings in recent years?

ACW: The Challenger Space Shuttle explosion occurred three years before I was born. There are multiple reasons I use this event as a vehicle to talk about tragedy. First, it is difficult to find a tragedy on such a grand scale that doesn't involve a clear villain or carry other baggage. A tragedy such as a school shooting prompts conversations about gun control, the state of mental health care and the media’s coverage of the shooters. The Challenger Space Shuttle explosion is unique in that is boils down to an accident. While NASA is to blame for their incompetence regarding the faulty design of the O-Rings, they were under an immense amount of pressure to expedite an already delayed launch. In addition to that, flawed judgement doesn’t not come from a place of malice. It really was just a terrible accident.

What compounds this tragedy is the involvement of Christa McAuliffe, an American school teacher who was the first to be selected as a part of the NASA Teacher in Space program. Due to her involvement, the shuttle launch was broadcast in classrooms all over America. For many young people, this was an introduction to tragedy and loss, a loss of innocence.

What happens when you die
Taxidermy fawn, bed, cremation tag

OPP: I'm curious about your series Impossible Objects (2010)—are these photographs or installations?

ACW: The Impossible Objects are actual physical installations inspired by a few sources. Most notably, they are tied to the concept of an impossible bottle. These can range from the classic ship in a bottle to more complex feats, such as the work of Harry Eng. What fascinates me about these bottles is their ability to maintain a real sense of curiosity without relying on any movement whatsoever.

I come from a background in illusionary magic, which relates to the idea of a puzzle, but is not the same. While a puzzle requires a solution to a problem, the strength of magic relies more on wondering, “How is it done?” Knowing how a trick is performed removes all of its power. In this series, I mainly focused on the illusion of penetration or “solid-through-solid.” Tire on Pole, for example, is basically a variation on the linking ring illusion.  

Lastly, the series references the absurd nature of pranks, namely, the Cornell University’s Pumpkin Prank of 1998, in which a pumpkin was inexplicable placed atop Cornell’s 173-foot McGraw tower. Like the Cornell pumpkin prank, the installations were easy to overlook, but hidden in plain sight. However, once noticed or pointed out, their nonsensical and sometimes daring execution elicits humor. A nice tension exists between a dismissive “Why would someone do that?” and an impressed “How did someone do that?”

Donut on pole
Donut, from the series Impossible Objects

OPP: You earned your BFA in 2012 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and went on to do the Summer Studio Program at Virginia Commonwealth University on 2013. Tell us a little bit about that program and why you decided to go. How has it affected your practice?

ACW: I had an incredible experience working toward my BFA at the University of Tennessee. After graduation, as many artists can attest, it can be  difficult to maintain momentum and balance a studio practice and real life responsibilities. School offers a real sounding board by way of critiques, visiting artists and faculty mentorship. Not having that can foster some insecurities about the direction of your work.

Having worked full-time during school and after, I needed some time to sort things out. As a part of the visiting artist program at UT, I had a studio visit with Michael Jones McKean, an Associate Professor at VCU. The visit was productive. When I heard about the VCU Summer Studio program, I was looking forward to working with him again. The VCU Summer Studio program offered a great opportunity to spend eight weeks focusing on my work, surrounded by a group of talented artists who were at similar points in their careers. It was an extremely motivating experience.

Being in a new environment, I felt permission to bend some of my own rules and make decisions I might not have otherwise. A good example of this is Mother and child. The piece involves two parts: an enlarged photograph of my mother nursing me right after my birth and a black folding chair with a permanent impression in the seat. Both of these parts are fabricated or modified. While the photograph wasn’t manipulated, it was enlarged for formal reasons. The chair was modified by soaking the seat cushion in plaster, re-upholstering it, and sitting on it until it hardened. While normally I try not to modify objects, my goals for this piece couldn't have been realized without doing so. That being said, I tried to involve my hand as little as possible, to retain a sense of honesty in material. This has led to more possibilities for me, including collage and other forms of fabrication. I have more creative freedom as a result of the program; now I just have to decide where to go with it.

To see more of AC's work, please visit ac-wilson.com.

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