OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Gabrielle Teschner

Reach Key, 2017. watercolor and acrylic, cotton fabric, thread. 9 inches x 10 inches

Sculptor GABRIELLE TESCHNER creates pieced, fabric images of architectural forms from her surrounding environment. She pairs clean, sharp seams with raw, jagged edges, rendering columns, two-by-fours and bricks flexible and foldable. Gabrielle received her BFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2003 and her MFA from California College of the Arts in 2007. In 2016 she was an Artist-in-Residence at Irving Street Projects (San Francisco) and in 2017 at the Studios of Key West. In February 2018, she will begin a residency at the Tappan Collective in Los Angeles. Her work is included in the permanent collection of the De Young Museum (San Francisco), and Gabrielle has exhibited throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Gabrielle lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us a bit about your background as an artist. What came first in your practice, painting or sewing?

Gabrielle Teschner: Sewing fabric was an early part of my sculpture practice. It was just one way among many that I used to manifest an idea. Back then, I was combining textile elements with wood and welded parts on a large scale. The painting department was one floor above, in a heaven I could not touch. When I moved to the West Coast from Virginia, I stopped using those heavy materials in favor of portable ones but I never stopped loving the physicality of them. I gesture to architecture and monumentality in my work, but even the largest of my sculptures (up to 14 feet long and 8 feet high) will fit in a carry-on. Sewing helps me make sculpture that moves.

Favela, 2013. acrylic painted on cotton. 15 x 22 inches

OPP: You identify as a sculptor, yet your works are nearly, but not exactly, two-dimensional. How do you think about form and dimension in your work?

GT: Space is very important to me. I think about the front and the back, and I think about the sides. I think of my artworks having relief and surroundings. I consider their environment.

In the beginning I was thinking about two things: flags used to stake territory and what it would mean to make a wall that could be folded and unfolded in different places. A lot of my artworks have traveled with me. It’s a little comical to me to continue to insist that these somewhat flat, painted things are sculptures, but it keeps me honest to my intuitions.

After Bacon's Freud (triptych), 2013. acrylic ink on muslin. each 10 inches x 7 inches

OPP: Tell us about your process of cutting, coloring, ironing and sewing. Are you a planner or an intuitive maker?

GT: Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. The plans are intuitive. Sometimes I just use my scissors to draw out the work. There is a point when you get so accustomed to a process, that doing the individual techniques are the last thing on your mind. Now you can focus on other things. I get so anxious and excited about seeing the finished work because for all my planning, I will never ever be able to predict the end result. I like the planning and letting-go to be at odds with one another. Those seams in the fabric remove a large portion of my plan, especially in the smaller pieces. I can make pictures in my head, I can draw them out, I can fold them from paper to mock them up, but in the end, the work is completely foreign to me, a new thing that now exists in the world because of my urging.

Broken Law and The Builded (installation view), 2014

OPP: Geometric abstraction dominates your work. Sometimes that abstraction refers to existing symbolic forms in the world, as with The Fly Side Project, or architecture, as with the works that are based on the tile work of an Iranian mosque. More recent works seem way more open ended, with no clear material referents. Can you talk about this shift?

GT: Actually, my current works make reference to building materials: two-by-fours and bricks and concrete blocks. All the folding-under does abstract those forms, but they are still pointing to objects-in-the-world. I construct everything with straight lines. Even when I want to suggest curves, I just use more lines. This means that any form I depict will necessarily be a composition of polygons. If there are bends and multiple planes in the original image, there are more seams, and therefore more of the image is lost in the seams.

I think that true representation is abstraction. Our experience of the world is not confined to a single vantage point. Our relationship to objects is never fixed. I’m moving, it’s moving.

The Great Weight, 2016. Watercolor and acrylic, cotton fabric, thread. 12 inches x 27 inches.

OPP: You've just revealed the bias of my Fiber and Material Studies background! I was looking at works like The Course of the Early Shore (2016) and Dade County Pine (2016) through the lens of piecing and patchwork. I was thinking about the fold/join itself, the line it creates and the disruption of the surface. I also imagined each piece as one piece of fabric that was cut down and folded down, so I was thinking about the loss of space in relation to the seam allowance—that lost part of the fabric. But I didn't see the image, in the same way I saw it in West Chair (2016). Can you say more about the objects you choose to render through this process?

GT: You’re right, the loss of fabric in those smaller, more complex works create so much loss of space that the original drawing becomes nearly unrecognizable. Every sewn work contains that loss at a varying degree, like stages of ruin, so that a larger piece like West Chair is still distinctly a chair, even if the edges are not perfectly aligned.  

While I don’t have a specific criteria for the objects I choose, they tend to be parts of the buildings around me. They are architectural. Each brick and stair-step are parts of something larger, but are in themselves complete. I like to isolate these parts—to see what they do on their own.

Tile Floor Tile, in situ, 2016. acrylic painted on cotton. 44 x 44 inches

OPP: Do you think about your work in relation to quilting as a practice or quilts as textiles?

GT: I am making an effort to claim textiles as a building material. I relate to quilting only in as much as it is a method for joining together two pieces of fabric. I do use the language of quilting in my work but only as a woodworker uses joinery to push two boards together. The first time I made a “tile wall” out of fabric, I was so committed to the idea of building a soft mosaic wall that it wasn’t until I’d sewn 500 squares together and stepped back that I realized I was doing quilt-work.

The Path, 2016. watercolor on muslin. 92 inches x 168 inches.

OPP: In recent years, your works have been monochromatic. How do you make decisions about color in your studio?

GT: I used gray for a long time because it was the color of concrete and of shadows. It looked heavy sometimes, and immaterial at others. In thinking about three dimensional objects, I’m interested in the way they are suggested by the shade of their planes. Even the shadow suggests that the thing exists. When I walk past a lamppost, I think “lamppost,” and when I walk past the shadow of a lamppost, I also think “lamppost." In a way, that shadow contains the essence of the thing. I experiment now with a lot of different colors to see how they change my perception of material and dimension, temperature and weight.

To see more of Gabrielle's work, please visit gabrielleteschner.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indiana 2017). In March 2018, her solo installation Where Do We Go From Here? will open at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois). In conjunction, the atrium will exhibit two-dimensional artwork by artists who were invited by Stacia to make new work also titled  Where Do We Go From Here?

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Andrea Myers

Orange Horizon (Detail)
Machine sewn fabric collage
20 x 120 inches

OtherPeoplesPixels: You identify yourself as a painter who works in sculpture and your BFA was in printmaking, so I imagine a time when you worked primarily in 2D. Was this ever true?

Andrea Myers: Yes. I began my pursuits as an artist, taking classes in mainly painting and printmaking and finishing my BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I found myself more engaged in the processes I was learning in my printmaking classes than with the actual resulting prints I was making. I was never really good about being precious or careful with prints I made, inevitably getting stray marks or “happy accidents” all over my paper. At some point, I started cutting my prints up, maybe out of frustration and maybe out of rebellion against two-dimensional expectations. I think that’s when I started activating a part of me that was interested in the materials and processes of printmaking and painting, such as paper, fabric, paint and color, and taking those elements and making them more malleable and tactile.

OPP: What prompted the change in your practice that led to "exploring the space between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional, hybridizing painting, printmaking and sculpture," as you say in your statement?

AM: The transition in my work from exclusively two-dimensional to predominantly three-dimensional happened very slowly and incrementally. In stages, I found myself stepping off of the flatness of the wall and growing my work out into dimensional space. I began layering materials that I felt comfortable with, mainly paper. I experimented using the materials in multiple, rather than using paper solely as a means to make repetitions of imagery. The paper and then fabric became the subject matter, like painting in dimensional space, creating sculptural objects that relate to the color and forms found in painting.

Layered fabric, foam, glue, thread
65 x 50 x 20 inches

OPP: Could you talk more about how your overall process relates to painting?

AM: I really struggled with my first painting class. I was horrible at oil painting, probably too impatient, which is funny to say, because you could look at my current work and assume I am a very patient person to sit and layer small shapes of fabric and glue them together one by one.

In graduate school, I was in the Fiber and Material Studies department at SAIC, and our studios were mixed with the Painting and Drawing department. I found myself in a love hate relationship with painting, enamored by the possibilities of color and form but questioning the traditional format of painting. I began making what I now consider “exercises.” I would make a quick, gestural fabric collage and then make a seemingly exact replica out of painted wood. The pairs would be positioned together, testing the perception of the viewer. The Duplicate Series, as I called them, was a major epiphany in my work. In hindsight, I feel like I was breaking down my practice to the base level of what I was interested in, almost like finding my work’s DNA structure, so that I could then build it back up.

When I talk about my work now, I like to consider myself a “maker.” Each project or form I create leads me to my next work. It might involve sewing, drawing, printing on fabric, or cutting forms out of wood. I try to keep my practice fluid and take elements and processes from mediums that seem appropriate to my concepts for the pieces.

Pretty much every piece I make starts as a black and white contour line drawing in my sketchbook. Over time, the idea grows into a dimensional form, occupying physical space. But what is interesting to me is that the piece inevitably returns to its flat origins when I photograph the piece (usually for documentation for my website). In a way, every piece, no matter how dimensional it becomes, will spend most of its existence, its representation in the world, as a flat two-dimensional image. So perhaps every sculpture I make could really be seen as an idea for a painting of sorts.

Isthmus (Detail)
Layered fabric, glue, acrylic, wood
20 x 32 x 144 inches

OPP: Your work relies heavily on accumulation, which speaks both to the organic and the manufactured. Your titles often evoke naturally occurring processes and formations (i.e. melting, thawing, drifting, fissures, webs, avalanches, plateaus), while your color palette and chosen materials (felt, commercially-produced fabric, paper) conversely evoke the manufactured. Can you talk about this apparent disjuncture?

AM: I have always been interested in presenting contrasts or tensions in my work. The starting point would be exploring the space between two- and three-dimensionality or what constitutes a two-dimensional piece versus a threedimensional piece. My approach to sculpture is to take flat materials and stack, layering and amassing the material so that it loses its initial flatness and starts to become a whole made up of many layered increments.

Inevitably, the central focus in my work tends to be abstractions of nature or perceived nature, and I am interested in how historically human kind has tried to harness and control nature only for nature to become more uncontrollable. My pieces function as a mediated version of nature. I attempt to illustrate the behavior of nature through bold, saturated color in contrast to how we generally perceive nature. I juxtapose natural forms with typically unnatural, intensified colors such as florescent orange or Technicolor striations. I look to color’s intensity as a means to visually illustrate the uncontrollability of nature while also working against the typical white wall format of a gallery space, creating forms that disrupt the linear, clean and neutral setting of the traditional exhibition space. Consistently in my work, there is also a contrast between the presence of my hand and the use of a tool. I go back and forth between cutting layers of fabric individually by hand, implementing a sewing machine to create line work, and using a jig-saw or band saw to cut forms from wood. Even with manufactured materials and machines, the individual artist uses each machine so differently. I see all of my materials like tubes of paint, in line with Duchamp’s notion that tubes of paint are ready-made and so every painting in the world is a readymade object; every artist in the postmodern world is dealing with “readymades,” but each artist’s hand and idea is what makes original works of art.

Fabric, polystyrene, plaster, latex paint
50 x 55 x 30 inches

OPP: I personally find your work unbelievably beautiful. There's something profound to me about forms that immediately reveal their processes and labor, as if the beauty lies as much in the process as in the resulting form. Does this resonate with your interests as an artist? Does beauty play a role in your work?

AM: I love that you mention beauty. Doesn’t it seem like we aren’t allowed to discuss such a thing in contemporary art sometimes? I feel like often times, we can lose sight of the fact that at the core of art making, there is an individual making the work, a person who has feelings and imperfections and is human. My work is a reflection of my personal observations and, for better or worse, is an extension of myself. I have always loved to be in nature and experience the fundamental forms and behaviors of nature that I find fascinating and compelling. The processes I utilize in constructing work emulate events found in nature: slow erosions or accruals that shape and shift land over time, sometimes rapidly, sometimes subtly. I find beauty in the cyclical behavior of nature, in the growth and in the decay and in all of the moments in between.

Spill Thaw
Ink on fabric, glue, foam
15 x 17 x 19 inches

OPP: What's an average day in your studio like?

AM: Ahhh, I wish I could have a whole “studio day,” but usually my practice comes in fits and starts, typically a couple hours at a time or less. Now that I have an almost two-year old daughter, her naptime and bedtime dictate when I can concentrate on my work. I have maintained a home studio ever since I was the artist-in-residence at Central Michigan University in 2007, where I was given a house in the woods with a studio to live and work in during the school year. I sometimes miss having a studio outside of my house, but ultimately it is so convenient and nice to be able to go look at something I am working on, even if it is just for a moment. It seems like I try to do a lot of mental pre-planning and drawing in my sketchbooks, so that when I do have the time to work, I am focused and decisive. Some days, I will just sit down and try things, making little collages or work on developing new processes. It also depends on deadlines, if I have a commission deadline or a show deadline. I am more likely to be very strategic when I go to my studio. When I am working in my studio, it feels very much like a meditative process. The repetition of accumulating layers or stitches from the sewing machine over and over allows my mind to rest or wander, and I get absorbed into the present moment of making.

To view more of Andrea Myers’ work visit andreamyersartist.com.