OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Elisabeth Piccard

Pulsus, 2016
Attache à tête d'équerre (Ty-Rap), Pelxiglass, canevas enduit de vinyle, D.E.L., microcontrôleur, MDF peint
18'' x 60'' x 30''
Programmation : Ghislain Brodeur
Crédit photo: Jean-Michael Seminaro et SODEC

ELISABETH PICARD expertly manipulates a variety of materials into unexpected forms, while maintaining their material identities. For the last five years, she has transformed manufactured, plastic zip-ties into organisms, land forms and architectural curtains, emphasizing accumulation, texture and transparency. Elisabeth earned her BFA in 2004 from University of Quebec and her MFA in 2011 from Concordia University, both in Montréal, Quebec. She has exhibited widely throughout Quebec, including solo exhibitions at Materia (2012) in Quebec City and the Centre d’Exposition de Mont-Laurier (2012). In 2016, she created two new pieces at the Centre d’exposition Raymond-Lasnier for the Biennale Nationale de Sculpture Contemporaine, which are on view until September 9, 2016. Elisabeth is represented by Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto. She lives in Montréal, Quebec.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk about the relationship of the single unit to the whole in your work and in nature?

Elisabeth Picard: I often use single zip-tie units in repetition to create a massive texture. I also assemble a few single units to create hand-sized pieces that may be seen as miniature sculptures or sculptural sketches for a gigantic construction. Single units can also be attached together to create bigger pieces. I often think of my pieces as similar to permeable cellular forms that are bound together because both configurations would let water and light pass through.

It is the architectural potential of the material—to be cut, bent and torn— and its translucency that stimulates me to create organic and abstract shapes. My relationship with nature surfaces by itself, even when the plastic material is far from nature. The forces of nature create growth, movement and transformation in animals, plants, cells and landscapes. My sculptures could be associated with some static stage within those realms. 

Défragmentation, 2014
Detail
Dyed zip-ties, LED light, enamel painted aluminum and steel
Dye Sébastien Jutras
Photo credit: Ghislain Brodeur

OPP: When did you first begin to work with zip-ties?

EP: One of my major interests lies in the possibilities of the material and the pure pleasure of exploring many ways of manipulating it, following my intuition and gestures. I distinguish my production and creativity from that of other artists because my intention is to develop ingenious applications of different materials. Before using zip-ties, I worked with rattan, wood, metal, resin, beeswax, plywood and single face cardboard.

While studying for my Master’s Degree in Fibre Arts at Concordia University, Montreal, I discovered how important and creative contemporary basketry is in the U.S. In 2010, when I was about to start new work for my thesis, I went to the library at my favourite museum, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). There I opened a magazine and saw a 3D representation of a translucent wave of spikes. I had a flash of working with zip-ties. I created my first significant piece Flot and then 18 small sculptures known as Constructions in 2011. As I was developing this new body of work, I went online to see how this material was being used and I realized that there was great potential for me to manipulate it in a personal way, because I consider it like some sort of Meccano. Since then, I have been continually evolving with this material, integrating dyes and programmed LED lights. With some hindsight, I realize that my use of zip-ties is a continuation of early works with rattan but with the intriguing properties of resin.

Coccolithophoridés, 2013
Dyed zip-ties, with plexi light box
17.25 x 17.25 x 6 inches
Photo credit: Michel Dubreuil


OPP: Your titles often refer to single-celled organisms—Nuées : Ceratium, Phacus, Closterium (2014), Asterionellopsis glacialis (2013) and Diatomée 5 (2013) are just a few examples. What role does scientific research play in your practice?

EP: Science and nature are my major sources of inspiration: I have studied the work of D’Arcy Thompson, Peter S. Stevens and Buckminster Fuller. Looking at their work, I encountered beautiful antique illustrations of radolaires and other sorts of cells, seaweeds and invertebrates. I have become very interested in the relationship of growth and transformation in evolution. These features inspire my work without leading me to represent them. It is more of a parallel universe that I study for its formal constructions.

I find it very difficult to give a title to a body of work and not have it suggest a single reading for the viewer. Because few people know Latin, I use these terms to give more of a clue that can be researched later. Furthermore, specific cellular and phytoplankton names are a source of inspiration for titles of new shapes that I have just created because they happen to look similar.

Strongylocentrotus, 2013
Dyed zip-ties, with plexi light box
15 x 15.75 x 8 inches
Photo credit: Michel Dubreuil

OPP: In your earlier work (early 2000s), there are a lot of recurring forms: voids, circles, tubes, and mazes, all of which also had the quality of cumulative, organic growth that is still present in your more recent installations that now make more direct references to natural forms and organisms. Was this a conscious shift? Or something that grew out of material changes?

EP: My earlier work referred to a spiritual state that is the result of observing sacred architecture. I was interested in the personal or grounded self-connection that develops during the state of contemplation and elevation of the spirit without the religious content. I discovered that this interest was linked to the thought of Indigenous peoples: for them the spirit is grounded within nature. My work kept the same approach but took another form: a reading that relates to the basic architecture already present in nature’s shapes and force. Karl Blossfeldt’s black-and-white photographs of specimens show this.

Rainbow mountains, 2015
60,000 dyed zip-ties
6 x 5 x 7 feet
Detail
Dye: Sébastien Jutras
Photo Credit: Michel Dubreuil

OPP: Setting content and imagery aside, describe your experience in the studio making work built from repetitive processes. What do mean by the phrase “meditative approach?” Do you think of your studio practice as a meditation practice?

EP: I do not consider my art practice as meditative. However, creating work stimulated by the material’s potential is a form of focused involvement. Also the fact that I produce a massive construction through repetitive action requires a capacity of endurance. While making a large body of work, I may let my mind become centred in another state, or maybe I am being simply obsessive compulsive.

When I am creating work, I like to think about the boundaries of scale. I imagine that my miniature work could be gigantic for a firefly. At the opposite end of the scale, some of the larger installations could be seen as Nano texture, a piece of material bigger than the building that hosts my work. Also, I like to look at textures and patterns that attract and excite me. I have a tendency to create dense work that demands a lot of visual attention, and I play visually with depth and surface to make the viewers lose their points of reference, if they so wish.

I use a ‘’meditative approach’’ more with the idea of producing an awareness of nature, of showing its power and capacity for change, thus showing respect for our interconnection with nature and understanding of what we do to it. However, I am not an ecological artist, and no art works are truly green or have zero impact. I am trying to be better in my everyday life and to compensate in other ways, but I feel torn because I love both nature and plastic.

Waitomo cave, 2016
Plexiglass, canevas enduit de vinyle, D.E.L., attache à tête d'équerre (Ty-Rap), microcontrôleur et détecteur de mouvement
2' x 10' x 15' (variable)
Crédit photo: Jean-Michael Seminaro et SODEC

OPP: What's next for you? Where do you see your work going in the near future?


EP: As I begin work on a commissions, I explore various ways of using the zip-ties and I discover unfamiliar readings for them. For example, the mineral world is full of colours and unusual shapes. So my abstract constructions and textures take on exciting new readings. These new opportunities push me to be creative and technically adept. This also requires me to continue developing my drawing skills on the computer because laser cutting is so practical for making a structure that can receive zip-ties. In parallel to the permanent works, one of my future goals is to introduce movement, using electronic components in some pieces to create work that flows into space.

To see more of Elisabeth's work, please visit elisabethpicard.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). In March 2016, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work will be included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition as part of the ANNUAL, on view from September 16 - 29, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Johnathan Payne

Bound #1
Ballpoint pen and ink pen on paper
6 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in.
2015

The racialized and gendered body—his body—is the jumping off point for JOHNATHAN PAYNE's performance, sculpture and installation. His performances include rituals that embody endurance, self-investigation, self-care and preparation for facing the world as a human in a particular body. Coming at the same content from another direction, his Constructions—beautiful, airy, fragile curtains, meticulously assembled from shredded, colored printer paper and comic books—and ballpoint pen drawings of dense, wavy lines that evoke human hair explore the body through abstraction and materiality. Johnathan earned his BA in Art in 2012 from Rhodes College, where he was the recipient of the Sally Becker Grinspan Award for Artistic Achievement. His solo exhibitions include New Drawings (2014) at Beige, Accumulations (2013) at InsideOut Gym and DHOOOOOOM! (2011) at Jack Robinson Gallery, all in Memphis. In 2015, he collaborated with photographer D'Angelo Williams on Room to Let, created and exhibited at First Congregational Church in Memphis. He will exhibit new Constructions and collage work at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery. The fair will take place at Somerset House in London on October 6-9, 2016. Johnathan currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee but will be heading to Yale this fall to pursue his MFA in Painting/Printmaking.

OtherPeoplesPixels: “Intense preoccupations with self-concept, desire, and tribalism [were] the points of departure for” Meet Me Where I’m At (2015), a solo show that included sculpture and performance. The title reads to me as a call away from tribalism, a call to see humans as individuals, not others. Can you say more about how you think about tribalism?

Johnathan Payne: I define tribalism as the organization of individuals who have a deep kinship over a shared culture or commonality. A fraternity, an ethnic or racial group, and a church congregation are examples of tribes to me, and such tribes were catalysts for the conceptualization of the show. I also think about tribalism in relation to time and space, and how people can go in and out of particular tribes depending on those two variables. The show was the outcome of a lot of personal existential questioning. I was beginning to question my positioning in the tribes that I deemed myself a part of but felt somewhat distant to: past and (then) present relationships, the Black/Queer community, and my then live/work space at a church, to name a few. I wanted to examine the isolation I felt as an individual in relation to certain tribes and the difference between identifying as a tribe member and actively participating as one. So, your interpretation of seeing humans as individuals and not (or, interrelation to) others is very spot on.

Partial Self-Portrait
Graphite, ink pen and India ink on paper
12 in. x 12 1/2 in.
2012

OPP: How do self-concept and desire play into, ignite or counteract tribalism?

JP: The past, current, and future self—elements that make up a self-concept—are occasionally at odds with one another. I think this oddity with one’s self is experienced by everyone at some point or another. Usually, I process some of these inner emotions/self schemas by asking myself, “What the fuck are you doing?” or “What were you thinking?” or “Where are you going?” These questions may sound ruminative and self-shaming, but they help me be real with myself and get to the meat of my personal goals and desires. Desire is a double-edged sword for me. I’ve felt the desire to be someone I inherently am not, to be among people whose tribe I don’t have immediate access to or would have to mute or sacrifice an aspect of myself to gain access to. These inner conflicts with certain desires have negatively informed my self-concept, and have brought certain insecurities to the surface in distressful ways. Meet Me Where I’m At ultimately became an attempt to reconcile my relationship with myself, and to see myself unique to the tribes I occupy and the ones I desired to be in.
   
It was important for me to work across disciplines and engage in time-intensive processes to create the work. I was thinking about the body a lot, specifically a racialized and gendered body, my body. I was questioning my relationship to my body and how my body existed in space and how it was being perceived by others. Poly-consciousness is very central to my lived experience, and the show became an opportunity to explore a personal multidimensionality across materials and forms. Mental endurance, positive self-talk and perseverance are all tools I use in my daily life to push through internal drama induced by the external world. Physical fitness seemed like an appropriate vehicle to examine this self-preservation. The home workout excited me because it is rooted in self-care, but also in solitude. There’s comfort in not being seen working out, in not being susceptible to the perceptions of other gym-goers. I wanted to turn all that on its head by doing Tae Bo in a gallery, to conflate the concepts of isolation, self-improvement and the external gaze.

Meet Me Where I'm At
Live performance/installation exhibition at Crosstown Arts (Memphis, TN)
May 8, 2015.

OPP: You did a performance for the same show, in which you performed a series of secular rituals—shaving your beard and hair, doing a Tae Bo video in a gym-mat-shaped ring of tea lights, bathing, and reading floating fortune cookies followed by beer-bonging your own bath water. In the documentation, we can’t see everything that the live viewers saw. What else can you tell us that we may have missed by not seeing this live?

JP: The live performance spanned roughly one and a half hours, start-to-finish. The audience and I were both entrapped in a lot of time together. There were many sounds of feet shuffling, people conversing, and beer and soda cans popping open by mid-performance. With the exception of shaving my head, bathing, and beer-bonging bath water, most of the performance was spent with my back facing the audience. It was a very personal experience for me, and the audience’s experience was secondary to my own. Occasionally, during the duration of the Tae Bo workout, I would stop to drink water from a bottle I placed outside the tea lights. There was a bit of comicality visible to a live audience, specifically when I responded with disbelief to particularly intense exercises. Audience members cheered me on when I got tired, or when I looked like I was really struggling to perform the moves. Eventually, some of the tea lights burned out entirely.

The Tae Bo workout was projected directly onto the wall, so the scale of the video was large. It consumed me, and in a way I had to compete for the audience’s attention, because the Tae Bo video is rather dynamic to watch on its own. In the video, you see Billy Blanks in the foreground a majority of the time. The fitness studio where the video was filmed has a padded red floor, with various signs on the walls. There is a large, diverse group of people participating in the video. Many racial groups, ages, and genders are represented. There are also a variety of fitness levels represented too. But, collectively, everyone looks confident and has a strong physique. The front row contains people who are incredibly fit, and they maintain the pace of Blanks’ commands. The video was produced and distributed in the year 2000, and it definitely feels stylistically and aesthetically dated in that sense. Billy is a very lively figure throughout the video. He is encouraging, uplifting, militant and authoritative, all in one. My body language throughout the performance shifts, particularly during and after the bathing sequence. At that point, I am directly facing the audience and actively engaging with them. It was certainly me at my most vulnerable moment, but also my most powerful moment.

Meet Me Where I'm At
Performance still
2015

OPP: A year later, what do you think about your own performance?

JP: This performance continues to be a lot for me to unpack. I think about my relationship to Billy Blanks and how his projection of Black masculinity is very divergent from my own. My attempt to mirror his appearance and keep pace with him is difficult, unsuccessful and ultimately unnecessary. I find comfort in that “failure,” in that ability to affirm Blackness across a spectrum, detached from competition and a monolithic representation. I still contemplate the line between self-care and self-medication, and my relationships to my past and current self. I continue to ask myself a lot of questions surrounding who I am and how I exist in the world. Ultimately, I think the performance challenged me to relinquish some of the internalizations that impeded me from being able to be my authentic self.

Constructions
Installation view
2015

OPP: In your Constructions (2015-present), made from both shredded comic books and colored printer paper, I’m most interested in the idea of transforming a narrative form into abstraction, even if it is an abstraction that hints at a functional object (a curtain). Can you discuss the two different papers in relation to the forms?

JP: My Constructions series developed from an ongoing interest to appropriate comic books in my work. Since 2011, I have explored the comic image and consider Ray Yoshida and his retrospective at the Sullivan Galleries at SAIC to be one of the most significant moments for me as a visual artist. Seeing the way Yoshida extracted and arranged forms from various comic books into specimen-like formations against spacious white grounds really stuck with me. In my Constructions, I make tapestry-like collages that attempt to evoke the vulnerability, complexity and tactility intrinsic to particular embodied identities. These evocations are manifested through color, pattern, and material. I play with color and pattern in different ways depending on the paper I choose.

When I shred comic book paper, the compositional and formal elements become colorful strips of pixelated, whimsical information. I then play around with these strips, creating patterned designs until I discover one that is compelling enough for me to explore further. Then, I set out to make a large scale artwork. From a distance, there is a formal uniformity to the Constructions made out of comic book paper. Yet, when viewed at an intimate distance, the comic Constructions offer a lot of complexity and detail in relation to color, line, and subject matter. I deconstruct depictions of whiteness, “justice,” heteronormativity, and patriarchy embedded in many comic books. The resulting form is not intended to be a reimagining or response to the original comic narrative. Though a familiarity exists, my goal is to transform the material into something rather unconventional.

I developed a stronger interest to play with color in my work after exploring the art of Black Abstractionists. The work of Alma Thomas, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Odili Donald Odita, Howardina Pindell and Stanley Whitney really resonates with me. So, I began to experiment with colored printer paper. I enjoyed that, similar to comic books, there was already visual information to respond to, though in this instance, it’s just flat, predetermined color. I began to use this paper as a tool to build pattern, tamper with light and shadow, and reference color field paintings and geometric abstractions. I layer warm and cool colors atop one another in an attempt to blend colors and create a visual vibrancy where the two shift rather seamlessly. I consider these particular constructions to be more broadly derivative of paintings. Also, the colored printer paper is usually stronger than the comic book paper, because of its ream weight and it being newer paper most times. So, I find that there’s a greater ability to experiment with surface texture. The surfaces of the colored paper constructions tend to buckle and bend, which reiterates the idea of vulnerable, yet resilient bodies and identities within society. I’m excited to explore both materials more in graduate school, as well as other printed material/archived publications.

Munch (detail)
shredded comic books and adhesive
96 in. x 83 in.
2016

OPP: Tell us about your recent collaboration Room to Let (2015) with photographer D'Angelo Williams. What did you each bring to the project?

JP: D’Angelo’s MFA thesis work titled Beauty Kings stages various black men adorned with a deep burgundy turban standing in isolation within urban and rural landscapes. I was deeply inspired by this work and had the pleasure in participating as a model for him. His thesis work and my studio projects at the time were the catalysts for the show. Following Meet Me Where I’m At, I began working on a series of gestures and drawings that were intended to be somewhat dark in tonality and thematic content, so I wanted to balance that out with a project that was more participatory, colorful and playful. We decided to further investigate portraiture photography and abstract drawing together.

D’Angelo specifically brought a strong background in shooting and editing photographs to the project, and I brought a collaborative painting and drawing background. We both desired to explore color, identity and abstraction using space, material, fabrics and textiles and willing participants. We shot the photographs at First Congregational Church in Memphis, where I lived and worked as an events coordinator and a hostel resident assistant—the church runs an international traveler’s hostel called Pilgrim House. We borrowed linens and blankets from the hostel and asked guests if they wanted to pose for us. Initially, I was hesitant to ask strangers to participate. We would both approach someone, explain the themes and ideas surrounding the photos, and ask if they were interested. To my surprise, a lot of people expressed interest, and for some, it was a significant highlight of their time in Memphis. 

Rochelle on Southside Roof
Digital print
22 in. x 17 in.
2015

OPP: What surprises emerged during the process?

JP: We worked together to drape the fabrics over the guests, making formal decisions based on the specific locations in the building and the personalities of each model. What struck me early in our project was how beautiful these fabrics looked adorned on the models. These were sheets and blankets that I’d spent a year interacting with as a staff member—washing, folding, cleaning—and I’d given them no particular mind and ascribed absolutely zero value to them. But, in reality, there was a lot of power inherent in them. That power was invisible to me, and the project really encouraged me to search for meaning where it’s (perceivably) least expected. We shot the photographs in various spaces within the church and made collaborative drawings and one shaped painting in my studio, which was also located inside the church. We exhibited the work in one of the rooms we photographed in, and opened the exhibition to churchgoers, hostel guests  and friends. It was wonderful to witness so many different people engaging with the art.

Room to Let really informed my interest to explore color, tactility, materiality and abstraction, and how all those elements can represent embodied identities. Working with D’Angelo was incredibly affirming, and I found comfort where we overlapped as artists and individuals.

Untitled (Jungle)
Acrylic paint, India ink, ballpoint pen, and permanent marker on paper
2015

OPP: In your most recent video performance Training Session (2015), you do forward rolls on a small gym mat over and over again, wearing a T-shirt that says Up Against the Wall Mother Fucker. What are you training for?

JP: I am training for sustained self-preservation against the systems within society that wish to destroy me. In Training Session, I wanted to portray a pro-Black political sentiment through embodiment, text and the urban environment. I had finished reading Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and was thinking a lot about the vulnerability inherently attached to the Black body. How, at any point, it can be extinguished and how that threat of extinction can induce an internalized violence that is both protective and self-destructive. Coates writes, “. . . this is your country. . . this is your world. . . this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” That line really resonated with me as I strove to determine what being free in my own Black body looked like. I wanted to show myself struggling in a repetitive act, that danced the line between external and internal influencers. That in-between is a rich space to me.

I also wanted to connect this performance with a Black Power narrative. The line on the shirt is a quote from Amiri Baraka’s poem Black People. In the poem, Baraka affirms the need for Black people to make their own world by any means necessary, including violence onto white people. The poem goes:

You can't steal nothing from a white man, he's already stole it he owes you everything you want, even his life. All the stores will open if you say the magic words. The magic words are: Up against the wall motherfucker! this is a stick up... We must make our own world, man, our own world, and we can not do this unless the white man is dead. Let's get together and kill him my man.

Though I’m not a violent person, I wanted to incorporate the theme of a racial-political uprising, but on the individual level. I wore the shirt in the performance to evoke the aggressive, combative tone in the poem. I paired this loaded text with a repetitive action—the somersault, a rudimental gymnastics technique—that hinted at notions of personal development, amateurism and innocence. I also wore a wrestling ear-guard to reinforce the idea of combat sport, but also to hint to a potential opponent. Though in reality they are many in number, two “opponents” depicted in the video include the hard, overgrown externalized world around me, as well as the internalized shackles that impede me from nurturing a radically Black identity.

Training Session
Filmed October 11, 2015 in Memphis, TN.
Documentation courtesy of David Bergen.

OPP: Training Session, which was made last October, took on renewed relevance two weeks ago, with the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. . .

JP: The recent police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the shooting of Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers are tragic and continuous reminders of the difficult reality that is existing in a Black body in America. It’s horrible to think that images of Black people have been constructed in ways beyond our own imagining or control and that these constructions ignite such brutality and violence onto us. In her book Citizen, Claudia Rankine speaks to a particular anger: “the anger built up through experience and quotidian struggles against dehumanization every brown or black person lives simply because of skin color.” I’ve heard this anger be referred to as Black Rage, and I see a connection between it and the internalized fear I mentioned earlier. I empathize entirely with these emotions and understand the root causes behind their extreme, outward manifestations. I also am able to confront my particular vantage point, which is from a place of privilege. I understand that the way I maintain and/or channel my emotions is unique to my experience. I haven't always been the most comfortable affirming my Blackness or confronting racism in the past, but I'm unpacking that suppression in my life right now. I think all of this is visible in Training Session.

To see more of Johnathan's work, please visit johnathanpayne.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.



OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Edra Soto

Graft, 2013 - ongoing
Architectural intervention at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space
Wood or adhesive

Influenced by her upbringing in Puerto Rico, EDRA SOTO explores the cultural, symbolic and historical meanings of vernacular patterns and objects. Her projects often have multiple iterations and require audience-participation to be truly activated; participants read the newspapers at the rejas-adorned "bus stops" in GRAFT, play dominoes in Dominodomino (2015) or consume pineapple upside-down cake in The Wedding Cake Project (2009-ongoing). By merging research with autobiography and audience-participation, she reveals the intersection of the individual with the collective. Edra earned her MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000. She's also an alum of Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Beta-Local in Puerto Rico, and most recently the Robert Rauschenberg Residency. Her numerous 2016 exhibitions include There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine at Efrain Lopez Gallery (Chicago), Relocating Techniques at Corner (Chicago) and the Elmhurst Art Museum Biennial: Chicago Statement (Elmhurst, Illinois). In August 2016, her work will be included in Poor and Needy: The Great Poor Farm Experiment IIX, curated by Lise Haller Baggesen and Yvette Brackmanin. Along with her husband Dan Sullivan, Edra runs The Franklin, an outdoor project space in Chicago. Her GRAFT project will be featured at the Western Avenue stop on the train line to O’Hare Airport in Chicago, where she lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Pattern and ornamentation are major players in your practice. How do you think about them, how do you use them and what would you like to add to the conversation around them?

Edra Soto: I think about patterns as markers of specific cultures. Nowadays, I cannot look at a pattern without wondering about its place of origin, and if appropriated, how it has been appropriated. Perhaps these are the most frustrating times, were there are no boundaries for what it’s being consumed. Going to retail establishments and seeing patterns used indiscriminately is somewhat disconcerting. Like any other mark or gestural representation, patterns have owners and places of origin.

My architectural intervention GRAFT presents representations of rejas (fence in Spanish) patterns that come from Puerto Rican domestic architecture. I create architectural interventions rather than turning them into sculptural objects in order to preserve the integrity of those patters. This way, I avoid turning them into some kind of merchandise with a commercial destination or retail value. In my pretend gesture, I symbolically transplant a portion of the Puerto Rican visual landscape into American territory, as if I was playing the role of the settler. Puerto Rican middle class cement houses and rejas pattern designers were presumed to be the creation of slaves brought to Puerto Rico by the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. An essay titled Comparative + Studies based on hypothesis, The African influence in the built-up Environment of Puerto Rico, author Jorge Ortiz Colom, attributes authorship of the fractal patterns to African slaves from the the republic of Ghana that were brought to Puerto Rico for free labor. The patterns are associated with the Adinkras visual symbols created by the Ashanty region in West Africa.

The rampant inner racism in the Caribbean makes me think that it is possible that there’s no populous knowledge of the origins the rejas because of racial discrimination. Spanish architecture is something that people can talk about and that is studied in high school; the rejas on the other hand are not a part of that roster of things we get to learn in high school. You have to be an artist or a scholar, go into research to learn about the African influence in domestic architecture. To me, this is a true motivator that gives value to these important piece of domestic architecture that defines Puerto Rican’s visual landscape.

Graft, 2013 - ongoing 
Architectural intervention at Terrain exhibitions
Wood or adhesive

OPP: Does recontextualizing the rejas from Puerto Rico in mainland U.S. cities ever run the risk of misrepresenting? Do you ever fear the contemporary cultural default to see the patterns as a surface instead of a language?

ES: Yes, it does run that risk. It is up to me to inform through my work the best way I can. I believe in these patterns because they provide an easy entrance to deeper issues of race and class. The hybridization that the patterns have already gone through makes them more relevant in relation to popular visual language (or visual access). They are already inserted in the commercial market. It is up to me to inform viewers about their origin through critical thinking and conceptual analysis. To this point, the extension of GRAFT invites writers from various disciplines (architecture, history, sociology, politics, poetry) to explore the rejas through their respective fields. Other extensions of GRAFT are in the works. This project becomes more and more fascinating to me as time goes by. It takes me time to learn about the projects I undertake. Through lots of reflection, research and conversations I have found motivation and inspiration to continue the course of GRAFT.

Say Everything
Installation view
2014

OPP: Can you talk about your use of fans in the Tropicalamerican installations and Say Everything? Besides their practical function of moving air in the space to activate the hanging flags, what other symbolic, conceptual or formal functions do they serve?

ES: Say Everything responds to a personal experience in an outdoor setting. I was fortunate to attend the Robert Rauschenberg residency earlier that year and develop most of the work of Say Everything there. I tried to recreate my outdoor experience in the domestic gallery space. I took in consideration the interior architecture and decorative elements of the domestic space and assign roles to the various objects / elements that I included in my installation. A series of flags titled Tropicalamerican, embody the natural environment. In the middle of the room, in portrait position, they try to resemble trees; a series of chairs upholstered with beach towels resembles four legged animals; the fans represented the wind and animated the space with movement. It was a colorful and playful reverse role play: artificial versus natural environment.

from Tropicalamerican III

OPP: The clay spirals from Figures (2013-ongoing) have been exhibited on shelves with fluorescent light, on a circular slab of concrete, underneath a staircase, and on what looks to be a domestic tchotchke shelf. Can you talk about the flexibility of installation in this project?

ES: Perhaps opposite in its intention, I think of Figures as my response to the commercial market. What triggered my interest in Figures was the idea of making an object that comes out of a single coil. The coil is the most basic shape in building a ceramic form. The coil is the starter of something that possibly will be functional. I was teaching high school art at that time, and teaching a skill always opened up an opportunity to create something. This was one of those opportunities. I had never worked with air dry clay before. It’s a technological miracle: truly easy to work with, very clean and possible indestructible. My focus was to create an object that resembles a shell. Shells are protectors of organisms. Closer to home, they are popularly seen as Caribbean souvenirs. Displays are interesting because they can alter the connotation of the object, changing it from mass-produced to an artifact, from an archival object to one of spiritual connotations. I think about display forms as the providers of the environment we want to create for the work we make.

Figures
2013 - ongoing
Air dry clay

OPP: You recently co-curated—with Josue PellotPresent Standard for the Chicago Cultural Center. The show featured 25 contemporary, US-based Latinx artists. It was fantastic and received a lot of press. And The Franklin is now a staple Chicago venue. Tell us about your first experiences as a curator.

ES: When I was a student in Puerto Rico, I was obsessed with the idea of bringing different disciplines together into my work. I was studying at a conservative college where painting and sculpture were the validated forms of art. Performance and installation were too advanced at that time. After my first year at SAIC in Chicago, I developed the confidence to explore various disciplines in a single project. The I Love Chicago Project was my first multidisciplinary installation project. I invited friends who were musicians and  performance and sound artists to perform in my SAIC studio. I was also very curious about what other artists were making. While walking around SAIC artists’ studios, I started putting together ideas and associating their respective projects, to the point of feeling convinced that they will speak to a greater audience if they were together in one single space. This led me to my first curatorial project titled Glam Salon at the Student Union Gallery (SUG), a somewhat neglected space in a very desirable spot on campus, right in between the School and the Museum of the Art Institute. The SUG was not popular at the time (not sure why), and I saw that as an opportunity to remind other students of what is available to them. Michael X Ryan was the professor at that time in charge of this space, and I will always be grateful for his support and excitement for my project. He was very serious and intimidating to me, but very supportive to students.

The Franklin consolidates many attempts, many sculptural and performance projects that intended to bring different disciplines and audiences to a singular space or situation. The Franklin also allows me to give visibility and space to the communities of artists that need it, and it's an opportunity for me to showcase work by artists or curators that I have met throughout the years. One great thing about The Franklin is that it is at my home, a place I truly love. It makes things easier.

It's Been A Very Good Year, 2016
Installation
Painted fragments on paper

OPP: What’s challenging about balancing the roles of curator and artist? What’s beneficial?

ES: The greatest challenge of curating while maintaining your career is time. Managing how much time things take in the making, the networking, the organizing departments. . . it is difficult to balance. As long as it feels that it comes from a real place to me, I will pursue it. Being organized doesn’t come naturally to me. At some point I realized that I will be my own administrator and that in order to make things work I need to be organized. Providing artists opportunities for exposure allows me to balance my career, which at many times feels so self-centered.

To see more of Edra's work, please visit edrasoto.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Justin Morgan Kennedy

Swine is Divine
2016

Artist and educator JUSTIN MORGAN KENNEDY examines overlooked and dismissed places, resources and objects collected from both urban and rural environments. Whether in a concrete cast of a a rural Shenandoah deer path or an irregular, grid of found upholstery and imported mums, he hopes to draw our attention to what we do and don't value about our human habitats. Morgan earned his BA in Studio Art from George Mason University in 1997 and his MFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2000. He has had solo exhibitions at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, where he was an Artist-in-Residence, in 2003 (Omaha, Nebraska) and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts in 2008 (Wilmington, Delaware). In 2010, he was also an Artist-in-Residence at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Arts Industry Residency. Most recently, he finished a collaborative piece called World Table with Workingman Collective at the Bascom Center for Visual Arts in Highlands, North Carolina. Morgan is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture Western Carolina University at and has relocated to Asheville, North Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: “I am continually discovering the connections between ego, form and context.” Can you expand on this quote from your statement: what kinds of connections have you discovered?

Justin Morgan Kennedy: I have always been interested in the effects objects have in our understanding of place, time, memory and our consciousness as living entities. I have often questioned the potential influence of dreams on our waking lives and vice versa. What roles do memories and dreams play, and how do they contribute to a relationship between humans and their environs?

In some West African cultures, if one dreams of a memorable encounter with a stranger or lover, the dreamer will wake and render a carving of the person as a wood statue. By doing this, the dreamer hopes the new sculpture will act as a signifier and produce more dream encounters. Seeing a real world representation should incite further lucid dream encounters with this person. I personally connect with this philosophy, and it poses further questions about the role tangible form plays in our understanding of the seen and unseen world. To me tangible form and concept are linked. They inform one another. The African dream doll rite for me solidifies that objects or forms in our real waking life can inform the ethereal distant world we go during our sleep cycle—signifier and signified.  Objects and the physical dance to render or act as a bridge between the subconscious world and our waking life. I myself have had several dreams where I realized I was dreaming, woke up and drew the objects from my dreams. . . then made them.

Movement
Steel banding riveted together, wire
7 x 6 x 30ft

OPP: I’m curious about your choice of the word habitat that is in some titles and in your statement. What connotations does habitat have for you, as opposed to space, place or environment?

JMK: Websters defines habitat as:
1a :  the place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows
b :  the typical place of residence of a person or a group
c :  a housing for a controlled physical environment in which people can live under surrounding, inhospitable conditions (as under the sea)
 2:  the place where something is commonly found

I like to explore the definitions of words, but at the same time see beyond their assigned meanings, especially since words are living and often take on new meanings. Habitat is about one’s experience in a particle place or environ for temporary or set periods of time. No single environ is permanent for any one culture, people or person. Time or a particular point in time (memory) should always be considered. Space, place, environ, and habitat all talk of context, but like a layer cake, they do so with greater degrees of complexity. 


Swine is Divine
2016
Wall compilation
20ft X 35ft

OPP: Could you talk about your use of live plants and upholstery in installations like Swine is Divine and Fleur #3-Delmarva and Fleur #2 Columbian Gold-Kieffer?

JMK: I am interested in the language of materials and their link to social stratification or hierarchy. Objects and materials have meaning and multiple associations. They tell stories and refer to certain human social systems. All the materials in these pieces come from specific urban contexts: Baltimore, DC or Milwaukee. I wanted to create a different take on how landscape is portrayed in art, and I aim to get the viewer to re-question their set value system.

Swine is Divine is a reflection of Milwaukee’s social diversity and social problems. Posh folks live on the northside; poor and working class people live on the south. There are industrial areas, forests popping up from the decay and segregated communities. I include paintings of pines trees not painted by me, but rather bought from ebay. I like the statement it presents: we live in a world where artifice rules, so we should use the system and make it part of the content. Also the pine trees represent fast growth, since old growth hardwoods were cut down in order to grow conifers to meet our nation’s paper demand. I also include weeds grown in a custom Victorian bowl and another with big box shop perennials. We value these purchased, mass grown flowering plants and have disdain for weeds like dandelion or clovers. Yet the weeds, which we often pay to remove, have much more uses outside the aesthetic role of their box shop competitors: as food, dye and medicine. They also attract wildlife and are often drought resistant.

Columbian Gold-Keifer grew out of my interest in adding color to my work. I thought to use something living instead of paint. Flowers have color, presence, and often require attentiveness to thrive; paint falls short in this respect. I thought of my youth working for my dad in Washington DC, selling flowers on the street corners. All the flowers we sold came from Columbia. I always thought flowers were so beautiful, but a luxury. People buy them for this reason, but behind the beauty lies hard work and a system of indentured servitude—sweat shops to a degree. I sought to explore this, so I put $500 worth of chrysanthemums in soda bottles collected from the trash cans at a local college campus. The bottles get reused but also revalued. Questions of value and perception are a constant theme in what I do.

Fleur #3-Delmarva
2007
Upholstery, period textiles, acquired paintings, steel, light, lino floor tiles, 500 imported Columbian Fiji Mums.
15ft x 20ft


OPP: Tell us about your experience of La Guerra de Acqua (2011/12), in which you carried 80 lbs of water for 12 kilometers through the Italian countryside. What was the impetus for this project?

JMK: In 2011, I was teaching sculpture in Italy. I had been there before as a young traveler and had many strong memories of a place where good food and lifestyle were highly valued. On my 2011 visit, I noticed one particular change. People no longer used glass bottles for water or beverages. Italy was one of the last holdouts of tradition in my eyes , but like America, they had made the switch to easy and disposable plastic. At the same time, it was summer in Tuscany and hot. I had made several local inquiries about swimming in one of the nearby lakes as I did in my native Virginia. I was told that locals don’t swim in lakes; that only the barbarians—like the Germani—do. Being of barbarian, Scottish decent, I relished in being a part of this lower social stratification. I realized that between these two observations a project was present and needed to be explored.

For me, being in tune or in balance with my surroundings is the utmost pursuit. The use of plastic beverage containers has greatly increased in my lifetime and as a result, our waterways have been polluted with plastic BPA polymers. So much so that plastic polymers are now classified as natural because they are found in nearly all our natural bodies of water. So the switch to cheap and easy has had a heavy price. Water is key to all life and should be used and treated with respect. Glass is heavy. It breaks, but it has nearly no negative effect on water’s make up, and the bottles can be reused time and time again if treated with care. Swimming or interfacing physically with nature helps to reinforce our relationship with it. Allowing an outdated, Roman-like mindset of judging outside cultures is ridiculous. Crotona, where I was living, is a mountain top walled Etruscan city 1000 feet above the shores of Lago Trasimeno where the barbarian Hannibal destroyed a Roman army of 80,000 men with 30,000 men and a handful of elephants.

La Guerra de Acqua
2011

OPP: Did you encounter people along the way? What happened when you reached your destination?

JMK: My idea was to go to the lake with 30 reclaimed, plastic water bottles (collected daily from a local restaurant) and a homemade backpack. I filled them with lake water to bring to the residents of Cortona. Since they would not go to the lake themselves, I would bring the lake to them. The 80 pounds of water was attached to a backpack and wired to my body. The goal was to place all the water in a large bowl in the main plaza for locals to dip their feet in. I began a day-long, 12 kilometer journey up a mountain to the town’s main plaza. People who saw me leave earlier that morning and return in the evening asked what I was doing. I responded “I am bringing the lake to the people.” 

It was so physically challenging—I really damaged my body—that just getting back to town with the water was a goal in itself. I believe the use of absurd amounts of labor can create a powerful, statement—romantic, but also sincere. In the end, I liked the fact that the water remained in the reused, 1-liter plastic water bottles that I collected. I displayed them in the local gallery along with a wall of images documenting the journey. I wanted to give value to the lake’s water, the discarded plastic water bottles and the romantic yet defeatist expenditure of labor that linked everything together. I hoped the viewers would come to question the reason for such a journey and see an absurd commitment to nature through sweat and physicality. The whole performance was  gesture to ignite a dialogue or conversation about that which we should regard highly.


Milwaukee Brown
2014

OPP: You’ve done several projects in which you cast outdoor spaces—Milwaukee Brown and Fascimile— to be brought into the gallery. Can you talk about the particular spaces you chose to highlight and recontextualize in the gallery?

JMK: Both projects parallel one another in terms of meaning. I am interested in reality versus illusion and how we as humans often fall back on assumptions for guidance. We grow up in particular habitats. We understand these landscapes through a combination of individual experience and teachings from stories. Most of us have never been down a manhole cover into the sewers that lie beneath, but based off movies, media and books we expect to find a series of concrete tunnels, with a stream of water, trash and the occasional rodent passing through. What if I could play with this presumption or expectation and put another particular landscape where it should not be, using the materials, process and languages associated with this new context?

Facsimile sought to reconstruct within a gallery context a rural Shenandoah deer path using typical construction materials found in interiour architecture like concrete or tiles. But instead of being flat flooring, it undulates in elevation and is a cast deer path from the Virginia countryside where I am from. So it’s half country, half urban (or human). It highlights one distant location—not important to most—by being isolated within the white cube gallery, which has great power in providing an intimate relationship with all that is placed within it.

Milwaukee Brown, still in-progress, attempts to make visible that which is hardly ever noticed, almost completely ignored. The Brownfield—representing urban blight and the causality of industry—is plot of land where no one can build because of industrial hazards once produced there. How can I take that which we do not want to see and make it not only visible, but also beautiful? This questioning of value lies at the heart of my work.

To see more of Morgan's work, please visit justinmorgankennedy.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Marcelyn Bennett Carpenter

Turn
Elastic
2013

The stark, monochrome lines of MARCELYN BENNETT CARPENTER’s interactive, elastic installations are visually reminiscent of Minimalist sculpture. But these formal qualities belie the material qualities of flexibility and resilience. Her work entices viewers to become embodied participants, placing the sense of touch on par with the culturally-privileged sense of sight. Even her recent hand-woven drawings destabilize our habitual reliance on the visual by interrupting the image—a conceptual representation—with the tangible line of the warp. After earning a BA in Philosophy (Wheaton College, 1994) and a BFA in Drawing and Painting (University of Colorado at Denver, 1999),  Marcelyn went on to earn her MFA in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art (Michigan, 2003). Recent exhibitions include Extreme Fibers (2016) at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan and Touch, Touch, Touch (2015) at Arrowmont Gallery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Her work has recently been featured in Essay’d, an online series of short essays that documents Detroit artists actively working around the city during this perplexing time of simultaneous ruin and generation. Her work is currently on view in Please Touch at the Target Gallery at the Torpedo Factory (Alexandria, Virgina) until July 7, 2016. Marcelyn lives and works in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Elastic plays a large role in your practice and shows up in so many different projects, including Snap, Tensions and various interactive installations. What was the first piece that used elastic?

Marcelyn Bennett Carpenter: During grad school at Cranbrook, I used elastic in an installation called Pinch Pots, in which I suspended little porcelain pots from elastic lines. I weighted the pots with sand and scented oil. People were encouraged to enter into the installation and play with the pots dangling on elastic. There were so many lines and pots that the pots jumped all over and would crash into the floor or into other pots. The sand sprayed out and the pots slowly were destroyed, but the elastic recovered. The sand and the broken pots were stepped on, creating sound and sensation on the feet. It was a really satisfying experience of destruction and discovery all at once. This interaction allowed for more of the senses to come into play, engaging the body more fully with the work.

Tensions: Yellow, Red, Blue
Elastic, Paper, Porcelain, felt, cotton, lead
60' x 20' x 20'
2016

OPP: What have you learned about this material over the years?

MBC: Elastic is the perfect material for creating physical art work that you can feel. . . art that you touch and play with. Its main function is to move with the body. It responds to your movements, your action, and then it recovers. It holds a variety of tensions until it is released and returns back to its original form. 

I love elastic. I love how, like many textiles, we are using it almost 24/7. Our underwear, our bra straps, our pajamas, our swimming suits, our exercise clothing, our pants, skirts, hair ties all stay with us because of elastic’s ability to respond and hold tight while our bodies are constantly moving through space throughout the day. It is really hard to break elastic.

fitting: Coral #2
Elastic
2009

OPP: Can you talk about interactivity versus performance with your elastic installations? You’ve allowed for both.

MBC: I am still learning and experimenting with interactivity, performance and even non-interaction. There are many possibilities for how the work can behave in the world. I knew the work could lend itself to rigorous interactions with dancers, so when opportunities arose to collaborate, I took them. The only way to find out was to research it  and try it.

I see interaction more as the audience playing with the work. This exists when viewers physically handle the work or when they simply move around it. When someone looks up, bends down, or cranes the neck for a different view, they are moving with the work. They are physically engaged. When they dare to touch the work and manipulate it with their hands or body, I have gotten to a whole other area of the brain for them. The more sensations the work gives them, the richer the aesthetic experience, and the more they will remember, think and feel about the work.  



Three Loves
Elastic
10' x 5' x 18'
2005

OPP: I assume Pick-ups are meant to picked up by the viewer. How difficult or easy is it to get viewers to overcome the convention of not touching art?

MBC: I have always thought of getting people to touch the work as a design problem. How can I get the object to inherently communicate to the viewer to touch it. Fiber and ceramics lend themselves to touch naturally, and those are the main materials I work in. Half the battle is won. But the socialization to not touch in a gallery or museum is pretty strong, so often I resort to giving permission to touch on the signage. 

Luckily, I have been involved in two shows lately where all the work in the show was intended to be touchable. The title of the exhibitions were Touch, Touch, Touch and Please Touch.  I also curated a show called Handle with Care. This was a great way to go about it, and the spirit in the gallery is just terrific when people are playing and exploring art in this way.

There are other design problems: How do I allow for touch to happen and protect the work from damage? Do I control the way a viewer touches the work? Or do I allow for the destruction of the work through the interaction like in the wear and tear in my Pinch Pot installation. I have had an installation totally destroyed by dancers who didn’t understand the work’s limitations. In retrospect, I would have insisted on more practice time with the work before the performance. But work does get damaged, and I often struggle with whether I should fix it or should I let its disintegration be a part of it.

Tablescape
Porcelain, Stretch netting, and glass
24" x 48" x 40"
2015

OPP: Is it harder with small objects than installations?

MBC: For me, the large scale installations are more satisfying because they are more open-ended and engage the whole body, but the smaller works like the Pick Ups and Snaps! are fun for the fingers and create a lot of visual pleasure too! I also don’t underestimate what the imagination can fill in. One reaction I often get from the Pick Ups is that people want to taste them! It is much better for them to imagine the taste than to actually taste stretch netting and porcelain!

Tamarack (detail)
Handwoven Drawing
4' x 6'
2015



OPP: I see a formal connection between the warp of your hand-woven drawings and the taut vertical lines in Tensions and various interactive elastic installations. But the weavings are so static and discreet compared to the other projects, at least for the viewer. Is there an underlying conceptual thread between these two seemingly disparate bodies of work?

MBC: I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s all about the warp! I came to weaving after I had been creating my interactive installations for many years. I teach weaving and fiber arts full time at the Kingswood Weaving Studio at Cranbrook Schools. The verticality of the warp and the tension held by the loom were visually the same as my elastic installations! I quickly became immersed in figuring out how weaving could be integrated into my own work. My BFA is in drawing and painting, so I have been playing with how can I bring a more spontaneous, quick way of drawing and almost graffiti effect into weaving. Nothing in weaving is quick, but I found the handwoven drawings to be quicker and super satisfying for me. I am coordinating all these elements: the drawing, the string, the colors, the density of the strings. Once it is off the loom, I work back into the surface of the handwoven drawing with paint, stickers, and even embroidery. 

These works are pretty new for me; it’s been just a year. I am really intrigued by how I can draw on the wood slats, then veil the drawing in the warp. It reminds me of how my installations optically transform and even veil space. The warp does the same to the drawings. The warp appears and disappears, adding incredible depth and texture. If you look at the handwoven drawings from the side, you only see the warp threads and not the drawing. I also suspend the weavings out from the wall and paint the backs in bright colors, so there is a glow that surrounds the piece from behind. Shadows of light through the handwoven drawings are pretty incredible too. Even though space is treated two-dimensionally in the handwoven drawings, it is still about space and maybe that space is more inward than outward.

Abandon: Kingswood Parking Lot
Pencil and ink
42" x 36"
2015

OPP: Please talk about the imagery in your most recent Abandon drawings. Will these become weavings?

MBC: The imagery in Abandon is very similar formally to the psychological Rorschach ink blot tests. I built upon these tests, though, by mirroring abandoned homes and locating the psychology in the home. One of the main indicators of abandonment is the foliage around the house, which takes over almost like a creature or unstoppable “destructive” force reclaiming the space back for nature. I also thought a lot about what it means to walk away from a home, to abandon it. So many memories, relationships, so much dysfunction, as well as familial, social and financial security are held in a house. So many of our psychological experiences occur in the space of a home. I flattened and ghosted out the houses and the surrounding foliage to abstract them and allow for a more imaginative interpretation. 

For the large weavings, I have used only the tree and foliage imagery so far. I really enjoy trying to give a tree personality and employing some of the textile design structures like repeating motifs and borders as in rugs, but these structures are not woven. They are drawn and then woven. Like I said, they are pretty new works, so I won’t eliminate the possibility of the houses working their way into them in the future. 

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kyle Triplett

Test Dream
Backlit Digital Print
24" x 48"
2016

Combining digital projection, wood and ceramics, KYLE TRIPLETT evokes vast, outdoor places within the confines of the gallery. The romantic, the picturesque and the artificial are foregrounded in his simulated landscapes, but each is very much a real place. His backlit digital prints, which began as documentation of his installations, capture the wistful, longing figure in relation to his created spaces. Kyle received his BFA from Southeast Missouri State University (2008), a Post-Baccalaureate certificate from Louisiana State University (2009) and his MFA from Ohio University (2013). He's been an Artist-in-Residence at Red Star Studios (2015) in Kansas City, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts (2014) in Newcastle, Maine and Kansas State University (2013-2014). His most recent solo exhibition False River just closed in March 2016 at Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky.  Kyle's backlit photographs are currently on view until May 21, 2016 in the group show Garden Party, alongside a collaborative sculpture with Rain Harris (also of OPP blog fame), at the Belger Art Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Kyle lives and works in Ruston, Louisiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your statement, you say "I am interested in producing work that is specifically of place, as opposed to work about place. That is, asking questions and responding to the ‘virtual here and there’ rather than traditional ideas of site specificity." Could you parse this out further?

Kyle Triplett: My installation work is rooted in the desire to create place. I’m interested in using the space of the gallery as a platform to create an imagined, constructed landscape as opposed to recreating a known or remembered experience. The work is site-reactive in that the gallery only dictates the size of the piece. Other than that, the work is not about a specific site. It’s about constructing a structure that attempts to hit most of the notes that a real landscape does. I approach the work with the understanding that it’s fundamentally impossible to recreate nature, but I think there is something compelling in the attempt and failure. The number of individual elements that make up a scene is a little maddening, but again, there is something interesting in the attempt to create a landscape one single grass blade at a time as in Untitled, OH #8.

Untitled, OH. #8
Ceramic, Wood, Cloth, Projection
32ft L x 16ft W x 12ft H
2013

OPP: You employ ceramics, wood and digital projection to create immersive environments. What was your first medium and how did you come to this balanced combination of the digital and the tactile?

KT: My first experience with ceramics, like most, came through pottery. I took a ceramics class in high school and really enjoyed it. I took another ceramics class in college after three years pursuing a degree in American History and haven’t left it since. At the beginning of the last semester of undergrad, I shifted away from pots and started making ceramic-based mixed media sculpture. I started playing with digital tools shortly after starting graduate school at Ohio University in 2010. For the first batch of work, I created ceramic objects onto which I projected a digital surface. That work morphed into larger installation pieces. I can honestly say I had no interest in working this way prior to graduate school, but I deliberately chose a graduate program that was concept driven rather than anchored in a specific material in order to have more flexibility with my work. I started playing with space as a material due in large part to the spacious critique rooms available for installation-based projects and a desire to work on a larger scale..

The balance of digital and tactile is still a struggle. Because I’m interested in working on a landscape-sized scale, I’m always searching for something that feels substantial or big in the work. Sometimes that manifests as nine thousand wooden dowels with pinched clay on the end as in Once a Day or as a large projected live video feed as in Untitled, OH. #7.

In Other Fields, SD. #1
Ceramic, Video, Digital Projection, Wood
Dimensions Variable
2013

OPP: The images titled In Other Fields appear to be documentation of installations (based on how the media is designated), but they are quite evocative as photographs? Can you explain this work for those of us who have only encountered it online?

KT: While I was working on large installation pieces in graduate school, I became interested in the documentation images I was making to record the work. Those documentation images morphed into creating staged images. The first few from 2013 were both documentation images as well as specific installations designed to be photographed. They were a way to work through ideas. These projects allowed me to interact with a site as an installation and to create images of that interaction that could stand alone as independent works themselves. Since 2014, I have been creating images that are solely shown as backlit digital prints. I am attempting to do the same things with these prints as with my larger installations. The digital images portray a built environment with handmade ceramic components. Conceptually, I am interested in presenting a moment of contemplation and longing while also presenting a window in the image leading to a different place, such as an in Tulpomanie.

Once a Day (detail)
Clay, Wood, Light
48ft L x 24ft W x 6ft H
2015

OPP: Fields are visual staples in your work. They show up as video projections and as ceramics. Once a Day (2015) and Untitled, OH. #8 (2013) are examples. I'd like to hear your thoughts on fields, both how you use them in your work and how you experience them in your life.

KT: I grew up in western South Dakota: fields and open spaces are very much ingrained in me. I don't know that fields really specifically registered with me when I was younger, but I remember feeling literally and figuratively a long way away from a lot of things. 

Beyond that, a field is a single space, demarcated by use or purpose. A field is a place. I think about place as defined by three elements. First, a specific location is needed: a here and there. The second is a locale, the material setting in which social relationships take place: a wall, a road, a field. The final element is “a sense of place,” the subjective and emotional attachment a person or groups of people have to a place. This final requirement begins to function conceptually rather than as a social or graphic reality. As an artist I am interested in ways that I could construct and provoke this subjective and emotional attachment in a viewer. . . or at the least a sense of familiarity or distinctiveness.  A field is a tract of land, which makes me think about distance and time. A field as an image tends to look like everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. 

The work that is titled In Other Fields is in large part about longing or yearning to be some other place, be it in time or space. Each piece in the series presents a figure in a given place interacting with an image of someplace else. The constructed objects that make up the piece are, much like the installations, again this attempt to recreate nature or another place.

In Other Fields, KS. #1
Backlit Digital Print
24" x 48"
2013

OPP: What are you working on right now? What's on the horizon?

KT: I’ve just finished up a busy run of exhibitions. I had a solo show at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky where I was able to put up a new installation. The piece was a companion to the installations Once a Day that I did last year. The new piece, titled False River, employed a similar structure as the one used in Once a Day to divide the gallery rather than fill the space completely. False River is a very long and narrow lake in South Louisiana that was once part of the Mississippi River and that has since been cut off. The name caught my attention because it describes something by what it is not, but there’s also irony behind it. It’s interesting to live in a state that has a very unique relationship between land and water. Nothing is solid, and it feels like there is water everywhere.

I teach full time at Louisiana Tech University, so summer break brings welcomed studio time. This summer I will be heading to Bechyne, Czech Republic for an international ceramic symposium in July. I am currently researching different milling methods using a CNC router setup on ceramic surfaces as a way of potential manufacture. This could open up some avenues for creating more complex pieces. Teaching at a university with a strong architecture program has also got me thinking about different ways that my work can become more public by incorporating it into interior design.

To see more of Kyle's work, please visit kyletriplett.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jennifer Williams

Ladders
Robert Mann Gallery NYC
2014

JENNIFER WILLIAMS' large-scale, digital photographic collages are printed on flexible, repositionable Photo-tex paper. These two-dimensional, site-responsive works become three-dimensional by bending around corners and stretching from wall to floor and to ceiling. They are architectural adornments, temporary tattoos for buildings and rooms, which highlight overlooked and unused parts of both interior and exterior space, while also investigating the slow, consistent changes of neighborhoods over time. Jennifer earned her BFA from Cooper Union School of Art in New York and her MFA from Goldsmiths College in London. Her numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Robert Mann Gallery (New York, 2013), The Center for Emerging Visual Artists (Philadelphia, 2012), Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (Pittsburgh, 2012) and La Mama Gallery (New York, 2011). In June 2016, Jennifer will have work in the group show Seeing is Believing at Mount Airy Contemporary in Philadelphia and is working on a site-responsive project for the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia), which will open in early 2017 as part of a group show. Her most recent installation New York: City of Tomorrow is supported by a Queens Council on the Arts New Works Grant and is on view until July 31, 2016 at the at the Queens Museum in New York. Jennifer lives in Queens, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your photographic work from the 1990s to the early 2000s, you pieced together the “truth” of various interior spaces by layering c-prints. When did you first begin to cut out the objects themselves to create collages that broke out of the rectangular frame of the photograph and disrupted the spaces they were installed in?

Jennifer Williams: The rectangular frame has always proved something of a conundrum for me; it feels constricting, and I’m nervous about what information gets left out of that frame. To me, a single shot never accurately represents what I'm experiencing or what I want the viewer to see. That’s where the earlier layered c-prints came into play. But c-prints were hard to produce and limited in texture and surface, meaning they could only be printed on plastic-based materials with a narrow selection of finishes. By the mid-2000s, Photoshop and digital printing technologies had reached a point where things I’d previously dreamed of being able to do photographically were possible without a darkroom. The time it took to print photographs shrank, allowing work to be produced in a shorter period of time. It was incredibly liberating to be able to mask portions of an image—essentially cutting them out—then layer them and resizing on the fly, working with color and composition in the computer first. But once printed and cut out in real time, the rectangle was entirely eliminated. Other quandaries arose regarding how and where the work would be displayed. At first, wheat pasting directly onto the walls seemed the only option to create a conversation between the work and the exhibition space, but then I found Photo-tex.

Portals
Collaged prints: pigment ink on Phototex paper
Installation at The Hunterdon Art Museum
2012

OPP: How did Photo-tex paper change your practice?

JW: Photo-tex is a re-positional peel & stick paper that has a woven texture, like wallpaper. It comes in a roll, is inkjet printable and is really amazing stuff! Discovering PhotoTex in 2009 completely changed my practice. I found the tool of expression I’d been looking for all along! Here was a thing that could be printed on in the studio, cut out, stuck on the wall, repositioned, wrapped around corners, then removed without damaging the installation surface (and reusable, too.) Physical barriers were broken down. Suddenly I could position photographs anywhere I wanted in a space and print them as large or small as I liked. Also, the surface is matte, and the material is very thin, so the images feel at one with the surface they’re stuck on. People are surprised when I tell them the work is printed photographs and not painted, like a mural.

OPP: Do you think about the future collages or their destinations when taking photographs? Or are these two parts of your process distinct from one another?

JW: I’ll occasionally think about future collages when shooting, but compositions usually happen after destinations have been decided upon. The architecturally-related works are project specific. Someone will approach me about doing a piece for their space, and I’ll do research into the surrounding neighborhood's history, then walk its streets while shooting. The size and shape of the exhibition space influence the composition, so getting a feel for it first is ideal. I’ll often build a model from floor plans and photographs then make mock-ups of installations and photograph them, which gives me an eerily accurate idea of what the finished product will look like. But in general, I’d say I use photography as a gathering process. I generate a million compositional ideas, of which only a few come to fruition. So photographs happen regardless of where they end up going, but I do like having a goal when shooting.

Episodic Drift #2
Installation at the University City Arts League in Philadelphia, PA
Pigment ink on phototex paper, foamcore, acrylic paint
2012

OPP: The ladders in the various Episodic Drift installations are disorienting and directionless. Since I’m only seeing the work online in a 2D format, I sometimes can’t tell what is 2D and what is 3D. Can you talk about how you use this repeated motif to disrupt the architecture of the exhibition space and its symbolic implications?

JW: I studied both film and sculpture along with photography as an undergraduate, and I believe the work I make now reflects the values and sensitivities of these disciplines in regards to time and space. In a general sense, I like using spaces that are not functional in the same way the middle of a wall is in a gallery setting. Installing work that engages ceilings and floors transports the viewer, challenging them to notice odd corners or architectural oddities, turning the exhibition space itself into a kind of spectacle and subverting the usual anonymous behavior gallery walls are meant to project.

We see the world in three dimensions because of the way light functions; if something is lit in a very flat manner we perceive it as flat or shallow, although we inherently understand that the objects in front of us have volume. The 2D/3D ladders play with that concept in multiple ways. Upon first viewing, we believe they are real because they are photographed in a spatial way. Bringing them out into the space as cut outs accentuates the effect, but of course, it’s a trick.

Episodic Drift asks the viewer to equate the subject matter with the journeys we take in life that push us beyond our habitual perception of the world. Ladders are tools which allow us passage to spaces above or below our everyday experience, creating just enough of a shift that we see our world from a new perspective. The experience is equally disorienting and exhilarating bringing into question everything around you and your relationship to it, even if it’s in a room you use every day.

Flux Density:Detroit
Installed at Whitdel Arts
2014

OPP: What remains the same throughout your work is the investigation of how spaces don’t remain the same. In recent years, you’ve shifted away from the interior spaces of apartments and refrigerators toward the exterior spaces of urban neighborhoods in installations like Flux Density: Detroit (2014) and Sea Change (2013). What led to this shift?

JW: I moved to New York in 1990 from a small, dying steel town and lived on the Lower East Side until very recently. It was always a home base, and as I grew older and more settled, a shift happened regarding the way I related to the neighborhood itself. As I watched it morph from a bombed out wasteland into the shiny, gentrified playground it is today, I keyed into the factors behind that change, and became less interested in change that was happening in my own life. My commute to work for many years was walking or biking to the same location, and I rarely took public transport for anything so I had an intimate relationship with the streets I was traversing day in, day out. As an “architectural tourist”—to quote Dan Graham—I have done a lot of reading about gentrification and urban change to understand the world around me and my place in it. I think the work I’m making now is an attempt at discussing neighborhood change on a visceral, visual and often indexical level while addressing its existence as a universal truth that spans cities across the nation.

Manhattan: Billionaire's Row
Collaged prints: pigment ink on Photo-Tex paper
20' x 15'
2016

OPP: Tell us about the installation you just completed at Queens Museum. How long is it on view?

JW: It’s called New York: City of Tomorrow and up until July 31, 2016. It’s installed in one of the most unique spaces I’ve ever been asked to interact with: the 10,000 square foot model of the five boroughs titled The Panorama of the City of New York, housed at the Queens Museum. The installation addresses the rising skyline of the urban landscape from a pedestrian viewpoint through juxtaposition of photographs of the miniature architectural models with street views of newly constructed buildings occupying the same locations today. While entire neighborhoods have been reinvented due to ambitious renewal and development projects, the Panorama offers a miniature, three-dimensional opportunity to travel back in time to an earlier version of the five boroughs. It was originally constructed as a descriptive tool for the 1964 World’s Fair, and new construction has been added sparsely since its last restoration in 1992. In the future, I’m hoping to add a few more neighborhoods to the roster and in conjunction with some writing, turn the whole project into an artist book.

To see more of Jennifer's work, please visit jennifer-williams.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Erin Gleason

#HomemadeLandscape No.32: The Edge
January 23, 2015
Instagram photo

Artist, curator and designer ERIN GLEASON explores physical, psychological, cultural and mathematical space in her multidisciplinary practice, which includes installation, drawing, printmaking and photography as well as curating, writing and public art commissions. Erin earned her BA in Fine Art and in Imaging Science at the University of Pennsylvania and her MFA from the Art, Space & Nature Programme at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. She is the Co-Founder and former Director/Curator of the Crown Heights Film Festival, the Co-Editor/Producer of the publication FIELDWORK and the Founder/Editor of Cultural Fluency, an online forum and interview series that examines the exchange between urbanism and creative practice across disciplines. She was a 2013 Lori Ledis Curatorial Fellow at BRIC, where she curated Cultural Fluency: Engagements with Contemporary Brooklyn. Erin is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. She calls Brooklyn home.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement, you say: “I seek to reveal the frameworks that determine our perceptions of space—whether that space is physical, psychological, or mathematical—and how our relationship to space affects our behaviors, beliefs, and judgment of aesthetics.” The intersection of physical and the psychological—and I would add the cultural—are very present in projects like Plane (2008), My Very Own Private Garden (2009), Stoop Series (2013). Where does the mathematical show up in your work?

Erin Gleason: I’m defining mathematical spaces as those that are conceived purely through reason—spaces that are nearly impossible for us to experience first- hand, either through our external senses or internal perceptions. Outer space is one example; virtual space is another. What is it about these borderless, infinite spaces that compel us to explore them repeatedly and even try to conquer them? When we do find ways to explore these spaces using other methods besides mathematics, what is it we hope to discover?

My ongoing series #HomemadeLandscape, for example, examines the space of Instagram and our relationship to it. Instagram functions simultaneously as a gallery, a place for art-making and as a site for communities to develop. The abstract macro-photography images, which are not Photoshopped or predetermined, capture scenes I encounter in my everyday life, yet they create emotional ties to other places, many in outer space. The images often allude to a spatial vastness, tapping into innate desires for exploration and discovery. When I began the series, each image was geo-tagged with a place the image alludes to: Atlantis, Wildcat Ridge, The Event Horizon, Trollkirka, Leda, SDSS J120136.02+300305.5c, and Venus, to name a few. This continued until Instagram stopped allowing us to make up names for geotags. Now, the places alluded to are in the title for each piece.

#HomemadeLandscape No.37: Under the Clouds
February 04, 2015
Instagram photo

OPP: Can you say more about the nature of Instagram as a virtual space?

EG: Instagram can be seen as another infinite space that embraces an almost Deleuzian nomadic experience while exploring it. We create stopping points with our hashtags, geotags and Instagram groups. We embrace the rabbit hole of the browsing journey, its landscape constantly updating in real time. When we add images, we're populating what we perceive to be an empty, virtual space with everything and anything that suits our whims (as long as the image fits within the ethics of appropriateness defined by Instagram). We colonize virtual space with our fancies. Don’t we tend to colonize every type of space, ignoring what exists there by declaring it empty? Furthermore, Instagram is a contemporary form of The Society of the Spectacle, where our addiction to the image of life, of representation, is played out. That being said, it can be great fun.

2011
Installation and Participatory Performance Event, FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

OPP: Could you talk about the recurring motif of the stoop in your work? How’s planning going for your in-process Mobile Stoop Project?

EG: Stoops are one of several motifs that keep knocking on the door of my creative process, insisting on participating and showing up in my work. Writing, mapping, dialogue, physicality and platforms are a few others. Stoops in particular fascinate me because of how they have transcended the mere utilitarian to become iconic cultural spaces. A simple architectural feature has evolved— through its innate form—to become its own form of tactical urbanism.

To me, stoops feel alive. I believe the best art is able to spark a dialogic space, is able to hold multiplicity and, as Parker Palmer says, "hold challenging issues metaphorically where they can't devolve into the pro-or-con choices of conventional debate." Stoops, as objects and as spaces, do this naturally as communal thresholds between public and private space, between inner and outer life. Some of my works investigate what happens when trying to transport the essence of a space without the architecture that originally created it. Stoop Series, an art and performance series co-curated with poet Lynne Procope, was held on the sidewalk in front of FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn. We examined the cultural space and dynamics of the stoop without having the object itself present.


Mobile Stoop Project takes the question further, blurring the lines of performance, mobile architecture, space branding and objecthood in art with a site that is constantly shifting and undefinable. Currently, I’m at a bit of a production standstill while looking for venue, manufacturing and funding partners for Mobile Stoop Project. But, conceptually, the project continues to progress. I'm currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics at the Institute of Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, and my research on urban place-making and aesthetics is influencing the direction of the project.

Stoop Series
2013
Summer art and performance series, co-curated with Lynne Procope
FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn NY

OPP: At the end of your essay Portfolio: Third Spaces, for a series hosted by Urban Omnibus, The Architectural League's online publication dedicated to defining and enriching the culture of citymaking, you ask a series of open-ended questions. I’m particularly interested in one: Can a virtual space become tangible? Do you have any examples of ways that the virtual has indeed become tangible?

EG: I believe virtual space is already tangible in the sense that it directly affects our actions and what we do with our time. Confronting virtual space restructures our self-representation and redefines our sense of “modern” by providing a new borderless space to explore and discover. The interrelationships between the physical, psychological and virtual (or mathematical) are always at play, transforming each other. I’m repeatedly reminded of these overlaps at Stephen Yablon Architecture, where I work. I watch concepts take form through discussion, drawings, virtual environments and finally, constructed buildings. The buildings themselves take on new lives in new spaces: the psychological space of the people who use them, the cultural space of the neighborhood and the virtual space of online representation. Spaces live and evolve just like we do, whether it’s a space we construct (in our minds or physically) or a space that we can’t even conceive.

Plane
2008
Installation: newspapers, microfilament
In collaboration with Melissa MacRobert and Christine Wylie.

OPP: You recently held an experimental, blindfolded Dark Salon at Open Source Gallery in order to explore how “we navigate space and conversation when our reference point shifts from one of light to one of darkness.” While watching the blindfolded participants talk on the Livestream feed, I thought a lot about the Enlightenment as a point in history when humans began to privilege the mind over the body. Over the course of the conversation, participants seemed to shift from a more conceptual space to a more phenomenological space. They went from saying what they thought about light and darkness to saying how they experienced them. What was the experience like for you?

EG: Copernican Views: Revelations Through Darkness was a grand experiment for me and also thoroughly enjoyable. The point of the Dark Salon was to try to understand what it’s like to navigate a space when our main point of reference is gone—in this instance, light—through a unique, polyphonic experience. As mediator and host, I had no visual cues to go by. I’d like to try this art activity again with more time dedicated to the discussion. It took a while for everyone to shift out of relating “darkness” to “blindness,” but once they did, we had fantastic conversations about what “darkness” means to us as individuals and as a culture. For me, this is when the salon really began. If we continued, I’m sure we would have discovered more how darkness could be an anchor point for navigation instead of light, and in a broader sense, how what we commonly perceive as emptiness can really be solid.

Immortality (work-in-progress)
Ink on paper
65 in x 80 in

OPP: What new projects are you working on?

EG: In addition to continuing work on Mobile Stoop Project and #HomemadeLandscape series, I’m working on three other series of artworks. Rise of the Greenlandic Metropolis is a series of artworks based on the premise that Greenland becomes the next world superpower because fresh water is the new global currency. The first phase was a survey of the landscape and potential sites for new development for exporting arctic water; the next phase of the series focuses on an international media campaign to recruit for the new Greenlandic Military. 

Immortality is a series of large scale drawings, approximately 65 in x 80 in, where I’m writing the entire English translation of Milan Kundera’s book of the same name, in cursive writing. As a nod to the lost art of handwriting and the large contribution scribes have made throughout history, the drawings question Plato’s categorizations of what is imitation and what is real in creation. Kundera’s novel, which is also one of my all-time favorites, likewise questions the role of—as well as who or what is—the creator. Like so many other works that weave together different spaces, the process for these drawings is both physically taxing and meditative. I’m emotionally and physically feeling the shape of each letter, each form, in the book’s re-creation.

I’m also currently working on a not-yet-titled series of artworks that feature hand drawn QR codes in an effort to further link mathematical, psychological and physical spaces. Each artwork/QR code reveals a second, unique artwork: a photograph of the artist as a female nude, shot in a way so the female body is reminiscent of a landscape. As Laura Mulvey pointed out in her text Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, men are (self) perceived as figures in the landscape, while women are often thought of as part of the landscape, to be gazed upon. In other words, men are makers of meaning while women are bearers of meaning. These artworks aim to reveal this cultural perception while turning it on its head. As the artist, the protagonist, the figure and the woman, I can track when, where and how often the QR code is scanned. I’m now looking at you, while you're looking at me. The landscape is now the figure. The object is now the subject. Some day, the technology for QR codes will be defunct, the second figurative artwork will be “lost” in virtual space and all that will be left is the drawing of a digital landscape.

To see more of Erin's work, please visit eringleason.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Stoney Sasser

Habit(at): Garden Variety (detail)
Fabric, Hex Netting, acrylic, latex, glitter, great stuff, foam, yarn, polystyrene fill, cotton batting, chalk markers
Dimensions Variable
2015

STONEY SASSER investigates the interconnectedness of humans, plants, animals and the surrounding material culture in sprawling installations that climb the walls and creep along the floors. These otherworldly landscapes, featuring patterned fabric, glitter and fringe, are campy, playful prosthetics for nature's creatures and plants. Stoney has a BA in Psychology and a BFA in Painting from the University of Montana in Missoula. In 2015, she earned her MFA in Painting and Sculpture from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois and was recently included in Fresh: New Master Artists, a survey of recent MFA grads across the country, at Contemporary Art Gallery, Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. Stoney lives in Missoula, Montana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You have a background in science and experience with organic farming. How does that feed into the work that you make as an artist?


Stoney Sasser: I consider my practice to be holistic in nature, where facets of my life feed my “art.” So my education, time on the farm, hours in meditation and days traveling and exploring all certainly inform my practice of making. I like to consider an idea that Gregory Bateson addresses in his book Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. He searches to find the pattern which connects and asks, What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me? And me to you?

In a very physical way, I am asking this same question, using the body as a locus for a broader conversation. For me, the question is extended beyond how biological organisms are connected to include how we are all connected to material culture, artifice and waste. If the biological and non-biological are all made from stardust, is it sacred or profane? My activities in the world help inform these concerns and investigations both visually and conceptually.

First Piggy
Plaster, fabric, foam, welding rods
approx 3.5'x 1.5'x 8'
2014

OPP: Can you talk about the materials you choose for your installations and your process? It seems that First Piggy, Second Piggy (on the mountain) and Third Piggy (at the roast) from 2014 are reorganizations of the same material? If so, is that a recurring installation strategy?

SS: YES! My fascination with materials drives much of my installation practice. This enthusiasm is blundered by a relentless question: When we replace our natural world with man-made artifice, what do we do with all of this stuff?! In the pursuit of re-wilding, I see my installations as proposals for biological prosthetics.

I commonly salvage materials from thrift-stores or the side of the road. I am drawn to fabrics, glitter, craft-kitsch supplies. I love them for their enthusiasm, flat-footedness and ability to relate to ‘everyday people’ (specialization in art-jargon not required in the experience). I also use industrial supplies: hex netting, Great Stuff, caulk, paint. These materials are a language of construction and transformation. In my studio, I play, experiment and make mistakes in an attempt to learn their capacity for transformation and to become some cousin of the biological.

All of the Piggys are reiterations of each other. I used the constituent pieces to negotiate gesture, composition and space. I commonly will reuse many of the same elements and physical pieces in my installations. With each installation, however, I typically incorporate at least one new element. This process is useful for me because it is additive, and as I establish this often bizarre and jubilant lexicon, I can rearrange the syllables to create new meanings. So instead of creating new work with each show or opportunity, my work rather calls and responds to itself over time. 

Soothsayer (detail)
Fabric, Chicken Wire, Video Cameras, Projector
Dimensions Variable (approx 15' x12' x15')
2015

OPP: Could you say more about biological prosethetics?

SS: Somewhere in the back of my mind is a constant tickle of concern, what are the ramifications of humans living outside the parameters of ecological equilibrium? My "proposals for biological prosthetics" are perhaps a tongue-in-cheek solution to waning ecological diversity and the increasing homogeneity of bio-forms.

The attempt to "rewild" with the debris of humans is both useless and fascinating. On one hand, an amalgamation of human debris will never contain the anima of the bio-spectrum - it won't eat, love, reproduce or die. It is still subject to entropy, but not in the same capacity as a vehicle-of-vita. I was reminded of this limitation when visiting Biosphere 2 this summer. In the 1980s, scientists ran a social and ecological experiment to see if humans could sustain themselves within an artificially constructed biosphere. Ultimately the original goal failed when they had to break the seal to let in more oxygen, but although a lot of interesting, important research has come from Biosphere 2. While visiting I was struck by how, despite the brilliance and creativity of humans, the intelligence and interdependence of our biosphere is paramount. If there wasn't a complex network of trees, plants and animals and wind to keep them healthy and water to keep them nourished, none of us would have a chance at existence. It's humbling. 

In saying that, the proposal for biological prosthetics is a playful way to create, honor and evoke the wild, the exotic and the intersection between the biosphere and humans.

Antumbra V
Collage, Print, Mixed Media
11"x10"
2015

OPP: Your prints and collages are much more abstract than your installations, which seem to be otherworldly landscapes. What are the connections between the two- and three-dimensional work? From a process point of view, do you prefer one way of working over the other?

SS: My two-D and three-D practices compliment each other. I enjoy both for the functions they serve. My installation work is complex, often tedious. It can take months of work to develop the constituent pieces. Due to the nature of installations, I am unable to see the end result until the last piece goes into place. Somewhere in the middle of construction I generally find myself yearning for the simple days of using paper and charcoal. Thus my two-D practice allows me access to a more simple way of working. I like to assign myself constrained variables to explore as a means to simplify, parse out and clarify qualities I might be looking for in my other work.  



OPP: I want to know more about the videos represented by stills. . . are these in-process pieces? Winner Winner Chicken Finger Master With Sound, which I found on Vimeo, is strange and funny and I want to see more! It looks like this video may be part of a triptych… what can you tell us about your video work?

SS: My video stills are indeed in-process iterations of a time-based investigation. I explore various lines of study through video—wind studies, light-based movement and my own movement studies, for example. In each of these I explore gesture and transformation. I commonly use video as a means to see if I can turn my body into something else, often creatura in nature. Winner Winner is an example of this, where I am flushing out my bug-like nature and exploring perversion in consumption. Much of this work is absurd and reveals the works’ kinship to the carnivalesque. 



Fresh (detail)

OPP: Your work was included in Fresh: New Master Artists, a survey of recent MFA grads across the country, at Contemporary Art Gallery, Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. The show closed in mid November. Tell us about what you showed and how you see it now that a month has passed.


SS: My install for Fresh was an opportunity to negotiate the challenges of being a material-heavy, installation artist while on the road. I approached activating the space using paint and some materials gathered while in Louisiana. But I also incorporated scents and sounds into the installation. I had about three days for installation, much of which were negotiating the floors which were noisy and distracting to the work. In hindsight, I was most excited by the relationship of lines between the wall, my urchins and the lined structure on which they were suspended as I was considering ideas of drawing in space. In the future I would like to take the elements of the paint and the urchin-like forms and multiply them in density to further complicate the space and the viewer's experience. I also was excited to test scent as a fourth-dimension of experience in my work. I am looking forward to working with different scent pairings and am currently searching for more bizarre options from which to choose.

To see more of Stoney's work, please visit stoneysasser.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Her most recent show was Form Unbound (2015), a two-person exhibition at Dominican University's (River Forest, IL) and she'll be exhibiting at the Ukranian Institute of Modern Art (Chicago) in February 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Pei-Hsuan Wang

Over and Over Again
2014
Ceramic, glaze, paint
Photo credit: I-Hsuen Chen

PEI-HSUAN WANG combines ceramics with found materials, both domestic and industrial,  in poetic arrangements that evoke the home. Abstract references to picture frames, house plants, curtains and ottomans hint at intimate, stable spaces, which seem to be the antidote to the disruption of international migration—from Taiwan to America and back again—that informs her practice. Pei-Hsuan received her BA from Macalester College in Minnesota and her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. In 2014, she had two solo exhibitions in Taipei, Taiwan: Mobile Scapehood at FreeS Art Space and Formation No.1: On Levitation at Bamboo Curtain Studio. In 2015, she has been an artist-in-residence at 1a Space in Hong Kong and European Ceramic Workcentre in the Netherlands. She lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You were born and raised in Taiwan, earned your BFA and MFA in the U.S. and then returned to Taiwan in 2013. How has your personal experience of international migration affected the work you make?

Pei-Hsuan Wang: Taiwan is a country in constant struggle with its own identity. This has affected the mentality of many Taiwanese people: we are forever locating/relocating ourselves in this ever changing world with fluctuating powers. I left Taiwan unaware that a big part of what motivated my departure was the unfulfilled hole of not knowing who I was and where I came from in a "worldly" context. I had attempted to pass as someone "legitimate" by migrating West-ward. I did not see this until years later, of course. Being in the U.S. allowed me to reflect on my experiences occupying multiple spaces. I began to see Taiwan in a different light, and at the same time, view America from a critical perspective. All of these become things I think about in my work.

All They See is the Horizon Line
2011
Ceramic
13 x 8 x 6" each
Photo credit: James Carrillo

OPP: Earlier projects, Chinked-Out Factory and Asian Persuasion (both 2011), make overtly political statements about identity, the commodification of stereotypes and globalization? These projects are such a contrast to your recent installations, which I would describe as poetic and meandering as opposed to pointed and critical. What led to this shift?

PW: I often have ideas that I don't have time to follow through with yet. This is kind of what happened to Chinked-Out Factory and Asian Persuasion. They were meant to be long term endeavors. I was struggling to execute these projects in final forms, however, despite the fact that there existed already a variety of pieces in thought or sketch forms that could be made whenever I felt like it. I believe this has a lot to do with fear of perpetuating stereotypes and disseminating easily misinterpreted messages. I wonder if the satirical content is clear in the racially charged comments and caricatures I create, and if the work only appeals to those already aware of the things I want to talk about and therefore, remains a witty one-liner. I am still thinking about this.

The more poetic works are ways for me to ask questions rather than give answers or demand attention in approval. More thoughts are able to generate that way, for me and for the viewers. I am able to play more freely with ideas, materials and forms and to think as I make. Sometimes I come to no solid conclusion and I’m totally okay with that. Every piece becomes an experiment.

Closer to Home
2013
Bamboo, ceramic, cushion
Dimension variable
Photo credit: Thomas Cheong

OPP: Throughout your sculptural oeuvre, I notice a lot of visual references to home decor. In some cases, you've used actual found furniture, as in In Transit (2011), but there are also more abstracted, poetic indications of picture frames, house plants, ottomans, carpets and curtains in Portal (2012) and Closer to Home (2013). Could you talk about the significance of these references?

PW: I like taking things that are dear and familiar to my experiences and turning them into something vaguely associative. These things become starting points to wonder. They can act as anchors to relate, in visual form or other forms. The fact that they are often home decor did not occur to me until you mentioned it in this question. I suppose I am interested in observing spaces and things in those spaces, however fitting or out of place.

Closer to Home
2013
Ceramic, tarp
each object approx. 13 x 10 x 55"
Photo credit: Thomas Cheong

OPP: I love the images of Formation No.1: On Levitation (2014), your most recent exhibition, which show viewers/participants interacting with your sculptures. The Throne, for example, seemed so precarious until I saw the images with children climbing the wooden stairs. Does this audience participation relate to the sense of detachment you write about in your statement?

PW: Thank you. As a whole, the piece is a version of the more or less structured manifestation of my messy and multilayered thoughts at the time. I wanted the audience to experience the space and become a part of my thought form in visual realization. They were encouraged to participate and activate the installation, but were not imagined or anticipated in any way to "mean" something or relate to something to my work when I made the piece. I wanted to allow whatever happened to happen, and allow the piece to create its own extended stories, through whichever ways possible.

The Throne
2014
Wood, found school chair, found fragments of brick houses, cement
Photo credit: I-Hsuen Chen

OPP: In asking that question, I was thinking that inviting participation with the work is a way to create a connection between you and your viewers that is beyond the visual. With the growth in Social Practice work over the last decade and a wider acceptance of materiality as on par with composition and form, the functions of fine art are in the process of being reconsidered and the boundaries are shifting—as they always do. It’s actually quite difficult to simply talk about “visual” art anymore, because so many artists are working in ways that engage other senses and the body and mind as a whole. Sometimes the word “viewer” is no longer accurate. I’m curious what you think about fine art’s history of privileging the eyes over other modes of perception. Is it changing?

PW: I do believe it is important that the participation of the "viewers" not be limited to the visual, but also other modes of perception—spacial, audio and corporeal—that are present in my work. We all have certain senses that we rely on over the others; this opens up more opportunities to explore ways of production and also ways of understanding. And I do think the experience and the awareness of the experience have become a big part of art practices in all disciplines. I believe it is going to be even more so in the future, with newer attempts to bridge peoples with ideas, which are never quite visual in the first place, in whatever ways we can.

Altar
2014
Salvaged wood, old pallets for concrete pours, resin, concrete, bulb, seat cushion
Dimension variable
Photo credit: I-Hsuen Chen

OPP: What's being worshiped in Altar, a piece in your most recent exhibition, Mobile Scapehood?

PW: The title Altar mainly referred to the feeling that the piece gave me personally. It was tucked in a quiet corner in an existing space and created a small space of its own, even though the structure seems semi-open to the eye. The niche space allowed one to kneel in cozily and study the textured details of the resin, which was in fact a messed-up cast with the wrong ratio of A-B parts, as well as the hole within the concrete shape, which was originally a custom-made piece for an industrial ventilation system in some factory in the city. The whole thing can be like a hollow mind space waiting to be filled with people's private thoughts. In that sense, the thing to be worshiped was absent.

To see more of Pei-Hsuan's work, please visit pei-hsuanwang.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, just opened at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and runs through December 19, 2015.