OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joe Wardwell

Just as Bored as Me
2014
Oil on canvas
38" x 54"

The stenciled text—most often rock music lyrics—in JOE WARDWELL's paintings alternatingly reads as aphorism, advertising, proverb, propaganda and cliché. Combining landscape painting and abstraction, he poetically echoes a persistent human struggle with longing and impermanence in the visual confusion between foreground and background. Joe earned a BA in Art History and a BFA in Painting from the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1996 and his MFA in Painting from Boston University in 1999. Boston-based LaMontagne Gallery, where he has had three solo exhibitions there—Die Young (2009), Big Disgrace (2012) and Party Over (2014)—will take his work to Pulse Miami in December 2015. Joe will have two upcoming solo exhibitions in 2015: at Heskin Contemporary in New York City and Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. Joe is an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachssettes where he lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Rock music has been a strong inspiration in your work for at least the last decade. What do you listen to while you work? Do you tend to listen to the same albums over and over again?


Joe Wardwell: I listen to music from all sorts of genres, from country swing to Norwegian Death Metal. While working, I listen less as source material for the individual pieces but more for the overall feel of the work and to get me into the right mental space to create the work in the first place. Most of that albums that get repeated are from my vinyl collection: Neil Young’s Live Rust and Boris with Merzbow’s Rock Dreams and Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow. I tend to binge a bit more on digital music. Sometimes I will spend an entire day just listening to the Melvins, the Flaming Lips, Black Sabbath or Boris.

Quickly Look Away
2013
oil on canvas
38" x 54"

OPP: What is the relationship between rock music and landscape painting, as you see it?

JW: Landscape painting represents an American ideological orientation to wilderness and landscape that embodies a lot of similar yearnings, desires and attitudes I see expressed in rock music. There is something in that shared psyche that I am trying to tap into and tweak. But I am not solely looking for comparisons between the two or necessarily even looking to unify the painting from genre to concept to form. I see painting as a container that I am trying to fill up with many ideas and images that are struggling to get out. 

OPP: Early paintings like Masters of My Reality, Oblivion and Power Cord Serenade, all 2005, portray musicians and their entourages as heavenly flights of angels reclining on clouds. Others from 2004, such as Live Free Bird or Die, visually position the guitar as a portal through which we can enter another reality. But in 2007, you first introduced text, more specifically rock lyrics, into your paintings. What led to this development and how did it grow out of the earlier work?


JW: In 2007, I felt like I was on a gerbil wheel with the work, running round and round. It was too tongue and cheek and ultimately limited my expression. I didn’t see the heavenly rock figures going anywhere. The text and landscape combo has allowed me to be flippant, ironic, sentimental and political with the work. The work is a lot more versatile as a mode of expression for me now.

If you look at one of those earlier pieces and compare it to one of the first text and landscape pieces like Look West (2007), all of the same connections are still there though the representative form appears very different. The abstract, high chroma flames become the stylized text. The text is taken from song lyrics, and the fonts are derived from silkscreen rock posters. The heavenly cloudscapes are replaced with an idealized wilderness landscape, and the figures in the cloud still exist within the prepositions of the text. The implied Me, You, We or I in the text functions as the figure in the landscape.


Talk Past the Future
2008
oil on canvas
30" x 48"

OPP: More recently, the text has begun to completely take over the landscapes. Can you talk about this change formally and conceptually?


JW: Yes, earlier it was too polite. I still love those first paintings and stand by them, however it does seem to me now as if the text is too apologetic in its presence in the painting. It functions too much like an advertisement: first draw them in with beautiful landscape, then sneak in the message. I like the one to one relationship that occurs now.

Each painting has a stage in the process when it is a complete abstract painting and a complete landscape painting. Sometimes I paint the landscape first and sometimes I paint the abstraction first. However the painting starts, I work it until I wouldn’t paint over either the landscape or the abstract painting, and that’s how I know it is ready for the text stencil. It is a painfully destructive process but one that I feel imbues the paintings with a lot of energy. I love having these competing elements battle it out within the confines of the rectangle.

OPP: After recognizing some of the lyrics—like "And this bird you'll never change" from Free Bird, "a man and his will to survive" from Eye of the Tiger and "clowns to the left" from Stuck in the Middle with You—I unintentionally began to play a game as I viewed the work on your website. My initial experience as I looked at each of the text paintings became about trying to name that tune before I began to think about the relationship between the text and the image. I wonder if this is a common experience with your work . . . has anyone told you that? Is this kind of response a problem or an asset? 


JW: In short, yes, yes, and yes and no. I have heard that a lot, and it was certainly more common with the first paintings. Most of the lyrics I first chose were easily discernible to the reasonably musically inclined. I think that gave my audience a way into the work. As the paintings evolved, they tended to be more obscure and less obviously from a single source. My reliance on the music as source entry point into the work has faded. The lyric source for Choose Not To (2013), a mural at Rag and Bone in New York City, is taken from the punk band NoMeansNo. Nothing to Win, Nowhere to Go (2011), currently on view at Northeastern University, takes text from Ad Reinhardt’s writings about his black paintings.

In the beginning, I enjoyed it when people could recognize the songs, but now I don’t care as much. I feel confident that the recognition of the songs is no longer the central way an audience approaches the work, and I enjoy the greater freedom that provides. Lastly, I would add that often I am drawn to lyrics that evoke a visual sense that can’t really be felt in the music that they originate from, such as the pieces Untied We Stand (2011), Mankind is Unkind Man (2011) and Free to Be Evil, Free to Believe (2014).

Something Flickered then Vanished and was Gone
2014
Oil on canvas
84" x 48"

OPP: Because they are presented out of context, the lyrics in your work sometimes read as ironic. Other times they have the ring of profound wisdom. Could you talk about lyrics as aphorism, as proverb, as spiritual teaching or as cliché . . . whatever most interests you?

JW: I certainly try not to be preachy, and a lot of what you describe really depends on the mood I am in and the mood of the piece. I want the work to be flexible and not easily pigeonholed. I am often very upset about the political situation and environmental degradation in this country, and that can drive the landscape and text in a piece. Other times, I feel impish, ironic and silly and make a piece that is quick and off-the-cuff to counterbalance the more serious pieces. Then there are other paintings that are more sentimental. A Big Commercial and On and On and On and On are heart-felt responses to the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch. Similarly, the recent painting Something Flickered for a Minute Then Vanished and was Gone (2014) connects both to my interest in environmental awareness and is a homage to the recently deceased Lou Reed.

In all the work, I try and convey an almost subliminal counter-culture, propaganda-like attitude. Through the use of the text, I tap into and twist the collective psyche I describe above. . . like chaotic advertising exposing our dystopia. I am deeply inspired by the painter Leon Golub. Much like him, I think of my paintings as warriors that set off into the world to change it one person at a time, slowly seeping into the minds of the viewers and irrevocably altering them.

To view more of Joe's work, please visit joewardwell.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. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Geoffry Smalley

Paper Tiger
2013
Graphite on Paper, Cut Paper Overlay

According to GEOFFRY SMALLEY, "to understand the history of American team sports is to understand our national development." To this end, he thoughtfully and humorously examines the "Big Three" (baseball, football and basketball) in painting, drawing, collage and sculpture. Painting on top of existing reproductions, he injects sports arenas into famous Hudson River School landscapes and mashes up team uniforms and mascots with the animals that inspired them. Geoffry earned his BFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago and his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited extensively in and around Chicago. Most recent was his solo exhibition Past Time at Packer Schopf Gallery in the summer of 2014. When he isn't making art, Geoffry works as an art conservator at Joel Oppenheimer, Inc. in Chicago, where he lives.

OtherPeoples Pixels: Tell us about the work in Past Time, your most recent solo show at Packer-Schopf Gallery in Chicago.

Geoffry Smalley: For several years I've been exploring social and political issues related to American sports, and Past Time is the latest body of work. In my daily dealings as an art conservator, I think about the works I treat, their place in American art history and the nature of authenticity. I have to hide my hand when treating an art work, and because of that I began to think of ways I could use historical images for my own purposes. At the time, I was also reading about the rise of sports during the Industrial Revolution, which reflected America's progression into the modern age.

Catskill Creek, Citi Field
2012
Acrylic on Ink Jet Print

OPP: I'm especially interested in the sports vistas, in which you insert contemporary arenas and stadiums into romantic landscape paintings. 

GS: The vistas are reproductions of Hudson River School paintings onto which I have painted images of various sports arenas. Painters like Thomas Cole and Asher Durand held cautiously optimistic views of society's progress. They believed in the sublime, the closer-to-God power of untamed nature. They captured these unspoiled vistas at the very moment our country steamrolled west and grew into the industrial superpower it is now. Sports flourished in the same way. At a time when workers first began to have leisure time, baseball emerged from rural America. It was played at what was then considered a rapid pace, under the sun, during the growing season, affected by the elements. Football is industrial manufacturing plus military readiness: taking land by force, specialized individual moving parts choreographed to achieve a singular, larger goal. Basketball picked up football’s individualized machinations but added a more free-form individualism to the mix. As Americans left the rural landscape to congregate in cities, immigrants, settlers and native-born people tried to assimilate their variegated histories into an homogenous American identity. Sport offered a common site and a common language where that diversity could be bridged.

OPP: Team names and mascots are a jumping off point in many of your drawings on found images, as in Chief and Cowboy from 2014, as well as Seahawks, Orioles and Eagles from 2011. It seems like most professional sports team names are either history or animal references. Is this the case? Why do you think that is? Can you think of any exceptions?

GS: I believe team names are derived from the tradition of using animal totems as a way to harness the mythic powers, internalize the traits and externalize the characteristics of certain creatures. In football you have the Eagles, Lions, Panthers, Bears—all predatory, strong animals. Baseball gives you Cubs, Orioles, Cardinals and Blue Jays—not really striking fear into an opponent with those names. But there are also historical and social references—49ers, Cowboys, Brewers and Steelers—which reflect each team’s hometown industry/identity and blue collar fans. Of course you have the tradition of “honoring” Native Americans by making them mascots. From Chief Wahoo to Chief Noc-A-Homa to the tomahawk chop, there are racist slurs appropriated with great popularity across all sports. The traditional Thanksgiving NFL matchup of the Cowboys vs. Redskins is also indicative of historically entrenched nationalism and racism that still bubbles beneath the surface. Team names are meant to carry with them meaning and identity, and do so quite powerfully, sometimes with unintended consequences. There just a couple exceptions to the animal/historical references, where a team name actually invokes either more etherial or benign powers. The Heat, the Thunder, The Sox from Chicago and Boston. . . hard to take umbrage with the fact that Miami is hot or that Chicagoans wear socks.

Bears
2011
Acrylic on Book Page

OPP: Could you talk generally about the strategy of the cut-out in your work? You've used it in collage, drawing and sculpture, and it appears to be both a aesthetic and conceptual strategy.

GS: I have used the cut-out for about 15 years, originally as a way to isolate all or part of a specific image from the collage-like paintings I used to make. It began as an attempt to understand why I used a particular image, how re-contextualizing an image changed or added to its meaning. That isolation evolved to be more of a strategy of simultaneously concealing and revealing, taking images past straight representation and into a more mysterious place. The cut-out also acts as an interruption, a pause or glitch in the image a viewer is trying to decipher. Not being given the whole story at once allows for a slower absorption of information and keeps the question alive longer. It's always more interesting when you don't know the answer. On a base level, cutting and collaging is an extension of my drawing practice, a way to regroup and quickly realize thoughts.

Ring Stock Ballyhoo - Swarm
2010
Collage
Variable (16x19)

OPP: I'm seeing a lot of forms that evoke the Fleur-de-lis and other coat-of-arms designs. Some examples include the graphite helmet designs in Starbury (2011), the decorative flourishes in Antique Sorrow (2008) and the cut-out gold foil in Dale Earnhardt Portrait Cartouche (2007). What do these flourishes mean to you? How has your use of them changed over time?

GS: Those forms mostly come from the Rococo. I was picking on NASCAR, talking about the spectacular, florid, over-the-top displays of eye candy that NASCAR embodies. The Rococo is often discounted as a movement entrenched in frivolity and poor taste, one of shallow and selfishly playful intent. Just beauty. I used the forms to create what I called “portrait cartouches” of NASCAR drivers, comprised of all the sponsors’ logos on their fire suits. As with the cut-out, decorative forms serve dual purposes. As aesthetic forms, they bring shape and content to an image. In Starbury and similar images from Past Time, I conflated athletic and military display, imagining athletes “in the trenches” or as modern-day gladiators and warriors. I began to think about contemporary athletes’ tattoos as parade armor worn by Medieval and Renaissance kings. That armor was never worn in battle. It was a narrative display of power.

Kaplooie
2008
1:24 Scale Hobby Model, Cut-out and Bent Sintra, Enamel, Decals
16" x 22" x 15"

OPP: How do you decompress after a solo show or the completion of a big project? Do you need a break before returning to the studio?


GS: I definitely need to take a break. I usually spend a little time away from the studio after a show, until my feet get too itchy to keep me away. I see an exhibition as an opportunity to get some perspective on where I am with my work in general. It’s good to see all the pieces out of the studio, having a dialogue together. I take that back to the studio with me. After cleaning and rearranging, I research, make drawings and listen to a lot of baseball on the radio to prepare for the next thing. 

OPP: And what's your next thing?

GS: While making work for Past Time, I had thoughts and ideas bouncing around that didn't fit with that show, so they got put on the back burner. But as I stated above, feet get itchy. I have been thinking about how the landscape/stadium idea relates to religion. Certain stadia and arenas are considered pilgrimage sites for fans. Naturally, inside those sites are relics, items imbued with the history and iconography of the residents housed within the building. I’m working on ideas for sculptural forms that play with sports reliquaries and trophies. . . nothing fully-formed yet. But I’m excited to get back to work.

To see more of Geoffry's work, please visit geoffrysmalley.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. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Noelle Allen

Saturn's Shepherd (Green) (detail)
2013
Resin, clay, plaster, wax, acrylic
30" around

Surface texture and color are major players in NOELLE ALLEN's cast sculptures, comprised of wax, resin, plaster, ceramics and foraged organic material. She expertly achieves a variety of familiar, terrestrial surfaces—various types of rock, moss, coral, wood and dirt—while her soft color palette evokes the otherworldly. Repeated use of the orb as a form in both drawings and sculptures reminds us of the natural connection between the earth and the cosmos. Noelle attended Wesleyan University and Smith College for undergrad and received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. She teaches full-time at Domincan University in River Forest, Illinois and was a 2012-2013 HATCH Projects resident at the  Chicago Artists’ Coalition. With four upcoming solo exhibitions, the end of 2014 will be tremendously busy for Noelle. Thistle, an outdoor installation at Terrain South (Oak Park, Illinois) opens tomorrow (July 4th) and runs until August 1. Trellis at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina and Sender Channel Receiver Feedback at the Marquette Cultural Center on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan both run from August to October 2014. A currently-untitled show at Comfort Station in Chicago opens in November 2014. Noelle lives in Oak Park, Illinois.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What's a stronger influence for you: the earth or the cosmos?

Noelle Allen: In 2012, my family and I moved into a bungalow in Oak Park with an overgrown garden that spills into the parkways. Before relocating, we lived in Chicago for 10 years, and my work drew inspiration from fossils, cellular and skeletal structures I studied in books and at the Field Museum. However, once we had our own place, I had an opportunity to use materials that were close at hand, materials that I live with. I was hoping to better integrate my life with my practice.

Now, my work incorporates all of the natural fauna and organic materials found in my own garden, both directly and indirectly. I like to garden with my sons. We gather roots, branches, leaves, weeds, tomatoes, flowers, abandoned birds nests and materials my boys scrounge up from the dirt or compost.

Although I draw immediate inspiration from the earth and my surroundings, the work also invokes celestial forms and structures. The visual patterns and recurring shapes and symmetries found in organic materials, like fractals and tessellations, also reflect larger structures in the universe. Hopefully, my work can invoke that bridge between the terrestrial and the celestial.

My childhood has also played a prominent role in my work. I grew up surrounded by farmland in the Sacramento Valley. In the fall, you could smell the rice fields burning. In the summer, there were lemons, plums, peaches and strawberries. My mother is also an artist, and she always had a drawing studio in our house. My earliest memory of her work is of very meticulous graphite rendering of a ball of boobs!

Astral Layer (Evanston)
2014
Resin, wax, concrete, and ceramic
9' x 26'

OPP: I'd like to see that piece! Could you talk about the use of organic materials such as mushrooms, twigs, branches, thorns and driftwood, both in the final product and in the process of creating your work?

NA: I use a variety of materials and methods to directly and indirectly translate organic material into my work. An artist friend, John Harmon, has also given me many found objects: dragon’s claw seedpods, an entire half of a bovine skeleton and some roots and plant matter. I photograph and even photogram my materials, but never for a final product. Instead, the photographs become an alternative means of viewing or translating my sources.

For the larger installation and sculpture work, many of my methods have roots in traditional sculpture and ceramic techniques. However, I have developed some of my own mold-making techniques that I use with materials like sand, graphite, seaweed and latex. The positives are pulled in porcelain, concrete, wax, resin and plaster. Recently, I have begun flooding my molds with water, which ends up imprinting the surfaces of my materials with details that are both familiar and unknowable. For example, in the recent installation of Astral Layer at the Evanston Art Center, the sheets of resin, which I covered with water during the cure stage, were cast directly onto the floor of my studio, where they picked up years of clay, paint, dirt and plaster.

Iridophore (Green)
2013
Resin and felt
30" around

OPP: My personal favorite pieces are the Iridophores, a series of colorful, globe-like sculptures made from resin and felt. Can you explain the title of the series, the process of creating these sculptures and why you choose to exhibit them sitting directly on the floor?

NA: The title refers to a type of iridescent cell found in some sea creatures and amphibians that allows the squid, for example, to reflect light and alter the color and contrast of the animal. Scientists call it “electric skin.” The mold is created from a tangle of roots and branches. This organic material, along with the introduction of water into the mother mold, a plaster shell, create the negative spaces in the resin and felt.The Iridophores are made with a marine grade resin and are intended to be both indoor and outdoor pieces. For the Osmia exhibit at Riverside Art Center, I placed four of them in the sculpture garden and over the course of the show, the colors shifted from the sun. 

I am reluctant to use a pedestal, which would add another sculptural element to the installation. I would rather have the work appear organically on the floor.

Sender Channel Receiver Feedback (Yellow and Cerulean)
2013
Resin, felt and concrete

OPP: Thistle opens tomorrow (July 4, 2014) at Terrain, an outdoor exhibition space in a residential neighborhood in Oak Park, Illinois. Will you give us a preview of what you are planning? What's exciting and what's challenging about creating work for this environment?

NA: Sabina Ott, an amazing artist and the curator behind Terrain, asked me to do an installation in the Terrain South site, which is basically an empty, grassy lot between two residential homes that sits directly across from a grade school. It was important to me to carefully develop an outdoor, durable piece that children could run through but not climb on or get hurt by, if anything were to fall over. I also had to consider visual impact from the street. Since I do so much mold-making, I decided to create an installation of crazy multiples.

With the assistance of ceramicist Kate Pszotka, I am turning rebar, an industrial building material found in foundations, into an eggshell structure in porcelain. There will be a field of over 100 six-foot-tall, curved rebar “weeds,” bridging the gap between an overgrown lot and the possibility of construction.

In the process, the rust from the rebar has transferred onto the porcelain, so we have played with the color and glazes in response to both that transition and the summertime sun and grass. The color will catch the sun to create a horizon line at the top, where the porcelain shifts into clear resin.

Osmia
2014
Resin, wax, concrete, and ceramic
Each 56" x 17" x 17"
Installation view, Design Cloud (Chicago)

OPP: You made a global shift in your color palate around 2013. Before that, your work was almost exclusively on the grayscale. What led to this change?

NA: Yes, this is true. It mostly boils down to fun. I wanted to have more fun with my work. I was craving some levity and lightness in the studio. Perhaps also happiness? I have been a much happier—albeit more stressed—person since my children were born in 2009 and 2011.

OPP: Speaking of stress, you teach full-time at Dominican University, you have two children, and you have four upcoming solo exhibitions, not to mention several group shows. You’ve mentioned that your boys help you gather materials for your work. How else do you balance your roles of artist, teacher and mother? Can you offer some practical advice for first-time mothers who are trying to maintain their art practices?

NA: When my second son Zeke was born pretty quickly after Henry's arrival, I realized I needed more help. In order to manage, I had to build and maintain a solid support structure to handle all the different parts of my life. My husband Tim is incredibly supportive of my studio time and as my children get older, they can be more involved. Henry, who is very opinionated about my work, likes to come to my studio. He helps me unload kilns and operate the slab roller. I have also had wonderful part time studio help—hi, Tess and Andrew!—through a grant program at Dominican University. Do not try to do it all alone!

Also, some quality acupuncture goes a long way.

To see more of Noelle's work, please visit noelleallen.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Cristi Rinklin

Migration 1
2014
Oil and acrylic on aluminum
36" x 48"
Photo credit: Stewart Clements

CRISTI RINKLIN’s luscious landscapes are dense with undulating forms that hover somewhere between smoke, clouds, waves and vines. Beginning with digital collages constructed from details of existing landscape paintings, she seamlessly combines opposing styles, highlighting the “virtual reality” that has always been present in painting. Cristi graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA from Maryland Institute, College of Art in 1989 and earned her MFA from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1999. Her numerous solo shows include Diluvial (2012) at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire and Paracosmos (2010) at Boston’s Steven Zevitas Gallery, where she is scheduled to have another solo exhibition in January 2015. Before then, you can see her work in Forecasted: Eight Artists Explore the Nature of Climate Change at Northeastern University in October 2014. Cristi lives and works in Boston.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I would describe your style as a mash-up suggestive of illustration, painting, printing and digital manipulation. Your hard, graphic lines evoke Japanese Ukiyo-e landscapes, commercial illustration and comics, while soft fields of color remind me of watercolor landscapes and pictorialist landscapes. How does this amalgamation of styles get at your conceptual interests?

Cristi Rinklin: There definitely is a mash-up of painterly vocabulary happening in the work, and the references you identified, especially Japanese Ukiyo-e and pictorialist landscapes, are among the various works I’m sourcing. I start with elaborately orchestrated, digital collages combining details of paintings and backgrounds that are manipulated to create a seamless, yet impossible space. At times some of the objects in the paintings are in complete opposition to each other: flatness collides with atmospheric depth, and graphic linear forms overlay fleshy, voluminous shapes. I’m working towards a dreamy ambiguous space that is reminiscent of landscape, a familiar place where we feel grounded but which is in flux. It is either being created or being destroyed—or both.

Arcadia
2011
Oil and acrylic on Dibond Aluminum
48" x 36"
Photo credit: Clements/ Howcroft, Boston, MA

OPP: The recurring, visual forms in your work border on abstraction while still evoking ambiguous landscape forms. Billowy, organic shapes appear in some works to be smoke. In others, these forms evoke waves and waterfalls, clouds and vines. Did you set out to create this ambiguity of form or did you discover the versatility during the process of painting?


CR: I’m interested in referencing landscape as something that is part of a deep memory, as if it no longer exists, and our impression of it is ambiguous, abstract or hard to pin down. Because the paintings start as digital collages, the manipulation and ambiguity is achieved in the studies that I create. I use a collected vocabulary of imagery and forms that I’ve been compiling over many years. The studies resemble the final paintings, but they don’t have the fleshy surfaces and great depth that the paintings have. Although the paintings are more or less predetermined, there are certain decisions and outcomes that happen during the process of painting, However, it’s less about improvisation and more about continually nudging the painting towards the thing I want it to do.

OPP: Take us back to the first time you made a painting based on a digital collage. Why did you first start working in this way?

CR: I first started working from digitally manipulated images in grad school, which was in the late 90s. At the time, it was a relatively new tool for art making, and I found that scanning and manipulating source material was a very convenient way to generate images for paintings. At first it was very basic and perfunctory, but the more I experimented with Photoshop, the more I became interested in how the computer has such a specific pictorial language that the way we see has become calibrated to screen space. I intentionally push colors to look synthetic, rather than organic, and I want the images to retain this feel of an artificial space.

Fumarole
2009
Flashe on Duralar
32" x 24"
Photo credit: Clements/Howcroft, Boston, MA

OPP: I have to admit that I can't stop thinking of the black smoke from the television show Lost (2004-2010) and the title sequence from Dr. Who when looking at your work. Are either of these a visual reference for you? Can you give us some specific examples of non-painting influences? 


CR: That’s awesome that you thought of Lost. The black smoke was fascinating to me because I have long been interested in the physical representation of ephemeral things. The best example I can give of this is smoke and clouds in Renaissance prints. They always look solid and fleshy, and often times they’re carrying people, angels, saints, etc. It’s like the divine transportation vehicle. A lot of the billowy forms in my paintings look as if they are sentient, like they’re consciously advancing, sometimes in a menacing way. When the Iceland volcano erupted a few years back, I was enthralled by all of the images in the news and on the Internet of all that billowing smoke. While it was so beautiful to behold from a distance, it was also a reminder of how powerless we are against the fury of nature.

Diluvial
2012
Site Specific Installation, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
Lambda Duraclear prints, wallpaper and wall mural
Photo credit: Jeffrey Nintzel

OPP: In 2012, your installation Diluvial at the Currier Museum of Art (Manchester, NH) was an immersive environment that included printed wallpaper and a wall mural and used the existing window as a light box for your Lambda Duraclear prints. Could you talk about the site-specificity of this installation and how the imagery portrayed a "world undergoing creation and destruction?"


CR: That was an amazing opportunity! I was invited to create this installation specifically for the Currier, in response to its history and its collection. I had done other installations like this previously, and I was excited to take on another large-scale immersive project. The Currier’s collection originated with 19th century American landscape painting, and since I had already been looking at and sourcing a lot of this work, that resonated with me. When I began brainstorming for Diluvial, I also heavily considered the New Hampshire region that was represented in a lot of the paintings in the collection. In my research, I found that many of the artists of this period, such as Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, were deeply interested in geology. Their contemporaries in the Earth Sciences were attempting to prove that the American landscape was forged by the Great Biblical Flood, therefore giving it divine status. The word diluvial refers to geological formations and deposits that are forged by flood or glacial activity. Because I’m interested in cataclysmic and catastrophic phenomena, this idea really resonated with me, so I set about creating an immersive experience that had the feel of the landscape being swept away by a huge force of water. It’s beautiful as well as terrifying, as great change always is. I often think about what it will be like in a post-human world. What will be gone and what will remain? While it’s scary to contemplate, there is also something poetic about nature surviving beyond human existence.

Orphan Series
2014
Oil and acrylic on aluminum
9 individual panels hung in grid, each 18" x 15"
Photo Credit: Stewart Clements

OPP: In your newest work from 2014, there's a distinct collision, not only of painting styles, but also of opposing ethics from painting history: flatness meets perspective. The smoke is now utterly flat to the degree that, had I not seen your previous work, I would not interpret it as smoke. What led to this shift?

CR: If you go back to some of my very early work in the Archived section of my website, you’ll see how the new work has actually come full circle. While making Diluvial, I researched scenic wallpapers and designed one for the installation. I became intrigued by the idea that these scenic wallpapers were created to psychically transport viewers to idealized, pastoral landscapes. I decided that after the installation, I would explore the simplified and idealized space of scenic wallpaper, in which fragmented chunks of landscape float throughout the space. While I was experimenting with sketches and studies for these paintings, I began to ask myself, “what is essential, what is unnecessary and what can I leave out?” When I arrived at the large, flat cloud-shapes in these new paintings, they felt fresh to me. It referred to cloud, but also to a void; it became both positive and negative space. The cloud formation has been a part of my work for a long time, and in these new paintings, it’s simply a new evolution of this form.

To see more of Cristi's work, please visit cristirinklin.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Justin Margitich

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see more of Justin's work, please visit justinmargitich.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia is currently looking forward to creating a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists opens on July 11, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Bianca Kolonusz-Partee

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

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

OtherPeoplesPixels: What fascinates you about ports and industrial landscapes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To view more of Bianca's work, please visit bkolonuszpartee.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Adrienne Ginter

Two Trees
2013
Hand-cut paper
24"x 32"

ADRIENNE GINTER relishes the details of nature: the gnarled web of tree branches, the modulating texture of a flower's surface, every individual blade of grass. Her cut-paper works, etchings and paintings of nature scenes draw on ancient myths, history and personal experiences. Each meticulous detail reveals a unique narrative, adding depth and nuance to the larger whole. Adrienne received her MFA in Painting from Boston University in 2008 and recently completed a residency at Vermont Studio Center. Since 2013, she has served as a trustee on the Vermont Arts Council of Windham County as well as the Vermont Crafts Council. In July 2014, she will have a solo exhibition [title?] at Outerlands Gallery in Vergennes, Vermont and will be featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Studio Visit Magazine. Adrienne lives in Wilmington, Vermont.

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your artist statement you say, "My approach to a painting is that of an exploration into the reoccurring oddities and subtle fascinations of the natural world." Can you give us some examples of the oddities? What fascinates you about nature?

Adrienne Ginter: The largest flower in the world is the Rafflesia arnoldii, which I reference in my paper-cut work Red Crane and my mini gouache painting Craneflower. The Rafflesia arnoldii grows up to three feet and only blooms for a couple of days. It is nicknamed the "corpse flower" because when it flowers it emits a horrible odor of decaying flesh. It does so to attract flies and beetles which pollinate the flower. The pollinators must visit the male then female flower in that order. Red-crowned cranes will attack larger predators like wolves and foxes when protecting their nests. Other smaller birds such as mockingbirds will attack snakes and even humans to protect their nest as seen in my paper-cut Snake in the Garden. In Whale Hunters, I portray a whale shark, a species which originated 60 million years ago. It is the largest fish in the world and times its arrival to coincide with spawning fish shoals and feeds on clouds of egg and sperm. So much in nature is left up to luck and chance, yet every plant and animal has evolved to better its own chances of survival.

It’s crazy that I can spend three consecutive days painting outside on the same watercolor, and everything changes day to day because plants and animals are continuously growing and dying. I often think about how many different processes are happening in the natural world at any given moment and how we as humans fit into this, copy it and ignore it. We are animals, after all.

Red Crane
2012
Hand-cut paper
25.5"x 19.5"

OPP: You have experience with many different painting and print media: oil, watercolor, gouache, monoprints, etching. More recently you've been making work in hand-cut paper and collage. When did you make this shift? Do you consider it a break from or an extension of painting?

AG: I work in different media because I enjoy learning/teaching myself something new. The first hand-cut paper piece I made was Jungle (2008) during graduate school. I was struggling with a 6' x 7' all-green oil painting of the same title and created the paper-cut in order to inform my painting. After I made that first paper-cut, I was hooked. Working with paper allows me to open up and be more creative in experimenting with imagery and ideas. Paper allows me to be more fantastical for some reason. It doesn't have to make as much sense as I think a painting should. Paper also simplifies my palette since I use archival papers, usually Canson Mi-Teintes, and they only make 42 colors. Also, since I am working reductively and with a border on every piece of paper there is a built-in stopping point. There’s a natural limit to how much paper I can cut out.

I do not consider cut-paper a break from painting; each medium informs the other. I created a book from etchings I made during my first year in graduate school. That book of etchings was a huge turning point for me. I felt much more free with my imagery with the small scale of the etching plates, and those etchings led to the large oil paintings that ended up being my thesis show. I never would have made those large paintings without creating that book first.

Spring
2012
Hand-cut paper
32"x 24"

OPP: How important is planning and precision in your hand-cut paper works? Could you explain a little about the process?

AG: I do not plan out the paper-cuts. The only thing I plan is to have a connecting border on every layer. I typically use a X-Acto swivel blade. It’s an extremely small blade on a pivot, so I can cut curved lines. I begin with a color palette in mind, but this usually changes as the work progresses. I start with an idea (which often changes as the work progresses), and work on everything backwards, as I loosely draw the image on the reverse side of the paper, always leaving a border. I cut the smallest details first. That way, if I have a slip with the X-Acto knife, it happens towards the beginning of the process. After the first sheet of paper is cut to my liking, I register it on the next piece of paper, upside down, so I can again draw on the back and always leaving a border. I work this way, from the top sheet towards the back sheet, which is left blank. When I glue-tack everything down, I work in reverse from back to front. I am limited in what I can achieve with the paper, a fact I like. Paper is more graphic than painting. Images like clouds that require a lot of variation do not register well, so I just omit them.

Altair and Vega
2008
Oil on canvas
48"x 36"

OPP: There's little sense of the modern world in your oil paintings from 2008, around the time of your MFA thesis exhibition. The human figures often look like statues or figures from paintings of a different era because of their clothing and hairstyles. Some rare exceptions include the bikini in Me and My Mama (2008) and the making-out couple in Where Babies Really Come From (2008). The landscapes themselves seem idyllic and make me think of the romantic poets of English literature. Were you romanticizing nature in your work at this time? Has that changed in recent work?

AG: I still like using people of different eras in my work, as in my paper-cut Spring. I wanted my paintings from my thesis exhibition to feel like you were stepping into a different world. I often referenced french porcelain, anatomical statues, etc. Humans have emotional connections to items in history, and I wanted to represent that. For example, in the painting Altair and Vega, the touch that occurs between the two women feels so more emotional to me than if I had used representational figures in the same pose. I think it is just easier for humans to feel that emotion and connection if it is step removed from reality.

I am romanticizing nature. I want to make my own world. Many of the animals, people and flora in my work are combinations of the real, the extinct and the imaginary. Birds in The Forgotten Forest, for example, are sourced from emus, ostriches and my imagination. My current work is more about creating my own history/nature. In Red Crane, the corpse flower is birthing the red crane. This scene is from my imagination; it couldn't be possible.

Mayday
2008
Oil on canvas
84"x 96"

OPP: Could you talk about the importance of detail in your paintings and cut paper work as it relates to macro and micro narratives?

AG: I always have multiple narratives going on in each piece: a more universal narrative and a more personal one. I have to include my personal narrative in order to keep myself engaged, but I also offer viewers an opportunity to create their own narratives through the presence of detail. Mayday, for example, is about that moment of falling in love and how fantastic and vulnerable it is at the same time. A heaven/hell or light/dark theme emerges through the painted details in the scene, i.e. the juxtaposition of scary roots and tree branches with whimsical flowers. Regardless of what medium I’m working in, I strive to create work that is legible from a distance and becomes more engaging as the viewer moves closer. I want my work to be compelling whether you are across the room or just an inch away.

I have always noticed the details in a room or in a painting or the accessories people are wearing. As I progress in my work, I have become more and more intrigued by learning which components make up a whole. If I am representing a bird, I pay attention to each feather, to how wing feathers are very different than body feathers and to how the texture of the body differs vastly from the texture of the eye, beak or legs. I consider how each element in a scene has distinct qualities and requires precise visual language to describe it. This is something that is easier done in oil paint than cut-paper: leaf and rock textures can be built up with paint, and the sky can be a thin wash. Detail is so easily overlooked in everyday life, and I want to make people notice it. It heightens the narrative. Maybe because that's all there really is: millions of details making up the whole.

To see more of Adrienne's work, please visit adrienneginter.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) recently closed, and her solo exhibition Everything You Need is Already Here is on view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago until February 17, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Adam Friedman

Uncontainable Esoterica
2013
Acrylic on Panel
37"x 45"

ADAM FRIEDMAN is aware of the tropes of sublime nature. His chosen subject matter—mountains, sunsets, oceans and outer space—have all accumulated symbolic meanings through the lenses of science, literature, pop culture and art history. He merges these meanings in two-dimensional and three-dimensional paintings that bend the rules of perspective, space and time, representing the mysteries of nature rather than a realistic rendering of it. Adam received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008. He is represented by Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco, where he mounted his solo exhibition Space and Time, and Other Mysterious Aggregations in 2013. His upcoming solo exhibition Esoterica opens on March 7, 2014 at One Grand Gallery in Portland, Oregon, where Adam lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Mountains and glaciers are recurrent visual motifs in your work. What is so compelling about these landforms for you?

Adam Friedman: I’m originally from a small town in North Lake Tahoe. I literally grew up surrounded by some of the most epic mountains in the continental U.S. (if not the world!). My family eventually moved down to Encinitas in North County, near San Diego, where I became obsessed with the ocean. . . I was surfing, swimming, fishing almost every day. I have a deep-seated love for the great outdoors. For me, a snow capped mountain or a stormy ocean is the ultimate symbol of sublimity. Aside from my own personal investment in these motifs, there are art historical references. From the Hudson River School to Ed Ruscha and beyond, a large mountain has and always will be a powerful trope, simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.

The Spiral of Time, The Black Whole of Space
2010
Acylic, Screen Print, Gel Transfers, and Collage on Panel
16"x 16"

OPP: An Impossible Ascendancy (2013), Never Still-Life (2013) and A False Assignment of Ownership (2012) are paintings of landscape sculptures sitting on familiar white pedestals. In each one, mountains or glaciers are breaking through the top of the glass case that is meant to contain or preserve them. Could you talk about the attempt to contain nature in art (or in general)?

AF: The vitrines/pedestals are recognizable as objects that we see in museums and galleries. These structures typically house articles of particular human accomplishment in art, science, history, etc. Through the lens of science, they represent understanding, as in a natural history museum. But there is a fine line between “understanding” and “ownership.” We name things, places, people and cultures so that we can begin to comprehend them. But in doing so—especially in the case of the natural world and the cosmos—we deny their overwhelming mystery. Painters, photographers and writers have tried for centuries to create representations of the awe-inspiring experience of nature. As powerful as they may be, they never adequately represent the real thing. The landscape sculptures breaking out of glass are my way of recognizing that human beings can never fully grasp, nor control nature. These pieces are about relishing in the mystery of it all.

Bedrock of Being
2012
Acrylic on 2 Panels
36"x 46" (each panel)

OPP: Your newest paintings remind me of album covers for classic rock bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Is album art an influence for you?

AF: That’s awesome, and it’s something that I’ve heard a few times. I think that I’m more influenced by the music than the album covers. The album art is a sort of representation of the music, so it makes sense that I share a similar aesthetic. I love psych rock from the late sixties and seventies: Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, UFO, Zior, Ashkan, Tangerine Dream, Cactus, Captain Beyond. "Larks Tongues in Aspic" by King Crimson is one of my favorite albums of all time and has been highly influential for me over the years. Music is a HUGE part of my process. I typically spend 8 to 12 hours a day in the studio, listening to music the entire time, so it makes a lot of sense.

Spacial Aggregation (front)
2013
Acrylic on Wood
57"x 68"x 28"

OPP: Could you talk about the integration of time into your paintings of space? I'm thinking of pieces like Oceans Before and Behind Us in Time (2010) and Bedrock and Paradox (2013).

AF: Time is present in a variety of ways. First off, my paintings take a long time to complete. I have friends that can finish work really quickly, and I’ve always been a bit envious of them. But I’ve learned to embrace my process and not try to force or rush things along. But more importantly, Time is conceptually interesting. For a human being, 100 years is a long time. . . But I paint landscapes. Geologically speaking, 100 million years isn’t very long. So our understanding of time is completely skewed as it relates to the cosmos and the bigger picture. We also understand time through the lens of space. For instance, if I stand on top of a mountain looking off towards the ocean, I understand that the ocean is far away based on how long I imagine it would take to get there. But time and space exist independently of one another, and the universe exists without all the binaries we use to understand it (time and space, up and down, in and out). So I like to make paintings that break the rules of those imposed binaries. Space and Time, for example, displays multiple locations folded on top of one another. Vanishing points don't follow typical rules of perspective, and objects in the foreground appear the be far off in the distance.



That Which Swells
2009
Acrylic, Screen Print, Gel Transfers, and Collage on Panel
35"x 60"

OPP: Before 2010, your works were collages on panel which involved acrylic, screen print and gel transfers. Now, you are working primarily in acrylic. What precipitated the change in media? How did the collage work lead to the new paintings?

AF: I started painting when I was really young, but became focused on printmaking in college. I had almost stopped painting entirely until I entered grad school. I began cutting up my prints and collaging them onto wood panels, basically making “paintings” again. Screen printing is inherently pretty flat, so I began reincorporating paint. Acrylic made sense for mixed media works. Slowly my love for the paint—feel, color, directness, process—took over, and I started using the printed media less and less. I barely use it at all anymore, but my years of printmaking have definitely influenced the way I paint. I’m very detail and process oriented. I apply paint in non-traditional ways. For instance, I often paint onto polyethylene plastic, peel it up and apply it to my panels with gel medium. It then gets painted over again. In this sense, it is a collage-like process, but I’m using all acrylic medium.

Recently, I’ve been moving towards three-dimensional work. I still consider them paintings, but they are also sculptural in nature. Sculpture has been a huge influence on my work lately through painting all of the pedestal imagery. I’m working towards a solo show that opens on March 7, 2014 at One Grand Gallery here in Portland. There will be a lot of three-dimensional paintings, as well as actual pedestals with objects under glass.

To view more of Adam's work, please visit artbyadamfriedman.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) recently closed, and her solo exhibition Everything You Need is Already Here is on view at Heaven Gallery in Chicago until February 17, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Libby Barbee

Incidental Interference
2012
Collage on paper

LIBBY BARBEE's colorful collages and interactive sculptures address the construction of landscape and the frontier myth of the American West with a nuanced attention to the psychological and cultural implications of place. She received her MFA from the Maryland Institute Collage of Art in 2011, and was recently an artist-in-residence at Platte Forum (Denver, Colorado). In September 2013, Barbee will present a site-specific installation at Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City, Maryland. Libby lives and works in La Veta, Colorado. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: What do you find compelling about Colorado? How has this place affected your work?



Libby Barbee: You know, it is really kind of strange. I grew up in a very small rural town on the southeastern plains of Colorado, but it was not one of the beautiful, mountainous areas that people often think of when they imagine this state. I always spent a lot of time outdoors. From the time I was a kid, I loved science and everything creepy or crawly. But as an adult, I never really thought of myself as an “outdoors” person and never felt particularly tied to the landscape of the American West. Before relocating to Baltimore for graduate school, I had been working for a couple of years on a series of paintings about gender and domestic spaces. My work at that time was still concerned with place, but it was more figurative and all about culture. Having grown up in the land of horrible landscape art, landscapes were pretty much the last thing in the world that I was interested in painting.

When I started graduate school, I fell into a serious creative slump. I no longer felt connected to what I was exploring in my studio practice. Even worse, I felt completely disoriented and claustrophobic on the East Coast. I had spent all of my life in a place where you could just look out and see for hundreds of miles in any direction. Suddenly I was in a landscape where I was totally dwarfed amongst all of the people, buildings and trees. It was just suffocating; I was dying to escape the place. On top of it all, I was experiencing some serious culture shock. I still maintain that people are people no matter where you are, but there are some very real differences between the attitudes and perspectives of East Coasters and West Coasters. It took some adjusting to.

Untitled
2009
Collage and charcoal on paper

OPP: How did your work change then?

LB: I somehow started making these charcoal drawings of this nude figure wearing a coyote hood. There wasn’t really any indication of the landscape in the drawings, but they had everything to do with this figure interacting with an imagined space. The figure’s placement and posture was very performative, almost as if it were performing a ritual or dance. Eventually these small drawings led to a large artwork that developed along one wall of my studio. It started as another of these charcoal drawings—the coyote-hooded figure carrying a grain mill on its back. I was at a point where this whole endeavor needed a push, and I began to add a rocky mountain ridge to the composition. I just kept adding page after page of paper until the drawing filled the whole wall. It was from this drawing that the idea of collage emerged. I had printed off some images of rock faces as a reference, but I got impatient. To speed up the process, I started cutting them up and taping them to the paper surface.

By the time I was finished with this giant drawing/collage, everything that I had been thinking about, experimenting with and biting my nails over just began to gel. I started to become consciously aware of the importance of the Western landscape and all of its cultural baggage in the fabric of my reality. I was able to contextualize my connection to the West and began to understand the activity of drawing these charcoal figures—which before had seemed unconnected and inconsequential—as a performative act of re-establishing my place in and perspective on the world. The figures quickly fell away in my work, and the landscape became the central actor. I also became more and more cognizant of and interested in the role of the mythic West in the larger American cultural consciousness. Before going to the East Coast, I don’t think that I had really ever completely understood the enormity of the importance of that particular landscape and the symbolism that it holds as the essence of American-ness. It has been interesting for me to see how my explorations have grown organically from something very personal to encompass these larger spheres that are progressively more universal.

I have been back in Colorado for about a year and half. Now I do live in one of those beautiful mountainous spots—a cute little town nestled below the Spanish Peaks of southern Colorado. We have small herds of deer that live in town and sleep in our front yard, and on cold mornings after a light snow, the sun sets the mountain aglow in a manner so brilliant you really begin to wonder if it isn’t nature’s attempt to imitate Thomas Kinkade. It has all of the makings for horrible landscape paintings.

The ranchers and old hippies here are left over from the communes that brought in artists from New York in the 1970s with the possibility of “dropping out.”  It's the same desire, of course, that attracted the ranchers and the cowboys before them, and the miners and the trappers, and—going all the way back to the beginning of the American Frontier—the pilgrims. All of them had the hope of trying it all anew, wiping the slate clean in a place unencumbered by culture, undirtied by human rules, hierarchies and restraints. It’s all a farce, of course. There is not much free or natural or unconstrained left about this place. It is all broken up, parceled out and divided by property lines, fences and water rights. The forests are managed by logging and fire, and the parks get new trails every year. But it really is a beautiful illusion.

Reimagining Bierstadt: Rocky Mountains (detail)
2012
Collage on paper
40" x 58 1/2"

OPP: How is the Colorado art scene different from the Baltimore art scene?



LB: Baltimore is so full of energy. There is a really strong DIY attitude in Baltimore, and people just make things happen. You might go to see an ad hoc exhibition in someone’s living room one night, and the next night, you can see the same artists’ work in an exhibition at the Maryland Art Place or another well-established art venue. There are so many unoccupied buildings in the city that it is really easy for artists to find communal living spaces, studio spaces and spaces for all sorts of exciting exhibitions, performances and other forms of exchange. The whole scene is more about experimentation and the exchange of ideas than about sales or status. There is a lot of support for emerging artists.

The Colorado art scene is, of course, much smaller and more diffuse. I live in a very rural spot about three hours from Denver, so I am pretty isolated from any contemporary art scene. Usually when I tell people that I am an artist, I get some answer like: “Oh, you are?!!! Well, you should meet my neighbor Larry. He makes just the neatest sculptures of sunflowers and animals out of old tractor parts. You would just love them!” And, in all honesty, I really kind of do love them.

I spent two months in Denver last spring doing a residency at a wonderful arts organization called Platte Forum. I had lived in northern Colorado for about eight years during and immediately following my undergraduate studies at Colorado State University, and this was the first time that I had spent much time in the Denver area since leaving Fort Collins in 2008. I had the opportunity to get a better feel for everything that is going on there, and I honestly was quite shocked. I met so many artists who are doing really interesting things, and there are a growing number of organizations, residencies and venues that support contemporary art and emerging artists. I have always believed that you can tell the health of an art ecosystem by the amount of support that is shown for emerging artists. If all of the artwork is being shipped in from other places or you just see the same artists over and over again, you know that the system is unhealthy. I think that Denver is on the move and heading in a great direction. As soon as I am finished being a hermit in the mountains, I think that I will head there. 

The Harvest of Particles
2011
Collage and guache on paper
15" x 21"

OPP: I'd love to hear more about the creation of colorful landscape collages like Reimagining Bierstadt: Rocky Mountains (2012) and The Harvest of Particles (2011), which involve both collage and painting. Could you explain your collage process? Do you plan your compositions in advance?



LB: A lot of my work begins with reading. I love to read about science and natural history; certain ideas just catch my attention. I’ll start out with a general concept or even a catch phrase and get to Googling. My husband swears that I am a research addict. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without books and the Internet. I allow myself to be pulled along by the research, often discovering connections between ideas I never would have imagined fitting together. The collages are about synthesizing all this disparate information. 

Sometimes I do plan my compositions in advance (it is the smart thing to do, after all), but I am impatient. More often, I find a few images that fit the idea that I am after and that somehow have a life of their own. They become sort of like actors on a stage, and they often dictate the direction of the composition. It is weird, because sometimes I will completely eliminate them in the end, but the resulting composition could never have been created without them.

As I start constructing the collage, I go through this whole back and forth process of finding images and creating paint swatches. The painting is great, because it is mindless and cathartic, and I can really concentrate on the audiobook that I am listening to. I drip and swirl and puddle it until I have a nice big stack of painted paper that I can cut from. Then, I try to match the printed images with the painted swatches, and when I can’t do that, I fiddle with Photoshop (which I hate) until something works. Once I am fed up with Photoshop, I go back to puddling and swirling. Amidst all this back-and-forth, are long hours of cutting stuff out with Exacto knives and gluing. Eventually it all just works itself out. It is a stupid process really, and sometimes I hope that I figure out something better.

Collapse
2010
Collage, Paint
Detail

OPP: What are your sources for your collages? What is your collection process like?



LB: My collection process is really a hodgepodge of approaches, and I am sure it would seem like complete lunacy to anyone who walked into my studio and tried to make sense of it. Nevertheless, there is some twisted and confusing logic behind it all.

The process is constantly changing, and the rules of the game are different from piece to piece. Sometimes the process emerges out of necessity. I know that I need a certain color, texture, value, and I go out looking for that. More often, however, I set up parameters for myself: I only use images found by Googling a certain word, by searching a particular data base or by using images of only one particular place. I am obsessed with the US Geological Survey, and I can spend hours looking through images on the organization’s website. I am constantly looking for new ways of picturing the world, and I keep hundreds of photos saved on my computer in folders with names like piebald deer and icebergs.

OPP: How is the process of collage itself connected to your ideas about the American wilderness?

LB: We imagine nature to be pure, unchanging, timeless. Most importantly, we often define nature as an absence of human intervention. We see the human and natural worlds as distinctly separate. This has been historically important in a nation whose identity depends on the idea of the untouched/uncivilized landscape as the mechanism for political and spiritual purification and the creation of a stronger, better, freer nation.

But, in reality, “nature” and “wilderness” are cultural fabrications. Yellowstone National Park, for instance, is a beacon of American wilderness. And yet, its plants, animals and geology have been utilized and manipulated by humans for thousands of years. We identify national parks as “natural” spaces, but a lot of effort goes into maintaining them. They are an attempt to reconstruct a pure and unchanging state that never really existed.  

Collage is essentially the construction of cohesive images out of very incoherent parts. I set out to deconstruct images of landscape in order to reconstruct them in a new light. In one of the first works, I used photos of landfills, feed lots and parking lots to create rock faces. In another painting, I used one aerial photograph repeated over and over again to create a panoramic view of rolling hills and plains. I hope that viewers will move from the cohesive image to the incoherent parts and begin to think about the facts that are overlooked in their perceptions of the idealized American landscape.

 To see more of Libby's work, please visit libbybarbee.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and existential significance of participating in mediated culture in her embroidery, video, sculpture and collage works. She received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006), where she will begin teaching in Spring 2013, and is currently a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT Residency in Chicago. Notable exhibitions include Losing Yourself in the 21st Century (Maryland Art Place, Baltimore), MP3 (The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), Please Stand By: Stacia Yeapanis + Readymade (Baang & Burne Contemporary, New York), Over and Over Again (BOLT Project Space, Chicago).

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Eric Ashcraft

The Sun Don't Shine in your TV
2011
archival inkjet print
4.24" x 6"

ERIC ASHCRAFT juxtaposes nature and technology, painting and sculpture and the found and the original in his mixed media work emphasizing the blurry, rich spaces between the binaries we often use to define things. His work has been shown most recently at The Missoula Art Museum (Missoula), Mt. Comfort (Indianapolis) and as a part of a two-person exhibition Poseur at Grizzly Grizzly (Philadelphia). Upcoming exhibitions include Taste at Small Black Door (New York). Eric lives in Yakima, WA.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Many of your pieces are paintings on modified found objects, so they are part painting-part sculpture. But juxtaposition seems to be an even stronger defining strategy driving all the work.

Eric Ashcraft: Lao Tzu once proposed that truth is apprehended through the understanding of fundamental binaries. Often, when one considers how best to describe the interactions of things around us, “discontinuity” proves to be a valuable signifier. A thing or event becomes best described by what it is not. The mind works to separate things, to classify, in order that it may abstract experiences into symbols, and orchestrate symbols into concepts. This is what we see in language, i.e. not dark but …, not soft but …, etc. It is no coincidence that a recurring theme in mythological constructions is that the fabric of nature itself is comprised of the interaction between opposites. It is also fascinating to me that natureas described by quantum field theoryworks in much the same vein as many of our mythologies would suggest. The laws of nature are very nearly symmetrical with respect to particles and antiparticles, which providefor lack of better termsa balance between the fundamental components (interactions) of reality.

When it comes to drawing lines between sculpture and painting, I often think, loosely and imperfectly, in terms of the classical binary opposition between mind and matter. In a limiting way, I relate properties of painting (surface-illusion) with mind, and properties of sculpture (form-space) with matter. In this context, I then enjoy attempting to erase the lines of separation, suspending knowledge of their respective attributes, which brings me closer in affinity with the traditions of mysticism. In moments of illumination, these systems of opposites are transcended and dissolved into a homogeneous continuity. And there, interconnectedness is laid bare and inarticulate. 

On a basic level, I don’t see much of a difference between the two; one easily becomes a surface for the other. Both are composites of thought and action. Both manifest as objects, limited by the material of which they are comprised. Both inevitably decay in time and are defined in accordance with the limiting symbols of language and difference. And importantly, both are constantly being redefined as the parameters in which they exist, evolve, expand and reconstitute under new paradigms. And so these half-painting, half-sculpture “hybrids” are a kind of articulation of this malleability of form and classification. In general, this perpetual fluctuation of category is a continuing drive for me.

Midsummer Liaison
2011
acrylic on beer case
8" x 10.5" x 5"

OPP: So, do you identify as a painter, sculptor or as a conceptual artist?

 EA: If I had to choose between being identified as a painter, a sculptor or a conceptual artist, I would choose to be a banana. When it comes down to it, I’ll use whatever method necessary to allow an idea or experience to come to fruition, and usually concept takes priority. It is also probably obvious that I have a debilitating fear of being categorized, but it is important for me to allow myself to creatively wander and be a bit delusional. Truly, I think it would be best to not consider myself an artist at all and circumnavigate the issue.

OPP: Touché. A specific juxtaposition I see over and over again is the combination of the untouched, romantic landscape with various forms of technology: in My Kind of Romance (2008) you added a neon dress shirt, and, in Entertainment Tonight (2008), you put the painting on a TV set, and in Tell Me if I am not Happy (2011), the landscape covered the jacket of an undisclosed VHS tape. Could you talk about the recurring combination of the romantic landscape with technology?

EA: It really comes from numerous places. Some of the most visible to me are a consideration of the history of beauty and the seduction of the observer, the manifestation of both as signs, and conflict between immersive space and the obstructive tactility of our urban detritus. I remember, in the case of My Kind of Romance, being really interested in different materials and images employed in order to seduce. The image of the untouched landscape, which in this case, was a kind of compendium of historical influences varying from Corot, to the tyrant of our grandparents’ walls, Mr. Thomas Kinkade, and the physical presence of neon. Both have qualities that entice. One, an image that satisfies a kind of escapist yearning, relates to desires for purity, and the other, neon, is a more urban material. It's eye-candy, employed to catch one’s attention, reeling one in to consume. The shirt also stands in as an abstracted modern presence within a nostalgic and fictitious ideal. 

Perhaps a general interest in the sublime is a more apparent source of the combination. Technology, in a way, embodies a new experience of the sublime, one that provides awe through a shear overabundance of information. Where we once could stand on a precipice and feel the awesomeness of a great expanse, belittled and terrified by the vastness of space and unharnessed nature (in some places this still happens, especially in relation to outer space), we can now feel a similar phenomenon via the great expanse of information that confronts us through our exponentially generative technologies.

Ground Control
2010
oil and china marker on board
22" x 22"

OPP: Talk about the theme of erasure in works like BEST IF USED BY JAN 01 12 (2011), The Hard Bones Under the Flesh (2011) and Were It to Begin and Were It to Cease (2011).

EA: I was interested in revealing the form or material under the advertising or image. I was sort of trying to reveal the essence of the object by taking away its skin. In doing so, the material and form became both reduced and more coherent in the modern sense. By cutting away at a structure, you can begin to understand how it works. You can break it down and simplify it. These works were kind of dissections in a very superficial sense.

OPP: So, is the tendency towards deconstruction as a way to comprehend related to the experience of vastness and awesomeness of the sublime in whatever form?

EA: You know, I have never seen a connection between them; perhaps you are picking up on something. I sort of think of the sublime as this moment where things can’t be reduced or taken apart, as being in affinity with rapture. It can only be talked about and deemed a sublime experience after the fact. So there is a rift between experience and understanding. First, one experiences, then knowledge is extracted from that experience once it is decoded into a language of logical understanding. Deconstruction is a utility for obtaining knowledge. The experience of the sublime is a state of dissolution into the unknown. So, perhaps they are connected in the sense of being complements.

Day and Night
2011
two men's size 11 shoes made from cutting and reassembling two pairs of personally used Adidas shoes

OPP: There are some fascinating anomalies in your oeuvre: The Cracked Picket (2009) and Summertime (2010), for example, represent extremely different styles of painting. They are so distinct that it seems to be a conscious choice. I'd love to hear more about these pieces, and why you chose to paint the way you did? 

EA: Painting has an immense history that is nearly impossible to ignore, to the point that virtually any mark you make on a surface can carry a cultural and political significance. I like to visualize aesthetic approaches as varying tools in the toolbox; you can build content through renegotiating the terms of a thing’s representation and by questioning the validity of a thing’s historical definition or stature.

I think of style as really organic in this way. Different styles can be used to express different ideas. Some things are simply more effective rendered in a particular way. In The Cracked Picket, I remember trying to navigate between styles in such a way that the overall aesthetic wouldn’t fall into one category or the other, sort of walking the fence between cartoon and realism, humor and seriousness, abstraction and representation. Even the paint application was stuck somewhere between thick and thin. The combination of the perspective and the abundant thickness of the painting’s layers made the house feel like a real object in person, as if it were poised to fall off the surface. The fabricated quality of the house was magnified by rendering it in a synthetic medium: acrylic. Also relevant was its scale; it was much too big to be an illustration and too small to be a completely immersive illusion. It almost felt as if it should have been inhabited by hobbit-sized dolls.

I painted Summertime through a childhood memory of a confrontation with the decaying corpse of an entangled and unfortunate cow. There are a lot of contradictions at play, conceptually, physically and in regard to taste. I was trying to achieve a balance between an evasive apparition-like quality and a solid mass. The paint needed to be more of a mutating agent, accented by moments of heaviness shifting into transparency. The method of paint application was influenced greatly by the subject. I was revolving around death as a subject and a metaphor for painting as a whole. I was considering ambiguities in form through the use of an extremely plastic and fleshy material, mainly oil. I wanted to represent Death, unveiled as an elapse of time rather than as something instantaneous and foreign. I saw this concept as being in conjunction with the character of painting itself. A painting is built in time and ultimately decays in time, much the same way we do. A painting represents an expanded period of time. The time of its making is inherent in the “finished” work, in the layers of its construction. But it is never truly finished until it ceases to exist.

Good Company
2011
airbrush on prepared print and frame
28" x 24"

OPP: What you are saying leads me to think of your work through the lens of contemporary remix culture, which is something close to my own heart. Throughout art history, new work has always drawn on old work, but your work makes this creation of meaning through juxtaposition more apparent because it is less concerned with having a definitive, "original" style. I'm enjoying thinking of your work as painting remix, similar to sampling in Hip Hop or the creation of new narratives in fanvids, mash-ups and supercuts. Is there any connection between your work and these non-art-world forms?

EA: Definitely. I enjoy that connection. All of these methods mix and clash material from a nearly inexhaustible and ever-growing media archive. Everything is up for grabs. The exchange of information has become so fast that classified channels of expression don’t have much of a shelf-life. There is always something new being born from the old, and I see no sign of it slowing down. So many turning points in history really come from separate languages combining into new forms. In a way, these “non-art-world” (non-art-world-yet?) methods pay homage to older methodologies of creativity, particularly appropriation in Cubist and Dadaist collage.

I think material that has a real physical history can be “remixed” as well. As our experience of media and technology becomes more integrated with the physical, the barriers between real and virtual begin to seem less distinct; it is truly hard to distinguish what is original from what is synthetic. I’ve begun to think of the two as unified harbingers of information.

As the exchange of information becomes increasingly more rapid, I see a possibility for material and image manipulation to expand to encompass increasingly more collisions of aesthetics. I envision the future of communication as a vast array of interweaving symbols that no longer function on a two-dimensional levelas current language doesbut instead a multi-dimensional ocean of layered meaning and non-meaning, abstraction and image, symbol and space.

On another note, if you choose to sample something, you can sample and still put your twist on it -- in fact it’s hard not to, the way you can still hear a characterizing finesse behind a great DJ’s flavor of blending chosen source material. Originality can be found in the idiosyncrasies. When you are taking influence, or even straight up stealing, the result doesn’t have to be derivative, and even that isn’t always a bad thing. I still entertain the idea of uniqueness, but one doesn’t need to be original in one way. You can be creative through multiple mediums and even multiple identities. You don’t need to wave a banner around with a singular product to be successful.

Untitled
Drawing
2011

OPP: What new development in your art practice are you most excited about right now?

EA: There are a lot of avenues I’ve been exploring that are particularly rewarding. I feel as if right now I’m in a state of transition between multiple platforms, and new methods of expression have begun to unveil themselves. I’m beginning to try to fuse disparate platforms of expression that I’ve used in the past with new visual languages I’m trying to develop. In this respect, digital methods of production and explorations into new fields are especially enticing. In this approach, I have been making these twisted erotic drawings and digital works I haven’t shown anyone yet. I really don’t know how to describe them, which is exciting. 

To view more of Eric's work, please visit ericashcraft.com.