OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Alexis Beucler

Woman in Stripes at the Beach, 2019. Oil, dye, canvas. 67 x 81"

ALEXIS BEUCLER (@liquidlandscape) investigates the landscape-figure relationship in paintings, soft sculpture and printmaking. The humans that populate her colorful, patterned landscapes float on inner tubes, frolic, fuck and lay about, seemingly carefree. But underneath the water, alligators lurk and decapitated heads decay. Alexis earned her BFA in Painting and Printmaking with a Minor in Art History at Florida State University. She has had two solo shows at Gallery E260 at the University of Iowa (Iowa City): Beyond the Mangroves (2019) and Razzle Dazzle Landscapes (2018). In 2019, she is an Artist-in-Residence for public art at the Grant Wood Art Colony in Iowa City. Alexis is currently pursuing her MFA in Painting and Drawing at University of Iowa, expected to graduate in 2020.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You’ve said in your artist statement that you “investigate a landscape-figure relationship.” How does the history of landscape painting inform your work?

Alexis Beucler: I’m drawn to the presence and absence of human figures within the history of landscape paintings. I am enamored by David Hockney’s patterned forestsEdvard Munch’s beachesJohn Dilg’s quiet trees, Mark Messermith’s bright, urgent, anxious landscapes. These spaces make me wonder, when can a campfire speak as loudly as a group gathering? When can a mark of paint emphasize collective feelings? How can animals and plants be placeholders for figures?

Swampland Bacchanal, 2018. Oil on canvas

OPP: What other visuals influence your work?

AB: Over the past year I’ve been reflecting on my time in the Floridian landscape—a landscape I’ve taken for granted for the past two decades—the native plants, swamps, waterways, festivals, island gatherings, quiet explorations.

Seeking to expand the lands in my painted world and in search of specificity of a space, I’ve started traveling to landscapes such as the New Mexico with sprinkled green plants dotting the desert land, blooming midwestern prairies, and I’m hoping to travel to Hawaii soon.

Afternoon Swim, 2018. Gouache on Paper. 20" x 28"

OPP: Do you think of the figures in your landscapes as in sync with their environments or oblivious to them?

AB: The landscape and environments subconsciously affect their motivations and actions. Likewise, the landscape absorbs the energy from actions the figures present, so the figure-landscape relationship is more symbiotic than anything.

In nighttime environments, there’s an increasing sense of urgency: people gather around fires, parties go too far. During the day, I think about the aftermath or residue of what occurred in the darkness, and wonder, do the figures exploring the day world know what happened the previous night? Are they floating down the river on an inner tube of bliss? How long have the mysterious heads at the bottom of the swamp been there, and does anyone other than the landscape remember them? As I explore this painted world, questions such as these are my guide.

Submerged Secrets, 2018. Gouache on Paper. 20" x 28"

OPP: Many paintings—Submerged Secrets (2018), Swamplandia: Journey With the Birdman (2018), and  Pink Alligator Roaming the Lands (2019), to name a few—reveal what is hidden beneath the surface of the water. Talk about your intent with this recurring compositional strategy.

AB: I’m interested in the above and below, how landscape shifts and becomes more fluid beneath the water’s surface, and how the underwater landscape is relatively untouched.

I grew up in Florida, where I visited the Weeki Wachee underwater theater quite often. We’d watch “mermaids” perform underwater dance routines and dramas. I remember when the water level was low, you could see hints of landscape above the water and the depths of the spring below, separated by the wavy line. I knew the mermaids were figures slipped into costumes, but I let my mind explore the fantastic possibility of seeing them and believing in them. Above the surface they are like me; below, they can be anything! That was my first real taste of magical realism. 

Beyond the Mangroves, 2019. Installation view. 

OPP: In your most recent exhibition, Beyond the Mangroves, you’ve now introduced references to home decor through the inclusion of a painted “blanket,” stuffed frames and a string of painted pennants. How do these additions change the context of the paintings?

AB: I’m increasingly intrigued by magical realism in fiction. For example, in Murakami’s IQ84, everything is seemingly mundane until a character looks up and realizes two moons occupy the sky. It’s so real, they wonder if the moons have always been there, if others notice them, or if they have transcended into a new space? This moment—one that identifies a subtle shift within our reality—is reflected within the physical objects from Beyond the Mangroves.

The red and white striped blanket and colorful pennants are recurring images within my paintings. Bringing them into the viewer’s physical space takes the viewer one step closer to the painted world. The blanket becomes an area the viewer needs to walk around, see through, and is invited to sit on and gaze at the paintings. 

Frames take on soft undulating forms that are repeated within the paintings— they reference fingers, arms, leaves, clouds, bottles. Soft and moldable. Gradients of color. They hug the picture and seep into our space.

Luncheon, 2018. Gouache on Paper. 20" x 28"

OPP: You are halfway through your graduate studies in Painting & Drawing at the University of Iowa. I know grad school is a whirlwind, so I wanted to give you an opportunity to reflect. How’s it going so far? How has your work changed in the first year of pursuing your MFA?

AB: It has been quite the whirlwind. Since I’ve been at UIowa I’ve started focusing more on landscape, patterns, personal mythology and magical realism. There’s an increasing nuance in color play and physical connection between figures and landscape.

Rocky Shore, 2018. Lithography Bleed Print. 15" x 22"

OPP: Before grad school, you made soft sculpture and also worked in printmaking. The lithographs on your website are just as detailed as your paintings, but eschew color in favor of pattern. But it seems that painting is your primary focus. How do you choose which medium to work in on a given day? 

AB: With painting, I’m able to delve deep into the world. Figures emerge, I trek into new lands, and through color everything flows together. With lithography, I generally already have an idea of what the image will be and use drawing as a tool to find ways of maximizing space with dense patterns. Recently I’ve been using this process to approach painting with fresh eyes and apply the detailed patterns from my print world into the painted one.

I can’t make soft sculptures until I have a clear grasp on where the paintings are taking me. I’ve spent the past two years reevaluating the landscape and figures through painting and have recently felt like I can once again pull some recurring elements out into our physical space through soft sculpture.

To see more of Alexis' work, please visit alexisbeucler.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006. Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan, 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis, 2017), Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018) and Kent State Stark (North Canton, 2019). Her work is included in the three-person show Manifestations, which opens on June 14, 2019 at One After 909 (Chicago).


Going Strong for 7 Years: Libby Barbee

Did you know the OPP blog has been featuring exceptional, living artists since 2011? We are committed to looking at the full trajectory of each Featured Artist's work, as represented on their websites. As an artist myself, I don't think of individual artworks or projects in a vacuum. I'm more interested in how one work leads to another and what drives artists to keep making. So it's exciting to revisit artists interviewed in the first few years of the blog and find out what's changed and what's stayed the same in their practices. Today's artist is Libby Barbee (@libby.barbee).

The Commutation of Distances, 2018. Print on panel. 24" w x 66"-72" h

OtherPeoplesPixels: What's new in your studio, practice or work since you were interviewed back in 2012?

Libby Barbee: Wow! So much is new—and yet, nothing at all. I am still creating work that is broadly centered around the relationship between nature and culture, and often specifically focused on American frontier myth. However, though the themes I’m investigating have stayed the same, my approach to making artwork has changed a lot. Back in 2012, I was doing studio work full-time and most of what I was making was very time intensive. A large part of my practice was focused on intricate collages that took me months in the studio to complete.

The World Finally Gives Way, 2016. Cut paper and collage. 36"h x 48"w

Since then, I have had two babies and a very full second career. Making art is non-negotiable, so my practice has had to adapt and become more flexible. These days, I work a lot faster and in a much more focused manner. I do a lot of work from my computer, which frees me to work a little more nomadically. I have been working with digital prints that I can compose wherever I am, whether that is at the kitchen table while my children are napping or between classes at the University where I am teaching.

Astral America, 2016. Installation (digital prints mounted on plywood, sand, cacti, backpacking gear)

I have been surprised to find that though I have a lot less time to spend in the studio, I have been much more productive and have had a ton of cool opportunities come my way. The last year especially was a whirlwind of art-making. I collaborated with fellow Denver artist Bill Nelson to complete a participatory art piece titled The Sound Mirror Project. The project was really different than anything that I had done before and has left me wanting to do more participatory work.

MLRA 69: Upper Arkansas Valley Rolling Plains, 2018. Cut paper and ink.120"h x 36" w

Over the spring and summer, I worked on a piece commissioned by the Gates Family Foundation that used cut paper and prints to visualize data about the effects of agriculture and grazing on soil ecology. In the process, I was able to spend time working with a USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Rangeland Specialist, from whom I learned so much about sustainable grazing and agriculture. I am convinced that the sciences urgently need artists to make environmental knowledge understandable and compelling, and to help propel movement towards sustainability. I hope to have more opportunities to work with scientists and ecologists in the near future.

Shapeshifters, 2018. Installation. 22'w x 12'h

I also had the opportunity in the fall to do a large installation at Facebook’s corporate offices in downtown Denver as part of the FB AIR (Facebook Artist in Residence) Program. The piece was installed the same week that my son was born, so things got a little nutty, but it was a really cool project and resulted in work that I am very proud of.

Taming This Most Unruly Nature, 2018. Print on panel. 2' x 2', 3' x 3', and 4' x 4' panels.

In addition to my studio practice, I have the amazing fortune to be able to work with artists in other aspects of my work life. In one corner of my life, I manage grant programs for artists at RedLine Contemporary Art Center in Denver. The Arts in Society program that I run provides $500,000 per year to support cross-sector work in the arts in CO. I have been endlessly inspired by artists who are using their art to make impacts in areas such as health, science and community welfare. In another corner of my life, I teach studio classes at local universities. I love working with young artists, and students are constantly giving me new ideas and fueling my curiosity. 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Montana Torrey

Bagnasciuga, 2017. Folded collagraph. 28.5" x 6" x 10.5" total piece is 29 feet.

During the midnight sun months in Iceland, MONTANA TORREY painted the sunset daily on her window. She hung gauzy ghosts of American Private Property signs In a Finland forest, where Everyman's Law rules. In Venice, she looked to the horizontal line of algae growth along the sides of the canals as a document of the difference between wet and dry. In each case, landscape is a lens that magnify the dualities inherent in particular sites. Montana earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Headlands Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Catwalk Institute, and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, among others. Recent Exhibitions include shows at Hotel Art Fair (Bangkok, Thailand), the Subhashok Arts Centre (Bangkok, Thailand) and SAC Gallery and Lab (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Montana currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she is a Visiting Lecturer at Chiang Mai University.

OtherPeoplesPixels: According to your website, your work “employs the landscape as a metaphorical tool to investigate sites of opposition.” What kinds of oppositions? Can you give us some examples?

Montana Torrey: My work is a response to particular sites, either through direct physical engagement with the landscape or by using metaphorical elements of the landscape contained within architecture. The sites of oppositions are an arrangement that I create as a way of recontextualizing and understanding place. I do this by structuring a dialogue between the site, material, and an idea.

I approach the site by questioning its dualities: public/private; absence/presence; tangible/intangible; fear/comfort; freedom/containment; heaviness/ weightlessness, etc. My most recent work, Floodplain (126), re-imagines an ancient flooded ruin in Chiang Mai, Thailand through the dualities of absence/presence, past/presence, heaviness/weightlessness. This work embodied the temporal past and present of the ruin, suggested the flood waters through the piece’s movement, and transformed the seemingly inherent weight of brick by making them from paper and creating the illusion of weightlessness.

I have used oppositional structures to create and form a new experience of place and understanding of the site in its relation to the present.

Division of Labor, 2015. Hand-sewn silk organza. 30 feet.

OPP: Can you talk about the various barriers—both literal and metaphoric—in your work?

MT: The use of barriers, borders and fences started when I was in graduate school. Much of my work then was about public and private space and the psychological factors that determine what we deem as protective/protected space within the American psychic landscape. This was the beginning of my interest in literal divisions of the landscape and how we divide, manipulate and control space to further convey these ideas. At that time, I was looking at a lot of historical American landscape paintings—such as those of the Hudson River School—that were celebrating the vastness of the landscape as a form of propaganda to promote westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, which in turn resulted in the exploitation and further division of the landscape into private property.

Morning Light Barrier, 2016. Hand-painted silk organza. Variable dimensions.

OPP: What about the light barriers?

MT: I created the sewn “light barriers” for several exhibitions at the Catwalk Institute in Catskill, NY as a response to the work of Frederic Church. With these pieces, I was re-inserting elements of Church’s skies back into the landscape, inverting the horizon and imprisoning shafts of light. So, my first sewn light barriers were a reference to Church and others’ use of the horizon as a representation of the future, a collective future of the land beyond. However, when my pieces were inserted into the landscape they functioned as barriers, by creating physically blocks and restricting the suggestion of the infinite.

From there I began using the horizon more and more, working with the horizontal and vertical elements of dusk and dawn and experimenting with these pieces in relation to architecture.

We Buy Gold, 2011. Tarpaulin.

OPP: You’ve been to numerous residencies in European countries—Iceland, Finland and Italy, to name a few. It seems that many of your projects in these countries refer back to the American landscape by inserting what is missing. Is this a planned agenda or an intuitive response?

MT: Each site is tangible, present. One of the ways I approach my practice is by searching for an absence or ways of evoking absence through presence. I am interested in the formation of spatial perception and how spatial perception can be culturally defined. So, when I am working in a new country, I seek to insert my own spatial understanding of the landscape into that place. It is a form of place-making, rooted in memory, and cultural conditioning about the landscape. I try to collapse the distance of my own past and my immediate present in space.

On one hand, it is a calculated way of working, but within this, I allow for the experiential. I like to remain open to how my ideas will evolve and be informed by new places and cultures that help to shape the development of my work.

Permanent Sunset, 2012. Paint on window. Skagaströnd, Iceland.

OPP: What does your practice look like when you aren’t at residencies?

MT: Because I create installations about place, my work is always in flux and requires the continual investigation of materials and research, through both conceptual and academic development. Much of my work is informed by architecture and nature, so this is an endless and peripatetic investigation. Moving through space and observing the ways in which we understand the landscape through movement is very much a part of my research: when I live in the U.S., I am constantly driving and searching for architectural forms or sites to use within my work, but also making note of time and distance. I am seeking to create more of a phenomenological experience within my current installations, so finding ways of understanding a more embodied experience is critical.

Much of my practice takes place outside of the studio, in the field or in the library, and my studio is much more of a laboratory for the testing of materials, but the work all comes together in the installation.

Floodplain (126), 2018. 126 folded collagraphs. 3.5 x 3.5 meters.

OPP: What’s a collagraph? How does this process support your conceptual concerns in Bagnasciuga (2017) and Floodplain (126) (2018)?

MT: A collagraph is a basic printmaking technique in which the plate can be created with very inexpensive materials such as cardboard, glue, gesso. I started using this technique last year (2017) when I was a fellow at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy. I found that collagraphs gave me the ability to create a wide variety of textures and to mimic the water line on the Istrian stone for my piece, Bagnasciuga. I began to make installations out of 3-dimensional collagraphs.

Both Bagnasciuga and Floodplain (126) explore the intersection between water, the built environment and the physical vulnerabilities of these structures through climate change. I intentionally used paper for these works because it helped to convey vulnerability via a shift in materiality from stone or brick to a fragile material. The paper also created another conceptual dichotomy; the illusion of weightlessness. Both of these installations move with the gentle swaying of water. Bagnasciuga moves back and forth like the rocking of the vaporetto or a dock as you move throughout the city, and Floodplain (126) moves like debris floating on the surface of water. Again, the experience of movement through space is critical to the function of both of these pieces, as I tried to evoke the feelings of floating, shifting, swaying, gliding, drowning and rising to the surface of water as the viewer moves around and through these works.

Portable Widow's Walk, Bird Island Lookout, 2008. Handcut canvas/ acrylic paint.

OPP: Where to next? 

MT: I am currently living and working in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a Visiting Lecturer in the Painting Department at Chiang Mai University. I’ve been in Thailand for the past eight months, having originally come here as an artist-in-residence with the Subhashok Arts Centre in Bangkok, but subsequently secured a position as a guest lecturer. For now, I plan to stay here for the foreseeable future, possibly with an intermittent break pursue a Ph.D. 

It is important to me to find alternative and affordable ways of creating an art-practice and to seek teaching experiences outside of the U.S., given the current political and financial climate for the arts. While I believe in art as an essential element of resistance, the responsibility of maintaining an arts practice in my home country, where funding for the arts is being slashed and the cost of living continues to rise, was becoming unsustainable for me. Furthermore, being in Southeast Asia has given me a deeper understanding of how dynamic and ever-changing the global art world is. My work will always reflect my experience growing up in the U.S., but I want to find more and more ways of connecting that experience to the rest of the world. 

To see more of Montana's work, please visit montanatorrey.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist  Stacia Yeapanis.  When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018).  Most recently, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit  Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Isak Applin

He Was a Friend of Mine, 2016. Oil on canvas. 36" x 48"

ISAK APPLIN's painted vignettes often depict quiet moments that point to the internal experiences of their subjects. A man chops wood while remembering a betrayal. Solitary figures stroll through the forest in contemplation. Although there is occasional drama—sometimes a man is knifed outside a bar. Regardless, these works balance site with story. His attention to color and texture demands that viewrs take the environments as seriously as the action. Isak earned his BFA in Painting at Maine College of Art and his MFA in Painting and Drawing at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His numerous solo shows include: Dark Holler (Chicago, 2006) at Contemporary Art Workshop, Six More Miles (Chicago, 2008) at Roots and CultureChocorua(Ontario, 2013) at Evans Contemporary, and Now Chicago (Sydney, Australia, 2014) at The Hughes Gallery. Around the Mountain Again, a two-person show also featuring the work of Featured Artist Carl Baratta opened at The New Standard Gallery (Sydney, Australia) in early 2018. He is currently at the Stephen Pace House Residency in Stonington Maine. Isak also runs Titan and Weald, a private press specializing in chapbooks, fine press books and relief prints. Isak lives in Queens, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What’s your relationship to the woods?

Isak Applin: I see the forest as a place of mystery and change.

I grew up in the woods of the Taconic Mountains on border of Massachusetts and New York State. In the 19th century, lumber mills, small factories and sheep farms deforested much of the region. As these industries waned during the mid 20th century a rich forest quickly grew back. And yet traces of the old way of life remained: logging roads, building foundations, stonewalls, mysterious piles of rocks and weathered fence posts were scattered throughout the woods. I witnessed the tail end of this transformation as a child; even then I found it awe-inspiring, disconcerting and sublime.

As a child and teenager, the forest was also a stage for adventure—it was my African jungle, Sherwood Forest and Siberian taiga. Later it was the place for one’s first kiss and precious hours of freedom from school and parents. 

The inhabitants of this forested area were also equally fascinating. During the 1970s, the area was settled by Whole Earth Catalog inspired hippies, Vietnam Vets seeking solace and New Yorkers who had always dreamed of owning a horse. It was also a place of big dreams and spectacular and frightening failures. Within a few miles of my house there was a thriving Sufi commune, a huge Indian style Peace Pagoda built entirely by volunteers and a failed nudist colony—it had descended into violent, drug-ridden chaos. I’ve always been extremely fascinated and moved by my neighbors’ eccentric and epic lives. 

The Letter II, 2014. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: How you think about the woods when painting?

IA: Many of the paintings attempt to capture the sentiments I described above. They are simply an edited depiction of that landscape or the story set in that landscape. I have always been a collector of stories and situations I find moving, strange and unique. Sometimes, often years after the event, I feel the need to make a painting of one of these stories in an attempt to record and share it. And this is how much of my work is generated: I hear a story or experience something, find myself reflecting on it, and at some point decide that this event needs to be shared with the rest of the world. 

Forked Lake, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 12" x 9"

OPP: What’s your relationship to landscape painting?

IA: My relationship to landscape paintings is that of a magpie to its nest; I’ll steal from any tradition if it helps me convey the spirit of the story or place I’m depicting! In general, the compositions are largely influenced by Medieval Sienese paintings, Persian and Indian miniatures and various Chinese paintings. Early and mid 20th century European and American modernists often inform my color choices and paint handling. Lately I’ve been under the spell of Monica Poole and Gwenda Morgan, wood engravers from Britain that created marvelously inventive landscape prints.

His Last Night in Randazzo, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 19" x 14"

OPP: His Last Night in Randazzo (2018) and Goodbye Jay (2017) have a cinematic quality, in the sense that the scenes floating around the central figure indicate something other than what’s happening in the present moment. I keep flipping back and forth between thinking they are the near future, the distant past or a complete fantasy in the heads of the figures in the bottom of the the paintings. Thoughts?

IA: Both paintings are inspired by true events, and both depict several different points of time within one composition. The events are fragments, and they do not necessarily come together to form a coherent narrative. In these paintings I hope to capture what it feels like to hear the stories (or the storyteller) that I’m working with, rather than transcribe these events into a linear narrative.  

Goodbye Jay is a memorial painting, albeit a light-hearted one, depicting events from the life of a friend who was a sailor on research vessels in the Arctic and the South Seas. He lived in a comic book world of maritime violence and South Seas romance. His Last Night in Randazzo is a little less straightforward. I used the space to the left of the tree in the center as a container for vignettes depicting an acquaintance’s escape from Sicily and his flight to Detroit. To the right of this tree is a couple walking down a path in the present day--they are the ones that have to live under the weight of the events on the left.

Fantasy is sparingly added to these compositions, I only include fictional events in the paintings if I feel that it will enhance or clarify the feeling that I’m trying to convey.

Spring '96, 2013. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Can you talk about the recurring themes of being chased, watched or stalked?

IA: The chase themed paintings began in 2012. A friend and I were cycling along a wooded path on a drizzling November afternoon, and we were suddenly chased by an incredibly fast deranged man wearing a cape of burlap sacks. Around this same time everyone in my apartment building was unexpectedly evicted. I started making some drawings of being chased while cycling, and the chase theme became an allegory for forced flight.

The “watching” paintings are about longing, loss and the quixotic behavior of scorned lovers. Like the other paintings, these are based on true events from the distant past that have haunted and moved me. I never really set out to make a painting about being stalked, but I can see how some of the compositions could inspire that interpretation.

Dennis and Marilyn, 2016. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Tell us about the process of making collaborative prints with Carl Baratta and Oli Watt?

IA: This series started in 2007. One of our primary goals is to create a collaborative piece where the viewer can’t see each artist’s hand. Put another way, we hope that no one will be able to look at a piece and suspect that I drew the bottom, Carl drew the top and the middle looks like something from one of Oli’s prints. To achieve this, we try to draw in each other’s style, we often take turns carving different parts of the wood block, and we generally make all decisions collectively.

Old Woman Spring Road I, 2016. Collaboration with Carl Baratta, woodcut on paper. 9" x 12"

OPP: Did this collaboration teach you anything about your solo practice?

IA: For a long time, the collaborative work was a place where I (we) explored fantastic and mythological themes that were absent from, or didn’t seem to fit into, my personal work. The collaborative prints were a vessel for passages from the epic of Gilgamesh, invented deities and the depiction of other worlds—content that seemed at odds with my paintings set in the contemporary world. To my surprise, in 2014 the apparitions, ghosts and angels from the collaborative prints started creeping into the personal work, enriching it in a way that I could never have anticipated.

To see more of Isak's work, please visit isakapplin.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Mary Porterfield

The Foresters, 2013. Oil on panel. 36" x 50"

At a distance, MARY PORTERFIELD’s oil paintings appear to be traditional, romantic landscapes replete with raging rivers and waterfalls, looming mountains and gathering storm clouds. But as we move closer, we see that these landscapes are densely-populated with ghostly masses of figures in wheelchairs, dependent on oxygen tanks, supine or hoisted on the backs of others. These works are allegories of care-giving. Through accumulated and repeated visual symbols, this work explores the complex emotional and ethical experience of offering—and sometimes rescinding—aid. After completing a BS in Biology and an MS in Occupational Therapy, Mary went on to earn her MFA from Arizona State University in 2002. Solo exhibitions include shows at Great River Road Museum of Contemporary Art (2015) in Potosi, Wisconsin and the now defunct Packer-Schopf Gallery (2015 and 2011) in Chicago. Her upcoming two-person exhibition Morality Tales, also featuring Kathy Weaver, opens Feb. 24, 2017 at Firecat Projects in Chicago. You can see her work right now in group shows at Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science (Evansville, Indiana), KSpace Contemporary (Corpus Christi, Texas), South Shore Arts (Munster, Indiana) and the Koehnline Museum of Art (Des Plaines, Illinois) through October 21, 2016. Mary lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In works like Between Here and Elsewhere (2014) and The Foresters (2013), do the ghostly figures inhabit your landscapes or are the fields, mountains and sky built out of their ethereal bodies? Or, do they inhabit a parallel universe overlaying ours?

Mary Porterfield: In my paintings, I amass hundreds of figures to both build and inhabit my landscapes. The inspiration to do so came from an instructor who said, “A good painting tells two stories, one from a distance and one from up-close.” That single quote has had a huge impact on me and my desire to work in a dichotomous manner. I’m able to create an illusion of normality—when the paintings are viewed from a distance—by clustering the figures. The darker narratives that emerge when the viewer gets close represent the deceptive appearance of situations and what is outwardly hidden. So often in life, all is not what it seems. I hope to address this by conveying two sensibilities within my work.

Fields of Departure, 2014. Oil on panel. 36" x 50"

OPP: How does your training as an occupational therapist influence the work you make?

MP: When I began working as a therapist over 20 years ago, I always thought it was best to give unconditionally and ceaselessly, even in the direst of circumstances. While I still feel these are exemplary traits, I’ve come to question my initial belief. I’ve seen many caregivers make numerous sacrifices in the midst of futile situations. I’m especially moved when these individuals risk their own physical or emotional health to provide years of assistance. This becomes harder to witness if their efforts are met with indifference or anger.

I’ve always struggled to accept what I cannot change. My landscapes symbolize those situations in healthcare that are literally and figuratively beyond my control. The figures who use wheelchairs or assistive devices represent those patients who faced terminal prognoses or degenerative diseases, which therapy could not affect. The uncertainty of their outcome is represented by animals, who serve as metaphors for strength and danger. Caregivers are represented by young women who risk their own safety to pull or hoist the disabled to safety. These women face the dangers of powerful animals and destructive elements from nature. The caregivers’ efforts are questioned as some of the patients remain immobile while others are brought to a place of isolation or greater peril. Would it have been better if the caregivers accepted what they could not change? Through these works, I advocate for a balance of giving and receiving, especially when assisting others.

The Remaining, 2016. Charcoal, pastel on paper. 11" x 14"

OPP: Can you talk about the difference between the drawings of solitary pairs or small groups floating on colored backgrounds and the same narratives amidst the masses in the landscapes?

MP: Some of the solitary pairs include caregivers who chose to resign themselves to the risks at hand by turning away from the person in need. Other pairs include patients who accepted assistance from another in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances. The many narratives are purposefully repeated to symbolize the universal struggle to find balance when caring for others. 

The small groups floating on the colored backgrounds differ in each painting, pending the scene which surrounds them. In The Foresters, ghostly figures are seen saving those from drowning in the raging river. The shoreline on the right is comprised of those who have been rescued and those who collapsed while attempting to help. On land, other dangers await these individuals as they remain trapped in the surface while surrounded by crocodiles. In Pool of Life, the figures floating in the sky attempt to hoist or pull souls from falling in the water below and the geyser that erupts from it. Some of the figures chose not to accept aide while others still fell despite the rescuer’s efforts. In Fields of Departure, the floating figures include saints who rest on charging buffalo, emerging from the sky. This was in response to stories I had read of herds of buffalo that fell off cliffs when their stampede became unstoppable. This imagery became a compelling metaphor for a powerful and unwavering belief system. Having been raised in a religious household, these beliefs include the desire to give selflessly and unconditionally, even when faced with the impossible. Letting go of these convictions is difficult for me and is a large impetus for my paintings.

Balancing Act, 2016. Charcoal, pastel on paper. 14" x 11"

OPP: Do you consider your drawings works in their own right or are these studies for figures to be included in paintings?

MP: The drawings began as studies for my paintings but recently became images in their own right. The shift began when I was offered a show at Firecat Projects in February of 2017. To prepare for this show, I’ve emphasized drawing as my artistic practice for the last year and a half. Doing so has been an incredibly positive experience. I’m able to bring attention to individual struggles and responses to the uncontrollable. For example, in Balancing Act, a young woman is seen supporting an amputee while delicately standing on crocodiles. Her life is put in jeopardy to provide support to the person in need. If she becomes fatigued or is no longer able to carry the weight she holds, they both will fall. In The Remaining, a female figure tenderly reaches towards an unconscious child. Yet, the child is reliant on an oxygen tank as multiple fires burn close-by. With an explosion looming, the female’s decision to stay poses great risk to her safety. Yet, her resolution to remain is seen in her compassionate expression. Drawing allows me to show such details as the careful positioning of her hand and the vacant look of the child. I’m excited to bring this type of specificity to my new paintings that are based upon aerial views from my recent trip to Alaska.

Falls of Reliance, 2015. Oil on pane. 50" x 42"

OPP: Occasionally, but not in every piece, I see a solid figure: at the top of the waterfall in Falls of Reliance or on a platform by the raging sea in Pool of Life.  What’s the relationship between these singular, solid figures and the masses of ghostly ones?

MP: In Falls of Reliance that singular figure represents those patients who refuse aide, even when assistance is warranted. Something I struggle with in healthcare is when to discontinue therapeutic intervention if it is needed but not wanted. The figure on the platform in Pool of Life signifies those patients I attempted to assist but could not affect due to the magnitude of the injury. That figure, holding a cane and facing the viewer, is one whom I wish I could approach and express my regret.

The juxtaposition of volumetric, solid forms and ghostly imagery began as a desire to create more surface variation in my paintings.  As I began to broaden my technique, the masses came to represent the universal struggle to care for others in a compassionate manner. The repetition of their placement symbolizes the interconnectedness amongst caregivers, who face similar hardships while providing a continuum of care. The ghostly figures, often outlined and transparent, react to the landscape to save others from harm.  Their phantom-like appearance allows them to separate from the many solid elements of nature. Whether the ghostly figures are suspended in the sky or floating in water, they attempt to protect others from natural forces such as waterfalls, raging rivers or storm clouds. In these situations, nature often triumphs, representing the power of the uncontrollable.

Pool of Life, 2009. Oil on wood panel. 54" x 46"

OPP: You ask the question in your statement: Is it better to deny futility or accept what cannot be changed? You tell me.

MP: Unfortunately, I still don’t know the answer. But, the lack of knowing inspires new narratives that inspire other questions, including:  Is it better to be selfless or self-seeking? If is assistance is warranted but not wanted, should it be abandoned? Why is longevity given to some who are indifferent but denied others who desire a long life? The continual search for answers triggers the desire to make new work.

To see more of Mary's work, please visit maryporterfield.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-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, in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia created site-responsive installations for two-person show Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work was recently included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jonathan Keeton

Fall Afternoon, Rio Chama
Watercolor
29" x 57"

JONATHAN KEETON's
large-scale landscapes and nocturnes create a solemn sensation of being immersed in the outdoors. Using watercolor, acrylic and gouache, he works from photographs taken on hikes and conveys a quiet reverence for the natural world. Jonathan documents his sources and his process on his blog. His work will be included in the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition, opening on September 16, 2016  at Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado. He recently won Best in Show at the New Mexico Watercolor Society Spring Show, and you can see his work (almost) every weekend through October 2016 with the Santa Fe Society of Artists. Jonathan lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

OtherPeoplesPixels:
In your statement, you say: “I’m lucky to be able to return many years later to my first love, although I am keenly aware of where my art might be had I been working as a full time artist all those years, and am mindfully anxious to make up lost time now.” What took you away from painting and what brought you back?

Jonathan Keeton: After working as a school teacher and an actor (and a waiter and picture framer), I stumbled into the beginning of computer graphics in California and ended up pursuing a career in visual effects for thirty years. It was nice to actually be paid to do something like art, and I felt a strong need to prove that I could succeed in the ‘real world.' After many years, with some prodding from my wife, I thought that if I was ever going to be an artist I had better start in earnest while I still had energy for it. Most people prefer me now to how I was then…!

Laguna Mesa, Chama River Canyon
Acrylic
11" x 14"
2016

OPP: Your landscapes never have people in them, but in every case, I imagine the point of view of a solitary hiker. These are intimate experiences of nature, not grand, romantic landscapes. There’s a solemn mood of contemplation. Is this just me reading your work through my own history of hiking in Northern New Mexico and Marin County or a tone you’ve intentionally set out to evoke for the viewer?

JK: What a perceptive question! In my landscapes, what I am most intrigued by is the sense of being in the landscape, as opposed to viewing it from a distance. That’s when I have the most powerful response myself, and it is usually a result of having hiked some ways first. So I try to convey that feeling if I can.

Cataract Bridge
Watercolor
30" x 40"

OPP: Why is it important to convey that sense of “being in the landscape?”

JK: I think that it’s a question of intimacy. Like the difference between seeing something, however pretty, at a distance, versus being in it. There is a sense, I think, of still being at a remove that I am trying to avoid; this is the same reason why I prefer to work large if possible. In a large painting the viewer is more likely to enter into it, as opposed to observing it from a (physical and emotional) distance.

OPP: Have you ever painted anything other than the natural world?

JK: Well, of course I paint nocturnes quite a bit. They are often cities or towns, but I feel that they reacquire a magical quality after the sun goes down somehow, that otherwise I find only in nature. I am intrigued by pools at night and also by florist shops in big cities. I would love to do a series of them. In each, I feel like there is a kind of a temple to the natural world of water and flora; a temple of yin if you will.

The Boarding House, Madrid NM
Watercolor
34 1/2" x 54 1/2"
2015

OPP: I should have phrased that differently; I was thinking of the nocturnes as landscapes, too. Although clearly they are not untouched by civilization, as evidenced by the electricity, architecture and roads. But these are rural spaces, not urban spaces, and the human presence is again limited to the point of view of the hiker, or in the case of the nocturnes, the wander. Can you say a little more about similarities and differences between the nocturnes and the landscapes in terms of that “magic quality?”

JK: Well, I am attracted to landscapes that give me a certain feeling, and although I might not be able to describe or predict what I might find, there is a strong recognition when I see it in front of me. Whether I can paint it is another problem! And at night, the sense of being on a planet in space is much stronger than during the day. There is almost a science fiction sense of newness in certain landscapes and night scenes for me, as if they were being seen with fresh eyes, or for the first time. I remember being a camp counselor in Vermont long ago and the kids were always loud during hikes, so that their noise kept away any animals or sense of wonder, bless their hearts. Another counselor had the idea of taking them into the forest on night walks when there was no moon, so one couldn’t even see one’s hand in front of one’s face. It was striking how the kids' attitude completely changed then—they definitely felt like visitors and were awestruck. That’s kind of the feeling that I get and want to convey if possible.

Dawn, Turqoise Trail
Watercolor
8" x 12"
2016

OPP: What’s your process? Do you paint from photographs, on site or from memory?

JK: I would be pretty darn proud of myself if I could paint them from memory! I take photographs and work from them in my studio. I learn a lot from painting on site, but dislike the result. Also, though, I am trying to paint a moment, when the light is a certain way, and everything in the scene changes when the light changes, so it’s pretty much impossible to do this work en plein air for me, when in five minutes everything changes.

A trick that I use to help is to print a version of the image that is exactly the size of my painting, and cut it into pieces to which I refer when I paint. By looking sideways instead of up at a reference, I don’t lose my place so much. I usually make a somewhat pale watercolor of the scene based on a pencil drawing, and that becomes a sort of watercolor sketch that then allows to paint with more boldness, once I have some idea of how everything fits together.

Upper Canyon Road
Watercolor
22" x 30"
2014

OPP: What should a non-painters know about watercolor, acrylic and gouache? Do you have a preference? If so, why?

JK: As it turns out, watercolor is by far the most difficult medium. For some reason many people beginning an exploration into painting feel somehow that they should use watercolors, then abandon the whole idea as a result. Acrylics are considerably easier, although that’s not to say they are a cakewalk, and every medium requires study and practice. Gouache is a medium that I learned in order to not have to throw away ruined watercolors. Basically gouache is watercolor paint with added chalk, and then extra pigment to overcome the chalkiness. It’s opaque, unlike watercolor, and one uses white instead of the paper as white, as one does in watercolor.

I have come to have fewer prejudices against particular mediums, and ultimately see painting images as the goal. There are certainly images that I would only paint in acrylic. When I started painting in acrylic this year, there were several images that I had not considered possible to make as paintings that are now in the queue.

Highway 100, Vermont
Watercolor
22" x 30"
2016

OPP: Why is landscape still relevant/more relevant than a time in history where painting the natural world was the only way to capture it?

JK: Wow, another great question. Well, first of all, we are more divorced from the natural world than at any time in our species’ history. There is a neo-Confucian idea that really struck me when I first encountered it in high school, expressed by the character, ‘Li’ (理). As I read then, it refers to the patterns in jade, but is intended to express the perfection in the apparent chaos of nature. That is exactly what I want to convey in my work. As to why I don’t just make photographs, especially since my paintings are so close in some ways to those photographs; I would describe my work as meditative and devotional, as opposed to emotional or expressive, per se. This is my own personal zen meditation in many ways, and if that feeling of awe and inspiration comes through at all, then I’m pretty happy.

To see more of Jonathan's work, please visit jonathankeeton.net.

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 (2015), a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Most recently, Stacia created a site-responsive installations for Form Unbound (2015)a two-person show at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (Chicago). In September 2016, her work will be on view in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition as part of THE ANNUAL.

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 Scott Patrick Wiener

Northeast United States in Forest Green (circa 1975)
2015

SCOTT PATRICK WIENER is not a landscape photographer. However, he does use a camera to explore how our personal and collective visions of place are manifested in the clichés of landscape photography. Whether using drones to capture images that blur the line between surveillance and Romantic painting or printing appropriated images from his father's travel archive in the least archival way possible, he participates in and interrogates the attempt to hold on time and place. Scott earned his BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2001 and his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. In 2010, he attended Skowhegan and received a DAAD Scholarship for Fine Art to study in Leipzig, Germany. His extensive group exhibitions include shows at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York (2014), the Boston Center for the Arts (2014), and Kunstverein Weiden in Oberpfalz, Germany (2012). In 2015, his work was included in Another Spectacle at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Survey Without Surveillance at Nave Gallery in Somerville, Massachusetts, and he mounted solo exhibition I Can't Hear What You Can't See at Emmanuel College in Boston. Scott lives and works in Arlington, Massachusetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Where does your interest in landscape come from?

Scott Patrick Wiener: First and foremost, the medium of photography. I don't say this to be coy. I excavate and invoke all manner of photographic traditions in my work. Landscape just happens to be the focus at the moment. . . well many moments. . . or really all of them since grad school. What really draws me to the genre is how it used for colonialist purposes in both personal/private and socio-political arenas. (Yikes, have I become a landscape artist?) I’d really like to get back to portraiture at some point or at least invoke it in some project connected to either Landscape Acquisition or Surrogate Parables.

Untitled 2 (Spies in the Sky)
2013
Archival Inkjet Print
40" x 60"

OPP: Are photographic landscapes simply mediated experiences of nature or something else entirely?

SPW: Hmmmm? That’s a big question so please bear with me. Yes, landscape photographs are mediated experiences of nature, but so is simply walking through the woods. Humankind constructs an ideal from that experience and produces/reproduces it in language. Then we make decisions, based on our cultural dispositions, about what are appropriate representations for those concepts. This starts with painting and ends in the hands of the tourist, ultimately finding its way to postcards, calendars, computer desktops, etc. All this to say that cultural norms for the representation of nature are most purely expressed as cliché.

To your question, I find landscape photographs to be some of the most fascinating expressions of banality in our culture. Yes, these clichés flatten out meaning, reducing it to a cultural norm, but there is also something amazing about clichéd representations: they are one of the few places in human culture where large groups of people can agree on something. This is incredible to me. So I use extremely familiar representations of landscape in my work to establish a zero ground for consumption before distorting the view and making it unfamiliar. I like to think that happens at the moment of reception, when my materials work to disintegrate the line between the subjective (interpretive moment) and objective (banal representation). Most of my recent work with landscape imagery is appropriated as well, so the images already exist and have been consumed. I simply work to transform them, to give them another life beyond the one they already lived. It’s a kind of bastardized resurrection.

I was giving a talk recently and someone asked whether or not it was barbaric to embody the view of an other in re-presentation. This was a great question and held me accountable to the famous Adorno quote that I use in my lectures: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” I thought for a moment and responded by saying that I am not embodying an others gaze but taking its evidence (the photograph) and subjecting to an filtration process where it is transformed in its final expression. Therefore I do not propose that an other's gaze, or subject position, is my own. Rather, I am a consumer of images, and those images must be revisited so the suppressed content of the original can emerge for consideration dressed in its new skin.


Southeast from Neutrals Camp at Bergen-Belsen
2010

OPP: "The ongoing project Landscape Acquisition (2012–Present) is a multidisciplinary exercise in the collision between familiar vocabularies of airborne surveillance and the Western history of beauty in art." This in-progress project seems connected to The Luxury of Distance (2008-2010), in which you photographed views of the landscape looking out from various concentration camp sites. The connection for me is a collision between what we see and what we know—based on text— to be true of the point of view. Thoughts?


SPW: I really like your read! When working on The Luxury of Distance in Germany, I wanted to establish an antagonism between seemingly opposite forms of representation established as baselines for depictions of wartime trauma and beauty in nature. The connective tissue for me is banality. Our culture knows and expects certain kinds of images to stand in for particular subject matter. Also of importance is the mutually constitutive dimensions of the language/image dichotomy. When one views images, one describes to themselves; when one reads text, one imagines based on description. I aggressively positioned the body between depictions of the the sublime and horrific. Further, the commemorative view of trauma is utterly denied.

I want to paraphrase Sontag here from Regarding the Pain of Others. She says that photographs make distance explicit in reception, not close proximity, but the latter remains our demand for the image. This closeness is impossible. I want to invoke that position so once again the body is compromised by geographical, psychological, and temporal distances.

The Landscape Acquisition project also invokes physical distance through the detached gaze of unmanned aerial surveillance, but here that distance is collapsed by the very real and violent consequences one can inflict on an other from afar. It is said that the more images one has of another culture/people/place, the more power the producer has over that space. Not only can one see more, but behind the visual production of the subject lies the implication that the seer has more advanced technology and therefore is more of a threat.

The Untitled (Spies in the Sky) pictures abide by this menacing framework and are most similar to the work in Germany in that they visually conflate beauty in nature through landscape aesthetics established by Romantic painting and the sinister, detached view of aerial surveillance. The latter uses the position of looking down and grain in the photograph to invoke cold-war style surveillance pictures. Here, the exertion of power over geography becomes the will to establish control over place via the production of technological imagery.

Some Kind of Equilibrium
2010
Video still

OPP: When you work in video, it is with a photographer's eye. Videos like The Wanderer (2011) and Some Kind of Equilibrium (2010) are static shots of barely moving bodies. They function like photographs with sound, but also remind us that an inherent part of photography's nature is the illusion of stopping time. Why do you sometimes choose video instead of a still image?

SPW: You’re picking up on years of my trying to understand and use video, which remains difficult for me, but ultimately necessary. The only way I could initially approach the medium is from an understanding of the still image. That is why the earlier video works you mention are so static. I chose video for those pieces primarily because the still images I made initially for the works were so booooooooooring. Later I realized that movement within a single static frame was very important and that I could trap gestures of im/balance when confronted with a natural environment in Some Kind of Equilibrium and striving for a sublime experience in The Wanderer. The latter was particularly significant for me in that it places a slightly overweight dude—me in another life—in Friedrich’s wanderer/hero role and forces him to repeat the same walk up a set of stairs placed intentionally at the top of some sad hill. The video loops infinitely without cuts to make clear the Sisyphean dimension of the act. This experience for me is about longing for the sublime experience of nature idealized by the western world in philosophy, painting, photography and moving images. But standing in front of an aesthetic object is not the sublime as Kant would have it because the body is not present in the wilderness, comprehending simultaneously the horrific and beatific dimensions of the natural world. It is an experience of the idea of the sublime.

More recent video work has moved beyond the static shot into places with far more movement (eg. Rehearsal for Sonata in C and  Three Surveys). I guess my exploration of the still frame eventually gave me permission to move beyond it.


My Light Bulb Burn Gray (After My Father)
2012-13
16 Archival Inkjet Prints (11” x 17” each)

OPP: Processes in I Want the One I Can't Have (2012-Present) and My Light Bulb Burns Gray (2012-13) are significant to the content of the work about fading memory and the inability to hold on to our experiences or grasp the experiences of others. Can you explain how you reproduced these images and talk about why you choose those particular images?


SPW: Both of those series from the Surrogate Parables project use images appropriated from my family's travel archive, mostly photographed by my father. Selecting the pictures was based on a simple premise: I chose the most common pictures that a tourist might take to show how they had both acquired and established image-ownership over their destinations. The Eiffel Tower, the Hollywood sign, the Grand Canyon all exemplify those types of pictures. People who travel for the purpose of leisure all make images like this, myself included. I wanted to use the recognition of that common language to establish a foundation for the reception of the work. The pictures also indicate ownership over place in the act of “capturing” the destination and containing it within the four edges of the frame; a kind of image-based bourgeois colonialism.


In the My Light Bulb Burns Gray series I digitally drench the images in 18% gray (neutral photo gray), leaving no white highlight or black shadow. This was the first iteration of the Surrogate Parables project and makes literal a ‘graying out’ of nostalgic experience of travel imagery. The attempt to preserve a moment deemed historic through photography is at the heart of this work.

The process in I Want the One I Can't Have is a bit more involved. Memory motivates this work as well, which pulls images from the same travel archive. Here, I turn the originals into inkjet transparencies, place them against a piece of construction paper under glass, and expose them to sunlight for a week. After this time, the image appears due to the fading of the non-archival dyes in the paper. In display, they are never fixed. They are transient, fugitive images that change and fade over time, just as memory does. Eventually they disappear completely, forcing a confrontation with the human obsession with preserving the self beyond death by denying the image that possibility. No matter how permanent we want our images to be, we continue to change, as does our understanding of them every time we open a history book or remove the top off the shoe box that houses the most personal of family pictures.



I remain frustrated by the way the paper is ignored in photographs to focus on the depicted event. In this work I prioritize the material before the image so that the paper itself has conceptual consequences for the interpretation of the event in question. This way the paper is a significant part of how the picture is interpreted and experienced. When encountered, there is no denying that the material is construction paper. It may even be the first thing one notices. This forces the recognition of a place in time where the past and present coincide in an impermanent and consequential way, which is antagonistic to a historicist understanding of photography as an image that forever places a halt on a given moment. This idea is continues to motivate all of the work I do with technologically reproducible imagery.

To see more of Scott's work, please visit scottpatrickwiener.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, runs through December 19, 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL).

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Cable Griffith

Deception Pass
Acrylic on panel
24 x 30 inches
2014

CABLE GRIFFITH creates and explores fictional worlds in landscape paintings informed by the aesthetics of early video games, visually triggering the nostalgia of a generation. Fictional worlds, of course, are simply analogs for the world we live in, and these colorful, cartoony landscapes use formal reduction to hint at the expansive complexity of imagining what might still be left to discover. Cable earned his BFA in Painting from Boston University in 1997 and his MFA in Painting from the University of Washington in 2002. His numerous solo exhibitions include Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start (2013) at Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, Washington), FlotsamJetsamLagan: The Oneness (2013) at SOIL Gallery (Seattle), Domestic Landscapes (2014) at two shelves (Seattle). The forthcoming Sightings will open in December 2015 at G. Gibson Gallery (Seattle). Cable is a faculty member at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The earliest work on your website (2006-2008) is characterized by intense, accumulative mark-making. Works like Orange Jungle (2008), Green Canopy (2007) and Vertical Shear (2007) hover between abstraction and chaotic environments. Did you consciously shift towards the more designed, organized landscapes that came later or was this an organic evolution in your practice?

Cable Griffith: That transition was definitely organic and happened gradually over several years through several bodies of work. Looking back at the shift, I can try to make sense of it now. The earlier work was a record of me arriving at an invented place, mark by mark, with little-to-no pre-defined plan. I still rely heavily on improvisation, but in 2009, I made World One Overview, my first “map” painting, which attempted to conceive many separate locations into a more fully connected world. Using the maps, I began to locate myself in a more intentional way inside that world and the continuing description of it. Now, some paintings take a vantage point from far above, and some are at ground level. In short, I think that as the invented world became clearer in my mind, aspects of my process became more deliberate.

World One Overview
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 60 inches
2009

OPP: In your most recent work, I see clear influences from both the aesthetics of early video games—specifically, Nintendo and Atari—and Modernist painting. Do the discourses of these seemingly disparate fields share territory? What are the connections for you?

CG: I grew up with Atari and Nintendo and have played video games ever since. More recently, I’ve realized that my understanding of landscape has been heavily informed by video games’ systematic and formulaic way of reducing the complexity of natural environments. This influenced me long before I knew what Modernism was. I’m attracted to the reductive qualities of both and their potential as language. Once I identified that my work was influenced by the history of virtual space as much as painted space, I set out to explore that territory.

One of the crossovers is how reductive form is used in both modernist painting and early video games. Many modernist painters were trying to reduce form intentionally towards a simple and efficient result. They might say they were trying to capture the “essence” of something. In early video games, however, the reduction wasn’t intentional, but rather a limitation of the technology of the time. Because of the limited colors, chunky resolution and minimal memory, the game designers needed to be very inventive with how they maximized the given set of parameters. Some of my favorite games—Zelda and Mario Bros., for example—felt like expansive worlds, when in fact they were entirely made up of only a few variants. In many ways, I’m trying to do the same thing by limiting my parameters while trying to built something that feels limitless.

OPP: What can games do that paintings cannot, and vice versa?

CG: Some games sell millions of copies? And some paintings make people travel thousands of miles to see them in person. Honestly, I’m having a hard time with this question. There are many painfully obvious answers one could come up with that separate the two. But the more I think about it and consider the vast range of things that people have done already and the unlimited potential of both fields, I’ll go out on a limb and say that hypothetically, there’s nothing one can do that the other can’t.

Mountain Stream
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 36 inches
2014

OPP: Tell us about your collaborations with programmer/artist Brent Watanabe.

CG: In 2012, I was working on a large painting installation Side-scroll World One for my exhibition Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. It was my first body of work that explored the crossover of video game space through painting. Side-scroll was composed of over 20 connected/sprawling paintings and referenced the classic platformer video game convention. I posted an image of the paintings in progress on Facebook, and Brent made a comment about mapping a game projection on top of the paintings. I really wanted to see that happen, so we started talking seriously about it.

Although we didn’t use the Side-scroll installation at the time, we got together and came up with a game and world concept, then went our separate ways to work. Brent designed the game system, and I developed the background environment. The final piece was called for(){}; and was a playable triptych, very loosely based on the Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. This year, we revisited the playable painting/video game collaboration on the original Side-scroll World One installation and the game used much more of the wall space in between and around the paintings, including various objects in the room. Both games shared a lack of any clear objective. And this was intentional. As the "player" you could explore the world freely, interact with the environment, try to figure out various cause and effect relationships, consume and leave waste behind. Kind of like humans on earth! We’re continuing to develop these ideas and are looking forward to a new collaborative project in 2016.

for(){};
(collaboration with Brent Watanabe)
Projection mapped video game, acrylic on canvas
2013

OPP: Recent paintings from 2014—Desert, Landguage I, and This is the place - Be prepared to defend yourself, among others—read like pictographs, hieroglyphics or maps key symbols, while still maintaining a clear connection to both video games and landscape. Are these new works landscapes or texts?

CG: They’re both. To me, all landscape paintings are texts. Of course, the more we know about a painting, the more it tells us. And the perspective of time gives us a much different reading on paintings now than 300 years ago. Or even 20 years ago. Everything about a painting is part of its story, down to the pigments and tools, the artist’s social or political relationships, patrons, and trends of the time. Generally, I’ve found that the more you look, the more you find. Of course, the artist’s intention is important, but that’s not where meaning always resides.

The code paintings are, in some way, are a further reduction of natural forms from my map paintings. But I’ve become increasingly interested in the domestic function of paintings. Generally, domestic space is where paintings eventually spend their time. Paintings have a very strong connection and history with living spaces. And yet, artists like to think of their work in a clean, white, empty gallery space. I certainly do. The code paintings and  “tapestries” (painted on loose, raw canvas) are explorations of landscape with a relationship to a domestic site in mind, referencing wall paper and textile patterns.

Desert
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
2014

OPP: Tell us about your upcoming solo show Sightings. This body of work takes an entirely new inspiration as its jumping off point.

CG: The Sightings series was conceived in conversation with the history of landscape painting, notions of the Sublime and the role of painting as documentation. The paintings are all inspired by reports of various unexplained phenomenon in contemporary culture. I’m hoping to evoke a similar sense of wonder and awe as the Romantic landscape paintings of the 19th Century, but in an updated way.  Artists like Thomas Cole and Casper David Friedrich depicted a magnificent and untameable world that suggested the insignificance of man in the face of overwhelming natural forces. Today, much of that landscape has been conquered and covered by a civilization whose aspirations now aim beyond the terrestrial. In a world where anything seems possible, perhaps we give the most pause to things that seem impossible.

Many of the paintings are based off of actual UFO reports in the Pacific Northwest. I use part of the witness’s actual description as the title and research the location and time of the sighting as a starting point for the painting. I don’t take a position on the validity of any of the claims. I’m mainly interested in the sighting phenomenon overall. There are images of several studies of the series on the G. Gibson Gallery's website, but the full show will open in December 2015.

To see more of Cable's work, please visit cablegriffith.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). Stacia recently completed an installation for Chicago Artists' Coalition's 2015 Starving Artist Benefit and is currently working towards a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, for O’Connor Art Gallery at Dominican University (River Forest, IL). The show will open on November 5, 2015.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jonny Green

Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste
2014

JONNY GREEN’s meticulously-rendered paintings of slapdash sculptures merge still life and portraiture. The crude, tiny objects—built from plasticine, ribbons, electrical tape, screws and mismatched clock parts—further his exploration of the human experience of smallness in the face of disaster, loss and uncertainty by portraying these flawed creations with unabashed dignity. Jonny earned his B.A. from Norwich School of Art in 1989 and his M.A. from Royal College of Art in 1991. He has exhibited widely throughout the United Kingdom. Most recently, his work was included in the juried exhibition Contemporary Visions V (2015) at Beers Contemporary and in Saatchi’s  New  Sensations  and  The  Future  Can  Wait (2014) at Victoria  House in  London. In 2013, Jonny was shortlisted for the prestigious Threadneedle Prize. You can see his work until May 8, 2015 in Still Life: Ambiguous Practices, curated by Frances Woodley, at the Aberystwyth University Galleries in Wales. His work will also be included in Distorted Vision, the inaugural exhibition at The Dot Project in London, where Jonny lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Past works have focused on disaster scenes, masquerading as landscape and influenced by famous paintings from art history. Carpark of Earthly Delights (2012), for example, references Hieronymus Bosch's masterwork from the 15th century, and many works are reminiscent of Albert Bierstadt, not just Dead Lake (After Bierstadt) (2012). Are these natural or man-made disasters?

Jonny Green: Both. That series of works began in 2008, right after the big financial crash. My studio at the time faced onto Canary Wharf, one of London's financial centers. I was listening to the news reports of the panic and looking out onto the bank buildings. That particular atmosphere of shock and fear are what triggered and informed those paintings. I started looking at the apocalyptic works of people like John Martin with their strong sense of human smallness, something his work shares with the Hudson River Group, particularly Bierstadt. What interested me in particular was the notion that the whole thing was a fabrication, Bierstadt's visions of the Rockies are exaggerated and romanticized in order to instill awe in the audience. It's very Hollywood. So in my paintings of that period, people are reverting to primitive states within these apocalyptic environments, making peace with their gods, seeking absolution or having sex.

The Cleansing
2012
Oil on linen
136 x 200 cm

OPP: The Oil Cloud Series (2012-2013) isolates the colored smoke/clouds from the disaster landscapes. You give the amorphous forms personality by giving them human names, referring to the convention of naming hurricanes. Beryl and Alberto, both hurricanes from 2012, even have eyes, further supporting the personification of natural disasters. What else can you tell us about your intentions with this series?

JG: This series is an ongoing one actually. I've recently made a couple more of them. I'd been looking at a lot of archival photographs of early ecological and industrial disasters. I found a series of daguerreotypes of fires in early oil fields and began to use them as a very loose source material for that group of paintings.

At the same time I’d been researching the convention of attaching human names to hurricanes, which has its beginnings in the Caribbean hundreds of years ago. Storms were initially named after the saint of the day the hurricane occurred on from Roman Catholic Liturgical calendar. I felt that it was a symptom of our need as humans to anthropomorphize the things that we don't understand or that frighten us. We have a habit of seeing faces or consciousness in almost anything. It's an evolutionary throwback that’s still pertinent to our survival.

Alberto
2013
Oil on linen
68 x 61 cm

OPP: Now let's turn to your most recent paintings of haphazardly-made sculptures. These are part portrait, part still life. What led to this shift in your work?

JG: I'd had to take a break from the painting studio for family reasons and leave London for a few weeks. I was staying with my  family in Yorkshire in the North east of England. Unable to paint, I found a box of filthy old plasticine from my childhood and began modeling with it late at night when everyone else had gone to bed. I then photographed these weird little objects, using the materials available to me, i.e. kitchen towels as a backdrop, an old lamp as the only lighting. I was surprised by the power of the images and decided to try and make paintings from them on my return. I think the reason they worked is that I have absolutely no personal investment in sculpture as a practice, which allowed me to be completely free and open with their construction in a way that is perhaps impossible for me with painting.

I really just free-associate and slap things together. Their flaws and lack of artistry are what makes them interesting to me. This is completely at odds with the process of photographing and painting them, which is really painstaking. I think every artist is looking for a process for making their work that suits their temperament. It's a surprisingly difficult thing to find, but this combination of carefree and painstaking works for me.

The First Cut Is The Deepest
2014
Oil on canvas on board
88 x 122 centimeters

OPP: The tendency to anthropomorphize and our neurologically-wired habit of seeing faces is of course also at play in this body of work. All this has got me thinking about the human brain, which is a recurring motif in the sculpture paintings. How do you think about the brains in pieces like Tipping Point (2014) and Fracaso (2013)?

JG: I think about the brains as characters just like the sculptures that are more suggestive of human beings. A couple of years back I'd gone to visit my father in hospital. He had pneumonia and was also being treated for a particularly aggressive water infection. Although temporary, the change in his behaviour was dramatic. His memory had gone, and he had lost all sense of time and place. He was extremely confused. On speaking to the doctors, we found out that the infection was the cause of this. It was bewildering to me at the time that something so minor as a urine infection could cause such a change in personality, and I began to investigate the condition. I began thinking about the brain as this fragile, sensitive jelly-like entity, that contains everything about a person. The rest is just dressing.

OPP: Have you ever considered exhibiting the sculptures themselves?

JG: Not so far, but I wouldn't rule it out for the future. I don't think they work as they are largely because I work on them from one angle. I’m looking for an image to paint so I rarely consider what the back, top or bottom looks like. It might be quite interesting to play with the scale of them, to make them human-sized for instance, which would be quite a challenge technically as most of them are only a couple of inches tall.

White Wedding
2015
Oil on canvas on board

OPP: Some of the paintings are not large at all—Romeo (2014) is 21 x 16.6 centimeters and Grand Mal (2014) is 21 x 17 centimeters—while others shift the scale of the sculptures dramatically. Babel (2013) is 145 x 122 centimeters and Agitant (2013) is 122 x 153 centimeters.

JG: Making choices about scale is largely intuitive. Sometimes I get it wrong the first time around. For example, The Rt Hon started off as one of the really small paintings. When it was complete, I realized that it didn't resonate the way I'd hoped and needed to be substantially bigger.

There is something about the nature of little objects—their abject and pathetic demeanor, the fact that they appear to be trying to validate their existence with flowers and the draping of ribbons—that drives me to give them a voice, assert their rights. I’m aware that there is something ridiculous about the notion of asserting human rights for a lump of dirty old plasticine, but it's that anthropomorphism that makes them more than bits of old rubbish.


To see more of Jonny's work, please visit jonnygreen.net.

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