OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Deanna Krueger

Elusive Vector
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), paper, ink, staples
54" x 63"

DEANNA KRUEGER’s work sits at the intersection of sculpture, painting and textiles. Her wall-hung Shards, composed of ripped, angular pieces of acrylic monotypes on X-Ray/MRI film stapled together, reference quilting, Minimalist painting and primitive surgery. Deanna graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA from University of Michigan and received her MFA with Highest Honors from Eastern Michigan State. In 2014, her work was included in the group exhibitions Meditative Surfaces at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (Indiana) and the Rockford Midwestern Biennial, on view until September 28, 2014, at the Rockford Art Museum (Illinois). She is currently preparing for a forthcoming solo exhibition at The Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art (College of Lake County, Grayslake, Illinois) titled Deanna Krueger: Shimmer. The exhibition opens on February 27, 2015. Deanna lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you explain the different parts of the process of creating the works in your series Shards.

Deanna Krueger: I begin by printing acrylic monotypes onto recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film). The film is then torn apart and the shards are reconnected into new configurations using thousands of staples. The process yields large wall-hanging pieces that are semi-translucent and slightly dimensional.

Installation shot, River Gallery (Chelsea, Michigan)

OPP: What's your favorite part? Least favorite part?

DK: The painting and printing is probably my favorite part. It always seems to happen too quickly, though I also really enjoy combining the various nuances of colors on the shards. Tearing the film creates quite a bit of noise. It sounds like I am taking out my aggression, but it just makes me laugh as that is usually not the case.

I assemble the pieces while seated on the floor of my studio, which is tile that I painted white so I can see the translucent colors. I set out the shards into little piles of color, much the way a painter lays out her palette. Then it is kind of like a game of seated Twister as I reach and staple, reach and staple. The repetition is meditative. At times I wish I could get my process off the floor to lessen the physical strain, but I always go back to that tile.

Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
45" x 45"

OPP: When did you first start working with recycled medical diagnostic film? Where do you get so much of it?

DK: In grad school I was experimenting with translucency on small discarded Mylar retail signs. My adviser saw what I was doing and mentioned that someone had dropped off some medical film years ago to the studio. She gave me about twenty sheets of 14” x 17” film. I instantly fell in love with the stuff. Acrylic won’t usually stick to plastic, but the film has a chemical substrate designed to absorb pigment. At that time, I was working as a preparator and assistant to the Visual Arts Coordinator at an arts program at the University of Michigan Health System. I made a lot of contacts with clinics and stockpiled the stuff. Most of what I got are clear “cleanup” sheets. They are run through the diagnostic machines between scans to clean off the print rollers, so when you go for your brain scan there are no accidental ink blobs on your results. Sometimes people give me their own personal X-Rays and MRIs, and I have also gotten some over-exposed film. I did some other things with the film for my MFA thesis show, but my Shards series started the year after I finished.

OPP: Tell us about your choice of staples as the connecting element for the Shards.

DK: In undergrad, I found a used, specialty hand-held stapler. I appreciated its elegance and simplicity. I am a bit obsessed with tools! After my MFA, the medical film and the staples came together. They seemed the perfect match. There is also the connection that staples are often used in surgery. The staples add an edge to the work. I welcome this bit of darkness. . . though they also add sparkle. So there is dark and there is light.

Alcyone (detail)
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples

OPP: Let's talk about how practical concerns affect art-making. I imagine these works are difficult to transport. They seem like they might crack or break if rolled up. How do you move this work from one space to another? Has it ever affected where you exhibit or the scale of your work?

DK: Though the pieces look quite delicate, they are actually very sturdy. The film is .7mil BoPET (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate). I roll the work up and make long narrow boxes for shipping. Unlike paper or other plastics, it pops right back to flat when unrolled. They have safely shipped to numerous states and to Rome and Berlin. I once shipped eight pieces to Florida all in one box. My largest pieces so far were 75” x 75.” Even those were less than two pounds each. When I am pressed for time, UPS makes the boxes for me. I love to work large. I am disqualified from a lot of shows for it, but I don’t care. I have recently made some at 36” x 36,” but I think the larger ones have more impact. In my current studio I could probably make something as wide as 14 feet. I am waiting for that commission to roll in! Work has only been damaged once. A bunch of rowdy children were running around and yanked on it. It was torn beyond repair. The force required would probably have punctured a typical canvas as well. Thank goodness the venue had insurance.

Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
50" x 69"

OPP: Although your Shards are hard and sharp and don't have the same associations of comfort and care, I see quilts when I look at them. Like quilters, you break apart and recombine materials that could be thrown away. And there are embedded stories that aren't legible to the viewer. Are you influenced by quilting or its history?

DK: Yes. I had a duel major in undergrad: Drawing/Painting and Fibers. My MFA was in Textiles. A lot of viewers have mentioned the similarities to quilts and also to stained glass. I like the fact that peoples’ histories are embedded in the material. I am transforming what may have been a negative experience into a more positive thing.

I describe these pieces as sculptural paintings. Unfortunately, I think work in fiber still often has the stigma of being crafty women’s work. I pulled my own little Guerrilla Girl stunt the first time I entered Shards in a juried exhibition. A postcard produced for a show during undergrad had a typo in my name. They spelled it Dean. I got to thinking that the gay, male juror might like a Dean better than a Deanna, so I entered as Dean. I got in and won best in show. I would like to think it would not have mattered. I dropped that charade after the gallery took me into their stable and gave me a solo show. 

Acrylic on HDPE on Panel
30" x 30"

OPP: The surfaces of the two-dimensional works in Liminal have an amazing, scale-shifting effect. I switch back and forth between seeing relief maps of landforms and microscopic views of ice crystals. Could you talk about the relationship of the very large and the very small in this work? How does this relate to your overall interests in making art?

DK: Geology, fossils, crystalline structures, growth patterns and topographical maps all inspire and fascinate me. In fact, a Swiss friend of mine calls me Map Girl, because when traveling I must know at all times know where we are on the map.

I enjoy creating the fluctuation of micro and macro. That is one common thread between the Liminal and Shards pieces. I love it when people say the work looks so different from far away than it does close up. More intimate observation reveals the layers of intricacy.

Epsilon Indi
Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples
63" x 63"

OPP: Your titles also get at that fluctuation if you look at them as a group; they reference geology, astronomy and mythology. How important to understanding the work is it that viewers read the titles and get the references?

DK: Viewers can take away as much or as little as they like, though I do enjoy it when people understand or at least explore the conceptual nuances embedded in the work. The geology and astronomy references stem from my interest in science in general. In the astronomical field, many celestial bodies are named after mythological characters. Referencing mythology is my way of calling into question various belief systems. We now know that things the ancients believed are false. Pointing this out is one way of questioning the validity of many beliefs strongly held today. 

To see more of Deanna's work, please visit deannakrueger.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. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joseph James

Cut paper, acrylic paint
110 x 90 cm

The quality of the line in JOSEPH JAMES' work is stunningly beautiful. His cut paper "drawings" both hide and reveal information about his sources, pushing the viewer to contemplate what was there before. He shows us the complexity and mystery that can exist in a simple, repeated gesture. Joseph exhibits internationally, and his work is included in several prestigious museum collections including the Saastamoinen Foundation Collection at the Espoo Museum of Modern Art and the Vexi Salmi Collection at the Hämeenlinna Art Museum. His upcoming solo show at Galerie Anhava opens in April 2013. Joseph lives in Helsinki, Finland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell us about your history as an artist. How did your printmaking background lead to the cut paper "drawings" you make now?

Joseph James: I started my undergraduate studies at Winthrop University in South Carolina as a painting and sculpture major. I ended up switching to painting and printmaking because I felt more comfortable working in two-dimensional media. I studied new media printmaking techniques at Saimaa University of Applied Sciences in Finland and started making art full time. This led into my graduate studies in the printmaking department at The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki.

At the academy I began to understand that the reason I liked printmaking had less to do with making prints and more to do with the process-intensive techniques. I was also looking for a way to combine my interests in drawing, painting and printmaking, and I got the idea to make some paper cuts. At first, I tried to keep printmaking part of the process by cutting on top of acrylic glass plates and printing the cut marks. As the series developed, I let go of the printing altogether.

"Center of the Earth"
Cut paper, acrylic paint

OPP: You emphasize process when you identify your medium as "cut paper." While the objects themselves are beautiful in a purely formal way, they become more compelling to me when I think about how they were made. The cutting process is enigmatic and impressive because the lines are so delicate and varied. Is the cutting done by a computer or a machine or by hand?

JJ: The cutting is done by hand with a small hobby knife. It is a slow and meticulous process, which is extremely rewarding for me as the maker. It’s crucial to the meaning of the work that it be cut by hand. My piece The Entanglement was laser cut in steel, but the feel of this work is completely different. The meaning is also changed by the process. I would like to try laser-cutting paper and other materials at some point, but I don’t see it ever replacing the cutting by hand technique. 

OPP: I agree that whether the cuts are made by hand instead of by machine significantly affects the meaning of the work. But meticulousness as a quality can be read in lots of opposing ways: patience, obsessiveness, focus, engagement, meditation. Can you expand on what the hand-cutting technique means to you, outside of the pleasure of the process?

JJ: For me it’s about opening up a channel through all of the questioning and overanalyzing that separates me from the act of creating. In other words, it is about action and creation. I’m okay with all of the opposing ways this can be read. Meaning emerges from the ambiguity of the seemingly simple, straightforward act of cutting.

OPP: Are you thinking about the source images while you cut them up? 

JJ: I’m not thinking about the source image at all while I cutjust the drawing. The cutting is almost mechanical. It’s like tracing the drawing, and where the lines fall in relation to the substrate depends on that initial drawing. I often cut the piece from the backside, so it is not until after the cutting is finished that I even see what it looks like. At this point, I treat each piece like a new experience or perception. I let go of the original idea and the source material, which are really just starting points. I try to view it objectively. 

Cut paper
100 x 50 cm

OPP: What are the substrates you cut from? 

JJ: I use posters, magazines and photographs, as well as fine art paper, hand-painted paper and hand-made collages. 

OPP: Some pieces, like Absurdity and Outburst, are scribbles and reveal the beauty in what appears to be an unplanned line. Others, like Animal Farm or Union Camp, seem to highlight preexisting lines in found images. There's a sense of pulling out the skeleton of an image. Is there a distinctly different process for these pieces?

JJ: The main difference is the drawing process, but there are other subtle differences as well. My process is like a set of variables that I can rearrange and adjust to varying degrees. I can draw from life or not, use a source image or not, and be faithful to the image or not. I can also change the material and substrate, the number of layers, the installation and so on. With each piece I gain more experience. I learn more about myself and the work, bringing that to the next piece, too. The process is dynamic. The cutting is probably the most stable aspect of the work, but I notice that it even changes slightly from piece to piece. 

70 x 40 cm

OPP: I called your pieces "drawings," but they could also be talked about as sculpture when they are exhibited on pedestals or hanging in space. How do you make decisions about the installation of each piece?

JJ: The presentation of this work is very important. It was easy at first because I was learning about the behavior of the material and allowing each piece to dictate how it would be installed. With the hanging pieces, when I finished the cutting and picked them up, they just collapsed in every direction. It was a surprise at first, but I saw the beauty in the natural tendency of the paper to react to gravity and just took advantage of that by hanging it from the ceiling. The idea of showing them on pedestals came from wanting to capture the feeling of the pieces when they are lying on the tabletop being cut. I haven’t used that option since the first exhibition of this work.

I install the other works with small nails directly into the wall. I do not use frames. In this way, they interact with the space like a sculpture would. The pieces work best when there is a lot of open area around them. This makes the wall almost disappear. The pieces look like they are suspended in mid-air. 

To view more of Joseph's work, check out his website at josephljames.com.

Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the emotional and existential significance of participating in mediated culture in her embroidery, video, sculpture and collage works. She received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006), where she will begin teaching in Spring 2013, and is currently a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT Residency in Chicago. Notable exhibitions include Losing Yourself in the 21st Century (Maryland Art Place, Baltimore), MP3 (The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago), Please Stand By: Stacia Yeapanis + Readymade (Baang & Burne Contemporary, New York), Over and Over Again (BOLT Project Space, Chicago).