OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Preetika Rajgariah

SMILE, 2017. Bindis, jewels, thread on silk. 56" x 80."

Interdisciplinary artist PREETIKA RAJGARIAH uses personal biography as a jumping off point in works that "challenge perceptions of exoticism and the sociopolitical standards in Indian and American cultures." Her performative photographs and videos investigate the nature of body adornment—which can paradoxically make us blend in or stand out, depending on the crowd. She gives decorative materials—rufflessarisbindishennaglitterhair extensions—their own embodiment in sculptures and wall works, allowing the viewer to contemplate ornamentation without the body as a substrate. Preetika earned her BA in Studio Art at Trinity University in San Antonio,Texas. She completed her MFA in Painting and Sculpture in 2018 at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She was recently an artist-in-residence at ACRE and is headed to Oxbow in the fall. Her work will be included in a two-person show, opening at Roots and Culture (Chicago) in October. Preetika is currently preparing for three solo exhibitions in Texas in 2019: Tangled at Art League HoustonSari Not Sorry at Lawndale Art Center (Houston), and a currently-untitled show at Women and their Work (Austin). Preetika lives and works in Houston, Texas.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What does adornment mean to you?

Preetika Rajgariah: Adornment represents choice—the choice to adorn or not—and pushing those boundaries. 

In my culture, adornment is expected for women to elevate one's beauty or status. . . growing up with the pressure to decorate oneself or present in certain ways is something I’m interested in challenging in my life and work. 

Beauty Mask, 2018. Digital Photo.

OPP: What’s the role of exaggeration in your photographic and video works from Self

PR: I’ve often gravitated towards accumulation and repetition in my practice. More recently, I like to use my body as material to showcase this exaggeration. I’ve always been a bit of an athlete or a competitive person, so in the videos or photos, I am often in competition with myself. I am very interested in exploring my limits and defying my own expectations. So, these works explore limits and standards that are set by societies. 

How About Now?, 2017. Video performance with sindoor powder. 4:10 Excerpt from 20 minutes.

OPP: Can you talk about additive versus subtractive processes in your series of modified Saris? Is the sari a symbol—if so, of what?—or simply a familiar surface in this work?

PR: The sari represents familiarity and nostalgia while simultaneously embodying the exotic. It is a material that evokes memories of the place I was born, but it also signifies a culture that I sometimes feel extremely removed from.

Typically, impulse and intuition lead the decisions I make in my practice. I MAKE first and foremost, no matter the medium I am using. In the two dimensional sari pieces, I make formal decisions of addition or subtraction depending on each particular sari and the story that inspires the piece (yes, there’s usually a autobiographical narrative that informs each of my works). 

What we keep, what we leave, 2017. Sari with pyrography. 55" x 90."

OPP: Both material and process play a big role in your work. Are you more driven by one or the other? 

PR: Both material and process are crucial to the content of the work. More often, I am drawn to material first, as it is extremely narrative driven, and then process comes in as my way of problem-solving. Coming from a painting background, I treat material similarly to paint. Formally, it is a large part of the beauty in my work. The materials I use in my work now—textiles, powders, henna—go way back for me. They are all materials that surrounded me daily while growing up. In this sense, I feel much more connected to my art and my work now than when it existed as just paintings. My processes—stitching, tearing, pouring, bleaching—are ways of handling of these materials that complicate, dismantle and re-purpose.

Climax, Migrating Identities, 2015. Watercolor on paper. 51" x 1.2'

OPP: I love the migration paintings. They teeter between abstraction and representation, and the marks remind me of thumbprints. Can you talk about the shift from these representations of the movement of groups of people to focusing in on the individual in recent work?

PR: In recent years, as I have unpacked my own upbringing and personal life, the work has honed in on the individual as well. The migration paintings are directly related to my three dimensional sculptures—the aunties. I had wanted to make three dimensional versions of the paintings for quite sometime, and as I became interested in fabric and textile, experimenting with the new material lead me to create free standing, hollow sculptures made entirely from scraps of traditional silks - often saris that belonged to the women in my family. 

Hairy auntie, 2017. 25" x 60."

OPP: Who are the aunties in Soft Bodies? Are these soft sculptures memorials to your real aunties?

PR: No, the aunties are not specific to any real people, but they do embody a certain spirit so to speak. They are mash-ups of many dualities I experience: Indian/American, traditional/modern, masculine/feminine, past/present, hard/soft, etc. As I created these amorphous bodies, the narrative around their being came into existence. They are bold, resistant and a bit othered. They represent facets of my own personality as a bit of an othered woman in the American and Indian societies that I navigate, while also being stand ins for a tribe of aunties I wish I had had in my life growing up.

To see more of Preetika's work, please visit prajgariah.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 and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. 

Going Strong for 7 Years: Adam Ekberg

Did you know the OPP blog turns seven-years-old at the end of August? In honor of our upcoming birthday and the artists we feature, we'll be sharing some blasts from the past. In this post and over the next few weeks, we'll share new work from Featured Artists interviewed in the first year of the blog. First up: Adam Ekberg!

Lawn Chair Catapult, 2017. Archival pigment print.

What's new in your practice, Adam Ekberg?

My new studio is in an old barn in New Jersey I restored over the last few years. In the barn is a small room with a chair and table near a window that looks out over a wooded area. This is where I go and make drawings of actions that I want to see occur in the world. After I make the sketches, I write notes about how to make a particular action exist at least long enough for me to photograph it. The studio walls are pinned with sketches, which only come down once the final photograph is made- the replacement of the sketch with a small print always feels like a small victory.

Beer Bottles, Banana, Cocktail Umbrellas, Disco Ball and Bic Lighter, 2017. Archival pigment print.

While my working process involves a lot of experimentation, I have become increasingly uncompromising in any deviation between the initial sketch and the final photograph. It is like a completely ridiculous game I have concocted with very specific parameters--you wouldn't believe what is entailed to catapult a lawn chair on the plains of the Midwest!

Roller Skates and Aerosol Containers, 2017. Archival pigment print.

Coming up this fall, I will have images on view in the Maine Center for Contemporary Art Biennial and in the upcoming exhibition Groundings at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. I am also at work on images for a large upcoming solo-exhibition so I am a bit of an art-monk at the moment. Recent solo-exhibitions include those at ClampArt, New York, De Soto Gallery, Los Angeles, Platform Gallery, Seattle and Capsule Gallery, Houston. My work is featured in the upcoming publication The Focal Press Companion to the Constructed Image in Contemporary Photography, and my monograph, The Life of Small Things, was published in late 2015.

Candles, Mirrors and Laser, 2014. Archival pigment print.

Read Adam's 2010 interview.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Montana Torrey

Bagnasciuga, 2017. Folded collagraph. 28.5" x 6" x 10.5" total piece is 29 feet.

During the midnight sun months in Iceland, MONTANA TORREY painted the sunset daily on her window. She hung gauzy ghosts of American Private Property signs In a Finland forest, where Everyman's Law rules. In Venice, she looked to the horizontal line of algae growth along the sides of the canals as a document of the difference between wet and dry. In each case, landscape is a lens that magnify the dualities inherent in particular sites. Montana earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Headlands Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Catwalk Institute, and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, among others. Recent Exhibitions include shows at Hotel Art Fair (Bangkok, Thailand), the Subhashok Arts Centre (Bangkok, Thailand) and SAC Gallery and Lab (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Montana currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she is a Visiting Lecturer at Chiang Mai University.

OtherPeoplesPixels: According to your website, your work “employs the landscape as a metaphorical tool to investigate sites of opposition.” What kinds of oppositions? Can you give us some examples?

Montana Torrey: My work is a response to particular sites, either through direct physical engagement with the landscape or by using metaphorical elements of the landscape contained within architecture. The sites of oppositions are an arrangement that I create as a way of recontextualizing and understanding place. I do this by structuring a dialogue between the site, material, and an idea.

I approach the site by questioning its dualities: public/private; absence/presence; tangible/intangible; fear/comfort; freedom/containment; heaviness/ weightlessness, etc. My most recent work, Floodplain (126), re-imagines an ancient flooded ruin in Chiang Mai, Thailand through the dualities of absence/presence, past/presence, heaviness/weightlessness. This work embodied the temporal past and present of the ruin, suggested the flood waters through the piece’s movement, and transformed the seemingly inherent weight of brick by making them from paper and creating the illusion of weightlessness.

I have used oppositional structures to create and form a new experience of place and understanding of the site in its relation to the present.

Division of Labor, 2015. Hand-sewn silk organza. 30 feet.

OPP: Can you talk about the various barriers—both literal and metaphoric—in your work?

MT: The use of barriers, borders and fences started when I was in graduate school. Much of my work then was about public and private space and the psychological factors that determine what we deem as protective/protected space within the American psychic landscape. This was the beginning of my interest in literal divisions of the landscape and how we divide, manipulate and control space to further convey these ideas. At that time, I was looking at a lot of historical American landscape paintings—such as those of the Hudson River School—that were celebrating the vastness of the landscape as a form of propaganda to promote westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, which in turn resulted in the exploitation and further division of the landscape into private property.

Morning Light Barrier, 2016. Hand-painted silk organza. Variable dimensions.

OPP: What about the light barriers?

MT: I created the sewn “light barriers” for several exhibitions at the Catwalk Institute in Catskill, NY as a response to the work of Frederic Church. With these pieces, I was re-inserting elements of Church’s skies back into the landscape, inverting the horizon and imprisoning shafts of light. So, my first sewn light barriers were a reference to Church and others’ use of the horizon as a representation of the future, a collective future of the land beyond. However, when my pieces were inserted into the landscape they functioned as barriers, by creating physically blocks and restricting the suggestion of the infinite.

From there I began using the horizon more and more, working with the horizontal and vertical elements of dusk and dawn and experimenting with these pieces in relation to architecture.

We Buy Gold, 2011. Tarpaulin.

OPP: You’ve been to numerous residencies in European countries—Iceland, Finland and Italy, to name a few. It seems that many of your projects in these countries refer back to the American landscape by inserting what is missing. Is this a planned agenda or an intuitive response?

MT: Each site is tangible, present. One of the ways I approach my practice is by searching for an absence or ways of evoking absence through presence. I am interested in the formation of spatial perception and how spatial perception can be culturally defined. So, when I am working in a new country, I seek to insert my own spatial understanding of the landscape into that place. It is a form of place-making, rooted in memory, and cultural conditioning about the landscape. I try to collapse the distance of my own past and my immediate present in space.

On one hand, it is a calculated way of working, but within this, I allow for the experiential. I like to remain open to how my ideas will evolve and be informed by new places and cultures that help to shape the development of my work.

Permanent Sunset, 2012. Paint on window. Skagaströnd, Iceland.

OPP: What does your practice look like when you aren’t at residencies?

MT: Because I create installations about place, my work is always in flux and requires the continual investigation of materials and research, through both conceptual and academic development. Much of my work is informed by architecture and nature, so this is an endless and peripatetic investigation. Moving through space and observing the ways in which we understand the landscape through movement is very much a part of my research: when I live in the U.S., I am constantly driving and searching for architectural forms or sites to use within my work, but also making note of time and distance. I am seeking to create more of a phenomenological experience within my current installations, so finding ways of understanding a more embodied experience is critical.

Much of my practice takes place outside of the studio, in the field or in the library, and my studio is much more of a laboratory for the testing of materials, but the work all comes together in the installation.

Floodplain (126), 2018. 126 folded collagraphs. 3.5 x 3.5 meters.

OPP: What’s a collagraph? How does this process support your conceptual concerns in Bagnasciuga (2017) and Floodplain (126) (2018)?

MT: A collagraph is a basic printmaking technique in which the plate can be created with very inexpensive materials such as cardboard, glue, gesso. I started using this technique last year (2017) when I was a fellow at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy. I found that collagraphs gave me the ability to create a wide variety of textures and to mimic the water line on the Istrian stone for my piece, Bagnasciuga. I began to make installations out of 3-dimensional collagraphs.

Both Bagnasciuga and Floodplain (126) explore the intersection between water, the built environment and the physical vulnerabilities of these structures through climate change. I intentionally used paper for these works because it helped to convey vulnerability via a shift in materiality from stone or brick to a fragile material. The paper also created another conceptual dichotomy; the illusion of weightlessness. Both of these installations move with the gentle swaying of water. Bagnasciuga moves back and forth like the rocking of the vaporetto or a dock as you move throughout the city, and Floodplain (126) moves like debris floating on the surface of water. Again, the experience of movement through space is critical to the function of both of these pieces, as I tried to evoke the feelings of floating, shifting, swaying, gliding, drowning and rising to the surface of water as the viewer moves around and through these works.

Portable Widow's Walk, Bird Island Lookout, 2008. Handcut canvas/ acrylic paint.

OPP: Where to next? 

MT: I am currently living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a Visiting Lecturer in the Painting Department at Chiang Mai University. I’ve been in Thailand for the past eight months, having originally come here as an artist-in-residence with the Subhashok Arts Centre in Bangkok, but subsequently secured a position as a guest lecturer. For now, I plan to stay here for the foreseeable future, possibly with an intermittent break pursue a Ph.D. 

It is important to me to find alternative and affordable ways of creating an art-practice and to seek teaching experiences outside of the U.S., given the current political and financial climate for the arts. While I believe in art as an essential element of resistance, the responsibility of maintaining an arts practice in my home country, where funding for the arts is being slashed and the cost of living continues to rise, was becoming unsustainable for me. Furthermore, being in Southeast Asia has given me a deeper understanding of how dynamic and ever-changing the global art world is. My work will always reflect my experience growing up in the U.S., but I want to find more and more ways of connecting that experience to the rest of the world. 

To see more of Montana's work, please visit montanatorrey.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 and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. 

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 Isak Applin

He Was a Friend of Mine, 2016. Oil on canvas. 36" x 48"

ISAK APPLIN's painted vignettes often depict quiet moments that point to the internal experiences of their subjects. A man chops wood while remembering a betrayal. Solitary figures stroll through the forest in contemplation. Although there is occasional drama—sometimes a man is knifed outside a bar. Regardless, these works balance site with story. His attention to color and texture demands that viewrs take the environments as seriously as the action. Isak earned his BFA in Painting at Maine College of Art and his MFA in Painting and Drawing at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His numerous solo shows include: Dark Holler (Chicago, 2006) at Contemporary Art Workshop, Six More Miles (Chicago, 2008) at Roots and CultureChocorua(Ontario, 2013) at Evans Contemporary, and Now Chicago (Sydney, Australia, 2014) at The Hughes Gallery. Around the Mountain Again, a two-person show also featuring the work of Featured Artist Carl Baratta opened at The New Standard Gallery (Sydney, Australia) in early 2018. He is currently at the Stephen Pace House Residency in Stonington Maine. Isak also runs Titan and Weald, a private press specializing in chapbooks, fine press books and relief prints. Isak lives in Queens, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What’s your relationship to the woods?

Isak Applin: I see the forest as a place of mystery and change.

I grew up in the woods of the Taconic Mountains on border of Massachusetts and New York State. In the 19th century, lumber mills, small factories and sheep farms deforested much of the region. As these industries waned during the mid 20th century a rich forest quickly grew back. And yet traces of the old way of life remained: logging roads, building foundations, stonewalls, mysterious piles of rocks and weathered fence posts were scattered throughout the woods. I witnessed the tail end of this transformation as a child; even then I found it awe-inspiring, disconcerting and sublime.

As a child and teenager, the forest was also a stage for adventure—it was my African jungle, Sherwood Forest and Siberian taiga. Later it was the place for one’s first kiss and precious hours of freedom from school and parents. 

The inhabitants of this forested area were also equally fascinating. During the 1970s, the area was settled by Whole Earth Catalog inspired hippies, Vietnam Vets seeking solace and New Yorkers who had always dreamed of owning a horse. It was also a place of big dreams and spectacular and frightening failures. Within a few miles of my house there was a thriving Sufi commune, a huge Indian style Peace Pagoda built entirely by volunteers and a failed nudist colony—it had descended into violent, drug-ridden chaos. I’ve always been extremely fascinated and moved by my neighbors’ eccentric and epic lives. 

The Letter II, 2014. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: How you think about the woods when painting?

IA: Many of the paintings attempt to capture the sentiments I described above. They are simply an edited depiction of that landscape or the story set in that landscape. I have always been a collector of stories and situations I find moving, strange and unique. Sometimes, often years after the event, I feel the need to make a painting of one of these stories in an attempt to record and share it. And this is how much of my work is generated: I hear a story or experience something, find myself reflecting on it, and at some point decide that this event needs to be shared with the rest of the world. 

Forked Lake, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 12" x 9"

OPP: What’s your relationship to landscape painting?

IA: My relationship to landscape paintings is that of a magpie to its nest; I’ll steal from any tradition if it helps me convey the spirit of the story or place I’m depicting! In general, the compositions are largely influenced by Medieval Sienese paintings, Persian and Indian miniatures and various Chinese paintings. Early and mid 20th century European and American modernists often inform my color choices and paint handling. Lately I’ve been under the spell of Monica Poole and Gwenda Morgan, wood engravers from Britain that created marvelously inventive landscape prints.

His Last Night in Randazzo, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 19" x 14"

OPP: His Last Night in Randazzo (2018) and Goodbye Jay (2017) have a cinematic quality, in the sense that the scenes floating around the central figure indicate something other than what’s happening in the present moment. I keep flipping back and forth between thinking they are the near future, the distant past or a complete fantasy in the heads of the figures in the bottom of the the paintings. Thoughts?

IA: Both paintings are inspired by true events, and both depict several different points of time within one composition. The events are fragments, and they do not necessarily come together to form a coherent narrative. In these paintings I hope to capture what it feels like to hear the stories (or the storyteller) that I’m working with, rather than transcribe these events into a linear narrative.  

Goodbye Jay is a memorial painting, albeit a light-hearted one, depicting events from the life of a friend who was a sailor on research vessels in the Arctic and the South Seas. He lived in a comic book world of maritime violence and South Seas romance. His Last Night in Randazzo is a little less straightforward. I used the space to the left of the tree in the center as a container for vignettes depicting an acquaintance’s escape from Sicily and his flight to Detroit. To the right of this tree is a couple walking down a path in the present day--they are the ones that have to live under the weight of the events on the left.

Fantasy is sparingly added to these compositions, I only include fictional events in the paintings if I feel that it will enhance or clarify the feeling that I’m trying to convey.

Spring '96, 2013. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Can you talk about the recurring themes of being chased, watched or stalked?

IA: The chase themed paintings began in 2012. A friend and I were cycling along a wooded path on a drizzling November afternoon, and we were suddenly chased by an incredibly fast deranged man wearing a cape of burlap sacks. Around this same time everyone in my apartment building was unexpectedly evicted. I started making some drawings of being chased while cycling, and the chase theme became an allegory for forced flight.

The “watching” paintings are about longing, loss and the quixotic behavior of scorned lovers. Like the other paintings, these are based on true events from the distant past that have haunted and moved me. I never really set out to make a painting about being stalked, but I can see how some of the compositions could inspire that interpretation.

Dennis and Marilyn, 2016. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Tell us about the process of making collaborative prints with Carl Baratta and Oli Watt?

IA: This series started in 2007. One of our primary goals is to create a collaborative piece where the viewer can’t see each artist’s hand. Put another way, we hope that no one will be able to look at a piece and suspect that I drew the bottom, Carl drew the top and the middle looks like something from one of Oli’s prints. To achieve this, we try to draw in each other’s style, we often take turns carving different parts of the wood block, and we generally make all decisions collectively.

Old Woman Spring Road I, 2016. Collaboration with Carl Baratta, woodcut on paper. 9" x 12"

OPP: Did this collaboration teach you anything about your solo practice?

IA: For a long time, the collaborative work was a place where I (we) explored fantastic and mythological themes that were absent from, or didn’t seem to fit into, my personal work. The collaborative prints were a vessel for passages from the epic of Gilgamesh, invented deities and the depiction of other worlds—content that seemed at odds with my paintings set in the contemporary world. To my surprise, in 2014 the apparitions, ghosts and angels from the collaborative prints started creeping into the personal work, enriching it in a way that I could never have anticipated.

To see more of Isak's work, please visit isakapplin.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 Susan Klein

Small Sculptures, 2017. Oil on ceramic and epoxy clay.

SUSAN KLEIN's work weaves in and out of an irreverence for the sacred and a reverence for the banal. Her sculptures and drawings are playful, colorful and humorous. . . and they take themselves seriously. They are complex explorations of ambiguous forms—urns, gravestones, altars, severed fingers—that evoke the human devotional impulse. Susan earned her BFA in Studio Art at University of New Hampshire, followed by her MFA in Painting at University of Oregon. In June 2018, she was an artist-in-residence at the Wassaic Project in Wassaic, New York, and she will be spending July at theInternational Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn. She is the curator of Nighttime For Strangers, which features the work of Skye GilkersonHeather Merckle, and Holly Veselka, at the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn. The show opens this Friday on July 6 and runs through July 27. Her upcoming solo show Susan Klein: New Work opens on September 6, 2018 at the Sumter County Gallery of Art in South Carolina. Susan's work in represented by The Southern. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do you define the Sacred?

Susan Klein: I think of the sacred as that which is imbued with a specific religious or spiritual significance. This can be an object or living being that is revered and often held as directly connected to a god or gods. I am interested in the arbitrary manner that objects can be consecrated and made sacred. An ordinary object can be transformed into a thing that carries power, weight and spirituality. It can act as the connection between this world and another.  

Offering, 2017. Oil and acrylic on ceramic stoneware. 84 x 84 x 6 inches.

OPP: Can you talk about that recurring form which is sometimes a severed finger, sometimes a gravestone, sometimes a monument?

SK: This form references a pattern on an Etruscan artifact. I have played with it many times in painting, drawing and sculpture. I like how it can shift between a finger, figure, phallus and monument. It is a form that symbolizes creation, touch and commemoration. 

It is interesting that you mention it as a severed finger! The violence associated with that connects the form to Shadow Things (2014-2015), a body of work that directly relates to cemeteries, urns, grave markers and funerary ornament. I was thinking about how these markers or holders of the dead are used to commemorate and bridge the living and the dead. Mausoleum and the related works grew out of visits to museums to see artifacts (Roman and Egyptian funerary artifacts to name a few) and out of my experience in Berlin’s Weissensee Cemetery, the second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe that miraculously survived WWII. Many Jews hid in the mausoleums there, but I think most were found and killed. Despite this history—or maybe because of it—it is an amazingly beautiful place. Humans have a way of turning death into something beautiful. Through religion, commemoration, decoration and the use of the sacred object or altars we find ways to grapple with that which we do not understand. 

Three Rainbows, 2017. Oil on canvas and wood. 60 x 48 inches.

OPP: What role does humor play in your work?

SK: Humor is a counter to the heaviness in life. It is a way we can process and manage emotions, trauma and current events. For me, it is also a way to prevent work from becoming literal, heavy-handed, overly simplified and a one-liner. It keeps complexity in the work, and that mirrors the human psyche.  

The finger form is as funny as it is serious. I often use shapes or imagery that shift from serious to playful, venerated to irreverent. This slippage is important to me, and one of the main reasons I am currently working with the ubiquitous symbol of the rainbow. It is used in religion, new age spirituality, emojis, stickers, etc. I think it is funny to use a cliched image in "serious," formal work. There are so many associations we have with the rainbow as a symbol. Rainbows are very seductive and silly in reproduction (but a real rainbow is always beautiful). It is fun to play with those associations, to personify and glorify this image. Plus, how can I resist a good color gradient? 

Landed, 2018. Oil on ceramic stoneware. 18 x 14 x 7 inches.

OPP: It seems like you began in drawing and painting and moved into sculpture. Is that the case? What led you toward sculpture?

SK: In graduate school, I cut up drawings and made three-dimensional structures out of them. I would use these structures as stand-alone sculptures and as still life subjects for paintings. I also began using small foam and spilled paint sculptures as subjects. This process continued after school for many years. Later, I pulled forms from paintings and made them into sculpture. There has been a continuous back and forth, although I had about three years or so where I focused entirely on painting. A collaborative exhibition in Berlin in 2015 brought sculpture back into my practice. I incorporated the furniture in the exhibition space into my work. That certainly changed things! In some ways, straight painting and image making never satisfied me. I continuously was thinking of the painting as object, so moving into sculpture made perfect sense. Strangely, much of the art I admire most are very quiet paintings, like Giorgio Morandiand Édouard Vuillard. Although Betty Woodman and Jessica Stockholder rock my world. 

Looped, 2018. Oil on ceramic stoneware. 15 x 9 x 9.75 inches.

OPP: When did ceramics first enter your tool kit?

SK: In 2016 I began making forms out of Sculpey, epoxy resin and air dry clay as a way to solve an architectural issue with a cement piece. These forms and materials clicked, so I made more and more. A year ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the artist in residence program at Otis College of Art and Design. They have a ceramics studio and an amazing ceramics tech there, so it was the perfect time to experiment with clay. I loved it immediately! Instead of glazing, I fire the clay and oil paint it.  This keeps the work firmly connected to painting and allows me to work with a process that more spontaneous than glazing. I also love how the oil paint takes to the fired surface. It is very buttery and satisfying!

OPP: Talk about your choice to present artist statements in the form of audio and video that doesn’t tell us much at all. You could have no statement at all, as many artists do. Are you a contrarian? Or genuinely mystified by writing an artist statement?

SK: Ha! I have "proper" artist statements that I use for applications, exhibitions, and whatnot, but I like resisting language on the website. I think the work creates its own language and presents that to the viewer. I am not so interested in layering verbal/written language on top of that. Although I am an academic, I have a small problem with the academicizing of visual art.  Artist statements are a direct result of the proliferation of the MFA and the professionalization of the field. . . so yes, maybe I am a bit contrarian! But I also like that image and sound can exist as a statement or descriptor of the work. There is something pre-lingual in my work and in my experience words can obfuscate, confuse and miscommunicate as often as not. One must be a very good writer to illuminate the world.

Peach Diamond Reverence, 2016. Foam, paint, glitter, resin, clay. 12.5 x 11 x 9 Inches.

OPP: What’s frustrating about how viewers respond to your work?

SK: For some reason, I dislike the word whimsical being applied to my work. I don't know why! Maybe because it makes me think of cuteness. My work incorporates play, humor and improvisation, but it is also rigorous. Whimsy feels a bit fluffy. 

OPP: What’s satisfying? 

SK: It is satisfying when viewers really engage with the work. When they spend the time to get lost in it a little, when they start to react the dark side as well as the light. I do like to see people having fun with my work as well! My art idol is Elizabeth Murray, who created work that embodies many things at once. It is playful, humorous, rigorous, serious. 

To see more of Susan's work, please visit susankleinart.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 Kaitlynn Redell

not her(e) (couch), 2016. Digital c-print.

KAITLYNN REDELL's work often begins with photographs, both found and made. Photography's history is steeped in the myth of pure and accurate representation of reality, making it a perfect medium to explore the errors we make when define humans only by their bodies. By cutting into, drawing on and collaging photographic imagery, she explores the relationship between the identities we choose and the ones forced upon us by others. Kaitlynn received her BFA from Otis College of Art and Design in 2009 and her MFA from Parsons the New School for Design in 2013. She has participated in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally. Her work has been seen most recently in Labors: An Exhibition Exploring the Complexities of Motherhood at Pearl Conard Gallery, Ohio State University in Mansfield, Ohio and the 32nd Biennial of Graphic Arts: Birth as Criterion in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Kaitlynn has been an Parent Artist Resident with her daughter at Popps PackingIn addition to her solo work, she is one half of Redell & Jimenez, an ongoing collaboration with artist Sara Jimenez. They have been Artists-in-Residence at the Wassaic Project and Yaddo. Kaitlynn lives and works in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your work addresses “inbetweeness and how ‘unidentifiable’ bodies—that do not identify with standard categories—negotiate identity.” Generally speaking, how do you think about the relationship between identity and the body?

Kaitlynn Redell: This is such a complex question.  I think what is most important to distinguish is the difference between the identities we choose for ourselves versus the identities that are placed upon us by others. I think we are lucky to live in a moment when that distinction is becoming more widely acknowledged. Unfortunately, however, I think the identities that are most commonly placed upon us are directly tied to the body and unfortunately are often used as a way to categorize and control.

Alternate (1), 2011. Cut laser print. 11" x 17."

OPP: Do you always, sometimes or never use your own body/image in the work to address your conceptual concerns? Why or why not?

KR: My work always comes from the personal, so it often makes sense to use my body/image as a direct medium. Sometimes it is more obscured than other times. I am very conscious of the generalized connotations the image of my body has on the work, so how and when I use my body directly correlates to how aware I want the viewer to be to their own assumptions of my identity.

Supporting as Herself (Civic Duty), 2013. Graphite on Duralar.

OPP: Can you talk about the role of hair in Supporting As Herself? I see figures obscured—almost mummified—by their own hair.

KR: Supporting As Herself explores how film stills of Anna May Wong, the 1920s Chinese American actress, carry a sense of historical weight and serve as a contested foundation for my own understanding of identity. The manipulated representation of her public image, the stereotypical roles she played and my proximity to her birthplace—Chinatown, Los Angeles—have created an aura that haunts me to the core. I see Wong as a lynch pin for what it means to be both simultaneously American and foreign. . . to be “othered.”

In my series Supporting as Herself, I use photographs of Wong as a starting point. Through performative mimicking, photography, collage and drawing I explore the ways in which Wong presented/performed race and gender. I created a series of figurative collages and drawings using publicity stills of Wong and images of myself mimicking her poses as reference material. I am interested in how my figurative collages/drawings reference Wong’s image as a starting point, but become amorphous bodies engaged in their own language. The drawing sections done in graphite reference hair, fabric, muscle or some sort of tightly bound covering.  This rendering is meticulous and realistic, but unclear as to if it is hair, muscle or some other sort of fiber. Ultimately, I am interested in how these shape-shifting figures begin to create their own histories, of their own accord.

not her(e) (table), 2017. Digital c-print.

OPP: Your most recent series Not Her(e) gets at the complicated emotions involved in motherhood. These photographs point to the loss of identity and the subsuming of self into the role of mother. Can you talk about the process of making these photographs?

KR: When my daughter was first born, I had a really hard time transitioning my studio practice. My time was so fragmented and when I did get in the studio (aka my dining room table at the time), I felt like I was totally lost and didn’t know what to make. I thought about Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Maintenance Manifesto every, single day. 

So, I began to change my ways of working to fit my new routine, both conceptually and materially. I was looking at a lot of Victorian Hidden Mother portraiture and thinking about how much of becoming a parent is about being loving and supportive and well as being invisible. And not only how emotional, but physical it was to become this support. I started thinking about and making drawings for this body of work when my daughter was a month old. We shot our first image when she was three months and the last when she was almost two years old. I started making “furniture costumes” for every piece of furniture I used to take care of my kid. And then I would inhabit these costumes and become a part of the support.

Counterbalance, 2012. Collaboration with Sara Jimenez. Single channel video. 0:54 min, loop.

OPP: What does it mean to have a “bi-coastal” collaborative practice with artist Sara Jimenez?

KR: Sara and I started collaborating in 2012 in graduate school at Parsons in New York. She still lives there, but I moved back to LA the summer after graduation. Our collaboration has always been project-based, and we have continued to work in this manner even though we are not in the same city. We apply collaboratively to residencies as well as spend short, intense periods of time together starting and completing projects. We also spend a lot of time planning over video chat. Most recently we attended the Yaddo residency in upstate New York together and will be curating an exhibition here in LA in 2019. The exhibition will include works by artists who explore poetic gestures of the body as an evolving site of communication, language, history and myth, via collaborative based projects. Specifically we are interested in how the process of collaboration activates a space for collective negotiation of our physical and psychic embodiment of identity.

OPP: How has this collaboration influenced or affected your solo practice?

KR: Collaborating with Sara has always been a part of my “mature” art career, so it absolutely affects my solo practice. When you collaborate, you constantly have to discuss every detail with another person and can't just get lost in your own head. So it has really helped me to verbalize my process both physically and conceptually. Before we started collaborating, our solo practices came from very similar conceptual places—which is a big reason why our collaboration has always felt so natural—but were somewhat different in terms of discipline. I come from a drawing, papercutting, painting, textiles/fashion background and Sara from a performance, video and sculpture background. We both had this history of body movement (Sara with dance and me with gymnastics) and I think performing collaboratively with her really allowed me to access that physical space again.

Domestic Air, Space, 2017. Cut digital c-print and balsa wood. 19 x 19 x 5 inches.

OPP: What are you working on right now?

KR: Aside from the curatorial project with Sara, I’m also working on a series of drawings, collages and paper-cut photographs about my great Auntie Hilda Yen. She’s actually my mother’s Aunt, but in Chinese culture the term “Auntie” is kind of all-encompassing for female relatives and close family friends that aren’t your mother or grandmother. I never had the opportunity to meet Hilda, but I am interested in the fluidity of memory and the influx nature of personal and collective histories, which has brought me to researching her. Hilda was one of the first female, Chinese aviators (beginning in the 1930s) and was a member of the League of Nations and the World Women’s Party for Equal Rights. 

I’m interested in the sort of historical and personal mythology that has been built around her and how women like her are so often left out of “commonly known” history. As I’ve gotten deeper into the research she’s become more and more fascinating to me in terms of how she’s been represented (or not) as a historical figure. Equally there is this whole other side in relation to my family’s personal memories of her. I’m interested in the kind of dovetailing between my mother and uncle’s fragmented memories of her and the glimpses of her “historical” representation in newspaper articles and League of Nations documents. A lot of the documentation is so representative of the racial and gender biases of the time period; I’m interested in how that narrative frames the information provided and only tells a fragment of the story. I think that one—unnervingly contemporary—quote from Hilda’s 1935 address to the League of Nations sums up how I interpret her mythology: “Give your women legal equality willingly and in good spirit, or have it taken from you.”

To see more of Kaitlynn's work, please visit kaitlynnredell.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. 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 Hoesy Corona

Alien Nation, 2017. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

HOESY CORONA takes a multimedia approach to art-making. His complex performance works, which involve movement, costume, light and sound, balance alienation with celebration. His sculptural works explore the role of scapegoating in maintaining cultural dominance. Concerned with a queerness, immigration and climate change, he explores the many forms of marginalization in North American society. Hoesy earned his BFA at The Maryland Institute College of Art in 2009 and is currently a MAT candiate. He has exhibited at The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Walters Art Museum and The Peale Museum, among numerous others. In 2017, he received an Andy Warhol Foundation Grit Fund Grant and, in 2016, a Ruby’s Project Grant in Visual Arts. He is a 2017-2018 Halcyon Arts Lab Fellow, as well as an Artist-in Residence at the Fillmore School Studio in Washington, D.C. Hoesy lives and works in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Costumes that obscure the identity of the wearer feature prominently in your performance work, especially The Nobodies (2009-present). Who are The Nobodies?

Hoesy Corona: The Nobodies are no one and everyone at once. In this series I consider what it means to be a disenfranchised member of society in North America by embodying the abstract concept of nobody, nothing all of a sudden becomes individualized, becomes body and eyes, becomes no one. I started this series after reading The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz in which he describes the fraught psyches in the relationship between Mexico and The United States in detail. As a Mexican immigrant artist living in the U.S. for most of my life, I consider the paradox of the simultaneous visibility and invisibility of the immigrant in the U.S. In this series I invite audience members to participate in the act of nobodying, an operation that consists of making somebody into nobody. 

Nobodies Gala, 2016.

OPP: Can you talk about the materials you use to construct the wearable sculptures?

HC: I use a variety of familiar everyday materials to construct these wearable sculptures. When I started the series in 2009, I was working as a florist and was drawn to discarded floral packaging materials—cellophane, ribbons, mylar, silk florals, and mesh nettings—and collected them obsessively. Once I had amassed a substantial amount of stuff, I then transformed the materials into other-worldly colorful wearable sculptures that accompanied a live performance. I no longer work as a florist, but I am still interested in using different types of plastics as well as wigs, silk flowers, lights, clear film, and adhesive vinyls to construct new Nobodies

OPP: What kinds of movements do the Nobodies perform in public spaces?

HC: The movements in the Nobodies are very subtle and sculptural. Oftentimes, viewers don’t realize that the  sculptures are being animated by real people. The slow movements invite the audience members to pause as they consider the situation before them. In public spaces these performances are particularly poignant as the unsuspecting viewers encounter the Nobodies in their natural setting. 

Scapegoat Monument, 2014.

OPP: The Scapegoats show up both as static sculptures—some life sized and some tiny—and performance characters. Do you see one iteration as more successful than the other? How do they work differently on the audience?

HC: I often intertwine the archetype of the scapegoat as a way to have us visualize the strategic selection of somebody, made into nobody, for the supposed wellbeing of the group. The sculptural forms don’t always involve a live performance, but are still performative in their context. In Scapegoat Thrones, for instance, I use found chair structures as the base of each sculpture and ask audience members to consider the cost of the comfort that is afforded to them in the world. So while there is no live performance involved, the audience can still imagine themselves in relation to the chair forms. Most recently during a residency at Ox-Bow School of Art, I worked in the ceramic studio to construct miniature Scapegoat Idols that can be handled by audience members. My hope is that one day each person in the US will have their own Scapegoat Idol that they can use to liberate themselves from negative feelings of blame and shame.

Scapegoat Idol, 2016

OPP: Tell us about Alien Nation (2017) at the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington D.C. 

HC: Alien Nation, curated by Victoria Reis at The Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, was my most ambitious site specific performance to date. It included with 24 performers and two musicians. This mysterious and surprising shadow casting performance originated in response to the unique circular architecture of the museum. I knew I wanted to do something of a global scale that implicated a broad audience and included as many people as possible, so I conceived the idea of climate induced migration as a very real issue of our time that needs to be voiced. 

OPP: The piece was viewable from the inside and from the outside. . . how were the viewing experiences different?

HC: Although the museum was open late and visitors had the opportunity to sneak a peek of the performers on the second floor rotunda, most of the 1,200 audience members were patiently waiting outside around the fountain for the performance to begin as intended. Once outside, audience members saw 24 climate-immigrants backlit with purple light creating mysterious and surprising shadows in each of the 24 windows on the second floor rotunda. The 24 performers wore what I call “climate ponchos,” which included head gear that obscured the performers faces, an approach I chose because of the mystery and anonymity it afforded. Always silent these figures created subtle, sculptural movements in various locations that were complemented by live drumming juxtaposed with natural foley sounds that included ice-cracking, loons, and running water.  Slowly over the course of the performance the Climate-Immigrants started to descend downstairs and continued on their journey through the sea of bodies.

The clear wearable climate ponchos were adorned with images that depicted the archetype of the Traveler, with the people depicted wearing backpacks, carrying suitcases, wearing hats and some holding children. They were all on their way somewhere, in one direction a lot of the times. This simple showing of people in movement, in transition, resonates with a world-wide issue and echoed the reality of the viewers as they themselves traversed space to witness the performance. 

Alien Nation, 2017. Video documentation of performance.

OPP: In the Fall of 2017, you began a Fellowship at the Halcyon Arts Lab. Tell us bit about the program and your experience. How did it change your work?

HC: Halcyon Arts Lab is a fully funded, nine-month, international incubator that nurtures socially engaged artists in Washington D.C. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of 8 fellows for the inaugural cohort 2017-2018 to continue my work on Alien Nation. The program includes a range of professional development opportunities as well as tons of studio visits from renowned arts professionals. In addition, I am being mentored by Alberto Fierro Garza, Director of The Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington D.C. and mentoring a young artist myself. In the short seven months that I’ve been here, my practice has strengthen by leaps and bounds, I suspect this has everything to do with the nurturing environment the fellowship provides. I encourage all socially engaged artists to keep an eye on this fellowship and consider applying in the years to come! 

To see more of Hoesy's work, please visit hoesycorona.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. 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 Mikey Kelly

Be Love Now v1.0 17.084. Acrylic on linen. 60" diameter x 1-1/2" depth. 2017.

MIKEY KELLY (@mikeykellystudio) explores the spiritual undertones of abstract painting. Line is his primary mark, and his meticulous methods yield surprising, vibrating networks of color. Mikey earned his BFA at University of Oregon and his MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work is included in the permanent collections at the Cranbrook Museum of Art, the Frankl Foundation for Art and the Neiman Marcus Corporate Collection, and he has been an Artist-in-Residence at Kala Art Institute (Berkeley) and at Lucid Art Foundation (Inverness, CA). He's represented by Chandra Cerrito Contemporary(Oakland), where he has had two solo shows. His work is on view until May 20, 2018 in the Lucid Art Foundation Annual Artist Show at GRO in Point Reyes, California and in Proto_Pop at Dab Art in Ventura, California. Mikey lives and works in Napa, California, where he recently completed the Painted Poem Mural

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your statement, you say, “The paintings truly need to be seen in person to fully experience them.” What am I missing as a viewer who’s only seen your work online?

Mikey Kelly: Changing tonalities and perspectives can’t be caught by the single image capture of a camera and need an advanced brain and the higher resolution of the human eye to truly experience these effects. When one gets closer to the paintings colors begin to separate and what you may have thought was a blue was actuality your eye mixing two or even three different colors to make that blue. There are also times when the canvases seem to bow or stretch visually as one moves around the pieces. These paintings test the viewer’s visual, neural and perceptual plasticity.

Embattlements 13.218.1. Mild steel, powder coat. 26"H x 21"W x 4"D. 2013

OPP: You used to work in powder-coated steel (2011-2014). I see a formal connection between your current systems-based paintings and the line variations in the steel sculpture. Are the processes at all similar despite the difference in media?

MK: All my work starts with a line. Formally they begin at the same place, but the sculpture work is much older than the drawings and paintings. The sculptures did dramatically inform the drawing and painting from their beginning, as I was familiar with playing with lines and the patterns that overlaying subsequent lines create. The process of making work changed dramatically a few years ago when I moved from the sculptural realm to the two-dimensional.

Mantra (Om Namah Shivaya) 17.016. Acrylic on linen. 24"H x 24"W x 1-1/2"D. 2017.

OPP: Can you describe your algorithmic process for making paintings? 

MK: My process starts with an analog program using encryption methods developed for secretly passing information that can convert language into numbers. This is a generative way of designing paintings that leaves the outcome unknown. I start with a base 26 variation of a Vigenere cipher that allows me to convert language into numbers. The result is a string of numbers that I then use to calculate the angle of each series of lines. I end up with an algorithm that directs the line spacing, angle, line width and color in a predetermined sequence before I ever start painting. This means that I work with no preconceived idea of what the final piece will look like. Each series of lines results in color shifting and new interference patterns each step of the way.

Buddha 16.264. Acrylic on Linen. 11"H x 11"W x 1-1/2"D. 2016

OPP: How do you get such straight lines?

MK: The painting process starts with the construction of a scale outside the boundaries of the canvas. This allows me to use a straight edge to maintain the same angle across the canvas as each line is painted. I use a pin striping tool that was developed in the early 1900s—it is essentially a syringe with a wheel at the end. This tool allows me to paint consistent straight lines of the same width without variation.

OPP: What can the paintings do that the sculptures could not? And vice versa? 

MK: While both are quite formal, the paintings feel more like true expression of myself. Sculptures on the one hand allow space, distance, volume, light and shadow into play. This creates a lot of variables that a two-dimensional painting can never encompass. But the paintings have allowed me to incorporate outside interests into the design and underlying structure of the work. This is why I have been exploring ways of combining the two so I can incorporate what I love in both into one piece.

P.O.S., Acrylic on goatskin, wood and deer lacing, 62”H x 42”W x 1-1/2D.” 2018.

OPP: Recently, you’ve shifted away from the conventional rectangle to the circle and even stretched goat skin. What’s led you to this format change? Are these anomalies or an entirely new direction?

MK: This is definitely a new direction that the work is heading in. Working the way I do, I find that using a shape other than a square or rectangle allows for more freedom and a less confined feeling to the painting. This came about from working on a few murals and installations that I completed in the past year.

I have been working towards the goal of making more dimensional paintings that incorporate many different techniques and materials. I plan on incorporating more leather, steel and neon into my work in the near future. I find the flat surface of a painting to be confining and would like to see how warping or stretching the canvas or leather over other shapes will influence the viewing of the work.

The Happiness Project, 2018. StARTup Art Fair LA, Acrylic on Cardboard, 96”H x 192”W x 192”D.

OPP: Tell us about the Happiness Project.

MK: The idea was to make an installation that felt like the positive energy that was in the paintings. The Happiness Project started while I was preparing for StARTup Art Fair LA and was trying to figure out how I could transform a hotel room into a full immersive experience. I decided the way to accomplish this would be to fill the entire room by lining every square inch of the walls with painted cardboard panels. I began by taking two word positive affirmations, running them through my analog program and then painting the resulting angles on cardboard shipping pads. Over 30 panels were cut and fit around all the furniture, light switches and outlets.

After the initial installation, I had the opportunity to install the panels again this time at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary. For this iteration I decided to further cut the panels down and to also rotate them creating more complexity to the installation as the lines now ran both vertically and horizontally and the joints became more complex and varied.

The third iteration was as a Special Project Artist at StARTup Art Fair SF.  This installation became the backdrop for their panel discussion series and broadcast on Facebook live. This most recent version included much smaller pieces while still playing with the complexity of the previous version.

16.058. Acrylic on Paper. 40"H x 26"W. 2016

OPP: What does the phrase “spirituality hacking” mean to you?

MK: I started looking at different forms of religion and certain religious movements during a time I attended a series of events at the Rubin Museum in New York City. Most religious belief systems seem to have a short cut to attaining enlightenment or a closeness with God. Saying a certain prayer, doing a certain form of meditation or the spinning of a prayer wheel are all ways to cheating the system in a sense.

So this Idea of “spirituality hacking” became an element that I started incorporating in my work. I began by using the analog program I developed, which enabled me to take a prayer or mantra and to use it as the input. This then gave me a series of numbers that I could use as direction to paint from. This also led to incorporating rotations of the canvas during the painting process to create a painting as a representation of a spinning prayer wheel.

Mantra (Om Ami Dewa Hrih) 17.040. Acrylic on linen. 12"H x 12"W x 1-1/2"D. 2017.

OPP: But it sounds like the precise complexity of your process isn’t really a short cut at all. Perhaps the focus and flow of the studio is the direct path to enlightenment. . .

MK:  Although there are elements of my work that have a very spiritual jump off point, I feel like the work truly needs to be viewed as an abstract piece of art first and foremost. Throughout art history spirituality has played a very specific role. When abstraction began in painting, that role did not diminish; it just went unspoken. I have chosen to be vocal about the influences of spirituality in my practice. But if I am not there or if the wall label doesn’t tell you, then the work simply becomes a painting to be judged on its formal qualities.

Many people think that making this work must be meditational. Making these paintings means making the same type of mark thousands and thousands of times. Muscle memory aside, if I just leave the present for a moment while painting, I will make a mistake. It can be very stressful and physical. I endure the struggle because the end result contains such an amazing vibratory power. I hope the work brings joy and physical beauty into the lives of others and maybe helps them find a direct path to enlightenment.

See more of Mikey's work at mikeykelly.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. 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.