OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Justin Margitich

Landscape Cache
2013
Pencil on paper
60'' x 84''

Bay Area artist JUSTIN MARGITICH combines undulating landscapes, the imagined angles of digital space and pure, geometric abstraction in an ongoing conflation of perspective, atmosphere and information. Justin received his BFA from California College of the Arts (2008) and his MFA from San Francisco Art Institute (2013). He is represented by Moskowitz Gallery in Los Angeles and has exhibited widely throughout the Bay Area. His solo exhibition Circuiting (2014) recently closed at City Limits Gallery in Oakland, California. You can see his work until May 28, 2014 in the two-person exhibition Atmospheres: Justin Margitich & Chris Iseri at Moskowitz Gallery in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You use a very particular drawing technique for some works, including Data Fragmentation (2012) and Data Fragmentation 2 (2013). What exactly is silverpoint? Why do you choose this technique?

Justin Margitich: Silverpoint is a Medieval/Renaissance drawing technique that uses silver or other metals such as gold or copper instead of the graphite that is most common today. Usually the metal comes in a stick or wire form in varying widths and lengths, and you insert it into a stylus of some sort. It functions the same as a pencil but has a much lighter touch and tonal value. It is most often used for underdrawings and sketches. After much experimentation, I decided to use the process in a slightly unorthodox way. I work on wood panel, making many passes and cross-hatches to build up the surface. After a few days, the surface oxidizes and turns slightly yellow. In person, you can see that the oxidization of the silver refracts and absorbs the light in very captivating ways.

Disassembling Landscape
2012
Pencil on paper
60'' x 88''

OPP: The quality that is most compelling to me in your landscapes is the ordered chaos of the lines. I can see the presence of the landscape, but most pieces transcend physical space and become metaphoric landscapes for me. They could be internal spaces of struggle and growth. But I also gather from titles like Landscape Cache IV (2014) and Assembling Landscape VIII (2010) that these are conglomerates of many landscapes. What are the inspirations or sources for for these drawings? 


JM: Your observations are very apt. I look at a lot of landscape paintings, especially those that were made before art demonstrated a full understanding of perspective. Bruegel and Bosch seem to have a naïve conception of perspective in some of their landscapes. This may or may not be so, but when three or more wonky perspectives are included in one landscape it makes for a disorienting and space-defying world. So when you say they transcend physical space, you are on to something. And yes, they are also like conglomerates. I think of cropping, deleting, cutting and pasting. I use digital or computer jargon to elucidate the themes in the work. I want the viewer to stay and explore. If s/he comes away a little unbalanced or disoriented, then that’s good too.

I sometimes think of the drawings as analogous to early video games: scroll-like, two-dimensional spaces (with some three-dimensional objects) that can be traversed. I am interested in drawing comparisons between the physical and the virtual. Both the physical landscape and virtual spaces are dense with information. I think a lot about the web and digital tech as a facsimile of the natural world and its rhizomatic or decentralized organizing principles.

Disassembling Landscape II
2013
Pencil on panel
49'' x 72''

OPP: There appears to be a subtle shift in your compositions around 2010. The soft, undulating lines are supplanted by more angles and straight lines. Can you talk about this change?

JM: The older drawings were not planned out but radiate from a single point and move out organically from there. They are a simulation of the meme-like growth and process of unfolding that takes place in natural systems. The newer, harder-edged drawings are emerge from a mechanized approach: a cut and paste, copy and repeat system.

Circuit #24
2013
Various metal points and acrylic on sandpaper
9'' x 11''

OPP: You just had a solo show of new paintings at City Limits Gallery in Oakland. The work in Circuiting represents a new direction for you. Tell us about the show. How did the new work grow out of the older work?

JM: Yes, the newer paintings are quite different from the previous work, but they are connected. The small paintings are on black sandpaper. When I was sharpening the metal silverpoint tools on the sandpaper, I found that the various metals rubbed off as subtle colors. The effect was different than when these tools were used as intended. This discovery was a starting point for what eventually developed into a full body of work. The idea of a circuit is a play on the metal point, as a sort of conductor of energy or electricity. I tried to mirror this with the electric and chromatic colors. I see these paintings as individual icons or pictograms that could be communicative. Each one is like a prototype of language without phonetic words, like a glyph with multiple meanings and interpretations.

Since the drawings usually contain a whole bunch of dense information, I do use the same images over and over. The best example I can think of would be from Landscape Cache II. There is a large rectangular and empty shape on the middle right. I lifted this section and singled it out as a new drawing called Cached Landscape. I am planning on doing a series based on this idea. The crowded objects from the dense landscapes will be stripped away and one central object will be the focus.

Circuitous #8
2014
Acrylic on panel
18'' x 24''

OPP: I've noticed that I get a little depressed right after a big solo exhibition closes. It only lasts a little while. I've learned to expect it and channel my energies away from my studio for a temporary period of time until I'm recharged. It feels a little like taking an extended, metaphoric nap. Do you experience this downswing? If so, what do you do to deal with it?

JM: Especially after two shows, that comes on. At the same time as the City Limits show in Oakland, I also had a show of newer drawings at Moskowitz Gallery in Los Angeles. Every time I have felt this downswing—after a show or just after making sub-par work—a new and totally unexpected way of thinking or working arose. I probably should take a break, but I usually don't.  Just by keeping up production, I eventually fall back into making satisfying work again. It is a good opportunity to evaluate the work done for the show and, depending on that evaluation, either begin a new body of work or continue to flesh out the working idea. I see the Circuiting series as complete. Now that the exhibition is over, I am slightly altering the process and media. I'm keeping the fundamental idea but slowly adding two or three new themes. I have found that this process, after many failures on the way, usually leads to a new working method that I can keep until I have made a sufficient amount of new work.

To see more of Justin's work, please visit justinmargitich.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. 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 is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Melissa Manfull

Rising & Falling
2013
Ink, gouache, graphite on panel
40" x 60"

MELISSA MANFULL draws together the domains of nature, culture and the spirit in her densely patterned abstractions in ink, gouache and graphite. Her compellingly ambiguous spaces combine otherworldly architecture, geologic formations, the geometry of sacred spaces like cathedrals and mosques and the manipulative order of game design and graphic design. Melissa received her MFA in 2002 from Concordia University in Montreal. She has mounted three solo exhibitions at Taylor de Cordoba in Culver City, California: Tesseracts (2009), Pattern Constraints (2010) and Schemata (2013). Melissa’s work can currently be seen in two group shows: Thin Space at Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, California) through May 5, 2014 and Temporal Residue at Keystone Gallery (Los Angeles) from April 19-30, 2014. Melissa lives and works in Los Angeles.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Sometimes your drawings reference architecture, sometimes landscapes. Other times, they look like the insides of temples and sometimes the insides of pinball machines. How are all these seemingly disparate types of space connected?

Melissa Manfull: I am interested in controlled space, specifically how architecture or human intervention dominates the chaos of natural environments and phenomena. Architecture mitigates our experiences of space and the horizon. It is an intermediary structure that connects sky and land. I use drawing to experiment with space and structure without the constraints of gravity and perceived reality.

Each individual body of work focuses on a specific theme and is informed by an aesthetic, theoretical or topical interest. These have ranged from an interest in the aesthetics of science fiction or mystic architecture from the Southwest to the aesthetics of game design. Over the years, the drawings have shifted from observing architecture from an exterior viewpoint towards an interest in flipping between interior and exterior positions. Schemata’s focus was on the enclosed space of a game, which is a relationship between the interior mind of the player and the interior space of the game. Formally, I play with the depth or ambiguity of the space depicted in the drawing.

Untitled A Frame
2012
Ink on paper
18" x 24"

OPP: Is the meditative act of drawing only the process that drives your work or is it also the content?

MM: Both are very important to me as an artist, and the process is directly related to the content of my work. I develop my drawings in a very controlled, consistent order. From beginning to end, the process is almost mechanical; drawing is the one place where I can control, predict and order the whole experience. First, I research my chosen topic and collect visuals related to the content. Then I plan out the drawing, execute it in pen and ink in the color. The drawing and inking stages are very meditative.

I listen to audio books related to the theme of the drawing. I like to imagine the books are somehow woven into the drawing or affect the choices I make in the process. While working on the drawings from my 2009 show Tessaracts—both the title of a science fiction novel and a geometric form—I listened to books that dealt with time shifts and time travel. I have an underlying interest in dimensional portals, 11 dimensions of string theory and the aesthetics of science fiction. While working on Plato's Cave, Arch, Stylobate and Portico, I listened to Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, among others.

Study for Ludic Space
2013
Ink on paper mounted panel
14" x 11"

OPP: I've witnessed the attitude many times—and I 100% disagree—that pattern, ornament and decoration are insignificant and superficial. Even beauty is sometimes dismissed as not meaningful enough. Have you ever had the experience of your work being dismissed with the descriptor "decorative?"

MM: My work has actually been described as difficult to look at in person. The decorative elements of the work are so dense and obsessively drawn that there’s more a sense of horror than pleasure. This is also changing in my current work. Recently I’ve been using a heightened color palette with fluorescents to create a more challenging visual experience. The drawings are still dense and decorative, but now they have an electric glow which makes it difficult for the viewers’ eyes to focus. The decorative is also a form of order. I am interested in logical, mathematical patterns, such as tessellations, as well as optical and geometric patterns that mesmerize or hypnotize. So, the decorative is a large part of the content.

I do agree that decoration and pattern are sometimes an easy way of not having content and that using it so predominantly puts my work in a position of being viewed as commercial or illustrative. I am okay with this because I feel confident that my work transcends this category and uses pattern in a meaningful way, creating a synergy between the disparate worlds of fine art, the decorative and the graphic.

Colony
2010
Ink on paper
16" x 18"

OPP: The press release for your 2010 solo show Pattern Constraints states: "Due to the obsessive nature of her process, Manfull has often viewed the meditative act of drawing as a way to approach her fear of vast, open ended space (the unknown). By creating her minute sculptural drawings, she gives this abyss a meaning and in essence, gains control." How does this “control” show up in a new way in your most recent exhibition Schemata (2013) at Taylor De Cordoba Gallery (Culver City, California)?

MM: For many years, my drawing style involved imposing a structure on an empty space or on less controlled forms (for example, poured ink forms, which were symbolic of chaos). But now, I am more interested in exploring forms of visual control in society and the relationship between power, manipulation and pleasure. It is still related to the chaos/control relationship, but it is more specifically about corporate, graphic design as a visual language that is used to manipulate.

In Schemata, I was interested in how games hypnotize and entrance the viewer with color and form. The theory behind game design relates to the intentions of architects of spiritual spaces—Gaudi is an example. Both have a visual logic with designated points that manipulate the player into making certain decisions. Squares, circles and triangles move game players’ eyes around the space, leading them on designated paths to preconceived outcomes. There are points of choice, possible actions and payoffs, as well as elements of addiction like relapse. I used these ideas to create compositions or abstracted versions of the original games. Symmetry, patterning and the golden ratio were all a part of designing these works and relate back to geometry found in spiritual spaces.

Point of Choice: No Possible Action
2013
Ink, gouache, graphite on panel
40" x 60"

OPP: Could you say more about the overlap of the aesthetics of game design and of sacred spaces?

MM: Geometry has always been a recurring theme in my work. My initial interest in architecture became abstracted into patterning and design, which are forms of order, logic and control. I began to research the relationships between geometry and sacred spaces like cathedrals and mosques, which were designed to inspire awe and explore the human relationship to the infinite. As an atheist, I want to understand how and why geometry and logical forms inspire such a reaction. The geometry found in the rose windows and spires of cathedrals, in the tile design of mosques and in mandalas is referred to as sacred geometry. Basic geometric forms are imbued with meaning specific to each religion or spiritual belief system. There are certain shapes that lend themselves to this—the circle (infinite perfection), the square (balanced symmetry) and the triangle (male/female duality in Hinduism). I use these forms with an acknowledgment that they have very significant historical references.

To see more of Melissa's work, please visit melissamanfull.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Aaron McIntosh

The Bear
2013

Through the lens of his “own complicated narrative as a nerdy Appalachian queer guy,” artist AARON MCINTOSH examines desire and the role mass-media images and text play in influencing our sexual identities. Combining sculpture, drawing, text and textiles, he references the historically gendered connotations of quilting and employs piecework as a metaphor to address identity construction. Aaron received his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. His numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Quirk Gallery Vault (2011) and Russell/Projects Gallery (2010) in Richmond, Virginia. Most recently, Aaron’s work was included in Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community (2014) at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York. His essay "Parallel Closets,” published in the April 2014 edition of The Brooklyn Rail, addresses the twin pursuits of queering craft and crafting queerness. Aaron lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I've read in another interview that your grandmothers were both skilled quilters. Did they teach you when you were a child?

Aaron McIntosh: My grandmothers actually didn’t teach me to quilt or sew. But they were always piecing, making quilts for family members, dragging out their scraps and in-process quilts and showing these things to us grandkids. I begged my mom to teach me to sew when I was nine, and she finally relented and showed me how to hand stitch. When I was 12, I taught myself to use the sewing machine, and off I went. I made lots of little quilts, clothes for dolls and for myself. I would show these things to my grandmothers. They were impressed and offered me sewing tips sometimes. Mostly though, I think they and everyone else expected me to grow out of this “phase.”

from Fragments
2013

OPP: Why is quilting as a medium so well-suited for exploring "how stereotypes of sexual emotions, experiences, and identities are propagated in mass-produced images and print material, and in turn, how these images and text shape our own identities (from artist's statement)? Could you talk about the historical quilt patterns you reference in Big Little Men (2010), Bedroom Buddies (2010) and your 2013 solo exhibition Patterns?

AM: The quilt is an excellent platform for my content precisely because of the family connection and because it is a medium with multivalent trajectories. Whether personal or communal, minimal or maximal, staid or kitschy, high or low, quilts are flexible, open objects that are full of possibility. Piecework itself can be traditional, rigid or structured, but it can also be loose, intuitive, unhinged. Identity is analogous to crafting: it’s something we work on, obsess over, tend to with care. So I’ve chosen this patchwork medium to unload a lot of disparate thoughts about my identities: queer, Appalachian, textile nerd, academic, hopeless romantic, stray son, feminist, artist.

I am simultaneously deconstructing the quilt and my identity. On one hand, I am stripping away the quaint, Americana charm-factory status from the quilt, peeling back its cultural layers and infusing the medium with the realities of what happens beneath quilts: desire, sex, death and birth. On the other hand, I am enshrining that domestic decorative affinity as another burdened facet of gay male identity, a psychological sub-bottom to hyper-masculinity’s top. I use traditional quilt patterns such as Double Wedding Ring, Chain Links and an obscure one named Daddy Hex to further blur and complicate this relationship of parallel concerns.

In a recent series titled Fragments, I address this disjointed, scrappy, unfinished nature of identity. One work, Fragment #3: Roses are Red, is made by piecing a traditional quilt pattern called Roses are Red into an image of a heaving jock stud from a gay erotica magazine. The patchwork fabrics belonged to my grandmother, and the digital textile print is an enlarged, scanned copy of a cover of FirstHand magazine from the 1990s. Initially, I picked this blocky quilt pattern from my grandmother's collection because it could partially mask the cover model’s face—a direct nod to online cruising culture in which some men blur out their faces, focusing instead on their bodies. Deliberately using feminized quilt squares to dominate the figure reveals my hesitancy around body image, appropriate sexiness and gay male objectification. In the same way that this gay, masculine body is out of reach for a fag like me, so too is a fulfilling relationship with my family and their traditions. Both are just tantalizingly out of reach. So in this very literal way, I am forcing my queer desire to intersect my craft heritage and creating a space for what is in between.

Captive Heart Boyfriend
2009

OPP: You've used gay and straight romance novels as a material in numerous ways since you were an undergrad. What first drew you to this material?

AM: Reading has always informed who I am, shaped my desire and sense of self, so it’s no wonder that I turn to printed text as a material. When I first turned my eye to the thrift store heaps of discarded romance novels, I was searching for a more evocative material than the masculinized plaids and men’s pants I had been using in quilts. I initially chose this material for aesthetic reasons—the pattern of text and yellowed pages—and because the novels were feminized objects that represent heterosexuality.

But after receiving several gay erotic novels as gifts, my relationship to the romance novel began to shift. Romance novels intended for straight women and those for gay men are radically different. Romance novels written for women tend to be drawn-out narratives with more focus on all the details leading up to the sexual act; entire pages may describe a mere glance. Gay novels, on the other hand, are typically printed in large type and double-spaced for quick reading. They have horribly loose narratives and a sex scene every couple of pages. I was fascinated by the simultaneous material resemblance and subject opposition. I played with juxtaposing the straight and gay romance novels to highlight their differences and their commonalities.

Notes for Future Romance(s) (detail)
2009
168" x 94"
Straight romance novels fused to cotton and coded with highlighters, markers, pencil, pen & ink; drawings in watercolor, color pencil, stickers, enamel paint pen, acrylic medium, hair

OPP:
How has your use of these cultural artifacts changed over time?

AM: I was entirely critical of them as reading material for the first several years. But then I decided to seriously read a few and give myself over to the possibility of a romance novel fantasy. I read five novels and was surprised to find my own stories in these novels. I became really intrigued by the small markings, repetitive cursive name writings and underlining by previous readers. I was inspired to start notating the novels, recording my own experiences. I changed (i.e. queered) the text by eliminating female pronouns and devised a coding system for repetitive motifs. I pieced these coded pages together with glue and they became the substrates for many works, including the large Notes for Future Romance(s), Boyfriends Series and Island.

I was drawn more and more to the materiality of sexual identity and began to use printed erotica and eventually porn. This widening spectrum of desire-bound material had one unifying quality: the intended reading space is a domestic setting. The home is the most private space to escape from workaday drudgery into romantic dreaminess or sexual fantasy. These fantasies take flight from the couch or bed. I wanted to make a functional object about reading and taking in desire. The Couch is a very grandmotherly couch covered in hundreds of racy pages. The original novel pages were scanned and digitally printed on fabric, so the couch is wholly functional. When a viewer steps closer, the homey look of patchwork shifts into a barrage of homoerotic titles, colorful straight novel couples, illustrated gay men en flagrante and text from both straight and gay sources. While some images and titles might be aggressive or oversexualized on their own, they are dulled by the conflation of so many disparate desire-driven images and text. As a visitor to my studio pointed out: “There’s something for everyone here!” The Couch has no hierarchy or dominant sexuality. It charts the known and unknown territories of my personal desire, which has been informed by a variety of gendered and sexual experiences.

Chronicles of Cruising (detail)
2010

OPP: Could you talk specifically about the notion of erasure and absence as it is used in many of your works, including Romance Series (2006), Boyfriends Series (2009-2010), Chronicles of Cruising and NSA Boyfriends (both 2010)?

AM: Absence in my works speaks to both the voyeurism and loneliness that can accompany desire. Responding to loneliness and the lack of stable romantic relationships in my personal life, I created a series of larger-than-life boyfriends appropriated from romance novels. The flimsy, cut-paper men in Boyfriends Series are attempts to fill the voids of unattainable love; they are the stand-ins for boyfriends I cannot attain in real life. These boyfriends are “stolen” from their female counterparts in the romance novel covers, but the work is not a statement about removing women. I’m simply calling into question the heteronormativity of these couples and pointing out that straight men are just as desirable to queer men as they are to women. The removed men are made vulnerable and their sexual identity suspect. In eliminating one partner from these cover relationships, I am choosing to highlight what is absent rather than present.

Chronicles of Cruising is a collection of 365—I made one everyday in 2011—paper cut-outs of attractive guys from desire-based, print sources. Each guy is carefully removed from his respective partner, isolated on card stock, and then cataloged by month. Each man carries the traces of his fractured story in his clothing, accoutrement and posture, as well as the absent partner’s removed body silhouette. Such removal creates an overriding sense of loneliness in this set of new bachelors. The act of cruising—taking in quick, furtive glances of other bodies with no specific intention—is echoed in this queer reversal of the male gaze. Men become the objects of scrutiny, and the obsessive nature of desire itself is splayed open, rendered cold, mundane and creepy in the archival act of clipping.

Forest Frolic is my most recent work to take on absence. Two cavorting male figures have been removed entirely from an erotic illustration, The remaining scene is enlarged, printed on cotton and then quilted. This is the first work to completely remove all figures. Suggestive of the dangers of being sexually overt as a queer person in rural spaces, this quilt contains as much personal fantasy as anonymous, pervasive fear.

Weeds: Dandelion
2013

OPP: Untended (2013) was a two-person exhibition with Jesse Harrod. Could you talk about the introduction of nature metaphors into this new work?

AM: The nature-based themes are an entirely new move in my practice, but they have been rising to the top for some time. The exhibition was the impetus for new ideas of embedding queerness into representations of nature. The title of the show is a reference to unmanaged gardens and the surprising, perhaps unwanted, growth that occurs when nature is allowed to freely form itself.

The Bear is a very family-personal work. Like The Couch, this work attempts to reach across generational divides through a language of form, but difference and unease are manifest in the materiality. In my remake of this taxidermy heirloom, the bear has been "freed" from his constraint as a legendary, family hunting trophy. Covered in shredded, gay pornographic "fur," he is the subaltern of my own romantic forays, sexual legends and hunted desire.

The Bear is surrounded by Weeds in an installation mocking "natural habitat.” The weeds—Briars, Pigweed, Broadleaf Plantain—are scourges to the home gardener. I draw a covert connection between these pernicious, unwanted plants and my own anxious efflorescence as a queer person in a tradition-steeped culture. My copies of disregarded, local plants are made strange by their patchwork skins of vintage fabrics and printed, gay erotica. In contrast to most of my other work, the text and images are embedded into the form so tightly that only fragments can be read, favoring subtle meaning over easy decoding.

To view more of Aaron's work, please visit aaronmcintosh.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Bianca Kolonusz-Partee

Staten Island Ferry (Detail)
2010
6” x 76”
Product packaging, colored pencils adhesives, map tacks

BIANCA KOLONUSZ-PARTEE’s colorful, constructed drawings of industrial shipping ports are crafted from repurposed product packaging, directing the viewer’s attention to the tons of commercial goods for individual consumption that move through these oft-ignored, interstertial spaces everyday. Bianca received her MFA from Claremont Graduate University (Claremont, California) in 2007. She has exhibited widely throughout California, including solo exhibitions at Offramp Gallery (Pasadena) in 2012, and Byatt Claeyssens Gallery at the Sonoma Academy (Santa Rosa) in 2010. Having investigated major U.S. ports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco,  Bianca now plans to visit various Asian ports to better understand issues surrounding global shipping. Her first stop will be the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka. She is currently raising funds for her trip with her project Sri Lanka or Bust. Bianca lives and works in Guerneville, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What fascinates you about ports and industrial landscapes?

Bianca Kolonusz-Partee: I grew up in northern California, and I learned to understand the landscape by traveling through it on the roads that intersected it. That we learn about something by basically breaking it apart is at the heart of my work. When I lived in San Francisco, I became intrigued by the container shipping port in Oakland and how ports are minimally-regulated global freeways that link us to the rest of the world. Later, as an MFA candidate at Claremont Graduate University, I experienced first hand the mega-port of Los Angeles. I began considering the effects of the pollution on the local population and the impact of this space on the global economy and environment. Our collective obsession with stuff became more serious for me.

Project: Outward Inward 2
2009
40” x 180"
Colored pencils, product packaging, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: When and why did you first start using repurposed product packaging as your dominant medium?

BKP: When I left graduate school in 2007, I was using fine Asian and architectural papers. It just didn't feel right. I began using product packaging because it is the debris of the goods that travel through these ports. I never include logos or names, but I love the connection that people have to the highly designed product packaging of our contemporary world. Bottom line: I feel most comfortable with fewer fine tools. I appreciate both high-end and low-end packaging and enjoy pulling the colors, patterns, textures I need out of the material. Nothing is left as is.

OPP: What's your collection/accumulation process like?

BKP: I initially thought it was very environmentally-friendly of me to reuse discarded packaging, but I don't actually accumulate a lot in my own life. I asked friends and family to collect it and send it my way. I quickly realized that I was unfortunately spending resources that negate the "greenness" of my efforts. Also, I’ve been inspired to try specific products out because my friends liked them. I’ve realized that I am just as tied into our consumer culture as anyone else.

Keelung, Taiwan
2012
21"x 53"
Recycled product packaging, colored pencils, adhesives and map tacks

OPP: Your work exists somewhere in the gray space between drawing and collage. Do you consider it more one or the other?

BKP: I love this question because it is a real struggle for me. I don't think of myself as a collage artist AT ALL. Collage talks about creating an image out of found images in a historically surrealist way. I think of my work as constructed drawings. I work with the materials in the same way that I would draw or paint. I began in these media. I still think of myself as a two-dimensional artist, but possibly I am a hybrid. The fact that my constructed drawings are created directly on gallery walls brings up the notion of installation. My favorite contemporary work is installation art: Ernesto Neto, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Ann Hamilton, Richard Serra. Erwin Redl does these amazing installations with LED lights that make you feel like you are inside of Tron. I went to see his piece at LAMoCA’s Ecstasy: In and About Altered States (2005) several times and walked through the grid that he created in the room. It was truly amazing.

But I have been most influenced by the great masters like Paul Cézanne. When I was an art student, his two-dimensional work absolutely had a physical impact on me. In my drawing class, we learned about figuring out a landscape by the connection points where elements intersected, and we looked at Cézanne. I drew like that for years: first landscapes, then roads cutting through landscapes and then shipping ports. I eventually discovered others like Turner, who documented the industrial seaport of his time. I often think of myself as a new version of an old master using today's technology to observe and document where we are right now.

2010
12” x 40”
Recyclable materials, colored pencils, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: Can you walk us through the process of drawing with these materials?

BKP: I work from a video of the port. I choose materials from three boxes of collected packaging organized into color groups: cool, warm, black/white/neutrals. My process is just like drawing a line or painting a section of color except that I am cutting out these shapes. I sketch a shape/area onto the packaging with colored pencils while looking at the video. Then I put double stick tape on the shape, cut it out with the yellow scissors—so as not to goo up my nice scissors—and place it on the piece. I am one of those people that has trouble drawing a straight line freehand. I allow my process to mimic my drawing ability by cutting out the straight lines and shaving it off piece by piece until I get it right. It is always about figuring out the space. As I revise, one area often becomes very built up with material. Sometimes I cut sections away with an even stronger pair of scissors. I might cover up an area if the color or pattern doesn't feel right or work to recreate the space. The dense sections of my work result more from my process than my subject matter.

OPP: One of the most significant aspects of your work is the use of the map pins. Was your decision to use them conceptual, formal or practical?

BKP: The pins began as a practical way to hold the work together. When I began working this way, each piece would be partially built and pinned together. Then I would finish building it into the space where I was exhibiting. Eventually, I decided that the pieces typically ended up being a set chunk on the wall, so I started to make sure the pieces were entirely connected before I installed. My largest piece Outward Inward 2, which is 15 feet long, is in three sections. I like the added random mark, which is why the tacks are multicolored, but they do hold the work to the wall. I use the tacks to make some structural pieces appear stronger and more stable on the wall. For example, if there is a big, heavy crane next to a tree, I don’t want the crane to be slipping around on the wall at all. But it’s okay if the tree moves a little.

Rambler Channel, Hong Kong B
2011
20" x 30" framed
Recyclable materials, colored pencils, adhesives, map tacks

OPP: Could you talk about the difference between the larger landscapes pinned directly to the gallery wall and the smaller pieces pinned inside frames?

BKP: The framed pieces are the same as those that are pinned directly to the walls. I frame them on white backgrounds in white frames in order to evoke the white cube gallery wall. When I sell them framed, I do provide instructions and a container of map tacks to those who plan to install them on their walls. I prefer hanging the work out of the square and transforming the gallery space into a mock landscape where the walls become water and sky.

To The Ocean (Installation view at Project_210)
2010
12” x 112"
Product packaging, colored pencils adhesives, map tacks

OPP:
You've visited ports in Manhattan, New Jersey, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 2011, you shifted focus to Asian ports in your series Countries of Origins (2011). Could you talk about this shift? Have you visited any Asian ports in person?

BKP: Most of the goods that move through the US ports are made in and come from Asia. To see the full picture of consumerism and its global impact, I needed to shift my gaze to those countries providing inexpensive goods to the rest of the world. Countries of Origin, based on images from online videos, explores ports in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I haven't been able to afford to travel to Asia yet, but I have been able to piece these places together remotely. However, visiting the ports in person is a big part of my work. I have decided to kick off that effort by traveling to Sri Lanka to visit the port in Colombo. I am raising funds for my current project, Sri Lanka or Bust, using my website and a Facebook page. I will sell the work that I make before the trip from a series of images that I found on the internet to pay for the trip. I am currently making drawings with elements of the paper work in them. I have a dear friend from Sri Lanka who lives there and will be able to introduce me to her home, which will make the trip even more rich. Good or bad, we all make assumptions about foreign places. I look forward to replacing those assumptions with a real experience and to taking a look at shipping from a Sri Lankan perspective. I'll use my own video, photographs and experience to make work about the port in Colombo, Sri Lanka upon my return.

To view more of Bianca's work, please visit bkolonuszpartee.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Janelle W. Anderson

The Chase
2013
Graphite, colored pencil, and ink on mylar
11" x 15"

JANELLE W. ANDERSON's layered, graphite drawings on mylar evoke a surreal sense of loss, nostalgia and confusion. Dreamlike, undefined spaces are populated with juxtapositions of human limbs, gaping maws with sharp teeth, eyeballs, butterflies, birds in flight, bunnies and the tangled web of power lines city-dwellers must peer through to see the vastness of the sky. Janelle received her BFA in Painting from the Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she won the Nagel Art Thesis Award in 2011. Her work will be on view in The Octopoda Invitational, curated by Scott Bailey, at Love Gallery (Denver) until March 28, 2014. Janelle's solo exhibition All Together Now opens in July 2014 at Pirate: Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado, where she lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Are the juxtapositions of animals, objects, patterns and body parts in your drawings random? Is it more important to evoke a narrative or a mood with these juxtapositions?

Janelle W. Anderson: I use a lot of recurring symbols and animals in my work: rabbits, skulls, all-seeing eyes and, within the last year, the open mouths of carnivorous animals. I repeat these symbols because they have complex meanings for me personally but can also be interpreted in numerous ways by the viewer. I enjoy art that I can stare at for hours and still have questions about. The narratives in my work are loose enough to encourage multiple readings. Ultimately, the entire composition is designed to be examined closely and trigger a range of emotions. I want to get an immediate reaction out of my viewer, and I try to direct that through the wide range of emotions and human qualities associated with animals.

Rabbits, for example, are cute and cuddly. But they’re also rodents and will reproduce to the point of grotesque infestation. They’re also lucky, spontaneous, vulnerable, clever and quick-witted. I personally identify with the sensitive, timid side of rabbits, and I always associate them with "time running out" because of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I try to draw my rabbits with a good balance of cute and creepy to make them mysterious. Right now, I’m obsessed with drawing roaring lions and barking dogs because of the sudden burst of that emotional release. It’s like an explosion. I’m fascinated by the texture and physical form of their open mouths. It’s the contrast of sharp teeth and wet tongues. There’s a sense of danger that makes the imagery really enticing.

Self Portrait with Teeth
2014
Graphite, colored pencil, and ink on mylar
9" x 12"

OPP: Could you talk about the interaction of real and imagined space in your compositions? I'm thinking about the differences between your series of paintings Big Empty Sky (2012) and the surrealistic drawings from Voyage (2013).

JWA: Space and time have both been important components in my work since I was in school. The paintings in Big Empty Sky are depictions of real, physical space, but the true subject of the paintings is the uniform blankness and depth of the sky on a dreary day. I’m still really interested in creating that feeling of blankness. The great thing about working with mylar is that I can get that hazy effect from the material. In a sense, I’ve progressed from depicting a blank sky to placing my subjects inside of this ambiguous blankness. The figures in Voyage, and in my current work, transcend time and space. There is much more freedom in working with this indefinable space; it allows me to be more creative with the ideas I’m trying to express.

OPP: Is there a pervasive mood to the blankness? Is blankness truly ambiguous, or do you see it as more positive or negative?

JWA: This feeling of blankness is definitely existential. I keep coming back to the idea that life is inconsequential, due to its temporary, fleeting state. I have both positive and negative feelings about being temporary. I consider my art practice to be an ongoing exploration in finding meaning and purpose in the ephemeral.

Sanctuary
2011
Graphite and ink on mylar
18" x 18"

OPP: Many of your drawings on mylar have layered imagery, in which one image seems more tangible, more present, while other images seem like wispy ghosts. This is especially true in your series Entangles. How do you achieve this effect? How does it convey your conceptual interests?

JWA: The works from Entangles are each made up of three to four separate layers of mylar. I drew different elements on each layer and stacked them to create the ghost layer effect. I continue to push the effect in my current work by drawing on both sides of the paper and even creating double-sided pieces that become sculptural.

I’m attracted to the ghost image for several reasons. For one thing, people have to look more closely to see the ghost image. It requires a viewer to spend more time with the piece. I want to reward the patient viewer and give people something to seek out in my work. Another reason I like the ghost image is that it seems like a memory or dream and evokes the feeling of nostalgia. This relates to my interest in the passing of time, our perception of it and the desire to hang on to the single, fleeting moment.

Titanium Expose (detail)
2012
Graphite and colored pencil on mylar
12" x 36"

OPP: In 2013, Curious Nature was a two-person exhibition featuring your work and the work of Myah Bailey. The hybrid animals in this show are less dream-like and surreal than in earlier work. They are more horrific or uncanny. I'm thinking of Beast and Baby Creature, which make me think of genetic engineering, or Seeing Shell and Octopus Flower, which make me think of fantasy and science fiction worlds. How do you think about the creatures you created?

JWA: I read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn for the first time about four years ago and was struck by how the narrator Oly Binewski, a blind, albino, hunchback dwarf, felt that her “freak-ness” was special. She thought it would be terrible to be “normal.” One of my favorite quotes of hers is: “I get glimpses of the horror of normalcy. Each of these innocents on the street is engulfed by a terror of their own ordinariness. They would do anything to be unique.”

For this series, I created creatures that are confident their freak-ness. They’re not hiding, but they’re not flaunting themselves either. They’re comfortable in their own skin. I find them quite romantic and charming.

Baby Creature
2013
Graphite and ink on mylar
18" x18"

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

JWA: I’m showing a new piece titled Juice in the Octopoda Invitational. It's part of an ongoing portrait project I’m working on. The starting point for each drawing is a photo sent to me by another person. Most of the time people send me photos of themselves. But sometimes the photos are of loved ones or they contain two or more people. This challenges me with a starting point that I don’t get to choose. It forces me to construct a composition that uses a portion of the photograph and fits with what I’m trying to communicate through my work. The working title of this in-progress series is All Together Now, and the unifying theme of the series is the complexity of the human condition.

To see more of Janelle's wok, please visit janellewanderson.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Genevieve Quick

AstroAquaAnaglyph: Scaphandre
2013

Artist GENEVIEVE QUICK is fascinated by the historical lineage of image-making technology from Victorian projectors like the magic lantern and the zoetrope to modern day cameras, space satellites and telescopes. Her low-tech versions of these instruments are constructed from model-making materials like foam core and styrene, and her subtractive drawings on transfer paper replicate the aesthetics and display of photographic negatives and simple 3D effects, reminding us of the profound role these mediating devices have played in the human exploration of previously uncharted spaces and ideas. Genevieve received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (2001). Her recent solo exhibition Vertical Vistas at Royal Nonsuch Gallery in Oakland, California closed in February 2014. She has received a Center for Cultural Innovation Investing in Artists Grant (2011) and a Kala Fellowship (2011) and has also been awarded residencies at the de Young Museum (2011), MacDowell Colony (2010), Djerassi (2004), and Yaddo (2003). Genevieve lives in San Francisco, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What was the first machine you ever built?

Genevieve Quick: The P4 Series (Periscopic Panoramic Pinhole Photography) (2006) was the first machine I built. Before this piece, I was making these oversized landscapes out of modeling materials, like really big miniatures. I began thinking about integrating mirrors and lenses into the landscape itself as a way to explore the relationship between image and object. But the landscape became secondary in P4, and I ended up housing it inside an octagonal, cabinet-like form with a rotating pinhole camera attached on the top. Hiding the landscape inside this new piece forced the idea of landscape as an image, rather than as an embodied interaction.

TerraScope
2007
Foam-core, paper, dowel rods, mirror, Fresnel lens, model trees
89" x 74" x 52"

OPP: Could you talk about your choice to use lo-tech materials like foam core and paper to build optical machines like ScopeScape (2007), TerraVision (2005) and SnubSubScope (2008)?

GQ: I use foam core, styrene and paper because they are materials used in model making or prototyping. I draw upon engineering, architecture and design through my materials and the fabrication process. But I make devices that are completely redundant and fantasy driven; they have no real world functionality. Rather than more durable materials like wood, metal or injection molded plastic, I use materials that convey a sense of an incomplete and ongoing design process. More conventional materials, combined with the level of detail in the work, would make the objects too plausible and real.

OPP: Why is it important that these machines are “redundant and fantasy driven?”

GQ: Coming from sculpture with a limited knowledge of optics, I tend to think of things in mechanical or analog ways, rather than in mathematical or electronic terms. Current, emerging and useful technologies tend to be digital, but I'm not interested in writing code. And for that matter, Sony does a much better job than I could ever do. I am, however, really interested in how high-tech imaging relates to its analog ancestry. For instance, the front ends of digital and film cameras are similar; both need to respond to the physical world and the way light travels. The back end, where imagery is stored and later processed, is different. But even still, both operate similarly: a light sensitive sensor in a digital camera has replaced light sensitive film. While the objects I make have no real practical application, they allow me to break down vision or imaging in ways that are consumable. I think of what I do as a macro approach; my sculptures offer a way to think about generalizable ideas.

Astroscopic Series
2009
Blue transfer paper in light boxes

OPP: You've combined drawing and photography in several projects, including Analog Missions and Other Tests (2010) and your AstroScopic Series (2009) by creating hand-drawn "negatives" that are displayed on light boxes. Could you talk about the photography references in these drawings?

GQ: I’m interested in blurring the boundaries of photography through the materials and processes of sculpture and drawing. These drawings are a low-tech approximation to how photography works. The transfer paper I've been using is visually similar to a film negative. The imagery is inverted, left to right and in terms of value. The blue transfer paper references cyanotypes, an early photographic process that uses Prussian blue, light-sensitive chemistry. Until recently, cyanotypes were used for the blue print processes of architectural and engineering drawing, so this process has always had one foot in photography and one in drawing. I've since expanded the materials to grey transfer paper—following the development of photographic processes from cyan to black and white photography—and gridded vellum, which references drafting. Calotypes, another early photographic process, were actually paper negatives. So, all of these images are also displayed in light boxes to reference the photographic process, and they are capable of producing prints. The imagery all relates to space exploration or testing. The images in the AstroScopic Series are all space telescopes and the Analog Missions and Other Tests are all based on the testing that scientists do on the ground before launching the objects or people into space.

A Trip to the Abyss 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Far Side of the Sun and Moon
2013
Two channel video on stacked broadcast monitors
17:22:02

OPP: Recently, you've drawn a clear connection between space travel and deep-sea diving in your video A Trip to the Abyss 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Far Side of the Sun and Moon (2013), which pairs underwater clips and outer space clips appropriated from over 50 science fiction movies. Your AstroAquaAnaglyphs (2013) are works on paper that appear three-dimensional with 3D glasses. They compare space suits and underwater diving suits. What's fascinating to you about these different domains of exploration?


GQ: Given their lack of a breathable atmosphere, as well as gravity and pressure issues, sea and space are both completely inhospitable places for humans. But there are a wide range of technological mechanisms that allow astronauts and scuba divers to briefly inhabit and see these places. Since most of us are unable to go to either, these devices get transformed or complimented with photography and video technology to create a sort of remote vision. The visual experience can be so disembodied and mediated, both for the astronauts/scuba divers and for everyone else looking at the video or photographs. 

AstroAquaAnaglyph 8
2011

OPP: Growing up in the 80s, I remember a sense of awe about space travel. It seems like when space is in the news, no one is really impressed anymore, like the mystery is gone. People seem more interested in the iPad than Mars. Has our collective cultural interest in space been surpassed by the advent of the internet and technology for personal use? I'm wondering if this is just because I'm older now, or if our collective attitude has changed. Thoughts?

GQ: I think that there is still a lot of public interest in space. But there is a difference in how we are thinking about space travel. Basically we’ve abandoned manned flights and are thinking about robotic or mechanical means of exploration, like the Hubble Telescope and Mars Rovers. While I agree that NASA’s golden era is over, private enterprises (like Space X and James Cameron) and foreign countries are pursuing manned space exploration. I don’t think that private enterprise will create great discoveries or inventions, but will allow wealthy non-professionals to buy an experience that was previously reserved for astronauts, who were the physical and intellectual elite. If trickle down economics technology actually works in this case, it could provide greater accessibility to space travel for common individuals, much like what happened with airplanes.

OPP: Do you think mediated experience of mostly inaccessible spaces adds to or detracts from a collective sense of wonder?

GQ: It definitely adds to a collective sense of wonder. After all, every experience is mediated by our senses. So, mediation itself doesn't really affect our reading of imagery. The bizarreness of deep sea creatures like the Dumbo Octopus, which was only recently discovered, is completely amazing. It just proves how much we still don’t know. Since we first mastered the ability to capture an indexical likeness, we've been using lens-based technology to see things not readily perceptible to the naked eye. Muybridge and his galloping horse, x-ray photography, surgical applications of fiber optics and space telescopes are all attempts to visualize ideas or things that humans had never seen before but had hunches about. They've all, at least momentarily, satisfied and sparked our sense of wonder. 

To see more of Genevieve's work, please visit genevievequick.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. 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.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Geoffrey Chadsey

Recliner (in progress)
2014
Watercolor pencil on Mylar
42" x 63"

GEOFFREY CHADSEY’s watercolor portraits on Mylar are amalgams of found images from chat rooms and hook-up sites geared toward men seeking men. His poignant and provocative drawings reveal both the specificity of their source material and the universality of donning plumage—in the form of performances of gender, race, persona and cultural affinity—to make ourselves more desirable and to communicate our availability to others. Geoffrey received his MFA from California College of Arts in 1996 and was awarded the prestigious Eureka Fleishhacker Fellowship in 1999. His numerous solo exhibitions include shows at James Harris Gallery (Seattle), Jack Shainman Gallery (New York) and The Contemporary Museum, now part of the Honolulu Museum of Art. His work will be included in the group show, Drawingroom, which opens March 7, 2014 at Galerie im Taxispalais in Innsbruck, Austria. The exhibition, curated by Peter Weiermair, will travel from Ursula Blickle Stiftung in Stuttgart, Germany, where it was shown in December 2013. Geoff lives and works in Brooklyn.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Do you consider these drawings to be portraits of individuals?

Geoff Chadsey: Each drawing is a portrait of individuals, plural. They are composites of photos taken from a number of social media sites—other peoples’ self-portraits (or should I say, Other People’s Pixels?)—that are further fleshed out with my own photo studies and images ripped from magazines. I spend so much time on them that they feel imbued with personhood. Frankenstein’s monster, but without the creator's god-complex or nature-challenging hubris?

Wolf
2011
Watercolor pencil on Mylar
36" x 57"

OPP: The morphing of figures and the presence of multiple heads/arms/bodies is a richly compelling aspect of your drawings, and it seems to be used to different ends throughout your practice. Sometimes the extra body parts evoke potential motion, as with Reacher (2012) and Reacher, revisited (2013). In works like Vestigial Velasquez (2011) and Portrait (Pink Beak) (2011), I read the second face as representing a buried part of the personality trying to escape. Visually these remind me most of horror movie effects used when someone is possessed. Tinchy Klimt (2011) brings up the idea that our own personalities contain distinct elements of the surrounding culture, i.e. hip hop and fine art. I could go on and on—I haven't even mentioned Hindu deities! What does this hybridity of form and body mean to you?

GC: I have no grand narrative. I am no great revelator, although I enjoy and agree with your readings. I pursue the uncanny, but as a wary surrealist, who is suspicious of images that beg interpretation or that try to look weird or provocative. The multiple poses, limbs and faces—pentimenti—render indecision into full form. I read a review of a friend's show, which described her paintings as portraits of people who couldn’t make up their minds about who they wanted to be. That description of multiplicity, confusion, playfulness of identities delighted me. That's what the internet was supposed to be about when it became a popular medium. People were talking about how you could reinvent yourself in chat rooms and be whoever you wanted to be. It was supposed to be a post-identity space. Instead, people have become even more entrenched in their identifications of who they'd like to be—and who they'd like to be with.

The added limbs, faces and traces of previous poses also add distance between my drawings and the unseen source material of the screen and its frozen image. They add a physicality to the figure, as well as movement and the passage of time. Reacher, which quotes a Sports Illustrated basketball cover, and Marines, which evokes Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, both read like dance. Portrait (Pink Beak), a self-portrait, reminds me of spirit photography; the vulpine mask came from a moment of wanting to just SCRIBBLE. Tinchy Klimt is a melding of two common source materials for me: hip-hop and Klimt. There is no reason for it, other than those are images I am repeatedly drawn to: the riveting swagger, the rancid glamor, the spectre of murder. Theater, basically. Popular metaphor of the mask is about hiding, artifice, fakery. Popular psychology is about removing the mask, revealing the true self. But masks enable action. Giorgio Agamben writes that, “‘Persona’ originally means ‘mask’ and it is through the mask that the individual acquires a role and a social identity." He goes further to describe how, in the online era, this mask gets separated from the individual as a profile of online behavior, purchases and likes. Data mining companies collect this information in order to present further enticements or calls-to-action to the individual. You are what you “like.”

In online chat-rooms, you can see how men increasingly identify themselves with costumes that indicate a masculine archetype: the straight-acting (an overtly theatrical role that requires great skills in projecting illegibility), the jock, the leather-daddy, the preppy/ Abercrombie-and-Fitch collegiate, the scruffy urban-woodsman, the executive, the thugster, the punk. Each one calls out to other lovingly-detailed archetypes for a meeting of the masks. The hybridity in the drawings is about pursuing identities that aren't easily summarized as racial, gender, personality types.

A Sure Thing
2003
Watercolor pencil on Mylar

OPP: I've read that many drawings are based on images from Grindr, an iPhone app for meeting "gay, bi, and curious guys" and other internet chat sites, although they aren't identified that way on your website. For me, knowing this source adds a distinct layer of longing to connect and to belong that might not be otherwise present in the drawings of single figures. Would these drawings be the same if you drew these figures from life? How important is the source material to you?

GC: “Curious”—isn’t that hopeful? Yes, Grindr is one source, Manhunt another. I have an archive of photographs from sites I have been collecting for over 10 years. I’ve been an active participant in these sites, by the way. These images are about longing and the self-presentation that goes into being longed-for. Men post themselves in an online bazaar to a fantasized other; it’s a peacock gallery. Maybe that’s the discomfort of these drawings. Here is a figure presenting himself to you. You are an implied part of the drawing. He is looking out at you, he is looking FOR you, but you are also not the original intended audience.

Someone asked me a few years ago if there was any empathy in these renderings. It’s complicated. While looking at so many beautiful men online, I find myself collecting the photographs where the performances are wonky. There’s some sort of excess that disrupts the aspiring hotness factor, like a bulging belly or an overenthusiastic hairdo. Empathy and delight enter in those moments. Popular gay iconography is all about desirability: beauty, youth, the fitness factor. I seek to capture a more disruptive figure, something you can’t take your eyes off of, something disorienting, alien, horrific like a movie monster that rivets the gaze. Let’s call it the aspirational abject.

Blondie
2005
Watercolor pencil on Mylar

OPP: All your drawings are watercolor pencil on Mylar. Why do you choose it? Is there anything about your work in this medium that doesn't translate well online? What are we missing as online viewers?

GC: The image ecology from screen to Mylar back to screen is largely how my work is seen these days. I joke that I am represented by the gallery called Facebook, and they give me a show whenever I want. It’s fun to gather "likes" and to see your work bounce around Tumblr. But the jpegs are pale ghosts of their originals—you miss the WORK involved in making it, the physicality of the line, the painterly goop of the melted scribbles, not to mention the size (some of these drawings are six feet tall). So then the question becomes: why draw? I have a Masters in photography, but I drew my thesis show. Call it digested photography, a reconstituted archive. Drawing is a sentimental attachment to the personal mark, to the mastery of the rendered copy and to the intimate privacy of mulling over images alone in my studio.

Black Couch
2010
Watercolor pencil on Mylar
36" x 60"

OPP: You are a 2013-2014 Mentor at Queer | Art | Mentorship, which is an organization dedicated to "pairing and supporting mentorship between queer working artists in New York City." Will you tell us a little about the program and why you decided to become a mentor?

GC: The program is about nurturing conversations between (roughly) two generations of participating gay male and female creatives. Because of homophobia, the closet and a generation lost to AIDS, these relationships have to be sought out, created and fostered outside of the university. This is my second year participating. Each generation of gay youth coming into their own has perhaps less baggage than the generation before. The generation before meanwhile has accrued experiences that might be summed up as wisdom—not just about being a thriving gay adult but about being a working artist in New York. The mentorship is about an exchange of ideas, readings, film recommendations, critiques. My participation comes from a desire to integrate my practice into a larger community, to share and receive new ideas about what it means to be queer today.

To view more of Geoffrey's work, please visit geoffreychadsey.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) recently closed, and her solo exhibition Everything You Need is Already Here is on view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago until February 17, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Nathan Haenlein

Hypnostage
2010
Graphite on Paper
18"x 21"

NATHAN HAENLEIN’s graphite drawings of old ladies at slot machines, the willingly-hypnotized, car engines and snow storms use the geographic region of the Rust Belt as a container for exploring universal ways of coping with the life’s difficulties. His gel pen drawings, on the other hand, employ an arbitrary analog system that leads to complex, colorful patterns. The underlying connection for these disparate ways of drawing is an investigation of patience and repetition. Nathan received his MFA from the University of Iowa in 2002 and is currently a professor at Sonoma State University. His work has been included in Shifter magazine (2006 and 2009) and the forthcoming international drawing annual Manifest (2014). He has had solo exhibitions at Visalia Art Center (2008), Cleveland's now defunct Exit Gallery (2006) and The Ridderhof Martin Gallery (2003) at Mary Washington College. His work is included in the group exhibition Deadpan (the art of the expressionless), which closes on December 7, 2013, at Whitdel Arts (Detroit) and in a juried solo exhibition at the online exhibition site Gallery Gray. Nathan lives and works in Santa Rosa, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What do the seemingly unrelated subjects of your meticulous graphite drawings have in common?

Nathan Haenlein: This body of work began with the collapse of our economy in 2008, the bankruptcy of GM and subsequent bailout by the government. I was raised in Michigan and Ohio. The majority of my family was employed or benefited from the auto industry. I was distracted by what I read and heard in the news and the reality of the people living through the lowest point in an economy that had been below the national average for decades. My graphite drawings are broken into conceptual subgroups that expose the complexity of a geographic area and the varying possibilities of experience.

The willingly-hypnotized are a metaphor for the Rust Belt. For years, the people in this area watched as economies constricted and changed their cities. Works depicting food, vice and escape shine a spotlight on how we cope. Additionally, the drawings elicit a small amount of shame followed by guilt. These feelings are powerful motivators that can cause either change or stagnation. The factory and its products are the gems in my work. I focus on the product and how they make it. I think of them as science and the genius of engineering. Lastly, the environment is always present. The weather and landscape shape a community. I am interested in natural beauty and the human impulse to control it.

Mount Pleasant Freedom
2010
Graphite on Paper
11"x 13"

OPP: Are the human subjects in your drawings individuals or are they just symbols of unwavering consumption? Do you relate to them or feel compassion for them?

NH: The human subjects in my drawings are archetypes. Since I have lived in California for ten years, I have become more and more removed from the day-to-day experiences I have taken on in my work. I purposefully avoid the use of friends and family as subjects. The distance, both physical and personal, allows me to build a narrative without conflict. I am absolutely empathic to the individuals in my work. I come to them with a sense of loss and hope to somehow elevate them from struggle. I take extreme care and patience producing the drawings. I am at times conflicted about the act of consumption. Why we consume and how what we consume shapes our personal economies, class and perceived wellness. Where does this lead us?

Untitled
2008
Gel Pen on Paper
32"x 40"

OPP: What are your thoughts on patience and repetition in the digital age?

NH: As I answer these questions for the blog of the company that hosts my website, the obviousness of the digital age is too apparent. It sounds moot to use the term, but the speed of change has an impact on how I work and experience art in general. I fall victim to the constant distraction that technology affords. My studio practice is a counterbalance to these distractions.

Since childhood I have been a model of impatience; my daily life is a battle of impulse control. These struggles have led me to hone my working habits. There are now long periods of exaggerated patience. I have yet to understand my ability to focus completely on the production of art works. Additionally, the daily act of working satisfies my compulsions/obsessions and brings about a state of equilibrium. I am curious about the act of repetition. Whether it is revisiting the same ideas or repeating the same physical exercise, this need for repetition in our lives somehow reflects the human condition in a non-narrative way. What propels these acts and thoughts?

OPP: In my opinion, it's about a spiritual need. Repetition involves a way of comprehending the world that is beyond the intellect, especially when it includes a physical act, an embodied motion. Through physical repetition, anxiety can be transformed into presence. So when you say that your studio practice is a counterbalance to the distractions of speediness and technology, I think about meditation, which is about coming back to the body and to the present moment. Is it a stretch to call your studio practice a meditation practice?

NH: It would be a stretch to call my practice meditation. I think of meditation—which I have been advised to utilize by professionals—as an internal space of absolute calm, a way to remain still both physically and mentally, and recharge. While my studio work is very repetitive, it is wrought with a constant stream of thoughts and urges I tamp down in order to produce the work. I find the finished art works have a richness that comes from forced patience and this internal battle. Lastly, I think you answered my question on what propels these acts and thoughts, and I will adopt the idea of repetition transforming anxiety into presence.

Volt
2010
Graphite on Paper
11"x 13"

OPP: Quad Drawings, a series of geometric, gel pen drawings, and your resin and enamel paintings from 2006 are stylistically different from the realistic, graphite drawings? What made you decide to unite these two styles as postcards in 2011?

NH: The Quad Drawings and resin works grew together in my studio, informing each other and allowing me to formally investigate a two dimensional plane. All of the quad works began with a detailed plan before entering the studio. I focused on color and a mathematical system similar to knitting or crochet to create the compositions. Additionally, this detailed plan was an analog system, quoting the vector software used to produce the resin work. I was interested in building a three dimensional illusion simply by my counting and color choice. After years of counting, color testing and sitting still, filling in rectangular boxes, I became dubious of my intent and started to question whether these drawings were fulfilling my need as an artist.

In 2008, I simply put down the gel pen and cleaned my brushes. I needed a new challenge. I was no longer able to ignore my needs for a concrete narrative in my work. I made rules: no color, no counting, be descriptive and simplify my tools. The graphite drawings are the result of these new rules. They are visually completely different, but the planning and execution of the drawings mirrored the quad works. The tedium of my practice started to take its toll on my production, and slowly I began to break these rules. My intent in the postcards was to give myself a break from a rigid system that didn’t/doesn’t allow any play or improvisation in the production. Soon I had made over 50 new small pieces, and my daily practice was consumed by working on the postcards. I still don’t know if this is a bridge of the two bodies of work, but I continue to produce these small works.

List 10
2013

OPP: Your newest body of work is a series of paintings of repeated racquetball instructions. The text reads like an advertisement, encouraging the constant striving to be better that advertising always capitalizes on. Stylistically, the work evokes psychedelic concert posters from the 60s. When I Googled you, I found that you have a racquetball player profile and ranking, so obviously you have some experience with the game. How did this body of work grow out of your personal experience? Is racquetball a metaphor in this work?

NH: There is an apparent under-current of obsession in all of my work. I am obsessed with racquetball. It keeps me up at night. I replay matches in my head and focus on points where I could have made better decisions. I decided to make a gouache painting of the growing list of things I need to work on. Before I knew it, I had made eight. I photographed the courts I played on, digitally printed them on fine art paper and painted the list directly on the court. My initial intent was to become a better player, but soon these paintings started to reflect a larger narrative of my daily experience.

The game for me is a metaphor for control. The paintings let me impart my will on the game. While making these paintings, I began to look at vintage GM ads and the promises of a better life through Chevy. These absolutes are mirrored in my lists. I have never shown the list paintings, but for some reason I decided to put them on my website. I still read the list before each match. And I have enjoyed answering this question immensely.

OPP: What about the experience of flow? Do you feel it more on the racquetball court or in your studio?

NH: Again, I am enjoying these questions too much!! I believe there is a time when flow in the studio happens. It is so elusive, here then gone, and only recognized days later that it occurred.  But to link my obsessive hobby/sport with my professional practice is giving me too much credit as a racquetball player. My studio is a place of ideas and actions converging into objects. Also, the underlying structure of my studio practice hinges on current conceptual concerns for the project at hand. Whatever the content, it is the impetus for making the work. Racquetball on the other hand can be a metaphor in my work, but it doesn’t go both ways for me. I can remember a NBA finals game when Michael Jordan scored an insane amount of points in the first half, and the announcers proclaimed he was in a place of “flow." I guess my point is that flow comes to the truly invested and focused regardless of the endeavor. I have not reached that yet in racquetball.

To see more of Nathan's work, please visit nathanhaenlein.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is on view at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) until December 6, 2013, and she is currently preparing for another solo exhibition titled Everything You Need is Already Here (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kristyn Weaver

2011
Graphite on paper
38 x 25"

KRISTYN WEAVER courts absurdity anywhere she can, inadvertently referencing Internet memes that tap into the joy of shared ridiculousness. Her graphite drawings of cats in unexpected places and modified found object sculptures entertain, ultimately posing the question: Does art have to be so serious all the time? Kristyn received her BFA from The University of Texas at Austin (2004) and her MFA from Washington State University (2008). In 2010, she received the Austin Critics Table Award for Outstanding Work of Art in Installation. Recent exhibitions include Fakes II at the New Jersey City University Visual Arts Gallery in Newark and Man & Animals: Relationship and Purpose at Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Kristyn lives and works in Brookings, South Dakota.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Talk about your interest in the absurd, both in general and in your work.

Kristyn Weaver: I have always reveled in the ridiculous and the ludicrous. I delight in silly things that don’t need to happen. Marveling at how someone’s brain conceived of something so perfect in its bizarreness. My philosophy of creation has always been that of enjoyment, both for me and for the viewer. In that, absurdity runs parallel to enjoyment. My hope is that if I enjoy something, someone else will, too. And that delight in the pointlessness connects us in a purer way than a clear message or narrative could. Art in itself is at variance with reason, yet we still endeavor to create it and seek it out.

Limp Stiletto (detail)
2005
Silicone rubber and leather
12 x 6 x 12"

OPP: A simple pleasure shared with another person is a profound human experience that is never pointless. To me, the connection is the point. It’s just an unexpected point that not everyone thinks should be the function of "capital A-Art." That’s one of the functions of entertainment, but many people want to guard the border between art and entertainment because they believe allowing that border to be fluid denigrates art. Do you think there is or should be a border between art and entertainment?

KW: In my opinion, the sooner we can get the masses to consider themselves legitimately entertained by "capital A-Art," the better. The type of entertainment that art provides inspires divergent thinking. I have always considered it to be more reminiscent of the way that we entertained ourselves as children when we were left outside to our own devices. There can simultaneously be very strict self-imposed rules and complete gratuitous freedom. It is wholly unfettered by reason, and you get out of it what you put in. That is why I aspire to make work that morphs from viewer to viewer and can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Art is more denigrated by people choosing not to see it as a sincere form of entertainment. I find it disheartening when people feel that they have to “get it” to enjoy it. If only they could experience a moment of enjoyment without reason. The sooner that people consider themselves “entertained” by something other than Iron Man, the better.

The imagery I work with in both the drawings and sculptures is sourced from the everyday. They are populist images like cats, celebrities and so forth. Access to this subject matter is not exclusive; it really belongs to everyone. The question that I ponder when people say they don’t get it is why does the act of me creating/pairing/composing these different situations and making “Art” out of it and then placing it in a gallery change the relationship that the viewer has with it? Part of the reason I choose certain subjects/images is because they are accessible to the larger public and have the potential to attract others besides myself.

Nope... Face Down Garfield
2009
Mirror, plexi glass, contact paper, plush Garfield
42 x 29.5 x 12"

OPP: What isn't absurd?

KW: The collective absurdity. . . and ellipses. . . and cotton candy.

OPP: Speaking of absurdity, is Nope. . . Face Down Garfield a reference to Chuck Testa?

KW: Well, it is now. I had actually never heard of Chuck Testa before your question and I watched his video on YouTube. That man deserves a medal.

OPP: Instead of a traditional artist statement, you've written a treatise. In it, you first say that you don't want to use language to define your work, but then you go on to use quite a lot of words. It's very funny and also gives a clear sense of how you think about the nature of art. It feels like a piece in and of itself. How did you generate the Q&A format? Are these questions you were repeatedly asked or questions you ask yourself?

KW: I still hesitate to use words to define my work. I wish I could use images to answer these questions—insert picture of grandmother’s hands here. The work is already communicating with the viewer. Words have the potential to unnecessarily complicate things. . . but, I digress. The Q&A format came about as an attempt at a more succinct way of answering certain questions that I was asking myself. I referred to it as a treatise to add ridiculous formality to the whole stream of consciousness mess.

The Kittenseum
2007
Graphite on paper
24 x 32"

OPP: Since 2007, you've been making a series of graphite drawings of cats that have the feel of internet memes (although I don't think I've seen these particular memes anywhere). It all started with Kittenseum but continued with Staring Contests and your series of cats inserted into Steve McQueen movies. KnowYourMeme.com charts the early origins of cats on the Internet, but cites 2007 as a moment of major growth:

. . . the online popularity of cat-related media took a leap forward beginning in 2006 with the growing influence of LOLcats and Caturday on Something Awful and 4chan as well as the launch of YouTube, which essentially paved the way for the ubiquitous, multimedia presence of cats. The LOLcat phenomenon is thought to have entered the mainstream of the Internet sometime after the launch of I Can Has Cheezburger in early 2007. (Knowyourmeme.com)

Could you talk about the relationship between your drawings and the phenomena of cats on the internet?



KW: My series of cat drawings began because I had an epiphany that I should be making art that I wanted to spend time with and see happen, and not to question from where these desires stemmed or what it all meant. I think that the Internet viewing world at large had the same inclination. Cat memes fulfill our unabashed desire for release through frivolity. We don’t have to question why we like watching them or what it is that draws us to them. We can just sit and appreciate them for what they are (often for hours at a time). If I am going to put my art out there for consideration by the public, I want it to be something that is valid in its simple, joyful enrichment of the time that viewers spend with it. In summation, cats are fuzzy. I want to hug them, and so does everyone else.

Today I Cut Out the Words
2010
Newspaper
12 x 12 x .5"

OPP: In sculptural work, including your series of altered newspapers, rubber sculptures and altered school chairs, you use the repeated strategy of rendering everyday objects useless, at least in the way that they were originally intended to be used. Have you stripped these objects of function or have you created a new function?

KW: I suppose I have done a little bit of both. Most of the objects’ direct functions are to make one's life easier, and now, in their altered form, the ease of their use has been stripped. My sincere endeavor in creating these pieces is to have the objects to be viewed in a fresh way. Not necessarily in a different way than their initial pre-altered form, but just with an added dimension. It is my intention to transform them in a way that doesn’t obliterate their relevance or original form, but draws attention to something that might have otherwise gone without consideration. I want the viewer to ruminate on objects that take up space.

Lines Out
2013
Ball point pen on paper
18 x 24

OPP: It seems that that’s also what you are ultimately doing with your cat drawings and with the very notion of frivolity or absurdity. Forgive me for putting words in your mouth—and please feel free to disagree—but it’s like you are saying: “You think you know what frivolity and silliness is, but guess what, it’s something more profound than you think. Boo-ya!

KW: Perhaps it is more of a Shazam! than a Boo-ya! But yes, I suppose I want to say that the notion, desire and need for absurdity and frivolity are, in a strange way, serious and are just as deserving of one’s contemplation as anything else. The act of pondering and taking something away from a work of art doesn’t have to be only reserved for works that have somber themes. I want the joy that comes from encountering this work to be just as valid of an emotional experience as a deadpan work elicits.

OPP: What are you working on right now in your studio?

KW: Currently, I am finishing up my second drawing of cats with rap lyrics and working on another pen-swirl drawing like Jonathon Livingston Seagull (2013) where I cover the entirety of a Sculpture Magazine. This one will probably take me the better part of a year, because I can only do so much at one time before it starts to make me feel like a lunatic. I have some sculpture projects on the horizon where I’ll be working with expanding foam. I also have plans for a new series of large drawings of various exploded diagrams. In addition to that, there is a Morris Louis inspired painting that I have been dreaming about for some time, and some expressionistic paintings on paper that I envision hanging sculpturally off the wall. I haven’t really done any paintings since I was at The University of Texas for undergrad, so. . . fingers crossed on those two.

If you want to see more of Kristyn's work, please visit kristynweaver.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and spiritual significance of repetition in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is on view at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) until December 6, 2013, and she is currently preparing for another solo exhibition titled Everything You Need Is Already Here (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014..


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Madeline Stillwell

Pigeon House
2011
Materials found onsite and in the city of Rennes, France
Performed at Centre Culturel Colombier (Former Military Base and Pigeon House)

American artist MADELINE STILLWELL improvises with intention in her site-specific performances. She uses her body as a drawing tool, alternately struggling against and collaborating with found construction materials and trash that she collects onsite. Her physical actions become metaphors for human experiences—breaking through barriers, climbing the walls, emerging from the rubble, rolling around in the muck, untangling oneself—making marks as she literally and figuratively works through each space. Madeline received her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2008. She has performed and exhibited widely throughout the United States, Canada and Western Europe, most recently in the group exhibitions Re-Made // Re-Used at REH Kunst Berlin and A Night in the Park at das Moosdorf in Berlin. Madeline lives and works in Berlin, where she is an Adjunct Professor in Performance at the Evangelische Hochschule Berlin.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Talk about the repeated motif of emerging from or breaking through a barrier in your performances. I think of birthing and butterflies emerging from cocoons while watching the video documentation of the performances.

Madeline Stillwell: On a visual level, I've always enjoyed the sensations that occur from seeing something pushing itself through another thing. The meeting place between opposing materials engaging in a temporary dance of overlap has always stirred something powerful in me. Ocean waves lapping against a gridded surface, for example, or wet cement swirling gently through the blades of its mixer. Ultimately, I believe we humans are never alone; we are always acting in response to nature, to culture, to circumstance, to each other. We are constantly confronted with life's given situations, and often times find ourselves struggling against the limitations of our own minds. I am fascinated by such barriers because so many unexpected possibilities can open up from finding our way through something that appears at first to be a roadblock. It is about the will to grow. Coming out on the other side of a personal, social or physical barrier can be one of the most satisfying of all human experiences.  

Pedestal Piece
2011
3-part performance
8 minute video (part 1)
Pedestal, clay, plaster, and found construction materials

OPP: How important are the specifics of the materials that you use in your performances, beyond the fact that they are often found garbage in or near the sites you perform in?

MS: The materials I collect and use for my work function as my palette. I search for materials that will bring tension and yet create a harmonious visual composition. I find myself attracted to materials that come from real life, have an industrial patina to them and contain a functionality that is in question. For example, in site-specific performances such as No more sugar for the monkey or Read? Read What?, I wanted to equalize the relationship between our discarded waste and excess and the very structures that exist to build up and accumulate such waste. In a similar way, the works Pigeon House or Pedestal Piece insert abject construction materials (dirt, rubble, mud, plastic, etc) into the gallery context. While breaking myself through a gallery wall or breaking myself out of a gallery pedestal, I call into question the structures—the white cube, for example—that exist to keep an institution erect. That said, I prefer hovering closer to parody and within the realm of human imagination, such as in my most recent videos Stasi Prison or Stick Werfen, rather than pushing my work in any specific political direction. Perhaps if I'm really honest with myself, I simply choose materials that turn me on. I am, after all, smearing them all over myself. :)

OPP: Your movements seem very intentional: when they are clunky, they seem purposefully so. When they are graceful, your performance is similar to modern dance. Are the performances choreographed or improvised?

MS: Intention plays perhaps the most important role of all in my work. I truly believe it doesn't really matter what you use, what you do or how you do it, as long as you are clear with your intentions and you are open to accepting and incorporating the unknown along the way. This is not just true in art-making. It applies to walking down the street and to living the life you want to live. It is always much easier to keep going in the same habitual patterns that feel comfortable, than it is to truly follow our intentions, incorporate the unknown and be willing to change. Because of this, I never choreograph in the traditional sense. I resist processes of memorization because I want to get away from the assumption that there is a right way of doing things. It is easy for us to fall into such mind patterns if we practice and over-practice something again and again.

For each work of art or performance, I set up a series of intentions, and the rest is improvised. I incorporate spatial intentions, like "I'm going to start here and end over there," or physical challenges, such as "I’m going to try to climb along those pipes which are five meters from the ground without falling." Also quite important are my mental structures, such as "I'm going to have a conversation with my ex," or "I'm going on a road trip with my family” or “I’m going to contemplate escape.” Finally I also set formal goals such as “I’m going to both make a sculpture and become a sculpture” or “I'm going to make a drawing in space.” 

All of this is easier said than done, however. It is difficult to stay true to your mental game when you are standing with the lights between your eyes. After a "failed" performance experience, it is often difficult for me to really know what went wrong. It usually has something to do with losing sight of the original intention or letting it slipping away. I take some comfort in sports psychology.  In this post-performance interview, I speak about the delicate balance between intention and letting go.

Aluminum Drawing Collage
2011
Cut photographs and acrylic on aluminum
80 x 100 cm

OPP: How do your background, your daily life and teaching affect your work?

MS: My early experience (ages five to twenty) with jazz and modern dance, musical theater, classical piano and vocal training allows me to think of my body and voice as natural and viable tools for art-making. My mother holds a degree in Performing Arts, one of my sisters is a dancer and choreographer and my brother is a set designer for the stage. I suppose you could also say it runs in the family. But I decided to study visual art because I've always had visions in my head that I want to manifest in a tangible way. It stressed me out to memorize choreography or lines from a play. Somehow, I didn't trust that process as much as I did the spontaneity of making a form from a lump of clay. By the end of graduate school, I realized I could communicate on multiple levels by translating movement or sound into tactile experience (and vice versa) so my current practice embodies that.

Additionally, the performance class I now teach at university also influences my practice. The class is based around structured improvisation as a means to communicate using our bodies, voices and material. We explore experiences like talking without words, acting versus reacting, emotional versus pedestrian movement and sounds, having a conversation with only facial expressions (no voice or gesture), balancing on one another, using materials as a means to express something, drawing in space, setting an unspoken goal together in the moment and finding an end. We work both in the studio and in public urban places, including the subway, the farmer's market, a public park or the university hallway. When not performing, the students are challenged to direct each other on the spot. Each student must plan a structured improvisation and direct a small group. By the end of the course, students work together to structure and perform a piece of their own creation in front of a live audience.

On a daily basis, my physical practice, which combines swimming, biking, pilates, yoga, voice-journaling and singing, allows me to stay fit enough to use the full range of my strength as well as the full range of my imagination.

OPP: What is voice-journaling?

MS: Voice-journaling is my way of getting things expressed and off my chest. It often happens spontaneously while out in the world or when I'm alone. It helps me to clear my head and process my artwork. It's also a way to communicate with another person privately, like writing a letter without the pressure of having to send it. In this way, it's more like "writing letters" to myself. The Only Capacity, You're Gonna Love It and I Hate It Here (I Heart Michigan) all made in 2007, are videos that use excerpts of voice-journaling.

Road Trip (Machine Pipe Drawing)
2011
2-part performance
15 minute video (Part 2)

OPP: Drawing is a fundamental part of your practice. I'm thinking of performances like Road Trip (Machine Pipe Drawing) (2011) and I've Been Digging in the Garden (Untitled Wall Drawing) (2011) and your Drawing Collage, Diagram Drawings, Music Drawings and Video Drawings. Could you talk about the connection between drawing and performance in your work?
 
MS: For me, drawing is gesture-making. First comes the stage fright of the blank page, then the music starts and then you go. Just don't look back until you're finished. That way you won't over think what you're doing, and more life can result from the marks you make. A primary function of drawing by hand (or body, in my case) is to leave a mark, to act, to respond to something, to communicate. When I set the mental goal for myself of “making a drawing,” I am always curious to see what kinds of gestures are left behind because they become markers of spontaneous decision-making. Such gestures can serve as a kind of memory map of improvisation. In the same way that a photograph captures a moment in time, so does slinging a clump of clay onto a wall. Even though they have two very different results, there is an inherent risk-taking in making a mark, whether that is drawing lines on a piece of paper, stepping out onto a stage or trespassing into a construction site in order to take a photograph.  

Gesture-making, or art in general, can be seen as both a tool for finding meaning and a tool for letting go of meaning itself. While arranging and rearranging the structures we find around ourselves, the conscious and unconscious gestures we make create waves of impact in our lives. In such gestures, we recognize the threads of harmony and moments of clarity that allow us to make sense of our experiences within the chaos of an irrational world. 

Untitled (Drawing Collage White)
2012
Cut photographs, silkscreen and acrylic on paper
40 x 60 cm

OPP: You've made a lot of work in Germany, including a performance with two dancers at Temporary Home as part of Documenta 13 in Kassel (2012). How and when did you first have the opportunity to perform there? Has the reception to your work been different in Germany than in the US?

MS: I first came to Berlin for a short residency at Takt Kunstprojektraum in the summer of 2008, and I'm still here. I was instantly drawn to the tension of the city's history, and I felt a huge amount of admiration for the endurance, tolerance and freedom that exists in the city's mentality. I felt at home within a constantly changing community of international artists, and I was drawn to the aesthetics of the raw industrial spaces and materials I first found in Berlin. I am still drawn to the construction sites in Germany and to the absurd logic of how they are organized and re-organized. In the United States, construction sites are usually hidden behind walls of wood. Here they exist as living parts of the street itself, so that you can see the pipes embedded in the sand below as they are constructed. I love living in a city whose guts are exposed.

When it comes to the reception of my work, I have found German audiences to be extremely well-educated about art history and architecture, emotionally intelligent and unafraid to engage in discussion about art. This includes my university students as well. There is a true love of discussion in the German culture. German people are unafraid to offer criticism or dissent; neutrality of emotion and independence of mind are valued higher than pleasing others or being well-liked. What I appreciate most about American audiences, on the other hand, is their enthusiasm, acceptance and appreciation of the unique. Their unchained, youthful sense of history means they highly value the reinvention of the self. I find that a certain amount of naiveté in American culture actually allows for a pure and fearless go-get-em mentality when it comes to following one's vision.

Perhaps that is what drives me to invade construction sites and climb through pipes and suspend myself in a crane while Singin' in the Rain! Or perhaps I'm more German now, organizing and re-organizing until everything falls to rubble.

To see more of Madeline's work, please visit madelinestillwell.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and spiritual significance of repetition in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her work is on view through September 2013 in Abstracting the Seam (Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago), and she has two upcoming solo exhibitions: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Klemm Gallery, Adrian, Michigan) in November 2013 and Right Here, Right Now (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.