OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Amanda Burnham

Neighborhood Watch (installation detail), 2016. Acrylic, flashe, paper, cardboard, and LEDs. 5 vignettes, each approx. 10 x 10 x 5.'

AMANDA BURNHAM's immersive, collage installations are dense with vernacular signage, brick walls and and trash cans. She pieces hundreds of gestural drawings of the surrounding city together, deliberately confusing three-dimensional space.  Instead of a realistic rendering of what a city looks like, she captures the frenetic energy of city architecture. Amanda earned her BA in Visual and Environmental Studies, at  Harvard University and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking at Yale University. Her long and varied exhibition record includes recent solo shows at University of Baltimore (2017), Elon University in North Carolina (2017), Arlington Art Center in Virginia (2016) and Dittmar Gallery at Northwestern University in Chicago (2014). Her work is included in the permanent collections of National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC) and the New York Public Library, as well as various private collections. Amanda just completed the Antenna Projects Artist Book Residency in New Orleans, and her solo show Amanda Burnham: In Situ will open at Gershman Gallery in Philadelphia on September 6. Amanda lives and works in Baltimore.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your drawings and installations are all about cities. What’s your favorite city in the world?

Amanda Burnham: There are many cities that I love, but I'm going to go with Baltimore—not only because I live here, but because of its rich, diverse architectural vernacular, history, neighborhoods, and challenges. It inspired the direction of the installation work I have been making for the last decade.

Better Waverly, 2014. Paint and paper. 

OPP: Tell us about the first installation?

AB: The first installation I made was for a show at the Julio Gallery at Loyola University in Baltimore in 2008. I'd been asked by the curator to show a group of the plein air cityscape drawings I'd been consumed with making at that point. I'd made hundreds of these small observational drawings of different sites during my first full year in the city. It started as a way of getting to know my new surroundings. I'd begun to feel the limitations of working at a small scale, from a fixed perspective. I increasingly felt that it wasn't the best way to capture the energy and activity of the city as I came to know it while sitting for many hours drawing it. I asked the curator if she would be open to me creating an installation for the show to accompany my drawings, and, thankfully she was. Looking at back at the resulting work (which, at the time I was very proud of, and which was very freeing for me), I'm struck by how minimal and reserved it is. But it changed the direction of my practice entirely.

Edmondson Avenue, 2009. Ink on paper. 9 x 12."

OPP: Earlier drawings are more realistic renderings of city landscapes, but it seems like you have been drawing in a more illustrative, comic style lately, especially in the installations. What led to this shift?

AB: Lately I've been interested in broadening the parameters of my work, so that it is less defined by a visual shorthand that references the built environments of urban spaces. I want it to be more inclusive of imagery that also suggests all the activity that occurs within those spaces. What really draws me to cities, anyway, is the events that happen when our living circumstances are not isolated and homogenous and the way they enable people to collect/collide/interact. 

The somewhat comic stylistic approach of my drawings allows me to incorporate ideas which are less literal and strictly visually descriptive. I like that a comic style, given its bold, graphic qualities, allows me to formally weave together imagery from a lot of really different places—objective, inventive or visionary, metaphoric, etc.

In the Weeds (detail), 2016. Acrylic, flashe, and paper. 10 x 72.'

OPP: Tell us about the process of creating these drawing installations? Are they site-specific? What determines the imagery?

AB: They are always site-specific in the sense that they are constructed almost entirely within the space they will be shown, and are therefore sensitive to the physical peculiarities of whatever that space is. They are often site-specific in the sense that I choose to enfold imagery discovered in the surrounding area to some degree. I've done this in very subtle ways, and I've also built entire pieces that were meant to evoke a specific city (as with RFP in Baltimore). 

I start by looking at the space and by collecting imagery from which to make drawings. I walk around the neighborhood, take pictures and make sketches. Using my sketchbook, I establish parameters for the piece, ideas I want to address or imagery I want to incorporate and roughly how I will engage the space. I sketch out broad compositional outlines for shape on the wall, where I want collage layers to be massed, palette, whether there will be sculptural components or embedded lighting. 

I'll spend the weeks leading up to making a piece preparing raw materials for collage. I roll out drawing paper in my studio, prepare it with color (watered down acrylic, usually), and make hundreds of quick gestural drawings with black acrylic. When I put the piece together in the space, I take anywhere from a day or two to several weeks. Everything is orchestrated very extemporaneously within the parameters I've set. I use different widths of black or colored masking tape and light duty staples to attach pieces to the wall, and sometimes paint directly on the wall, as well.  The final pieces are the result of many layers of collage build up. 

High Winds, 2011. mixed media

OPP: You mentioned RFP, which was a unique installation in that it involved audience participation. What does RFP stand for?

AB: RFP stands for Request for Proposals. Its a term commonly used in city planning for the development of a parcel of land. I wanted to evoke this common usage because Baltimore—like most older, formerly industrial cities—has a fraught and lengthy history with issues surrounding planning. There are neighborhoods with legacies of exclusion borne by restrictive covenants and red-lining, division and isolation of formerly thriving neighborhoods via poorly considered large scale building projects (like highways), disinvestment and civic neglect of neighborhoods (frequently along racial lines), gentrification that prices long term residents out of their homes and established communities. A commonality to all these dynamics is how bound up they are in bureaucratic and political structures that can seem far from the reach or control of the individual citizens that they impact. 

RFP was motivated by an idealistic desire to propose a city democratically shaped in every way by the people who actually live there; it was a request for proposals from the residents of Baltimore.

RFP, 2015. Paper, paint, cardboard, tape, lumber, lights. 2015

OPP: How did the installation evolve?

AB: The piece as it opened on day one was like my other work in its use of paper and collage installation. All of the drawings were recognizably Baltimore; different neighborhoods were woven together throughout the space, commingled without reference to literal geography.

I wanted the piece to feel very welcoming. The piece was orchestrated in a large ground floor former department store space with huge, plate glass windows in front. It was located on West Baltimore Street, an area of the city which a lot of different people traverse for a lot of different reasons every day. In addition to having numerous hand drawn OPEN signs (like the neon ones you see in bodegas) and a sandwich board inviting people in from the sidewalk, I designed the piece so that it would be maximally visible from outside. It stretched all the way to the front so there wasn't any apparent barrier to entry (like the imposing desks that sit at the front of most galleries). All of this was meant to be a reflective backdrop, and the centerpiece of the installation was a big table full of drawing supplies and some loose prompts inviting thought about Baltimore: "I feel the most like I belong here when...", "This city needs...", "My neighborhood is..." etc. 

Visitors were invited to add their writings and drawings to the existing backdrop. During the time the piece was up, more and more of these amassed, so that by the time it came down it was covered with hundreds of contributions, ranging from reminisces, to suggestions, to manifestos, to actual images altering the preexisting ones. 

RFP, 2015. Paper, paint, cardboard, tape, lumber, lights. 

OPP: Was there anything frustrating about depending on the public to complete the work? What was satisfying about it?

AB: Not in this case. We had a large volume of visitors due to the visibility from the sidewalk and the high traffic in the area. The piece was set up so that it would be clear to someone that contributing was the idea without having to ask. The paper on the table was color keyed to the backdrop, in addition to the rolls of tape and drawing supplies were visual cues, and this seemed to work (though I was on hand every day to greet people and answer questions if they had them, too.) There was some initial anxiety that it wouldn't work, or that I'd have to edit contributions (i.e. if someone posted something abusive or hateful), but wonderfully, there was no need. 

Since I was there everyday, I met a lot of people over the course of the piece's life. As satisfying as it was to see (and be surprised by!) the range of physical additions to the piece, the most satisfying was that the piece became a way for me and other visitors to talk to people we might never have met otherwise.  

To see more of Amanda's work, please visit amandaburnham.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 (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Florine Demosthene

Releasing the Truth, 2018. Mix media on canvas. 32 x 48 inches.

The female figure in FLORINE DEMOSTHENE's mixed media work hovers in a gauzy, blue and gray haze. In some works, she sprouts whole other versions of herself from her back. In others, she lovingly carries herself in her arms or on her shoulders, as a parent carries a child. This figure represents our relationship with ourselves. She is both a physical body and a symbol of the spirit. Florine earned her BFA at Parsons the New School for Design and her MFA at Hunter College. She had had solo exhibitions at Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands), Gallery MOMO (Capetown and Johannesburg, South Africa), Semaphore Gallery (Neuchâtel, Switzerland) and Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana). She has received grants from Arts Moves Africa and Joan Mitchell Foundation. Florine resides between New York, Accra and Johannesburg, although she's spending 2018 in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a 2018 Tulsa Art Fellow.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do you see the relationship between the mind and the body, the internal and the external?

Florine Demosthene: The works are about the relationship we have with ourselves. . . the different parts of ourselves and how we are engaged in this continual battle. I have been investigating the duality between mind, body, emotion, spirit and essence through this series of works. I have not quite formulated a solid understanding of these components and how they interconnect. It's like I have gone down this rabbit hole that keeps getting deeper and more nebulous. 

Disappear Into Myself 3, 2013. Ink, charcoal, graphite and oil bar on polypropylene. 9 x 12 inches.

OPP: It seems like you are really talking about a spiritual path of inquiry. How does art-making aid in that path? Can you share any insights or observations you have?

FD: Making art in integral to my path of self-awareness and discovery. It allows me to create a cocoon around myself where I can delve deeper into my psyche. It has been an intriguing journey. I find when I allow my anger to rise to the surface, I make leap and bounds in my art work. I don't want to be in a perpetual state of rage, but it does serve as a catalyst for me to push past my boundaries.

Illumination #11, 2018. Collage on paper. 11 x 14 inches.

OPP: Are these works self-portraits?

FD: I don't necessarily see the works as self-portraits but rather an exploration of ideas. I reference myself, particularly my body, because it is readily available and I can easily manipulate it in the way that I want. 

OPP: Can you talk about Mind Chatter and The Story I Tell Myself? Is the secondary figure a burden to the first? Or simply an integral part that the main figure must nurture and carry through life?

FD: Those two works are addressing the shadow aspects of who we are and what exactly constitutes our personal narratives. I find that we fear the darkness within ourselves and shy away from addressing that truth within us. With those two works, I was searching for how to unburden this aspect within us.

Meta, 2018. Mix media on wood panel. 40 x 52 inches.

OPP: Blue lines seem to operate differently in different works. In Meta, they grow from the fingertips and remind me of Freddy Krueger’s knife glove. In Wounds #2, they seem more like blood dripping and in Wounds #7, they shackle the feet. How do you think about the blue in these works?

FD: Firstly the large areas of blues and black are glitter. The blue glitter lines are a continuation of the yellow beams that I was using in a previous series. These lines represent energetic communication or a sort of higher consciousness.

There has been this question that has been gnawing at me for quite some time: If we are only using like 10% of our brain capacity, then what would it look like if we say use 55%-100% of our minds? 

In the quest to find answers to this question, I have come to the understanding that it is not about our brains, but rather our connection to our soul/essence/spirit...that spark that ignites the life within us. If we could gain full access to this spark, then we can propel the brain (and how it functions) to level unimaginable. The thing is, we are so disconnected from this aspect of ourselves. In these works (the ones with the radiating lines) I'm attempting to bridge that gap between mind and spirit. . . to somehow build a connection to allow for direct communication.

To Come Undone, 2018. Mix media on wood panel. 52 x 120 inches.

OPP: In earlier works, the figure feels trapped in the backgrounds because there is more visual noise and, in some cases, actual locations with buildings and furniture. But in more recent works, the figure seems to be floating in an empty, abstract space. Can you talk about this change?

FD: The simplified background was just a natural progression of the work. In earlier works, I was concerned quite a bit with the figure/ground relationship. As the series developed, it became more and more about the body—and what's within the body—and less about the space in which the figure resides. This gradual shift helped me to hone in a bit more on what I wanted to convey with these drawings and paintings.

Meta-Two, 2018.  Collage on canvas. 36i x 48 inches.

OPP: In 2018, you won the Tulsa Fellowship, which offers an unrestricted award and brings artists from elsewhere to Tulsa for a year. Tell us about the experience. What has it been like to relocate? And what are you working on?

FD: I have been out of the USA for four years, so I had to mentally adjust for this fellowship. Thus far, the fellowship program has been surprising (in a good way) and it is allowing me to have some much needed time to regroup. I plan on continuing this series as well as possibly incorporation 3D and digital works. . . but we shall see how that goes. 

To see more of Florine's work, please visit florinedemosthene.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 (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Nahúm Flores

Double Vision, 2011. Mixed media on canvas.

NAHUM FLORES (@nahum_a_flores) explores human emotion in drawing, painting and ceramics. His human figures and faces, often rendered in simple black lines, are profoundly expressive of the emotions associated with despair, loss, paranoia, dislocation and alienation, but they are not devoid of hope. The barren landscapes from which the characters emerge reflect Nahúm's personal experiences growing up in Honduras, surrounded by social upheaval and war, as well as his emigration from Honduras at the age of 14. Nahúm earned his BFA in Drawing and Painting at Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto. He exhibits internationally with group shows in Canada, Honduras, United States, El Salvador, Mexico, Croatia, Guatemala and Costa Rica. His solo exhibitions include Los Herederos at Museum of National Identity (Honduras, 2016) and Inheritors at Articsók Gallery (Toronto, 2014). Nahúm has been the recipient of a Pollock–Krasner Foundation Grant (2012), a Toronto Arts Council Mid-career Project Grant (2014) and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Grant (2016). He is one-third of Z’Otz Collective, a collaboration with artists Ilyana Martinez and Erik Jerezano. Together they created Greeting Silence (2017) at Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George British Columbia. Nahúm lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The figures in your work are simply drawn, but evoke complicated human emotions. How does your drawing style contribute to the emotional intensity? 

Nahúm Flores: Over a long time, I have been making ink drawings in small sketchbooks in a diary-like manner and in mixed media on canvas and wood panels where I fuse drawing and matter. In my drawings, I work quickly from one to the next, spontaneously filling sketchbooks with minute line depictions that are simple or naïve in nature, but evoke issues from a subconscious level. Little figures or characters appear on the surfaces animated by their surrounding environments. Some of them are in dialogue with one another. Some seduce me to respond viscerally to them with phrases that I write. Others mock the viewer and blur out words.

I find great freedom and comfort working in this impromptu fashion because I feel I establish a genuine communication with myself. It is like a mirror reflecting images of memory, which surfaces as a poetic language of drawing and matter. The merging characters are sometimes funny and other times somber, showing both a dark and soft side of humanity. The landscapes they inhabit are barren and reference my personal history growing up in Honduras.

Untitled drawing

OPP: The figures are often really elongated or crouched down. Can you talk about these exaggerations?

NF: The process in which I work gives birth to characters in sequences. These characters dialogue with each other and linger in undefined spaces. They are characters of shifting identities that lure my imagination with ideas, interpretations and questions. Honduras is a country with both Indigenous and Catholic beliefs, and a lot of hybrid customs make their way into my work. The myth of the Cadejo is one I remember hearing the most when I was a kid. The Cadejo is a spirit that resembles a dog. There is a good one that is white and an evil one that is black. The Cadejo would appear to people at night, and it would transform from small to a big animal according to the curiosity of the viewer. They would visit houses in search of charcoal to eat in the bonfires. They loathed piloncillo (powdered brown sugar). The evil one would get you lost and make you crazy. This duality of good and bad is a theme that continually surfaces in my work. I see it as a metaphor of life. The dichotomy in my work is rooted in my beliefs, upbringing, and life experience.

from series Shaped by the Journey, 2013. Mixed media on flattened pop-cans.

OPP: Tell us about the drawings on found garbage like sardine cans and crushed soda cans.

NF: My ongoing series Dwellings (sardine cans) and Shaped by the Journey (soda cans) consists of drawings on objects I picked up from the streets. These discarded cans contain environments and history; they are symbols of waste. The drawings comment on some of the conditions of im/migration: disorientation, alienation, displacement, dehumanization, hope and adaptation. 

As a child in Honduras, I was influenced by, the social, economic, historical and environmental issues that shaped Central America in the 70s and 80s during the Cold War. Our everyday lives were affected by fear, paranoia, violence, poverty and war propaganda. I left my country of origin on my own at the age of 14, determined to find a better life, and experienced a challenging and incredible odyssey. I spent some years in Mexico and in the USA undocumented. This experience as a migrant drives me to reflect it through my work. 

A dwelling or home is associated with permanence, stability and a sense of place, often lacking in many migrants’ lives. In these drawings set within the objects, characters or dwellers peek out of their homes wearing mask-like faces. They appear to conceal their true nature.

In the series, Shaped by the Journey I use beverage cans that have endured hardship (e.g. being squashed by cars). I animate their beat-up discarded forms with characters that reveal multiple emotions. With tender irony and humor, my goal is to communicate a sense of containment and intimacy with these objects.

Clouds in the House, mixed media on canvas, 2017

OPP: The large paintings seem more about place and artifact than about the figure or human emotion. I’m thinking about Stones of LightPuddlesWindows of Wonder (all 2011), as well as In the Distance (2013). Can you talk about these works?

NF: A lot of my work is about memory and history. Memory of places, journeys, time, music, foods, books and people. When I work in large formats, I employ layers over layer of water-based and organic materials. The juxtaposition of these layers of materials mirrors terrains that denote history and buried pasts that yields to new realities and way of interpretation. The works you mention remind me of travels in Mesoamerica and Mexico to pre-Columbian archeological sites, such as Copan, Teotihuacan, Xochicalco. I am mesmerized by ancient Mesoamerican mythologies. When I travel to this region I feel their powerful presence. 

Stones of Light, 2011. Mixed media on canvas. 24" × 30."

OPP: I love the terracotta sculptures that are conglomerations of animals and humans all mashed together. The rendering of the animals and faces is certainly reminicent of Mesoamerican art. When did you first start working in ceramics? What does this new avenue add to your work that wasn't there before?

NF: I started working in ceramics in 2007. I find the material flexible and it allows me to explore with different visual elements. It also connects me to memories of childhood. When I was a child, I played with clay with my cousins in my village. We created characters from our imagination. Those characters would form part of our game worlds. 

Terracotta

OPP: Is working in 3D changing the way you make drawings?

NF: One of the amazing things with clay is that it allows you to draw, to play with volume, to add and subtract, to play with different spaces. Working in 3D teaches me different alternatives to do drawings, using different tools, but it also connects me to pre-Hispanic people, to the animistic elements of their culture.

Greeting Silence, work in-situ by Z'otz* Collective at Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George B.C.

OPP: Tell us about Z’Otz Collective.

NF: Z’otz* Collective is group of artists formed in 2004 by Ilyana MartinezErik Jerezano and me. We all have Latin American backgrounds. I first met Ilyana in 1999 at Ontario College of Art and Design University, and I met Erik in 2001 in Toronto. We use to belong to other collectives but for the purpose of exhibiting together. We meet weekly to collaborate on multi-media works, which include drawing, painting, collage, sculpture and site-specific drawing installations. 

Z’otz* is characterized by a collaborative spirit and the playfulness of our subject matter. Our quirky and often outrageous images use humor to explore ideas of transition, displacement, containment and evolution. We use multiple media to create works that denote a variety of visual elements. We implement a system of rotation, where everyone works at the same time but on different pieces. Our drawings are reigned by an intuitive drive as we spontaneously respond to each other’s marks. This allows us to exchange ideas and to observe the transformation of the work. We are interested in chance as a starting point, to establish a link between our individual subconscious. We play a game of riddles and improvisation where the only rule is that there are no rules. We have always been enamoured by characters of fables and popular tales from our heritage, that have the possibility of becoming something else and transforming into another body. Our fascination with these beings is multilayered; we often reflect upon the wonder of these transitional states. Mutation and transformation are key subject. . . a line can be a road to a fantastic universe where a snake becomes a monkey and a box a vehicle to catch dreams. Our work connotes the dynamism of the natural world and a close spiritual link to animals associated with many Indigenous Mesoamerican cultures. 

To see more of Nahúm's work, please visit nahumflores.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). Her most recent installation Where Do We Go From Here? just closed at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois). In conjunction with this improvised installation, Stacia invited eight OPP artists—Kathryn Trumbull Fimreite, Brent Fogt, Melinda Thorpe Gordon, Jaclyn Jacunski, Jenny Kendler, Meg Leary,  Geoffry Smalley and Erin Washington—to respond to the text "Where Do We Go From Here?" Each artist approached the question from a different angle, emphasizing that both the We and the Here are not the same for each of us. For Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress, Stacia will create a one-night installation that solicits the help of benefit attendees.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Amy Babinec

Golden Rule Mine (Glass), 2016. Acrylic on panel. 12 x 16 in.

AMY BABINEC's (@amybabinecdrawings, paintings and plaster casts are driven by the recovery of memory. Informed by her educational background in Archeology, she emphasizes the fragment and the excavated object as poetic stand-ins for all that is lost. Amy earned her BFA in Painting and Drawing at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA in Visual Art from University of Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include Remnants (2015) at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois and Underlayer (2012) at Morton College Gallery in Cicero, Illinois. Amy's upcoming solo show Golden Rule opens at Riverside Arts Center’s FlexSpace (Riverside, Illinois) on June 2, 2018 and runs through July 7, 2018. The opening reception is on Sunday, June 3 from 3-6 pm. Amy lives and works in Evanston, Illinois.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Generally speaking, how do fragments relate to the whole in your work?

Amy Babinec: My work uses fragmentation as a metaphor for memory and the failure of memory. So many of my memories are fragmentary, particularly of my childhood. Images such as a wallpaper pattern, a book cover, and the smooth texture of a rock, conjure up a host of memories of my family, and a reminder of their loss over the years. Objects isolated from their environments can become artifacts, evidence and mementos. Subtracting context leaves the object open to fantasy and speculation. These fragments embody the nostalgia and longing I have for family relationships for those who have passed on. The objects become substitutes for keepsakes and stories from my own family. 

Reenactment 14, 2009. Oil on canvas. 24 x 18 inches.

OPP: In your 2017 artist statement, you say,"By combining elements of archaeology, personal history, and fiction, I set up an opposition between abstraction and figuration, past and present.” And I see this very much in the series Reenactment (2009-2010). Can you talk about this body of work in relation to this statement?

AB: I created the Reenactment paintings in graduate school at the University of Chicago. As an instructor of a beginning painting class, I found stacks of paintings that college students had discarded after the class ended. Many of the paintings were abstract, thus presenting an opportunity to use them as a free-association prompt. I selected and cropped the abandoned student paintings that had compositions, spatial relationships, or colors that reminded me of a place, person, or situation from my early life in Belleville, Illinois, the town in southern Illinois where I grew up. For example, a vivid orange geometric abstractioncould be turned into the orange brick cul-de-sac behind my elementary school. I intervened in the paintings with the minimum I needed to do in order to visualize that memory. The resulting paintings remain abstractions, but with my memories (the figuration) embedded within it.

Wildwood Mine, 2015. Plaster, 4 15/16 x 4 5/16 x 3/4 inches.

OPP: When did you first start making work based on artifacts found in abandoned coal mines?

AB: I started my research into this topic in 2009 when my parents discovered cracks in their basement foundation in their house in southern Illinois. The cracks were caused by subsidence, or the collapse of coal mines under the surface. Unfortunately, the area under their house, and most of the town, was undercut by underground coal mines which had been operated by individual owners or small companies from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Buildings and roads on the surface could prove unstable because of hidden processes under the earth and could cave in at any time. I was struck by the metaphorical possibilities of that phenomenon, that events in the past could affect the present, sometimes suddenly and drastically.

I used Illinois State Geological Survey maps, Google Earth maps and historical records, and triangulated the location of mines, then drove out to find them. These sites were largely on private land. Many had been completely erased from the surface, but some had pits, coal and slag piles, railroad tracks, and other evidence of the coal industry. I discovered that many of the abandoned mines had been used as a trash dump for domestic items such as plates and cups from the 1880s to the 1960s. As part of my studio practice, I visit the abandoned mine sites throughout the year, conduct surveys and digs and bring artifacts and documentation back to my studio in Evanston, Illinois.

Hill Mine Grid 3, 2013. Acrylic. 30 x 30 inches.

OPP: You work in a variety of drawing and painting media, as well as cast plaster. How do you make choices about which fragments should be painted in watercolor or oil versus cast in plaster? Does the object dictate this?

AB: I am a materials and techniques nerd. I enjoy the process of experimentation (most of the time!) to find the technique that fits the idea. In the Subsidence project, I have used a variety of materials to interpret the data I have found. I document the mine sites through drawings, video, and photography, and collect personally resonant objects to bring back to my studio. My focus on particular facets of this process leads to the media that will reflect my investigation.

Abandoned, Golden Rule Mine, Lenzburg, Illinois, 2017. Watercolor, colored pencil, and charcoal on paper. 11 1/4 x 15 inches. 

OPP: In both Golden Rule and Remnants, the found objects are isolated from their original context in backgrounds of (almost) black or white. Is this an erasure of the sites that inspire your work? Why or why not?

AB: My background includes a masters degree in Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland and twenty years’ experience as a museum professional. I use archaeology as a touchstone throughout much of my work. The white background evokes the practice of archaeological illustration of objects uncovered at a dig, and the photographic documentation of objects in a museum. I also use the square format as a reference to an archeologist’s grid. I often show objects in a meditative, quiet manner echoing the precision of archaeological drawings. I repeat certain objects, such as a spoon, to provide a sense of scale, following the archaeological practice of including a ruler or penny in photographs of finds.

Unlike an archaeologist, I am selective about what I collect at a site and represent in my work. Recently I have been most drawn to domestic artifacts dating from my grandparents’ generation in the early to mid-twentieth century. For example, a small triangle of colorful glazed ceramic, which had been broken off from a figurine of a house, takes on further resonance for me. I feel the pathos of this object, once highly valued by someone, but now abandoned by its owner to be buried in the dirt and be subjected to the elements. 

To see more of Amy's work, please visit amybabinec.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). Her most recent installation Where Do We Go From Here? just closed at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois). In conjunction with this improvised installation, Stacia invited eight OPP artists—Kathryn Trumbull Fimreite, Brent Fogt, Melinda Thorpe Gordon, Jaclyn Jacunski, Jenny Kendler, Meg Leary,  Geoffry Smalley and Erin Washington—to respond to the text "Where Do We Go From Here?" Each artist approached the question from a different angle, emphasizing that both the We and the Here are not the same for each of us. For Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress, Stacia will create a one-night installation that solicits the help of benefit attendees.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Samantha Sethi

Object Impermanence, 2016. 12 drawings on plexiglass, gouache, ice, camcorder, MDF, led lights, HD Monitor with live feed. Dimensions variable.

SAMANTHA SETHI is a multi-media artist working primarily in drawing, installation, sculpture, and video. Freezing and melting both play a significant role in her practice, which explores deterioration, entropy and emphemerality. Her process-based sculptures investigate both the human impact on the environment and nature's impact on cultural sites. Samantha earned her BFA at The School of Visual Arts (New York) in 2006 and just completed her MFA at American University (Washington D.C.) in 2016. In 2017, she attended a residency at the Torpedo Factory (Alexandria, Virginia) was a Fellow at Baltimore’s Coldstream Homestead Montebello Sculpture Park and just began a residency at Creative Alliance, also in Baltimore. Samantha moved there a few weeks ago and is happy to call the city her home.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What interests you about the processes of freezing and melting, generally speaking?

Samantha Sethi: My work comes from an interest in the interplay and reciprocal effects between the natural and built environments. Freezing and melting is a way for me to think about the myriad ways in which the world as we know it was formed and how it continues to change, at rates both perceivable and unimaginable to us. Depending on scale, ice melts very slowly and is barely visible, though we are able to perceive the action of melting in a way that we are unable to observe many larger changes occurring in our environment.

Meltscape, 2015. Frozen and melted pigment and mixed media on handmade paper. 22" x 30"

OPP: When did you first engage them as tools for art-making?

SS: Prior to graduate school, my work was mostly painting. I worked often with media like gouache and watercolor, which both involve actively manipulating how liquids and solids interact. What I love most about watercolor is how the pigment and water move over the surface of the page. Sometimes the end result is not as interesting to me after the work has dried.

Early in grad school, I had the opportunity to do a collaborative performance for a project investigating the idea of “water treatment” in various ways. I resisted the performance aspect initially because I have terrible stage fright but ended up making a piece that changed my practice completely.

OPP: Can you describe the action of the performance?

SS: I stood in a very dark room, holding a ball of ice in one hand while using my other to strike and light a match that illuminates the ice and warms it. As the ice melts, water drips onto the match and extinguishes the fire. I continuously repeated this action for the duration of the opening. This live performance has now been reproduced as a video called Fire and Ice, which is meant to be played on repeat indefinitely.

Landscape Formation, 2015. Water, sand, pigment, garbage. Dimensions variable.

OPP: You mentioned that this changed your practice completely. How so?

SS: I began working in way that attended more to process than final product. Monitoring the melting ice was a slow and meditative experience for me. I couldn’t rush the process, and it gave me time to think and focus on what was happening. I also couldn’t control what happened with the melting ice in the way I previously controlled paint with my own hand. I began melting ice on various surfaces: paper, mylar, the floor. The works on paper, Sedimentation Drawings I, II, and III,  are really documentation of an event or a residue. Landscape Formation in a Room was my first installation. I staged an event in which I allowed pigmented ice to melt on the studio floor to find and mark the topography of the space; the water would pool at lower elevations and avoid otherwise invisible raised points. I then built around the these forms with sand. The work exists now as documentation that plays with landscape photography and models and shifts our understanding of what is real.

Entropic Irrigation System II, 2015. Latex, wood, plastic tubing, ice, plant.

OPP: Melting ice plays a key role in Object Impermanence (2016) and Entropic Irrigation System (2015). But the ice plays a destructive role—erasing the paintings—in one and a constructive role—watering the plant—in the other. Can you talk about this distinction?

SS: Something was missing for the viewer in Landscape Formation—the visible action of the ice melting. I experienced it in making my work, but it was only visible to the audience as a remnant. So I began developing systems to manage the melting ice and to create a stage for the process to be observed. In the first of these systems, Entropic Irrigation System, I cast ice in the forms of the Parthenon, a pyramid, an Aztec temple, the Taj Mahal, and the Colosseum. As the forms melt off the table, a gutter system catches the runoff and channels it into a potted plant. The melting ice is an active process that functions as a stand-in for irrigation, deterioration and other slower forms of change. This piece was exhibited for three weeks, during which I replaced the ice at the start of each day, which became a kind of performance in itself.

Entropic Irrigation System II (detail), 2015

OPP: And Object Impermanence?

SS: That work explores the more destructive nature of melting ice, as well as the ways in which we experience both direct and mediated events. In the first iteration, I placed a new painting on a stand every other day for the duration of the exhibition (twelve paintings total) with a piece of ice melting on top of the image that eroded or washed away part of each painting. A larger tray below collects the runoff from the deteriorating paintings. In this version, the paintings directly reference the floor tiles of the San Marco Basilica in Venice, which is where I first began to form ideas for the piece as I considered the constant struggle against nature and time embodied by that location. A video camera installed above the stand simultaneously records and displays a live feed of the melting ice and its effect on the painting on a large monitor in a separate room. After each painting goes through this process, it is displayed with it predecessors as remnants on a large pedestal.

Object Impermanence, 2016. 12 drawings on plexiglass, gouache, ice, camcorder, MDF, led lights, HD Monitor with live feed. Dimensions variable.

OPP: We've discussed works in which melting is an active process. But in Paver I and Paver II (2016),  the charcoal and resin works and Everywhere is Nowhere (2016), the process of melting is “frozen” as a form. Tell us about these works.

SS: The active-melting pieces are real-time events—performances even—and function as models and metaphors for larger, slower, less visible forms of change. The static pieces are also ways of rendering the natural and built environment that are both empirical and analytical.

Pavers I and II miniaturize a glacial world within a block of faux landscaping material, attempting to be reasonable objects both in their own scale and in the one they model. Both Pavers are primarily made of blue polystyrene insulation foam, which is revealed in the glacial lake carved into the center of each artificial stone. The polystyrene mimics frozen forms of ice, but it’s original function is an insulating material that takes hundreds of years to break down. The charcoal and resin works bring to mind erosion and dissolution at their literal scale, while also referencing diminutive topographies, even galaxies.

Everywhere is Nowhere also captures a sense of place and manipulates scale, though with an approach that is more cartographic than visually representational. The individual topographical forms in the piece each have their source in objects whose change is evident at radically different scales, from clouds to glaciers to continents. The forms appear interchangeable and are produced by layering delicate sheets of hand cut silicone. Each one rests on its own glowing blue shelf installed at various heights. 

Untitled, 2016. Charcoal and resin. Approximately 4" x 6"

OPP: In 2012, your series of gouache paintings called Syncretism looks very different from your current work. Does your recent work grow out of these paintings?

SS: This series—as well as most work I produced prior to graduate school—was drawing and painting. The Syncretism paintings were an early exploration of shifting space and scale, scientific and cultural research, the perception of artificial versus natural, as well as examination of my own identity. I grew up in the U.S. like my mother, but my father and his family are from India. After I completed my BFA, I began studying miniature painting and eastern mythology as both personal and artistic research. 

The behavior of water also is an important theme in this series that continues to influence my present work. Our relationship to water is complicated. We need water to survive, but water can destroy us and everything we have.

Dancers, 2012. Gouache on paper. 16" x 20."

OPP: White tigers show up repeatedly. What's significant about this animal?

SS: White tigers are culturally significant throughout the world and are referenced in several myths. We perceive them as natural and commonly see them on display in zoos and at the circus, but white tigers don’t actually exist in the wild. They are bred and inbred for the recessive gene that produces their stunning black and white markings, however this type of breeding often leads to health problems for the animals. In hindsight, the white tiger paintings were probably the earliest representations of “artificial perceived as natural” in my work. This was also my first use of patterning to reference a culture or a place, which I revisited later in the paintings produced for the Object Impermanence installation.

OPP: You are just about to start a residency at Creative Alliance in Baltimore. How long will you be there? Any plans on what you’ll be working on?

SS: The residency includes a one to three year-long live/work space and a solo exhibition in Creative Alliance’s beautiful gallery. I will be working to produce new work for the show that continues to explore our perception of permanence and change. I am currently in the early stages of a new project that involves physical recording of places and objects in a book of rubbings as well as time-based recording of these same places and objects in the form of video. I began the project while in Berlin this summer and plan to continue here in Baltimore and other places I travel to this year. This is my first proper studio and live/work space since I graduated, and I am excited to have access to this resource and time to continue to develop my practice.

To See more of Samantha's work, please visit samanthasethi.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 shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jenene Nagy

scabland, 2017. latex, plaxiglas

JENENE NAGY's practice includes both architectural interventions built entirely onsite from mundane building materials and the creation of discreet objects and drawings in the studio. In both cases, the work is materially-driven with an emphasis on surface, endurance, labor and line. Jenene earned her BFA from University of Arizona (1998) and her MFA from University of Oregon (2004). She is a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Pulp and Deckle Papermaking Studio in Portland. She is currently preparing for a solo show at Samuel Freeman Gallery (Los Angeles, fall 2017) and a two-person show with Joshua West Smith at Whitter College’s Greenleaf Galley (Los Angeles, spring 2018). Her work is represented by Samuel Freeman Gallery in Los Angeles, PDX CONTEMPORARY ART in Portland and Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver. Jenene lives and works in Riverside, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What materials are you repeatedly drawn to in your installations, sculptures and drawings?

Jenene Nagy: With all of the work I employ low tech materials. The drawings and the objects are mostly all paper and graphite, and the projects are all common building materials (drywall, 2x4s, house paint). I like working with my hands in a very direct way, and I also like to keep it simple. It is exciting to me to see what kind of results I can get with mundane elements. When I first began making the large projects, drywall was easy to work with and only required a box cutter and a drill. I don’t really have patience for a lot of tools and working in this way let the evidence of my hand remain.

Once the projects—Tidal, for example—became large enough to require more people to help me produce them, I became less interested in making them. So I introduced a new material in out/look and cover, which allowed me to still work large but independently. Tyvek is just a big gigantic sheet, so I could move it all around by myself. The projects have been built in venues in different parts of the country but working with common building materials I am able to order everything ahead from a Lowes or Home Depot and have everything delivered to the site as opposed to having to hunt down speciality items.

The Crystal Land, 2014. latex, Mylar, plexigalss, wood.

OPP: Symmetry is very present in installations like scabland (2017) and The Crystal Land (2014). The illusion of symmetry is present in disappear here (2016). But older installations like out/look (2010), Tidal (2010) and s/plit (2008) depend more on asymmetry. Was this a conscious shift or just a symptom of the spaces you were showing in?

JN: Around 2010 my studio practice shifted dramatically. Before that, I was making the onsite projects exclusively and the time in the studio was mostly experimenting with materials and testing colors. After a long residency in Los Angeles, I began using the studio to make discrete images and objects. Since that time the studio practice has become almost ritualized, I think as a result of making the drawings. The drawings are meditative and quite but intense. I think I can attribute the symmetry now present in the projects to the types of compositions I am working on with the drawings but also as a result of a more focused practice.

OPP: Could you talk about the relationship between labor and impermanence in your site-specific installations?

JN: I am interested creating a space for the viewer to have a true experience. I think the fact that the projects are in essence fleeting spaces there becomes a kind of urgency to the viewing. Labor is critical to setting up that urgency.

b1, 2014. graphite on folded paper. 14"x12.5"

OPP: The installations make consistent use of bold solid colors while the drawings traffic in the subtle grey tones of graphite. How does color or lack of color relate to scale in your work?

JN: In the onsite projects, color becomes content. I always think of the projects as landscape paintings. The color is always borrowing from the surrounding area—or in the case of the early work, a remembered space and time—and then hyper-realized, resulting in a punched-up pallet.

In the drawings I don’t think of color or lack of color, I think more about surface and material. With both the projects and the drawings, the viewer is asked to engage physically. They need to move through the installations to fully experience them. In the drawings they need to walk from left to right and close up and further away for the compositions to reveal themselves. I can’t say I am making intentional choices with regard to color pallette and scale but I am interested in seeing how the colors shift our perceptions of the space. In scabland, the brightness of the color really opened the space up, but in Destroyer the color shrank it.

p1, 2013. graphite on paper. 28"x 40"

OPP: Tell us briefly about your history as a curator.

JN: In 2006 I opened Tilt Gallery and Project Space in Portland, Oregon with artist Joshua West Smith. In that program, we exhibited site-responsive projects and works that were difficult to show in a commercial setting. After a two-and-a half-year run, we closed the brick and mortar space and shifted to working as an independent curatorial team under the moniker TILT Export:, which is ongoing. We wanted to give ourselves and the artists we work with more flexibility. As TILT Export: we produce shows in partnership with a variety of venues including commercial galleries, academic institutions and non-profits. We wanted to give Portland artists opportunities to show work in other cities and to bring work from other places back to Portland.

From 2011-12 I was the first Curator-in-Residence for Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and currently serve as Curator and Gallery Director at Los Angeles Valley College. At LAVC my role is different because the exhibition program is in support of our department curriculum. The exhibitions are intended to enhance students’ experience and understanding of contemporary art and to provide a space for critical thinking and the development of observational skills.

object 2, 2014. palladium gilded papier-mâché and concrete. 59" x 16 1/4" x 12 1/2"

OPP: What’s your curatorial process like? How is it different from the way you work as an artist?

JN: I don’t often think of myself as a curator in the traditional sense. I think more of what I do in this role is create opportunities and give artists the support to develop ideas. This in turn becomes a bit of a collaboration then, as opposed to the very solitary way I work in the studio.

OPP: Speaking of the solitary space of the studio, what’s happening in there right now that no one else has seen?

JN: My studio right now has lots and lots of tiny torn paper pieces that are being mounted on paper and then coated with a graphite paint I am making that then gets burnished. I am interested in continuing to push my materials and see what new things can be discovered. In the latest work, the paper becomes the mark as opposed to the mark being drawn.

To see more of Jenene's work, please visit jenenenagy.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 shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular will open on August 11, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Zehra Khan

Smoking Cat, 2016. acrylic on paper. 10 x 9 x 8"

ZEHRA KHAN's costumes, sets and performances for video have a childlike style that is self-consciously and intentionally unsophisticated, referencing construction paper sets for grade school plays and homemade Halloween costumes. Her double-sided, paper "quilts" are made from her own "canabalized" paintings and drawings as well as other accumulated paper ephemera. Play, risk-taking and making-do with what's on hand are all defining factors in her practice. Zehra received her MFA from Massachussetts College of Art & Design and is a current participant in the Drawing Center Viewing Program and the deCordova Museum Corporate Lending Program. She has attended numerous art residencies including Yaddo, the Vermont Studio Center, the Contemporary Artists Center, and I-Park. Her work is on view through July 15, 2017 in the group show Relationships at the Riley Strauss Gallery (Wellfleet, Massachussetts). Zehra lives and works in Provincetown, Massachussetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does play serve in your practice?
 
Zehra Khan: I love play. I try to never feel like I’m working when I’m making art. If the process gets boring, it’s time to make a more risky move. I’ve always found magic in homemade Halloween costumes, theatrical props and mistakes.
 
I like to use materials available on hand: found materials, trash around my studio, and used paper and cardboard. If I work with expensive materials I find myself getting stingy, not wanting to squander a good canvas or expensive photographic print on an idea that’s not perfectly developed.
 
I favor low-tech materials and practices. I love a little surrealism, which leads me to play with scale, proportion and the viewers’ expectations of the space.

Oh Shit Quilt, 2016. acrylic and staples on paper collage, double-sided. 54 x 96." See the other side.

OPP: Tell us about paper textiles like Oh Shit Quilt (2016), Dirty Rotten Teeth (2015) and Charm Quilt (2014). How are these paper works in conversation with the history of handmade textiles?

ZH: I draw on bed sheets and blankets and make paper quilts to further the connection between my art and the corporeal, domestic, and intimate. Working on both sides of a quilt moves the piece from two-dimensional to three-dimensional, from collage to malleable sculpture.
 
My process is heavily inspired by the materials available, repurposing and recycling. I love the ways quilters use fabric scraps from worn-out clothing and trade swatches with friends. I create my paper quilts with a similar process of reusing: by cannibalizing my old paintings, drawings, photographs, elementary school homework, college notes and exhibition postcards.
 
Charm Quilt was inspired by a quilt my great-great-grandmother made; I used the same dimensions and hexagonal pattern she did. While I want to pay homage to the tradition of quilting, I also use techniques which contradict the craft, such as stapling or hot-gluing pieces together. Dirty Rotten Teeth began as a translation of a more traditional braided circle rug into paper; as I glued the pieces together, however, I felt the pattern needed interruption, hence the black “teeth.” I enjoy using rough ‘unladylike’ language and style. Not only does this reflect my personality, but it also breaks from traditional craft making.

Hello Stranger, 2013. mixed-media installation and performance, in collaboration with Tim Winn

OPP: You have a long-term collaboration with artist Tim Winn. Tell us about your work together. What drove your collaboration more, process or content?
 
ZK: I met Tim while completing my MFA from the Mass College of Art & Design low-residency program, which met at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Tim was interested in paper architecture and was building rooms and shacks out of paper. We realized my animal characters could populate and animate the spaces he created.

Our collaboration enabled the creation of larger projects in size and scope. But it was really process that lead us to work together… We were always excited about whatever project the other one was pitching, and working together meant allowing more spontaneity and a loosening up of control over the final piece.

I Only Have Eyes For You, 2010. installation: acrylic on sandpaper, bed sheet, pillow case, and friends. 72 x 324 x 110.”

OPP: Body painting has played a big role in your practice. What is compelling about the body as a canvas?
 
ZK: Painting on friends creates a social and collaborative side to making art. I wanted to break out of my solitary painting practice and engage with people differently in my studio. I always doodled and drew on myself and friends as a way to play and be informal and as an act of trust and affection.

OPP: How has painting on the body affected the drawings and paintings you make on paper and textiles?
 
ZK: Body painting puts immediate constraints on the painting session: work fast, react to the needs of the painted person or environment and embrace the spontaneous. These are reminders to trust my gut, and the process informs my work in every medium.

The Past Comes in Many Forms (backside), 2014. acrylic on comforter, double-sided. 86 x 93." See the other side.


OPP: I’ve noticed a lot of the recurring animals in your work—rats, foxes, weasels and bunnies—are considered vermin. You represent these creatures with dry humor and empathy. Like, vermin. . . they’re just like us! Are these animals allegories for human othering?
 
ZK: Animals evoke fairytales, fables, religious deities and ceremonies. Using animals as protagonists allows for the viewer to distance themselves. My creatures act like humans, with the same habits and foibles. Rats became a particular favorite subject because of the strong reaction they cause in the viewer. I represent them as individuals as opposed to a swarm.

Mr. H, wood and rebar, 9 x 7 x 7', Scotland, April 2017

OPP: What are you working on right now?

ZK: I was recently in Scotland making a 9-foot-tall hare head sculpture out of branches. It was my first time working in wood or on a semi-permanent outdoor sculpture, so I researched weaving techniques and basketry. This inspired a series of bowls and baskets “woven” (glued) out of paper. The largest piece is a 3-foot basket made from a drawing of an elk from 2008. It’s an elk remix. More weaving and mistakes to come.

To see more artwork, check out www.zehrakhan.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 shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular will open in August 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Alyssa Dennis

Sunset Cycle, 2015. Graphite, pastel, colored pencil, gouache on paper. 24’’x 32’’

ALYSSA DENNIS renders architectural spaces as transparent layers and plexiglass sculptures that reveal that walls are not only physical constructions but also social constructs. Her work exposes the underlying connections between sections of our environments that we conventionally experience as separate, highlighting the way this collective myopia leads to waste of life and resources. Alyssa has a BFA (2003) from Maryland Institute College of Art and an MFA (2011) in Painting from Tulane University. She has also studied Herbal Medicine at Maryland Institute of Integrative Medicine and Mayantuyacu: Center for Study of Medicinal Plants in Peru. In 2016, she founded Common Knowledge "to promote education on wild edible and medicinal plants, found specially within the urban landscape." She has exhibited at Pulse LA, Pulse NYC and Pulse, Miami as well as Fountain Art Fair, and is currently showing work with Causey Contemporary in New York. In 2016, she did a collaborative building project with New Orleans Airlift. Alyssa lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does transparency play in your drawings?

Alyssa Dennis: Transparency plays a large role in my work. It’s constantly the point I’m trying to get to. To build the layers as if to represent a kind of schematics. I’m very much interested in systems and feel they play a big a part in the positive and negative aspects of our effect on the planet. It isn’t necessarily about the individual human but our inability to conceptualize and visualize the system. If we could see the part we all play, however small or large, in the system I believe a vast consciousness raising would occur. I think the newer work and my sculpture visualize this transparency more than perhaps the older work.

Stripped Opacity Construction Playground, 2011

OPP: In Striped Opacity Construction Playground, which has multiple iterations, the transparency in the drawings is rendered in sculpture. What led you to shift from drawing to sculpture? What does the sculpture offer that the drawing can’t, and vice versa?

AD: Seeing how any idea renders in different material contexts should always be part of the process. I work on drawing and sculpture simultaneously and find they have a very symbiotic relationship. I think that as a viewer and even as a maker, it’s helpful to have many different kinds of access points to your idea so that what you’re trying to say becomes clearer and clearer. (I kinda made a pun…hahaha). The sculptures drive home the importance of transparency, layering and modularity because viewers can literally see through each space into another.

Cycle Resource, 2015. Graphite, pastel, colored pencil, gouache on paper. 42’’x66’’

OPP: Zebras, horses, foxes, cows and other large animals often mill about your architectural structures. In most cases, I read their presence as a reminder that we humans have displaced other species with our structures. It’s like their ghosts are grazing on another plane right underneath our feet and we are mostly oblivious. Your thoughts?

AD: I really love that you were able to perceive that kind of message about the animals in my work. It is true that modern culture has displaced these animals but that their energy and our relationship with them remains very close. In that sense they are “right underneath our feet.”

I’ve been reading a lot of Clarissa Pinkola Estes work about archetypal myth stories that involve a lot of human interaction or human/animal hybrid relationships which help to explain different levels or plains of our psyche. I took a workshop about dream analysis. The instructor mentioned that the forms that materialize in your dream corresponded to different parts of your psyche. Dreaming of humans is more closely related to the conscious mind, while dreaming of animals is more closely related to the subconscious. The animals are a way of accessing things that are hidden. All of my work is an act of some kind of revealing and opening or at least something in transition or modulating before it closes again. For example, in Cycle Resource the goat, a symbol of the revealing or unveiling, stands almost in the center as if some sort of mascot. When I first started drawing zebras in Striped, I was thinking more about skins. Skins of buildings and skins of animals. I have also always thought of stripes as closely related to human manipulation and manufacturing, something outside of organic forms.

Striped, 2009. graphite, colored pencil, gouache, ground pigment, collage. 36''x54''

OPP: Billboards, tires, buckets and oil drums also litter your spaces in excess. These seem to be another reminder of how the constant forward motion of “Progress” has consequences. Do your drawings offer a solution about the wasteful byproducts of Capitalism?

AD: I don’t think my work or most art in general offers concrete solutions to major socio/economic issues but offers a surfacing and an articulate unveiling of what the issues are. People working collectively will always be the solution.

You are right in that these forms of material culture do symbolizes systems of capitalism. They are definitely excess waste in the physical world, but in the context of my work, this kind of material culture is in transition. It is at the end of its life as we restructure and modulate for a new beginning. A well known art critic gave me some feedback once on my work and the first thing she mentioned was that she got a strong sense of momento mori which translates to “being mindful of death.” The harmful systems in which we live are not working for the survival of life and should be shed or discarded lest we be shed or discarded.

Extensions, 2011. Graphite, ground pigment, colored pencil. 42''x 54''

OPP: Tell our readers about your new project Common Knowledge, which was funded by a successful Kickstarter Campaign.

AD: Common Knowledge promotes wild edible and medicinal plant education through a visual vocabulary of illustrations accessed through interactive and participatory learning tools. This particular iteration of the project highlights species that flourish abundantly in every city of the Northeastern U.S. The human kinship with plants can be traced through time, giving us a window into the historical and cultural contexts of our surroundings. Common Knowledge opens a conversation about these contexts while connecting us to the natural rhythms and cycles of our urban environment.

It is my belief that upon observing these special plants you become part of a larger movement to renew and strengthen the relationships of our interconnected community of humans, plants, animals and insects. It is an idea rooted in green philosophies, alternative pedagogies, nutritional activism and the principles of a gift economy. We conduct workshops, construct installations and have created a growing line of household products including card games and activity-based coloring books.

Urban Edibles, 2012

OPP: Can you offer any helpful tips to artists using Kickstarter for the first time to fund their work?

AD: (1) Think of a Kickstarter campaign as opening a pop-up shop and get 5-10 really affordable items prepared and ready. It’s important to have these items ready because then you can photograph them a bunch to use in your video and to post to your campaign. Having enough photos to post to as many social media outlets as you can but also posting different things from different angles because people don’t like seeing the same images over and over again. (2) Think of the most reasonable amount of money. (3) Be prepared to have this be your life for a few months. It’s a lot of work.

To see more of Alyssa's work, please visit alyssadennis.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 shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular will open in August 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Zach Whitehurst

untitled (s15.5), 2015. Ink, Watercolor and Pencil on Paper. 16" x 12"

ZACH WHITEHURST's process-driven practice results in meticulous, textured and patterned drawings. In a often-monochrome palette, he both fills the void of the page and uses negative space in decisive ways. The resulting images evoke aerial views of landforms, bodies of water and cities, as well as collections of rocks or unnameable found artifacts. Zach completed his BFA, Magna Cum Laude (2003), and his Post Baccalaureate Study (2006) at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He went on to earn his MFA in 2008 from Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. In early 2016, Zach's solo show Dissecting Pattern opened at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery and he recently gave an artist talk at the Brooklyn Art Library. Zach lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Repetitive mark-making is the foundation of your practice. What does repetition mean to you outside of your studio? Where do you encounter it? How do you experience it?

Zach Whitehurst: In the studio my obsession with repetition is more complicated, but outside of the studio, repetition for me is mostly about patterns. There has always been something appealing and comforting to me about pattern. I see it everywhere. In architecture, nature, books, music, numbers, everywhere; the way bodega owners stack fruit outside their stores, subway tiles, the bark on a tree, bar codes, textiles. . . the list is endless. And pattern, for me, is not limited to a same shape or theme being repeated over and over. Sometimes my favorite patterns are the ones which form from a lack repetition.

Pattern and repetition are things that I have always been draw to. I think that I have a bit of an obsessive/compulsive nature and for me there is something meditative and therapeutic about pattern and repetition, especially in terms of routine and organization.

untitled (s16.2), 2016. Ink on Paper. 14" x 17"

OPP: Tell us about the recent introduction of color into what has previously been a distinctly black and white oeuvre.

ZW: For a long time I didn't want to introduce color into my work because I didn't want to take away from the process and pattern. The patterns I was using were, at times, so complex that they needed a minimal plane (white paper) on which to be presented and a minimal tool (black ink) with which to be made. Those drawings were all about process and pattern and often the larger organic shapes—as in the Repetitive Series—which formed as a result. When I was making those pieces, I was very drawn to the simple act of mark making. I would take a pen and paper and let the drawing come out of the process.

More recently, my work has evolved and has become, at times, more experimental. The process I use to make most of my work is, while minimalistic, also very time consuming. The larger pieces can often take so much time in the studio that I don't have any time to work on new ideas. As a way to experiment with new ideas, media and with color, for a year, I did a small 5”x7" drawing everyday. These were involved enough for me to flush out new processes and ideas but small enough to almost be “sketches.” This allowed me to maintain my studio practice and experiment at the same time. A lot of the new work that I have been making has come out of that experimentation. I have started to introduce color, but cautiously and purposefully. The process is still as important to me as the final piece and I am hesitant to have any of my drawings become too heavily imbued by color.

untitled(rs7), 2012. Ink on Paper. Detail

OPP: What’s your favorite mark-making tool and why?

ZW: I have tried, used and  continue to use many different tools in the studio. But the one that I can't live without, the one that I use everyday, is the Sakura Pigma Micron pen. Size 01 (.25mm) is probably the size that I use most often. For me, it's about the consistency of the line, the durability of the tip, and the quality of the ink. I've been using them for years and they have always performed well. Often I am working with a repetitive pattern that is very detailed and which involves tiny shapes. The Micron gives me the ability to work consistently on a small scale without the lines bleeding into one another.

untitled(rs11), 2012. Ink on Paper. 24" x 19"

OPP: I interpret your drawings as partly about a compulsion to fill space. . . what do you think? And can you talk about the moments you choose not to fill the space of the page, as in the Repetitive Series?

ZW: I don't know that I would say that they are "about" a compulsion to fill space, but I would agree that I often do have a compulsion to fill the space (depending on the series or piece) - and I think that this can come through in the work. In the Repetitive Series, I was working on a creating an organic process for myself to not fill the entire space and the series grew from there. What is exciting for me about that series is the negative space, especially when it is very tight. I like the energy and excitement that comes out of keeping the shapes just far enough apart to leave some space between them. At times in the series, I took that process to its extreme by leaving barely any negative space on the page at all. I have some forthcoming work which highlights the discomfort of leaving a piece "unfinished" or a space not "completely" filled.

untitled (gs12), 2014. ink on paper. 19" x 24"

OPP: Your Repetitive Series evokes aerial views of landforms and cities as well as drawn maps, whereas the Grid Series make me think of geology, rock collecting and the cataloging of found artifacts. Both of these are about observing the world, documenting it and trying to make sense of it. Thoughts?

ZW: I would agree that those elements exist and that the drawings from those series can be interpreted in those ways. And I have heard many people describe other things that they see or feel that are different from these. I can see elements of numerous ideas and themes in my work—most of which are entirely the result of the subconscious.

I have a very active "daydreaming" part of my brain that runs on autopilot most all of the time. It's sort of lives between the conscious and subconscious. It feeds from a constant stream of information gathered through conscious observation and study. When I'm working, it's running in the background, processing the information and informing/influencing the subconscious. The larger themes or concepts that come through in finished pieces result greatly from this cycle; starting with conscious thought, filtering through the middle layer and ending up in the subconscious. 

Almost all of my work is process driven. In the Repetitive Series, the overall shapes of the drawings are completely organic and resulted from a desire not to fill the entire page with pattern. Within each of these larger drawings are little "moments" that I found more aesthetically pleasing or exciting than others. I wanted a way to highlight those. That led to the Grid Series, which started a just a way to capture these exciting "moments" and give them a space to inhabit all on their own.

untitled (s14.9), 2014. Ink, Watercolor and Gouache on Paper. 20" x 16"

OPP: What’s different in your New Drawings?

ZW: The New Drawings are much the same in the sense that they are mostly process-driven works. Many of the different directions that I have gone with the newer work are a result of explorations from the year of small drawings that I did. Rather than create work out of research and concept and use process more as a means to the end, I let the process drive my work. Often I notice themes subconsciously seep into in finished work that relate to different aspects of research that I've done, or different ideas or concepts that I am interested in, but I hardly ever start from from that side of the fence. I am constantly trying to figure out how things are made or put together and am always interested in the processes behind the "product" and this is the same approach I take in the studio.

To see more of Zach's work, please visit zachwhitehurst.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 Hadley Radt

Overwhelmed Collection, 2016. Ink and Pen on Panel. 24" x 30"

Counting, a primary method of assessing and feeling mastery over the surrounding world, is foundational to HADLEY RADT’s drawing practice. The relationship between control and anxiety is present in her repetitive process, as she seeks to create order from disorder. The resulting abstract compositions of intertwining and overlapping lines evoke visualizations of neural networks, the rhizomatic structure of the internet and angular arrangements of planks in space. Hadley earned her BFA with Distinction in 2014 from Sonoma State University and is currently a MFA candidate in Painting at California College of the Arts (San Francisco). In 2016, she was a recipient of the Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Award and recently completed a wall drawing for the related exhibition at SOMArts in San Francisco. Her work has been included in group shows at Sanchez Art Center (2016) in Pacifica, California, Southern Exposure (2015) in San Francisco and GearBox Gallery (2015) in Oakland. Hadley lives in Sonoma, California.
 
OtherPeoplesPixels: What does repetition mean to you outside of your drawing practice?

Hadley Radt: I have a pretty obsessive personality and a compulsive need to create order in my life. I approach repetition outside of my drawing practice with a similar logic as I do within my drawing practice. I come up with systems that allow me to find order within disorder. I often count, making up rules around numbers and putting order to things throughout my day. In my drawing practice, I am able to count the marks I make. Outside of my drawing practice, I find myself counting everyday objects and tasks. By creating these routines, I feel a sense of control.

Anxious Will, 2014. Acrylic and Pen on Panel, 40" x 30"

OPP: What’s your process? Do you start with a single mark and then replicate it, not knowing what will emerge? Or do you seek to render an image that you envision in your mind?

HR: In my more architectural line paintings, I start with an idea for the overall structure of the piece. I have a sense of what it will look like as a whole. As I zoom into the detail, I begin to create a logic and method to the patterning and repetition. I construct systems within my mark-making, counting each individual mark.

Currently, I am exploring a less controlled process. I start with a mark and continue to repeat it and let it grow and develop connections organically. I continue to create layers upon layers, allowing the nets to overlap and intertwine. This newer way of mark-making grew out of a lot of experimentation and failure. I allowed myself to let go of the rigid control. This was really difficult at first, but it was important for me to make this shift mentally. Although I am no longer creating strict numeric systems, the process of using repetition still allows me to get into the flow of creating and calms my racing mind.

Deconstructed Repetition, 2016. Pen on Panel. 36" x 48"

OPP: How often do viewers compliment you on your patience? Is it patience or something else?

HR: The first thing people often ask is how much time a piece took. My work is time intensive and does take patience, however, that is not the only aspect that drives my practice. My process is meditative for me. I find myself losing track of time while creating, focusing solely on the marks I am making. I want the viewer to get lost in the obsessiveness of the piece as well, feeling both anxiety and calmness.

OPP: I think that how a viewer interprets or physically responds to an extreme accumulation of marks has way more to do with that person’s nervous system than with the work itself. For example, I find overall compositions made of thousand of tiny marks tremendously calming,  but I know others feel overwhelmed. Thoughts?

HR: I haven’t thought about the viewer’s response in this way before. My process helps me refocus my own anxieties and feel a sense of calmness, as a result, I see those qualities within my work. However, I agree that a person experiencing the piece may feel overwhelmed or calm because their nervous system causes them to have a specific physical response to the accumulation of marks.

Emergence, 2016. Ink and Pen on Panel. 24" x 18"

OPP: Many of your 2016 drawings—Abnormalities, Consumed, and Emergence, to name a few—are rhizomatic structures that evoke simulated images of neural networks and the internet. Are these nets abstract accidents or intentional references? What led to the shift from more architectural accumulations of line, as in Framework (2014) to these more organic accumulations?

HR: In my recent 2016 pieces, I am exploring terrains of connections; physical, psychological, emotional, neurological. I am interested in the depiction of these connections and tracking layers of information. I am looking at repetition and geometry in both the natural and built environment. I’m inspired by maps, aerial views, architecture, fractals in nature, particle formations and magnetic fields. Our environment is full of repetition and pattern, I am intrigued by this order and it influences the structures I create in my work.

This shift in my work started when I began to experiment with new tools and materials. In previous work, I was using micron pens and house paint. In my newer works, I am using a squirt bottle tool with a needle tip to create a repeated pattern. I am intrigued by this way of mark-making. I draw with it like a pen, yet, the ink pools up and “mistakes” occur that I cannot control, adding a human quality and interrupting the systems I create.

The Annual Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition, 2016. Paint Marker on Wall. 16' x 13'

OPP: Can you talk about the tension between contemplation and anxiety?

HR: The tension between these two states is something I often feel. My process is a way for me to refocus my compulsions and feel a sense of calmness. I hope the viewer experiences and connects with my work in this way as well. This is an idea that I am trying to push further. I most recently did a 16’ x 13’ wall drawing for the Murphy & Cadogan Contemporary Art Award exhibition, using a similar repeated pattern as in my paintings. When the piece is larger than the viewer, they become consumed by it. The tension between contemplation and anxiety becomes even more prominent. I am excited to continue to make large wall drawings, and create environments of controlled chaos.

OPP: You are in your 2nd year of grad school right now at California College of Arts, expected to graduate in 2017. Have any practical advice for young artist thinking about applying to grad school or in their first years?

HR: Allow yourself to experiment and explore. Don’t be afraid of failure. Be honest and vulnerable. The connections you make are invaluable, so take advantage of being surrounded by amazing like-minded people!

To see more of Hadley's work, please visit hadleyradt.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 with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.