Going Strong for 7 Years: Libby Barbee

Did you know the OPP blog has been featuring exceptional, living artists since 2011? We are committed to looking at the full trajectory of each Featured Artist's work, as represented on their websites. As an artist myself, I don't think of individual artworks or projects in a vacuum. I'm more interested in how one work leads to another and what drives artists to keep making. So it's exciting to revisit artists interviewed in the first few years of the blog and find out what's changed and what's stayed the same in their practices. Today's artist is Libby Barbee (@libby.barbee).

The Commutation of Distances, 2018. Print on panel. 24" w x 66"-72" h

OtherPeoplesPixels: What's new in your studio, practice or work since you were interviewed back in 2012?

Libby Barbee: Wow! So much is new—and yet, nothing at all. I am still creating work that is broadly centered around the relationship between nature and culture, and often specifically focused on American frontier myth. However, though the themes I’m investigating have stayed the same, my approach to making artwork has changed a lot. Back in 2012, I was doing studio work full-time and most of what I was making was very time intensive. A large part of my practice was focused on intricate collages that took me months in the studio to complete.

The World Finally Gives Way, 2016. Cut paper and collage. 36"h x 48"w

Since then, I have had two babies and a very full second career. Making art is non-negotiable, so my practice has had to adapt and become more flexible. These days, I work a lot faster and in a much more focused manner. I do a lot of work from my computer, which frees me to work a little more nomadically. I have been working with digital prints that I can compose wherever I am, whether that is at the kitchen table while my children are napping or between classes at the University where I am teaching.

Astral America, 2016. Installation (digital prints mounted on plywood, sand, cacti, backpacking gear)

I have been surprised to find that though I have a lot less time to spend in the studio, I have been much more productive and have had a ton of cool opportunities come my way. The last year especially was a whirlwind of art-making. I collaborated with fellow Denver artist Bill Nelson to complete a participatory art piece titled The Sound Mirror Project. The project was really different than anything that I had done before and has left me wanting to do more participatory work.

MLRA 69: Upper Arkansas Valley Rolling Plains, 2018. Cut paper and ink.120"h x 36" w

Over the spring and summer, I worked on a piece commissioned by the Gates Family Foundation that used cut paper and prints to visualize data about the effects of agriculture and grazing on soil ecology. In the process, I was able to spend time working with a USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Rangeland Specialist, from whom I learned so much about sustainable grazing and agriculture. I am convinced that the sciences urgently need artists to make environmental knowledge understandable and compelling, and to help propel movement towards sustainability. I hope to have more opportunities to work with scientists and ecologists in the near future.

Shapeshifters, 2018. Installation. 22'w x 12'h

I also had the opportunity in the fall to do a large installation at Facebook’s corporate offices in downtown Denver as part of the FB AIR (Facebook Artist in Residence) Program. The piece was installed the same week that my son was born, so things got a little nutty, but it was a really cool project and resulted in work that I am very proud of.

Taming This Most Unruly Nature, 2018. Print on panel. 2' x 2', 3' x 3', and 4' x 4' panels.

In addition to my studio practice, I have the amazing fortune to be able to work with artists in other aspects of my work life. In one corner of my life, I manage grant programs for artists at RedLine Contemporary Art Center in Denver. The Arts in Society program that I run provides $500,000 per year to support cross-sector work in the arts in CO. I have been endlessly inspired by artists who are using their art to make impacts in areas such as health, science and community welfare. In another corner of my life, I teach studio classes at local universities. I love working with young artists, and students are constantly giving me new ideas and fueling my curiosity. 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kate Sweeney

Trans Loose Cyphers: Welcome to My Worlds, 2018. Detail of installation for Facebook Seattle. Photo credit: Candace Fields

KATE SWEENEY's installations, paintings and prints are static works inspired by the motion of the physical universe. Her colorful, layered works visualize wave forms at microscopic, human and cosmic scales. Fittingly, she avoids the restrictive edge of the rectangle whenever possible in favor of irregular, organic edges that meet the surrounding space with openness. Kate earned a BFA in Fine Arts & Medical Sciences and a MFA in Medical and Biological Illustration, both from the University of Michigan. She has completed numerous public art commissions, including installations at Facebook Seattle (2018), Redmond Technology Center Transit Station (2017), Overlake Hospital Cancer Care Center (2017) and Harborview Medical Center (2015).Recently, her work was included in Digital Maneuvers (2018) at the Seattle Art Museum and Playlist! (2019) at Museo Gallery in Langley, Washington. Kate lives and works in Seattle, Washington.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us how your background in medical illustration informs the work you make now.

Kate Seeney: My artwork has always been fueled by my love of the natural world, and by extension, science. Both my interest in medical scientific illustration work and my painting practice spring from that love.

For the past several years I have been designing illustrations for complex environmental disaster remediation projects as a part of my scientific illustration career, and I’ve grown increasingly sad about what we have done to the planet. In my fine art practice my focus has now shifted to the macro natural world, as I have been thinking about the possible death of Nature. 

Meadow, 2019. cut paper. 42" by 76"

OPP: Tell us about The Meadow.

KS: The Meadow is an elegy. It reimagines the delicate beauty of the deep structure of Nature. The large collages in this project reflect my awe of Nature and my fond but fading hopes that She will recover after humans have either disappeared or revolutionized our relationship to energy consumption. 

I’ve designed the shapes used in The Meadow to fit together in a rough approximation of Penrose tiles, which are mathematically derived patterns using a limited vocabulary of interlocking shapes to cover a plane in a self-similar but non-repeating way. I created a set of loose-edged tiling shapes and then rearranged them into unique forms. This process happens in the real world, where a starting fractal equation/engine unwinds amid specific and singular conditions on the ground, which influences the expression of the underlying structural order. I consider this an excellent analogy to the natural world and the forms of life, both familiar and yet unique. 

Drops, 2019. cut paper. 24" x 30"

OPP: You’ve said “I don’t think in rectangles, but shapes.” Can you talk about the excitement of the edge?

KS: I just have never been content jamming my ideas inside a rectangle. I think form and flow are more naturally explored using a free edge. More sculptural I guess. But coming at my work from a 2D approach has challenged me to find a way to create outside that box, and while still addressing the practical aspects of presentation and display. 

I also think a lot about the scale of my work, and that too is a sculptural consideration in a way. How a piece relates to the size of the human body is very important. Ideally, I want my work to be a thing itself, not a depiction of something.

Clear Sailing, 2015. mixed on panel. 5' x 3'

OPP: Many of your works look abstract, but are inspired by “scientific theories of energy, waves, strings, and quanta,” etc. Do you think of your work in terms of abstraction or representation?

KS: I think my work is highly representational! I realize the viewer will see the patterns and colors as abstract, but I hope the structure speaks to a deep, unconscious, human appreciation of order, and reflects the mathematically derived forms that I believe underlie the creation of everything we can see. It’s all ratios and waves out there people!!!

I have, in the past, used the foundational concepts of quantum physics and theoretical physics as a jumping-off point for my seemingly abstract images. Spooky Action at Distance, particle wave duality, The Big Bang, multiverses and gravity waves are theories I have used to create color pattern fields that express my thoughts about what the world looks like at the smallest and largest scales.

Most recently, I’ve been using wave forms in a series of panels to explore water motion as a reflection of the fundamental oscillating forms of reality, a longstanding theme for me.

Gravity Waves: the unseen dark matter mass of systems can pull them apart and impact the entire universe. 2016. Acrylic on paper collage, with digital print, monoprint, braille print and transfer print. 44" x 80"

OPP: You’ve done numerous installations for offices and medical centers. First off, the practical. . . how do you go about getting commissions?

KS: My website and social media have been powerful avenues to commissions. I also pay attention to the calls for art proposals put out by various funding agencies, most notably in Seattle where we have numerous ‘1% for art’ programs.

Current/ Potential, 2012. Installation for Seattle City Light's North Service Center. 35' x 8.' Photo credit: Spike Mafford

OPP: Tell us about making art for a specific site? Do you think more about audience or space?

KS: When commissioned to do an installation in a space, one thinks about both the audience and the space itself. I typically start with thinking about the audience and the compelling core narrative I want to offer them. Then I look at the location and see how I can use it to deliver on my idea. The space becomes a powerful shaper of the narrative at that point.  

For my Harborview Medical Center commission, I thought about the journey that the patient and the families would be making though their hospital stay, a very challenging time in their lives. I imagined the hallway  where my piece would reside as a journey for them, a place of refuge, and also a transitional zone between treatment and recovery. I created an abstract forest transforming through the seasons, a narrative path that could bring serenity, like a walk through the woods. 

Willows over Water, 2017. Installation for reception area room, Cancer Care Center, Overlake Hospital. Paint and paper collage on wood elements. 3' x 9'

OPP: It looks like you are in the middle of creating a new installation from aluminum pipe for the Redmond Technology Center Transit Station in Washington. Tell us about your design and how the process is going.

KS: Yes, I am in the midst of a project for the transit center concourse ceiling out in Redmond, the technology capitol of the world--- well almost…

My premise for the piece is ‘Journey’, which speaks to the immigrant experience of many of the commuters who will be transiting through this station, and also to the self-similar but non-identical nature of commutes. ‘Same train, different day’ equals a brand new experience. To reflect this, I am using a simple form of a fractal, the Apollonian Gasket generator, which is one that utilizes perfect circles to create a nesting pattern that is unique each time, based on the starting input numbers and the constraints of the system that powers it. 

I worked up the design on the computer using 2D and 3D software, with the help of my 3D designer Ben Henry, who also was able to bring the design into a full scale architectural model of the station. This allowed me to see it in a VR walk-through, which is just so powerful for making design decisions and getting a great feel for what a massive structure looks like, full scale.

Right now we have entered the fabrication stage, which is being executed by the talented people at Fabrication Specialties here in Seattle. The structure will be made of painted aluminum rings and discs, and suspended over the busway for about 300 linear feet, the length of the transit area. I am excited to see this huge project come to life, and I look forward to having it installed by the end of this year. 

To see more of Kate's work, please visit katesweeneyfineart.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). During summer 2018, 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. Her solo show Practice is on view at Kent State Stark through May 4, 2019.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Sarah K. Williams

Mid-Sized Creatures: a 3-act sculptural performance for 3 performers and cello. 2017. 
Performers: Annelyse Gelman, Thalia Beaty, Ashley Williams, and Sarah Williams. Cello: Clare Monfredo. Text: Ashley Williams 

SARAH K. WILLIAMS' background is in painting and sculpture, but "perfectly still objects make [her] restless." She creates scores for sculptural performances, both performing herself and directing others. These hard-to-classify works linger in between theater, performance art and sculpture. Sarah earned her BA in Fine Arts / Art History at The College of William and Mary and her MFA in Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was a 2017 Fulbright Fellow at Universität der Künste, Institute for New Music in Berlin. She is the founder of the Sprechgesang Institute, a "research-based platform for artists working in an in-between language of two or more disciplines." She is a 2019 Target Margin Theater Institute Fellow and has been an Artist-in-Residence at Vermont studio Center, Studios at MASS MoCA, Theater Magdeburg and Oxbow. Sarah lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: As you say in your artists statement, you “made still objects once: out of clay and plaster, wire and wood.” Let’s talk about those sculptures first. Works like Sugar Temple (2013), Act I, Scene I (2015) and Over Saturated (2015) have a sense of action in them even though they are static. It’s not they that seem like they would move, but rather that they are sites where some human ritual might be performed. How do you think about ritual, in the world and in your practice? 

Sarah K. Williams: Yes, ritual is an interesting word and not one I often use with my current work, but I can certainly see the relationship with the works you’ve mentioned. I gravitate towards symmetry, repetition, precision, memorized gestures—which I guess are all present within ritualistic activity. But ritual connotes a sense of spirituality, which I have trouble relating to. Certainly I was thinking of sites for human activity—that the piece could potentially be moved or interacted with, though I hadn’t given myself permission to work that way yet. A bit related maybe, “otherworldly” was a word that was tossed around a lot with these works, which bothered me. I’ve become much more interested in the mundane, and finding absurdity within banal activities. 

Error Fishing, 2014. Plaster, polystyrene, expandable foam, clay, tinted water, wire, hook, acrylic and watercolor paint, powdered graphite. 60" x 48" x 36"

OPP: It sounds like stillness of those sculptures was a problem?

SKW: Those pieces are on the cusp of movement. I was feeling very restless with their stillness, even though, as you mention, there is a suggestion of activity. I think we sometimes restrict ourselves too much with titles, too aware of our chosen medium or discipline. At the time, I was too aware of being a Sculptor and frustrated that sculptors make things which sit in space and should be walked around and looked at. Obviously this isn’t helpful, and it meant I was irritated the minute I walked into the studio with all these unmoving things. There was a huge disconnect because my main source of inspiration was music and theater, yet I was trying to squish it into a very small box, under the umbrella of sculpture.

Sample Objects (and their potential movements), 2018

OPP: What is a “sculptural performance?” Is this a term you coined or are you part of a lineage of other artists? 

SKW: I started using the term ‘sculptural performance’ only because it seemed like the most logical and straight-forward way to describe my work. I would describe it as performative work involving a set of invented objects within a specific aesthetic framework. Within this work, I’ve started referring to my sculptures as objects. To me, an object has a functionality to it which a sculpture doesn’t have. I want these objects to exist with a purpose, to be assigned specific characteristics and abilities. 

I wasn’t so aware of this combination of composed sound and movement with strong visual elements until spending time in Berlin. The work which I found the strongest connection to there was in the genre of MusiktheaterI didn’t even know this was a genre! Very different from what we know as Musical Theater in the U.S., these pieces weren’t compelled to follow a narrative, were often very short, experimental, abstract, absurd. To generalize, most pieces seemed to enter a visual world through music composition, while I was the other way around. Exposure to artists like Heiner GoebblesDieter Schnebel, and Mauricio Kagel made a huge impression on me. 

Absorbent Objects: for one performer and 3 objects, 2017.

OPP: You often use the language of music and theater to talk about interacting with the objects you make. There’s the Orchestra of Obsessions and Dissatisfactions (2018) and The Found Sound Research Orchestra (2017). You also create “scores” for objects. Many performances are divided into Acts. Can you talk about this merging of the performing arts with the visual arts? Does this hybridity change the venues where you share your work?

SKW: When I first moved to NYC after grad school, I was completely uninterested in looking at sculpture or painting. I knew I should be going to galleries, openings, things we’re told are necessary as emerging artists, but all I wanted to do was go to the opera. I never had a relationship with opera until my last semester in grad school when I heard Wozzek for the first time and became completely obsessed. I basically spend two solid years learning everything I could about opera. I started working for a couple of small opera companies in NY, and spent hours in the performing arts library looking at scores as drawings, as recipes, as instructions for something that could be tangible. 

There is so much great overlapping vocabulary with sound and visual: vocal color, textures in music, light and dark, hard and soft, etc. I started writing ‘scores’ for sculptures as accompanying documents which might describe how an object moves through the world. In Berlin, I began really leaning into this overlap, which is where the orchestra pieces came from. I became interested in borrowing structural frameworks from other disciplines, approaching them with my own skill sets. How can I work within the conventions of classical music, but through the lens of what I know: material, process, color, form? As I’ve been working this way, I have become less interested in traditional gallery spaces, and more attracted to hybrid spaces, collaborative venues, non-art spaces, offices perhaps. . . 

Orchestra of Obsessions and Dissatisfactions, 2018. 8 minute performance for 9 performers and 11 objects.Ffilmed at The Studios Residency at MASS MoCA. 
Performed by: Kesso Saulnier, Max Colby, Hui-Ying Tsai, David Greenwood, Hyun Jung Ahn, Paolo Arao, Jon Verney, Ashley Strazzinski, and Ashley Williams

OPP: Can you talk about the difference between performing your own work and being a director? 

SKW: I’m much more interested in directing/conducting/writing than performing. I only end up performing by default, and it’s not a comfortable role for me. However, I have to learn about a piece by doing it myself, and then sometimes it’s easier just to execute it without needing to articulate it to someone else. When I do have the opportunity to work with “performers.” I put this is quotes, because I typically work with artists who have a relationship to the types of activities the piece focuses on rather than someone with a performance background and preconceptions about what it means to perform. I often make a track with audio commands as a sort of script. Practically, this is useful because the actions don’t have to be memorized, but I’ve also been playing around with letting the audio track become a more present component to the pieces. I’ve been going to a lot of plays recently which has brought up a lot of opinions about performing versus acting. As I’ve only performed with non-performers, it makes me wonder what would happen if I immersed myself more into a theater environment. 

Fried Book of Conjugated Concerns with Sprig of Thyme: for one muttering performer with multiple concerns. 2017.

OPP: You are the founder and director of Sprechgesang Institute. Tell us about the formation of the Institute.

SKW: The first iteration of Sprechgesang Institute began in Berlin when I was doing a Fulbright there in 2016/17. As I mentioned, I was studying the overlap of opera and sculpture. I enrolled in an experimental music composition department. Between being surrounded almost exclusively by musicians/ composers at the university and my fellow Berlin Fulbrighters in Germany—very few of whom where artists—it became clear to me how refreshing and enormously valuable it was to be outside of a strict Fine Arts community. The foundation of S.I. is made up of people I met while in Germany, paired with people I know here in New York, and a few artists working long-distance. Currently we are a mixture of sculptors, painters, musicians, writers, composers, scientists, journalists, cooks—all interested in finding overlaps within our lines of work. We meet once a month over an elaborate dinner, mostly constructed of tiny sculptural snacks, we staple a lot of things, file things, take roll—it’s all very institutional. 

OPP: What’s the latest project? 

SKW: Our current project is an experimental dining event. Each Artist of the Institute is making a dish—some edible, some not—to be choreographed into a 10-course progression for two performances in mid July. We’re also putting together an accompanying cookbook full of overly-complicated recipes. 

S.I. dinner #1, 2017.

OPP: Aside from Sprechgesang Institute, what’s next for you? Any new projects in the works? 

SKW: I am still digesting a few projects I started while at Vermont Studio Center last month. I’m working on a series of short performances with objects under the theme Critical Response, structured a bit like a concept album. I collaborated with some artists there on a couple of these pieces and they continue to evolve. I’d like to get them to a point where they can be performed back-to-back in quick succession. 

I’m also a fellow at Target Margin Theater this year, which has been a great outlet for exploring the more performative side of my practice. For this, I have an ongoing investigation of gesture and other alternative methods of communication not reliant on text or object. It’s so hard for me to ignore the visual side of things, but such a worthwhile challenge! 

I also have an ongoing project called Aesthetically Complex Pies. It’s exactly what it sounds like. 

To see more of Sarah's work, please visit sarahkwilliams.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). During summer 2018, 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. Her solo show Practice is on view at Kent State Stark through May 4, 2019.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Sarah Beth Woods

Esther and Anonymous, 2015. Hair weave, shoe laces, aluminum. 64" x 30" x 7."

SARAH BETH WOODS employs a range of artistic methods, including sculpture, film and relational aesthetics in her research-based practice. Her sculptural objects and events celebrate the material aspects of feminine adornment—hair braiding, nails and jewelry—and their corollary social spaces. Her formative years on the Southwest side of Chicago influence her ongoing engagement with black, female aesthetics in particular. Sarah earned a BFA at Northern Illinois University and an MFA at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her solo exhibitions include Braid & Nails (2015) at Wheaton College and Bricoleur at Azimuth Projects (Chicago, 2014). Sarah collaborated with hair braider Fatima Traore for BRAID/WORK, and they were the recipients of the 2015/2016 Crossing Boundaries PrizeEsther and Anonymous is currently on view in Focus: Fiber 2019 at Kent State University Museum in Ohio through July 28, 2019. BRAID/WORK will be part of a symposium and solo show at Bethel College (Mishawaka, Indiana) in November of 2019. The conceptual girl group The Rhinettes will perform at Experience Threewalls at 15 on June 5th, 2019. Sarah lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Can you talk about the relationship between objects and events in your practice? How do you balance these modes of making?

Sarah Beth Woods: The majority of my training is as a studio artist. In terms of my process, that always comes first and starts with a specific material. I think of my public events as collective performances. They are an important part of the evolution of the work rather than a means to an end. Recently, events have taken the form of musical performances and collective braiding sessions.  I’m interested in the act of braiding and the labor associated with the hand work as a common denominator or language shared by different communities. These events provide pragmatic ways to engage a specific audience while collectively thinking through materials. During Shared Language, curated by Tempestt Hazel at the Arts Incubator, Fatima Traore and I were able to braid and exchange stories with women from the Academy of Beauty and Culture, a beauty school on the West side of Chicago.

What does it feel like for a girl?, 2012. Bath poufs, hair weave, ribbon, felt, clamp lights, lightbulbs, steel. 14" x 10" x 58."

OPP: What does performance mean to you—both as an art form and in terms of our various identities?

SBW: For me, performance has everything to do with process and improvisation. We all perform specific parts of our identities on a daily basis. It’s a performance because it’s not innate; it’s learned and then acted out. During the research phase of my recent 16mm reversal film Hear the Glow of Electric Lights, I became really interested in female body comportment, specifically Maxine Powell’s finishing school at Motown and the methods she employed to train the Supremes to be “lady-like.” Powell spent a lot of time training the women how to get in and out of a car gracefully, with poise and posture. This was a strategic marketing ploy that has everything to do with class and respectability politics. I’m interested in the ways these ideas are inscribed on to the body through repetition and performance. Similar to content in BRAID/WORK, there was a lot of behind-the-scenes labor that went into this process.

Kayla, 2015. acrylic nails, pom-poms, googley eyes, glitter, confetti.

OPP: Tell us about your work with Fatima Traore. How did you two first meet and start working together?

SBW: Fatima Traore and I met when she was braiding hair during the Mappy Hair Project at the Gray Center for the Arts in 2013. We started braiding together informally. On some occasions, I would paint nails while she braided. We did pop-up salons for Prime Time at the MCA, the South Side Community Art Center and the 75th Anniversary Block Party at Hyde Park Art Center. We also did work together with Tracer’s Book Club, a group of international, intersectional feminist artists founded by Chicago-based filmmaker Jennifer Reeder.

BRAID/WORK, 2016. In collaboration with Fatima Traore.

OPP: Together, you were the recipients of the 2015/2016 Crossing Boundaries Prize awarded by Arts+Public Life & the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. What did this prize fund? 

SBW: The Crossing Boundaries Prize allowed Fatima Traore and I to complete BRAID/WORK, a collaboration that investigates the history and aesthetics of African hair braiding through a material and performative lens. We braided hair at Art on Sedgwick, a community art center located in the Marshall Fields garden apartments in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood and The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. There was a culminating reception and catalogue release at the Arts Incubator. The material components of this project—my hair sculptures and staged photographs of a fictional work space featuring Fatima braiding—were included in a show under the same name at Rootwork Gallery in 2016. The photographs were taken by Cecil McDonald, Jr.

DBL RAINBOW SWEET TWIST, 2016. Hair weave, foam, photo collage, comb, door knocker earrings, chain. 10" x 50" x 9."

OPP: What effect did this collaboration have on the work you make alone?

SBW: The experience taught me a lot about the ins and outs of collaborative risk taking, as well as potential ways to utilize institutional critique to investigate cultural paradigms embedded in the ways we look, think and critique. I’m currently reading Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology by Mwenda Ntarangwi, who examines his own lived experience as an African scholar studying anthropology in America with a focus on representation and self-reflexivity. I’m at a pivotal point with my sculptural work where I’m asking and requiring more from objects beyond their immediate purpose, especially the potential for characters or activations within narrative film.

OPP: In 2016, Mailee Hung wrote for Daily Serving about BRAID/WORK :“Woods is a white woman who spent her formative years in a primarily Black, middle-class neighborhood of Chicago, and she is highly cognizant of the dangers of appropriation her privilege affords.” How do you handle these dangers while working with “black material culture” as a white woman?

SBW: Fashion and hair style have never been static or fixed things. Style is always in the act of being appropriated, modified, or morphing into something else. Artifice brings these ideas to the surface, because it pronounces itself as artifice. It probes at the boundaries that spring up around markers of identity. I’m much more interested in creolization which actively moves against fixed identities and towards cross cultural, transcultural and hybrid forms.

The Rhinettes

OPP: Most recently, you’ve been investigating the aesthetics of the performances of 1960s girl groups. Who are The Rhinettes and how are they a “conceptual girl group,” as opposed to a girl group?

SBW: My interest in artifice and the performing body, as well as black and white cross-over appeal led me to the Supremes’ first performance of “Come See About Me” choreographed by Cholly Atkins on the Shindig television show in 1964. I’m really interested in early girl groups and their first televised appearances, as well as the technological spaces that they occupy. Politically, sonically and visually, it was an important and complex moment in American history. In 2017, I formed what I refer to as a “conceptual girl group” with Anya Jenkins, Alexis Strowder, and Yahkirah Beard, who is a professional dancer. She’s appeared on the television show Empire several times; her energy is incredible! We’re like a conceptual cover band—we don’t record or play instruments, and we only cover one Supremes' song. 

Hear the Glow of Electric Lights.16mm reversal film. 2017

OPP: How do viewers/listeners encounter The Rhinettes?

SBW: We’ve performed at Silent Funny, a mixed-use arts space on the far West side and the Jane Addams Hull House Museum during a series called Making the West Side, which aired on Can TV. The material component of the project is Hear the Glow of Electric Lights, a research-based, 16mm reversal film that I've been working on for several years. The content of the work is revealed through concealment, codes and learned body language, drawing attention to what we’ve been taught cannot simultaneously exist: beauty, power and the political. Pop culture scholar Jaap Kooijman articulated it well: “the power of the image, and in extension the Diana Ross star image, lies in its embodiment of the contradiction between fashion and politics, and its refusal to accept that those two cannot go together.” The remainder of the project is being shot and edited through 2019.

To see more of Sarah Beth's work, please visit sarahbethwoods.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). During summer 2018, 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. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Laura Mosquera

Left to right: This Weight I Feel Is Yours; Grasp, Clench, Slip; To Begin With Control; The Sounds Between and Through.2018

LAURA MOSQUERA uses difficult human emotions as the impetus for her abstract paintings. The resulting works are collisions of color, shape and pattern. Her shaped canvases give the impression of patterns in motion. They are like bodies attempting to invade or escape one another. Laura received her BFA and her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her most recent solo exhibition was Close to the Bone and Skin (2018) at Rosefsky Gallery (Binghamton University, New York). Eight billboards of her paintings are permanently exhibited at the Chicago Avenue Red Line station in Chicago. Recent group shows included  Onyx at Alfa gallery (Miami) and ESCAPE/ISM? at Atlantic gallery (New York). Her work is currently included in Ineffable Manifestations at the Institute of Sacred Music (Yale University) through June 18, 2019. Laura lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: It seems like you began as a figurative painter and shifted completely into geometric abstraction in the last few years. Is that true? Tell us a bit about your interests in the early figurative work?

Laura Mosquera: I began painting figuratively as it was the most identifiable and direct way to work out my ideas. At the time, it provided the most authentic process for me to capture fleeting moments of experience within a non-linear narrative. In these figurative pieces, I used abstracted environments to describe a shared psychological space to support the emotional content of the work. It has been nine years since the space itself became the sole focus. With figures removed, abstract forms and the space and shapes they create have become paramount in capturing the psychology of singular moments of fleeting emotion.

Somewhere In Between, 2010. Oil and acrylic on linen. 56" x 48"

OPP: Tell us about the shift away from representation into abstraction. Was there one body of work or painting that was the first completely abstract work? 

LM: During the years I worked figuratively, the process of making those paintings was always very clear to me. In time, I started to lose the clarity of my initial intent, and I began questioning why I was making the work. As seen in my earliest paintings, abstraction has always been a central element of my visual vocabulary. However, with getting older, the complexities of life are compounding and abstraction has become the most direct approach to speak to those unnameable concerns of daily life. It continues to be an evolving process.

Around the Edges, 2017. acrylic, flashe and gouache on panel. 18" x 24"

OPP: I think a lot about collage when looking at the work from InterplayEquations and Close to the Bone and Skin. Has collage ever been part of your process? What about sketching?

LM: Sketching has been part of my thought process since childhood, whereas I didn’t start utilizing collage until graduate school. I used both to construct the compositions of my earlier figurative paintings. 

When I moved to abstraction, the traditional method of using collage fell away and drawing and sketching became paramount. Still, my current works are constructed in stages, very much like a collage, except with paint. 

In this last year, traditional collage has been making its way back into the work. I’ve kept scraps of printed paper for years, some for almost twenty, and I am just now incorporating them into the paintings. 

The Space Between, 2019. Acrylic and gouache on panel. 10" x 8"

OPP: Pattern seems to be a metaphor. Can you talk about the relationship between conflict and harmony in Close to the Bone and Skin (2018)? 

LM: In my works, color, pattern and texture in addition to size and form all define shapes in relationship to each other. These relationships are what constitute the entire work. Every choice embodies emotion, ideas and memories. Sometimes these shapes work and flow together and sometimes they don’t. When a shape with saturated color and a tight pattern is placed next to another with a wash and a looser texture, it creates a relationship or narrative. I'm interested in those elements working together to become a cohesive whole, but not in an obvious way. I am most drawn to moments of visual tension or when things don't quite make sense, finding these complex relationships engaging as they parallel the real world.

Not Enough To Stay, 2018. Acrylic, flashe and gouache on canvas. 48 1/2" x 60"

OPP: Curves are very rare in your paintings. Can you talk about the dominance of sharp, angular lines? 

LM: When I removed the figure from my paintings, I was living in Savannah, Georgia and curves remained very much part of my work. Sharp and angular lines became dominant after moving back to an urban environment, and they are indicative of the New York architecture I used as inspiration. In the current body of work, these elements are incorporated as metaphors for rigidity and obsessiveness.

Something More Than Free, 2016. acrylic, flashe and gouache on canvas. 79-1/4" x 88-3/4" x 22"

OPP: The shaped canvases are so good! What led you to break out of the rectangle? How is the process for creating works like Not Enough To Stay (2018), Something More Than Free (2016), and Grab and Hold (2017) different from painting a conventional rectangle?

LM: Thank you very much! Working with a rectangle the creative process starts for me once the canvas is properly stretched and gessoed. With the shaped canvases, the creativity starts at the moment of construction since the shape of the work is also a carrier of the content.

While I was making the rectangular paintings, I realized there was an opportunity to have the content of the work inform the shape of the frame, further describing the nature of each painting. 

In my current work, I use the physical shape of the canvas to depict a psychological state or emotional effect. The relationships of the shapes within the painting are dynamic and can push, pierce and rest against each other, defining themselves and how they relate to one another communicating experience.

To see more of Laura's work, please visit lauramosquera.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). During summer 2018, 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. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Corey Postiglione

Baroque Tango #3, 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 40 x 80 inches.

COREY POSTIGLIONE's paintings use the visual language of geometric abstraction in combination with the literary device of metaphor. In crisp, flat color, he returns again and again to the curved line, the oval and the interlocking chain, allowing the meaning of these recurring forms to shift from painting to painting. Corey received a BFA in Studio Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a MA in Art History and Critical Theory from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited widely since the 1970s with solo shows at Thomas Masters Gallery (Chicago), Westbrook Modern Gallery (Carmel, CA) and Jan Cicero Gallery (Chicago), among others. In addition to his career as a practicing artist, his critical writing has been published in Artforum, The New Art Examiner, Dialogue, and C-Magazine (Toronto). He was a founding member of the Chicago Art Critics Association. He is currently Professor Emeritus from Columbia College Chicago where he taught Art History and Critical Theory as well as studio arts for over 25 years. You can see his work through March 1, 2019 in Curators Create Second Biennial at the Bridgeport Art Center (Chicago). Corey lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do geometric abstraction and metaphor work together in your paintings? Are they balanced equally, or does one drive the work more?

Corey Postiglione: This question is essential to my entire artistic practice, which extends over many years. I have always been attracted to the possibilities of abstraction—especially the geometric style— for its formal innovation, its freedom for color, no longer restricted to nature, and its potential for ambiguity of content. This last is where I have used abstraction for its metaphorical possibilities referencing such things as population growth (the Exponential series) or the recent effects of globalization (the Tango series). Also in this regard, the concept of personal “life paths” began with the Labyrinth series in the early 90s. 

Vortex # 14, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 16 x 16 inches.

OPP: Your titles are significant in terms of pointing to the metaphors, which are still quite open to interpretation. What do TangosVortexes and Lines of Flight have in common?

CP: All these series rely on certain themes mentioned above, a visual complexity or conundrum; the lines suggest flight or trajectories.  In fact I named one series of works Lines of Flight, for the possibility of escape. The Vortex series just increases the above concepts of visual complexity in the extreme as a metaphor for our current condition: where do we fit in this complex network of international globalization.

Dancer in the Dark #2, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 30 inches.

OPP: You’ve been working with recurring visual motifs for at least 15 years (if not more). What keeps you excited about curved lines, ovals and interlocking chains? Are you ever tempted to paint something drastically different?

CP: Since the 2000s, I have mainly used curved forms, ovals, circles, to further my themes of complexity and interconnectedness.  Moreover, what I like about using these curved forms is that they can be both mathematically geometric but at the same time suggest organic images.

The artist Robert Mangold, one of my early heroes, has said that when you reach a certain point in a series and it no longer provides a new and exciting place to go. In other words, when you have exhausted the possibilities, then you need to move on. This is excellent advice and one I take very seriously. Cezanne’s’ doubt is always hovering over you in the studio. However, these forms continue to supply me with new and exciting ways to create fresh work. But when that time comes, when I feel these forms are no longer providing new and innovative visual possibilities, I will take Mangold’s advice and move on.

Tango Primary WBG, 2012. Acrylic on canvas. 40" x 40."

OPP: You’ve written that you are “inspired by the great utopian notions of late modernism (the cult of the right angle),” but it seems you haven’t painted a right angle lately. How would you describe your relationship to Modernism? 

CP: This is a very complex question but a good one. In the early 90s, I started to question the notion that Modernism—or maybe more precisely Modernity—could solve the world’s problems through technology, science, design and aesthetics. I specifically titled a piece Utopian Dreams, visually referencing these doubts. We also saw the rise of Postmodernism(s) that critiqued traditional modernism. I never rejected the right angle, and some of the early Labyrinth series incorporated a stricter geometry. The curved forms just provided me with a more complex lexicon of visual potential that would better serve my personal and political content.

Tango Eclipse Diptych, 2015. Acrylic on canvas. 40 x 60 inches.

OPP: What’s happening in your studio right now?

CP: I am continuing to explore new visual permutations with these curved forms. I am currently working on The Baroque Tango series. It follows the extravagant ideas imbedded in the concept of the Baroque: a rich and strong palette, emphasis on movement across the pictorial field and spatial complexity. It should be noted that as much as I strive to embody my abstraction with life-world content, I have always tried to make work that was visually generous in color and form. In other words, I want the work to seduce the viewer. I want the work to also be about the pleasure of the aesthetic experience, what Andrea K. Scott recently referred to as “retinal pleasure.” This is whether one gets what ideas are behind the making of the work. Otherwise I would just put up a didactic written statement. No, I am still an advocate of Visual Art with the emphasis on the visual.


To see more of Corey's work, please visit coreypostiglione.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). During summer 2018, 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. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Anne Yafi

Plush Grid, 2018. Pipe cleaners, mixed media. 144" x 96" x 20"

Bright color and texture are the purveyors of mindful pleasure in ANNE YAFI's conceptually-driven painting practice. She uses mass-produced materials that reference consumerism and hobby craft to subvert the values of Minimalism. Her pipe cleaner grids, whether hovering in space or popping off the wall, are malleable, resilient, and defiantAnne earned her BFA at Northern Illinois University (Dekalb, IL) and her MFA at The School of the Art Institute Chicago. Her solo shows include Anne Yafi, Fresh Work (2016) at Free Range (Chicago) and Does It Feel Delicious (2017) at Kruger Gallery (Chicago). In 2018, she collaborated with Christalena Hughmanick to create a site-specific installation called There's Nothing Natural About This at Wedge Projects (Chicago). Her most recent solo show is currently on view at 65GRAND (Chicago). Dip In My Daydream runs through February 23, 2019. Anne lives and works in Chicago. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: American culture sends mixed messages about the value of play. We are constantly being sold entertainment and pleasure, but there’s also a underlying, dominant idea that it isn’t productive or useful. How do you think about play and playfulness? 

Anne Yafi: Pleasure gets a bad rap, and rightly so when it doesn’t empower one’s life experience. It’s really a matter of perception and attitude, I’m solidly pro-pleasure! I think the critique regarding play in our culture when associated with pleasure is largely addressing passive and escapist consumer behavior versus one of active participation that I engage for my purposes as an artist. I’m well aware of the judgement and my continued interest feels defiant which makes it even more compelling to me. I think my embrace of play really took hold after creating my first pipe cleaner grid and closely observing visitors enter my studio.

Sex Karma (detail), 2014. Pipe cleaners, plastic beads.

OPP: How did they respond?

AY: Some of the most stoic, hard-core academics would break into a smile; others stood mesmerized, their eyes traveling about the grid. Several looked for ways to climb into the grid, while a few have absentmindedly reached for the pipe cleaners, stroking them like a pet while talking to me. Seriously fascinating. What does this mean in the context of art? I think the more interesting question is, how does an artwork shape the experience of viewing? 

Snuggle Wall (Make Love Not Walls), 2017. (detail)

OPP: What led you to work with mass-produced materials, including pipe cleaners, Perler beads and Ikea straws?

AY: My response to a newly found material or object is always highly visceral as I immediately fall in love with its materiality and the possibilities for abstracting it away from its intended function. I began grad school as a painter and had to reinvent my work because of a 60-mile commute into Chicago. I live in a rural community where every big box home improvement and craft store is within three miles of my home studio. IKEA is a store I frequent because I grew up with it as a child visiting Sweden decades before it entered the US.

2013-2017, Limited Edition, 2017. Ikea drinking straws. 50" x 40"

OPP: And you work with these materials as “painting?”

AY: These materials are a conceptual approach to drawing and painting. The IKEA straw works reference hard edge abstraction as well as contemporary issues on consumerism. They question value judgements around pleasure and on non-art versus art. The pipe cleaners are a linear medium that I alter through a painting process or punctuate with alternating color and texture with the beads.

Good Intentions, 2018. Pipe cleaners, mixed media, ceramics. 33" x 60"

OPP: How are the dimensional grids different from the wall works?

AY: After making a few two-dimensional “drawings” with the pipe cleaners in 2014, the three-dimensional grid was a natural progression in keeping with my subversion of Minimalism. The fantastic thing with pipe cleaners is they have a strong wire interior buried inside all that soft, disarming fuzz, and I employ these contradictions in the work. The grids begin as an invitation to an exhibition space. On my first visit, I’ll read the light, interior architecture and converse with the director about their mission for exhibitions and community. For this reason, I define the grid installations as site-relational rather than site-specific.

During the installation of Dip In My Daydream at 65Grand, Chicago

OPP: Tell us about Dip In My Daydream, which opened last week at 65Grand in Chicago.

AY: For this work, I wanted to reference process as it applies to pre-install preparations and to my imaginative experience while making. I began by creating the color palette in a multistage process of spraying and dipping over 9000 white pipe cleaners—approximately 300 at a time—with my paint mixture. Once install began I continued to dye pipe cleaners in new color combinations as the “palette" needed adjusting. I worked unassisted to build a 11’ x 9’ x 17’ hanging grid in eight days. There was no plan other than the grid’s systematic structure which functions as an allegory for how painters negotiate the pictorial frame or canvas. It’s an intuitive process that involves the selection and consideration of color and value relationships as I “paint” in the third dimension. The title also implies an invitation for the viewer to enter into this fantasy space that I’ve created. However, like its grid predecessors, the installation is built with only the illusion of entry as I’m drawing comparisons to the immersive experience one has when viewing two-dimensional paintings. 

Untitled, from the series Does It Feel Delicious, 2017.16" x 16"

OPP: The series Does It Feel Delicious? evokes decorated donuts and bagels with beautiful schmears. This work and its title seem to be a direct response to the term “eye candy,” which is often used in the art world in a dismissive way. Why are so many people so skeptical of visual pleasure?

AY: For the title, I chose a tactile descriptor in place of the visual for a twist on how paintings (again) are perceptually viewed and experienced. The heavily gessoed panels were created as topographical “meringues” to challenge my artist’s hand in painting a straight line repeatedly, the process thereby creating the resulting image. I found a pathos and humor in navigating that self-created obstruction. 

To answer your question, I think those who are skeptical of visual pleasure find it to be the antitheses of the intellect. This is a story old as time—body versus mind—and projections abound. I’m more interested in having them coexist within a contemporary female narrative because desire is not going anywhere. 

Overflowing Yummy, 2018. 24" x 24" x 6"

OPP: Well said! Can you talk about the recent addition of ceramics to your toolkit? I’ve seen images of works in progress on Instagram

AY: I was drawn towards ceramics because I could create exactly what I imagined. I entered this medium and its history with little experience which suits my preference for a direct and if you will, faux-naïve engagement with form. Plus, the glorious glaze colors, a candy store of options! The stripes on the “beaded” ceramic elements are painted by brush, a progression from painting on the gessoed reliefs to a fully three-dimensional object. Additionally, I’m currently in the process of making a variety of wall anchoring devices for the pipe cleaner works. There’s an inherent fragility in ceramics. That possibility of cracking or breaking regardless of its earthy density is compelling to me and in stark contrast to the pipe cleaner’s weightless strength. I’m always searching for materials where opportunities for humor and contradictions coexist.  

To see more of Anne's work, please visit anneyafi.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). During summer 2018, 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. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Claes Gabriel

The ouroboros, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 36" x 35"

CLAES GABRIEL's (@claesgabriel) work is energetic, even hypnotic. His paintings push the boundaries of what paintings are. In addition to the conventional rectangle, he shapes his canvases to mimic masks and statues. These works, which put mythological and historical figures on equal footing, vibrate with color and pattern, making it difficult to look away. Claes earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1999. Exhibitions include Stand In (2016) at Automat Gallery (Philadelphia), Images from the Floating World: The Works of Claes Gabriel and Tyler Wilkinson (2017) at University City Arts League (Philadelphia) and solo show Thicker Than Water (2015) at Platform Gallery (Baltimore). Most recently Other Than Human was on view at the Philadelphia International Airport, and he was featured in the online literary journal A Gathering Together (Spring 2018). His work is included in the permanent collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. Claes currently lives and works in West Philadelphia. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: Have you always been a painter? 

Claes Gabriel: What a great question: have I always been a painter? I just read Alan WattsBecome What You Are. so in a way, yes. But mainly because my father was a painter. He studied in Paris and New York and came back to Haiti with a fierce style which he passed on to me. The content of my work followed the change, I think. 

Esther, 2017. Acrylic on shaped canvas. 69" x 40" x 30."

OPP: When did you first start painting on shaped, sculptural canvases? 

CG: I began to shape canvas in college almost twenty years ago. I was fascinated by Frank Stella, Elsworth Kelly and Sam Gilliam. They broke out of the square shape. I wanted to mix what I learned from them with the rich Haitian history I come from. Usually I make the structures, then stretch and gesso my canvas and then begin drawing with charcoal.

The Haitian Revolution, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 72" x 56"

OPP: You’ve represented archetypal figures such as The Elder and The Sea Nymph, goddesses from various parts of the world, including Circe and Green Tara, and historical figures like Little Ruby Bridges and Touissant Louverture. Can you talk about the way mythology and history live together in your practice?

CG: Mythology—that comes from my childhood in Haiti. I grew up hearing the voodoo drums in the background. We talk of spirits as if they are a real thing. The history part is simple. I have a pulpit as an artist that I want to use to bring up issues we may have forgotten that are still relevant. 

Little Ruby Bridges, 2018. Acrylic on linen. 15" x 6" x 4."

OPP: I was really struck by the image on your website that shows you standing on a stool working on The Harlequin. It emphasizes that these statues tower over you. Can you talk about the scale of the statues and the masks as they relate to the emotional tone you hope to evoke for the viewer?

CG: If I make the piece slightly larger than life, it might seem more human.

Queen of Time, 2016. Acrylic on shaped canvas. 50" x 36" x 12."

OPP: Can you talk about those recurring concentric circles, the undulating shapes of the masks and your palette?

CG: I think of tibetan sand paintings when I am making the circles. It's a meditation. 

The Ouroboros, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 40" x 50."

OPP: What does the ouroboros mean to you? You have at least three different paintings with that same title. 

CG: I will probably keep working on that theme. It’s the snake eating itself. The best thing I could think of for a self portrait.

To see more of Claes' work, please visit claesgabriel.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). During summer 2018, 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. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.


Going Strong for 7 Years: Andrea Myers

Did you know the OPP blog just turned seven-years-old at the end of August 2018? In honor of our birthday and the artists we feature, we'll be sharing some blasts from the past throughout the year. In this post and throughout 2019, we'll share new work from Featured Artists interviewed in the first year of the blog. Today's artist is Andrea Myers.

What's new in your practice, Andrea Myers?

Andrea Myers: Looking back over almost a decade of my work, which sounds crazy to say, I have been busy with artist residencies, exhibitions, curating and teaching. I find as a continue to work in the artistic field, everything is a domino effect and is symbiotic. Opportunities grow from one experience to the next; the works I have been making are born from one another. Scale, scope and technique are things I intentionally or subconsciously push at in my work; I’m always seeking the next direction in my work. 

BurstBoom, 2015. Machine sewn fabric collage. 40 x 55"

I have had moments of collaboration and unique site-specific interventions. My work has been commissioned by public locations, corporate entities and private collectors. I have traveled to places I never thought I would go and also have done residencies where I am immersed in places for long periods of time. My teaching has grown from part time to full time, and as I have been teaching sculpture for almost ten years, I get excited to see how emerging artists are viewing the world through the lens of their making.

GreyzigGrayzag, 2017. Machine sewn fabric collage. 36" x 120"

I continue to learn and make; each new project or residency or teaching moment brings more learning curves and insights into my own creative practice. Through the evolution and change in my practice and myself over the last ten years, I remain engaged in saturated color, materiality explorations and looking to abstraction as a means of expression and visual experience.

Tangled Web, 2011. Detail of machine sewn fabric collage. 38" x 44"

In 2011-2012, I was one of five midwestern artists to receive the Efroymson Contemporary Art Fellowship recipients, which awards $20,000 grants to regional artists. Through this generous grant, I was able to afford more studio space, daycare for my daughter and other living expenses to help supplement my adjunct teaching at the time. The funding allowed me to feel able to take more risks in the works I was making and afforded me focused studio time, all helping to build momentum in my work.

Knotted Knaw, 2013. layered fabric, MDF, latex paint. 24" x 24" x 24"

I had taken some time off pursuing residencies because of having a child in 2010, and I started applying and attending residencies again in 2015. In the fall of 2015, I traveled to Daugavpils, Latvia to participate in the Fortress Man Textile Symposium at the Mark Rothko Art Centre. In the summer of 2016, I was chosen for the Work in Progress residency at the Textile Art Center in New York City. During the month long residency, I recreated a version of my studio space in the front window of the center and held public workshops, creating experimental textile collages.

Switchswatch, 2018. machine sewn fabric collage. 36" x 58"

In the summer of 2018, I was awarded the Dresden Artist Exchange by the Greater Columbus Arts Council, receiving a fully funded two- month residency in Dresden, Germany. I will be returning to Germany in 2019 to participate in a residency at coGalleries in Berlin, Germany. My residency experiences have nourished my studio practice, creating protected and concentrated time to make works and be inspired by new surroundings.

En Plein Air, 2017. Machine sewn fabric collages. 8' x 25'

Two larger recent commissions I have created have been for the Dayton Metro Main Library Branch, consisting of six textile wall-based works, entitled En Plein Air, inspired by Monet’s Waterlilies. In 2018, I was commissioned to make a large-scale immersive textile wall-based installation piece for the corporate offices of Facebook in Chicago. These projects have fueled larger scale works I am planning for the future.  A good amount of the works I make are commissioned, which I also balance with studio pursuits that are self-directed. I feel at this point in my artistic career, I have my chosen visual vocabulary established, and I am further exploring the possibilities within my own constructed language.

Rainbowedbend, 2018. Site specific machine sewn textile collage. Facebook, Chicago.

Currently, I am represented by Hammond Harkins Gallery in Columbus, Ohio, McCormick Gallery in Chicago, IL and GUT Gallery in Dallas, TX with upcoming exhibitions at Galerie Klaus Braun in Stuttgart, Germany, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Textile Museum of Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Germany

Read Andrea's OPP interview from 2010.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Emi Ozawa

This is Granny Smith, 2018. Acrylic on poplar. 52" x 52" x 13." Photo credit: Margot Geist

EMI OZAWA's skillfully crafted sculptures show thoughtful attention to line, form and color. The simplicity of her geometry—repeating circles, lines and squares—belies the complexity of her thematic concerns. In kinetic sculptures and wall-hung sculptures that change dramatically as the viewer walks past, she explores of the relationship between looking, touching and moving. Emi studied at Joshibi University of Art and Design and Tokyo School of Art. She earned her BFA in Craft/Wood at The University of the Arts (Philadelphia) and her MFA in Furniture Design at Rhode Island School of Design. She has exhibited widely throughout the U.S, in London and in Tokyo. In January 2018, Emi's solo show Follow The Line opened at Richard Levy Gallery. The gallery will also take her work to Art Miami in December 2018. Her work was included in the group show Parallax : A RAiR Connection Exhibition (2018) at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, alongside Featured Artist Justin Richel. In 2019, Emi will be an artist-in-residence at Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You studied graphic design and furniture design. How did that inform the work you make now? 

Emi Ozawa: while I was working as a graphic designer, the feeling of wanting to create 3D objects by my hand grew. I had the idea that objects could be kinetic and interactive. The reason why I started learning woodworking was to make my sculpture steady for touching and moving. I was interested in furniture as objects that have a built-in invitation to touch and move. I also wanted to learn about wood. I love the feel and the texture of this material.

Square on Square, 2010. Acrylic on apple plywood with brass. 19.75" x 20" x 3". Photo credit : Margot Geist.

OPP: What led you away from functional objects toward visual art?

EO: From the start, I was combining my sculptural ideas into furniture. I wanted my work to be inviting. You can sit, you can open a door. Its function was secondary for me. For instance, Bird tables surface is very limited. My ‘box form’ sculptures—like Wound Up(2001) and bOX (2001)—have very small inside spaces. Each piece has very unique way of opening and closing. They needed to be explained by someone present, sometimes a piece would be displayed in a case, all of this intruded on the viewer’s full experience. Gradually I felt that I wanted my work to be independent like a painting on a wall. Viewers are invited to look and have an experience of interaction without touching. Further more, I wanted to focus on surface painting more than spending too much energy with building mechanical parts and joints.

Red Bridge, 2004. Acrylic on apple plywood with brass. 15" x 15" x 2.5". Photo credit : Mark Johnston.

OPP: In your statement, you mentioned that play is a central concern of your work. Early kinetic works like Triangle Train (2009) or See Saw 2 (2002) could be touched. What makes an interactive work a sculpture versus a toy? Does that distinction matter to you at all?

EO: Yes. This distinction matters to me, but I can’t help it if others blur the line between the two experiences. Making art which applies itself to our instinct to play is the connection I am seeking. I think a toy is for the users—user-centered. That’s why a lot of toys are made safe for certain ages, for certain development, or there is a room for how to approach the toy.

Speaking about my interactive sculpture, there is a very specific way that a viewer can interact with the piece. When it’s activated, it shows a movement or a surprise which I created to share. So it is artist-centered.

Rain on Rain, 2016. (front, left and right side views). Acrylic on poplar. 48" x 28.5" x 2." Photo credit: Margot Geist.

OPP: Your wall sculptures are very much about visual perspective. They change if you look at them from different points of view. Is this pure abstraction? Or do you think of these abstractions as metaphors?

EO: I think a lot of them are pure abstraction using color and geometry, but some are developed from my response to nature. For example, I considered rain drops falling in Rain on Rain (2016), the moon in a night sky in Once in A Blue Moon (2014) and the vivid colors I see during Summer season in One Summer Day Takes a Walk (2013). I like working with squares and circles because they are my favorite language. They tend to relate, and I use them towards what you are talking about in terms of visual perspective. 

Drifting Mist (two views), 2015. Acrylic on poplar. 15" x 15' x 1.875". Photo credit : Margot Geist.

OPP: When I first looked at works like Kaki to Yuzu (2018) and Blue Line (2017), I thought of variations on the Modernist grid and the textile grid of weaving, as well as an accumulations of ladders against the wall. Then I googled Amidakuji (2016) and had a whole new perspective. Can you explain for non-Japanese speakers? 

EO: Amidakuji is a common game of chance in Japan. You just need a pen and a paper. You draw vertical lines of participants number which could be two to however many. Then add horizontal lines in between the vertical lines, write prizes or numbers at the bottom end of the line and hide that detail. Each player can add more horizontal lines. Now the game begins. Each participant picks a line. You track the path downwards from the top. Following the line, it crosses sometime with other path but never overlap. When you reach the bottom, you find the prize. When I started drawing this idea, I thought everybody knew about it. Then soon I found out it is not common in USA. As far as the purpose of the game goes, picking the shortest straw might do something similar.

Amidakuji, 2016. Acrylic on mahogany. 54" x 46.5" x 1.25." Photo credit : Jeff Krueger

OPP: How important is it that viewers understand this reference when looking at the work?

EO: I structured these three pieces based on this game and applied this rule to color these lines. I wouldn’t be making these works without knowing Amidakuji. But it can be looked at as a sculpture without its references. Though it is not a must, I mention its inspiration because it is part of it for me, as is this work’s relation to the Modernist grid you mention. It is interesting to see similarities in Mondrian’s structure and this game.    

Five Blue Circles, 2018. Paper on board. 10" x 15" x 2.5" frame.

OPP: Many recent wall sculptures are made of paper instead of wood. Is this a new material in your practice? 

EO: I have been making paper models for 30 years. It was for my furniture, as it is now for my sculpture. From drawing to paper model to wood sculpture. . . this has been my process. Paper model-making is an important step for me to see and understand three dimensional aspects before working on a piece in actual size and material. I always enjoy working with paper just like I do with wood.

I have an upcoming residency  in 2019 at Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where there will be an opportunity for me to do some 3D lithography. Because this work will be on paper, I was looking at my paper models and drawings and started experimenting with paper towards the work as a finished art object. 

Sugar Plum, 2018. Paper, tape on board. 13" x 13" x 1.5" framed.

OPP: Can you talk about the material differences between wood and paper?

EO: Paper doesn’t have thickness like wood. Paper is foldable and flexible unlike wood. Paper is more fragile than wood. There are many differences between the two, with what you can and cannot do, yet my paper and wood pieces are alike though in different scales.

Some ideas echo in-between wood pieces and paper pieces. My newest paper pieces are inspired by my wall wood sculpture that changes its look from the different perspectives. I found it is interesting that the reverse process is happening. Adding paper to my materials, my play ground of ideas is expanding. 

To see more of Emi's work, please visit emiozawa.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). During summer 2018, 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. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.