OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Steven Vasquez Lopez

Some Strings Attached 037 (detail)
2013
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"

The snags and unraveling edges of STEVEN VASQUEZ LOPEZ's colorful, hand-drawn textiles embody the accidental beauty of mistakes, acting as a graphic metaphor for an optimistic way of viewing life's chaotic moments. Influenced by the perseverance of his seamstress mother and mechanic/welder father, he reveals the connections between drawing, textile production and manual labor in his patterned grids, which echo Minimalist painting, the weave structures of plaids and the color palette of Mexican serape blankets. Steven received his BA from UC Santa Barbara and his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is a past recipient of the William Dole Memorial Scholarship (1999, 2000), Abrams Prize (2000), Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship (2006), and the 2012 ArtSlant prize. He has exhibited widely throughout California and is represented by CES Contemporary (Los Angeles), where he had his first solo show Accidental Moments in 2014. His work is currently featured in the San Francisco-based The New Asterisk, now available in print and online. Steven lives in San Francisco.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your paintings and drawings are dense with color and pattern. Where did your love of pattern come from? What influences your color palate?



Steven Vasquez Lopez: I grew up around a lot of sewing and fabric. My mother became a seamstress at a very early age in order to earn her own money. I spent a lot of time next to her while she worked, so I have an intimate relationship with fabric swatches and pattern. Also, I went to Catholic school, where we wore plaid uniforms. Then, during high school I took some architectural drafting classes that nurtured my interested in linear and geometric drawing. Over the last five years, these influences have merged into my current work with pattern and color. Now, I continue to be influenced by plaid and color from uniforms, men’s clothing, and Mexican serapes that I see around me.

Some Strings Attached 043
2013
Ink on Paper
9" x 12"

OPP: The ink drawings from Patches and Some Strings Attached, equally recall Agnes Martin's abstract grids and woven textiles. Of course, the entire history of painting has been covering over the natural grid of the woven canvas itself. Do you have any weaving experience or interest in learning to weave?

SVL: I’m glad you mentioned that. I received my MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute, where there is a real importance on understanding the linage and history of the work you are making and ideas you explore. I’m well aware of and influenced by prolific artists like Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly and Sol Lewitt, as well as contemporaries such as Jim Isserman, Amy Ellingson and Nike Schröder, for their use of color, form and ideas as they relate to art history, culture and technology.

My domestic sewing machine and overlock/serger machine never has time to collect dust because I use both so frequently for alterations and making my own clothing. I’m obsessed with well-tailored clothing. A few years ago, my mom taught me how to crotchet. I have to be careful because I love compulsive, laborious projects, and drawing already consumes a lot of my time.

I would love to get some instruction on weaving or creating textiles on a loom. Do you know anyone in the Bay Area you can introduce me to? Haha! My work has been used with a few research projects in fashion and textiles. It would be fun to collaborate with a designer on avant-garde and conceptual textile designs. I get a lot of recommendations to put my work into fashion. For me, it would need to be the right project. Although the drawings are influenced by fashion, I don’t envision just silk-screening them onto t-shirts. It would be important for me to get my hands and understanding on the technical side of a fashion project, then develop the conceptual parameters. There is a lot of potential there. I’m sure when the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll be on board.

Shelf Life 003
2013
Ink on Paper
22" x 30"

OPP: Tell us about the process and experience of drawing so many straight lines. Free hand or ruler?

SVL: I can’t give up all my secrets! However, I will tell you that I don’t use any pencil or preliminary under-drawing. It’s all hand-drawn with ink, and it’s a one-shot deal. I like that intense precision. I’m obsessed with the notion of a human imitating a machine to produce work. It makes the drawings more personal and valuable on both a conceptual and tangible level. Also, I have to learn a formula for each pattern and repeat the math in my head as I’m drawing. I don’t write down or record any formulas. Instead, I sing the numbering in my head. All these years of drawing, I have developed an ability to measure out the spacing really accurately. The entire process feeds my obsessive-compulsive need to make laborious, challenging and meticulous hand-made work. I thrive off it. It’s fulfilling and rewarding!

Patches 008
2013
Ink on Paper
9.5" x 13.25"

OPP: On the one hand, the drawings from Patches (2013) are pure color and pattern. They evoke plaid fabric scraps and bring to mind patchwork quilts and mended clothing. But these patches seem to have personality. The more I look at them, they become blobby beings hugging one another instead of flat scraps of fabric. Could you talk about your intentions in this body of work?

SVL: After making about 30 of the abstract pattern drawing from Some Strings Attached, which is a ongoing series, I wanted to work on drawings that could be a little more organic, personal, quirky and silly. By using blobby shapes, the swatches transform into these interesting characters with personalities. I come from a very big, supportive, funny, loving Mexican family, and I wanted to use these amoebas to tell stories about the relationships with my family and friends in a vaguely narrative way. The patches are beautiful and resourceful support systems for one another, disregarding judgment based on economic elitism. I’m glad to hear that you see a few of them hugging each other. That is exactly what is going on.

Some Strings Attached 111
2014
Ink on Paper
14" x 17"

OPP: Talk about the metaphors of the snag and the unraveling edge.



SVL: Initially, I didn’t intend on any unraveling in the drawings. I needed a project that I could do while traveling so the series started without “imperfections.” I made about fifteen perfect uninterrupted pattern drawings. Then I hit some turbulence on a plane and messed up a drawing that I had been working on for about five hours. I put it aside and had to deal with the disappointment. When I pulled the drawing out a few days later, I realized that moment of disruption was the precise moment of awareness in the work. It turned out that a happy accident was my awaking into Some Strings Attached.

One metaphor is that we spend so much of our daily lives on autopilot, trying to keep life stable, predictable and consistent. This way of living is so consuming that we forget to look around and be in the moment. We need to get off our phones and devices and pay attention to the real nuances and quirks that make life special and memorable.

On a personal level, I spent a lot of my younger years making sense of diversity. A large part of the population conforms to preconceived ideas of success and lifestyle. We need to teach both our youth and “old dogs” to embrace difference. There’s nothing more boring and depressing than a homogenous culture. Self-deprecation based on the ideals and expectations of others is a disease learned at an early, impressionable age. Let’s embrace and celebrate our uniqueness, rather than oppress and demonize anything or anyone outside of our comfort zone. I’m optimistic that it’s getting better with more awareness and visibility, but there’s still more terrain to cover. A snag in my drawings can either be viewed as a mistake or a beautiful, unique moment. It’s all perspective. How do you look at life?

To see more of Steven's work, please visit stevenvlopez.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 Serena Cole

Black Mirror I (detail)
2012
Colored pencil and gouache on paper
35" x 28"

SERENA COLE positions herself as a “hopeless outsider and wary researcher,” as well as as “a cultural anthropologist and an obsessive, self-aware consumer of highly seductive imagery.” Her drawings in colored pencil, gouache, watercolor and ink explore both the repulsion and attraction to an unattainable fantasy promised by fashion advertising. Serena received her MFA (2011) from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She is currently an instructor at the Art Studio at UC Berkeley. Her solo exhibitions include Through the Glass Darkly (2012) at Soo Visual Arts Center in Minneapolis and I Wanna Be Adored (2009) at Triple Base Gallery in San Francisco. Serena lives and works in the Bay Area.

OtherPeoplesPixels: According to your bio, "[An] extreme isolation from culture and civilization created a fetishized association with anything perceived of as high art, fashion, or wealth. [Serena] can still recall every page of the only Vogue she was ever given as a child. This incurable affliction followed her into adulthood and her art career. . ." How does your personal experience of fashion magazines influence the art work you make based on this source material?

Serena Cole: I cite this little snippet from my childhood to offer anyone interested in my work the specific root of my obsessions. In many ways, my reaction to a lot of this imagery was similar to that of any other teen girl. It's almost ingrained in girl culture to rip a picture of a something you like out of a magazine and stick it to the wall. However, because I was so far removed from the reality of anything I wanted—a pair of jeans or being at a cool art party or buying even a new album at a record store—my obsessions and fantasies became my dreamscape. I lived in them entirely to avoid the fact that I was physically in the middle of nowhere. I didn't need the real thing, so particularly unattainable images like fashion ads weren't and still aren't problematic for me. I much prefer to live in the fantasy of the images I am drawn to. It’s like living in the Matrix. My drawings allow me to stay there as long as I want, but I can also completely control the dream. I can change the colors, change the composition, change the facial features. I can be outside, looking in. But I also create the fantasy from the inside out in my drawings, allowing me to have pure dominion over all my desires. 

I'm Dead, I'm Dead, I'm Dead
2011
Watercolor, colored pencil, ink, gouache, photo transfer, and gold leaf on paper
46" x 36"

OPP: Are your drawings recreations of specific images taken from magazines? How much do you modify the image in your process? What kinds of images are you most attracted to?

SC: I am mostly drawn to images of people. I am interested in the psychological aspects of the facial expressions and of the gaze. I find all the sources for my drawings in expensive fashion magazines because I am deeply fascinated by the model or celebrity as a vehicle for fantasies. These images of people are made to be looked at, but not only that. They are made to exist as avatars. A glimpse of what kind of you is possible with the right merchandise. It is fascinating that the people in these high-end fantasy images are often emotionally distraught or completely vacant, almost dead. It suggests to me that we don't always fantasize about being one kind of person, but many fucked-up versions of ourselves. I modify these images only slightly, sometimes making these avatar creatures even more emotional, dark or sickly. It comes from a need to control them, instead of feeling that they are superior to me in some way. They become an army of versions of me.

OPP: Why do all these women seem so sad? Do you consciously avoid the fashion campaigns that employ images of joie de vivre?

SC: I have no interest in happy paintings in the same way I can't listen to the Cure past 1989 because they suddenly cheered up. I am interested in telling a subtle story with the expressions in my work, and there is no story in happy. It's boring to me because I am still an angsty teenager stuck in my room.

Ecstasy Face V
2010
Watercolor, colored pencil, and gouache on paper
24" x 20"

OPP: The titles in your Tropes (2010-2012) are really successful at highlighting your position as a self-proclaimed "wary researcher," a cultural anthropologist" and "an obsessive, self-aware consumer." You've identified recurring visual tropes in fashion advertising in works like Ecstasy Face IV, We Wish We Could Find the Sublime I (2011) and I'm An Animal, I'm Going to Eat You I (2010). Do you think the average consumer of these magazines is oblivious or savvy to these tropes nowadays?

SC: I'm not sure what the average consumer thinks. I don't feel it is my job to teach anyone anything that they are not already picking up on. I might not even be right about the armchair psychology findings that I'm presenting. I do find that, in talking to people about my source material, I am always asked to choose a side: am I for or against fashion? This comes from a variety of political beliefs that people are entitled to have. But I would really rather be talking with people about the nuances and hypocrisies of our own dreams, fears and desires. I am 100% aware that I am drawn to sick, unlivable, sexist images. It doesn't mean that I REALLY want it. I just want it for a second. Advertising is highly sophisticated and complex, and there's no surprise that what I want is unattainable. That is practically the definition of desire. But I feel like the difference is owning up to those desires, of being able to admit that you sometimes DO want to be comatose, sexually sublimated, socially deviant, etc. Most people are not honest enough with themselves.

Black Mirror II
2012
Colored pencil and gouache on paper
24" x 36"

OPP: Tell us about your most recent body of work Black Mirrors. What are these drawings reflecting?

SC: I was mostly thinking about my relationship and reaction to specific images I gathered of models who were acknowledging their own positions as subjects of desire. As idealized magazine figures, they were photographed for the purpose of evoking someone else's desire. However, they don't give you exactly what you want from them. These are not pin-ups with come-hither expressions. These are images of subjects choosing to confront the viewer. They look back, essentially making the viewer into the subject. This complicated relationship between desiring/being desired/seeing yourself as being desired is an example of Lacan's psychoanalytic theory of the Mirror Stage (a greater 'gestalt' figure versus reality). I found myself looking at these models as versions of who I wished I was. I also wanted to give them more autonomy than they have in the original photos. These mirrors of me as my fantasy selves are also pissed at being made into subjects, so I gave them all I-don't-give-a-fuck expressions.

OPP: What's going on in your studio right now?

SC: I have my hands in a lot of different cookie jars at the moment. As an experiment, I've been taking my own photographs to paint from, researching objects and figures I desire or find intriguing. I'm working on two series, one of people I know and the other of floral still lives I find. I also have a body of work of narrative, fucked-up, slightly surreal large-scale paintings that are taking a very long time to finish. And I am working on experiments with more three-dimensional, paper headdress projects. It's difficult to prepare for any kind of show working in this way, but all these projects inform each other. With more time, I hope to have a number of paintings I am happy with.

To see more of Serena's work, please visit serenacole.org.

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 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.