OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Matt Phillips

Luxor at Dawn and Bungalow

MATT PHILLIPS expertly wields color, line and texture in mid-sized paintings and smaller works on paper. Drawing a clear parallel between Geometric Abstraction in painting and in quilting, he divides the rectangle into endlessly-surprising, smaller shapes. He renders the repeated triangles, rectangular bars, half circles and curved lines in varying colors with repetitive, overlapping brushstrokes, balancing the importance of each mark with the overall composition. Matt earned a BA in Art/Art History from Hampshire College (Amherst, Massachusetts) in 2001 and an MFA in Painting from Boston University in 2007. He was a McDowell Colony fellow in February 2016 and has had solo exhibitions at Cerasoli Gallery (Los Angeles, 2009), Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects (New York, 2013 and 2016), Branch Gallery (North Adams, Massachusetts, 2013), Kate Alkarni Gallery (Seattle, 2013) and the University of Maine Museum of Art (Bangor, 2014). His work was recently included in Summerzcool: A Group Exhibition at David Shelton Gallery in Houston. In September 2016, his work will be included in a three-person show, also featuring the work of Austin Eddy and Benjamin Edminston, at Charlotte Fogh Gallery in Denmark and in October 2016, his solo show Yard Sale will open at Devening Projects in Chicago. Matt is a professor of art at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and lives in Brooklyn.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your recent paintings evoke quilts, especially the Gee’s Bend Quilts, which are often asymmetrical and slightly irregular. Are these an influence for you?

Matt Phillips: The Quilts of Gee’s Bend have been very important to my relationship with painting. They share so many affinities with geometric abstraction and synthetic cubism. I love the spontaneity of the quilts’ imagery and the resourcefulness of the artists. Quilts and textiles teeter on the edge between image and object. Many of the Gee’s Bends quilts have such an incredible and varied physical surface found in well worn clothing and old denim. It is a kind of imagery that is generated by the exchange between the body and a swatch of fabric—a process not unlike the act of painting. I am also interested in how, as a sculptural object, fabric gives form to some of the more invisible forces of the world such as gravity.

Slow Dance (for E.E.)
Pigment and Silica on Linen
58.5" x 48"

OPP: I’ve noticed quite a few contemporary painters referencing both quilting and weaving in the last few years. What’s really interesting about abstraction in these textile forms is that it grows directly out of the process. In traditional quilting, one cuts just squares and rectangles from different fabrics and rearranges them using the grid to make other shapes. It’s a process of building up into a rectangle, but the rectangle doesn’t exist at the beginning. Painting, on the other hand, seems to be partly about dividing up the clearly defined rectangle. Your thoughts?

MP: I feel like the way that I approach my paintings has certain similarities with the process you just described. The painted image ultimately has to exist within the edges delineated by the support. In much of my recent work, though, the pictures don’t entirely fill the rectangle. Instead, the image form either extends towards or recoils from the edge of the canvas, sometimes both at once.

Pigment and Silica on Linen
58.5" x 48"

OPP: Can you talk about the texture within your fields of color? It reminds me of coloring a large expanse of space with a very fine-tipped marker. The hand is really present. Is this effect something you sought to create or a happy accident that emerged from your process?

MP: This texture comes primarily from the paint that I use which is made by dispersing raw pigment into a silica binder. Making my own paint naturally creates inconsistencies in the opacity and transparency of the color. I also paint on a course linen using small brushes. The result is that the viewer can see many discreet passages of the brush within the larger flat areas of color. The place where two marks overlap create a darker seam that is slightly more opaque. Lately, I have been really interested in how this process creates a secondary illusionistic space within my paintings. It appears almost as if someone took the completed painting, crumpled it up, and then tried their best to flatten it back out. I remember turning in a lot of homework in a similar condition as a younger child.

Silica and Pigment on Linen
24" x 20"

OPP: In 2015, you translated Belay (2013) into a ceramic tile mosaic called Ascent. This translation really highlights the texture in your paintings in a new way. Did you execute the mosaic yourself or just lend the design? How do you feel about the translation after the fact?

MP: This work was a commission that I received from the New York City Public Art for Public Schools Program and installed in PS106, an elementary school in the Bronx. I collaborated with a great mosaic artist name Stephen Miotto. We worked together to find a way to translate some of the material issues I just described into tile. It was a great back and forth process as we tried to use hard pieces of ceramic tile to describe the way that wet paint looks. The school itself is designed in such a way that the youngest children are on the ground floor and the oldest children are on the third floor of the building. I wanted to try and make an image that somehow marked the student’s process of vertically climbing through the school as they learn and advance through the different grades. I also like that the work, like a ruler, consists of regular parallel stripes. My hope is that the students actually use these line as a tool to measure how they grow taller while attending the school.

Ceramic Tile Mosaic
14' x 8'

OPP: I’ve noticed a few recurring compositional motifs. House of Hands (2013), The Well at the Watering Hole (2014), Campfire by the Comfort Inn (2015) and Arboretum (2015) all have a figure-ground relationship, while simultaneously reading as pieced quilts. I see stacked boxes, stairs, mountains or buildings against a backdrop of blue sky. Can you talk about repetition of compositions and forms in your work from a process point of view?

MP: A lot of my works are built upon similar compositional structures or divisions of the rectangle. I like the idea that two things can have a similar point of origin but end up having two totally different conclusions. Those works you mention present the viewer with architectural forms. I think that such archetypal forms are a way I try and entice a deeper relationship to the picture on the part of the viewer—to get one’s eyes to pull their body through the picture plane.

Pigment and Silica on Linen
58.5" x 48"

OPP: What’s your experience like when painting these works with similar origin points? Do you long to paint that form again or does it surprise you?

MP: It really happens both ways. Sometimes I make a painting and then later feel compelled to revisit it through successive pieces. For example, I may want to see the picture at a different scale, or develop a new idea about light or color in relation to the original image. At other times though, I will just be following a painting wherever it takes me and I’ll end up finding out that there is some unfinished business with regard to a certain form or motif. The four paintings that you just mentioned were made over two years. There were times when each one of those paintings had drifted into really different territory. The final four works ultimately returned to this related motif of stacked blocks, yet each one has its own distinct and winding path to this shared commonality - I think this gives each painting its own unique voice and story.

To see more of Matt's work, please visit paintingpaintings.com.

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

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews 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 Aaron McIntosh

The Bear

Through the lens of his “own complicated narrative as a nerdy Appalachian queer guy,” artist AARON MCINTOSH examines desire and the role mass-media images and text play in influencing our sexual identities. Combining sculpture, drawing, text and textiles, he references the historically gendered connotations of quilting and employs piecework as a metaphor to address identity construction. Aaron received his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. His numerous solo exhibitions include shows at Quirk Gallery Vault (2011) and Russell/Projects Gallery (2010) in Richmond, Virginia. Most recently, Aaron’s work was included in Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community (2014) at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York. His essay "Parallel Closets,” published in the April 2014 edition of The Brooklyn Rail, addresses the twin pursuits of queering craft and crafting queerness. Aaron lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: I've read in another interview that your grandmothers were both skilled quilters. Did they teach you when you were a child?

Aaron McIntosh: My grandmothers actually didn’t teach me to quilt or sew. But they were always piecing, making quilts for family members, dragging out their scraps and in-process quilts and showing these things to us grandkids. I begged my mom to teach me to sew when I was nine, and she finally relented and showed me how to hand stitch. When I was 12, I taught myself to use the sewing machine, and off I went. I made lots of little quilts, clothes for dolls and for myself. I would show these things to my grandmothers. They were impressed and offered me sewing tips sometimes. Mostly though, I think they and everyone else expected me to grow out of this “phase.”

from Fragments

OPP: Why is quilting as a medium so well-suited for exploring "how stereotypes of sexual emotions, experiences, and identities are propagated in mass-produced images and print material, and in turn, how these images and text shape our own identities (from artist's statement)? Could you talk about the historical quilt patterns you reference in Big Little Men (2010), Bedroom Buddies (2010) and your 2013 solo exhibition Patterns?

AM: The quilt is an excellent platform for my content precisely because of the family connection and because it is a medium with multivalent trajectories. Whether personal or communal, minimal or maximal, staid or kitschy, high or low, quilts are flexible, open objects that are full of possibility. Piecework itself can be traditional, rigid or structured, but it can also be loose, intuitive, unhinged. Identity is analogous to crafting: it’s something we work on, obsess over, tend to with care. So I’ve chosen this patchwork medium to unload a lot of disparate thoughts about my identities: queer, Appalachian, textile nerd, academic, hopeless romantic, stray son, feminist, artist.

I am simultaneously deconstructing the quilt and my identity. On one hand, I am stripping away the quaint, Americana charm-factory status from the quilt, peeling back its cultural layers and infusing the medium with the realities of what happens beneath quilts: desire, sex, death and birth. On the other hand, I am enshrining that domestic decorative affinity as another burdened facet of gay male identity, a psychological sub-bottom to hyper-masculinity’s top. I use traditional quilt patterns such as Double Wedding Ring, Chain Links and an obscure one named Daddy Hex to further blur and complicate this relationship of parallel concerns.

In a recent series titled Fragments, I address this disjointed, scrappy, unfinished nature of identity. One work, Fragment #3: Roses are Red, is made by piecing a traditional quilt pattern called Roses are Red into an image of a heaving jock stud from a gay erotica magazine. The patchwork fabrics belonged to my grandmother, and the digital textile print is an enlarged, scanned copy of a cover of FirstHand magazine from the 1990s. Initially, I picked this blocky quilt pattern from my grandmother's collection because it could partially mask the cover model’s face—a direct nod to online cruising culture in which some men blur out their faces, focusing instead on their bodies. Deliberately using feminized quilt squares to dominate the figure reveals my hesitancy around body image, appropriate sexiness and gay male objectification. In the same way that this gay, masculine body is out of reach for a fag like me, so too is a fulfilling relationship with my family and their traditions. Both are just tantalizingly out of reach. So in this very literal way, I am forcing my queer desire to intersect my craft heritage and creating a space for what is in between.

Captive Heart Boyfriend

OPP: You've used gay and straight romance novels as a material in numerous ways since you were an undergrad. What first drew you to this material?

AM: Reading has always informed who I am, shaped my desire and sense of self, so it’s no wonder that I turn to printed text as a material. When I first turned my eye to the thrift store heaps of discarded romance novels, I was searching for a more evocative material than the masculinized plaids and men’s pants I had been using in quilts. I initially chose this material for aesthetic reasons—the pattern of text and yellowed pages—and because the novels were feminized objects that represent heterosexuality.

But after receiving several gay erotic novels as gifts, my relationship to the romance novel began to shift. Romance novels intended for straight women and those for gay men are radically different. Romance novels written for women tend to be drawn-out narratives with more focus on all the details leading up to the sexual act; entire pages may describe a mere glance. Gay novels, on the other hand, are typically printed in large type and double-spaced for quick reading. They have horribly loose narratives and a sex scene every couple of pages. I was fascinated by the simultaneous material resemblance and subject opposition. I played with juxtaposing the straight and gay romance novels to highlight their differences and their commonalities.

Notes for Future Romance(s) (detail)
168" x 94"
Straight romance novels fused to cotton and coded with highlighters, markers, pencil, pen & ink; drawings in watercolor, color pencil, stickers, enamel paint pen, acrylic medium, hair

How has your use of these cultural artifacts changed over time?

AM: I was entirely critical of them as reading material for the first several years. But then I decided to seriously read a few and give myself over to the possibility of a romance novel fantasy. I read five novels and was surprised to find my own stories in these novels. I became really intrigued by the small markings, repetitive cursive name writings and underlining by previous readers. I was inspired to start notating the novels, recording my own experiences. I changed (i.e. queered) the text by eliminating female pronouns and devised a coding system for repetitive motifs. I pieced these coded pages together with glue and they became the substrates for many works, including the large Notes for Future Romance(s), Boyfriends Series and Island.

I was drawn more and more to the materiality of sexual identity and began to use printed erotica and eventually porn. This widening spectrum of desire-bound material had one unifying quality: the intended reading space is a domestic setting. The home is the most private space to escape from workaday drudgery into romantic dreaminess or sexual fantasy. These fantasies take flight from the couch or bed. I wanted to make a functional object about reading and taking in desire. The Couch is a very grandmotherly couch covered in hundreds of racy pages. The original novel pages were scanned and digitally printed on fabric, so the couch is wholly functional. When a viewer steps closer, the homey look of patchwork shifts into a barrage of homoerotic titles, colorful straight novel couples, illustrated gay men en flagrante and text from both straight and gay sources. While some images and titles might be aggressive or oversexualized on their own, they are dulled by the conflation of so many disparate desire-driven images and text. As a visitor to my studio pointed out: “There’s something for everyone here!” The Couch has no hierarchy or dominant sexuality. It charts the known and unknown territories of my personal desire, which has been informed by a variety of gendered and sexual experiences.

Chronicles of Cruising (detail)

OPP: Could you talk specifically about the notion of erasure and absence as it is used in many of your works, including Romance Series (2006), Boyfriends Series (2009-2010), Chronicles of Cruising and NSA Boyfriends (both 2010)?

AM: Absence in my works speaks to both the voyeurism and loneliness that can accompany desire. Responding to loneliness and the lack of stable romantic relationships in my personal life, I created a series of larger-than-life boyfriends appropriated from romance novels. The flimsy, cut-paper men in Boyfriends Series are attempts to fill the voids of unattainable love; they are the stand-ins for boyfriends I cannot attain in real life. These boyfriends are “stolen” from their female counterparts in the romance novel covers, but the work is not a statement about removing women. I’m simply calling into question the heteronormativity of these couples and pointing out that straight men are just as desirable to queer men as they are to women. The removed men are made vulnerable and their sexual identity suspect. In eliminating one partner from these cover relationships, I am choosing to highlight what is absent rather than present.

Chronicles of Cruising is a collection of 365—I made one everyday in 2011—paper cut-outs of attractive guys from desire-based, print sources. Each guy is carefully removed from his respective partner, isolated on card stock, and then cataloged by month. Each man carries the traces of his fractured story in his clothing, accoutrement and posture, as well as the absent partner’s removed body silhouette. Such removal creates an overriding sense of loneliness in this set of new bachelors. The act of cruising—taking in quick, furtive glances of other bodies with no specific intention—is echoed in this queer reversal of the male gaze. Men become the objects of scrutiny, and the obsessive nature of desire itself is splayed open, rendered cold, mundane and creepy in the archival act of clipping.

Forest Frolic is my most recent work to take on absence. Two cavorting male figures have been removed entirely from an erotic illustration, The remaining scene is enlarged, printed on cotton and then quilted. This is the first work to completely remove all figures. Suggestive of the dangers of being sexually overt as a queer person in rural spaces, this quilt contains as much personal fantasy as anonymous, pervasive fear.

Weeds: Dandelion

OPP: Untended (2013) was a two-person exhibition with Jesse Harrod. Could you talk about the introduction of nature metaphors into this new work?

AM: The nature-based themes are an entirely new move in my practice, but they have been rising to the top for some time. The exhibition was the impetus for new ideas of embedding queerness into representations of nature. The title of the show is a reference to unmanaged gardens and the surprising, perhaps unwanted, growth that occurs when nature is allowed to freely form itself.

The Bear is a very family-personal work. Like The Couch, this work attempts to reach across generational divides through a language of form, but difference and unease are manifest in the materiality. In my remake of this taxidermy heirloom, the bear has been "freed" from his constraint as a legendary, family hunting trophy. Covered in shredded, gay pornographic "fur," he is the subaltern of my own romantic forays, sexual legends and hunted desire.

The Bear is surrounded by Weeds in an installation mocking "natural habitat.” The weeds—Briars, Pigweed, Broadleaf Plantain—are scourges to the home gardener. I draw a covert connection between these pernicious, unwanted plants and my own anxious efflorescence as a queer person in a tradition-steeped culture. My copies of disregarded, local plants are made strange by their patchwork skins of vintage fabrics and printed, gay erotica. In contrast to most of my other work, the text and images are embedded into the form so tightly that only fragments can be read, favoring subtle meaning over easy decoding.

To view more of Aaron's work, please visit aaronmcintosh.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage 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.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Stephanie Patton

Vinyl, batting, muslin
55" x 86" x 17"
Photo credit: Mike Smith

Multimedia artist STEPHANIE PATTON uses humor, word play and an attention to materiality to address the universal human experiences of suffering, comfort and healing in her quilted sculptures, videos and installations. Stephanie is represented by Arthur Roger Gallery and is a member of the artist-run collective The Front, both in New Orleans. Her numerous solo exhibitions include Private Practice (2013) and Diffuse (2010) at Arthur Roger Gallery, as well as Upkeep (2012) and General Hospital (2011) at The Front. In 2013, her work was included in group exhibitions at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University (Malibu, California), Biggin Gallery, Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama), Vox Populi (Philadelphia) and Acadiana Center for the Arts (Lafayette, Louisiana). Stephanie lives and works in Lafayette, Louisiana.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Could you talk about the relationship between pain, healing and humor in your work?

Stephanie Patton: Healing takes many forms, both physically and emotionally. Painful experiences can lead to creative expression and are often the impetus behind some of the most engaging work. What source material would a stand-up comedian have if it weren't for strange life experiences and painful moments?

I believe the same is true for many visual artists, musicians and performers. There have been many instances in my own work when I was drawn to an idea, material or image for no particular reason. Then later the relevance became clear to me. One example is Life Saver. In 2006, while in residency at the Vermont Studio Center, I kept envisioning a grid-like pattern of multiple inner tubes covered in white vinyl lying on the floor. I wasn't quite sure why this image kept entering my mind. I later realized that this was in fact my own reaction to Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that it had caused here in Louisiana. This idea was not completely resolved until 2008, when I decided to suspend the inner tubes from the ceiling instead of placing them on the floor. Instead of white vinyl, I used mattress quilting—a material that I continue to use today—for the first time because of its multiple references.

I have heard that an artist has one or two great ideas in a lifetime, and the core of my work is based on striving to empathize with and understand those afflicted with physical and mental health issues. Certainly, we are in a day and age in which mental health is a growing concern, and it is luckily not as taboo as it was in the past. I am particularly interested in how physical ailments often manifest as extreme stress and/or traumatic emotional states and vice versa. I strive to illustrate connections between physical and emotional states in my work. This is especially the case in the white vinyl pieces that I have made in recent years.

Life Saver
Mattress quilting, inner tube
48" (diameter) x 15"

OPP: The patterns in pieces like Strength, Valor and Meeting in your 2013 exhibition Private Practice evoke the raked patterns in Zen gardens, and I see a connection between the handwork of quilting and the contemplative state associated with the Zen garden. Is this a visual reference for you?

SP: Zen gardens were not a direct reference for me, but I see the visual and conceptual connection. In researching visual symbols relating to the emotions, I was very drawn to the Adinkra symbols of West Africa. These symbols are very simple, yet visually powerful and could easily translate into the material of vinyl that I continue to explore. The emotions they represent are conceptually appropriate for what I was trying to convey in Private Practice. Some of the white vinyl pieces such as Strength and Valor were taken directly from the Adrinkra symbols.
OPP: I imagine from the shapes of these pieces that quilting vinyl is unwieldy and difficult. What is it like to work with this material? When did you make your first quilted piece?
SP: Yes, working with vinyl is quite a challenge. I have often described it as "wrestling alligators"!  Years ago, I first used quilted fabric pieces for various installations. Satin was my fabric of choice. I made quilted satin walls for my 1996 thesis show while I was a while a graduate student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. These quilted walls lined a lingerie showroom which showcased fantasy lingerie products such as the Heart Filter™ and the Anxiety Guard™ by Renella®. In 2004, I used quilted satin to reconstruct the interior of a minivan for a project entitled Custom Built. Although I was still very interested in the idea of padding or cushions, I later discovered that vinyl was a more appropriate choice both in terms of its physical properties and its conceptual impact. Certainly the idea of padded walls comes into play. For me, these pieces allude to protective environments whether that is a reference to mental health and/or any soft, protective, physically-comforting space. My first stuffed, white vinyl piece, Protection (2008), hung flat against the wall. In 2011, I made Center Piece, which was more of a relief sculpture that pulled away from the wall. Today they continue to take various forms. I am interested in pushing the materials in ways that I have not yet encountered.

Private Practice
Installation view
Photo credit: Mike Smith

OPP: Your videos Conquer (2013), Heal (2011) and Diffuse (2008) are embodied metaphors for emotional experiences that use language as a jumping off point. I also see a relationship to the trajectory of feminist performance art. Are you influenced by pioneers like Martha Rosler, Janine Antoni, Hannah Wilke and Marina Abromovic? If not, what has influenced you?
SP: Although I highly regard all of these amazing pioneers and their great contributions to performance art, I cannot say that I was directly influenced by them. I consider my main influences to have come form various musical personas such as Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. I've also been inspired by female comedic players such as former members of the cast of Saturday Night Live including Gilda Radner, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and Amy Poeler. I LOVE the SNL men as well! I've been making videos since 1995 and had the opportunity to study various types of performance in NYC between 2000-2002 at the Upright Citizens Brigade, Gothum Writers Workshop and the New School. This amazing experience has informed my more recent video work.
Funny enough, another major source of inspiration for me was actually the mail order catalogs that my grandmother kept next to her recliner, such as Old Pueblo Traders and Dr. Leonard's. I grew up looking at these catalogs when I was bored as a child visiting her in the country. The gadgets in these catalogs inspired some of my earliest work, as in the products that I made for the lingerie showroom that I mentioned. They also led me to the idioms that I have used in my video work including "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" and "walking on eggshells.”

17 minutes 31 seconds

OPP: Do you have a favorite piece of your own work? Is it the same as the piece you consider to be most successful?

SP: That’s a hard one! I am very attached to the white vinyl pieces at the moment. One of my favorites is Center Piece because of its visual simplicity and the discoveries that it has led me to. This piece was in fact the springboard for all of the white vinyl pieces that I am continuing to make today. A few of my other favorites are my video Diffuse and the sculptural works, Life Saver and Bronze SAS Shoes. Although it is hard for me to judge which of these would be representations of my best work, I do feel that Diffuse is one of my most successful videos. The others that I mentioned are successful to me in the sense that they are all very true to my visual and conceptual intent.

OPP: You mentioned Renella as part of your MFA work. She’s your alter ego, a country singer, who, when asked in an interview what was inspiring about her trip to the Palace of Versailles, responded, "It's all about being fancy." She doesn't appear anywhere on your artist website, but I discovered her on your Vimeo page and found that she has her own Facebook page. It looks like she's had numerous public appearances in and out of the art world. Does she still perform? How does this character relate to your more recent sculptural and video work?
SP: Renella is actually taking a well-deserved nap at the moment. . . she’s a character that I began to develop in 1992 when I did a performance of a fictitious wedding with fellow artist, Jack Rivas. I needed a name for the bride and Renella Rose Champagne was born! She married Junior Rivas on April 17, 1992. This was a huge collaboration for me. It involved an eight-month engagement, many traditional parties and bridal events along the way, and the wedding itself was attended by 150 guests. I have pursued several major projects and have done many performances in and out of the art world as this character including the lingerie showroom I mentioned.

In 2005, I chose to devote my creative energy to my multidisciplinary studio work. Although Renella is not visually present in the current work, there is a sense of her ongoing spirit throughout my sculptural and video work. I am certain that she will find her way more directly into my work again someday. Renella has a way of making an appearance when least expected!

To see more of Stephanie's work, please visit stephaniepatton.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 her cross-stitch embroideries, remix video and collage installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibition I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) just closed, and she is currently preparing for another solo exhibition titled Everything You Need is Already Here (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Jimmy McBride

M1 V2 (The Crab Nebula)
87 inches x 78 inches

OtherPeoplesPixels: Tell me more about your fantastical persona for your quilted wall pieces. You are a space trucker traveling back and forth from rock to rock delivering salt and vinegar who has a lot of time on your hands prompting you to download a grandma program that has taught you how to quilt—do you create all of your work from the perspective of this persona?

Jimmy McBride: Yes, all of the quilts are theoretically from the perspective of the space trucker.  Early on there was no story to go with the quilts, but they're a lot of mindless labor to make and I have a very fertile imagination and love of science fiction. Also, at the time I started making the quilts I had taken a break from "making art" and just wanted to try doing something I had never done before. One thing led to another and a new artistic practice was born. After a while I developed the space trucker as a way to contextualize the quilts and put them in a framework that would make sense. With this more conceptual take on quilt making I also wanted bring it more into the realm of "high art" rather than a purely craft process. 

OPP: Do you go by your real name, Jimmy McBride, while “in character”?

JM: There's a lot of the story that's still in my head, including the trucker’s name and how he lives, where he comes from, but I haven't figured out how to get that information out. Right now people just assume that Jimmy McBride is the name of the space trucker.

OPP: Your space trucker persona makes me wonder what kind of art you made while growing up. Did you have imaginary friends as a child? Or perhaps a science fiction-inspired imagination?

JM: All of the above. There was a special effects TV show on when I was a kid called "Movie Magic," and the very first thing I wanted to be was a special effects makeup artist. Despite growing up in the suburbs, my house was on a lot that included a large wooded backyard with a creek running through it. I was an only child with not many friends and I would run around the woods all day making up epic tales of gods and monsters. I made a lot of paper mache sculptures and watched a lot of Star Wars and Star Trek.

OPP: How does the genre of science fiction influence your work, generally?

JM: I'd say its the basis for my work. Initially most of my influences came from movies and TV: Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Aliens, Bladerunner, 2001, Dune, Mad Max, Waterworld, and Firefly. Recently, I've started reading a lot of science fiction art and concept on the internet: Assimov, Stross, Gibson, Dick, Le Guin, Vinge, and Herbert, for example. A couple of years ago I started doing a lot of research on pirates as well which has influenced the story. I've found that the more that I take in from as many different influences as possible makes the story I tell through my work that much better and more complex.

Jet in the Carina Nebula
73 inches x 89 inches

OPP: You keep a process/research blog that is accessible from your website. How do you approach selecting the source images you share on your blog?

JM: The idea for the blog is to give a "behind the scenes" look at what I do. I like to keep my site as streamlined as possible including the story of the space trucker and keeping everything conceptually sound and coherent. With the blog, I get to show how things are going in the studio, what's influencing certain pieces, showing how things come together and explaining certain technical aspects of how I actually construct the quilts.  As with the main site, I try to keep the images oriented towards the "how and why" of making the quilts and not too much extraneous info like what I had for lunch. I do stray every once in a while, but mostly it's just where I get my material, how I make the patterns, etc.

OPP: Seeing some your preliminary color and fabric charts and seeing the quilts in-progress emphasizes how involved and time-consuming each piece is. How do you select the fabric you quilt?

JM: All of the fabric for the quilt tops are from second hand stores. I especially like this aspect of the quilts both for practical and conceptual reasons. Quilts originally were made from clothes that were worn out or things that were going to be discarded, so I like the nod towards the history of quilt making, but also there aren't really many fabric stores on the space truckers route so he has to use any fabric he can get his hands on. The fabric is mostly button down shirts. I try and match the colors of the shirts to the images as best I can.  After working with this material for so long, I've found that small plaids and patterns give me the best matching capabilities.

The Milky Way Galaxy V2
60 inches x 60 inches

OPP: Are you self-taught or did you have a human equivalent to your persona’s “grandma program” to instruct you in sewing and quilting?

JM: I am a completely self taught quilter.  My mom taught me how to do a little sewing when I was young and I knew my way around a sewing machine when I began, but I basically knew nothing about quilting. Ironically, I learned a lot about the tricks of the trade of quilting by watching YouTube videos.

OPP: You’ve recently received a $25,000 AOL’s 25 for 25 Grant and had a show at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo that traveled to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Bergen (Norway)—congratulations. Tell me a little about the impact your increased visibility has had on your artmaking.

JM: Thanks! The grant was a watershed and complete surprise. I did apply for it, but thought it was a shot in the dark. The grant allowed me to take a break from working a day job for a while and just focus on making art. It's really been great getting my stuff out into the world, having people see it, and giving me feedback. At the end of the day though, it hasn't really altered my artmaking; it's still me with some old shirts and my sewing machine.

OPP: What are you working on now?

JM: Currently I'm working on a quilt based off of an image of M83. M83, or Messier 83, is the technical name of the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy which is a barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Hydra. Charles Messier was a French astronomer that first catalogued permanent deep space objects, giving them numbers to differentiate between stationary objects and moving ones, like comets. After that I'm going to focus on more of the Sci-Fi storytelling quilts, and less on direct representation of images of space.

To view more of Jimmy McBride’s work visit jimmymcbride.com.