OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Garry Noland

The One Thing, 2016. polystyrene, corrugate with decollage. 21.250" x 19.250" x 3." Photo credit: E.G. Schempf.

Since beginning his career in 1978, GARRY NOLAND has explored so many materials: National Geographic magazines, corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, wood, pvc pipes, marbles, duct tape, foam, just to name a handful. His studio practice is primarily driven by process and material. In sculptures and textile-like surfaces, he emphasizes pattern, surface and texture as the byproduct of actions like cutting, marking, taping and gluing. Garry earned his BA in Art History at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, but he’s always been a maker.  His long exhibition record began in 1980, with notable recent exhibitions at Haw Contemporary (2015), the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (2014), Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (2014) and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (2013). On April 16, 2017, his solo show Unorganized Territory will open at Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Chicago, and, in the Fall of 2017, he will open a two-person show with Leigh Suggs at Artspace in Raleigh, North Carolina and a two-person show at Los Angeles Valley College Art Gallery in Van Nuys, California. Garry lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Is there an underlying thread that connects the materials you choose?

Garry Noland: One of the answers regarding materials relates to the non-human part of nature. We are part of the world around us, yet in a separate, contemplative position. Nature has many materials: gases, minerals, animals, plants and the breakdowns into smaller parts (water vapor, sand, insects and pine needles, for example). Nature's processes—evaporation/condensation, sedimentation, reproduction and seeding—are an incessantly-recycling pattern of life. They inform the "studio practice" that is Nature. Jackson Pollack's statement "I am Nature" gets at the artist's natural role in working with whatever material is at their hand. Nature teaches us to apply our energetic, creative impulse to solve problems that a set of materials poses to us. A new material simply presents new problems or challenges. A familiar material will present new challenges based on skills we've acquired in our subsequent actions. The underlying thread is what can I learn? and how gracefully can I solve the problem?

Close-Up USA, No. 7, 2016. Polystyrene, aluminum paint, sand, concrete mix. 22" x 41" x 8." Photo credit: E.G. Schempf.

OPP: You don’t seem to be drawn to Nature’s materials, but to human-made things: “found and reclaimed materials from alleys, side streets and urban dumps.”  What draws you to materials generally? Any new finds that you are excited about in your studio right now?

GN: Right now I am using corrugate, polystyrene, paper, wood and some mild adhesives. I am using simple verbs: Cut, tear, place, adjust, glue. Nearly all of the materials are found, free or very inexpensive. Part of the attraction is that these materials have been through another use. This other use, not to mention the process in which they were originally created imparts spirit to the material. . . it is the farthest thing from inert. The found marks in dock foam or the folds, scraps and abrasions add a layer of experience to cardboard. It is part of my job to augment it by leaving it alone or adding to it. I know that new materials will come along or that I will find new use for something I already thought I knew something about.

Ticket, 2012. Tape, Floor Debris on tape. 103" x 98." Photo credit: E.G. Schempf.

OPP: In your statement, you say “Sometimes I am the boss of the material but just as often the material, by virtue of a chance arrangement, for example, will tell me what needs to be done.” Could you say more about making in this way? What’s the process feel like for you? Will you tell us a story about a piece in which the material led you more than you led it?

GN: One might infer that I have a collaborative relationship with the material. Material is inseparable from the "artist". It is possible to see potential in every single thing. Metaphorically then, as well, there is potential in every single person. In general this brings me great joy. I am solving problems I could not have foreseen minutes or years before. Simultaneously new work explains often what was going on in an older piece....a kind of studio deja vu. I keep a lot of material in the studio precisely because I know that chance arrangements or views askance will reveal combinations I could not have rationally thought of. An example is the piece tilted Failed Axle. There was a spool of bubble wrap in the studio to use a packing for an outgoing work. Several feet beyond the spool lay a curved piece of orange PVC pipe. Out of the corner of my eye, it looked like that the pipe was coming out of the spool, like an axle. The piece made itself essentially. I am a grateful intermediary.

Pumpjack (Sergeant), 2015. polystyrene, tape, pvc pipe, marbles. 63" x 58" x 7." Photo credit: E.G. Schempf.

OPP: Your application of marks—as cuts, tape, paint or marbles—to the surface a variety of substrates, functions differently across your body of work. I’m thinking about the difference between works like Pumpjack (Sergeant) (2015), which have complete surface coverage and the wall-hung sculptures from the Handheld series (2014). When is it about hiding the underlying surface and when is it about highlighting it?

GN: Pumpjack (Sergeant) is a good piece but I know that, like every other piece, it is on the way to something else. Part of the impulse behind the complete coverage was to produce a design to supplement the object. . . to cover an object with images of objects. I love pattern and surface design. One of our jobs as artists is to find out "what goes with what.” Relationships between materials may be abrasive, copacetic or somewhere in between. In Pumpjack the tape presents a way for the eye to move around the object as does the application of marbles on the PVC armature. How do the marbles act with the tape pattern? How does the tape pattern work with the slabby foam block? How does the eye move around the whole thing? How does the slab act with the wall and floor. How does the painting/sculpture work with the viewer.

I hope, in the end, we ask how we relate to each other. The Handheld series (which were pieces cut off from the corners of Failed Monuments) used the gold tape (implying luxury) next to the "low-brow" foam and found marks. The exchange between tape and foam, gold and found marks was more direct and I think more honest.

Handheld 03, 2014. Foam, tape. 10" x 10" x 5." Photo credit: E.G. Schempf.

OPP: I think of your taped wall-hung works more as textiles than paintings. They have a textile logic to them, in the sense that the image appears to be part of the structure, as opposed to applied to the surface of another substrate. Thoughts?

I like and appreciate that reading! The image (if we agree to call "it" that) not only is part of the structure, but is/or represents the structure in full. That is, they are one in the same. The question becomes how can we merge image/object; form/content; female/male; figure/ground, among others, for example. This was written about by Lucy Lippard in OVERLAY and was at least a sub-topic in Cubism.

OPP: What role does balance—compositionally, physically and metaphorically—play in your work?

GN: The best question. Balance is a fluid, contextual situation. Balance is a how as much as it is a what. It's an easy tendency to find balance in a comfort zone. It’s imperative that any artist finds a way out of their comfort zone and into emerging, fighting off laziness and complacency. Balance comes from in-balance. Content comes from form. Form comes from content. Positive space comes from negative space.

To see more of Garry's work, please visit garrynolandart.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. 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Dickson Bou

Foamcore, contact paper, artificial wood veneer, wood

Illusions of material, weight and balance are precariously at play in DICKSON BOU's angular, faceted sculptures, which  obliquely reference architecture, airplane wreckage and paper airplanes. Working intuitively, he first familiarizes himself with the inherent qualities of his chosen materials—white foam core, wood grain contact paper and textured floor underlay, to name a few— then allows the outcome of each conscious decision in his process to lead to the next. Dickson earned his BFA at the University of Western Ontario in 2009) and his MFA at the University of Victoria, British Columbia in 2011. He has exhibited in The Windsor Biennial (2011) at the Art Gallery of Windsor, Firstness (2012) at the defunct Tumble Contemporary Art in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Bracket(ed) (2013), a two person show also featuring the work of Thomas Chisholm. Dickson recently opened N+1 Cycle, a vintage bicycle shop, with Jason Hallows in London, Ontario, where he lives and works.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does materiality play in your work? What are your favorite materials? Have you ever worked with a once-loved material that you ended up hating after creating art with it?

Dickson Bou: I've always described my work as “materially driven.” Every piece starts with a material that I've been obsessing over in the studio. I experiment with it, figure out what I can and can't do with the material and go from there. My favorite materials are the types that allows me to make work that seems more substantial than it actually is. The more recent white, angular sculptures are good examples. They are foam core made to look like welded steel. It was important for that work to be able to shift back and forth between substantial and fragile. I would never hate a material I once loved, but I usually exhaust materials like you would exhaust a song or record by playing it one too many times.

Fall Inside a Winter

OPP: I know what you mean about overplay. But sometimes, after enough time has passed and the context has shifted, I rediscover a song that I had grown tired of in the past. It sounds both familiar and refreshed. Has that ever happened with a favorite material?

DB: I haven't used this material in a while, but I do really like the red and white floor underlay, and I would like to use it again in the future. It's very other worldly, strange and full of possibilities.

OPP: In The Delicious One, Fall Inside a Winter and Poppy, and the Natural Satellite series, all from 2010, surface treatment and texture take center stage and overall design assumes a supporting role, although they are definitely working together. Recent works made of white foam core and woodgrain contact paper, yield much quieter surfaces, allowing angles, line and balance to be the dominant features. Was this a conscious shift?

DB: It was a conscious swift. In 2010 I wanted my work to be limitless. At the time, the only way I knew how to go about that was to keep adding and adding, layering and layering, whether it be another type of material or another idea. This was how I approached art making until I made the piece The Twins. After that piece, I felt I had exhausted that way of working and the materials I had been using. I had gotten too comfortable and needed a change. I thought the best way to this was to totally go the opposite direction and turn the volume down.

Wood & White
Installation shot
Foam core, wood, artificial wood veneer, silicone, nylon string

OPP: The hard angles, lines and sense of balance in your free-standing sculptures makes me think a lot about architecture, design and planning. But I read in a review/blog post that your process is more intuitive than I expected. Tell us a little about your working process.

DB: There's not much planing before the making. There's a bit, but really the second step is determined by the first and third is determine by the outcome of the first and second. I do have a lot of interest in architecture and design but not really in how things are planned and laid out. I think if I was to get hung up on that side of things, the work would be very different. I wouldn't enjoy the process as much. There is something really valuable and organic about paying attention to the outcome of each step in your process and using it to steer the outcome of the finished piece.

It's funny you ask about planning and architecture. I'm currently working on an art project in collaboration with my friend Jamil Afana, who is an architect. When we first started talking about working together, I explained to him how I don't draw things out, that there's no drawn plan to go by. It kinda blew his mind to work in this way, and I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this. He replied with, “I think it's going to be a challenge, but also very fun.” I thought that was pretty funny. We're still experimenting in the studio with forms and materials, but we’ll be building a structure together. It's a slow process. Both of us have busy schedules. Jamil is a PhD candidate in Hispanic Studies at Western University, and I work a day job and run a vintage bicycle shop. It's always a challenge to work with another person; it takes more time, patience and lots of communication.


OPP: Early works Parkhead (2008) and From Faraway (2009), a series of small-scale sculptures, are reminiscent of architectural models for city planning. They are like plans for public parks that couldn't exist in reality: imagined, self-contained environments holding self-contained, ambiguous narratives. There appears to be a shift away from narrative and towards material and spatial exploration around 2010. Is this true? Do you imagine a narrative in any more recent works?

DB: There was a swift away from small-scale models but not away from narratives. I noticed that people really latched onto the models, maybe more so to narratives presented by the models. I was more interested in the shift between scales than the actual narratives the scale models presented. With Parkhead, the safety pin is the one thing that occupied both scales. If you look at the piece in 1:1 scale, it's a head with a safety pin on top of it. But in 1:148 scale (or N scale in the model train world), it's a Claes Oldenburg sculpture in a park. I was interested in how Parkhead can bring you in and out of worlds (or scales) depending on your perception. The models became too literal and too easy for people to get hung up on. They became distracting, and I wanted to explore new territory.

With Wood & White, my 2011 MFA Thesis show, I wanted the viewer to experience the narrative more directly. I wanted viewers to feel like they were walking through a plane crash or navigating around icebergs or sinking ships. Each piece in Wood & White keeps the narrative moving. I'm more interested in putting viewers inside the story than giving them one to look at.

Cherry Blossom Shipwreck
Foamcore, wood, acrylic silicone

OPP: Could you talk about Cherry Blossom Shipwreck (2013), in which you hung four sculptures in the atrium at the University Community Center (UCC) on University of Western Ontario's campus? The pieces could be viewed from all three floors of the UCC. Many of the pieces resemble the work from Wood & White. The forms are very similar, but the installation completely alters their nature. On the ground, the sculptures remind me of airplane wreckage. In the air, they evoke paper airplanes and origami cranes.

DB: I made Wood & White knowing that viewers would walk around each piece and work their way through the exhibit. It's different with Cherry Blossom Shipwreck; you can't go through and around each piece, but you can view them from under and above. I related this way of viewing to outer space. Since Wood & White resembled airplane wreckage so much, I decided to look into spaceship wreckage. One of the pieces is inspired by the nose of the Millennium Falcon. At that time, I had also just moved back to London, Ontario from Victoria, British Columbia and was thinking about the cherry blossoms there and how pretty it was when the flowers floated through the wind.

OPP: What are you working on right now?

DB: I'm kind of on hiatus right now. I recently opened up a vintage bicycle shop with my friend Jason Hallows called N+1 Cycle here in London, Ontario. The summer was busy—which is great—but I'm looking forward to the down time over the winter to focus on my artwork. I've been playing around with metal, which I use to think it was too heavy and cold. But I met Dan Bernyk in my MFA program at the University of Victoria. I was blown away by how he was able to bring out metal’s light and warm side. I also started fixing old steel bicycles and really got into custom Randonneur bicycles hand-built by the French in the 1940s-70s.Their craftsmanship and innovation is very inspiring. Beauty and form through function have been on my mind a lot lately, so we'll see if it will work it's way into my future projects.

To see more of Dickson's work, please visit dicksonbou.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014. Beginning on November 7, 2014, Stacia will improvise When Things Fall Apart, an ongoing, collage installation in the Lillstreet Annex Gallery. Closing reception guests will be invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall on December 5, 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Matthew Dale Janson

After the Great Wave in Three Compositions (composition two)
Foam, bathtub, photographs, paint, bath-towel, shredded currency, wig, wood, blank DVDs, polystyrene, ‘plaster with plastic’ mock-up, plaster, chair legs, epoxy, shower curtain, shower curtain rod, couch arm, couch cushion, steel posts, steel rods, plastic decorations, graphite, vinyl, beach ball, latex and duct tape on casters
Dimensions variable

MATTHEW DALE JANSON's colorful, textured sculptures combine traditional art materials with found objects and industrial materials to create delicately-balanced abstractions of the body, both human and animal. In 2010 and 2012, he was a finalist for the Sondheim Prize and is currently a nominee for the 2012 Baker Artist Awards. Matthew lives in Baltimore, MD.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your material lists are always very detailed, almost like you are making sure all the materials get credit for their role in your sculptures. Can you talk about materiality in general and why you choose the materials you choose?

Matthew Dale Janson: Sometimes I choose an object for its name, its sound, its meanings, or its form and color as it relates to its possible meanings. Basically I’m sentimental and concerned with an object’s history as I understand it and imagine it to be interpreted by my audience.

Foucault talks about an author as being a kind of barrier or a gatekeeper, someone who chooses what not to let in rather than someone who generates what goes in. Making long kitchen-sink lists of materials is a kind of perverse authorship. How do we accept certain concepts while saying no to others? It’s important when we seem so created by what we are not. A meaning means what it means by not meaning what it does not mean.
Hieros Gamos
Foam, mirrored glass, wood, wax, plastic jewels, steel rods and paint on casters
51” x 75” x 51”

OPP: Do you generally have a vision of what the sculptures will look like before you start? Or do they shift and change as you are working?

MDJ: I know how I want something to feel, and I also know that that is a rare feeling which requires a lot of patience. I owe much of that ‘knowing’ to my painting background and to many of the artists I’ve met.

Time is so present in a painting, and that makes it immensely difficult to ‘do.’ I think life can be boiled down to one question: “what I am I going to do next?” Painting takes the question on like a bull. I try to paint in three dimensions.  

OPP: So, you started out as a painter? What led to the switch from 2D to 3D?

MDJ: I never really switched. I just stopped showing my paintings about four years ago. I felt my sculptures were much stronger and my voice much clearer. Right now I’m working on some new paintings which look like they may take shape as a full body of work. Some are on canvas but most are ‘non-traditional’ paintings using foam, a variety of supports and paints.

Put a straw under baby
shredded currency, foam, paint, unicorn feathers, steel, glass container top, fake fur, unicorn tail, plastic bag, glue, pad-lock (locked), and some chain links (cut)
25" x 22" x 19"

OPP: Many works are abstractions of the figure, and those that aren't still have a visceral quality. The sinews of the polystyrene evoke the body, but the colors and textures of the materials destabilize that. I'd love to hear your take on this pairing of the plastic and the man-made with the visceral.

MJ: They seem more and more impossible to divide. I often think about the Body Worlds exhibit. It originated in Europe by a German artist, but, when the show came to the States, it went straight to our science museums. It was made educational, complete with an anti-smoking message right before the exit. The artist stripped away the decay of the human body and replaced it with plastic, and we looked at it as death. But it was a carnival and a strange cultural event both here and in Europe.   
Foam, idoine, display stand, 1/2 of a promotional educational poster (heads), fake cotton, hair spray, and just a little paint
29" x 73" x 28"

OPP: In your online public application for the 2012 Baker Artist Awards, a fund which supports Baltimore's artists, you say you think of your project as "shopping at Walmart to make religious statuary." Could you expand on this?

MDJ: I have trouble imagining a reality without religion. Some days I’m agnostic and some days atheistic, but I see religion everywhere. For me Art is another religion, and it’s easier to believe in than the Abrahamic religions or any religion with clear separatist logic. I prefer that kind of logic to remain murky. I always felt like a ‘religious person.’ It’s just harder to know what that is without a rulebook. And I want Dow Chemical to sponsor my Church of Difficult Art. 

OPP: Was there ever a time when you made a drastically different type of work than the work that's currently on your website?

MDJ: My work has always been a singular project in my mind. It’s been a way for me to explore my mind. And I hope it’s drastically different in the future.

If you'd like to view more of Matthew's work, please visit matthewjanson.com.