OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews AC Wilson

2013
Photograph, chair with permanent impression

AC WILSON’s arrangements of found objects—clippings from newspapers, beds, taxidermy animals, magician's tools—evoke absence, tragedy and loss. He uses these objects as props, barely manipulating them, except through their placement, allowing ambiguous narratives to emerge. AC received his BFA in sculpture from the University of Tennessee in 2012 and attended the Summer Studio Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013. He has exhibited at University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery, Flourescent Gallery, Knoxville Museum of Art and Virginia Commonwealth University. In December 2014, he exhibited in the group show Fresh Punch at the artist-run Era VI VII VI in Queens, New York. AC lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement, you say, ""My work deals with tragedy, failure, and fate. The work speaks softly, under the guise of familiar objects and simple or clichéd symbolism. Under that surface lies a violent undercurrent of doubt, regret, and confusion." Could you talk generally about cliché and how you use it to address these themes?

AC Wilson: A majority of my work is influenced by my mother’s death from leukemia in 2010. At the time, I had two more years at the University of Tennessee and decided it would be healthy to make work about what I was going through. Tragedy is closely tied to failure—the failure to prevent it or the idea that life has failed or cheated you in some way. My personal tragedy was difficult in that there was no one I could blame. Fate had prescribed this tragedy on a genetic level I cannot understand, and I have nothing but gratitude for the incredible medical care that attempted to stop it. This left me with some anger and nowhere to direct it. The whole ordeal was and still is confusing to me.

There is a danger of alienating the audience in making work that is too specifically personal. I want my audience to be able to relate to the work whether or not they have experienced something similar. In order to bridge this gap, I use familiar objects and simple metaphors in my arrangements. It allows the work to be more approachable and less daunting to investigate. This is where cliché becomes a tool. It allows me to use a vocabulary of metaphor and meaning in objects that has already been well established. For instance, in Rut (2012), I am working off of the cliché of ducklings following their mother in a line. I’m able to subvert this however by removing the maternal figure and looping the line into a circle. Then, the work can have a more complicated discussion about personal loss and loss in direction without my having to explain what the objects mean. 

Rut
2012
Taxidermy ducklings

OPP: The dominant characteristic in your work is evocative simplicity in the arrangement of found objects. What's your process like? Do pieces come to you like fully-formed visions or do you move things around until they make sense?

ACW: Early on in school, I was drawn to the clean aesthetic of artists like Tom Friedman, Damien Hirst and Jason Dodge. There was something about their tone that seemed unattainable and supernatural to me.

With a clear standard in mind, I began working methodically to bring these elements into my own work. I wanted to use a light touch and to do the most with the least. Using objects that already exist affords me that ability. I simply compose objects and allow the relationships between them to be the basis of the expression. The nature of our everyday material surroundings allows one to understand and relate better to the physical presence of an object rather than a drawing or other iteration of the same object. Titling a work is also an important opportunity to influence the relationship between object and idea.

I began to put other limitations—to only use objects a child could understand or to use no more than two or three basic components—on myself, which propelled my work to a new level. At the time, I would spend a considerable amount of time with an idea, generally only working through sketches. When I thought it was ready, I would execute it, knowing how I wanted it to look.

While this may have created more succinct, confident work, I realized the potential for missed opportunities with this approach. These limitations began to inhibit my possibilities at a certain point. More and more, I’m allowing accidents and experimentation to happen, sketching with physical objects and materials. I’m surrounding myself with things I want to work with and getting out of my comfort zone, allowing uncertainty to be involved. 

2014
Newspaper clippings of Carina Dolcino, senior class president at Concord High School, before and after the Challenger space shuttle explosion; display case

OPP: You've made several recent pieces using clips from the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, including Aftermath (2013). It's been almost 20 years. Do you remember the day the shuttle exploded? Why use such a distant tragedy, when there are so many recent tragedies—I'm thinking of all the school shootings in recent years?

ACW: The Challenger Space Shuttle explosion occurred three years before I was born. There are multiple reasons I use this event as a vehicle to talk about tragedy. First, it is difficult to find a tragedy on such a grand scale that doesn't involve a clear villain or carry other baggage. A tragedy such as a school shooting prompts conversations about gun control, the state of mental health care and the media’s coverage of the shooters. The Challenger Space Shuttle explosion is unique in that is boils down to an accident. While NASA is to blame for their incompetence regarding the faulty design of the O-Rings, they were under an immense amount of pressure to expedite an already delayed launch. In addition to that, flawed judgement doesn’t not come from a place of malice. It really was just a terrible accident.

What compounds this tragedy is the involvement of Christa McAuliffe, an American school teacher who was the first to be selected as a part of the NASA Teacher in Space program. Due to her involvement, the shuttle launch was broadcast in classrooms all over America. For many young people, this was an introduction to tragedy and loss, a loss of innocence.

What happens when you die
2011
Taxidermy fawn, bed, cremation tag

OPP: I'm curious about your series Impossible Objects (2010)—are these photographs or installations?

ACW: The Impossible Objects are actual physical installations inspired by a few sources. Most notably, they are tied to the concept of an impossible bottle. These can range from the classic ship in a bottle to more complex feats, such as the work of Harry Eng. What fascinates me about these bottles is their ability to maintain a real sense of curiosity without relying on any movement whatsoever.

I come from a background in illusionary magic, which relates to the idea of a puzzle, but is not the same. While a puzzle requires a solution to a problem, the strength of magic relies more on wondering, “How is it done?” Knowing how a trick is performed removes all of its power. In this series, I mainly focused on the illusion of penetration or “solid-through-solid.” Tire on Pole, for example, is basically a variation on the linking ring illusion.  

Lastly, the series references the absurd nature of pranks, namely, the Cornell University’s Pumpkin Prank of 1998, in which a pumpkin was inexplicable placed atop Cornell’s 173-foot McGraw tower. Like the Cornell pumpkin prank, the installations were easy to overlook, but hidden in plain sight. However, once noticed or pointed out, their nonsensical and sometimes daring execution elicits humor. A nice tension exists between a dismissive “Why would someone do that?” and an impressed “How did someone do that?”

Donut on pole
2010
Donut, from the series Impossible Objects

OPP: You earned your BFA in 2012 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and went on to do the Summer Studio Program at Virginia Commonwealth University on 2013. Tell us a little bit about that program and why you decided to go. How has it affected your practice?

ACW: I had an incredible experience working toward my BFA at the University of Tennessee. After graduation, as many artists can attest, it can be  difficult to maintain momentum and balance a studio practice and real life responsibilities. School offers a real sounding board by way of critiques, visiting artists and faculty mentorship. Not having that can foster some insecurities about the direction of your work.

Having worked full-time during school and after, I needed some time to sort things out. As a part of the visiting artist program at UT, I had a studio visit with Michael Jones McKean, an Associate Professor at VCU. The visit was productive. When I heard about the VCU Summer Studio program, I was looking forward to working with him again. The VCU Summer Studio program offered a great opportunity to spend eight weeks focusing on my work, surrounded by a group of talented artists who were at similar points in their careers. It was an extremely motivating experience.

Being in a new environment, I felt permission to bend some of my own rules and make decisions I might not have otherwise. A good example of this is Mother and child. The piece involves two parts: an enlarged photograph of my mother nursing me right after my birth and a black folding chair with a permanent impression in the seat. Both of these parts are fabricated or modified. While the photograph wasn’t manipulated, it was enlarged for formal reasons. The chair was modified by soaking the seat cushion in plaster, re-upholstering it, and sitting on it until it hardened. While normally I try not to modify objects, my goals for this piece couldn't have been realized without doing so. That being said, I tried to involve my hand as little as possible, to retain a sense of honesty in material. This has led to more possibilities for me, including collage and other forms of fabrication. I have more creative freedom as a result of the program; now I just have to decide where to go with it.

To see more of AC's work, please visit ac-wilson.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Carlie Leagjeld

Untitled (detail)
2010
Acrylic paint, stick on earrings, stickers, carved paper, and scratched paper on paper

CARLIE LEAGJELD's multimedia paintings and installations are formal abstractions that foreground texture and process. Her works contain a wide range of paint applications and styles of marks: tiny, meticulous dots; precise, meandering lines; paint drips; washes of color and paint blobs that seem to be squeezed directly from the tube. Carlie earned her BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Oregon (2007) and her MFA in Studio Art from American University (2010), were she was the recipient of several prestigious scholarships, including the Van Swearingen Graduate Scholarship and the Catharina Baart Biddle Art Award. Her work is included in the Watkins Collection at the Katzen Museum in Washington, D.C. Carlie lives and works in Portland, Oregon, where she continue to paint, draw and enjoy the outdoors.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your statement, you say, "I work in a process of discovery. . .  making a mark, erasing, connecting one line to another, overlapping, seeing through, and editing out." Could you say more about why you choose these recurring strategies? Do you see these strategies as metaphors?

Carlie Leagjeld: I don’t start my work with a set plan or outcome in mind. For this reason, strategies, processes and materials become what the work is about. I see the processes I use, which are more or less about trial and error, as related to the experience of existential searching. We create our own realities through our habits, our thoughts and our decisions. The processes I repeatedly use are attempts to create or uncover another kind of reality or world. The work starts with one element and grows from there. Working on a piece is a process of discovery: I’m editing things out, cutting the piece up, reassembling it, turning it into another piece and so on.
Evolution, life cycles and decay are also metaphors in my work. I’ve always been interested in work that reveals the time spent, the process and how it’s built. I use patterning and repetition, which are linked to our habits, obsessions, jobs and routines, as well as to natural patterns such as leaves on a tree or cultural patterns like city grids.

Untitled
2013
Acrylic on paper and mylar

OPP: Your combination of a variety of styles of marks and paint applications within a single piece keeps me looking. Have you always painted/drawn the way you do now? How/when did you develop this style of working?

CL: I’ve been painting since I was very young. Initially,  I painted and drew from life (still life, landscape and portraiture). But over time, I realized that I was more interested in the paint itself and getting caught up in the details. The actual image that I was painting became incidental.  I started working abstractly but was using botanical drawings as inspiration. I liked the scientific aspect of botanical drawings and how the detail in them showed a variety of marks to make the illustration more descriptive. Working abstractly gave me freedom and allowed me to focus on material. Working non-objectively made it hard to find a starting point for my pieces. Out of frustration, I began taking dried paint scraps from my palette and collaging with them. This is now one of the main starting points in my work and has become important because of the removal of my hand. I paint on a palette, let it dry, scrape the paint off and then collage it onto a surface. The dried paint pieces often look jagged, torn or wrinkly. From there I work back in with more traditional paint techniques to bring the pieces together and create a space.

Untitled
Installation detail
2010
Acrylic paint on mylar and string

OPP: Could you talk about your installations from 2009-2010?

CL: I did those installations during grad school. I was interested in the installations of Diana Cooper and Sarah Sze. Slowly my drawings and paintings started to meander off the page and onto my studio walls. I was using a lot of the same processes as the paintings and drawings. I pinned the dried paint pieces directly to the wall with map pins and then instead of painting a line or drawing a line, I used string. And instead of painting a shape, I cut it out of paper. So in some ways it felt easier than painting. It was much more direct.
 
Coming from a more traditional painting background made it hard for me to imagine working outside of the rectangle. But as I started to move more into abstraction, the edges of the paintings seemed to be an issue—too much or not enough space. One of the first pieces that I created directly on the wall was a drawing on paper that I cut up into six squares. I spaced them out into a grid and pinned them to the wall. Then with the space between I drew directly on the wall with a marker to connect the squares. It became a way of editing and expanding that was different than the way I was used to working. That’s when I really started to feel like there was less struggle in the process of creating. There was more of a flow and ease to working. I felt a freedom—the same freedom I felt when I stopped painting from life—working outside the rectangle, limited instead by physical space.



Untitled
2014
Acrylic, gouache, paper, mylar, gold leaf, woodblock print, plastic gems and string

OPP: Based on your website, it looks like you have turned exclusively to painting in the last few years. Have you given up installation for good?

CL: No I haven’t. I recently finished a small installation in my studio. The main drawback to installation is the space and the material needed. In some ways it seems wasteful because it’s temporary, but I like the relationship of the fleeting quality of life with the process of an installation. I’ve worked pretty exclusively on small paintings and drawings for the past few years, but in the process of making them, I’ve been collecting dried paint pieces. I'm constantly doing experiments with paint, from acrylic to gouache to oil to different ways of applying paint and pouring paint. I also cut up my works on paper as an editing process, and I’ve been saving all the leftover scraps. So this current installation in my studio was created mostly from an inventory of remnants from other artworks. I’ve also been carving woodblocks to use them like stamps to create patterns. So this installation uses elements of block prints and remnants from past pieces, which made creating this installation very quick because all the elements were on hand. I pin up one piece, and then from there it starts to grow organically.

OPP: If someone forced you to choose one or the other to work with for the rest of your life, would you choose color or texture?

CL: I would choose texture. I look at my paintings as very shallow, sculptural reliefs. The physicality of each gesture—even if it’s a blob of paint or a thick brush stroke—becomes important. I could never give up the tactile aspect of my work.

To see more of Carlie's work, please visit carlieleagjeld.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Sabina Ott

here and there pink melon joy (purgatory)
2014
Installation view
Styrofoam, spray foam, astroturf, artificial and real plants, mirror, canvas, water, pump, plastic, clocks

Vulgarity, beauty and contemplation meet in the materially-driven practice of artist and educator SABINA OTT. Hanging, body-sized sculptures sport light fixtures, clocks and mirrors. Carved slabs of styrofoam, embellished with faux house plants, rest on flat, astroturf rugs/pedestals. The bizarre scene creates a compelling hybrid: part home decor, part monument. Sabina earned both her BFA and MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Having exhibited extensively since 1985, her most recent solo shows include to perceive the invisible in you (2012) at St. Xavier University (Chicago), Ornament (2013) at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and here and there pink melon joy, which is currently on view at the Chicago Cultural Center until January 4, 2015. In 2011, Sabina founded Terrain Exhibitions, which converted her suburban front yard into a home a site-specific project space for emerging as well as established artists. In 2014, she was awarded a Propeller Fund grant to produce the 2nd Terrain Biennial and to create Virtual Terrain, an web project that facilitates public arts in residential neighborhoods internationally. Sabina lives and works in Oak Park, Illinois.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I relish the texture and materiality of your work. Even videos like hope is the thing with feathers (2011) and the animated text in installations like to perceive the invisible in you (2012) appear tactile rather than digital. Could you talk generally about texture and your chosen materials—styrofoam, glitter, spray paint and paper mache, expandable spray foam, to name a few?

Sabina Ott: I have always worked with heavily textured materials, be it oil paint (sometimes directly out of the can) or encaustic or plaster or polystyrene. Highly textured surfaces demand the eye to slow down and travel into nooks and crannies. Texture offers the possibility of touch as well as the experience of haptic space. In Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays (1990), Iris Marion Young states: “Touch immerses the subject in fluid continuity with the object, and for the touching subject the object reciprocates the touching, blurring the border between self and other.” But these are artworks and cannot be touched by the viewer, and so desire is stimulated and frustrated. But experiencing frustration brings desire (to touch) to the fore, and the experience of the border between self and other becomes a subject of the work.

believing that something is something
2014
Styrofoam, clocks, spray foam and enamel, plaster, mirror
144" x 15" x 12"

OPP: Over the last few years, you've introduced more domestic objects as material in your sculptures and installations. Clocks, lamps and light bulbs, house plants and AstroTurf seem to be the contained or tamed, home-decor versions of Time and Light and Nature, complex entities which are simultaneously constructs, loaded symbols and actual, tangible experiences. How do you think about these materials?

SO: I use those materials—easily-purchased, ready made clocks, lamps and carpets—because they are all the things you describe in your question. Simultaneously, I choose to use the Home Depot variety of those objects because, in their vulgarity, they offer a critique of good taste and “pertain to the ordinary people in a society” as stated in the definition of the word. The alterations I make to the objects unleash them, un-tame them, make them an impossible fit into home décor. So they hover between being useful and useless—a lamp or a sculpture, homey or sublime—and therefore bring a lofty contemplation of “Time and Light and Nature” down to earth, making it more experiential.

Rainbow Eye
2009
Mixed media collage
15" x 17"

OPP: What about the repeated visual motif of the eye? When and why did you first use this image? Has the way you think about its meaning shifted over time?

SO: I had a period in which I found it really difficult to make artwork. I had gone through two near-death experiences which resulted in two complicated surgeries. My desire to play with the image of eyes is simple. I wanted to go back to my very first influence—surrealism—while somehow referencing the physical extremes I had just experienced. The eye is a complex, loaded symbol. One thinks of surveillance, portraiture, the desiring gaze or the omnipotent eye. I began making collages and then animations that I then projected onto sculptures in site-specific installations.

here and there pink melon joy (paradise)
2014
4 channel video, sound, subwoofer, drums, cymbal and bench
Variable installation

OPP: You currently have a fantastic show titled here and there pink melon joy on view at the Chicago Cultural Center until January 4, 2015. I rarely get to physically experience the work I'm looking at online for this blog, so it was a treat to experience the darkened room where the four-channel video animation to perceive the invisible in you (2012) was accompanied by a soundtrack by Joe Jeffers. As I sat on the bench encircling a tower of drums, I was immersed in an environment of text and sound. I started off trying to read the text, discern its meaning and identify its source. But I quickly surrendered to a less intellectual, more sensual experience of the rhythm and motion. My mind kept trying to latch onto the words, but whatever they said was never as interesting as that feeling of surrender. It sort of embodied the experience of meditation when it is most enjoyable. I assume, as the artist, you must have a very different relationship to the text itself. Could you talk about that?

SO: The text is comprised of snippets from various poets on ecstasy, love, God and death. I could not find the perfect poem to use. None of the poems I studied quite got at what I wanted, so I embraced that fact and just took sections from many different poems. Again, experiencing thwarted desire (to read the text), similar to the desire stimulated by wanting to touch all the sculptures and paintings, is essential to surrender, and surrender is necessary to the experience of paradise. The rhythmic sound element in the piece takes over, changes over time from agitated to soothing as one transitions from wanting to make sense of the text to experiencing the vibration, sound, moving light and reflections.

OPP: I see the intellect and the senses as complimentary, but distinct modes of gathering knowledge. What are your thoughts on how these modes interact when making art?

SO: The moment that intellect and the senses meet could be called intuition. Intuition comes into play when what you know matches what you are experiencing. Intuition comes with training, study and practice.

beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful
2011
Polystyrene, ink jet print on paper mounted on sintra, spray enamel, flashe, mirror and spider plant
49"H x 48" W x 14" D

OPP: Aside from your thriving art practice—not to mention running the exhibition space Terrain out of your Oak Park home—you've been an educator for more than 20 years, including stints as the Director of Graduate Studies at Washington University and San Francisco Art Institute and the Chair of the Department of Art and Design at Columbia College in Chicago. How have you balanced teaching and your studio practice throughout your career?

SO: I love teaching, and I have been teaching as long as I have been working professionally as an artist. But I never intended to become a professor of art. A friend asked me to teach a class of hers because she was too busy. I did and began my teaching career at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I have taught in many places, but at Art Center I had the best of both worlds. I only taught one day a week and spent all my other time in the studio while teaching alongside extraordinary artists. It was ideal.

My interaction with students stimulates my studio work, and I learn from them and from my colleagues. Teaching brings out the best in me and in my studio practice, and the two have always been interdependent.

In the beginning, like many young artists, I lived cheaply enough to be able to support myself on adjunct positions, something that is, admittedly, a lot more difficult now. Plus, I was selling a lot of artwork. I understood that if I wanted a full time position, I might have to move away from Los Angeles, my hometown, and I decided to pursue a role in academia. I had built my resume up so that I was competitive and took a tenured position in St. Louis. It was difficult, not because of the university. I had plenty of time to work, but I was away from a coast and felt like a cultural alien. But that was the price I had to pay to have that kind of position. I ended up working in administration for 10 years in the positions you describe. Schools are often looking for faculty who can also be administrators. I don’t recommend doing that if you don’t love spread sheets and long meetings. And I didn’t love spreadsheets and long meetings. I am very grateful to be back in the classroom.

OPP: What’s the most common mistake you see young artists making in how they approach art-making while in school? Can you offer any advice about how to get the most out of art school?

SO: Students often think that they have to make a "master work" in school, but it's most productive to develop one's capacity to embrace and learn from failure. Be a proactive student. Seek extra advice from your faculty, organize events with your fellow students, do extra research and reach out to faculty and students from other disciplines. I recently heard someone say this: it's easy to be a young artist, but the trick is becoming an old artist. I wish that for all my students. . . become an old artist!

To see more of Sabina's work, please visit sabinaott.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include solo shows I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Gwyneth Anderson

Some Sensations Felt at Various Locations
2012
Video stills from drawn animation & performance
Top (left to right): peeling off a scab; restless legs; anxiety felt when interacting with quiet, intelligent, perceptive women. Bottom (left to right): listening to music through headphones; receiving a compliment that makes me uneasy; rising up from toilet seat after having sat for five minutes.

GWYNETH ANDERSON explores empathy and subjectivity in her sparse, hand-drawn animations of physical sensations. In video installations which turn the site into the audience, she takes a phenomenological approach in trying to understand what plants or the moon might want and how a room or exhibition space might feel. Gwyneth earned her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. She has been an artist-in-residence at Arteles Creative Center in Finland, Harold Arts (2011 and 2012), 8550 Ohio (2013) and Experimental Sound Studio (2013-2014) and will soon travel to Geneva, Switzerland for a residency at Utopiana (2014-2015). Notable exhibitions and screenings include the group exhibition Mind the Gap at Hyde Park Art Center (2014), Detent & Stow & Some Sensations Felt at Various Locations at Adult Contemporary (2013), and Laughing Video as part of The Happiness Project at 6018 NORTH (2011). She has also exhibited several times at Roman Susan Gallery, where her solo project Qualiascope is now on view. The show will close with a screening at 6pm on December 6, 2014. Gwyneth lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Pieces like A Microscopic View of Invisible Things (2011), Sensation Animation (2009), Some Sensations Felt at Various Locations (2012) and Aeriameter (2014) all offer animated visualizations of experiences that are not visual: sounds, smells, emotions, physical sensations. I read these works as explorations and aids in mindfulness of the present moment. These animations aren't illustrations, but opportunities to investigate my own experiences of sensations. Even if your representation of your experience of a  particular sensation doesn't match mine, your animation allows me to be really aware of what that sensation is like for me. Thoughts?

Gwyneth Anderson: I like how you think. I particularly like that what a viewer can gain from my work isn’t necessarily a matched experience, but rather an opportunity to be aware. Usually audiences react with “Oh wow! You’re right, that’s what needing to pee feels like!” or “I disagree about what itches look like.” People have reactions that inject right and wrong. Which is great! I love that people can relate so much with what I’m documenting solely from myself.

Mindfulness is at the core of making those pieces. It gives me great satisfaction for a viewer to react by observing their own perceptions with heightened awareness.

I cherish the truth of physical sensation. There is agency in simply having a body with perceptions which no one can contradict. But communication tools for those experiences are limited; that’s why I made those drawn animations. Having your own body also raises a lot of questions about objectivity and subjectivity. If our own perceptions are inherently subjective, are they not factual? The fact that someone else can’t fully see or understand how you feel doesn’t lessen the realness of your experience.

Sensation Animation
2009
Drawn animation: visual representations of physical sensations while sitting at my desk in my bedroom

OPP: Do you have a meditation practice? Is animation a type of meditation?

GA: I do meditate, though it predominately takes place in moments sprinkled throughout the day. I’m prone to anxiety, so meditation—in the sense of focused breathing and visualization —is a necessity for me. I visualize during meditation, and those visualizations often are animated, in motion. For instance, I’ll see a certain path that my breath makes while inhaling and exhaling, involving repetitive loops and turns. Maybe, for me, meditation is a type of animation.

But I wouldn’t say that animation is a type of meditation, although it can certainly be meditative. Both practices are defined by increments that build to a larger whole. In meditation, it’s breath; in animation, it’s a single line or single frame. But meditation is more observational than creative. Creativity is actually a burden when meditating, because I want to focus on just breath or just light. That’s less of the case with my artwork. I do maintain simplicity and directness in my projects, but creativity is necessary for it. And the knowledge of an end product and the desire to achieve certain results can be barriers for trying to only perceive the present moment.

I do try to slow down my perceptions though. I make animations that play back at 12 frames per second. Five minutes of my existence might become 1/12 of a second. Sometimes when I’m doing this, I feel like my eyes are twice as big or I’m glowing. . . Ha! It’s vaguely transcendental.

Virtual Reality for a Horizon
2011
Video

OPP: Your series of video installations Sykliä imagines mossy rocks, dead trees, the moon and the horizon line as an ideal audience. Could you talk about making art for nature—rather than about nature?

GA: I think a lot about audience and context. Popular art, music, games, movies ignore and condescend to so many demographics of people. Especially movies. There’s a hyper-awareness about audience in mainstream Hollywood, and it encompasses all sorts of bigotry. Regardless, the act of writing a movie script aimed at wealthy, white thirtysomethings, who are successful in their careers but still trying to find love, isn’t so different from installing a site-specific sculpture in the Chicago Cultural Center. The producers and the artist are both fiercely focused on the context.

I wanted to be like a Hollywood screenwriter and make movies that would attempt to entertain audiences that I am not part of: rocks, trees, the moon. After all, most screenwriters are writing for audiences that they themselves do not belong to. But instead of being primarily driven by profits, I was driven by empathy. I tried to understand what rocks, trees, the moon might want to watch. I wanted the site to be the audience. Humans unnecessary.

But, of course. . . Humans are audience members for these videos. There have been times when these works were played outside when no humans—even myself—were present, but by and large, people were watching. And that’s what I want. By approaching an artwork, knowing it’s intended for the horizon or dead conifer tree, the human must interpret what it could mean for that place or thing to perceive it. That, to me, is total empathy: attempting to perceive as though you had a completely different shape or nervous system, or no nervous system at all.

Emulation
2011
Performative video, attempted synchronicity

OPP: Pastoral Anxiety (2009) and My Bucolic State (2010) both suggest a disconnection from nature and it's accompanying longing to reconnect. Emulation (2011) also takes on this theme, but I actually feel the longing and the belonging in this piece. There's a real sense that the human figure in the video is truly empathizing with the plants by mimicking their motion. By putting herself in the "shoes" of the plants, she can finally feel the connection. Is this in line with your personal experience of making the piece (I am assuming that's your arm)?

GA: Yes, it’s me in all those videos. Pastoral Anxiety and My Bucolic State are much more about trying to approach the forest as a social space, where as Emulation goes the opposite direction of human trying to be arboreal. Or leafy. And instead of dressing up in moss as I did in Pastoral Anxiety, it’s about the movements involved. As if the movements determine their plantness. I was also thinking more formally, like a series of paintings with arms for tree limbs, rather than a character, as in Pastoral Anxiety. I think the lack of a face and language helps with this.

You’re absolutely right. I did feel more belonging while making Emulation. Those videos tackle strong emotions I have about being separate from landscapes, and Emulation responds with acceptance of the differences between my body and various plants. It doesn’t fight it or lament it.

That said, the video footage in My Bucolic State was shot around the area I grew up, so I feel a deep connection to it. It’s layered and complicated. Emulation was shot in Costa Rica, outside of Ciudad Colón. I was speaking beginner-level Spanish everyday there, perpetually trying to understand and conjure the right words. Making the video was an offshoot of that intensely focused listening, with little ability for initiating my own thoughts or movements.

Aural Thermometer
2014
Sound sculpture

OPP: You just opened a solo show called Qualiascope at Roman Susan Gallery in Chicago. Tell us about the show.

GA: Qualiascope invites visitors to attempt to empathize with a room. The word "qualia" refers to subjective experiences such as pain from a stubbed toe or the taste of food. There are no tools for systematically measuring qualia; there are, however, many ways for measuring the phenomena of a room, including distance and temperature. It's easy to see the objectivity of what yardsticks and thermometers do because of their quantifiability, but there's a lack of sensation to them. So I approached the measurable phenomena as if they were subjective experiences. For example, Aural Thermometer is a sound sculpture. I installed head phone jacks in the wall next to a thermometer at corresponding 20 degree increments. While Aural Thermometer wouldn't be obviously considered an animation, I approached it like one, recording sounds of various clicks and thuds, which incrementally gain momentum in relation to the corresponding temperature. I thought of the space between each sound as being like the distance traversed by a single animated dot.

For a long time I've wanted to create video installations without actually using any video or film technology. Video installation exists in a world where viewers assume that the big letters on the bottom of a screen spelling out SONY have nothing to do conceptually with the piece. They are asked to just look at the illuminated image and not consider the other parts and certainly not touch the other parts. It's distancing. But each element in sculpture—including the pedestal—is relevant.

In Qualiascope, I wanted to allow visitors to control their own rate of playback. There are no videos installed, but most of the works involve moving imagery. The visitor provides the movement, as one does with a flip book. The incrementality of animation is more apparent when you see the individual frames. I think of those increments as if they are the inches on a yardstick or degrees on a thermometer.

On the last night of the show (December 6, 2014 at 6pm), I will screen an animation compiled from all the frames in the exhibition. Each piece will be translated into a section of the animation, including the works that are sound-based. The result will attempt to communicate the room's sense of time in relation to its qualia.
To see more of Gwyneth's work, please visit gwynethvzanderson.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Dickson Bou

Untitled
2013
Foamcore, contact paper, artificial wood veneer, wood

Illusions of material, weight and balance are precariously at play in DICKSON BOU's angular, faceted sculptures, which  obliquely reference architecture, airplane wreckage and paper airplanes. Working intuitively, he first familiarizes himself with the inherent qualities of his chosen materials—white foam core, wood grain contact paper and textured floor underlay, to name a few— then allows the outcome of each conscious decision in his process to lead to the next. Dickson earned his BFA at the University of Western Ontario in 2009) and his MFA at the University of Victoria, British Columbia in 2011. He has exhibited in The Windsor Biennial (2011) at the Art Gallery of Windsor, Firstness (2012) at the defunct Tumble Contemporary Art in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Bracket(ed) (2013), a two person show also featuring the work of Thomas Chisholm. Dickson recently opened N+1 Cycle, a vintage bicycle shop, with Jason Hallows in London, Ontario, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does materiality play in your work? What are your favorite materials? Have you ever worked with a once-loved material that you ended up hating after creating art with it?


Dickson Bou: I've always described my work as “materially driven.” Every piece starts with a material that I've been obsessing over in the studio. I experiment with it, figure out what I can and can't do with the material and go from there. My favorite materials are the types that allows me to make work that seems more substantial than it actually is. The more recent white, angular sculptures are good examples. They are foam core made to look like welded steel. It was important for that work to be able to shift back and forth between substantial and fragile. I would never hate a material I once loved, but I usually exhaust materials like you would exhaust a song or record by playing it one too many times.

Fall Inside a Winter
2010
Detail

OPP: I know what you mean about overplay. But sometimes, after enough time has passed and the context has shifted, I rediscover a song that I had grown tired of in the past. It sounds both familiar and refreshed. Has that ever happened with a favorite material?

DB: I haven't used this material in a while, but I do really like the red and white floor underlay, and I would like to use it again in the future. It's very other worldly, strange and full of possibilities.

OPP: In The Delicious One, Fall Inside a Winter and Poppy, and the Natural Satellite series, all from 2010, surface treatment and texture take center stage and overall design assumes a supporting role, although they are definitely working together. Recent works made of white foam core and woodgrain contact paper, yield much quieter surfaces, allowing angles, line and balance to be the dominant features. Was this a conscious shift?



DB: It was a conscious swift. In 2010 I wanted my work to be limitless. At the time, the only way I knew how to go about that was to keep adding and adding, layering and layering, whether it be another type of material or another idea. This was how I approached art making until I made the piece The Twins. After that piece, I felt I had exhausted that way of working and the materials I had been using. I had gotten too comfortable and needed a change. I thought the best way to this was to totally go the opposite direction and turn the volume down.

Wood & White
2011
Installation shot
Foam core, wood, artificial wood veneer, silicone, nylon string

OPP: The hard angles, lines and sense of balance in your free-standing sculptures makes me think a lot about architecture, design and planning. But I read in a review/blog post that your process is more intuitive than I expected. Tell us a little about your working process.

DB: There's not much planing before the making. There's a bit, but really the second step is determined by the first and third is determine by the outcome of the first and second. I do have a lot of interest in architecture and design but not really in how things are planned and laid out. I think if I was to get hung up on that side of things, the work would be very different. I wouldn't enjoy the process as much. There is something really valuable and organic about paying attention to the outcome of each step in your process and using it to steer the outcome of the finished piece.

It's funny you ask about planning and architecture. I'm currently working on an art project in collaboration with my friend Jamil Afana, who is an architect. When we first started talking about working together, I explained to him how I don't draw things out, that there's no drawn plan to go by. It kinda blew his mind to work in this way, and I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this. He replied with, “I think it's going to be a challenge, but also very fun.” I thought that was pretty funny. We're still experimenting in the studio with forms and materials, but we’ll be building a structure together. It's a slow process. Both of us have busy schedules. Jamil is a PhD candidate in Hispanic Studies at Western University, and I work a day job and run a vintage bicycle shop. It's always a challenge to work with another person; it takes more time, patience and lots of communication.

Parkhead
2008

OPP: Early works Parkhead (2008) and From Faraway (2009), a series of small-scale sculptures, are reminiscent of architectural models for city planning. They are like plans for public parks that couldn't exist in reality: imagined, self-contained environments holding self-contained, ambiguous narratives. There appears to be a shift away from narrative and towards material and spatial exploration around 2010. Is this true? Do you imagine a narrative in any more recent works?


DB: There was a swift away from small-scale models but not away from narratives. I noticed that people really latched onto the models, maybe more so to narratives presented by the models. I was more interested in the shift between scales than the actual narratives the scale models presented. With Parkhead, the safety pin is the one thing that occupied both scales. If you look at the piece in 1:1 scale, it's a head with a safety pin on top of it. But in 1:148 scale (or N scale in the model train world), it's a Claes Oldenburg sculpture in a park. I was interested in how Parkhead can bring you in and out of worlds (or scales) depending on your perception. The models became too literal and too easy for people to get hung up on. They became distracting, and I wanted to explore new territory.

With Wood & White, my 2011 MFA Thesis show, I wanted the viewer to experience the narrative more directly. I wanted viewers to feel like they were walking through a plane crash or navigating around icebergs or sinking ships. Each piece in Wood & White keeps the narrative moving. I'm more interested in putting viewers inside the story than giving them one to look at.

Cherry Blossom Shipwreck
2013
Foamcore, wood, acrylic silicone

OPP: Could you talk about Cherry Blossom Shipwreck (2013), in which you hung four sculptures in the atrium at the University Community Center (UCC) on University of Western Ontario's campus? The pieces could be viewed from all three floors of the UCC. Many of the pieces resemble the work from Wood & White. The forms are very similar, but the installation completely alters their nature. On the ground, the sculptures remind me of airplane wreckage. In the air, they evoke paper airplanes and origami cranes.

DB: I made Wood & White knowing that viewers would walk around each piece and work their way through the exhibit. It's different with Cherry Blossom Shipwreck; you can't go through and around each piece, but you can view them from under and above. I related this way of viewing to outer space. Since Wood & White resembled airplane wreckage so much, I decided to look into spaceship wreckage. One of the pieces is inspired by the nose of the Millennium Falcon. At that time, I had also just moved back to London, Ontario from Victoria, British Columbia and was thinking about the cherry blossoms there and how pretty it was when the flowers floated through the wind.

OPP: What are you working on right now?

DB: I'm kind of on hiatus right now. I recently opened up a vintage bicycle shop with my friend Jason Hallows called N+1 Cycle here in London, Ontario. The summer was busy—which is great—but I'm looking forward to the down time over the winter to focus on my artwork. I've been playing around with metal, which I use to think it was too heavy and cold. But I met Dan Bernyk in my MFA program at the University of Victoria. I was blown away by how he was able to bring out metal’s light and warm side. I also started fixing old steel bicycles and really got into custom Randonneur bicycles hand-built by the French in the 1940s-70s.Their craftsmanship and innovation is very inspiring. Beauty and form through function have been on my mind a lot lately, so we'll see if it will work it's way into my future projects.

To see more of Dickson's work, please visit dicksonbou.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Noël Morical

Eidolon IV
2014
Paracord, Metal Hoop, anodized aluminum ring
Photo credit: Rachel Smith

NOËL MORICAL's sculptural practice is driven by color, texture, material and repetition. Most recently, she has taken on macramé—a decorative knotting technique thought to have its origins with 13th century Arab weavers who knotted the fringes of their woven rugs to keep them from unraveling. Eidolons, a series of hanging sculptures made with paracord, both refer to and transcend the popular plant hanger craze of the 1970s. Noël earned her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011. She has been an artist-in-residence at Doukan 7002 in Chicago (2012) and the SÍM Residency Reykjavik in Iceland (2014). She will be exhibiting new work at Faber & Faber, as well as participating in a collaborative installation at Kitchen Space Gallery in December 2014. She will be exhibiting new work in a two-person show with Max Garett at Slow in March 2015 and a solo show at Kitchen Space Gallery in the summer of 2015. Noël lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Repetition is a staple strategy in your work in a variety of media. What's your personal relationship to repetition? Is your art relationship to repetition the same or different?

Noël Morical: Repetition is a process that allows me to slow life down. It’s a way to balance out, to process and to gain a better understanding of the symbiosis that is art and life. It has become a means of constructing a reality that is under my control and in complete order.      

I’ve never participated in yoga before, but working with serial techniques has proven to be an ideal way for me to meditate, I’m terrible at standing still.  While knotting, for example, there are moments when I feel like I am on autopilot. The movement is fluid and intuitive, and I don’t have to think or be fully present for the work to progress. It may sound a little robotic, but I am truly content in those moments. I find I get a little on edge if I have not had enough time in the studio.

Time Doesn't Go Anywhere, It Only Adds Up.
2011
Paint Samples, Vinyl

OPP: Tell us about your large-scale piece Time Doesn't Go Anywhere, It Only Adds Up (2011), which has the drape of textile, but is actually made of paint samples and vinyl. Its surface evokes both scales and chain mail.

NM: Collecting paint swatches is a sort of hardware store ritual I have participated in since I was young. This ritual was the impetus for my BFA thesis exhibition. Working on something that large, laborious and connected to my past provided me with a great deal of comfort, a method to deepen my understanding of process. It also moved me through a difficult time in my life. There was a serendipitous moment when I was able to see the connection this piece had with my life—a way for me to organize intangibilities such as color into a physical form.

Efficiency and endurance became two big points of consideration when planning out Time Doesn’t Go Anywhere. The “scale” shape is non-referential. It’s a form that utilizes a majority of the paint swatch without being a standard square. The shape only required a simple, fluid cut. With the help of many, I cut twice my weight in paint swatches to complete the piece. I walked around 60 miles adhering all the paint samples to the vinyl, and the whole piece was completed in less then four months. The production of this piece  was like tending to a very large, living thing. I was completely consumed by the work, and I would say my behavior was compulsive. I was living out of the studio, getting six or less hours of sleep a night, occasionally missing class to get it pulled together in time. It was very hard to step back and actually look at what I was doing. It wasn’t until the School of the Art Institute of Chicago BFA show opening that I was able to experience the fruits of my labor through other people’s experiences with it. The different interpretations of the work have added to my experience of the piece itself, giving me a new set of eyes with which to view what I created. I have heard everything from dragon scales to feather cloth to a fictional drippy cave. A few people approached me during the opening and thanked me for creating a sort of sanctuary/reprieve from the crowd. I enjoyed the fact that so many people could take what they wanted from the work.

Eidolon II
2014
Paracord, Metal Hoops, Stucco, Wooden Beads
Photo credit: Rachel Smith

OPP: Could you talk about the Eidolons? What does the title mean? What led you to work with this material and technique?

NM: The light switch in my old studio was as far away from the exit as possible. Leaving or coming in at night involved stumbling over my studio mates’ partially completed artworks in near darkness. The Eidolons hung in my corner, barely visible like phantoms or apparitions backlit by a streetlight outside. Despite the fact that I made them, knew what they were and knew they were there-I was repeatedly surprised by their presence in the dark. I will also admit I like being creeped out and am curious about supernatural phenomena.

I materialize color much the same way I did in Time Doesn’t Go Anywhere, It Only Adds Up. That being said, paracord is another mediator for the inexplicable relationship our eyes have with color. I was completely drawn to it based on the spectrum of colors and patterns that are commercially available. By nature of the knotted structure, the Eidolons are definitely bodily. The fluidity between phantom, the fleeting nature of color and the body is rich and emerges naturally from the way knots fit together.

Untitled (in-progress)
2014
Metal Hoops, Paracord

OPP: What do you think and feel about the cultural baggage that comes with the technique of macramé?

NM: I don’t think too much about it. I can only dictate how I would like the technique to exist currently. A close friend, who is a jazz pianist, explained his take on visual art to me once: “Much like music, it's a matter of rearranging elements to create something new." The continuum of the knotting system gives me the grounds and freedom to reconfigure the application of knotted units. I am able to challenge the traditional understanding of the knot through form and color.

Other artists—Ernesto Neto, Alexandros Psychoulis and Janet Echelman—are using macramé to create experiential environments and technology-driven public sculptures. Non-artists are using paracord and renamed macramé techniques to create survival gear and accessories. The technique is alive and being expanded upon, and that's what's important to me.

Eidolon III
2014
Paracord, Metal Hoops, Prayer Plant
Photo credit: Rachel Smith

OPP: You went balls out with Eidolon III (2014) and fully embraced macramé’s plant hanger history. The other pieces in this series reference plant hangers, of course, but this one IS a plant hanger—one of the most intricate, beautiful plant hangers I've seen. What exactly is a "prayer plant" and how does it add to the meaning of this Eidolon?

NM: Prayer plants are very mobile plants—their foliage moves up and down depending on how thirsty they are. They also grow towards the sun. The name “prayer plant” does not mean anything particular to me, and the choice was largely aesthetic. I think it makes sense to indulge in a techniques history at least once. The piece began as a structural experiment—ok, maybe even a joke—but tending to and caring for the work as a living thing fit perfectly.

OPP: What is in the works right now in your studio?

NM: A lot. Right now, I am focused on preparing for several upcoming exhibitions in December 2014. I’m also working on a couple of pieces to swap with new friends before the new year and on some smaller ceramic work that will be available for purchase at a Tusk and UTOTEM in Chicago. In addition, because I am really trying to get better at planning, there are some in-progress hanging works for 2015 shows as well. It’s never too early to start, right?

To see more of Noël's work, please visit noelmorical.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Bonner Sale

TONIGHT WE RISE
2014
Gouache and pencil on Reeves BFK
25" x 15"

BONNER SALE'S colorful and chaotic gouache paintings take place on the imaginary Cannabra Island. His cast of characters includes monsters like mummies, gigantic spiders, sea creatures and living skeletons, as well as magical cats, snakes and owls. Cannabra Island is a constant, swirling mess of battle scenes, danger and transformation, punctuated by occasional moments of somber stillness, usually spent honoring the fallen. Bonner has been featured on the curated, non-​​profit web jour­nal thestudiovisit.com (2010). He was Mr. August, 2014 for Centerfold Artist on tropmag.com and had work in the accompanying group exhibition Centerfold Artist at Project 4 in Washington D.C. He recently exhibited at (e)merge, a DC-based art fair with Transformer Gallery. His work is included in the permanent collection at the Katzen Art Museum at American University. Bonner lives and works in Wheaton, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Some drawings instantly made me think of the cantina scene in Return of the Jedi. (I think I even saw Boba Fett, or someone like him, a few times.) Tell us about the inhabitants of the world in your drawings.

Bonner Sale: The Troubled Magic geographic island is a magical catharsis leprosy colony, where monsters are sent to learn particular lessons from their pasts. The stories are not limited to monsters though. There are three general types of characters: animals, monsters and heralds. Animals are mostly cats, owls and snakes. I have a fascination with cats and owls. I find them to be majestic creatures. My own cat is a big part of my life, so she is used as inspiration: adorable but ferocious, capable of magic and wisdom.

In the painting You have been bleeding every step of the way, the cats are battling the tyrannical Eypecolypse and his summoned fire snake. They have him surrounded him, and the human companions are all trapped in conjured, crystal prisons. Eyepocolypse a humanoid laden in eyeballs. His specific transformation-punishment is for him to see his errors. He is the most celebrated and explored of the monsters. I feel a kinship to his woe and enjoy telling and painting his story. Brutalized and cast out of his world for selling secrets, transformed and disfigured, he found himself on this Cannabra Island. He is constantly learning from his errors and, I hope, will find peace and maybe one day return to his home planet in his original form.

The heralds, ferrymen of the neither world, have always been depicted as lithe women. Almost like angels, they often spell out the morals of the story or are seen feeding and visiting the various prisoners on Cannabra Island. In the painting I am not sure if you are ready to return with so many lessons unlearned, the cloaked sentient holds the skull and spine, explaining to the dead that it is not ready to return, not ready for the sacrifice of change and transformation.

YOU HAVE BEEN BLEEDING EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
2014
Gouache and pencil on Reeves BFK
15 x 25"

OPP: What visual artists inspire you?

BS: David Altmajd’s elaborate sculptures are just such a complex way of world-building. His unyielding use of materials is so brave and poetic. Continuing to tell the story of life and death and to find beauty in decay, I look at his work and aspire to create paintings as complex and defined as his sculptural work. Alan Brown is a painter that I love, love, love: his great, calm use of paint, wonderful concepts and a mature but expanding universe of characters and landscapes. Lastly, Brecht Vanderbroucke’s juxtaposition of live and online imagery is just dumbfounding and inspiring. Also his use of colors is bold yet organized. His playful depiction of the human very interesting.

OPP: You are a drawer through and through. Have you ever dabbled in other media?

BS: Yes, I love the process of drawing. Its very rewarding and automatic. It’s a method that doesn’t require physical objects or much space to perform. It seems so rudimentary, but there is still so much to explore. I have a lot of respect and devotion for drawing that has come before. My process is a little more rough and undisciplined than I want the outcome to represent, but the spontaneity and exploration into my imagination makes my paintings closer to an actual reflection of my soul rather than a formal, narrative painting. I usually work in sets of four to six paintings at a time, each painting made in response to the last.

When I dabble in other kinds of art-making, it’s more project driven, usually involving new media. I work with Brooklyn-based musician Adrian Varallyay, making video collage for some of his music. We mostly work with film stills from old exploitation films from the 1970s and 80s. Varallyay and I grew up together watching a lot of old movies and listening to records; this is just one of the facets of our combined creativity.

Zac Willis, Sam Scharf and I created a ceremonial event for Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, who died in the third installment of Michael Bays’ Transformers. It included a video tribute to Megatron’s most important moments throughout Transformers history, several paintings depicting significant moments in his life and a handmade, wooden tomb for Megatron himself. The exhibition Megatron’s Dead also included an action figure graveyard, celebrating various fallen characters from film, TV cartoons and comic books. We buried over 80 action figures in little, toe-pincher coffins with little tombstones honoring each of the fallen characters. There was a companion book that identified each of the characters. It included pictures and small biographies that I had a great time writing.

BEFORE THE BOARWITCH
2014
Gouache and pencil on Reeves BFK
15" x 12.5"

OPP: What is your stylus of choice? What do you love about the tools you choose? What do you hate?

BS: I work in gauche and pencil. I mostly map out about four or five drawings at a time in pencil and then work them in with gouache paint. I like working with gouache, but sometimes I wish it was ink and acrylic or something more manageable. Since gouache is re-workable you cannot layer it without wetting the previous color, a lot of my painting time is spent making sure I do not paint over lines. Despite its drawbacks, I love the historic value of gouache, and the way it flows from the brush. There is a lot more for me to explore with the material, and working in gouache is kinda like being in a club with other gouache artists.

OPP: The Troubled Magic Circular Works reference Tondos but aren't traditional, in that they often break out of the circle. How are these drawings different from the Troubled Magic (Deluxe) drawings?

BS: Well, a wiser man than me once said, keep one foot grounded in the past while the other is headed for the future. At the beginning of this series,  I was drawing on large sheets of paper. There were isolated moments of character interaction with minimal background imagery. I wanted to start putting more detail and description into the narrative moments that I was creating. The circle was merely a tool to stop the painting at a point. In the newest deluxe drawings, the painting continues to the end of the paper. Each one still focuses on one event, but filling the page allows me to include more characters and elements for a larger narrative. The spirit and morals are the same but these take more time to finish.

MY SOUL IS SO ALIVE
2013
Gouache and pencil on Reeves BFK
15" x 12.5"

OPP: Could you talk about the text written on many of the circular works? These short phrases often have the ring of prayers or eulogies. Some sound like lines of poetry and the lyrics to heavy metal songs.

BS: Much of the text emerges during the process of making work. The title is always a emotional insight or response to the narrative. It’s meant to clue the viewer into the work but not explain or depict the narrative. I listen to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins, so I am sure there are some direct correlations to the lyrical content to Billy Corgan’s writing. The painting My soul is so alive is totally in tribute to the song God and Country from the Zeitgeist album.

OPP: In an interview with TheStudioVisit.com, you said that don't want to give away the narratives in your drawings, that you want viewers to bring their own histories to the work and find their narratives. But, will you pick just one drawing and reveal the narrative you see?

BS: My wait is over but I am never satisfied captures a mutation going further than desired. In my world, magic always has setbacks, ultimately describing that there are consequences to all unnatural changes. The orange crystal represents the element of change, the outside setting makes it a public event and the victim was unprepared for the changes.

To see more of Bonner's work, please visit bonnersale.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joe Wardwell

Just as Bored as Me
2014
Oil on canvas
38" x 54"

The stenciled text—most often rock music lyrics—in JOE WARDWELL's paintings alternatingly reads as aphorism, advertising, proverb, propaganda and cliché. Combining landscape painting and abstraction, he poetically echoes a persistent human struggle with longing and impermanence in the visual confusion between foreground and background. Joe earned a BA in Art History and a BFA in Painting from the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1996 and his MFA in Painting from Boston University in 1999. Boston-based LaMontagne Gallery, where he has had three solo exhibitions there—Die Young (2009), Big Disgrace (2012) and Party Over (2014)—will take his work to Pulse Miami in December 2015. Joe will have two upcoming solo exhibitions in 2015: at Heskin Contemporary in New York City and Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. Joe is an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachssettes where he lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Rock music has been a strong inspiration in your work for at least the last decade. What do you listen to while you work? Do you tend to listen to the same albums over and over again?


Joe Wardwell: I listen to music from all sorts of genres, from country swing to Norwegian Death Metal. While working, I listen less as source material for the individual pieces but more for the overall feel of the work and to get me into the right mental space to create the work in the first place. Most of that albums that get repeated are from my vinyl collection: Neil Young’s Live Rust and Boris with Merzbow’s Rock Dreams and Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow. I tend to binge a bit more on digital music. Sometimes I will spend an entire day just listening to the Melvins, the Flaming Lips, Black Sabbath or Boris.

Quickly Look Away
2013
oil on canvas
38" x 54"

OPP: What is the relationship between rock music and landscape painting, as you see it?

JW: Landscape painting represents an American ideological orientation to wilderness and landscape that embodies a lot of similar yearnings, desires and attitudes I see expressed in rock music. There is something in that shared psyche that I am trying to tap into and tweak. But I am not solely looking for comparisons between the two or necessarily even looking to unify the painting from genre to concept to form. I see painting as a container that I am trying to fill up with many ideas and images that are struggling to get out. 

OPP: Early paintings like Masters of My Reality, Oblivion and Power Cord Serenade, all 2005, portray musicians and their entourages as heavenly flights of angels reclining on clouds. Others from 2004, such as Live Free Bird or Die, visually position the guitar as a portal through which we can enter another reality. But in 2007, you first introduced text, more specifically rock lyrics, into your paintings. What led to this development and how did it grow out of the earlier work?


JW: In 2007, I felt like I was on a gerbil wheel with the work, running round and round. It was too tongue and cheek and ultimately limited my expression. I didn’t see the heavenly rock figures going anywhere. The text and landscape combo has allowed me to be flippant, ironic, sentimental and political with the work. The work is a lot more versatile as a mode of expression for me now.

If you look at one of those earlier pieces and compare it to one of the first text and landscape pieces like Look West (2007), all of the same connections are still there though the representative form appears very different. The abstract, high chroma flames become the stylized text. The text is taken from song lyrics, and the fonts are derived from silkscreen rock posters. The heavenly cloudscapes are replaced with an idealized wilderness landscape, and the figures in the cloud still exist within the prepositions of the text. The implied Me, You, We or I in the text functions as the figure in the landscape.


Talk Past the Future
2008
oil on canvas
30" x 48"

OPP: More recently, the text has begun to completely take over the landscapes. Can you talk about this change formally and conceptually?


JW: Yes, earlier it was too polite. I still love those first paintings and stand by them, however it does seem to me now as if the text is too apologetic in its presence in the painting. It functions too much like an advertisement: first draw them in with beautiful landscape, then sneak in the message. I like the one to one relationship that occurs now.

Each painting has a stage in the process when it is a complete abstract painting and a complete landscape painting. Sometimes I paint the landscape first and sometimes I paint the abstraction first. However the painting starts, I work it until I wouldn’t paint over either the landscape or the abstract painting, and that’s how I know it is ready for the text stencil. It is a painfully destructive process but one that I feel imbues the paintings with a lot of energy. I love having these competing elements battle it out within the confines of the rectangle.

OPP: After recognizing some of the lyrics—like "And this bird you'll never change" from Free Bird, "a man and his will to survive" from Eye of the Tiger and "clowns to the left" from Stuck in the Middle with You—I unintentionally began to play a game as I viewed the work on your website. My initial experience as I looked at each of the text paintings became about trying to name that tune before I began to think about the relationship between the text and the image. I wonder if this is a common experience with your work . . . has anyone told you that? Is this kind of response a problem or an asset? 


JW: In short, yes, yes, and yes and no. I have heard that a lot, and it was certainly more common with the first paintings. Most of the lyrics I first chose were easily discernible to the reasonably musically inclined. I think that gave my audience a way into the work. As the paintings evolved, they tended to be more obscure and less obviously from a single source. My reliance on the music as source entry point into the work has faded. The lyric source for Choose Not To (2013), a mural at Rag and Bone in New York City, is taken from the punk band NoMeansNo. Nothing to Win, Nowhere to Go (2011), currently on view at Northeastern University, takes text from Ad Reinhardt’s writings about his black paintings.

In the beginning, I enjoyed it when people could recognize the songs, but now I don’t care as much. I feel confident that the recognition of the songs is no longer the central way an audience approaches the work, and I enjoy the greater freedom that provides. Lastly, I would add that often I am drawn to lyrics that evoke a visual sense that can’t really be felt in the music that they originate from, such as the pieces Untied We Stand (2011), Mankind is Unkind Man (2011) and Free to Be Evil, Free to Believe (2014).

Something Flickered then Vanished and was Gone
2014
Oil on canvas
84" x 48"

OPP: Because they are presented out of context, the lyrics in your work sometimes read as ironic. Other times they have the ring of profound wisdom. Could you talk about lyrics as aphorism, as proverb, as spiritual teaching or as cliché . . . whatever most interests you?

JW: I certainly try not to be preachy, and a lot of what you describe really depends on the mood I am in and the mood of the piece. I want the work to be flexible and not easily pigeonholed. I am often very upset about the political situation and environmental degradation in this country, and that can drive the landscape and text in a piece. Other times, I feel impish, ironic and silly and make a piece that is quick and off-the-cuff to counterbalance the more serious pieces. Then there are other paintings that are more sentimental. A Big Commercial and On and On and On and On are heart-felt responses to the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch. Similarly, the recent painting Something Flickered for a Minute Then Vanished and was Gone (2014) connects both to my interest in environmental awareness and is a homage to the recently deceased Lou Reed.

In all the work, I try and convey an almost subliminal counter-culture, propaganda-like attitude. Through the use of the text, I tap into and twist the collective psyche I describe above. . . like chaotic advertising exposing our dystopia. I am deeply inspired by the painter Leon Golub. Much like him, I think of my paintings as warriors that set off into the world to change it one person at a time, slowly seeping into the minds of the viewers and irrevocably altering them.

To view more of Joe's work, please visit joewardwell.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Emily Biondo

Touch Me
2014
A collaboration with Bradford Barr
LEDs, custom electronic boards, 2 gloves, plastic sheeting, bamboo

EMILY BIONDO explores "the awkward interstices of language, presence and human relationships." Her interactive installations, which employ light, sound and touch, often require more than one viewer to activate them, while her audio sculptures crocheted from speaker wire allow the viewer to listen in on intimate, private conversations. Emily received her MFA from American University (2011), where she received the Mellon Grant and the Catharina Baart Biddle Art Award. She has exhibited widely in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, including exhibitions at the Arlington Arts Center, Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Blackrock Center for the Arts and The Athenaeum. Most recently, she exhibited in Gawker, a three-person show of interactive media at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland, and Touch Me, a collaborative installation with Bradford Barr at Flashpoint Gallery, which included an artist talk at the Luce Foundation Center in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Emily lives and works in Washington, DC.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your interactive installations and sculptures use sight, sound and touch to explore connection and clashes in human communication. Do taste and smell relate to communication as well? Might these senses ever make it into your work?

Emily Biondo: Taste and smell certainly communicate, but they have more to do with memory than dialogue. When I constructed Proustian Fortunate Moment, I was obsessed with Proust's famous account of eating a madeleine and being immediately transported back to a vivid memory of his childhood. But that piece was more a visualization of his experience than a utilization of its sensory ideas. I'd LOVE to use taste and smell. I have always admired how Ernesto Neto uses fragrances to great effect in creating an experience, but I haven't yet exhausted the other senses in my work. When I do reach that point, however, smell will be the next sense I use.



Proustian Fortunate Moment
2010
Crocheted monofilament, high-intensity lightbulb

OPP: When did you first learn to crochet and what associations did you bring to it?


EB: I associate it with my family, particularly the female members on my maternal side. I also think of the intersection of craft and comfort in the sense of doing something over and over again so familiarly that it is effortless. I learned to crochet from my great-grandmother when I was about nine. My very first crocheted piece was supposed to be a red square, and because of the erratic stitch length, ended up looking like a tiny mutilated bonnet. I learned that you could add to a crocheted piece anywhere and with any stitch, so I'd end up with elaborate free form pieces based upon my own whims. I'd end up with blankets, bikinis, cuffs, hats, etc. all without a pattern because it was easy to guess how a stitch would form a shape and layer stitches to create those forms. Years later in grad school, I'd practice layering by making complex shapes like coral, a wedding dress or a penis. Until my speaker wire pieces, the layering was used in a more utilitarian way than a visual metaphor. It helped sculpt the structure of the work.

Two Young Modern Women on a Car Trip (detail)
Audio sculpture with crocheted speaker wire
2010

OPP: When did you first begin to crochet with speaker wire? What are the practical challenges of this material?

EB: During grad school, I had a dream that I was back in undergrad and panicking at the end of the semester. I needed one more work to complete my portfolio. After much thought, I decided to make a large, crocheted wall hanging out of speaker wire AND a cyclone out of marbles. It was such a vivid dream and I was so confident in my ideas that when I woke up, I immediately got materials to make both pieces. The marble cyclone was a (slightly messy) disaster, but the speaker wire was a raging success.

Speaker wire is a great faux-yarn because plastic is not so different from certain polyester/acrylic blends. I use a wire gauge (thickness) that is similar in weight to a strand of thick yarn and usually crochet with a whole roll of wire at hand. Downsides include the exorbitant cost of my favorite clear-coated copper, the smell, the sometimes waxy coating used to keep the wire from sticking, the heavy weight of some pieces and the logistics of wiring 100-1000 feet of speaker wire to circuits.



Two Middle Aged Sisters with Children
2010
1800 ft of speaker wire, audio
22 x 9 x 9 in

OPP: How does crochet inform the audio components in sculptures like Bridal Shower (2010), Shrouded (Prayer Shawl) (2011) and Two Young Modern Women on a Car Trip (2010)?



EB: So for me, crochet was always an intricately layered web. As I got to college, I realized that my conception of communication had always been a palimpsest of words layered in one's mind. Crochet visually completes this metaphor. It is an actual example of the layering of words and phrases that travel in a circuitous strand to complete a monologue/dialogue, which ultimately completes the artwork.

My original plan was to simply crochet with nontraditional materials. But then I realized how speaker wire relates to text and communication, and I had to add audio into the works. Monologues/dialogues are not only metaphorically formed by the wire but electronically passed through the layered crocheted web.



2011
Prison visitation booth, two telephones, viewing window, stools
6 x 3 x 5 ft

OPP: Painful narratives are shared through interactive installations in What I Never Said (2011), Pick Up the Phone (2011) and Lift the Seat (2011). The video Wind up (2012) also gets at one-sidedness in relationships. For me, these pieces are about how technology sometimes aids and sometimes obstructs communication and connection between human beings. What are your thoughts on technology and communication?

EB: I believe that technology IS communication. Historically, humans have always used innovations to augment communication: horn blasts, carrier pigeons, mail systems, morse code, telephones, etc. These inventions and improvements shaped the way we see, talk to and understand one another. Technology shapes our culture and defines certain generational properties of dialogue (colloquialisms, length/number of pauses, touching/no touching, eye contact, MIScommunication). Those properties have always existed in communication—it just depends on the time period and technologies present to define exactly what they are. Because of this, I find technology and communication inextricably linked and will not produce artwork about communication without using and commenting on technology as well.



Headspace
2014
Millennial translation of the following text from Russian Poetry:
"Beautiful boy, like a faun here in loneliness roaming, who art thou?
Surely no child of the woods: thine is too prideful a face.
Music that moves in thy gait, the wrought grace of thy sumptuous sandal
Tell thou art son to the gods, or high offspring of kings."

OPP: It's easy to blame new trends in communication technology—for example, texting, twitter and Facebook—for all that's wrong in the world: "kids today!" Your recent installation Headspace (2014) reveals both the disconnect and the continuity between the past and the present. Can you explain the piece to our readers?

EB: Headspace is one of my favorites. Like any creative work, books are a huge indicator of language and communication in any time period and culture. I like the idea that the millennial slang used today would be considered similar to the language used in classic literature at their respective time.

In Headspace, there is a glove attached to a pair of headphones. Each glove contains  an RFID reader and microcontroller used to “read” the book electronically. When participants swipe their hands across the classic literature installed on the wall, the headset reads an audio translation of a highlighted phrase into current 'millennial' language, including electronic slang, pop culture references and common phrases. Juxtaposing the two languages through technology relates even more how innovations can act as a bridge in communication.

I originally created this work for a show at a college campus because I wanted the audience to really understand and appreciate the translated language, particularly how it compares to works of literature that they probably are or have studied in school.

Headspace
2014
Millennial translation of the following text from English Literature
"Ion. I thank you for your greetings—shout no more,
But in deep silence raise your hearts to heaven,
That it may strengthen one so young and frail
As I am for the business of this hour.—
Must I sit here?"

OPP: How did they college students respond? What about professors?

EB: The students loved it, and I loved watching them. They'd timidly try on the equipment, look around shyly, then swipe the first book. The look of surprise, dawning comprehension, laughter, then eager anticipation for the next all in a period of 30 seconds was a common and fantastic thing to witness. I liked seeing them finish the installation then grab one of their friends and make them experience it while they watched their expression. There's always a personal and a voyeuristic aspect to my work that I highly appreciate as artist and viewer.

As for the professors, they thought it was clever, but didn't really enjoy it as much as the students. I make works first for the experience, then for the analysis, so I assumed (rightly) that the students would glean the most from it.

To view more of Emily's work, please visit emilybiondo.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Anne Lemanski

Oracle
2014
Copper rod, ink on paper, leather, epoxy.
11 1/2 x 26 x 16 inches

ANNE LEMANSKI's sculptures—stretched "skins" sewn onto welded, copper-rod skeletons—alternatively evoke such practices as taxidermy, trophy hunting and skinning for fashion. Her menagerie of animals includes snakes whose skin appears to be made of butterfly wings, a fox "tattooed" in constellations, a coyote with Mexican Serape "fur" and a slew of birds decked out in various vintage papers. The skins entice visually; some beg to be touched. This honesty about sense pleasure hints at the complicated, problematic nature of the human habit of treating animals as objects. Anne has exhibited widely, including group shows at the Kohler Center for the Arts (2012), The Portland Museum of Art (2011) and the North Carolina Museum of Art (2013), where her work is included in the permanent collection. She has had solo exhibitions at the Imperial Centre for the Arts (2010) in Rocky Mount, Blue Spiral 1 (2011) in Asheville and the Penland Gallery at Penland School of Crafts (2014).  In the winter of 2015, she will be the Windgate Artist-in-Residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her work is included in the forthcoming book The Contemporary Art of Nature: Mammals and will be featured in the Danish magazine Textiel Plus in December, 2014. Anne lives in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where she is building a studio constructed from recycled shipping containers.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does materiality play in your practice?

Anne Lemanski: Working the way I do allows me to take any material I want and turn it into a sculptural piece. I am a long time lover and collector of vintage paper ephemera. I love the look of old graphics and colors. For a number of my early pieces, I utilized original, vintage paper as the skin. In more recent work, I find myself using more contemporary materials like plastic and fabrics because they speak to the content of the pieces. The little songbirds are the exception; they are vehicles for pure eye-candy, vintage paper. I become obsessed with materials. Whether I just happen to come across material and stash it for future use or if I’m looking for a something specific, I love the hunt of tracking it down. The best example of the cross section of materials I use is my piece titled A Century of Hair, 1900-1990. I used silk, acetate, rawhide, vintage linoleum, etc. Solving the challenges that present themselves when I’m manipulating an unusual material is where all the fun is.

A Century of Hair, 1900-1990
Mixed media on wood stands
Variable dimensions

OPP: Tell us about some of your stashed material that you haven’t found a use for yet.

AL: I seem to have a lot of vintage coloring books and children’s activity books— like “dot to dot"— good bit of paper-doll clothes, stamp collections, these little trading cards that used to come in packs of cigarettes and tea, tons of old maps, and drawers full of vintage photographs. The paper targets I used on a recent piece Camoufleur  had been sitting in my flat file for at least 15 years. I’m glad I didn’t use those on anything else, they were meant for that barn owl.

OPP: Any regular hunting grounds for your materials?

AL: I went to Paris last year and came back with a nice haul of paper goodies. I wish I could go there every year just to buy vintage paper. I found a few stores, and vendors at flea markets that were overwhelming. . . and expensive! And of course they only took cash, so that put a real damper on my spending spree! Ebay has become my favorite hunting ground. It is truly amazing what you can find there. I do still enjoy random junk shops, estate sales and auctions, but because I live in a rural area, those shops and sales are limited. I also like to get a good deal on stuff, it makes it that much better! I’m always looking. Friends keep an eye out for me, too.

Off Duty
2006
Copper rod, embroidery on pantyhose, thread
Life size

OPP: Your process has two distinct parts: building of the copper rod skeletons and creating the skins. Are these processes more alike than we think? Do you always already know what the skin is going to be when you begin to build the skeleton?

AL: The two processes go hand in hand. The building of the copper rod framework dictates how the finished piece will look. I gather images of the animal or object I want to make and visually break it down into line and pattern. Once the skeleton is complete, I then make patterns from the form that will be transferred directly to my final material. I do not always know what material the skin will be, but it certainly helps. Knowing the character of the final skin will dictate how I build the skeleton. Every material responds differently to the contours of the framework; paper differs greatly from plastic, leather or wood veneer. The work I enjoy most is deciding what the skin will be and putting it together. That’s when things really start to take shape, and there is always a surprise in the way the material transforms once it is sewn onto the skeleton.

Monkey Goes to Bollywood
2008
Copper rod, Bollywood lobby cards, artificial sinew
19 x 18.5 x 24 inches

OPP: Monkey Goes to Bollywood (2008) stands out as drastically different from the other animals. Tell us about the choice to use images of human beings on the monkey.

AL: Monkey Goes to Bollywood is the result of an article I read about a man in New Delhi, India, who was sitting on his terrace when four monkeys appeared. The man brandished a stick to fend off the monkeys, lost his balance and fell off the terrace to his death. The monkey represents the Hindu god Hanuman, and Hindu tradition calls for feeding the monkeys on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The feeding of and encroachment on the monkey’s wild habitat, has created an overwhelming and aggressive population of monkeys in New Delhi. This is a case that perfectly illustrates the domino effect that occurs when humans exploit animals to satisfy their needs. The exploitation of an animal species usually results in a decrease of population for that species. . . but the opposite is happening in Delhi.

The skin on the monkey is made up of Bollywood—the Hindi film industry in India—lobby cards that I purchased on Ebay from someone in New Delhi (I remember they came rolled up in a white piece of fabric, that was hand sewn shut on each end with red thread). Lobby cards are promotional materials for films, that are displayed in movie theater lobbies. I have seen about a dozen Bollywood films. They are crazy and colorful! I don’t always have a clear-cut reason for using what I do for the skin. I go with my instinct, which is smarter than my actual being. The imagery I used for the monkey just seemed like the perfect fit.

Responsible Spiller
2010
Copper rod, vinyl, artificial sinew.
16 x 23 x 12 inches

OPP: What do you most hope viewers will feel when looking at your menagerie of creatures? Are you disappointed if viewers simply marvel at your technique and humor and don’t walk away thinking about the impact of humans on these species?

AL: I love it when people get the humor! They often don’t. I’m not making work to beat people over the heads with my ideas and opinions, which are certainly present. But I try to keep the work subtle and layered. Along with the content, I still believe in making a beautifully crafted, sculptural object. I’m drawn to formal aesthetics of line, color and pattern. It is usually my construction technique that initially draws people in. Then they take a longer look. It has taken me years to hone my construction skills, so I’m glad when someone appreciates it. Everyone brings their own emotions and politics to a piece, and a connection can happen at many different levels.

Queen Alexandra’s Flight
2014
Digital prints adhered to wood backing, aluminum discs.
150 square feet (as installed in the Penland Gallery)

OPP: Tell us about your recent installation Queen Alexandra’s Flight at Penland Gallery? What made you shift from discreet sculptures to this narrative interaction of creatures?

AL: Queen Alexandra’s Flightdepicts a battlefield, which is the stage for the age-old story of survival. Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is the largest butterfly in the world, and it is endangered. I created an army of butterflies and moths to aid her in flight from the attack of insect-eating birds. All of the imagery is digitally scanned and printed, and adhered to a wood backing. Everything was cut out by hand. There are 600 individual pieces in this installation. I have a desire to work on a large scale, and my usual building technique of copper rod skeleton and hand stitched skin prevents me from doing that because of the time-consuming labor. I can’t work fast enough to keep up with the pace of my ideas. So when I’m presented with an opportunity to do something large scale, it gives me the chance to work with different materials and techniques. This particular installation came at a time when I needed a mental break from the usual. Queen Alexandra’s Flight gave me new insight into my work; it will definitely lead to other pieces similar in nature.

To see more of Anne's work, please visit annelemanski.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.