It's Curtains for You (close-up view of inside), 2016. Hand dyed transnet, steel, aluminum. 96" x 96" x 48."
GINA HUNT explores the permeable and reflective qualities of
screens in her paintings, sculptures and site-specific installations.
She draws attention to the subjectivity of visual perception in painted
surfaces, including the plain weave of canvas, window screens, scenery
netting and scrim. Most recently, she has moved her work out of the
gallery and into the outdoors, where her multicolored screens are both
discrete objects within the landscape and mediators for viewing it. Gina
earned a BFA in Painting, Printmaking, and Art History (2009) and an MA
in Painting (2012) from Minnesota State University. In 2015, she
completed her MFA in Painting at Illinois State University. Gina
completed a 2015-2016 fellowship with Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. In 2016, she was Artist-in-Residence at Badlands National Park and at Hinge Arts in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Beginning February 1, 2017, you can view her work in a two-person, online exhibition titled In This Place at Pleat Gallery. Weight of Light, a group exhibition curated by Melissa Oresky, will open at DEMO Project
in Springfield, Illinois on March 10, 2017. There will be a gallery
talk on April 6, 2017. Gina currently lives in Bloomington, Illinois and
teaches Drawing at Illinois State University.
OtherPeoplesPixels: Screens are prominent in your work, both as a material and as a metaphor. Could you talk about the difference between looking through screens and looking at screens?
Gina Hunt: Fascinating question! I immediately think of how vision works and the similarities between our eyes and cameras when it comes to depth of field and the ability to focus. I am always getting pleasurably distracted by looking through window screens, fencing, and mesh barriers because of the ‘flit’ that happens between focusing on the screen and then focusing on what is beyond and behind the screen. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and I think this experience is really common. Looking at the same physical objects with and without a screen is a completely different visual experience. That difference, or subjectivity, between these two visual experiences blows my mind.
Chromascope (RO), 2016. Acrylic on hand-dyed cut canvas. 24" x 24."
OPP: Please talk about your repeated strategy of slashing and twisting canvas in Feedback (2015), Colorblinds (2014) and Chromoscopes (2015).
GH: I can credit the development of that specific process to two people: my grandmother and Lucio Fontana! Fontana helped me realize that a painting is a very physical object. No aspect or component of a painting is a given; every physical bit of a painting is a material choice. Fontana cut his canvases in the most elegant of ways and showed us that paintings can depict space with actual space, not just implied illusive space.
A few years ago, I was suddenly having a battle with my paintings. It was a complicated mess that dealt with illusion—but instead of going into that whole story, I will explain how I got out of it, which lead to several subsequent bodies of work. I took a few weeks away from the studio and spent full days making a quilt with my grandmother. It was a highly complicated one that we designed. While working on this, we talked about history, politics, gender, modernist painting, and physical labor. This physical engagement with the materials—the measuring, pressing, folding, cutting, stitching, and piecing was so satisfying.
When I returned to the studio, I began cutting up piles of un-stretched, painted canvas. I developed a process of making pattern-based paintings that are incredibly physical and sculptural while also presenting optical experiences based in color. Around that point, it seemed to me that Fontana was taking apart paintings. I felt like I was putting paintings back together.
Flit, 2015. Acrylic on cut canvas over canvas. 47" x 61."
OPP: Any chance the quilt as a unique form will ever enter your practice?
GH: Yes, I am certain that it will.
OPP: Are all paintings screens? Why or why not?
GH: I love this question! Screen is such a complex word with multiple definitions. As a verb, a screen can divide, separate, and conceal. A screening is an assessment or filtering of information. As a noun, a screen can be a flat panel displaying images and data, a thin object or material which separates spaces, and a surface which allows images and ideas to be projected onto it. Thinking through all of this—Yes. I am rather certain that all paintings are screens.
Window Screen (GR), 2016. Acrylic on cut window screen mesh over painted wooden frame. 16 inches x 20 inches.
OPP: What does site-specificity mean to you?
GH: My work is dependent on where I am in the world. It is site-specific in every sense of the term.
In 2015-2016, I lived in the Middle East as a Practicing Artist Fellow. I believe that the decisions we make are dependent on context and circumstance, and this opportunity made it so clear to me. The research and work I was producing quickly became reactive to the specific place I was a part of. Unfamiliarity can be a great asset—one is able to notice details and characteristics of situations which can become worn and unnoticeable with time and exposure.
Through that experience, in addition to
following residencies I’ve been to, I have prioritized an engagement with locality
and hope for my work to be responsive to where I am. My work is site-specific because I am
cultivating knowledge of place (local culture, history, visual culture,
aesthetics, and identity) through context-based research.
I don’t want to just
insert myself and my ideas; I want to collaborate with the place where
I am making work.
It's Curtains for You v2, 2016. Hand dyed transient installed
in the windows of an abandoned gazebo outside of the Kirkbride
buildings (formerly the Fergus Falls State Hospital) in Fergus Falls,
Minnesota. Approximately 60 inches x 144 inches
OPP: You were the 2016 Artist-in-Residence at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Please tell us about this unique residency.
GH: Yes, I just finished that residency and am still reflecting on it. I was completely surprised and thrilled to get it, as I have not seen artists physically place work within the landscape of the Badlands like I wanted to.
The Artist in Residence program at the Badlands National Park supports two artists each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. And so, I wasn't working alongside other creative practitioners, I was working alongside paleontologists, archivists, park rangers, etc. I learned a lot about the landscape and its history from each person I met. The park staff was wonderful support when I needed them but also didn't encroach on me in any way or question my concepts. Their support really impressed me. Since the projects were going to live outdoors, I decided to set up a simple shop outside of my apartment, in the park, and that is where I built most of the work.
I spent a lot of my time exploring the
landscape and problem-solving how to install projects without physically
interrupting the landscape in any way. Everything was paired down in terms of process, materials, and
installation. I worked within limited means. I thrive when thrown into a
challenge like that. The weather is entirely unpredictable
there, too, which had to be factored into my material and installation
decisions. I asked myself, With the materials I have available, how do I make a
large-scale installation outdoors that could withstand high winds, rain, and
snow, but cannot be staked into the ground or attached with most things one would
Suncatcher for the Badlands,
2016. Nylon, window screen mesh, and theater scrim stretched on four
painted wooden frames, attached with metal hinges. Installed at Badlands National Park. 48” (h) x 36” (w) x
OPP: Aside from having to navigate the physical
conditions of the landscape, how was your work there informed by your
research into the region?
GH: I spent time researching the visual aesthetic traditions of Lakota culture. The challenge was then creating a bridge between this “field study” research and the physical work I created. Color and geometry were the major aspects of my research. Specifically, I was reading about Lakota star knowledge/astronomy/stellar theology and its interdependence with the landscape. There is a beautifully poetic yet literal concept called mirroring. The earth and the stars “are the same, because what is on the earth is in the stars, and what is in the stars is on the earth” (quoted from Mr. Stanley Looking Horse, father of the Keeper of the original Sacred Pipe, in Lakota Star Knowledge). One example of this is how the earth map and star map are interdependent on one another; this is described in an abstract, geometric drawing. The visual description, which has been recorded in star maps, has an inverted triangle above a reflected triangle, and these triangles meet at their apexes. They are mirrored. The inverted triangle on top symbolizes the sky, or a star, and the drawings of it look like a pointed cone that channels light. The mirrored triangular cone on the bottom is the same but inverted. This component symbolizes the tipi (which is loaded with geometric symbolism) and earth sites. Thus, the combination of the two triangle cones is called Kapemni in Lakota, or twisting.
One of the sculptural works I created drew from this knowledge and employment of geometry to channel light from the sky. I created a triangular, three-sided form as a conduit for the sunlight and a place for the light from the sky to integrate with the ground and rocks and landscape.
Mirroring, 2016. Theater scrim, PVC mesh, and window screen mesh
over (3) wooden frames, attached with metal hinges. Installed at
Badlands National Park. 48 inches x 36 inches x 36 inches.
OPP: And your piece Suncatcher for the Badlands was based on research into the Medicine Wheel?
GH: Abstraction is everywhere in Lakota visual culture and is very symbolic. Another important symbol is the Medicine Wheel, which is a complete circle divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant is assigned a color (white, yellow, red, and black). All knowledge is embedded within the Medicine Wheel and the four colors are the symbolic primaries. I used the colors of the medicine wheel in the Suncatcher for the Badlands because they are the primary colors of Lakota knowledge of the universe. Color is always embedded as a conceptual component in my work. I have been working with various systems of primary colors for several years and working in the Badlands allowed me to learn more about color through a very specific cultural and regional context.
OPP: How did being immersed in this natural environment for an extended period of time affect your work?
The work I created was a documentation of a sensitive awareness of and
engagement with locality and landscape. I created site-specific
installations during the residency, which I photographed throughout the
day and in varying weather conditions. During the five week residency, I
experienced nearly every possible weather scenario! The installations
lived in the bright sun, dense fog, two snowfalls, and a blizzard. The
projects were akin to a scientific experiment—the installations were the
stable “control variable” and the weather was the “independent
variable.”The prehistoric landscape was an ideal setting for light and
color experiments. The landscape served as a laboratory. I was able to
spend time exploring and hiking nearly every day. This led to a
familiarity with the land and the light and allowed me to develop a
sensitivity to the elements. I was truly collaborating with the sky, the
rocks, and the sun.
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. Resist the Urge to Press Forward, a two-person show with Brent Fogt, is on view at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) until April 15th, when there will be a closing reception and artist talk. Throughout March 2017, Stacia is working on an evolving, duration installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago). You can watch Witness change via live feed.