OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Christi Birchfield

How To Remain Human, 2015. Installation view. MOCA Cleveland.

CHRISTI BIRCHFIELD balances control and surrender by using various printmaking techniques and tools in unconventional ways. Whether she's running fresh flowers through an etching press or bleaching dyed canvas, her work points to the impermanence of nature and human mortality. Christi earned her BFA in Printmaking from The Cleveland Institute of Art and her MFA in Visual Art from Columbia University. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at Skowhegan, Vermont Studio Center and SWAP Residency at SPACES Gallery. Solo shows include Above the Fold, Below the Surface (2014) at Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and From the Inside Out (2014) at William Busta Gallery in Cleveland. In 2017, Christi won an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council and the Cleveland Arts Prize, Emerging Artist Category. Christi lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: You work primarily in printmaking, including traditional techniques like lithograph and etching. But your toolkit of mark making is way more expansive. What other techniques do you use to make marks?

Christi Birchfield: Printmaking tends to be a starting point for my work. I have been immersed in the tradition of the medium for many years. I majored in printmaking in both undergrad and graduate school, and I’ve worked as a master printer at Zygote Press Inc. Somewhere along the line, it became interesting to not only use printmaking presses as a way to produce multiples but also as simply a method for creating marks. During graduate school, I began exploring monoprints, which do not originate from a reproducible matrix. The etching press began to function as a way to imbed materials (smash stuff) into paper. I started running bouquets of flowers and house plants through the press. The way the press would flatten while at the same time morph and stretch the plants became very interesting to me. I liked how the object that I was running though the press became an abstraction of itself. The single, directional push of the material held relationships to both the industrial and the digital world.  Additionally, the juices in the plant would squeeze out, staining the paper, resulting in a painting that I orchestrated but did not control. These chance operative techniques for making a mark challenged my previous approach to printmaking. Monoprinting is how I approach textile works as well. I use a sod roller to print bleach paste onto black canvas. 

Sagittal Plane, 2016. Bleach Paste on Canvas. Photo Credit: Jerry Birchfield.

OPP: Is the distinction between printmaking and drawing important to you as a maker?

CB: Yes, that distinction is important. For me, drawing is very much about a one-to-one relationship between the maker and the surface that is being marked. It’s also about intentional decision making and forethought. Printmaking can have the same attributes as drawing, but it is more about a distance between myself and the thing being created. I set up situations where I put materials into motion without fully controlling the shape, pattern or color those materials will make. It is a way to stay present in the process but also remain distant. My role hovers between the maker and the observer of my own work. I think about painters like Morris Louis or Helen Frankenthaler who developed approaches to stain painting where color was allowed to flow based on gravity and absorption and not based on how those artists moved the brush across the canvas. 


High Tide, 2014. Flowers and burning on paper. 39” x 27.5"

OPP: Does color in the flower works only come from the flowers themselves? Is this color fugitive? 

CB: My practice consists of various levels of control. Choosing how and when to apply color is one of the factors that I negotiate as I work. The color does come from the flower. When I first started working with the plants, it was important for me that the color only come from the flower with no additive pigment. It seemed conceptually necessary at the time that nothing contaminate what would naturally occur from the plant itself and the process I was administering. In more recent works, I’ve started exploring the application of watercolor.

Total Optimism, 2014. Flowers, graphite, ink, and enamel on paper. 78” x 60”

OPP: What role does symmetry play in your practice?

CB: Symmetry is a way to create a sense of order among marks that are otherwise chaotic. Symmetry has a very practical application for me. There was a time when I felt the work was just a gloopy-gloppy mess. It felt out of control. The symmetrical image was a way to create an automatic order while still staying true to the process and materials. The shapes immediately called to mind the human body and it’s interior. While the plant material references fluids that could perhaps come from the body, it only made sense that compositions also reference something bodily as well. 

Lord and Lady, 2014. Flowers and watercolor on paper. 31"x 28"

OPP: Pieces like SurgentBelvedere and Lord and Lady, all from 2014, at first appear to be symmetrical, but when I look closer, I realize that it isn’t pure symmetry. Is this simply a symptom of the process or an intentional part of the content?

CB: Yes, the symmetry is faulty. There is nothing exact about the process. The works are made by simply folding the paper in half to create a print on both sides simultaneously. I’ll often times shove flowers, inky plates, and some paint within a folded sheet of paper and crank it through the press. The result of how all these materials relate after the press has done it’s work is more interesting to me than whether or not both halves of the composition are identical. 

In fact, the slight differences between both sides of the print reveal a bit of the process that I rather enjoy. We as humans are thought of as more or less symmetrical. However, have you ever mirrored your own face in Photoshop to see what you would look like if you were actually symmetrical? The results are a bit unsettling and confirms that the differences between our two halves make us appear human and not as digital constructions. As my pieces are made by hand and very much about the process and materials, the slight variations that serve as the non-symmetrical indicators clue the viewer in on the fact that this work is a result of something outside of modern technology. 

Slab, 2015. Bleach Paste on Canvas. 65" x 20" x 8"

OPP: In recent work you’ve shifted away from the rectangle of paper and cut out the bleached marks in the works like Sagittal Plane (2016) and Reconfiguration (2015). These slumping sculptures read sometimes as hanging foliage and other times as collapsing skeletons. Can you talk about destruction in relation to the forms?

CB: Lately, I’ve been working a lot with textiles. The works are made by printing bleach onto canvas and then hand-cutting around the marks to produce complex shapes that have been cut out and through. Canvas is a common surface on which to create a painting, but I am very interested in the material of itself and its hefty qualities. 

I’ve always considered the posture different works of mine take on. Some pieces are tired, some casual, some doing backbends. The way the canvas sags and slumps seemed to suggest something very human. The works tend to mirror the scale of a person and the material of canvas is a versatile fiber that I can manipulate in various ways. 

There is a constant theme of time running through my practice. The pace of time and the fragility of the human existence underlie much of my work. My daughter is ten months old. In becoming a mom, I suddenly had a deeper connection to the generations of women that have come before me. My grandmother, my mom, myself and my daughter—we are all part of a continual line. Layering of fabric cut-outs, printed elements overlapping, collage pieces all serve as a way to see everything at once and also not quite be able to make sense of everything ever. I relate this to a constant sense of both temporality and permanence. Our bodies are material taking up space yet mortal, impermanent. The fabric cut outs look like skeletal fragments, like pelvises and ribcages, evoking the body and it’s transience. The first medical X-ray was of Wilhelm Rontgen’s wife’s hand. Her response—“I have seen my death”—suggests that seeing our inner selves, our material essence, confirms our own mortality.

To see more of Christi's work, please visit christibirchfield.com.

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

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Tamsen Wojtanowski

Striped Sheets, New Bedspread, 2016. Toned Cyanotype. 11" x 15"

More often than not, cyanotype work is beautiful but boring. But not in the hands of TAMSEN WOJTANOWSKI. Where many artists working with this alternative photographic process use the distinctive blue tone as a crutch, Tamsen infuses cyanotype with humor, poetry and romance. Her graphic, hand-cut negatives yield thoughtful, poignant representations of abstracted intimacy. Tamsen earned her BS in Cinema and Photography from Ithaca College and her MFA in Photography from Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia. She has had solo exhibitions at 110 CHURCH Gallery (2014), NAPOLEON (2012) and Grizzly Grizzly (2010), all in Philadelphia. Tamsen is preparing for two upcoming solo shows. Daydreaming About Us will open in May 2017 at 621 Gallery (Tallahassee), and SHITEATER will open in April 2018 at The Fleisher Art Memorial (Philadelphia). Tamsen lives and works in Philadelphia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your early 35mm photographic essays are overtly narrative, while your recent cyanotypes are much more graphic and abstract. Is there a conceptual string that ties the new work to the old?

Tamsen Wojtanowski: The work I make has always been directly related to my personal worries and wants, and the shift towards abstraction had partly to do with moving away from a few different core friend groups. My life and work were inseparable during those early periods of film photography. I carried a camera everywhere and was always on my way somewhere, with somebody. But when I moved again to attend graduate school, I started working more in the studio instead of out on the streets. This was a time without a core group of friends, which necessitated finding a new way of working and communicating through my art.

My day-to-day was changing; life was less exciting. I was done going through puberty and had made it through my early twenties. First kisses, late night adventures, and long lazy afternoons turned into a mind full of financial due dates and anxieties about home-ownership and job placement. I cared nothing about making images about these topics. I want my work to take me away or at least act as a way to carve out static time where I can detach from all that worries me.

Diva Cup, 2016. Toned Cyanotype. 11" x 15"

OPP: How do your most recent works function as “autobiographical images with an interest in our natural human disposition of storytelling?”

TW: I consider these more recent, more abstract works as personal fictions. Like my relatives who live down South might say, “I’m praying on it.” My most recent works use handmade, paper negatives. It’s an intricate, more drawn-out process from start to finish. I think of this process— from initial idea to under drawing, from cutting to exposure to final print—as similar to the creation of a mandala or working one’s way through a set of rosary beads. The time I spend with these processes are my prayers. I set a framework and a cadence, I focus and repeat.

Embedded in these images are my wants, my worries and my love. They are a physical embodiment of what I need to get off my chest. They are mark-making as a way to vent frustrations, ask questions or focus on wants in a meditative way. The act of creating these prints helps me focus and lends spiritual guidance. I have always depended on art-making to keep me upright. It’s how I am able to move through the day and deal with stress. Art-making is also a means to enjoy the world and celebrate the beauty and stories that surround us.

Salvaged (Power Company), 2015. Cyanotype. 15" x 20"

OPP: When did cyanotype first enter your photographic toolkit?

TW: Cyanotype dates back to 1842. It predates the invention of the camera or film, but not the human desire to capture what we see and somehow keep it. Cyanotype uses a hand-applied, light-sensitive emulsion to create photographic images. It can be used to create images on natural materials like paper, fabric, wood, but synthetics will not accept the chemical. For the creative and patient artist, the possibilities of what one might sensitize could be endless. The emulsion uses UV rays to expose the image and cool running water to develop it. I first became aware of the process in an elective I took as an undergraduate student. At that time, I had a common reaction. . . why make a blue photograph? It didn’t reflect the world we live in, and I didn’t think it had the onus of a B&W image, so why use it?

I came across the process again in my graduate studies under Martha Madigan, an artist well-known for her use of alternative and historical photographic processes. Her love and dedication to these processes was contagious. It was great timing because the world of photography was becoming more and more digital, and I had a very hard time connecting with that way of working. I began questioning what a photograph was and what it’s role in society was. I grew less interested in the truth or in documentation.

Lawn Art, 2016. Cyanotype from Handmade Negative. 18" x 24"

OPP: What makes cyanotype stand out from digital or film photography from a process point of view?

TW: I found delight in shaking up those given expectations that the camera would make the image, there would be a digital file or a negative, and the final product would be a rectangular photographic image on paper or in a book. These were replaced with new vocabulary. There wasn’t a camera, there was an “image-making device.” No more negative, now we had an “image matrix.” A print sure, but not necessarily on paper; it would lie on the “image support “of my choosing.

It was some time before the process worked its way firmly into my studio practice. It wasn’t really until after I was given the chance to teach a course in alternative photographic processes at area colleges that I really got in deep and started to consider all the possibilities and opportunities of the process. The chemicals used to create the emulsion are inexpensive and stable, so they last a long time. The whole process is hands-on and forgiving. I don’t need any special tools or environments. I just need the sun and a hose or a sink. I can work as much as I want without sacrificing too much in the way of finances. . . which is really important as I make my way in the world while paying off graduate student loans.

AND. REPEAT. 2016. Toned Cyanotype. 11" x 15"

OPP: How has your use of this process evolved over the years?

TW: I have moved through many different ways of producing the image. Using materials to create photograms of found materials, creating collages with multiple prints, using ortho-litho and digital negatives, toning prints, painting on prints, and finally, for the time being anyway, creating images using handmade negatives created with cut paper. I have also started to experiment with multiple exposures, creating layers of information and further abstraction.

I’m inspired by an interview I read with Robin Hill, who also works with cyanotype. She talks about the idea that the camera sees the world as we do. We see the light bouncing off of subjects, we see them as one thing. The cyanotype sees the light that falls around the subject or pushes through the subject. Hill talks about this as being able to “see the potential of an object.” I love that idea. The idea that things are not fixed, stuck as they are, but underneath all of these different surfaces there is potential, like a lifeline, things can always be different.

Interior, 2016. Cyanotype from Handmade Negative. 18" x 24"

OPP: How is that distinctive blue both a blessing and a curse?

TW: You have to love the blue or at least train your eye to ignore it, while still keeping it in mind because the question will always be asked. . . why blue? It can become an instant wall for some viewers. The process is viewed as old, outdated, fixed in many minds as a certain thing that can’t be anything else. So the process can distract from seeing the image. People think they know what to expect, so they don’t really look.

I have come to love the blue because it gives the process and resulting images a sense of play. It’s a bright blue like the sky or a body of water; it’s the blue of daydreaming and deep thought. And it's not a blue you are necessarily stuck with. The cyanotype process is very accepting of different toning techniques. Using a weak bleach to activate the emulsion and various household products, the cyanotype can be toned and the blue shifted to a variety of warm and cool browns or deep blue-blacks.

The blue is detached from a realistic recreation of a subject via photographic image. Like B&W darkroom photography, it is a way of working in tones, and I have trained my eye and mind to see in tones. My heart lies in abstraction and fantasy. I have never been too interested in reality. Even with a B&W image there is a level of abstraction; the world is not B&W.

Tig Bitties, 2016. Toned Cyanotype. 11" x 15"

OPP: I see a new humor in recent works like Jay’s Mustache, Tig Bitties and Say Anything that didn’t seem to be present before. Is this an intentional shift in tone?

TW: After graduate school, I got stuck. I created expectations for myself that my work would be at least “x” in size, at least “x” complicated in process or technique, at least “x” clean or professional looking, and in that same vein - the language I was using, or the content, must remain “x” sophisticated, sterile, cold, thinking but not feeling. Certain topics were off-limits. I was worried about seeming too nostalgic or romantic, convinced these were scarlet letters and meant certain death for an artist. Unconsciously, I was limiting myself, thinking things had to be a certain way to be taken seriously. It took a lot of time and making to realize it. It also took getting a lot of rejection letters and not being offered the opportunities I thought I deserved. I wasn’t aware that I was doing this to myself. . . until I was.

Someday, 2016. Toned Cyanotype. 11" x 15"

OPP: So humor became a new possibility? What led to the introduction of text in pieces like One Thousand Percent and Someday?

TW: Winter 2015, my worldview hit a tipping point and boiled over just before the start of this last election cycle, where we are now. It seems the whole world has turned upside-down and all the farfetched, forgotten and crazy beliefs from every back alley, basement and overgrown field are being said out loud, written about in the headlines and on our t-shirts and lawn signs.

All of this, the personal and public turmoil, has made it’s way into my work in the form of humor because I didn’t know what to do with my anger or my sense of hopelessness. Feeling totally overwhelmed with all the negativity and bullshit and defeat, all I could muster was joke. And if not for that, then nothing at all. Luckily I am not one to give up, though I was close.

What they say is true: once you see behind the veil—like that moment of seeing the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz—nothing matters anymore. The old rules and expectations can’t touch you; they can’t hold you down. You are free. You are free to say and do and make whatever you want. You still have to have integrity though, so you still have to work hard, often and a lot. Unbound and ungagged, in my own small way, the text is a tool for being more direct with my work.

Our House, 2016. Cyanotype from Handmade Negative. 18" x 24"

OPP: What about the work for your upcoming solo show Daydreaming of Us? This work has a more romantic tone. It seems to be about nesting, settling down and making home. How does it relate to the SHITEATER work?

TW: So, I am currently pursuing two bodies of work in my studio practice. . . the one being SHITEATER, the other being Daydreaming About Us. Together they’ve become kind of yin and yang or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ways of working for me. The series SHITEATER is made up of reactive work. Impulses I have concerning current events and social phenomena. Work that I view as very much part of the conversation, existing in response to the real world. Daydreaming About Us is the opposite. It’s where I get to hide away, lick my wounds, imagine something different for my family and I, settling us down in an idyllic, self-sufficient, overgrown, homemade, landscape.

SHITEATER purges, while with Daydreaming About Us, I binge. I feed my emotional self. I fill up on good thoughts and sweet daydreams. Daydreaming About Us definitely lives in and comes from a more romantic space, though I wouldn’t call it more intimate than the SHITEATER pieces. Wants and worries are equally as hard to communicate, to say out loud. Daydreaming About Us voices my wants; SHITEATER voices my worries. 

To see more of Tamsen's work, please visit tamsenwj.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia created site-responsive installations for two-person show Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work was recently included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Christopher Hartshorne

Billboard I, 2016. Multiple woodblock print. 48" x 24"

CHRISTOPHER HARTSHORNE uses and reuses his expansive library of hand-cut woodblocks to create large-scale, multi-block prints. His combination of architectural, angled lines and organic, wavy lines implies a collision of nature and culture. The effect is an overwhelming sense of turbulence and chaos and a preponderance of forceful explosions and expulsions, which can be read as representations of natural processes or metaphors for emotional experiences. Christopher received his BFA in Illustration from the Columbus College of Art & Design (1996) and his MFA in Printmaking from the Tyler School of Art (2009). His work is included in several public and private collections including the Woodmere Art Museum, Hudson County Community College and Brooklyn Art Library. Recent exhibitions include Pressure Points (2015) at Savery Gallery in Philadelphia and Graphic Coordinates (2014) at Griffith University, Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia. Christopher currently lives in Bellingham, Washington and teaches at Western Washington University.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What is it about the process of woodblock printing that you love?

Christopher Hartshorne: I love the entire process, from carving a plank of wood to the gratification of pulling a finished print from the block. The labor involved is important to me. It gives me a sense of control over the imagery. I am in love with the process of balancing that control with experimentation. My carvings are pre-planned, so I know what the final block will look like. In printing, I let go of that control a little so that I can work more intuitively. In this way, I can react and decide how to print multiple blocks together. There's a thrill for me in not knowing how to proceed; that's when surprising risks can happen. Not all successful prints have to involve risk, but I think it's easy to want to construct an image by fully controlling it in printmaking. The process usually demands it if you are attempting to recreate a drawing perfectly, or need exact registration, for example. I feel more like a painter than a traditional printmaker when I am constructing a final print. The process of inking and burnishing is mechanical but the decision process of where and how to print blocks with one another becomes flexible and organic. I love that I don't know what a print is going to look like until the last layer is printed.

OPP: Is there anything you hate?

CH: I don't hate anything about the process. The time commitment of carving can be a burden if I have a strict deadline. Usually, I find it a privilege to be able to spend so much time with my prints, contemplating them and giving them what they need. It totally feels like my prints and I are dating.

Nebula (detail), 2011. Multi-block woodcut. 96" x 38"

OPP: Can you talk about the relationship between image, process and scale in your work?

CH: My images contain detailed lines. I prefer to create prints around six feet in length so that there is a contrast between the large size of the piece and its detail. In the large black and white work, it is my goal to overwhelm the viewer with the large scale but then engage the viewer further with small detailed lines. The lines offer a web for the viewer to get caught in. The space of the prints allows these lines to meander and accumulate. There are always many smaller prints inside the larger ones. If you were to cut up my six-foot banner woodcuts into one-foot squares, the detailed marks and lines would become more of a focus. The scale of lines would become larger in relation to the frame. Also, the prints' dramatic chaos would be lessened to a degree. I need that large scale to create a dynamic and sweeping movement.

Cages and Clouds, 2015. Woodcut. 24" x 24"

OPP: How do you think about the difference between angles and straight lines versus curvy and wavy lines in your work?

CH: I began using angled, architectural lines to contrast the organic ones. It seemed more interesting to combine dissimilar design elements in the prints. Straight and wavy lines visually move at different “speeds." Sharp, angled lines can zig-zag quickly across the print like a bolt, while curvy lines can undulate slowly like a quiet ripple. Forcing these two elements to live together in one space requires two "speeds" or "frequencies" to interact. This sounds like I am attempting to diagram some scientific reactions with the prints, like the way energy might behave in physics or microbiology. I am definitely not an expert in any science, but I am interested in what I don't understand on a cosmic or microscopic scale. I see the contrasting lines in the prints as an invitation to ponder science fiction—poetic interactions of a non-existent energy.

Monstromoleculia, 2013. Multiple block woodcut. 72" x 38"

OPP: Works like Nebula (2011), Monstromoleculia (2013) and Billboard (2016) are “multiple woodblock prints,” and it appears you reuse your library of blocks. Is this a common contemporary printmaking practice or particular to your work?

CH: Reusing my blocks in different ways has revived the printmaking process for me. My first woodblocks were finished before they were even carved and printed. I had a drawing and I replicated that drawing exactly into a print. Now, the reuse of blocks allows me to use the same visual language from my library in different ways. I see the woodblock now as a tool, like a pencil or brush. Printing can be executed in many ways.

I am not aware of many artists that are reusing blocks in this way on such a large scale, but I'm not alone in using the block in experimental ways. Historically, a block is employed to manufacture multiples. If you add the goal of experimentation to that process, the possibilities in printing are endless.

from left to right: Directional Spark Field, Cyclical Fusion, Gradual Metamorphosis, 2012. Three woodcuts. 72" x 38"

OPP: Does this reuse retroactively change the meaning of older work?

CH: I think the reuse of blocks could change the meaning of previous work. When a block is used with a different set of blocks in a new print the context changes. The block can become lost in layers or the character of lines seems to change. The printed image becomes affected by the context of the surrounding elements. Usually, I rely on the viewer to bring meaning into the work. It's my hope that viewers will make associations born from their own perspective. How a block "behaves" differently in another print is a small component that completes the whole. The movement and drama of the whole piece are what really changes.

OPP: Do you ever retire a block forever?

CH: Only if it becomes damaged. I do have blocks that I seem to have moved on from aesthetically. They don't seem to match more current blocks. But if I look at those blocks with a fresh eye I can always find a set of lines or patterns that inspire me. I have adopted a philosophy that I always say to myself while in my studio: "I can make anything work.” It's my self-help mantra for printing. The phrase symbolizes my need to question my own judgment in order to enable risk-taking. I can successfully reuse an old block I had dismissed. If I print something that looks wrong it can fizzle my inspiration quickly, but I can problem-solve to make it work again.

The Print Center Artist in Schools Program, University City High School and Kensington Health Sciences Academy, 2012-2013

OPP: You’ve been the Artist-in-Residence for three years running in The Delphi Art Futures Program at The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Tell us about the program and how your approach to teaching has changed over the years.

CH: The Art Futures Program works with ten artists each year and places them in Philadelphia schools to create engaging projects with high school students and their art teachers. The artist and teacher create a ten-week project that connects conceptually or visually to artwork in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collection. The project is then displayed at the museum. The program offers student collaboration with a working artist and an opportunity to expand on an idea for ten weeks. It also offers teachers alternative perspectives on artistic subjects and art making techniques. For some teachers, it also offers welcomed support in a large, busy classroom.

I have been teaching in school-connected programs like the Art Futures Program for about ten years in Philadelphia and hopefully in my new residence in Washington state. The most important thing I've learned in being an effective leader is how to balance structure with experimentation. I give students specific goals but leave them enough room to develop their own ideas. When I first started teaching this was a challenge to figure out. I either gave students too much freedom (students doing whatever they felt like with materials) or too much structure  (guiding students to make things exactly the way I wanted). The key became directing students to an end result, but empowering them to make all the decisions along the way. Also, the importance of setting simple student goals is imperative. Teaching has definitely become easier and more rewarding after figuring this out. I can prove that the students are successfully learning because they have reached the goals themselves. I employ this balance of goals and self-discovery for all the classes I teach: middle schoolers, high school, college, and adult learners.

To see more of Christopher's work, please visit christopherhartshorne.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia created site-responsive installations for two-person show Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work was recently included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kelda Martensen

Alone Together
woodblock, handmade paper, collage, mylar, graphite
28 x 40 inches
2013

KELDA MARTENSEN combines printmaking and collage in poetic explorations of displacement, longing and sorrow. Her rich visual language includes recurring images of domestic architecture, the burdened human figure and the wide-open landscape. Kelda earned her BA in Studio Art from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon in 2002 and her MFA with honors from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 2009. Her solo exhibitions include Works on Paper (2009) at University of Missouri Craft Gallery (Columbia, Missouri), Something is Shifting (2010) at Pratt Gallery (Seattle), Kelda Martensen (2012) at Door No. 3 (Twisp, Washington) and To read your gestures aloud: new prints and collages by Kelda Martensen (2015) at Johnston Architects (Seattle). Her work is available through the SAM Gallery, limited edition prints are available for sale through Mantle Art and her work is currently on view at Gallery AXIS in Seattle until April 4, 2016. Kelda is a tenured professor of art at North Seattle College in Seattle, Washington, where she lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do the themes of displacement, searching and burden intersect in your work?



Kelda Martensen: I think we all try to make sense of our sorrow somehow, and as artists, this grappling often drives the work. Poetically, I feel very connected to ideas of displacement and carrying a shifting sense of home along the journey. I relate to the intellectual and emotional experience of searching—as a woman, artist, mother and educator. I want my work to have curiosity, restlessness and yearning. I keep returning to the theme of burden. Even though we use it to speak about a heavy, cumbersome, unwanted obstacle, it's a word that is often connected to something good: responsibility, feeling needed, an opportunity, a goal, time with a loved one. I want to get at this ambiguity in my work. I want to communicate the beauty and strangeness of a moment that is at once soaring, yet uncomfortable. . . light and illuminated, yet heavy and unmoving.

Sorrow of her own construction
Digital print, charcoal, wood veneer, collage
48 x 32 inches
2012

OPP: Why is your combination of printmaking and collage the perfect vehicle for your conceptual concerns? 



KM: I work with the collapsing of memories and narratives. Collage is a natural way of organizing these ideas. Before I start to collage, I become engaged in the processes of printmaking. While the structure and time required in printmaking allows me the room to generate ideas, I feed off the free-association and immediate compositional and conceptual feedback that I get from collage. I am interested in where these two ways of working intersect, where printed marks have the spontaneity of collage, and drawn and collaged marks have the intention and permanence of the print.

OPP: There’s a repeated visual motif of overlapping, colored circles. They first show up in 2012 in pieces like I'll be your closest neighbor and The Outskirts of Sleep, where they highlight empty space. Are these circles symbolic or purely formal?

KM: I'm interested in how the meaning of a symbolic image grows with usage. I keep returning to the circle, and I do love it for its formal qualities. I appreciate how it activates the negative space around it and can so easily achieve the illusion of depth and form. I play with circles to intentionally flatten a space or to make a space more atmospheric. Sometimes the circle acts as a void, other times as a form. In my earlier work, such as The Outskirts of Sleep, the repeating circles were really more about the edges, the void within and highlighting the unknown. Most of the symbols I use create movement in some way. The circle, especially when repeated, can represent a larger cosmic notion of movement: the circling around the sun, tidal patterns in connection with the moon, a lifetime.

The Outskirts of Sleep
Monoprint, digital print, collage
40 x 32
2012

OPP: They then became a dominate feature of your public art project West Seattle Signal Box Project (2014), where they are filled with what looks like both the surface of the ocean or a textured landscape.

KM: For the West Seattle Signal Box Project, I wanted to use a recurring motif that would associate five different public art installations with one another. I took the idea of the overlapping circles from my previous works and exaggerated the repetition as a way to fill a large surface area, and to speak to the vibrant rhythms of a city on the edge of wilderness. In West Seattle's case, it is a neighborhood with both urban density and the vast expanse of the Puget Sound waters. The surface of the ocean is from a woodcut I carved inspired by my time living in Alaska. I enjoy how people read this particular image both as land and water.

Print for vinyl public art installation, Easy Street Records
Monotype, woodblock, collage
43.5 x 30.25 inches
2014

OPP: Another recurring—and much more loaded—visual motif is architecture in many forms. What does the house mean in your work?

KM: I think the house is my most autobiographical symbol. My dad is a cabinetmaker, boat builder and sign carver. I grew up with plywood boxes, needle nose pliers and cedar shavings as toys. I spent a lot of time thinking about houses, looking casually at blueprints and walking through construction sites daydreaming. My dad's shop was only steps from our backdoor, and the path between house and shop was traveled so constantly that the two became blurred in my mind.

As a college student, I had my first opportunities to travel outside the United States. I lived and studied in Galway, Ireland and Durban, South Africa. After being in Europe and then Africa, architecture took on a new meaning for me. It became more universal than personal, more about history, class and race. In Durban, I became very interested in contemporary African photographers such as Zwelethu Mthethwa and Malick Sadibé—especially in the use of pattern and architectural façades in portraiture—and began to understand the visual role of architecture in storytelling and narrative. I now reference architectural forms to speak about place, be it an internal, psychic place or an external, physical place. Every time I use a roof, a window or a hardwood floor in my work, I have a feeling that I am recalling my earliest memories. Though my use of architecture is drawn from my personal narrative, I hope that it speaks to the human experience and a larger more global story.

Cape Town Fringe (After Dollar Brand)
Woodblock, graphite, charcoal
28 x 20 inches
2009

OPP: What role does your sketchbook play in your practice?

KM: I keep several sketchbooks at once and don't necessarily work through the pages in order. This allows me to go back in time and to react to earlier ideas from previous phases in my life. I can revisit places I've traveled and feel closer to past experiences and the passing of time through drawings. My most prolific sketchbook practice happens when I'm traveling or when I otherwise find myself alone and without distraction. With teaching full time and raising a two-year-old, I don't really experience those moments as I used to. Returning to earlier sketchbook pages allows me to return to a time of creative concentration when I might not currently be in one. Still, I can fill pages even if I only have a minute, and it is a safe space to try out ideas quickly. My sketchbooks allow me to feel productive and connected to my art practice.

What we talk about when we talk about coyotes
Moleskin journal, wax, monotype, digital print, collage
6.5 x 8.5 inches
2015

OPP: How does the sketchbook relate to the artist book as a form?

KM: I am always grateful and intrigued whenever I have the chance to see an artist's sketchbook. Like artist books, they are a gift to look through. The sketchbook relates to the artist book not only as a visual form for the distribution of ideas, but also as a way of presenting images to the viewer in an intentional order. This is what fascinates me about the artist book. It is so closely related to printmaking, but it is about the order of the narrative and about how one handles or operates the images. The sketchbook, though not necessarily made for an audience, is also about the order of presentation, and the condition of the pages. With artist books and sketchbooks, I am most intrigued by the treatment of the pages and how they relate to one another. I often incorporate actual sketchbook moleskin journal pages into my work in hopes of evoking this very personal act of reflection, wandering, note-taking.

2015 class mural - design by Justin Gibbens

OPP: You created the first course in public art at North Seattle College, Tell us about the collaborative murals you create with students. Mural painting seems vastly different from printmaking, but is there an unexpected connection in either the process or the product?

KM: It's funny you ask this now, as I'm currently working on a mural project that connects more with my studio practice than any mural I've done before. I am creating a large-scale temporary installation for a construction fence around a future light rail station in the North end of Seattle. I work off-site, creating huge plywood shapes that are puzzled together from several sheets of plywood and painted to mimic my woodcuts and monotypes. The curator of the project, Christian French, pushed me to think about this mural in a way that was much more akin to collage and printmaking. Previously, I made traditional murals painted directly onto the wall. I am really enjoying this new way of thinking about it. I can already tell that this mural project is influencing my studio practice and pushing my comfort with scale—not to mention all the scrap wood to make woodcuts from when I'm done!

The opportunity to design and teach the Mural Art course at North Seattle College has been invigorating for my teaching and studio practice. Each spring, I work with 10-20 students who enroll in the course and together we take on the transferring and painting of a design created by a professional artist. From an instructor's perspective, I feel a heightened sense of collaboration with my students in this course. It's really fun to watch the students take pride and agency in the transformation of the wall and to have the work of students applauded by the campus community. It's always a highlight of my year.

To see more of Kelda's work, please visit keldamartensen.com.

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


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Michael Menchaca

Ondersoort Onderlijnen Bo
2014
Screenprint
25" x 19"

MICHAEL MENCHACA’s signature graphic style combines the aesthetics and recurring visual motifs of cartoons and Mesoamerican iconography. He re-imagines current events along the U.S.-Mexican border as part of a mythic allegory in his screenprints, installations and digital animations. His work is on view until July 27, 2014 in Estampas de la Raza/Prints for the People: The Romo Collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh). You can also see his work in Galeria Sin Fronteras at the National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago) through August 2014. Michael currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is an MFA candidate in Printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What do cartoons and Mesoamerican iconography have in common and how do they support your conceptual interests?

Michael Menchaca: The Codex Migratus print series is my attempt to chronicle contemporary events involving drug smuggling, human trafficking and illegal immigration in the format of an ancient Mesoamerican codex. Codices are pictorial manuscripts that documented ritual, bloodlines and social class. They often depicted supernatural imagery with bold outlines and flat graphic representation. By combining the format of an ancient Mesoamerican codex with Modern-era cartoons, I aim to present a hybrid, pictorial narrative that transcends time and space, allows for multiple perspectives and reflects the complex nature of migration to the U.S.

Spics 'N' Dip
2012
Serigraphy
11" x 14"

OPP: In a 2012 interview with mysanantonio.com, you said “I never wanted to do anything that had to do with my cultural heritage because I felt that was just expected of me. I just ended up drawing a cat and then added a mustache. . .  I started researching Mexican folk art, and I realized how out of touch I am with my own culture. I started asking my mom how she was raised up and how I was raised up. I saw how different it is for me in the States because she was raised in Mexico. I grew up like a regular American kid.” When did you first experience this expectation that, because of your Mexican heritage, you should make art about being Mexican?

MM: I don’t think that it was ever a concrete expectation. I never explicitly had anyone say to me in school, “you should make art about your Mexican ancestry.” However, early on in my art education, I did feel an implication directed towards me to make personal expressions that reflected my cultural heritage. The impulse for me at that time was to go in the opposite direction and try and reconcile with a conventional, bourgeois art aesthetic. It wasn’t until my time at Texas State University where I earned my BFA that I began to work out how to address a history pertaining to me in a way that was true to my experience.

OPP: Your project Codex Migratus (2011 - ongoing) uses allegory and the form of the codex to chronicle current events along the U.S.-Mexican border. Rats with machine guns represent the border patrol and cats with mustaches represent the Mexican immigrants. But don't cats usually chase mice? Is this a subversion of the Tom-and-Jerry trope?

MM: Yes. Tom and Jerry has been a great influence. This role-reversal is integral to the allegory I’m working in. However, I prefer not to expand on how natural laws work within this realm, as I’m keen to keeping a level of mystery intact. I am fascinated by mythical stories, and there’s a lot of play and wiggle room when interpreting myths. This, in no small part, contributes to their lasting appeal. I’d like my work to exist within this framework.

Creatio Episodium Megafauna I
2012
Digital Animation

OPP: You've also explored the same themes, allegories and imagery in digital animation. In Codex Vidiot Vidi (2013) your recognizable iconography is combined with what sounds like audio from video games. In Creatio Episodium Megafauna I (2012), I hear music and sound effects that remind me of old-timey cartoons. Could you talk about how audio and animation changes the tone of your static imagery?

MM: There is a sense of infinite space in the prints; the viewers are free to animate for themselves. In the videos, the moving figures and sound create a new level of experience and interpretation. I’m very new to working with sound and am currently invested in it as a means of orchestrating a narrative. For example, sound is the defining factor in Codex Heterogeneous. It carries the story and acts as the container for the content.

Crooked American Boarders: The Beaner Express
Mixed media installation
2011

OPP: You shifted the scale of your iconography dramatically in a three-dimensional installation called Crooked American Boarders: The Beaner Express (2011) and in Autos Sacramentales (2013), a window installation at Artpace in San Antonio. Did viewers respond differently to the work at this scale?

MM: The shift in scale allowed the audience to walk inside a narrative structure. In that sense, these pieces explored the possibility of audience interaction in the physical sense. I could never have anticipated the capacity of a younger generation to see these installations as photo opportunities. I think that’s something worth considering for a future project.

OPP: From a purely process perspective, how was the experience of creating imagery at this scale different than drawing and screenprinting? What did you like? What did you not like?

MM: Working on a larger scale requires more time, a huge substrate and a lot of pigment. It can sometimes get expensive so that’s the part I’m not too fond of. I enjoy the exaggerated, physical interaction between your body and the final piece. For these installations, I had the opportunity to work with vinyl, plexiglass and insulation foam, which are normally used for commercial advertisements. I like the way these signage materials inform the content of my work.

Oculus Ceremonia
Site-specific installation
2014
Photo credit: Jane Long

OPP: You are smack dab in the middle of graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design right now. What's changed about your work since you've been there? What's the most unexpected thing about grad school?

MM: My time at RISD has so far been incredibly resourceful. I’m working amongst a community of extremely talented artists and have a good feedback situation. I have a sense of direction that I haven’t had in a while. My studio practice has embraced working in new technologies that wouldn’t be otherwise accessible. It’s also given me freedom to explore, to spend time, to waste time, to discuss, to write, to read, to study, to fail miserably without hesitation. There’s a lot of digesting taking place, and I look forward to the part where I finally get to excrete it all out.

OPP: You were awarded a travel grant to visit Sri Lanka in January 2014 through RISD’s DESINE-lab. Can you tell us about the program and what you worked on while there?

MM: DESINE-lab@RISD is an initiative founded by Elizabeth Dean Hermann, Professor of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at RISD. The lab focuses on developing solutions for communities in economic, social and environmental need. Following a civil war, Sri Lanka is undergoing a state of transition. Along with a group of very talented RISD students, I engaged with local organizations to address social issues and sustainability. The grant allowed me to visit textile initiatives, sacred Buddhist sites and temples as well as historical sites across the country. I learned the art of Batik, a wax-resist method of dying fabric. I also had the opportunity to host a screenprint workshop for children and widowed women at an orphanage in Kilinochchi. This grant has sparked an interest in global religious practices.

OPP: Is that what led to your most recent piece Oculus Ceremonia? Can you explain the installation for our readers and talk about the connection between the immersive technology you use and ceremonial practices?

MM: Oculus Ceremonia is a piece that uses a virtual reality headset, known as the Oculus Rift, to submerge the viewer into a 360 degree digital space. In order to enter the digital world, the person must put on a mask. I think of the piece as ceremonial in that it gives an individual viewer limited access to a transcendental space where they then perform for an external audience much in the same way as a shaman. I had a platform for each "performer" to stand on and had a looping projection behind them. Luckily no one fell off the stage and got injured.

To see more of Michael's work, please visit michaelmenchaca.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 Kyoko Imazu

Cat town
2013
Etching and aquatint
44.5 x 39.5cm

Japanese-born KYOKO IMAZU has been fascinated by fantasies of small animals like cats, rabbits and rodents overthrowing society. Her etchings, artist books and cut-paper installations are equally populated with real animals and legendary creatures from Japanese folklore, as well as fictional rabbits from novels and cartoons. Kyoko received her BFA in Printmaking from RMIT University in Melbourne. In 2013, she was an artist-in-residence at The Art Vault and the Australian Tapestry Workshop and had four solo exhibitions: Feathers and Fur at Odd One Out (Hong Kong), Animalis at Port Jackson Press (Fitzroy, Australia), Adore at Bird's Gallery (Melbourne) and Mammals from Melbourne Museum at the Consulate-General of Japan (Melbourne). Her work is on view in a group show called Tiny Universes at Tooth + Nail Studio Gallery in Adelaide, South Australia until November 22, 2013. Kyoko lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Have you always been drawn to animals as subject matter?

Kyoko Imazu: Yes. Images of animals have always given me pleasure and excitement, and I have always loved drawing animals. In fact, I don’t remember any time when I wasn’t drawing animals, even as doodles in textbooks at school or on letters.

My mum loved animals, and I enjoyed showing off my drawings to her. Growing up, we always had pets: dogs, cats, fish, turtles. I watched any and all TV programs about animals. In a way, nothing’s changed in my practice since childhood.

Baku
2012
Etching an aquatint
36.5 x 46 cm

OPP: Etchings of real animals, such as the northern pika and the sugar glider, and legendary creatures from Japanese folklore, including the Nue and the Baku, populate your work. It's like the real and the fictional live together in one world. Is it the world of your private imagination or is the coexistence of real and fictional creatures in your work a metaphor for something else outside of you?

KI: Nue and Baku are Yōkai from Japanese folklore. Yōkai are creatures/ monsters transformed from animals, as well as formless, natural phenomena like wind and thunder. Some can be household objects, or even live in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms! As a child, I was convinced—and very scared—that there were Yōkai and other creatures lurking behind me or hiding in the dark corners of the house. They were as real as my dogs and cats, on the same level of existence.

My work is a continuation of that memory. I like mixing real and mythical animals together because I love imagining what it was like to live in the world before all animals were named and categorized. There was a time when rhinos were as fantastical as unicorns.

Meeting
2012
Etching an aquatint
30 x 26 cm

OPP: You made an artist book called I want more rabbits! (2013). But actually, you already have quite a few rabbits! They recur persistently in different styles throughout your work in different media. Sometimes they are realistic, sometimes comical, sometimes combined with other animals. Then there are the rabbits that have parts from different fictional rabbits, like Fiverus Bokko Rabbit (2007), which has the face of Fiver from Watership Down and the ears and tail of Captain Bokko from The Amazing 3, and Rogerous Bugsy Rabbit (2007), which has Roger Rabbit's ears and Bugs Bunny's foot. Could you talk about why rabbits are so significant to you personally and in your work?

KI: My first drawing was a rabbit, and my primary school art project was of rabbits. I probably just enjoyed drawing their long ears and cute, round tails to start with. But, by drawing them over and over, the image of rabbit has become almost like a personal emblem. My eyes seek rabbit forms everywhere, in logos and packaging or in the shape of cloud or a stain.

When I relocated from Japan to Australia, I learned that rabbits are considered to be vermin and an environmental disaster, despite also being domestic pets. In Japan, they are fetishized and show up in traditional arts and crafts, as well as popular culture. I thought this difference between the two countries was striking. I am fascinated by the fact that a tiny, cute animals like rabbits can multiply so fast so that they become a threat to people and the environment. I love imagining a society overthrown by small animals—cats, rats and birds, as well—that we usually don’t find threatening.

Cufulin
2013
Etching and aquatint
45 x 39.5 cm

OPP: Do you have a favorite fictional rabbit?

KI: Rabbit from Chōjū-giga is my favorite. It's a famous set of four picture scrolls made by monks in Kozan-ji temple in 12th century Kyoto. It's considered the oldest manga in terms of techniques. Chōjū-giga depicts anthropomorphic rabbits, monkeys, frogs, foxes and so on without any words. It was probably a caricature, but I can imagine the monks having a chuckle while drawing them.



OPP: You have used accordion-style cut paper in both installations and very small artist books. Will you pick your favorite artist book and tell us the story since we can't hold it in our own hands?

KI: I like to keep the narratives open and ambiguous so that viewers can make up their own stories, but I imagine a basic tone and theme.

Rabbit Hunt begins by showing people trying to catch rabbits with nets and ferrets. A group of small rabbits attacks a hunter while another hunter with dogs is pointing at the group, seemingly trying to set his dogs on the rabbits. Some rabbits are caught, but the rabbits fight back by turning themselves into a Cerberus-like creature. It ends with a large rabbit roaring against a machine-like structure.

Rabbit hunt
2013
Paper, leather, board
6.3 x 7cm

OPP: Rabbits and other small, non-threatening animals become symbolic of the idea of power in numbers, especially when it comes to disempowered groups of people. Thinking of it that way changes I want more rabbits! into a rallying cry. Now I’m imagining the rabbits as workers organizing for their rights. Have you ever thought of your work as political?

KI: I draw ideas and inspirations from memories and stories. Similarly, I encourage viewers to bring their own memories and associations to my work. They can decide if it's personal or political.

For me, this idea of non-threatening animals becoming huge in numbers comes from my memory of growing up around rice paddies in Japan. There are thousands of tiny green frogs singing throughout the night during the summer that made me unable to sleep. To this day, I have nightmares about my house filled with frogs from floor to ceiling.

Autumn Moon (detail)
2010
Paper
Variable installation

OPP: What do you love about cut paper as a medium?

KI: I love being able to see small worlds emerging out of strips of plain paper while I’m cutting. It looks abstract from afar, like decorative lace, but there is a narrative upon closer inspection. It becomes quite intimate once it’s in the viewer’s hands.

I also love the physical act of cutting paper with a surgical scalpel. It takes a while to come up with drawings for each scene but once the design is finalized and the cutting starts, it demands concentration. Or else I get blood on my work! It is quite meditative; I can usually forget about everything else when I’m cutting paper.

OPP: You recently spent two months in residence at the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW). You worked on several new artist books there, but also learned to weave. Will weaving become part of your toolkit? Any plans to make new work in this medium?

KI: I hope tapestries will become part of my work. The great craftsmanship that’s required to create a tapestry is quite similar to printmaking and bookbinding. I’m intrigued by the weight of the history attached to those media.

I want to create tapestries with my animals and monsters, but tapestry weaving requires years of training. I wouldn’t dare exhibit my tapestries any time soon, but I’ll continue to practice. Weavers at ATW still employ the same technique from 15th century. It is so magical to imagine people now still using the same technique from medieval times in totally different environments for different purposes.

To see more of Kyoko's work, please visit kyokoimazu.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 spiritual significance of repetition 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) closed recently, and she is currently preparing for another solo exhibition titled Everything You Need Is Already Here (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.