OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Shanti Grumbine

Permeable (Broken Clover), 2017. Cast FGR 95. 5 x 10 feet.

SHANTI GRUMBINE transforms everyday objects including broken castoffs found on the side of the road and the New York Times, which is both revered and thrown away daily. Through the slow, repetitive actions of cutting, gluing, screen-printing and casting, she leaves the impression of her hand to be the lens through which the viewer can reconsider systems of value and knowledge dissemination. Shanti earned her BFA in 2000 at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA in 2005 at Penn Design, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). She has attended numerous artist residencies, including those at the Saltonstall Foundation (Ithaca, New York), Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (Omaha, Nebraska) and Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, Vermont) with a full fellowship. Most recently she was a 2016-2017 RAIR Fellow in Roswell, New Mexico. In 2017, she presented two solo exhibitions: Zeroing at Smack Mellon (Brooklyn) and pilgrim, approaching wordlessness at Roswell Museum and Art Center in New Mexico. Her work will be included in Summer Reading, an upcoming group show at The Woskob Family Gallery at Penn State. Shanti lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You’ve worked with The New York Times as material for years. Where did you start and how has the work changed over the years?

Shanti Grumbine: I started using the New York Times newspaper as source material in 2011. In 2009, I was diagnosed with late stage neurological Lyme Disease and I spent much of the following two years in bed, isolated and not capable of continuing the sculpture practice I’d finally found my footing in. My world slowed down, and due to cognitive difficulties, so did my reading. I wasn’t able to hold onto information, my word recall was impaired, and my focus was shot. My experience of reading had shifted into something so slow and non-linear that it no longer resembled reading. I wondered how to recreate this experience visually. At the same time I was really trying to get out of my own head and connect with the world at large. Newspapers create a simplified/organized microcosm of the world. Computer screens hurt my eyes, so I had to stick with reading the paper version. I wondered what it would be like if each word disappeared after being read. Would I, the reader, hold onto the words more dearly out of desperation? Would my comprehension increase? Would the authors approach to narrative or information sharing shift? Would language become more meaningful? At first I wanted to create a stop motion animation of a newspaper article disappearing word by word. But the pain I dealt with in my joints made the action of erasure difficult. So I started to excise each line with an X-Acto knife. Because what we read inevitably affects what we see, I started to cut away at the images as well. What started as a personal gesture grew into a much larger exploration of censorship, marketing and the historical precedents for western journalism. 

Surplus, 2017. De-acidified New York Times newspaper, matte medium, UV spray coat, newspaper stick, spray paint.

OPP: Transformation is important in your work. And there are many different kinds of transformation—redaction of text, material and scale shifts, recreating two-dimensional images as three-dimensional objects. Is transformation content or process? 

SG: I think it’s both, a process that leads to content. I believe strongly in the way that the body can think—I discover the world around me with my hands. My mind is curious, and my hands investigate. It’s no different from when I was a kid taking things apart to see what they were made of. So to redact text is also a way of trying to understand how the page functions. Through that type of removal, the margins become more visible and so does the structure of the page. This redaction of the newspaper page led me to a project called Score, where I translated redacted newspaper pages into a musical score. When I redacted the individual lines of text, the words and shapes of the pull quotes became more prevalent. When I screen-printed the redacted page – I saw the pull quotes as medieval square notes asking to be translated into a melody. By turning the pages into a score and performing them, I was able to experience the flow of information more clearly from when a story breaks to when it disappears from the public eye. I could hear how journalism functioned. This type of transformation is a very slow, very elemental way of knowing that isn’t appreciated in today’s digital, fast paced information age. By allowing for slow repetitive processes, I tapped into the systems of western information dissemination that preceded journalism including illuminated holy books and oral traditions of information dissemination such as Gregorian chant. 

In my newer project, I focus on the act of walking and the collection and recreation of broken things. When I am drawn to a random object on the side of the road, I have a choice. The moment of finding can remain my own personal discovery, a fleeting momentary but unconscious encounter, or through its recreation and enlargement, it can become something permanent, and more monumentally visible. Through the transformative act of recreation, I commit to a bent piece of metal, privileging the margins of culture and the throw away. 

Melt, 2015. screen print. 22 x 30 inches.

OPP: In Zeroing (2017), your solo show at Smack Mellon, what’s the relationship between the fashion accessories rendered in print and sculpture—watches, jewelry and shoes—and the news images that point to serious problems in our world—guns, melting glaciers and refugees seeking asylum

SG: In Zeroing, I wanted to focus on the ways we establish and maintain value through advertising and how those techniques affect our ability to seek, communicate and understand “truth.” I’m interested in the black and white advertisements for luxury items that congregate in the margins of news journals providing a peripheral narrative. Even in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Mrs. Maisel, an upper class 1960s house-wife turned comedienne has the epiphany that the shoe ads are strategically placed to distract women from the content of the articles. The New York Times is a truth seeking institution and it’s also a commercial product, funded by advertisers and aimed toward a specific class, which is made more obvious by its advertisements. The pieces of jewelry, watches and vases are intended to be passed down from generation to generation, reinforcing the relationship between profit, media and legacy. 

Throughout the show I created relationships between the news images and the luxury items in the advertisements. For instance, in front of a screen print of a melting iceberg in Antarctica, I placed a Baccarat crystal vase as if to ask, “Which crystalline structure will last longer?” And I paired a Chanel pump with an image of women and children escaping from Syria in Turkey, pointing out the blatant irony of functionality as well as gesturing toward the mythic quality of alienation and longing in Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Cinderella’s glass slippers. I was interested in desire in general, how it functions and what types of insidious forces shape that personal landscape of longing. I wanted to understand these luxury items at a more formal level. By enlarging, inverting the values and screen-printing them to look like X-Rays or ghosts, I was able to uncouple them from branding. By recreating them by hand as white objects and presenting them in a non-profit gallery space, I shifted their materiality, context and value. 

Asemic Prayer #2, 2015. New York Time plastic delivery wrapping

OPP: You call Brooklyn home, but you spent 2017 in Roswell, New Mexico as a RAIR Fellow. What was surprising, difficult or thrilling about New Mexico? How did the environment affect your work?

SG: I’ve loved New Mexico since I first went hiking and camping there in my 20s. I love the vast, dry expanse of high plains and desert that surrounds Roswell. When the land is endless and quiet, your mind attunes to that. Roswell is equidistant from the Southern parts like Carlsbad and White Sands and northern towns like Santa Fe, Taos, Abiquiu and Ojo Caliente, so I got to explore many different aspects of the New Mexican landscape and culture. But mainly I was in Roswell, working, reading, writing and learning my own internal rhythms. In Roswell, there was time for everything. Time for stretches of disciplined studio time, time for feeling totally lost, time to be supported by friends, time to start over and lots of time to see things through. 

Since I was diagnosed with Lyme, my main source of exercise, well-being and pain management has been walking. Every residency I do, I establish my 2-3 mile daily walk. It’s my top priority, and everything else—food, studio, socializing—organizes itself around that. In Roswell, I started to think and read more about pilgrimage and the history of walking. Though I spent my first four months focusing on Zeroing and some other group shows in New York, my next project was forming itself in my daily walks and reflexive collection of detritus from the side of the road. That winter, I found out about an annual holy pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo, a small adobe Church in Chimayo, that occurs on Good Friday and was grateful to incorporate that experience into my research. Rebecca Solnit described pilgrimage in her book Wanderlust as a “liminal state – a state of being between one’s past and future identities and thus outside the established order, in a state of possibility.” Despite moments of hopelessness, this is often how I felt when I first got sick, and it is also how I felt in Roswell. Witnessing that pilgrimage affected the content and format of my work for the rest of the residency.  

Liminal, 2017. Gel pen on black paper. 20 x 28 inches.

OPP: Tell us about your most recent solo show at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, pilgrim approaching wordlessness (2017).

SG: pilgrim, approaching wordlessness was comprised of two distinct but related parts dealing with aspects of liminality. One part consisted of drawings and wall sculptures based on the ubiquitous and overlooked decorative architectural features such as breeze blocks that can be found in almost any rural or urban community regardless of class. With Trump commissioning border wall prototypes, I couldn’t help but start thinking about borders and boundaries, who and what we let in, how and why and who gets to decide. I started thinking about permeability and rigidity, the power of empire and the incredible risks people take to create sanctuaries. And the visible role that architecture plays in creating these various value systems. These layered thoughts are bound up in my material explorations of breeze block patterns, an affordable and aesthetically pleasing decorative concrete block, originally designed to keep out the sun and let in the breeze. The other part of the show consisted of drawings and sculptures based on the broken, rusted things I found on the side of the road. A collection turned collective as friends and neighbors began dropping off bits and pieces of broken things found from their own walks.

C, 2017. Foam core, fiberglass veil, FGR 95, taxidermy clay, iron B metal coating, patina, found object.

OPP: In what way are those objects “souvenirs [that] point forward toward something still becoming?” 

SG: While I was working toward this show, I re-read parts of Susan Stewart's book, On Longing where she talks about the souvenir. I was trying to understand what these broken rusted objects were to me, why I felt drawn to picking them up and why I wanted to trace them as drawings and remake them as larger sculptures. Souvenirs are a reminder of something. They are “by definition always incomplete” because they are a trace of the original event and are therefore inherently nostalgic. The objects that I find are similarly incomplete, and hold a trace of what they used to be. But they aren’t a part of a whole, the way a bit of hair or cloth reminds us of the person or dress. And they are not the replica of anything such as the Eiffel Tower, nor do they feel nostalgic, not even for the particular walk or place in which I found them or the person who gave them to me. In their rusted brokenness, there is the sense of something new, something caught in the act of becoming. They become signifiers of transition, idols of possibility. According to Bill Brown, an object becomes a thing when it breaks, no longer neatly fitting into a category of functionality. We only see the window when it becomes dirty. In my act of collection, I came to understand my own objectness and as a result my own transformation into thingness. When the body is sick or broken, it no longer disappears into its functionality. We are all at one time or another, a thing among things, a liminal vessel straddling where we were and what we will become. 

To see more of Shanti's work, please visit shantigrumbine.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based 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 Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indiana 2017). In March 2018, her solo installation Where Do We Go From Here? will open at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois). In conjunction, the atrium will exhibit two-dimensional artwork by artists who were invited by Stacia to make new work also titled  Where Do We Go From Here?

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Lara Odell

Illustration for a story in the New York Times Sunday Review about having to say goodbye to something you love, even when it's a very old Saturn. Gouache and cut paper. 2016.

Painter, illustrator and graphic artist LARA ODELL uses gouache and cut paper to create emotionally-evocative works, whose power extends beyond their commercial origins. She enlists the challenges of cut-paper—the difficulty of precision and the moveability of the parts—to underscore the alienation, anxiety and loss represented in the images. Lara has art degrees from UC Irvine, SUNY Buffalo and Alfred University. Her illustration credits include The New York Times Magazine and The Rumpus. In summer 2016, her drawings were included in a Perimeter, an online journal published annually. Her work was recently included in the group exhibition UNPACKED at the PACKARD in Long Beach, California. The show will run until December 3rd, 2016. You can follow Lara's cartoons at laraodell.blogspot.com. Lara lives and works in Long Beach, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: When did you first start working with paper cut-outs? What does this medium offer that drawing and painting alone do not? 

Lara Odell: I started working with paper cut-outs about four years ago. A cut-out has an unanticipated element that the immediacy of painting or drawing doesn’t. Since I’m working on all the elements separately, I won’t really know what they look like together until I compose them into a singular image, set it on the copy-stand, light it, and view it through the lens of my camera and then on my computer. On the other hand, my process involves a lot of drawing and painting, so it is difficult, finally, to separate what one offers that another does not. I’d say that the cut-outs are both drawings and paintings as well as expansions upon those practices: instead of drawing a line, I’m cutting a line with scissors, delineating and altering shapes as I go. Also, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the cut-outs are sculptural, but they are works in relief, so there is another level of illusion or artifice going on – are the shadows real or painted? And because all of the component pieces exist independently of each other, there is an active improvisation when creating the compositions of moving and removing, placing and replacing, and so concepts of impermanence (or at least a defiance of certainty or finality) come to mind. It is important to me that the execution and materials reflect the content.

One of two illustrations for The New York Times Magazine, about the increasing loss of government jobs and how it's affecting mainly African-Americans. Gouache and cut paper, 2016.

OPP: Many of your cut-outs are illustrations for articles. For example, one illustration for The New York Times Magazine supported an article about how the increasing loss of government jobs is affecting mainly African-Americans. Another, for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, illustrated how a girl's first love influences her self-esteem. Many others are illustrations of stories and essays for The Rumpus. But viewed on your website, they are coherent as a body of work exploring a sense of emotional precariousness. I see loneliness, anxiety, and alienation. Are you intentionally picking illustration gigs that feed your own interests?

LO: Thank you for noticing that. I think that, yes, those themes tend to be a driving force and are central to all of my work, no matter the assignment. I’m not sure if this is an asset or not. I’m a relative newcomer to the illustration world, and I am not at the point where I have the privilege of selecting illustration jobs that align with my own interests. I typically say yes to what is offered. However, I think that to be a skilled and sensitive art director is to intentionally seek out an artist who is likely to sympathize and engage with the content on a familiar, intimate level. Maybe I’ve been fortunate in that many of the assignments I’ve received have resonated with particular preferences I have, but maybe that is true for most illustrators, in that they’ll be selected for certain jobs because they may already seem to have a sympathy for the content in mind.

Based on the essay "I Did Not Vanish: On Writing" about finding a way to speak through writing. 2013. Gouache and cut paper. 9" x 13"

OPP: Do you ever exhibit these works in galleries outside of their original context?

LO: Yes, I like showing the work because of the opportunity to see how the pieces relate as a cohesive body of work. Its also important to me to show them in a real-life setting in order to expose the hand-made features: the tactility, imperfections, detail, and nuance of color that gets lost on a computer screen or printed page. I've recently participated in three shows in Long Beach, California, where I live. Last fall, I exhibited the original cut-outs at the Long Beach Library, and this summer I exhibited prints of the cut-outs at a local diner. The cut-outs are currently part of a group exhibition organized by the Arts Council for Long Beach of this year’s Professional Artist Fellows at the old Packard Building in downtown Long Beach.

Cartoon, 2016.

OPP: A practical question for aspiring illustrators out there: how do you get clients?

LO: Here are a three things that may have helped me find clients: 1) Directly emailing art directors of publications I’d like to work for; 2) Submitting my portfolio to art / design / illustration blogs that attract a large number of viewers, like It’s Nice That; 3) Submitting work to competitive illustration annuals like American Illustration (these cost money which is depressing). Honestly, I am still wondering myself. It seems to take a relentless perseverance of continually reaching out and introducing yourself and then constantly reminding people you exist.

Broken Hearse and Tree, 2016. Gouache and cut paper

OPP: Tell us about all the mechanical vehicles—hearses, police cars, airplanes—that fall apart in your hands.

LO: I try to be aware of objects or situations that I think would lend themselves to the process and effects of a cut-out. The airplane was one of the first cut-outs I made. The shape of the airplane is also cut out of the sky (background), as if the sky was not atmospheric, but a flat plane (ha) with maybe nothing behind it. For me, that registered a feeling of existential terror. The windows of the plane are not windows, but flat elliptical shapes that for me double as passengers, floating off into space.
 
With the vintage police car, I was attracted to the simplicity of form and color. The cut-out version almost resembles a toy car or a still from a children’s animation. The piece made me a little sad . . . like when you think something is real, and then it is not. If the police car represents a kind of authority, to have it break apart calls to mind the fragility of authority, the tenuous (in)ability to trust authority, and the failures of authority . . . and with these apprehensions come fear, disillusionment, uncertainty.
 
Whereas both the airplane and the police car were based on found photographs, the hearse was modeled on a photograph I took. It wasn’t obvious to me at the time, but I began working on the hearse when my mom was in the process of dying. I know that sounds literal, but at the time, I had almost continuous thoughts of death and dying so I guess it makes sense. The breaking-apart hearse / the destruction of the hearse / the exploding hearse: it felt like an angry, violent act. It was a gesture of defiance, which is ironic and misguided, but there nonetheless.
 
I could say that the vehicles are stand-ins for things and people from our everyday lives that transport us—sometimes as reluctant passengers.

To see more of Lara's work, please visit laraodell.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based 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 Adjunct Assistant Professor 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 2011-2012 Artist-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, in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia created site-responsive installations for two-person show Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work was recently included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show titled Resist the Urge to Press Forward with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and Sacred Secular, a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Golnar Adili

A Thousand Pages of Chest in a Thousand Pages of Mirror
2011
Four sheets of paper with transfer
8 x 10 inches

GOLNAR ADILI's sculptural works add a tactile third dimension to autobiographical images and text. Drawing on her multiple displacements and coming of age in post-1979 Tehran, she uses repetitive methods—cutting, splitting, folding, sewing—to explore universal experiences of longing and separation. Golnar earned her BFA in painting from University of Virginia (1998) and her Masters in Architecture from University of Michigan College of Architecture + Urban Planning (2004). She has been an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony (2006 and 2013), Smackmellon (2012) and Fine Arts Work Center (2010 and 2011) and is a 2013-2014 Pollock-Krasner Foundation grantee. Her two-person show, Displacements: The Craft Practices of Golnar Adili and Samira Yamin, opened in January 2014 at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles.CONTEXT: Language as Medium and Message in Contemporary Art, also featuring the work of Aileen Bassis and Erik den Breejen, opens October 15, 2014 at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, where Golnar lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk about deconstructing and reconstructing as a way to process emotions?

Golnar Adili: Yes! The two-dimensional images I work with are powerful to me, but they aren’t tactile enough. I massage them, cutting them up and putting them back together in different ways. When I make small pieces from an image and then take time to reconstruct it, in a way I'm processing it. The act of repetitive cutting is soothing and begins to infuse the image with possibility. My need to cut comes from my own fragmented past maybe. . . But I put it back together at the end, so nothing is lost or added. And the new image contains some abstract emotion or movement.


Airplane Window-Droop
2011
Photograph
30 x 40 inches

OPP: Could you talk generally about cutting as an aesthetic and conceptual strategy in your work? Is precision an issue?

GA: Cutting is a line, and I use it to draw three-dimensionally. I use stacking or draping to express the cuts. Precision is definitely an issue since the scale of the work and material requires it. I am very comfortable with the #11 exacto knife, which I used for model-making in architecture school. It is like my pencil. I have five of them at any given time.

In my early photo-based work, I used cutting as a way to mix photographs with two different ideas in mind. Inside-Outside (2006) investigates the contrast between the watchful exterior and the free interior spaces of Tehran. This led to time studies where I cut and mixed photos taken one after another to negate linear time. Many of these pieces became "stretched out" and abstract and seem to convey how memory works visually.

The King-Seat of My Eye is the Place of Repose for Your Imagination
2011
Two photographs hand-cut and interlaced
20x30 inches

OPP: The digital and the analog meet in photo-based pieces like The King-Seat of My Eye is the Place of Repose for Your Imagination (2011). I read those horizontal cuts of two images together as a splicing of two moments in time that mimics what happens when you pause a DVD or VHS tape right at a scene change in a movie. Thoughts?

GA: I transfer the digital photo onto a paper surface, sometimes repeating that process depending on the piece, and cut the photo itself. There is no other digital process involved. The strips are cut and mixed all by hand, and there is no initial assessing what it will look like with the computer. All the cut photo pieces blur the line between handcrafted and digital processes and forms. This is not a conscious decision, but I tend to go for very clean and systematic processes which are highly repetitive and animate unlikely materials in a soft way. In The King Seat of My Eye is the Resting Place for Your Imagination I wanted to introduce softness and therefore developed a technique where the two photos are cut and interlaced with the thread. I welcome how this highly crafted piece is read digitally. I think at the end it is the juxtaposition of the soft and the hard which achieves this digital look.

A Thousand Pages of Chest in a Thousand Pages of Mirror
2012
Laytex, transfer copy, thread, medical tape
7 x 10 x 1/8 inches

OPP: What is the source for the image of a woman’s chest that you use repeatedly in your cut-paper and latex transfer works? Does it relate to Pillow Chest (2012), which is a very different visual rendering of a chest?

GA: I am very much inspired by Persian poetry, and the chest is one of the reoccurring images in many of the poems. We also have expressions which use the concept of the soul in a vague way which could have different meanings such as the heart or the chest. Sometimes in poetry, the human chest is likened to a chest of drawers. And sometimes in our expression for missing someone or something we say that our heart/chest is tight. . . My own chest feels heavy most of the times—I know it sounds dramatic—and since I work with my own autobiography, I started to investigate my own chest formally.

One particular poem, A Thousand Pages of Chest in a Thousand Pages of Mirror by Yadollah Royaee, a contemporary  Iranian poet living in Paris, inspired this series with a line of poetry that I translated into the title. This particular short poem is about mortality. I started with the two works of stacked, cut chest transfers: one has the curve cut in the middle and the other is the grid-like bowl shape.

Pillow Chest (2012) is actually made of twigs I gathered at Fine Arts Work Center when I was a fellow there. The twigs were the shape of the letter "ی" in the Persian alphabet equivalent to the letter "y" in English. I have a series of work in which I investigated my mother's letters to my father, and in those letters the letter "ی" was of particular interest to me as it was written in an expressive way. In the end, I didn't do very much with the twigs, but I did use some to make the ribcage stuck on a pillow-like backing.

Pink Letter
2010
Paper, book binding tape, 3M medical tape
18 x 24 - 18 x 1.5 inches

OPP: You have written on your website that your work explores the “separation, uprooting and longing you experienced growing up in post 1979-Tehran.” Separation, uprooting and longing are certainly universal experiences, but because you now exhibit mostly in the United States, I’m wondering if you ever feel like something is lost on American viewers?

GA: I mostly feel that way with the text-based works. Something is lost with non Persian-speaking audiences, but I hope not the entire piece. I count on the process and the material to convey the emotions. In The Pink Letter, I recreated a letter from my mother to my father in the beginning years of what would be 15 years of separation due to political turmoil. At the time, there was no way to know how long they would be apart. It is full of heartbreaking longings. When I inherited my father's belongings after his death twelve years ago, I came across his carefully archived letters. I used a simple repetitive formula to recreate the letter in folds. One can still read the letter, but with difficulty. You have to walk around it and bend over it. If you can't read Persian, you can still decipher the image of a letter.  The repetitive folds produce a moiré effect, sharpening and diffusing focus. The skin-like quality of medical tape and Japanese paper give the feeling of aging, time, fragility and memory.

Deltangi
2013
Digital print on Japanese paper, embroidered thread, batting
30 x 20 x 1 inches

OPP: You've recently introduced some new techniques into your repertoire. Tell us about quilting japanese printed paper.

GA: Last year, I was traveling for about nine months. I attended two residencies in Europe: La Napoul Art Foundation in France and The Bellagio Residency Program, The Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy. I was also preparing for Displacements: The Craft Practices of Golnar Adili and Samira Yamin at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. It was a bit nerve-wracking, and I decided that I should be making light-weight, transportable works.

I love sewing and working with fabric and paper. The Japanese paper provided an amazing hybrid. I could print on it and then sew it due to its high fiber content and strength. I really like the idea of something being both strong and fragile at the same time. Once again, I used the chest image. This time I sewed over it a familiar floral pattern found on glass that was used a lot when I was growing up in Tehran. This pattern is very nostalgic for me. Just like patterned glass, the embroidery on top of the chest blurs and abstracts what is behind it. It’s like tattooing the memory of home on my chest. The piece is titled Deltangi which literally translates to "tightness of the heart."

To see more of Golnar's work, please visit golnaradili.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Stacia is one of six artists participating in a conga line-style, evolving group exhibition at The President’s Gallery at Harold Washington College. The Condition of the Frog Is Uncertain, curated by Jason Pallas, is on view through November 7, and there will be a closing reception on Thursday, November 6 from 5:30 - 7:30pm.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Rogan Brown

Clone
2012
Layered lasercut paper sculpture (limited edition)
74 x 74 centimeters

Self-taught artist ROGAN BROWN’s monochrome, hand-cut paper sculptures reveal the interconnectedness of human beings and nature by conflating the microscopic, the cosmic and everything in between. His labor-intensive process and choice of paper as a material emphasizes “the delicacy and durability of the natural world.” In 2013, Rogan won Best Installation in the UK National Open Art Competition. In 2014, he was awarded first place in the Sculpture/Installation category of the Florence-Shanghai Prize, allowing him to exhibit his work at the Present Art Festival in Shanghai (July 2014). He was recently appointed to be an artistic adviser to the Eden Project, a well-known ecological education center in the United Kingdom. He will collaborate with both scientists and artists to create exhibitions and programs exploring the theme of the human body and its hidden microbiological wonders. Rogan lives in Les Cevennes National Park in the Languedoc Rousillon region of France.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a little about your history as an artist. Have you always worked in cut paper?

Rogan Brown: My history as an artist is a little unconventional in that I did not go to art school but studied literature and cultural theory at university. Although I wouldn’t call myself an “outsider artist,” I do see myself and my work as coming from outside the establishment and this perhaps accounts for its hybrid quality: part craft, part design and part sculpture. I started working on the paper sculptures about four years ago after a period of experimenting in the studio. The work is a direct response to the move that I made from London to a remote, rural area in southern France. I was looking for a way to engage with the subject of nature that avoided both painting and photography because I felt that the weight of history and tradition in these media was simply too great. I began drawing detailed fragments of leaf, tree moss and rock textures that I discovered on my walks in the forest. I realized that my approach was more in the tradition of scientific observation and illustration. I developed this further by buying a microscope and delving deeper still into detail.

The monochrome paper cuts emerged because I was looking for a technique that focused purely on process and form. Time is a key element in the work. The process had to be slow, progressive and meditative in order to reflect the natural processes that I observed around me: seasonal change, growth and decay. Few other art forms foreground the time that went into their construction as well as paper cutting does: every cut is a moment, every sheet a month, every sculpture a season.

Cut Pod (detail)
2013
Hand-cut Paper/ boxframe
150 x 84 centimeters

OPP: You mentioned the fact that the pieces are monochrome. I agree that having the work be one color highlights the process and form, but why do you choose the color white? Have you ever considered other colors?

RB: White maximizes light and shadow and evokes marble, dead coral and fossils. I think of my work as creating fossils, time fossils, imaginary fossils. I see myself as an archaeologist of the interface between nature and the imagination—nature IS imagination, according to William Blake. The fossil allusion also contains a warning about what we are in the process of doing to nature. In addition, white carries associations of purity and innocence, which is a counterpoint to the explicit sexuality. But above all, the calming effect of white allows me to be as frenetic and excessive as I like in terms of form without overwhelming the viewer. I have tried using color (or rather tonalities of the same color). It works very well but carries different associations. It is certainly something I will be developing in the future.

Seed
2013
Lasercut paper sculpture (limited edition)
50 x 40 centimeters

OPP: What is the difference between the hand-cut and laser-cut works? What makes you choose the automated process for certain pieces?

RB: There are technical, conceptual and economic differences. It is possible to do things with a laser cutter that are impossible by hand. There are certain shapes that are very difficult to cut at a small scale by hand. Clone exemplifies this. Conceptually, the hand and laser cuts are completely at odds with one another. One could argue that the laser cuts destabilize and question the value of the hand cuts, that they undercut—pun intended—the aura of authenticity in the hand cuts. However, there are also simple, real world economic imperatives at play. The hand-cut work is so labor-intensive and time-consuming that it makes no commercial sense at all. It doesn’t merely subvert the time-money nexus; it completely torpedoes it. In short, the limited edition laser cuts allow me to sell work at an accessible price. Since I wish to make my living from my work, this is very important.

Growth
2013
Hand-cut paper
110 x 75 centimeters



OPP: The beauty of the work is in their delicacy and precision. Do you experience any anxiety about ruining a piece with one sloppy cut?

RB: The cutting itself is very precise and controlled. Everything is minutely hand drawn in advance, each layer giving birth to the next one. There is no real anxiety during this phase. It is in the final gluing process that problems emerge: each layer has to be placed with perfect precision on top of the preceding one. There are usually about eight layers of paper separated by a hidden spacer to create the illusion of floating. The glue does not allow repositioning. I have only one shot, and mistakes are sometimes made.

OPP: What do you like about the process?

RB: The process can be frustrating, but it’s also exciting. I only see the work properly for the first time once all the gluing has been completed. Each piece suddenly comes alive when it is placed vertically in the light. Photos only catch them at a certain moment. In reality, the pieces move with the changes in the ambient lighting, so they are always slightly different. There is a transient play of light and shadow that creates a feeling of incredible delicacy and fragility.

Erode
2010
Hand-cut paper/ boxframe
110 x 75 centimeters

OPP: What strikes me most about your imagery is the connection between the very small and the very large. Some pieces are identified by title as being based on spores and kernels, but these pieces make me think of weather systems and the cosmos, as well as cell structures. Obviously, the vagina is clearly present, but so is the more metaphoric spiritual void at the center at many of the pieces. What inspires you most about the imagery you create?

RB: I dislike giving titles to my work because it limits the free play of interpretation, but it is a practical necessity for identification. It’s marginally better than a numbering system which would carry its own freight of meaning and association. I create pieces that encourage multiple readings because I’m interested in representing interconnectedness. The vagina or yonic element is, of course, present (a nod towards Georgia O’Keeffe), but there are multiple references to the human body including organs such as the heart and lung, intestines, arterial systems, neurons, tissue membranes and cell structures. The point here is that we are not physically separate from nature but contiguous with it: it is us and we are it. Consciousness imposes a completely fictitious division. What fascinates me in nature is the beauty and barbarity, the barbed beauty, the deadly voluptuousness. When you observe nature closely, you come to realize that it’s a vast process of feeding and breeding. Everything is devoted to this end. . . this primal Darwinian purpose. Beauty is there. It exists. It is not merely a cultural construct but a key element and strategy in this process. Perhaps it is there you can find your spiritual void. . . in this sheer godless logic.

To see more of Rogan's work, please visit roganbrown.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kyoko Imazu

Cat town
2013
Etching and aquatint
44.5 x 39.5cm

Japanese-born KYOKO IMAZU has been fascinated by fantasies of small animals like cats, rabbits and rodents overthrowing society. Her etchings, artist books and cut-paper installations are equally populated with real animals and legendary creatures from Japanese folklore, as well as fictional rabbits from novels and cartoons. Kyoko received her BFA in Printmaking from RMIT University in Melbourne. In 2013, she was an artist-in-residence at The Art Vault and the Australian Tapestry Workshop and had four solo exhibitions: Feathers and Fur at Odd One Out (Hong Kong), Animalis at Port Jackson Press (Fitzroy, Australia), Adore at Bird's Gallery (Melbourne) and Mammals from Melbourne Museum at the Consulate-General of Japan (Melbourne). Her work is on view in a group show called Tiny Universes at Tooth + Nail Studio Gallery in Adelaide, South Australia until November 22, 2013. Kyoko lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Have you always been drawn to animals as subject matter?

Kyoko Imazu: Yes. Images of animals have always given me pleasure and excitement, and I have always loved drawing animals. In fact, I don’t remember any time when I wasn’t drawing animals, even as doodles in textbooks at school or on letters.

My mum loved animals, and I enjoyed showing off my drawings to her. Growing up, we always had pets: dogs, cats, fish, turtles. I watched any and all TV programs about animals. In a way, nothing’s changed in my practice since childhood.

Baku
2012
Etching an aquatint
36.5 x 46 cm

OPP: Etchings of real animals, such as the northern pika and the sugar glider, and legendary creatures from Japanese folklore, including the Nue and the Baku, populate your work. It's like the real and the fictional live together in one world. Is it the world of your private imagination or is the coexistence of real and fictional creatures in your work a metaphor for something else outside of you?

KI: Nue and Baku are Yōkai from Japanese folklore. Yōkai are creatures/ monsters transformed from animals, as well as formless, natural phenomena like wind and thunder. Some can be household objects, or even live in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms! As a child, I was convinced—and very scared—that there were Yōkai and other creatures lurking behind me or hiding in the dark corners of the house. They were as real as my dogs and cats, on the same level of existence.

My work is a continuation of that memory. I like mixing real and mythical animals together because I love imagining what it was like to live in the world before all animals were named and categorized. There was a time when rhinos were as fantastical as unicorns.

Meeting
2012
Etching an aquatint
30 x 26 cm

OPP: You made an artist book called I want more rabbits! (2013). But actually, you already have quite a few rabbits! They recur persistently in different styles throughout your work in different media. Sometimes they are realistic, sometimes comical, sometimes combined with other animals. Then there are the rabbits that have parts from different fictional rabbits, like Fiverus Bokko Rabbit (2007), which has the face of Fiver from Watership Down and the ears and tail of Captain Bokko from The Amazing 3, and Rogerous Bugsy Rabbit (2007), which has Roger Rabbit's ears and Bugs Bunny's foot. Could you talk about why rabbits are so significant to you personally and in your work?

KI: My first drawing was a rabbit, and my primary school art project was of rabbits. I probably just enjoyed drawing their long ears and cute, round tails to start with. But, by drawing them over and over, the image of rabbit has become almost like a personal emblem. My eyes seek rabbit forms everywhere, in logos and packaging or in the shape of cloud or a stain.

When I relocated from Japan to Australia, I learned that rabbits are considered to be vermin and an environmental disaster, despite also being domestic pets. In Japan, they are fetishized and show up in traditional arts and crafts, as well as popular culture. I thought this difference between the two countries was striking. I am fascinated by the fact that a tiny, cute animals like rabbits can multiply so fast so that they become a threat to people and the environment. I love imagining a society overthrown by small animals—cats, rats and birds, as well—that we usually don’t find threatening.

Cufulin
2013
Etching and aquatint
45 x 39.5 cm

OPP: Do you have a favorite fictional rabbit?

KI: Rabbit from Chōjū-giga is my favorite. It's a famous set of four picture scrolls made by monks in Kozan-ji temple in 12th century Kyoto. It's considered the oldest manga in terms of techniques. Chōjū-giga depicts anthropomorphic rabbits, monkeys, frogs, foxes and so on without any words. It was probably a caricature, but I can imagine the monks having a chuckle while drawing them.



OPP: You have used accordion-style cut paper in both installations and very small artist books. Will you pick your favorite artist book and tell us the story since we can't hold it in our own hands?

KI: I like to keep the narratives open and ambiguous so that viewers can make up their own stories, but I imagine a basic tone and theme.

Rabbit Hunt begins by showing people trying to catch rabbits with nets and ferrets. A group of small rabbits attacks a hunter while another hunter with dogs is pointing at the group, seemingly trying to set his dogs on the rabbits. Some rabbits are caught, but the rabbits fight back by turning themselves into a Cerberus-like creature. It ends with a large rabbit roaring against a machine-like structure.

Rabbit hunt
2013
Paper, leather, board
6.3 x 7cm

OPP: Rabbits and other small, non-threatening animals become symbolic of the idea of power in numbers, especially when it comes to disempowered groups of people. Thinking of it that way changes I want more rabbits! into a rallying cry. Now I’m imagining the rabbits as workers organizing for their rights. Have you ever thought of your work as political?

KI: I draw ideas and inspirations from memories and stories. Similarly, I encourage viewers to bring their own memories and associations to my work. They can decide if it's personal or political.

For me, this idea of non-threatening animals becoming huge in numbers comes from my memory of growing up around rice paddies in Japan. There are thousands of tiny green frogs singing throughout the night during the summer that made me unable to sleep. To this day, I have nightmares about my house filled with frogs from floor to ceiling.

Autumn Moon (detail)
2010
Paper
Variable installation

OPP: What do you love about cut paper as a medium?

KI: I love being able to see small worlds emerging out of strips of plain paper while I’m cutting. It looks abstract from afar, like decorative lace, but there is a narrative upon closer inspection. It becomes quite intimate once it’s in the viewer’s hands.

I also love the physical act of cutting paper with a surgical scalpel. It takes a while to come up with drawings for each scene but once the design is finalized and the cutting starts, it demands concentration. Or else I get blood on my work! It is quite meditative; I can usually forget about everything else when I’m cutting paper.

OPP: You recently spent two months in residence at the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW). You worked on several new artist books there, but also learned to weave. Will weaving become part of your toolkit? Any plans to make new work in this medium?

KI: I hope tapestries will become part of my work. The great craftsmanship that’s required to create a tapestry is quite similar to printmaking and bookbinding. I’m intrigued by the weight of the history attached to those media.

I want to create tapestries with my animals and monsters, but tapestry weaving requires years of training. I wouldn’t dare exhibit my tapestries any time soon, but I’ll continue to practice. Weavers at ATW still employ the same technique from 15th century. It is so magical to imagine people now still using the same technique from medieval times in totally different environments for different purposes.

To see more of Kyoko's work, please visit kyokoimazu.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and spiritual significance of repetition in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) closed recently, and she is currently preparing for another solo exhibition titled Everything You Need Is Already Here (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joseph James

"Outburst"
2011
Cut paper, acrylic paint
110 x 90 cm

The quality of the line in JOSEPH JAMES' work is stunningly beautiful. His cut paper "drawings" both hide and reveal information about his sources, pushing the viewer to contemplate what was there before. He shows us the complexity and mystery that can exist in a simple, repeated gesture. Joseph exhibits internationally, and his work is included in several prestigious museum collections including the Saastamoinen Foundation Collection at the Espoo Museum of Modern Art and the Vexi Salmi Collection at the Hämeenlinna Art Museum. His upcoming solo show at Galerie Anhava opens in April 2013. Joseph lives in Helsinki, Finland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about your history as an artist. How did your printmaking background lead to the cut paper "drawings" you make now?

Joseph James: I started my undergraduate studies at Winthrop University in South Carolina as a painting and sculpture major. I ended up switching to painting and printmaking because I felt more comfortable working in two-dimensional media. I studied new media printmaking techniques at Saimaa University of Applied Sciences in Finland and started making art full time. This led into my graduate studies in the printmaking department at The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki.

At the academy I began to understand that the reason I liked printmaking had less to do with making prints and more to do with the process-intensive techniques. I was also looking for a way to combine my interests in drawing, painting and printmaking, and I got the idea to make some paper cuts. At first, I tried to keep printmaking part of the process by cutting on top of acrylic glass plates and printing the cut marks. As the series developed, I let go of the printing altogether.

"Center of the Earth"
2010
Cut paper, acrylic paint
Detail

OPP: You emphasize process when you identify your medium as "cut paper." While the objects themselves are beautiful in a purely formal way, they become more compelling to me when I think about how they were made. The cutting process is enigmatic and impressive because the lines are so delicate and varied. Is the cutting done by a computer or a machine or by hand?

JJ: The cutting is done by hand with a small hobby knife. It is a slow and meticulous process, which is extremely rewarding for me as the maker. It’s crucial to the meaning of the work that it be cut by hand. My piece The Entanglement was laser cut in steel, but the feel of this work is completely different. The meaning is also changed by the process. I would like to try laser-cutting paper and other materials at some point, but I don’t see it ever replacing the cutting by hand technique. 

OPP: I agree that whether the cuts are made by hand instead of by machine significantly affects the meaning of the work. But meticulousness as a quality can be read in lots of opposing ways: patience, obsessiveness, focus, engagement, meditation. Can you expand on what the hand-cutting technique means to you, outside of the pleasure of the process?

JJ: For me it’s about opening up a channel through all of the questioning and overanalyzing that separates me from the act of creating. In other words, it is about action and creation. I’m okay with all of the opposing ways this can be read. Meaning emerges from the ambiguity of the seemingly simple, straightforward act of cutting.

OPP: Are you thinking about the source images while you cut them up? 

JJ: I’m not thinking about the source image at all while I cutjust the drawing. The cutting is almost mechanical. It’s like tracing the drawing, and where the lines fall in relation to the substrate depends on that initial drawing. I often cut the piece from the backside, so it is not until after the cutting is finished that I even see what it looks like. At this point, I treat each piece like a new experience or perception. I let go of the original idea and the source material, which are really just starting points. I try to view it objectively. 

"Arena"
2011
Cut paper
100 x 50 cm

OPP: What are the substrates you cut from? 

JJ: I use posters, magazines and photographs, as well as fine art paper, hand-painted paper and hand-made collages. 

OPP: Some pieces, like Absurdity and Outburst, are scribbles and reveal the beauty in what appears to be an unplanned line. Others, like Animal Farm or Union Camp, seem to highlight preexisting lines in found images. There's a sense of pulling out the skeleton of an image. Is there a distinctly different process for these pieces?

JJ: The main difference is the drawing process, but there are other subtle differences as well. My process is like a set of variables that I can rearrange and adjust to varying degrees. I can draw from life or not, use a source image or not, and be faithful to the image or not. I can also change the material and substrate, the number of layers, the installation and so on. With each piece I gain more experience. I learn more about myself and the work, bringing that to the next piece, too. The process is dynamic. The cutting is probably the most stable aspect of the work, but I notice that it even changes slightly from piece to piece. 
 

"Brushstroke"
2011
70 x 40 cm

OPP: I called your pieces "drawings," but they could also be talked about as sculpture when they are exhibited on pedestals or hanging in space. How do you make decisions about the installation of each piece?

JJ: The presentation of this work is very important. It was easy at first because I was learning about the behavior of the material and allowing each piece to dictate how it would be installed. With the hanging pieces, when I finished the cutting and picked them up, they just collapsed in every direction. It was a surprise at first, but I saw the beauty in the natural tendency of the paper to react to gravity and just took advantage of that by hanging it from the ceiling. The idea of showing them on pedestals came from wanting to capture the feeling of the pieces when they are lying on the tabletop being cut. I haven’t used that option since the first exhibition of this work.

I install the other works with small nails directly into the wall. I do not use frames. In this way, they interact with the space like a sculpture would. The pieces work best when there is a lot of open area around them. This makes the wall almost disappear. The pieces look like they are suspended in mid-air. 

To view more of Joseph's work, check out his website at josephljames.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and existential significance of participating in mediated culture in her embroidery, video, sculpture and collage works. She received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006), where she will begin teaching in Spring 2013, and is currently a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT Residency in Chicago. Notable exhibitions include Losing Yourself in the 21st Century (Maryland Art Place, Baltimore), MP3 (The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), Please Stand By: Stacia Yeapanis + Readymade (Baang & Burne Contemporary, New York), Over and Over Again (BOLT Project Space, Chicago).