2012 : New Year, New Copyright Dates

You may be wondering why it seems like the folks at OPP didn't notice that it's a New Year. (Change our Copyright Dates, please!)

The reason OPP does not change your copyright dates is because the copyright dates on your site should reflect the dates upon which the material was created.

Therefore, you should use the earliest date in which you created material for the site, as well as the latest date. If you have not posted any work from 2012 as of yet, your copyright dates will not update automatically.

If you'd like to change your copyright dates regardless of when you created the material on your site, you are definitely free to do so.

Please see our Pixelpedia Section for detailed instructions on how to change your Copyright Holder Text.

http://wiki.otherpeoplespixels.com/help/cp/changing-the-years-in-your-copyright

Of course, another way to get your copyright dates to change automatically would be to post new work -- so get back into that studio, and create away.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Tory Wright

Obsession, detail
2009
Cut plastic
30 inches x 40 inches

Other Peoples Pixels: Your most prevalent media is “cut duratrans” or “cut poster on paper.” Can you tell us more about your source material and about the process of cutting such detailed pieces? It appears to be precision work. Is there a lot of planning before you make the first cut?

Tory Wright: My day job is in retail as a visual merchandiser. So whenever a light box Duratrans or a fragrance poster was slated for the trash shoot, I would roll it up, tuck it under my arm, and take it on home to my studio instead. These posters and Duratrans prints were large versions of the magazine adds I had been altering before I had this job. The funny thing is the scale shifted to a larger format while the detail of the cuts became more intricate. I just dive in and start making cuts free hand with a standard X-Acto® blade. I usually start at a point of interest like the eyes of the model.

OPP: I’m interested in the recurring shape of the loop. What does the shape mean to you and how did it emerge in your work?

TW: The shapes in my work are based on the body. When I made paintings I would look at high fashion magazines and then translate those forms (the models themselves and the cuts of the clothing) into flat, biomorphic forms that had a distance from the source. In graduate school at MICA I had a shift in the relationship between the source material and the final work. Why not cut my forms and patterns directly into the source material? It was about surface beauty and alienation, so why not change the surface of the source material itself? The most obvious step is often  the hardest one to make.

Crimson and Clover Interior, detail
2011

OPP: Crimson and Clover (2011) seems to represent a shift in your practice from delicate and intimate gallery pieces to larger public art works. The piece is both a billboard and has an interior life in a gallery space. Can you tell me about how it was developed?

TW: Good Citizen in St. Louis is a great space. They have a billboard on top of the gallery and have programmed the use of it as well as the gallery space. I was so excited to have a solo show there. On top of that, to be able to have a billboard for two months was beyond what I could have hoped for. The billboard was where I started the work for the show. So in a way I worked from the roof down. The work is about transformation of a single image and a single face (Kate Moss). As I continued to work with the transformative qualities of this cut and copy methodology, I was able to see the possibility of where this new work could go.

Untitled Floor Piece, detail
2010
Cut collaged photocopies

OPP: Untitled Floor Piece (2010), an abstracted collage using repeating imagery of the Venus of Willendorf  is distinct from most of your work. Its source material is from Art History instead of advertising, and it uses a process of accumulation instead of a process of deletion, as most of your cut pieces do. Can you talk about these differences?

TW: Untitled Floor Piece-Venus was the second cut, copy, and accumulate piece that I was able to do in a gallery. The first was at The Front in New Orleans in 2010. For this project at Lump gallery in NC, I was encourage to take advantage of the freedom of treating the space as an extension of the studio. Being able to glue the work to the floor opened up new avenues that wouldn't have been possible in a more formalized gallery setting. There was both humor and social commentary in drawing a face on the art historical Venus and then setting up the installation for interaction with the audience. Well, the interaction was more like watching people stand on top of the cluster of Venuses regardless of how many people were at the show. It was definitely a good time with a healthy sense of humor about some important topics.

OPP: What kind of important topics?

TW: The use of the Venus was my way of working through the position of feminism in my work. Giving her a sort of blank face seemed to sum up a internal commentary I have with a feminist history. I wrestle with where I might fit in. I just took my thinking out of my studio and into the gallery, thanks to Lump Gallery and the encouragement of Bill Thelen. The majority of my work is I engaged with the altering of the female form. I edit images constructed by fashion photography into a new form of beauty: just as alluring, but now more powerful with the absence of the cliche.

Kate, Back in Black, #4
2011

OPP: What’s changed in the way you work over time?

TW: The work I make has gotten more labor intensive as I have challenged myself on how much information from the original image could be striped away without losing the sensuality of the original image. However, now the cut and copy work is about the  accumulation of all those choices made in my past work. Now I just need another opportunity to push the installation of the work into a total environment.

OPP: What project are you most excited about right now?

TW:  I am really into a collaborative project I have with Lydia Moyer. Hateful is a zine and blog were we challenge each other by juxtaposing our separate aesthetics with images from artists we invite to participate. It has been a great avenue for approaching my work in new ways and pushing what I think my work is or should be.

To view more of Tory Wright’s work, visit torywright.com.

Black-out your OPP website tomorrow in solidarity with the protest against SOPA/PIPA

***UPDATE: Once you've blacked-out your site, post it to OPP's Facebook page under the black-out thread***

Tomorrow, January 18th, many companies across the Internet, such as Wikipedia, will be "blacking-out" their websites to protest two pieces of legislation, which if passed, could have devestating consequences for online freedom.

You can read more about the protest, the proposed bills, and take action at AmericanCensorship.org.

If you have an OPP website and want to participate in the protest, here are simple steps you can take to black-out your OPP website tomorrow.  

(Remember to change your website back to the way it was on the 19th -- and that keeping track of and making the changes is up to you. We suggest you make a note of your current settings: font names, template names, color number etc. If you choose to participate, we applaud you!)

 

1. Download the image below and post it as your Home Page image or feel free to make and upload your own protest image.

2.  Go to 'Appearance' ---> 'Template' and click on the 'Black' tag. Change your Template to any of these black templates.

3. Go to 'Appearance' ---> 'Background Color/Pattern' and using the color-picker choose black for your Background.

Optional: You can also change your Title and Navigation, and Body Font colors to black to prevent people from being able to access your content.

 

Thank you for helping to protect freedom on the Internet!

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Michael Pajon

Lady Lazarus
2011
Mixed Media Collage
6 x 9 inches

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your father immigrated to Chicago from Colombia, South America where he met your Irish Catholic mother on Chicago’s South Side. Reading your description of your experiences being “the product of the integration and movement of Chicago's populations, the artifacts that groups of people have left behind in the still identifiable ethnic neighborhoods, and the points where cultural identities have overlapped and melded” makes me curious about the relationship between the collages you make now and the art you may have made as a child. What did you like to draw while you were growing up?

Michael Pajon: When my Father was growing up in Colombia he told me about coming across American comic books and being fascinated with them. Even though he couldn't yet read in English he spent time with them redrawing the pictures.

I learned to draw very much the same way, reading and collecting comics as a kid the same way my Dad had.

I am still drawn to very graphic imagery like I was as a child. I remember drawing a lot of dinosaurs, airplanes, weird little cities with castles and skyscrapers. My imagination was a little scattered with ADD (attention deficit disorder) so I would often draw something into a picture that I might have seen on TV or in a movie we rented, and then sprinkle in a dinosaur or an exploding volcano. I distinctly remember drawing Spectre Man (sort of like Ultra Man) into coloring books and in the margins of other drawings as well as the Kit car from Knight Rider.  The only thing that I’ve gone back on to find interesting is that when drawing family members I used a dark brown crayon for my Dad a tan one for myself and my siblings and a pink crayon for my Mom. I wasn’t particularly aware of race at the time, but I was aware that my Dad was from some place far away.

A Century of Progress
2011 Mixed Media Collage
14-1/2 x 12 inches

OPP: You recently moved from Chicago to New Orleans. Has your move impacted your art practice?

MP: Yes, I have more time to focus on my work. The pace of living down here is much more relaxed than Chicago. There are new sites sounds smells and rhythms to get used to and become a part of. The city creeps into my work in various ways, particularly with this series of houses that I’ve been working on. I bike past empty run down homes every day, many of which will be lost to the elements rather than become a home to a person in need.  Those pieces are about the ghosts and memories that haunt those places.

OPP: Tell me about the artworld in New Orleans and your involvement in the community there.

MP: Upon arriving I began assisting my friend Meg Turner in creating a community printshop. A lot of blood sweat and tears went into getting our shit together, and then the plug was pulled as of January 2011—we lost our space. She and a few others have recently relaunched it, and I am hoping to be teaching the occasional etching class again. 

I have been part of a few group shows over the past year and a half, but most notably I was included in a larger exhibition of transplanted artists during Prospect 1.5 that ran from Nov 2010-Jan 2011.  The range of work ran from 2D to video and installation.

OPP: The materials you use in your collages range in date from the 1880's-1950's. What is your interest in this time period?

MP: I find that the imagery is unique and hard to find, but at the same time familiar.  Most likely you’ve seen something like it at a grandparents house or floating around a junk, thrift, or antique store. I hope that it will trigger a unique memory in the viewer. I tend to stay away from using things like Coca-Cola ads and the like for fear of coming off as kitschy.

OPP: You keep a blog accessible from your website. On it you post pieces from your Standard American Collage series as you finish them. You also post the found imagery you come across. Do some of the found images that appear on your blog also end up in your collages?

MP: Sometimes, though I tend to post things that are either too large to use or perhaps I find interesting as a piece of history or nostalgia, like my post of a Nelson Algren poem that I found in a 1940’s Esquire magazine. I don’t necessarily find it interesting as collage material, but I love it as something found in its original context.

OPP: How do you select the images and materials that you post on your blog and that appear in your collages?

MP: I have boxes and boxes of things to choose from. I typically sift through things from piece to piece making a kind of mental inventory of what I have. I work rather intuitively, so if something just hits me the right way and it seems to fit I’ll try to include it. 

The blog is simply another tool where I feel I can include people on the process of my art making and offer some of my personal interests as insight to that work.

Tighten the Screws, and Fear Not the Tigers Oath
2011 Mixed Media Collage
3 x 5 inches

OPP: Everything in your collage work is original and painstakingly cut by hand. What's the hardest part of your process in general?

MP: The hardest part is leaving out something that you love and was possibly very difficult to cut out, but doesn’t fit or ad anything to the dialogue of the piece.

OPP: You have worked as a printmaking technician and assistant to artist Tony Fitzpatrick, how did working closely with an established artist early in your career influence your own practice?

MP: Immensely. I got a front row seat to understanding the ins-and-outs of the art world. He was and remains extremely supportive of my work, which is something that I cherish because it can be hard to find. Most artists are not nearly as generous with their time and resources as Tony. They can be secretive about their techniques or even suspect of younger artists. It’s hard to catch a break without getting a little push and it’s rare that you will find that person willing to give you a break.

Tony also treats his studio time like one should, as a job. He gets up, clocks in, gets his ass to work and doesn’t let anyone tell him “no.” I think this is a model to live by.

I have received emails from all walks of people since launching my website. Most of them simply inquire about the work, but more recently I have had teenagers and other young artists write to me. I make a point to offer them as much insight and help as I can. I try to offer them encouragement and give them a little push.

OPP: What will you be working on next?

MP: I’ve got a few things on the desk at the moment, but home improvement projects are also on the horizon. I have a show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery here in New Orleans in March and will also have some work at Scope NYC. Watch for updates of new work as well as inspirational ephemera at paperandblades.tumblr.com.

To view more of Michael Pajon’s work visit michaelpajon.com.

Fonts Galore : OPP adds over 500 New Fonts!

Because we know that artists can never have too many choices when it comes to the aesthetics of their websites, OPP is excited to announce a HUGE update, guaranteed to get your websites looking snazzy in the New Year.

As of today, the number of fonts available for OPP websites has tripled. More than 500 NEW FONTS just blasted out of the OPP-Awesome-Update-Queue and into your website life. Bam.

Unlike many other website template services, OtherPeoplesPixels offers a unique way of using custom fonts -- so that you're not stuck with boring old Arial, Verdana & Comic Sans. (Click the link for the win!)

We've hunted down the best fonts, and tagged them all so they'd be easy for you to browse. All the new fonts are gorgeous, but, as OPPers requested, we especially added lots of clean, minimal, simple & classic fonts. You can use tags to search specifically find these types of fonts, and/or click the "Recently-Added" tag to see new fonts only.

OPP now offers a lot of font "sets" too -- e.g. fonts that come in both regular & bold or normal & italic etc. This allows you the extra-classy option of using one of these fonts for the Title Font and another for your Nav Section Font. Oooooh!

And here's another deluxe matcy-matchy tip: Search for the name of your new font online, and download it to use for your business cards, email signature, show emails headers etc. All the fonts OPP uses are free, and many can be found here.

So get cracking and check out the new fonts! Pick two gorgeous fonts and stick with them for a while, or hire an intern to change your font 20 times a day. Your call.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Anne Roecklein

Untitled lure (raspberry & blue), detail
2009
Mixed media

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your body of work contains two dominant modes of production: paper collage, as in Horizon Utopias, Paper Lures, and Tiny Utopias, and assemblage-based sculpture, as in Lures and Nets. What's similar about these different media? What's different?

Anne Roecklein: Whether I’m working two- or three-dimensionally, I work with found images and objects, because they have had a life before I find them. I’m interested in the conceptual, historical, and physical residues that materials bring with them. I can recombine and leverage these materials in new and meaningful ways.

Both the assembled Lures and the collaged Paper Lures explore physical as well as conceptual aspects of fishing lures. Why are certain colors and shapes, such as the form of an egg cluster, so appealing? What does it mean to put something out there that will attract what you want? The assembled Lures are made with materials from actual fishing lures, faux flowers, plastic aquarium plants, and cast hot glue—materials that attempt to replicate nature, but don’t quite succeed. The elements for the Paper Lures come from health, biology, and embryology textbooks, as well as cookbooks—sources that deal with different kinds of potential and fulfillment. Here, I’m interested in the mini-tragedies of discarded books, and I’m using the visual vocabulary of science to address some questions about biological desires.

So, these different modes of production are addressing similar questions but coming from different directions with different processes and material associations.

Untitled Paper Lure
2010
Collage on paper
18" x 24"

OPP: From a strictly process-oriented perspective, what body of work is your favorite? Which did you enjoy working on the most?

AR: The Paper Lures are my favorites right now, which could be partly because this is some of the newest work. It’s still shiny and new to me. These pieces evolved out of the assembled Lures so they’re rooted in the same ideas, but the paper pieces are less about materiality and are a little more formal. I spend a lot of time exploring subtle color relationships. Sometimes it almost goes to a nerdy extreme, but this is an area where I find pleasure in my studio practice. I also spend a lot of time with scissors making this work; it’s contemplative, until I get hand cramps.

I’m currently working on a new version of Constant Lake that’s over twelve feet long. This is pushing some scale boundaries for me, which is exciting.

OPP: In your statement, you say that your work focuses on our desires. What do our desires say about the world we live in?

AR: Desire is the central topic of my work. It’s also a jumping off point from which I explore related ideas like possibility, wistfulness, longing, and need. I’m looking at the world around us through the lenses of  biological desires, desires involving objects, and desires for the unattainable. Investigating these topics can tell us so much; desires are what motivate us to take action. They elucidate our relationships with what we find pleasurable. They may drive some neurological pathways dealing with learning and reward. Processing or not processing desires can have a lot to do with individual happiness or frustration.

Pop Song, detail
2010
Collage on paper

OPP: How is collage particularly apt as a medium to address issues of desire?

AR: Collage and assemblage are processes that I have chosen very deliberately for this work. They embody fragmentation, hybridization, and appropriation. They are perfect vehicles for addressing desire in a world where images and objects overwhelm our lives and spaces and where consumerism is presented to us as the fastest path to satisfaction.

These processes are especially well suited to creating fictions that escape the everyday. The individual components are like little “facts,” but when they’re added up and recombined, you get a rubric in which every element is potentially relevant to every other element. This creates countless parallel narratives. When you work with found objects, there is a weird sense that these are “real” objects, because they come from the world and not from art. So when you combine images into an impossible landscape, for example, the viewer is constantly suspended between what is possible and what is impossible. Collage is perfect media for dealing with nostalgia or the longing for utopian places that are simultaneously perfect and nonexistent.

OPP: I, personally, find both the paper and sculptural Lures very visually compelling. They do pull me in, like a fish on a line, and leave me wanting more. In that sense, when looking at them, I engage directly with my desire to possess one. But on the other hand, looking is enough. I notice my desire, and I become aware of pleasure of looking as I contemplate the work. I see your work as an opportunity to contemplate seductiveness and desire through the decorative. Is this a common response?

AR: Yes, that’s it! Sometimes I wonder whether making work about wanting impossible ideals is indulgent daydreaming or a way of curbing my own desires. Perhaps making an object or image about something I cannot have is a way of neutralizing the longing for it. And other times, I find I just need certain things to be possible. It does not matter if those things can’t be real or can’t be mine or are highly unlikely—I just want them to be possible, and it’s through my studio practice that this can happen.

OPP: Are viewers ever dismissive of the content of your work, because of its seductive, eye-candy quality?

AR: I have encountered a few viewers who have been a little dismissive about some of the over-the-top aesthetics in works like Popsong or the Lures like the one covered in pink flocking. I was asked once if “something that is pink and fuzzy can be serious” and my answer was and still is “of course.” Our culture is full of eye candy, and dismissing seductive, opulent, or even campy ornamentation is a missed opportunity for deep understanding.

Untitled
2011

OPP: Your most recent collages from the series Rustbelt are very different in their source material and overall composition. It looks like you are using scientific graphs and illustration, maybe from textbooks or manuals of some kind. How does this new work differ from the Horizon Utopias made with old postcards and the Lures, made with images of plant life?

AR: The images and objects I make can be organized into three categories that address desire from multiple directions: strategies, spaces, and systems. The Lures (both collaged and assembled) and Nets are in the strategies category—they’re about tools of desire. The Speculative Plans, Horizon and Tiny Utopias are in the spaces category—they’re exploring amalgamated landscapes and the longing we have for more perfect places.

The new Rustbelt series and older pieces like System with Yellow Tubes, If you can graph it, then it’s true  are in the systems category—these pieces are exploring the desire we have for knowledge and the need we have for things to work. I’m looking at very broad areas like science and statistics—methods for acquiring information. I’m interested in the optimistic promise of these activities and their inevitable disappointing breakdown. Ideas like the scientific method suggest that, if we’re careful and organized in our research, we’ll arrive at useful and correct answers. But this isn’t always true.

OPP: Where did your interest in this new source material come from? How do these technical drawings play into your overall project about Desire?

AR: I’ve spent the last seven years living in Michigan, Indiana, Pittsburgh, and now western Massachusetts—areas often associated with “the Rustbelt”. The pieces in this series are new, and I’m obliquely exploring how places like the rustbelt used to function. These pieces include things like batteries that don’t connect to anything, light bulbs on dysfunctional circuits, and graphs that don’t really tell us anything. The functional circuits or data are lost. It’s now about the aesthetic information, which is a different kind of truth and a different kind of answer.

To view more of Anne Roecklein’s work visit anneroecklein.net.

OPP Interviewed on ReadWriteWeb regarding dangerous proposed legislation: SOPA/PROTECT IP

Okay, so I know we're technically on "Solstice break," but we wanted to make a quick post about this recent ReadWriteWeb article by Alicia Eler, since it touches on such an important issue. Though not yet widely publicized in the mainstream media, proposed legislation called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PROTECT IP (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) could provide a true and serious threat to online free speech and the Internet as a whole.

To learn more, watch this great video by FightForTheFuture.org (below) that explains the bills briefly and clearly:

Alicia interviewed Brian (Co-Founder of OPP) and our good friend/amazing artist Stacia Yeapanis on how the proposed SOPA/PROTECT IP laws could affect art and artists online. The article focuses on the dangers that the proposed legislation could cause to content providers and services like OtherPeoplesPixels.  If passed, SOPA & PROTECT IP could also have catastrophic reprocussions on the rights of individual artists to publish, share and promote their work online -- especially artists like Stacia Yeapanis, who use, comment on and transform copyrighted material in their work.

Stacia Yeapanis : Buffy Summers #2 : 2007 : Cross-stitched Embroidery : 17.5” x 24.63”
(Text: It seems like the birds shouldn’t be singing anymore, but they are.)

You can find many ways to learn more about these proposed laws and take action to stop their passage, here

Happy Solstice from OtherPeoplesPixels!

The OPPblog will be off-the-grid for the next two weeks, celebrating the Winter Solstice! (We've also heard that there are some other holidays around this time of year?)

Oh, Solstice Time! Break out the grog, the nog and the fleecy slippers! Put those oldies & goodies on the Hi-Fi! Bring on the rainbow-colored auroras, unicorns pulling chariots made of icicles, and polar bears having tea parties beneath snow-covered pines! Oh Solstice, the most joyful time of the year!

What's in the mix for OPP's holiday? The OPP Fund will be giving it's annual grants to social justice, environmental justice and arts organizations. You can see the past years' recipients, here.

If you have an OtherPeoplesPixels website, OPP is also excited to give you a holiday gift!

You put it on your wish list & you got it: You can now add Facebook 'like' buttons and/or Google +1 buttons to any page with a text box.

As you know, Special Formatting is OPP's easy way to add things like bold formatting or live links to text on your website. You now have two new options, which you can always be reminded of by expanding the Special Formatting section below each text box.

[like]  <--- creates a Facebook 'like' button for the page
[g+]   <--- creates a Google +1 button for the page

All you need to do is type these exactly as you see above, where you want the button to be placed. There's no need to add any links or other text -- OPP makes it easy for you! We think these buttons tend to look best at the very top or bottom of your text, though you can insert them anywhere you like.

If a viewer clicks one of these buttons, they will 'like' or +1 the artwork and text on the page where you created the button -- causing it to show up on their Facebook or Google+ profile. This means people can now easily share and promote your artwork through the magic of social media! Oh joy!

And in your Solstice stocking, there's a little something extra: Your Contact Page can now have neato clickable badges that link to your profile on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn! Go check 'em out!

Wishing you all warm holidays (whatever they may be), and be sure to tune back in in 2012 for more amaaaaaazing Featured Artists.

Happy Solstice!
- The OPP Unicorn Groomer & Hoof-trimmers Union

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Justin Richel

Globe (Detail)
2009
Gouache on paper
5 ft x 5 ft

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your interview with Little Paper Planes you mention a compulsion to make work and the meditative experience of painting. Repetitive tasks can be both soothing and monotonous. They can engage your mind or they can free it. In general, what do you think about while you paint cupcakes and presidents over and over again?

Justin Richel: If all is going well while in the act of painting, I am thinking of only line, color and the emotional response. It’s a very interesting and blissful place for the mind to be.

OPP: How does your experience of repeatedly drawing similar objects shift over time?

JR: I usually have a specific image or sense of a particular painting or piece that I set out to create in my mind’s eye before hand, but through the process of translating that idea or wisp of an idea, from a thought to the physical paper, I am always a bit disappointed by the outcome. I feel that with each remaking of a particular idea, the message becomes more clear for me, as though I am able to communicate my idea more clearly with each attempt; understanding my own motivations through the repetition of the imagery. It also gives the image a life of sorts; you see it evolve over time.

When I was at Maine College of Art my major was in printmaking. I never really liked the process of printing very much. I felt that it was too limiting and often monotonous as well as a very dirty process. A lot of energy was expended with the only real benefit being that you can produce multiples of the same image. However, through the print making process, I realized the strength of the multiple. Images, if they are successful, do proliferate either by a cultural embrace or by the interests of a few, they are integrated and bent, changed and imposed upon, and I think it is this phenomenon that urges me to revisit these compositions again and again, manipulating and changing them to suit my own needs. In a sense creating my own iconography.  

Whirling Dervish (Detail)
2011
Gouache on cut paper, nails, adhesive
5.5 ft x 10.5 ft  

 OPP: You have many pieces titled Whirling Dervish, the first one a drawing in 2008 and the most recent your installation of gouache on cut paper at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in 2011. Then there’s Debacle (2011), a wall drawing you did for the DeCordova Museum, which puts the viewer inside the whirling dervish. How does the shift in scale and media change the meaning of the imagery?

JR:  I have actually been working with most of these themes since the early 2000s and continue to find the rehashing of subjects and compositions completely engaging. I’ve found that the small work draws you in, engaging the viewers’ imaginations, encouraging them to lean in for a closer look, and allowing them to revel in all the fun details. The large work consumes the viewer wrapping them in the imagery. Most people find the miniature works very cute and whimsical, which they are. But there are darker undertones embedded in the work that I really want to be seen and understood.

With the larger work my hope is to dwarf the viewers sense of self with the compositions so that the audience feels like a part of the piece.

OPP: Do you see any of these as more successful than the others, in terms of communicating with your audience?

JR:  So far I think that through the use of various sizes and approach, the work’s message is communicated more clearly, each painting or installation telling a bit more of the story. As of late I am most excited about creating the installation works. They provide me with an opportunity to create an image that just isn’t possible in the confines of my tiny studio. The installation works are composed of hundreds of tiny parts and pieces that allow me to change the overall composition, keeping it a fresh exploration through each evolution. 

Precarious
2008
Gouache on paper
22 in x 30 in

OP: The theme of precariousness is very present in your works, as depicted in the columns and unstable piles of sweets, household goods, presidents’ heads and birds. You’ve written in your project statement: "The stack can only exist so long as all of its pieces are cooperating together, to shift or remove a piece would inevitably send the whole thing crashing to the ground." But, because your main medium is painting, you can endlessly stack objects in more impossibly complex ways without any real danger. You hold the viewer in an endless state of expectation of collapse. Do you have any interest in addressing what happens after the balance is actually lost, when things come crashing down?

Justin Richel: No, not so much. I think it is much more interesting to play with tension—I like creating that suspense and having the viewer’s own imagination complete the story. My hope is that the work communicates the sense that through cooperation of disparate parts and pieces acting as infrastructure, this odd stack or structure is able to exist. Just looking at the structure of present day society, it becomes very clear how precarious things really are. There is a real feeling that you have to hold up your end of the bargain. I think everyone is afraid of what might happen when it all falls apart and you don’t want it to happen on your watch. So we keep adding to and building the “system” so that it holds up, even as it falls apart during the process.

Died For Want Of Lobster Sauce
2010
Gouache on paper
22 in x 30 in

OPP: Looking at your various projects together, I see a strong sense of the interconnectedness of nature, culture, and the personal. Just like with the stacked furniture and sweets, nature and culture are precariously intertwined in our lives. You’ve worked simultaneously on the series Sweets and the series Big Wigs over the last few years. Could you talk about the differences between these two series, as well as how they inform each other? 

Justin Richel: The Sweets series is concerned with society as a whole: its behavior, its morality and constructions, the general state of things.

I like to think of the sweets and household detritus as characters or stand in for the figure, humans, and their relationships to one another. Creating scenarios that speak to the fragility of circumstance and the consequence of actions. I like to imagine them as functioning, dysfunctional infrastructures.

The Big Wigs are more concerned with those who are in power and, in contrast, the resiliency of nature. Quoting my project statement:  “These men sit rigid and firm in their positions of power and deeply entrenched in their glory, so much so that they essentially become living “monuments” of their own making. Meanwhile nature takes its course, birds move into their wigs, fungus and lichen grow on them freely and fires threaten to engulf them. All the while they struggle to save face and maintain their proud and victorious posture, ignoring their surroundings and the ensuing predicaments.”

I get a certain amount of pleasure creating the Wig paintings. They’re about the idea that if anything sits still long enough, nature will take root and treat that object as though it was simply landscape, a foothold, claiming or re-claiming the space as it’s own. I find the regenerative process of nature very comforting. It takes care of itself of it’s own volition. It’s a feeling of security and trust and one of relief. Nature’s design is one of perfect balance. In contrast, our own brand of design leaves so much lacking; not everyone is represented or even figured into the equation. Nature is both simultaneously finite and infinite.

It is necessary for me to have the two distinct series as a way of communicating this complex relationship.

OPP: What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or new directions for your work?

JR:  Well, for 2012 so far I have a solo show at Galerie Voss in Düsseldorf, Germany (TBD) and a group exhibition, curated by Natalie Larson, at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. And in the spring my fiancé Shannon Rankin and I will have a two person show at June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland, ME.

Justin Richel has also recently released a beautiful print through The Endangered Species Print Project, which is sponsored by OtherPeoplesPixels. 100% of the proceeds from Justin's print support the endangered Guam Micronesian Kingfisher depicted in his charming work.

To view more of Justinʼs work visit justinrichel.com.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Elizabeth Axtman (The Love Renegade)

The Love Renegade # 4: If I Said It
2010
archival ink jet print

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell me about The Love Renegade and what inspired the shift in the perspective from which you are working.
 
Elizabeth Axtman: The Love Renegade came to be while sitting in a restaurant. I was trying to understand my own heartache, heartbreak. I was reeling from being betrayed by the person I was closest to (and please believe it was on some Dynasty, Melrose Place, Gossip Girl level of betrayal… I have regretfully discovered the shit they write on these shows really happens to people in real life) and I was trying to figure out how was I going to get past it. I was surprised that within the pain I was feeling I could also reach feelings of compassion for this person. I was beginning to understand that people who harm others are in far deeper pain than the people they offend. This gave me mild comfort and any amount of comfort then was worth investigating.  I wanted to know everything about love, forgiveness and compassion; how people were able to find it and how people were able to implement it. I started reading and watching everything on the subject. It began invading me from every angle, so much so it was finding its way into my work. Suddenly, I wanted the art I made to be more than calling racist assholes, racist assholes. There are enough artists of color doing that shit already (I wouldn’t be missed) with plenty of rich white art collectors/curators financing it (a very dysfunctional cycle). So The Love Renegade came from where so many other art works come from: heartbreak and the journey out of it. The difference now is that the journey is one of love, forgiveness and compassion.

OPP: Humor is still present in your Love Renegade work but is differently approached. Your video Dark Meat from “before” is disturbingly funny; splicing a Stone Phillips interview with famed serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (Phillips asking Dahmer “Did race matter?” in regard to his victims and Dahmer answering it did not by citing the various races of three of the men and boys he killed) intercut with the man-eating plant, Audrey II, from the cult-film The Little Shop of Horrors asking to be fed (“Feed me... must be fresh... must be black”).

The Love Renegade #2: Forgive Me (series)
2010
archival ink jet print
20" x 24"
text: You didn't deserve that, your were so good to me. I am so Sorry.

Your piece, The Love Renegade #2: Forgive Me which features a newspaper headline and picture of actress Sandra Bullock’s ex-husband Jesse James after news of his infidelity was publicized. The headline quoting James reads ‘I am the most hated man in the world.’ In a thought bubble pointing to James’s head drawn on top of the clipping, you (as The Love Renegade) have written, “You didn't deserve that, your were so good to me. I am so Sorry.” Part of the humor in the Jesse James forgiveness piece functions with our knowledge that collective forgiveness is unusual in our society. Can you speak about how humor plays out in these two pieces and more generally in your work “before” and “now,” as The Love Renegade.
 
EA: Regardless of the shift in my art practice… humor remains a constant because it’s such a big part of who I am (but I’m learning not everything I make has to involve a joke). I worship comedy and everything about it. My interest (obsession) with comedy has always made me feel like a bit of an outsider in the art world, because so many of my artist friends worship everything about art: theory, history, current events aka art gossip…. and I don’t. I mean seriously, the only time you might catch an art theory book in my hand is if my friend asked me to hold it for them while they tied their shoe. Nothing about MAKING art bores mein fact it thrills me but getting trapped in a conversation about art theory makes me wanna blow my fucking brains out.
 
In the piece Dark Meat the humor I used is a way of softening my screams of “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” I was pissed at how little Jeffrey Dahmer was taken to task on the subject of race as well as by how little a black man’s life is worth in our country. Had the roles been such that it was a black man killing, raping, dismembering and eating blond haired white women……this country would go buckyballzbananas and reinstate lynching. In the video I used an interview with Stone Phillips and Dahmer because it was the first time I actually saw anyone ask him about race. In the interview he lists the race of all of his victims except for the black men (which were the majority of all of his victims).  His inability to mention them spoke volumes to me.  I mix in the man eating plant, Audrey II from the Little Shop of Horrors to fill in the gaps of Dahmer’s lapse in memory of the 11 black men he assailed. To me the man-eating plant is what lurked behind Dahmer’s blond hair and blue eyes, which helped him stay out of jail 18 victims too long. Dahmer’s desire and repulsion in regards to race and sexuality were off the fucking charts. I’m not done with him yet.

I like that you mentioned “collective forgiveness is unusual in our society,” in regards to my Jesse James piece. I’ve had a few people tell me how soft my work is now that it’s focused on love and forgiveness. I never get my back all up about it but I laugh to myself and think “this muthafucka has no idea how hard it is to be loving to someone who acts so ugly and hateful.”  I still have those knee-jerk ego reactions where I want to tell people about themselves (harshly) but I check myself, because now I’m more interested in starting conversations then ending them. I am all too aware that we live in revenge culture and how that is far too often people’s line of defense. The entire series is about getting people to hopefully see that they too have been untoward to someone at some point or another and have desired to be forgiven and loved anyway. It’s about how often we forget those times and withhold the very thing we desire when the roles are reversed. It’s about squandering an amazing opportunity to be compassionate just to appease our egos.The unconscious hypocrisy is rife with humor to me  Every person in The Love Renegade series are just stand-in’s for us. Ha! and Got Ya!

The Love Renegade #6-307:Love Letters (Make It Rain)
2011

Mixed Media

OPP: You recently exhibited Love Letters (Make it Rain) at The Kitchen in NYC. Viewers had the choice of sending a letter to Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Westboro Baptist Church, and Glenn Beck. How did you select each public figure?

EA: I chose them because I think they have on several occasions acted a hot ugly mess in front of a camera that broadcasts to millions of homes all over the world. They have encouraged and condoned: greed, racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and revenge... your basic asshole behavior. We are all guilty of these things in our lives (varying degrees of course) and if you say you aren’t, you’re a liar and not ready for this work or conversation. I’m just posing the question: what can change in your life if you show love to someone who is acting in its opposition?
 
OPP: As I understand, a great number of letters were mailed over the course of the exhibition—have you received feedback on the project from participants or other viewers? Have the letters worked?

EA: I was thrilled when The Kitchen told me that over three hundred letters had been sent during the course of the exhibition. I received beautiful letters sent to me by people telling me how my work has touched them. The response was really great from participants and folks who just happened on to my website. I’ve had an art space in New Zealand show interest in having the Love Letters come all the way across the world. Folks have been in to it. Have the letters worked? I know Glenn Beck is no longer on the air and Fox News has been trying to tone it down. I also heard some state was trying to ban Westboro Baptist Church from attending funerals… it was kind of eerie how it was happening all around the same time. It isn’t so much what I want to see happen in these figures’ lives as what I want to see happen in everyone’s life. I desire to see people take responsibility for the energy they bring into the world and make far less decisions on behalf of their egos. Take my word for it: I am a recovering egomaniac and as such I know I’m responsible for the emotions I choose to experience and the behavior I choose to express… I no longer put the blame for these things in another’s hands.

OPP: You exhibit widely, how does working toward a deadline for a show influence your process? In fact, your first solo exhibition with the San Francisco Arts Commission is currently up—what are you working on for the show?

EA: Well I like to call “deadlines”, “time frames” it has a better ring to it. They definitely influence me to throw things across the room, bang my fist on the table, hurl expletives at my computer that would make a Boston Bruins fan blush, then apologize to my computer with the following: Mommy didn’t mean it, I’m just under a lot of pressure with these “time frames,” and no sleep. Time frames motivate me to get the shit done, it’s a part of the creative birthing process. There will be pain and there will be joy.

Yes, I’m working on a year-long (hopefully just a year) project entitled The Love Renegade #308: I Love You Keith Bardwell (Phase I & II). Keith Bardwell is the latest person to catch the attention of The Love Renegade, because he refused to marry an interracial couple in 2009… you heard that right, 2009. Bardwell (an elected official) explained his refusal to marry the couple was, because he “had seen countless interracial couples where the children were rejected by family members, and he didn’t want to see that happen again.” The piece consists of interviews of biracial people from adulthood to infancy, kindly letting Bardwell know that they are doing well and his concern for them isn’t necessary. Alongside, interviews of interracial married couples telling the viewer why they wanted to marry their partner. In this lens love (not race) can become the forefront of how these partnerships began and biracial people are given back their voice in order to speak on their own behalf. Upon, hearing from the source any viewer who has shared in these sentiments will be left to address what’s truly resting behind their concern for the children. It’s a long work in progress.

The Love Renegade #308: I Love You Keith Bardwell (Phase I)

OPP: Does The Love Renegade have advice for emerging artists?

EA: Yes I do.
1.    Don’t listen to anyone who encourages you to live Plan B.
2.    Tell your ego to fuck off on a regular basis.
3.    Know your self worth as person and an artist.
4.    Be kind.
5.    Be relentless.
6.    Don’t be afraid to go by yourself.
7.    Tell your ego to fuck off on a regular basis.

To view more of Elizabeth Axtman (The Love Renegade’s work, visit elizabethaxtman.com.