ADRIENNE GINTER relishes the details of nature: the gnarled web of tree branches, the modulating texture of a flower's surface, every individual blade of grass. Her cut-paper works, etchings and paintings of nature scenes draw on ancient myths, history and personal experiences. Each meticulous detail reveals a unique narrative, adding depth and nuance to the larger whole. Adrienne received her MFA in Painting from Boston University in 2008 and recently completed a residency at Vermont Studio Center. Since 2013, she has served as a trustee on the Vermont Arts Council of Windham County as well as the Vermont Crafts Council. In July 2014, she will have a solo exhibition [title?] at Outerlands Gallery in Vergennes, Vermont and will be featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Studio Visit Magazine. Adrienne lives in Wilmington, Vermont.
OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement you say, "My approach to a painting is that of an exploration into the reoccurring oddities and subtle fascinations of the natural world." Can you give us some examples of the oddities? What fascinates you about nature?
Adrienne Ginter: The largest flower in the world is the Rafflesia arnoldii, which I reference in my paper-cut work Red Crane and my mini gouache painting Craneflower. The Rafflesia arnoldii grows up to three feet and only blooms for a couple of days. It is nicknamed the "corpse flower" because when it flowers it emits a horrible odor of decaying flesh. It does so to attract flies and beetles which pollinate the flower. The pollinators must visit the male then female flower in that order. Red-crowned cranes will attack larger predators like wolves and foxes when protecting their nests. Other smaller birds such as mockingbirds will attack snakes and even humans to protect their nest as seen in my paper-cut Snake in the Garden. In Whale Hunters, I portray a whale shark, a species which originated 60 million years ago. It is the largest fish in the world and times its arrival to coincide with spawning fish shoals and feeds on clouds of egg and sperm. So much in nature is left up to luck and chance, yet every plant and animal has evolved to better its own chances of survival.
It’s crazy that I can spend three consecutive days painting outside on the same watercolor, and everything changes day to day because plants and animals are continuously growing and dying. I often think about how many different processes are happening in the natural world at any given moment and how we as humans fit into this, copy it and ignore it. We are animals, after all.
OPP: You have experience with many different painting and
print media: oil, watercolor, gouache, monoprints, etching. More
recently you've been making work in hand-cut paper and collage. When did
you make this shift? Do you consider it a break from or an extension of
AG: I work in different media because I enjoy learning/teaching myself something new. The first hand-cut paper piece I made was Jungle (2008) during graduate school. I was struggling with a 6' x 7' all-green oil painting of the same title and created the paper-cut in order to inform my painting. After I made that first paper-cut, I was hooked. Working with paper allows me to open up and be more creative in experimenting with imagery and ideas. Paper allows me to be more fantastical for some reason. It doesn't have to make as much sense as I think a painting should. Paper also simplifies my palette since I use archival papers, usually Canson Mi-Teintes, and they only make 42 colors. Also, since I am working reductively and with a border on every piece of paper there is a built-in stopping point. There’s a natural limit to how much paper I can cut out.
I do not consider cut-paper a break from painting; each medium informs the other. I created a book from etchings I made during my first year in graduate school. That book of etchings was a huge turning point for me. I felt much more free with my imagery with the small scale of the etching plates, and those etchings led to the large oil paintings that ended up being my thesis show. I never would have made those large paintings without creating that book first.
OPP: How important is planning and precision in your hand-cut paper works? Could you explain a little about the process?
AG: I do not plan out the paper-cuts. The only thing I plan is to have a connecting border on every layer. I typically use a X-Acto swivel blade. It’s an extremely small blade on a pivot, so I can cut curved lines. I begin with a color palette in mind, but this usually changes as the work progresses. I start with an idea (which often changes as the work progresses), and work on everything backwards, as I loosely draw the image on the reverse side of the paper, always leaving a border. I cut the smallest details first. That way, if I have a slip with the X-Acto knife, it happens towards the beginning of the process. After the first sheet of paper is cut to my liking, I register it on the next piece of paper, upside down, so I can again draw on the back and always leaving a border. I work this way, from the top sheet towards the back sheet, which is left blank. When I glue-tack everything down, I work in reverse from back to front. I am limited in what I can achieve with the paper, a fact I like. Paper is more graphic than painting. Images like clouds that require a lot of variation do not register well, so I just omit them.
OPP: There's little sense of the modern world in your oil paintings from 2008, around the time of your MFA thesis exhibition. The human figures often look like statues or figures from paintings of a different era because of their clothing and hairstyles. Some rare exceptions include the bikini in Me and My Mama (2008) and the making-out couple in Where Babies Really Come From (2008). The landscapes themselves seem idyllic and make me think of the romantic poets of English literature. Were you romanticizing nature in your work at this time? Has that changed in recent work?
AG: I still like using people of different eras in my work, as in my paper-cut Spring. I wanted my paintings from my thesis exhibition to feel like you were stepping into a different world. I often referenced french porcelain, anatomical statues, etc. Humans have emotional connections to items in history, and I wanted to represent that. For example, in the painting Altair and Vega, the touch that occurs between the two women feels so more emotional to me than if I had used representational figures in the same pose. I think it is just easier for humans to feel that emotion and connection if it is step removed from reality.
I am romanticizing nature. I want to make my own world. Many of the animals, people and flora in my work are combinations of the real, the extinct and the imaginary. Birds in The Forgotten Forest, for example, are sourced from emus, ostriches and my imagination. My current work is more about creating my own history/nature. In Red Crane, the corpse flower is birthing the red crane. This scene is from my imagination; it couldn't be possible.
OPP: Could you talk about the importance of detail in your paintings and cut paper work as it relates to macro and micro narratives?
AG: I always have multiple narratives going on in each piece: a more universal narrative and a more personal one. I have to include my personal narrative in order to keep myself engaged, but I also offer viewers an opportunity to create their own narratives through the presence of detail. Mayday, for example, is about that moment of falling in love and how fantastic and vulnerable it is at the same time. A heaven/hell or light/dark theme emerges through the painted details in the scene, i.e. the juxtaposition of scary roots and tree branches with whimsical flowers. Regardless of what medium I’m working in, I strive to create work that is legible from a distance and becomes more engaging as the viewer moves closer. I want my work to be compelling whether you are across the room or just an inch away.
I have always noticed the details in a room or in a painting or the accessories people are wearing. As I progress in my work, I have become more and more intrigued by learning which components make up a whole. If I am representing a bird, I pay attention to each feather, to how wing feathers are very different than body feathers and to how the texture of the body differs vastly from the texture of the eye, beak or legs. I consider how each element in a scene has distinct qualities and requires precise visual language to describe it. This is something that is easier done in oil paint than cut-paper: leaf and rock textures can be built up with paint, and the sky can be a thin wash. Detail is so easily overlooked in everyday life, and I want to make people notice it. It heightens the narrative. Maybe because that's all there really is: millions of details making up the whole.
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. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) recently closed, and her solo exhibition Everything You Need is Already Here is on view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago until February 17, 2014.