OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Bobby English Jr.

I Am Mountain, 2015. Performance Still.

In performance, installation, drawing and welded steel sculpture, BOBBY ENGLISH, JR. explores the immediate and inherited trauma of racism, as well as the capacity for catharsis and forgiveness. His numerous performances include elements that are also part of religious services—symbolic objects and garments; music; language in the form of chanting, singing and the rhetoric of preachers and an audience/congregation. Using his own body, handmade artifacts and repetitive, ritual gestures, Bobby offers viewers a spiritual lens through which to look at the personal experience of social and political injustice. Bobby holds a BFA in Drawing with a concentration in Sculpture from The Maryland Institute College of Art. His solo exhibitions include I AM YOU ARE (2016) at Gallery CA in Baltimore, Presence, Soul, Existence (2016) at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art in Petersburg, Virginia and History, Experience, Revelation (2015) at Terrault Contemporary in Baltimore. He has performed at School 33 (Baltimore, 2016) and the Queens Museum (New York, 2015 and 2016), as well as at numerous performance festivals. Bobby is based in Oakland, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels:  When and why did performance first enter your art practice?

Bobby English Jr: My father was also a Broadway performer and Italian Opera singer, so it had to come out eventually. Not to mention I have performed for my mother hundreds, maybe thousands of times to this day. Performing has always been natural for me, but it entered my art practice as soon as I began creating metal sculpture. It was an instant marriage; not really inspired by anything except my desire to push the idea of sculpture and installation into theatre and film. I’m striving for the truth and emotion that can’t simply come from object; the kind of connection that comes from human to human energetic dialogue.

Entropy II, 2015. Fabricated Steel. Variable Dimensions

OPP: Do you conceive of the welded steel works as sculptures first that are then activated by performance? Or are they props created specifically for use in the performances? Does the distinction matter?

BEJ: The distinction doesn’t matter at all, actually. Sometimes I am simply intrigued by a geometric shape or symbol; sometimes even an idea that I then transcribe into shape. Often times I create the sculptures and simply live with them in my everyday space until their meaning becomes clear. Other times I add the sculptures to my performances without knowing what they mean at all; but then their relationships to the many other sculptures I’ve created within the space informs the piece in question. It’s a very organic process, almost like a constant improv dialogue between myself and my creations; sometimes risky in some aspects.

The Eye and I, 2016. Performance still.

OPP: Please tell us about how you employ costume and ritual in your performance series Blossoming Black Power, which includes individual works titled Message I and Message II, Madness, , Property, and Fear and Control (Brothers! Sisters! Where are you?).

BEJ: Costume allows me to step fully into different “beings,” roles or characters, and the costumes themselves sometimes represent time. For example, in Message I, a performance centered in ritual and history; I felt more like a shaman while in that costume. Then in Becoming, the costumes are both representations of time, feeling, passage and signal my stepping into different archetypes; the hero, the stranger, the villain, the leader, the meek, the wise one, etc. So much of my performance is acting, and the costumes certainly allow me to step deeper into feeling a role. My nudity allows me to both feel more meek and more powerful. My staff makes me feel more wise; the spears and shields make me feel more aggressive, like a warrior. I draw whichever energy I need from the costumes and props.

OPP: And sometimes those change over the course of a single performance...

BEJ: I just recently became comfortable with more than one costume change in my performances. In doing so, I realized how much deeper narratives become when I both step into a character psychologically AND physically. In Becoming, I knew that each cage represented a different point in time in my life, and in planning the performance I knew that I would enter and/or use certain sculptures to enable myself to dive deeper into emotion and break more psychological and physical barriers.


Becoming, 2016. Performance, Installation.

OPP: You mentioned Becoming, which is simultaneously performance, installation and healing ritual. Your relationship to the “cage” changes over the course of the performance. How does that particular prop/costume speak to catharsis?

BEJ: I’m happy you picked up on all three of those! The healing aspect of my art is very important to me right now. One can almost see the trauma healing through the sequence of performances. As I’ve stepped into new healing on my journey, I want others to come along as well, welcoming them into my world as I always have.

The cage has been a piece I’ve been growing with since the very first performance with it a year and a half ago. In Becoming, the cage begins as a safe place; a womb; a place of birth, rest, comfort, the mother in its highest form. Mid-way through the performance, the cage becomes the enemy, representing a body, the oppressor. I both harm and then come to love the “body.” At the end of the performance I re-enter the cage; as it becomes my place of death, eternal rest, transformation, and total healing after a life journey that is performed throughout Becoming.

Blossoming Black Power: Message I (Video), September 05, 2015. 2 Hour Performance.

OPP: I have to ask about the little girl in the red dress, who followed you for a while during your outdoor performance Blossoming Black Power: Message I, which had a background audio track composed of numerous speeches from Civil Rights activists through the years. She was both just herself, a human audience member of live performance, experiencing it in an idiosyncratic way. But in watching her follow you, I thought about the uncontrollable parts of live performance, the introduction of joy and levity into a narrative of struggle and how one generation communicates with the next about the racist history of America. Did you know she was following you and did it change your performance in the moment? What do you think of how she reacted to and interacted with your performance?

BEJ: I did know that she was following, and I didn’t let it change anything about my performance in that. I often do react to the happenings around me while performing; comments from the audience, a sculpture being knocked over, my invading the space of the audience and vice-versa, etc etc. I enjoy these moments of complete improvisation because I feel they are the most real. Honestly, I haven’t really felt any way about it until this moment. Right now I feel a great sense of disappointment that she was oblivious to the weight of what was happening around her. On the other hand, part of me wonders that maybe ignorance truly is bliss and the way forward.

Contemplation #39, 2016

OPP: What does it mean to conflate spiritual or religious practice with performance art? Can artists be spiritual leaders?

BEJ: For me, conflating spiritual and/or religious practice with performance art is simply creating my own personal mythology that steps away from the patriarchal interpretation of spiritual texts that has and is still occurring worldwide. It’s simply another way of me reclaiming myself from internal and external colonization. It’s also a way to show worldwide similarities in myth and culture. My hope is that audience members make connections between their ancestry and the ancestry of others around them. Ultimately creating solidarity, respect, and love. I believe anyone has the capacity to become a spiritual leader. However, artists certainly have an edge on interpreting and being drawn to symbols and turning them into forms that can be more easily understood.

To see more of Bobby's work, please visit subverse-vision.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 shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014) and the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014). She created site-responsive installations for Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show titled Resist the Urge to Press Forward with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and Sacred Secular, a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Matthew Hilshorst

Pretty Average Blowout, 2015. Acrylic paint on canvas. 18" x 25" x 4."

MATTHEW HILSHORST's "sincerely pessimistic" work includes painting, sculpture and a plethora of hobby craft techniques—latch-hook rugs, bottle cap murals, and electrical wire "paintings"—that sit right on the boundary between painting and sculpture. He conflates the grid of gingham tablecloths and latch-hook rug canvases with the grid of Modernist Abstract painting. His sculptural shrouds, towels and cakes made entirely of paint explore themes of gravity, decay and longevity. Matt earned his BFA in Painting from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul. He went on to earn both a Post Baccalaureate Certificate and an MFA in Painting from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been including in exhibitions at Sidecar Gallery (Hammond, Indiana, 2016), Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (2015) and Peregrine Program (Chicago, 2013). Matt lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does mimicry play in your work?

Matthew Hilshorst: I don't know if mimicry would be the right word. I am definitely trying to copy something or copy a technique in the way I make a thing though. It is more a form of flattery or reverence for the object and the way in which it is made. Real admiration led me to carve two egg beaters out of wood and then spray painted them chrome. I made them as realistic as possible so that they really represent nothing more than egg beaters. I love banal objects that someone painstakingly designed. I had Egg Beaters up on display at an office building downtown for almost a year. When I finally removed them people told me they had been trying to wrap their heads around why I simply put egg beaters up on a shelf. When I told them they were super delicate wood carvings, they were shocked. It immediately and completely changed their view of what they had been trying to understand.

Egg Beaters, 2003. Carved wood and spray paint. 7" x 1.5" x 1.5."

OPP: Are these works ironic or sincere? Is that question even relevant anymore in the way it was at the time they were made?

MH: It is still a relevant question. Those past works are completely sincere, although it may be read as ironic when the sarcasm or pessimism represented is misunderstood. I spend months and sometimes years creating individual pieces, so putting all that time and effort into creating something, it can't help but be sincere. I love making work that is task-oriented. Making a work that's too simplistic can feel unrewarding, while making a work without a preconceived notion leaves me overwhelmed and unable to begin. I try to give myself a new challenge with every piece, but I always know there is an end point before I start. I recently completed an 8'11" long stained and worn red carpet made of latch-hooked paint. It took me nearly two years to complete.  8'11" is an odd length, but it is as long as the tallest man to have lived was tall. The other measurements of the carpet are in relation to my own body. How it hangs partially on a wall and partially on the floor is also important. I consider every aspect of a work before I make it; little to nothing is arbitrary. But that doesn't always mean I get exactly what I intended. There are always challenges, set backs, and aspects I could have never anticipated.

Much of my work will have a craft look to it because the methods I use to create it are a main component of it. In other words, the process I use to make something is definitely part of the content. The carpets, rugs, towels, and welcome mats are my way of painting a thing where each latch-hooked piece is also a brush stroke, and each brush stroke represents a thread. I do paint very realistically with oil paint too, but I rarely get excited about doing it. I prefer to not represent something in two dimensions. The physical object is so much more satisfying than a representation of it. As I say that though, I'm working on a new group of oil paintings. Ha. 

The Red Carpet, 2016. acrylic paint and flocking fibers. 8'11."

OPP: What’s the new work about?

MH: The oil paintings? Bingo. Seriously. The new acrylic work is more about hostile hospitality. Lots of different takes on welcome mats and entry rugs. In the same way that throw-away gingham tablecloths physically display "Americana," so do welcome mats.  Thinking about the United States being so unwelcoming to refugees and immigrants has really permeated my new work, it would seem.

Worn Out Hand Towel, 2014. Acrylic paint on towel bar. 16" x 20" as displayed.

OPP: Captured Unicorn (2013) and Snake in the Grass (2013) are latch hook rugs in the conventional sense of the word. They are cut yarn attached to a gridded canvas, creating a shaggy surface. What’s different about Welcome Mat (2014) and Worn Out Hand Towel (2014)?

MH: I originally created Captured Unicorn for a medieval themed show at Bureau in New York and Snake in the Grass was made for a show here in Chicago at Peregrine Program. Both rugs were a new direction for me that ultimately greatly influenced most of my future work and methods of production. My work has been described to me as "basement art,” and I think that gets back to sincerity and irony so I decided to go full-on basement craft for my first latch hooked rugs. Both shows had a dedicated theme, so I was able to get away from traditional painting or sculpture and have some fun with fibers for those two shows.

I switched to latch hooking paint because I wanted to work with a larger color palette. I was going to start hand-dyeing and spinning my own yarn, but that started to seem like more of a drag as far as tasks go and made something simple like a latch hook rug way too complicated. Figuring out what ratio of paint to medium I needed, making endless tests, and learning that acrylic paint does not like getting colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit presented challenges, but I knew I could easily manipulate color using paint which was my ultimate concern. I like making objects out of 100% paint because of its plastic perfection. It's also a great way to represent a functional object that only functions as art. Using only paint makes me contemplate gravity, time, and longevity, which have been underlying themes in all of my work. I make my own grid out of paint that I latch-hook into, removing a canvas or a separate support system for my paintings. Many of my paintings have to be viewed from above and can be displayed in many different, irreverent ways; they don't just hang on a wall.

Red Gradation, 2011. Acrylic paint on vinyl tablecloth on stretched canvas. 40" diameter.

OPP: What does the grid mean to you in works like Sagging Tablecloth (2010), Red Gradation and Green Gradation (2011) and Access (2013)? How do the shrouds and Thrown Paint, all from 2014, and Smear (2015) add to this conversation?

MH: I was shopping at an Ace Hardware store that was going out of business (probably late 2003) when I first started at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There was a bin full of gingham patterned vinyl tablecloths, and I bought the whole pile of them. I hung them up in my studio and was mesmerized by the colors and the pattern. I sat staring and contemplating them off and on for a solid semester. They seemed to incorporate all the ideas that were in my head. They were mathematical and perfectly measured. Time and space were involved in their flatness and their infinite pattern. And they contained patterns within patterns. The tablecloths were bright and in basic colors, equally straddling ideas associated with Op Art, Pop Art, and Minimalism. The gingham pattern also has embedded cultural associations like American idealism, gatherings, mass production, eating, our throw-away culture, and classic picnics.

Originally, I painted pointillist landscapes on them by only using the squares in between the red checks and white checks. I wanted to create imagery that was ghostly and barely visible by hiding it within the pattern of the tablecloth, but in no way disrupting the grid. Those works aren't up on my website because I did the ghostly thing too well—they don't photograph well, or really at all, ha. I then started to create more pattern-based work like the two circular gradations, because it was more visually impactful than the landscapes. The grid continues to play a major role in all my other work including the bottle cap murals, the gridded structure of a latch-hook work, the layers to my graph paper cut outs, smear, the shrouds. I wish I could wrap my head around the fascination with grids, but it seems like some sort of micro/macro truth in organization that verges on spiritual. Basically, it seems to hold some sort very deep secret that I can't understand, so I’m constantly coming back to it and exploring it.

Checkered Drawing 1, 2008. Color pencil on paper. 18" x 24."

OPP: Talk to us about cake and about your cake sculptures and paintings.

MH: The cake paintings bring me back to craft and the method of making things. They came about while I was making my first all paint works. I use a piping bag to create my paint latch hook rugs and towels as well as Caught, Smear, and the Shrouds. I decided that since I was using a technique used for decorating cakes, a cake with a phrase or appropriate decoration could be powerful as a painting.

The cakes have messages about time, aging, gender, and gender roles in their construction. I grew up always being encouraged to be creative, but I was discouraged from being in the kitchen. I would have much preferred to watch and help my mom cook, but my place was in my dad’s wood shop. I made Con to bring up questions of gender roles, gender assignment and gender restrictions. Much like the tablecloth paintings straddle different art movements, I also wanted Con to be a yin and yang of Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. The Pieces of cake that seem to have been cut from Con are all in some way ruined. Maybe someone has run their finger through the frosting, a fly has landed on it, or a cigarette has been put out in it. Gender is brought up again in Pretty Average Blowout where 80 flaccid candles have been extinguished. This cake refers to the 80 years an average adult male in the United States can look forward to living. Once time and gravity take their toll, your celebrations are over.

I'm generally an optimistic person but my work has become sentimental and sometimes literally drips sarcasm. I guess it is sincerely pessimistic! That seems to be even more prevalent in recent work, especially since the election.

Con, 2015. Acrylic paint on canvas mounted on cardboard. 20" x 25" x 5."

OPP: What’s happening in your studio right now? How are current political events affecting your practice?

MH: These current and pressing concerns have affected my newest work for sure. Overall, it’s becoming darker and almost nasty. . .  but in a good way. These last few months, it has been really hard to concentrate and get to work in my studio. For at least a month after the election, every time I set foot in there, I struggled with the question, why is this important? Then I went to D.C. to protest the Trump inauguration and to walk with my sister and many friends in the Women's March. It sounds cheesy, but it was such a powerful and positive experience that when I came back to Chicago, I felt I needed to try to do something more.

It's only been a week since I've returned, but I contacted two other artist friends who had also been in D.C. and asked if they were in a resistance group. If they were, I wanted to join, and if they weren't, I wanted us to start one. There are now five of us dedicated to inviting people to create a group that will encourage and promote creativity, accountability, information sharing, and a way to make more of a visual impact around the city and at protests. As much as we kind of cringed at the look of the pussy hats, we all loved that people came together and each created a handmade pink hat which was worn as a unified front. We hope to invite many and become a group that channels the creativity of the Chicago artist community for good against evil.

To see more of Matthew's work, please visit matthewhilshorst.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 shows at Siena Heights University (2013), Heaven Gallery (2014) and the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014). She created site-responsive installations for Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show titled Resist the Urge to Press Forward with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and Sacred Secular, a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Cara Lynch

Inheritance: In Memory of American Glass, 2016, Ditmas Avenue stop, F subway line, Brooklyn

Inspired by craft objects and folk art, CARA LYNCH is staunchly opposed to aesthetic elitism. She embraces surface embellishment and pattern in sculpture, print and public works. She taps into the devotional power of heavily-encrusted talismans, while celebrating the visual pleasure of rhinestones, feathers, beads and glitter. In 2012, Cara earned her BFA in Studio Art with a Minor Art History at Adelphi University (Garden City, New York). Since then, she has studied Printmaking at Columbia University, Papermaking at the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York and Advanced Sculpture at Hunter College. Cara recently closed her solo show Love Tokens and Talismans, supported by Queens Arts Council Grant, at Local Project (Long Island City, Queens). In spring 2016, she installed her first permanent, public work for the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority at Ditmas Avenue stop of F subway line in Brooklyn. Cara lives in New York, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about your research into the “sailor’s valentines, mourning jewelry, memoryware, kitschy trinkets, and historical amulets or talismans” that informed your recent body of work called Love Tokens and Talismans.

Cara Lynch: I have an interest in those things that are not traditionally included in the fine art world: craft objects and processes and folk art. I am interested in why we make things and the purposes and power of these objects. I see the embrace of these traditional crafts as a political statement when included in a fine art context or conceptualized in this way.
 
While my research for this particular body of work initially began viewing images online, I also spent time at the New York Public Library looking through books of reliquaries and walking through the Met looking at various ceremonial and talismanic objects. I spent time at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, pouring over their incredible collection of books on mourning jewelry and love tokens. Many of the forms I created are directly influenced by these objects, but my main interest is in the traditions and functions of these objects: to memorialize experiences, express devotion or provide protection or good luck.

You're Tacky & I Hate You, 2016. Cast hydrocal, rhinestones, feathers, paint, wood, hardware. 12.5 x 15 x 3 inches

OPP: How do these influence manifest in your sculptures? What are you loving, mourning, remembering or warding off in this work?

CL: I grew up very Catholic, and I am very interested in how objects become symbolic or get their power. For Catholics, the Eucharist, rosaries and other sacred objects are given their power by the beliefs of the faithful. In some other religions, this is not the case; the power becomes inherent in the object itself. As artists, we are granted a certain power through our making of objects. In many ways, making becomes our faith.

The sculptures are very much about my own experience, mourning the passage of time and struggling with the reality that we can’t always attain our desires, whether for physical objects or for abstract experiences, like equality or affirmation or holding on to the present. The pieces combine casts replicating a number of objects I’ve saved from my childhood or collected from trim stores along my walk to work through the garment district in New York. I am memorializing my own experience through these pieces, as well as empowering the “non-elite” in some way.

There is tension expressed in these objects: between high and low, art and craft, class and taste, sentiment and spectacle. By embracing the decorative and the domestic—newer pieces sometimes include casts from copper cake pans—I hope to grant power to myself and to all women. By embracing “low,” craft materials, and elevating them in some way, I am making a political statement for the working class and challenging “high art” and academic aversions to the decorative. By creating beautiful objects, I make my fantasies attainable in some sense.

Fetter Better, 2016. Detail. Cast hydrocal, found ornament, chain, glitter, paint, iridescent pigment, wood, hardware. 10 x 20 x 5 inches

OPP: Your talismans are cast hydrocal, embellished with automotive paint, spray paint, glitter, faux pearls, rhinestones, chains, and tassels. It’s visually hard to separate the solid, cast object from it’s surface embellishment. Can you talk about these two distinct parts of the process: casting a solid substrate versus embellishing it?

CL: I am very interested in embellishment and the decorative. I think this stems from my interest in both thinking about desire and devotional objects. The solid cast objects are kind of funny, because they really are embellishments themselves, made more concrete and solid through a transformation of material. Embellishing the transformed embellishment seemed to be really aggressively decorative or feminine—a little like overkill and kind of funny to me.

Casts are also reminiscent of memories. They are a replication, an attempt to reproduce. The embellishment allows me to put this sentiment in tension with other interests. I am able to temper the feminine quality with a little bit of masculinity, for example, through the application of automotive paint.

Sex and the City, 2014. Archival handmade paper (pulp painting). 20 x 30 inches

OPP: Your pulp paintings appear to be speaking the same language as painting, drawing or print, but these designs are actually part of the substrate, not added to the substrate. Can you briefly explain the process for those not in the know about paper-making techniques?

CL: Paper-making is a really amazing process. Plant based fibers are beaten into a wet pulp, then suspended in water and caught on a screen to form a sheet. Pulp can also be pigmented and “painted” with. Essentially, you are creating an image with a very physical material itself in various colors, rather than with paint, ink or pencil. It has a temperament of its own.

To create the colors and patterns in this series, I pigmented the actual pulp in separate batches. The various hues of pulp were stenciled and layered onto wet sheets of freshly pulled paper, building up in some areas more than others. After working on a wet piece for some time, It would be pressed, combining layers of material into one flat sheet. In this way, the patterns are part of the actual paper, not applied to the surface.

Pennants for the Working Class, 2016. Screenprint on felt flags, brass grommets, craft materials. Variable, each measuring 10 x 16 inches

OPP: In Pennants for the Working Class (2016), you’ve transplanted the “patterns derived from American household glass objects, including depression glass, carnival glass, and early American pressed glass,” from utilitarian, three-dimensional objects onto the flat surface of the flag, which has a more symbolic function. Can you talk about the functions of pattern in general and how you use it in your work?

CL: Pattern can draw attention to an object, create a tensions between surface and object, or refer to something beyond itself. In my work, pattern often symbolizes something beyond my initial interest in surface and decoration. In many works, I am referring to histories behind the patterns. In this case specifically, I see the patterns from these glass objects as symbols of the American dream. These patterns were found on glass objects that were highly affordable, widely available and also really beautiful. This is in contrast to their predecessor, cut crystal, which was only available to the wealthy. For this piece in general, I was really thinking of the pennant flag as a symbol of prestige and pride, borrowed from the vernacular of yacht clubs and ivy-league universities.

Pretty Bomb, 2016. Lithograph. 22 x 15 inches

OPP: Earlier, you mentioned “academic aversions to the decorative.” Why do you think this aversion exists? Have you noticed a sea change in the last 5 years?

CL: I think this academic aversion to decoration and beauty is tied to a classist and sexist system. Higher education in the arts was sought partially to professionalize art making. The way artists did this was to become very "serious" about their work, substantiating it with theory and criticism. View points other than the dominant, historically-male—rooted in theory, science, knowledge—were left out of the picture. As Duchamp said, "artistic delectation is the danger to be avoided." This kind of thinking was perpetuated through the discourse, banishing beauty (and consequently, a slew of other things) from the presiding conversation. To some extent, beauty itself is a social construct, defined by social class, taste, gender, and a number of other factors. But this is all really interesting! I feel like we should be embracing it, instead of shutting it out. 

I have noticed a change in the last few years. The Pattern and Decoration Movement artists really began this years ago. I think a number of artists are really embracing and playing with decoration and beauty today. I immediately think of people like Polly Apfelbaum, Jim Hodges, Grayson Perry, and younger artists like Jen Stark and Evie Falci. The embrace of contemporary art by the mainstream I think, in part, has encouraged this. 

However, I think some very highbrow academic circles continue to resist decoration and beauty. This may be because they have the most invested in the dominant discourse. . . Beauty isn't serious enough for them.

To see more of Cara's work, please visit www.caralynchart.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 titled Resist the Urge to Press Forward with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and Sacred Secular, a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Holly Popielarz

Definitive Actions, 2015. Detail. Mixed Media.

HOLLY POPIELARZ's whimsical sculptures juxtapose play with "the uncontrollable harshness of reality." In interactive spinning wheels, she addresses the anxiety of decision-making, while other static works featuring flags are a definitive expression of challenging emotions like anger and longing. Holly earned her MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and is currently teaching drawing at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island. She has been a Lending Artist for the deCordova Corporate Art Loan Program since 2013. Her group exhibitions include shows at artSTRAND in Provincetown, Massachussetts (2014), New Bedford Art Museum (2013), The Vault Gallery at New Hampshire Institute of Art (2012) and Hudson D. Walker Gallery in Provincetown, Massachussetts (2012). Holly lives in New Bedford, Massachussetts.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What is the role of play in your practice?

Holly Popielarz: My number one material/technique is play. I try not to be too serious with art, and I aim for a lighthearted aesthetic. Making things must be fun and challenging, otherwise it’s boring. Juxtaposed with play is the uncontrollable harshness of reality. Games and play, where I look for inspiration, distract us from that. Play is similar to the physiological idea of flow, a term coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Simply put, flow is when you are in the zone during any given rewarding, intrinsic activity. Whether I am thinking, drawing, painting or building with more structural materials, my favorite moments are when I am so into what I am doing, playing so freely with materials, techniques and my thoughts, that new ideas emerge. Play solves the challenges in specific pieces, and I have fun doing it. That’s good advice to remember.

Bullseye, 2015. Mixed Media. 4 x 7 x 5 inch

OPP: The titles of your recent sculptures refer to common cliches that humans dole out when trying to make sense of emotional experiences. I’m thinking of The Grass is Always Greener, Out of Nothing Grass Will Grow and Wise is She Who Lets it Sail On, all from 2015. Tell us about this work and how you choose titles.

HP: Selecting titles for art is difficult. I choose based on what is happening to me during the time of the construction and the final look and feel of the piece. The title usually is found after the sculpture is completed, but during the build I am asking myself what I want to say about what I am dealing with, and how does it relate to what other people experience? With these three sculptures, I set myself the challenge to make them look like they were formed effortlessly with little thought or fuss over everything. I selected cliche phrases or proverbs for the sculptures as titles in order to attach a narrative as a way in for the audience. The phrases are maybe not universal because all cultures have their own words of wisdom. But these titles are cliches that western people say when they are either giving advice about accepting a current situation or mutter to ourselves as reminders that this is what is available to us. I think of these sculptures as trophies.

Mad Enough To Spit, 2015. Mixed Media. 8 x 3 x 14 inch

OPP: How do you think about chance and coincidence versus control in your life as a human? How do these concepts show up in works like Definitive Action and The Wheel of Hope and Dread?

HP: I think the only control we have in life is the choice of continuing to participate. . . in whatever is in front of us. Without participation, without  “spinning the wheel” or “playing the game,” there is no opportunity for chance or coincidence to make its way around to you. The element of play encourages us to press on, accept and not regret the past, understand the present and foresee the future. Giving up on the game leads us to paralysis and stagnation, which for some leads to boredom, depression, and a foreboding sense of failure. I find it a paradox that sometimes the fact of participating leads to rejection or failure, but in order to overcome failure we have to continue to participate. Best to keep pace. This clarity comes from loads of rejections, emotional stress, conversations, research and reflection about chance and fate itself. Some days there is only fog, and I am just angry at another rejection. On a personal level the wheels are responses and coping mechanisms. But the wheel of fortune is a universal symbol uised throughout history and across cultures as a method for understanding fate. In Roman mythology, Fortuna with her wheel was the goddess of Luck, Fate and Fortune. William Shakespeare, too, incorporated Fortuna and her fate-controlling wheel as a metaphor for the fickle ebb and flow of luck and fate. Medieval tarot decks feature The Wheel of Fortune. Buddhism has the Wheel of Dharma. Across cultures and history the wheel is seen as a tool for both understanding of and distraction from tragedy.

Wheel of Hope & Dread,, 2016. Video

OPP: Does the wheel of hope and dread always end up on hope?

HP: The wheel of hope and dread does not always land on Hope. There is a just as much a chance to land on dread. The day I made the video clip on my website, I was just luckier than some days. Other days dread is circling above. I do think of rigging some of the wheels to control the outcome. Not sure if that is the “right thing to do.” I wonder if it’s fair, but I also ask myself, do I care if the participants of my sculptures get a fair chance?

Rolling City, 2012. Castors, paint brushes, sticks, styro-foam, paint, papier-mâché. 12 x 16 x 10.5 inches

OPP: Earlier works—Car (2011), Cement Roller (2012) and Rolling City (2012)—involve a different kind of wheels. Is there a connection?

HP: I like wheels; they are a symbol of progress, movement and play. However there is no intended connection. The series that includes the sculptures, Car, Cement Roller, Rolling City evolved at the tail end of graduate school. I was thinking a lot about the human impact on the environment from our industrialized world. I was using economic materials, paper mache, card board, toothpicks, plaster, and acrylic paint. I was into a bric-a-brac method of construction because of my funds and really into the idea that materials can communicate and reinforce content. I doodle a bunch and during the creation of this work, even more so. While doodling, I would pick a culprit—a car, a cement roller, a cesspool, or a city itself—to reinvent and build. I thought of them as salesman samples. In the early 20th century, salesman needed portable versions of their products to show off to retailers. Most of these works have a carrying case, too. But each item pollutes our air, changes our surroundings, or is a product of our careless industrialization.

Wise is She Who Lets it Sail On. 2015. Mixed media. 14 x 5 x 12 inch

OPP: What materials you are drawn to repeatedly and why?

HP: Sculpturally, I love papier-mâché, and the way it makes me feel like a kid, I enjoy wood because of its additive and subtractive qualities and its connection to the natural world. Paint changes the surface and adds color and helps reinforce my interest in games, carnivals and sign painter aesthetics. I collect stuff—paper, shiny things, little pieces of unique wood scraps, plastic bits, metal doodads, ceramic parts—that I store for a later use. These materials are free, found and personal; each has a story. For example, a good friend gave me that ceramic piece for the “boat” in in Wise is She That Lets It Sail On. I didn’t know it was a boat at the time. He found it on a beach walk in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He gave it to me in my last few days of work at a wonderful place in Provincetown, and I was sad to see my time there to be over. I knew I wanted to use it in a sculpture someday. Then one day by playing with the strange odds and ends in my studio, I placed it on the red shelf that I had been working on. . . and I saw a boat peacefully sailing away. The boat is often a metaphor used in psychology as a way to compare human functioning and our journey through life. This ceramic piece is not altered at all only set snuggly into that hull made of museum book board, I didn’t change it, so that the viewer can wonder were it is from and where it is going.

To see more of Holly's work, please visit hollypopielarz.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 Elisabeth Piccard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Teresa F. Faris

Collaboration with a Bird ll #3
Sterling silver, wood altered by a bird
3" x 4" x 1"
2010

TERESA F. FARIS draws connections across species boundaries: "When removed from what is intended/natural and stripped of privilege one must find ways of soothing the mind." In wearable and non-wearable sculpture, she juxtaposes chewed wood—what she views as the byproducts of a captive, rescued bird's soothing practices—with sawed, pierced and pieced metal—her own creative practice. Teresa earned her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1995 and her MFA from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998. Her 2015 exhibitions include Bright at Rose Turko Gallery (Richmond, Virginia), Adorn: Contemporary Wearable Art at WomanMade Gallery (Chicago) and The Jeweler's Journey: From the Bench to the Body and Beyond at Peters Valley Gallery (Layton, New Jersey). Her work was recently included in Digging Deep at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts (Brookfield, Wisconsin) and is currently on view until October 8, 2016 in Color Me This: Contemporary Art Jewelry at Turchin Center for Visual Arts  (Boone, North Carolina). She has been invited to participate in Shadow Themes: Finding the Present in the Past at Reinstein/Ross Gallery in September 2016. Teresa has been Associate Professor and Area Head of Department of Jewelry and Metalsmithing at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater since 2013, when she won a College of Art and Communication Excellence in Teaching Award. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your work sits in the space where jewelry and sculpture overlap. Do you identify more as one or the other? Do you conceive of specific pieces as one or the other?

Teresa F. Faris: Jewelry and sculpture both exist to intrude, adorn, alter, etc. the space that it occupies. Some work calls for being in public in a small scale (on the body) and some in a large scale; both demand that the viewer contemplate their reaction/feelings about it.

Jewelry exists with the intervention of the wearer and sculpture exists with the intervention of the landscape or walls of a gallery setting. I do not see a great divide between the two disciplines because neither is utilitarian, and both may be made by people with a material fetish. Work is assessed based on its relationship to the viewer’s body, whether it is a giant steel structure or a neck piece.

Collaboration with a Bird lV, #3
Sterling Silver, wood altered by a bird, polymer, stainless steel
3" x 4" x 2"
2015

OPP: What’s harmful about the hierarchy of Art and Craft?

TFF: The histories and theories of both art and craft are more similar than different. Humans enjoy categorizing for the sake of ego. Through categorizing we establish hierarchies. Hierarchies are harmful when used to marginalize anyone or anything for the sake of protecting privilege. If work is made of congruous material and content, I think it is art. If there was less of a divide between art/craft, there may be more opportunity for critical analysis and progression.

OPP: What kind of critical analysis?

TFF: When the field is very small and exclusive it can be about popularity of a person rather than the importance of their work.To look critically at work we need to see beyond a person and look at the work in relationship to the present, past a future dialogue. The most important question I ask myself when making something is whether or not it adds something new and challenges existing norms. Humans make so much stuff that just takes up space and wastes resources. This could travel into a discussion about decoration and the value of that, but I am mostly interested in progression from a socio/psychological and/or technical standpoint.

480 Minutes
Sterling Silver, Wood Carved by a Bird
4" x 12" x 6"
2009

OPP: And what kind of progression?

TFF: What we chose to wear, eat, speak, etc. makes public our socio-political voice. To have conversations about objects that challenge the norm—wearing an object partially made BY a bird—asks people to reflect on their beliefs and actions. I am interested in the way that women, animals and marginalized individuals are treated based on centuries-old beliefs and superstitions. The ideas of challenging the beliefs of anthropomorphism and de-humanization will directly affect the choice of materials that people use. 


OPP: And that brings us to your ongoing Collaborations with a Bird? Tell us what drives this work.

TFF: Working in collaboration with non-humans rather than using or representing their bodies is most interesting to me. I work to recognize contradictions and change my action to minimize them in my work. For instance, I am not interested in and do not believe in the ideas of human dominion, so I do not to use animal bones, feather, skin, etc. At the same time, I live with a captive rescued, 24 year old parrot, who I desperately try to understand without placing human expectations on her. I seek to honor our differences with mutual respect. If we leave behind preconceived ideas, misinformation, anthropomorphism, fantasy and superstition, then the only thing left to do is observe. Through observation, privileges and disadvantages become clearer. While observing both captive and free non-humans, I have witnessed them performing repetitive movements and activities, and I wonder if they find the same soothing aftereffects that I am rewarded with when working at the bench.

Collaboration With a Bird
Wood chew toy, Sterling Silver
2008

OPP: So it is the same bird every time? I was wondering about that.

TFF: Yes. I have lived with Charmin for 22 years. Because of illness, I was forced to keep a distance from her for a period of time. During that time, she was kept in a cage and I was confined to a bed. I watched her obsessively chew wood and arrange her space in very specific ways. It was during this time that I made the connection that when removed from what is natural or intended, we ALL find ways to sooth the distress. For her, it is chewing wood; for me, it is cutting metal.


OPP: How do you facilitate this collaboration?

TFF: Parrots chew wood in the wild and in captivity as a way to sharpen their beaks and to play. Their beaks grow in a similar way to human nails. It is completely natural for a bird to maintain a sharp healthy beak. A bird uses wood and stone just as we us nail clippers. Charmin has been given thousands of wood blocks over the years and always has several in her cage (her safe and private space). I have witnessed her decorate her cage with certain color schemes, changing them daily. In the past she was given blocks that had been dyed with food coloring, so she chose the colors based on her mood. She hasn't been given dyed wood in many years but still makes very deliberate decisions about where to place the wood blocks and how to shape them. When she decides that the wood bits are "finished" or no longer interesting or functional for her, she gives them to me. Through design and process I react to the bits that I receive. 


Dis:Function
Sterling silver, Wood Chewed by a Bird
2009

OPP: Pierced holes and lattice work are recurrent formal motifs in your work? Are these intentional, visual metaphors or simply the results of preferred processes?

TFF: I have recently discovered that the pierced patterns that I have been making for over two decades are result of a traumatic event that I experienced as a child. The subconscious mind works in ways that help to desensitize without damaging our emotional state.

I use discarded materials that have been abandoned and viewed as worthless. Positioning them next to silver and/or gemstones offers the viewer a moment of contemplation and introspection. The process of piercing and cutting works in tandem with the content of my work. My direct experiences inform the objects I make. As my experiences change, so will the process and  materials.

Collaboration with a Bird ll #4
Sterling silver, wood altered by a bird
4.5" x 4.5" x 1.25"
2011

OPP: What’s going on in your studio right now? Anything new in the works?

TFF: There’s always something new in the works. Exploring materials and processes is a constant in my studio. Not all things are public. Now, more than ever I am charged to continue to explore the ideas dictating the Collaboration With a Bird series.

I am also currently working on pieces for an exhibition called Shadow Themes that will be at Reinstein and Ross Gallery in New York. The show opens in September 2016. The idea is to find the present in the past. In order to do that, I needed to travel through seemingly familiar, as well as lots of unknown territory. Many of things that I do not know or understand become glaringly present when I look to the past. The spaces between what I do and do not know spark my curiosity and drive me forward.

To see more of Teresa's work, please visit teresafaris.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 Dan Lam

Velvet Touch
Polyurethane foam, resin, acrylic on wood panel
12 x 12 x 8 inches
2015

Over the years, DAN LAM's patterned, abstract paintings have slowly accumulated textures, evoking plastic skin diseases, paint barnacles and occasionally masses of caramel corn. Recently they have further evolved into rounded, bulging growths—think moss, tumors or cake-decorating gone unchecked—and frozen drips, which feel like fluorescent-colored, over-sized, gooey ice cream toppings hanging from a table's edge. In this space between painting and sculpture, desire and disease flirt with one another. Dan earned her BFA (2010) from University of North Texas and her MFA (2014) from Arizona State University. She has exhibited widely throughout Arizona, Texas and California, most recently in Prick (2016) at The Platform in Dallas. Dan’s work is included in a three person show called Puffy Prickly Poured at Anya Tish Gallery in Houston, opening July 15, 2016 and a solo exhibition called Coquette, opening August 6, 2016, at Fort Works Art in Fort Worth, Texas. Dan lives and works in Dallas, Texas.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What has led you from painting to sculpture?

Dan Lam: As you've seen in the evolution of my work, the work continues to leave whatever surface it exists on. I think my continued exploration in textures and materials has guided me to sculpture. When I was an undergraduate painting major, I had this catalyst sort of moment working on one of my last flat pieces. I was trying to create this sense of depth through layers of matte medium, trying to create a frosty, semi-transparent surface, which alternately revealed and hid stages of the process. It started to get really thick, and I became interested in finding new mediums that could allow me to layer even more. I started questioning what constitutes a painting, what it meant historically and what it meant to me. So I started to push my paint off the canvas, off the panel, moving onto other materials like hot glue, resin, and wax.

I'm very drawn to soft sculpture, anything soft and melting. I wanted to create that aesthetic in my work and using just paint and hot glue wasn't cutting it. I constantly explore and try out non-traditional media, so my experimentation with materials has led me to continue to grow off the panel and into three-dimensional space.

Getting Hot
2016

OPP: Any plans to get away from the wall completely and onto the floor? What's the next step in the evolution of your work?

DL: I am currently working on some large scale floor pieces, big wall drips and various installations. Scale is the exciting part of these new pieces. I've worked large before, just not with this body of work, so that's new. Scale can change everything. I'm excited to see how the sculptures translate to living on the floor, taking up a wall instead of a shelf, and interacting with the corner of a room. When these factors change, it changes the process in small ways, which can generate new happenings.

Just A Babe
Polyurethane foam, resin, acrylic on wood panel
12 x 12 x 7 inches
2015

OPP: Is building the form or covering its surface more satisfying?

DL: Both aspects of the process are satisfying to different parts of me. There is something very meditative in the pattern and rhythm of laying down the spikes. With the form, it's more fun and experimental because there's the unexpected. Chance is involved.

OPP: How much do titles matter in your body of work? Are they just ways to identify the work or clear lens through which we should read each abstraction? How do you feel when viewers don’t bother to read the titles?

DL: I think of the titles as some context for what I was thinking about when making the piece. They do give viewers a type of key for understanding the work, but I'm indifferent to whether or not people read the titles.

Drinking Watermelon
Polyurethane foam, resin, acrylic on wood panel
13 x 12 x 7 inches
2015

OPP: If you had to pick one or the other for the rest of your life as an artist, would you pick color or texture?

DL: I would pick color. Color is primary for me. It holds the content, the emotion, the illusion. Color is difficult and I love an involved challenge. I'm drawn to it over anything else because of its ability to evoke feelings, it has a weight and can affect the people/things around it.

OPP: When asked about touching your sculptures in an interview for Maake Magazine, you said—about your more recent spiky sculptures— “Depending on the kind of acrylic I’m using or if I layer resin on top of the spikes, they can prick. So now there’s this layer of the desire to touch, but you kind of get rejected. This beautiful thing becomes potentially harmful.” Outside of your work, how is beauty dangerous? Or is it desire that is dangerous?

DL: Beauty, on one end of the spectrum, can be deceiving, distracting and create obsession. Desire is the fuel for action. Both have equal power.

Knobby Knee
2016

OPP: How does your life outside the studio affect your practice?

DL: It's incredibly important to take care of your mind and body, so you can make the work you need to make. I don't work myself to exhaustion. I get my sleep. I exercise. I put time into other non-art related things like hiking, reading, etc. I believe all of these things contribute to a solid studio practice.

Art and art-making are intrinsically tied into my life; there is no separating the two. My practice is something I need and do daily. I can't see myself being better suited for anything else. This is it.

To see more of Dan's work, please visit bydanlam.com.

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

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Justin Morgan Kennedy

Swine is Divine
2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Swine is Divine
2016
Wall compilation
20ft X 35ft

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

La Guerra de Acqua
2011

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

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

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


Milwaukee Brown
2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Brent Fogt

Last Leg (2015), Would It Be Nice? (2015) and Edge of One (2015)

BRENT FOGT courts the unknown in an intuitive exploration of materiality, accumulation and, more recently, the tension between organic and designed form. The foundational gesture in his practice is the slow build-up and evolution of marks, evident in tiny, drawn circles, crochet stitches, cut up bits of paper or unique prints of twigs and leaves. In recent sculptures, he adds the marks of urban life (found furniture fragments) and of nature (fallen branches). Brent earned his BFA in Studio Art with Highest Honors from University of Texas at Austin and his MFA from the University of Michigan. His work has been featured in New American Paintings and Art in America and in solo shows at Terrain Exhibitions (Chicago, 2014), Austin College (Sherman, Texas, 2012), Emory University (Atlanta, 2009) and the Lawndale Art Center (Houston, 2009). He has been an Artist-in-Residence at the I-Park Foundation (2015), the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (2014), Yaddo (2013) and the Vermont Studio Center (2009). Brent has recently reviewed Chicago-based exhibitions for New City and Bad at Sports. He lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Is there a difference between the marks you make and the ones you allow to accumulate?

Brent Fogt: In all of my work, I am driven by the question: what would happen if…? I love to experiment with new processes and techniques, and when I think I’ve been repeating myself, I try to complicate the process or come up with a new one.

There is an organic quality to almost all of the work I create, whether I am making the marks or I am using a process that removes my hand from the equation. When I started making rain drawings, I was amazed at how much they looked like my Circle Drawings. By drawing circles over and over I was imitating natural processes.

What I like about work where my hand is more present—whether it is my collages, drawings or sculptures—is the presence of imperfections. A close inspection of my Circle Drawings, for instance, reveals oblong circles, overlapping lines and ink smears. The rectangular pieces of paper I cut for collages are always slightly askew, and my crochet stitches range from too tight to too loose.

Ink on paper
60 in x 96 in
2006

OPP: What’s more important in your practice: yielding to your materials or controlling them?

BF: I probably yield to my materials more than I try to control them. When I begin working, I don’t know how a final piece is going to look. Rather, I take cues from my materials. With my most recent sculptures, for instance, I think a lot about how pieces fit together. I try many combinations until it becomes obvious that, say, the V shape of this branch perfectly complements the curve of another branch.

With many of my rain drawings, I yield completely to them, not adding any extra marks. With others, I am interested in seeing what would happen if I add my own marks or transform them into collages.

The 4th & 5th Great Awakenings, detail (from inside)
Crocheted cotton
2014

OPP: Can you explain the process for your Rain Drawings and how they feed into your shingled collages?

BF: I actually wrote out the instructions for making rain drawings for some friends who were interested in making them.

a) Place some sturdy paper  in the rain (you’ll be handling it when it’s wet so the paper needs some heft).
b) While the paper gets wet, go foraging for leaves, twigs, pine needles (these work really well), grass, bark, anything organic really.
c) spread the organic materials all over the paper.
d) sprinkle ink over the organic materials and the paper. I like to start with diluted ink (the ink doesn’t have to be black; can be any color) in a 10-to-1 water-to-ink ratio.
e)Sprinkle darker ink, a 4-to-1 water-to-ink ratio.
f) Let the paper dry. If you’re outside, leaving the paper in the grass is a good idea, because air will reach the bottom of the paper and aid in drying.
g) Once the paper is completely dry, brush off all the organic materials, and you’re done!

The process is pure joy, because you never know how they are going to turn out. After a while, however, I started wondering how I could combine this process with a secondary process that was more rooted in geometry. I experimented with cutting up the rain drawings into squares and collaging them, but these first efforts seemed to reference pixels and computer screens, which I did not intend. The best solution I found was to cut the rain drawings into rectangular pieces and arrange them according to value, going from darkest in the middle to lightest on the periphery. This strategy maintained a strict geometry, but visually has more in common with weavings than computer screens. And since I placed each rectangle based strictly on value, it took color decisions out of the equation.

Grove
Ink and other liquid media, paper, gel medium
64 in x 36 in
2013

OPP: Speaking of color, it is generally—with a few exceptions—very sparse in your work. How do you make decisions about color in other projects?

BF: Color is tricky for me because I was diagnosed pretty early on in my life with mild color blindness. As a result, I don’t trust that what I see is what others will see. At times, I avoid color altogether. In my early circle drawings, I used black pens on white paper and nothing else. After a couple of years, however, when I was looking to add another variable into the work, I took tentative steps into color, using blue and green pens and some graphite.

One strategy I have is to use “found color.” With my very latest sculptures, for instance, I photographed the floors of the space where I eventually will be showing them, opened up the photos in Photoshop and used the eyedropper tool to figure out how I could mix them. It turned out that I could make one of the colors with four parts yellow, two parts light blue and one part magenta. I made that color and then mixed it with white gesso. A long time ago, I made paintings in a similar way, finding color combinations in magazines that I liked, then figuring out how to mix them. My assumption is that someone with a better color sense than I have made them, so why not try them.

Installation, Emory University, detail
Crocheted candle wicking
2009

OPP: You’ve been using crochet in your practice since 2008. Earlier installations—at Chicago Artist Coalition, at Dominican University and at Terrain—evoke other-worldly hanging plants or hives. They emphasize the capacity of crochet to grow organically as stitches accumulate. More recently in discrete sculptures like Last Leg or SonRisa, the crochet becomes a skin, bandage or clothing, stretched taut to hold found fragments of discarded furniture and fallen branches together. Can you the discuss this shift and the introduction of hard lines and angles into your visual vocabulary, which used to be dominated by circles and organic lines?

BF: The hanging pieces got bigger and bigger over the years  until I started thinking about them less as otherworldly objects and more as potential containers for people. At an exhibition at the A&D Gallery at Columbia College, in fact, I invited people to get inside of them, and many did. My own experience getting inside the pieces was really interesting. I felt a real sense of calm and felt totally safe and protected.

The next step might have been to make the crocheted sculptures even larger so that multiple people could have gotten inside them. I made lots of sketches and thought I was going to move in this direction, but when I started thinking about how to create more sophisticated substructures to support the larger pieces, I changed my mind. The substructures themselves— the bones of the piece— became more intriguing.

Right around that time, I also started collecting discarded furniture. I began cutting up the furniture and combining it with fallen branches to create armatures for sculptures, playing up the tension between the mass-produced, hard-edged pieces that I was finding and the more organic shapes of the branches. The pieces you mentioned, Last Leg and SonRisa, are two of about five works in this category. As with the earlier, more organic work, I still relied on crochet as a skin to cover the bones or substructure.

The work I have underway in my studio right now represents another shift. I am leaving much more of the bones uncovered, but I am strategically crocheting or wrapping the places where the bones connect as if I were symbolically healing or repairing the sculptures.

The pieces are becoming increasingly vulnerable. They began as fully formed hives, homes, nests and have evolved into sculptures that are increasingly fragmentary, tenuous and fragile.

To see more of Brent's work, please visit brentfogt.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 Kyle Herrington

Directions to Nowhere
Mixed media
2012

KYLE HERRINGTON creates humorously profound sculptures, cut-paper works and text-based paintings. Using the vastness of space as a symbolic background for more quotidian psychological and emotional unknowns, he explores the drama and anxiety of being an average human on planet earth in the Digital Age. Kyle graduated from Ball State University in 2006 with a BFA in Painting. He was the 2012  Artist-In-Residence at the Indiana State Museum. Recent solo exhibitions in Indianapolis include The Worst Person in the World (2014) at General Public Collective, Catcalls (2013) at the Indianapolis Center and Backyard Phenomena (2013) at Harrison Center for the Arts. He is currently developing a new series of work which he hopes to exhibit in Fall 2016. Kyle lives in Indianapolis, where he is the Director of Exhibitions at the Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You work in a variety of media: sculpture, painting, cut paper text and installation. Can you give us a brief history of your life as an artist? Have you always been so interdisciplinary?

Kyle Herrington: Growing up as a teenager, I always saw myself as a painter. I was a big TV kid, and it always seemed like every artist on television was depicted as this serious brooding painter. I went to college at Ball State University for a degree in painting, but I was very lucky that my mentor there encouraged me to work very experimentally and across disciplines. I often found myself skirting the line between sculpture and painting but always landed on the side of painting. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I found myself setting up these complicated still-lives for paintings in my studio and something clicked. I realized that instead of painting these vignettes, maybe I should just let the set-ups be sculptures. That was an important and defining realization.

I’m also a very impatient artist. I work between media and on several pieces at the same time; I like being able to switch gears if I am stumped or frustrated by a certain piece. The pieces can inform each other, have a dialogue, and mature at the same time. Sometimes a breakthrough in a sculpture can lead to a run of resolutions in a painting series or vice versa. Plus, the curator in me really likes to see different mediums living in the same space together.

Skanky Behavior
Mixed media on wood
2015

OPP: Have you always worked so extensively with text?

KH: It was around that same time that the text really started creeping into the work. I was struggling to explore ideas through images and symbols without being overt. At a certain point, I just said screw it and found it was easier to write what I was thinking about directly on the canvas. This was a huge step in finding freedom for myself as an artist. Suddenly I didn’t have to mask or disguise or romanticize what I was trying to explore. Instead I just blatantly put it out there, which also made the work a little easier for the viewer. I found this allowed me to get much more playful with the work and have more fun making it.

The End of Leisure
Mixed media
2012

OPP: I read several articles that refer to your anxieties about turning 30 as a major inspiration for your 2013 show Backyard Phenomena at Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. The End of Leisure (2012) and Party Killer (2013), for example, are sculptural tableaux that capture the aftermath of fallen meteors on scenes of leisure. I remember when impending adulthood was overwhelming. But now, you are three years older. Have you realized yet that the 30s are WAAAAAAY better than the 20s?

KH: Oh definitely! A lot of that work was a response to the reactions happening around me by my peers and colleagues about aging—I was always very ready to leave my twenties behind. A big influence of that body of work was disaster movies and these images of hoards of people running around completely falling apart and going ballistic. I felt this weird sense of calm isolation at the time while simultaneously witnessing people I went to high school with freak out about turning thirty on social media. At times it felt a bit like the movie Airplane!—completely nonsensical. So, I l decided to indulge the idea and experience of  the melodrama, and I ended up finding a bit of my own anxieties somewhere in the mix.

Three years later, I still find the whole idea relevant, especially the social media/hysterics/sensationalism thing. In a really schadenfreude way I secretly love it when Facebook or Twitter blows up into dramatics over any given thing going on in pop culture. It’s such a disgusting and simultaneously enlightening, entertaining shit show about the human condition in the 21st century. It’s less about aging itself now and more about the fact that people don’t really outgrow these insane, unfiltered sensational attitudes. It’s a really magnified focus onto someone’s character and motivations when they’re so unapologetically dramatic. Sometimes it can be over a legitimate political or human-rights stance, but just as often it’s about something trivial like a celebrity or TV commercial. Those are the nuggets of insanity that I’m drawn to: people evangelizing and going into hysterics about a paper towel ad. To me, that’s absolute gold.

Gay Club
Mixed media on canvas
2015

OPP: Works like Gay Club (2015), Send Nudes (2012) and Motivational Poster #1 (2012), seem to be about another anxiety associated with getting older. . . the insecurities of dating or hooking up in the Digital Age. Could you talk about the recurring vastness of space as the backdrop in these text-based paintings?

KH: Space has become an increasingly loaded symbol for me. It stands in for isolation, frustration, confusion, feeling lost. I never really dated when I was younger so once I started doing so in my 30s it became incredibly overwhelming at times. I joined a lot of dating websites and most times it felt like I was just speaking into these vast voids and hoping something stuck. A lot of those pieces are influenced by that. The whole process of online dating became more and more frustrating, but also more comical.

Spiderweb 3
Handcut grocery circular
2012

OPP: I’m particularly taken with your hand-cut spiderwebs from 2012. They are quite distinct from everything else you do, but some of your text-based works—Another Woman (2015) and Pizza (2015)—are also hand-cut. Can you contextualize the webs for us and talk about why you choose to create text out of negative space?

KH: The webs came from this strange compulsion I have for collecting grocery circulars. They’re pretty common litter and junk mail in Indiana and I would imagine in most suburbs. There’s something very Midwestern about them that I love. I had this ongoing collection of them and one day made the connection between this ubiquitous material and weeds or spiderwebs. Cutting them out with an X-acto knife became a very therapeutic and meditative thing for me, and they’re a nice break from the paintings and sculptures.  I also work a lot on paper so the cut-outs organically carried into those pieces with the Maury show titles. I loved the graphic qualities of those TV show titles, and I wanted to recreate that feeling and not just do handwritten text in those.

OPP: Wow! I didn’t realize those titles came from Maury! But now that you say that, I see more drama in the text that relates to that social media hysteria you mentioned. What are some other sources for text in your work? Is all the language appropriated?

KH: A lot of the phrases or text I use are things I hear in the real world or on television. I keep a sketchbook full of quotes, phrases and pieces of conversations I overhear and pull from them often when I'm trying to resolve a piece. Sometimes they are directly appropriated, but other times they are mash-ups or edited versions in my own wording for better flow. I find myself really drawn to the ritual of people putting on airs or puffing themselves up. It’s this bizarre sense of extroverted or manufactured confidence that I'm pretty mesmerized by. Reality TV and talks show are a great source for this type of hyper-dramatic self-esteem. Also gay bars. I get a lot of ideas for paintings there. As gay men, I sometimes wonder if we have this ingrained flair for the dramatic. Then you add alcohol and you get the biggest display of theatrics. It’s campy and over-the-top, and I just eat it all up with a spoon. I owe a lot of my paintings to my time in gay bars.

Pizza
Mixed media on hand-cut paper
2015

OPP: What role does humor play in your work?

KH: I told somebody years ago that I liked to use humor as a nasty trick to get people engaged in my work. I felt dirty for a long time about making humorous work. I think it’s very common for artists, and especially painters, to feel pressured into holding this kind of academic reverence for what they’re making. When I first got out of school, I was making these large, very academic paintings that I was trying to show around town and I was really bored by most of them. And then I was making these little wacky funny studies in secret and I was way more interested in those. It wasn’t until I stopped looking at humor as a gimmick and as more of a conduit into serious issues that I felt like I could really pull the trigger on changing directions in my work.

Humor serves as an entry point into topics people may not otherwise talk about; it eases people into an otherwise difficult mindset. A lot of my work deals with anxiety, depression and awkwardness, but the veil of humor makes those topics more comfortable and palatable in order to spark dialogue. I saw the Wayne White documentary Beauty is Embarrassing a few years ago, and I wrote down something he said in one of my sketchbooks: “I'm often as frustrated at the world as most people are. But I think frustration is hilarious. One of my missions is to bring humor into fine art. It's sacred.” I just love that.

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

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