OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Christos Pantieras

Am I Worth It?, 2017. Detail of installation.

CHRISTOS PANTIERAS transforms digital communication—emails, text messages, and chat conversations from gay hook-up apps—into tangible sculpture through the very slow processes of casting, carving and embossing. He gives weight  to these words, often typed casually and quickly, and forces the viewer to slow down in considering the lasting effects of all communication on the receiver. Christos earned his BFA at University of Ottawa in 1996 and went on to earn his MFA at York University, Toronto in 2015. Christos has exhibited widely throughout Quebec and Ontario and recently received a Municipal Grant from the City of Ottawa. His solo show Am I Worth It? is on view at Circa-Art Actuel in Montreal through September 9, 2017 and will be shown again at the Ottawa School of Art in January 2018. He has upcoming solo exhibitions in October 2017 at Art-Cite in Windsor, Ontario and at La Madison de la Culture, Gatineau, Quebec in Summer 2018. Christos lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do your material and process choices—cast concrete letters, carved wax and embossed text on various surfaces—support your conceptual interests?

Chris Pantieras: Each choice enhances what I'm communicating in my work. For example, the carved wax bricks of I miss talking to you feature a letter of regret that I received six months after a former partner of mine took off. I used wax recycled from candles people lit in my local church and that are never left to fully burn. I melt down these candle fragments and cure them into new forms, in this case the cast bricks. These bricks, if not physically heavy, doubtless carry the psychic weight of their earlier life as containers of hopes, dreams and contemplation. The final installation took the form of a wall which represents the barrier that was built between myself and my former partner.

Concrete, on the other hand, is bland and references the city. How often does one stop to admire a concrete building? We're surrounded by it, and it is just part of the every day. This plays into how language used on gay hook-up apps has become a non-event. The coded words, abbreviations and statements are a very normal and familiar method of communicating with each other. Additionally, bringing online text offline and making it tangible addresses the materiality of words. To make my letters, I need an aggregate—silica sand in this instance—to to bind the cement together. As a parallel, the individual cast letters represent the aggregate. When they're placed next to each other, they bind together and form a word.

I miss talking to you, 2012-2013. 1024 bricks cast in wax procured from a local church, carved text sourced from an email. 533cm x 3 cm x 243 cm

OPP: What about the processes?

CP: My processes are slow and time consuming on purpose, and I thoroughly enjoy the physicality involved in creating most of my work. For me, it's very important to record my presence, and I do this through repetitive acts and accumulation. The text is sourced from a screen; it lacks warmth. Through my methods, I add the human presence. A great example of this is the embossed text in the work Impress Me. Each piece of paper features one email that has been hammered into the surface using old fashioned, metal printing rods. As the viewer reads the papers from left to right, the text becomes more and more illegible as the embossing rips the paper. The viewer focuses less on what is written and more on the transformed material

Impress Me (Detail) 2005-2009. Email text hammered on to paper, six custom reading tables. 11 x 15 in (each paper)

OPP: Most of the text you render through these slow processes relates to dating and lost relationships. Is this work more about the value of slowing down the process of communicating or about the slowness of processing what’s been said after it’s been said?

CP: This is a great question. Firstly, it's important to know a little about the source of the various narratives and where the digital communication comes from. The text I use is either from emails, text messages or interactions on dating/hook-up apps. It is taken directly from my own experiences, encounters and lost/potential relationships. I'm also old enough to remember a time when online dating was very new, perceived as very risky, but was also extremely exciting. Going home to log-in, get online, and check my email was a rush. What people wrote had weight since communicating wasn't as fast and immediate as it is today. Now there's no offline; we're always online. Connecting and interacting with new people is extremely easy, and perhaps that interaction holds less value than it used to.

So, to answer your question, it can be both. My use of analog tools and repetitive processes highlights the contrast between the lack of effort required in my online relationships with the huge amount of commitment and investment it requires of me to make the work. The more recent work uses the language of immediacy from gay hook-up apps, but most of the other pieces were created from emails or text messages that I catalogued and held on to for years. This is an example of how I am processing what's been said, however the way the text will be used manifests later. I kept one email almost ten years before it took physical form. I still have several samples of communication archived in my sketchbooks that may or may not become new work.

GLEN, 2009. Lightjet Print. 26 x 47 inches

OPP: Your work isn’t just about communication between romantically-engaged individuals. Who Sits Here? (2009) explores the way adolescents communicated via writing inside desk drawers before the ubiquity of handheld digital devices. What does this series reveal about communal communication spaces?

CP: It reveals that individuals can be as candid as they want to be without much concern for accountability. The school desk drawer of yesterday mirrors the forums of today. We contribute, we take it in, we respond. Except for the fact that an identity, whether fictional or real, is attached to the author in today's communication spaces, they are no different in terms of what we communicate and how we respond today. The language is still honest, bare and risky. I love the focus on human presence in the doodles, the various penmanship styles and the carved surfaces. The desk drawers are amazing objects.

Tread Lightly, 2015. Concrete, sourced text message. Dimensions variable.

OPP: The cast concrete letter works—HEY. HORNY. GRRRR. (2015), Tread Lightly (2015) and Say What You Mean (2014)—reference alphabet soup and colored alphabet fridge magnets. Each installation uses these letters in a different way, but in each the experience of reading is slowed down for the viewer. How does the viewer’s experience of the various installation of these letters relate to dating in the digital era?

CP: Although my work specifically references my own encounters, I want it to be accessible and relatable to everyone. Yes, they're about my experiences as a gay male, but there's something universal about online dating that goes beyond any limits of sexual preference and orientation. You'll interact with someone who will be kind, respectful and genuine just as easily as someone who is direct, dismissive and crass. I enjoy engaging with people about my work and taking the time to explain where it comes from because it's great to hear them make connections to their own lives and their own experiences. They begin to tell me their stories about dating in the digital era, and I value that vulnerability.

HEY. HORNY. GRRRR. was featured in the Installation Zone at the Artist Project in Toronto in 2015. There were thousands of people there on opening night. It was amazing to see who related to the piece right away and who needed some time. Any gay male that walked by knew exactly what this was and where the language came from. They were not fazed in the least and felt that they were reading their own messages. The complete opposite reaction came from everyone else. They had no idea what they were reading until I explained it to them. Reactions ranged from disbelief about the direct or rude language to, once again, making personal connections and having conversations with me about their own online interactions.

HEY. HORNY. GRRRR. 2015. Concrete, buckets, sourced text from hook-up apps. Detail.

OPP: Your most recent installation Am I Worth It? (2017) is currently on view through September 9, 2017 at Circa Art-Actuel in Montreal, Quebec. I believe this is the first installations in which visitors can walk on the letters. Is that correct?

CP: That is correct. I wanted visitors to have a more direct engagement with my work. By putting them in a position where they have to walk on the art in order to take it in, I get to offer a different experience for each visitor.

Am I Worth It? 2017. Sourced text message, letters cast in concrete, silica sand, subfloor. Dimensions Variable

OPP: How does the title relate to the raised text in this floor of letters?

CP: The title Am I Worth It? is answered by the raised text that spells out the statement: I'm not willing to make the effort. Like many of my pieces before, the text is sourced from a relationship that had a lot of potential. But he wasn't willing to invest in it since it was long-distance, and I was moving even further away to complete my MFA. The sentence plays off the fact that this installation took a lot of personal commitment to complete. The floor is tiled with thousands of cast-concrete letters laid out like a giant word search. I chose to reveal the statement intermittently, pushing up from the jumble of letters, almost like they're trying to make themselves be noticed, or conversely, about to be buried.

To see more of Christos' work, please visit christospantieras.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), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her solo show Sacred Secular is on view through October 4, 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Scott Hazard

Drop, Stone, Trace. Sculpture/Maple, Paper, Text. 15" X 15" x 8"

Informed by garden design and Zen Buddhism, SCOTT HAZARD's layered, paper sculptures and installations offer both mental and physical space for the viewer to find respite or refuge. He carefully tears crisp, white sheets of paper, then spreads them out, expanding two-dimensional space into three-dimensional space. These staggered papers evoke drifts of snow and rolling hills, punctuated by cultivated paths of rubber-stamped text meandering through empty space. Scott studied Landscape Architecture (1996) at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and earned a MFA (2005) at the University of Florida. His most recent solo show was Memory Gardens (2015) at Adah Rose Gallery (Washington DC), where he is represented. His work is also available from Simon Breitbard Fine Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been featured in a number of magazines and online publications, including The WILD Magazine, Glamcult, BOOOOOOOM, Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, and Colossal. In 2012, he was awarded an Artist Fellowship in Visual Arts from the North Carolina Arts Council. Scott is  and  Scott lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You studied Landscape Architecture before earning your MFA. How does this background inform your scuptures?

Scott Hazard:
Most of the pieces I create serve as vessels for gardens or garden-like spaces. They are places intended to be inhabited or explored, and they are intentionally carved out and/or constructed out of a larger environment or context, yet incorporate and reveal aspects of that context. The origin of the English word garden refers to a sense of enclosure; the oldest use of the word indicated the fending off of wilderness to cultivate a more or less safe haven. My work references some European notions of garden design from the 1700s and 1800s where shaping a space was often about composing and framing a view of an idealized landscape from a particular point in space. There are also important links to Chinese and Japanese traditions in garden design in that the experience of moving through the space is critical to the viewer's perceptions of the garden, and the gardens were often thought of as microcosms of the world.

Sovereign Cloud, Tree and Opening Sky. Sculpture/Photography, 23" X 23" x 8"

OPP: What does the void mean to you? Are the voids in your work more spatial or metaphorical?

SH: I think of the 'void' as the space or context in which every ‘thing’ exists more so than an absence of something. It is a place where experiences can be detached from ideas and assumptions. My thinking about the ‘void’ is rooted largely in Buddhist notions of emptiness. With that, I am focused on creating and articulating intimate spaces which encourage people to delve in and explore.
The voids or openings in my sculptures do work metaphorically in a couple of ways. We use language and images most often to bear down on definitions and concisely articulate what we are trying to convey. A void introduced into this landscape of information works to create a spatial and perceptual opening to allow for a moment of respite from specificity and ideally lead towards a more complete and poetic understanding. Gaston Bachelard touches on this idea in his essay Dialectics of Outside and Inside when he wrote, “language through meaning encloses while poetic expression opens it up.” This respite translates to moments of quiet in a seemingly endless amount of stimulus and information. John Cage and his writings and works on silence are integral to my thinking regarding the void also. He considered silences to be “sacred spaces resonant with creation.” Similarly my work seeks to create a brief break in the din of noise we exist in and allow for a more focused mode of being, if only for a moment.

The reductive perceptual experiences I work to create are also metaphors for the notion that the mind functions in part as a reducer (see Henri Bergson as mentioned by Aldous Huxley in his essay The Doors of Perception, and The Organized Mind, a fantastic book about thinking in an environment of information overload by Daniel J. Levitin.) In this mode the mind is blocking out multitudes of information at any given moment in order to focus on what is at hand or apparently most important/needing attention. I am working to facilitate a diffused space, one that is both inviting and enveloping but using the same information one might be seeking a departure from.

Landscape: Threshole. Sculpture/Photography. 6" X 8.75", 12.5" X 16.25" X 3.75" w/ Frame

OPP: In your series Photo Constructs, you turn photographs into sculptures by adding depth. I think about worm holes and portals to other dimensions when looking at works like Sovereign Cloud, Tree and Opening Sky and Landscape: Threshole. Do you think of them that way? If so, where do they lead?

SH: To some extent, I do want to convey the idea of the spaces in the work as portals to another unknown place. Many of the photo pieces have no terminus within sight to heighten this sensation. There is also the idea that there are many ways a thing can be understood coursing through my work. The spaces or voids in the objects I create are influenced by Zen Buddhist notions of focused attention achieved through meditation and idealized states of mind. By setting up the layers of paper or photographs at intervals in a physical space, I work to create a sensation of simultaneously looking at and through. Each layer in the work is a slightly different iteration of the layers that are immediately adjacent. In this way, each work is composed of many versions of the same thing. A hole is torn in one reality only to reveal another slightly different reality behind the first one. Some pieces, like those you mention above lead to an unknown destination, others are more concerned with creating a space that focuses attention on one portion or aspect of the photo.

These portals also reference the bellows of an early camera, or the space within some optical instruments from the 1700s and 1800s, such as the stereoscope. These spaces within cameras and optical instruments, in addition to their role in making an image, focus the user’s attention by blocking off outside influences to the image being viewed. In this sense the photo pieces function as both image and instrument. Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels and similar pieces are never too far from my mind when thinking through this work.

One Square Foot of a Place to Focus/An Excuse for Staring at the Wall. Sculpture (Maple, paper, text). 11.75" X 11.75"

OPP: Tell us about the introduction of text and the shift away from photographic surfaces in Text Constructs.

SH: Both the image and text based work originated around the same time, but I have concentrated more on the text based work for the past few years. The focused use of text can minimize the visual information in each piece and keep the initial visual reading of the work more concise. The text also allows for a metaphorical and literal reading of the spaces or voids that are formed within each work. The words stamped on the layers of paper encourage a non-linear and haptic reading of the space and text by pulling them in layer by layer, word by word. I love working through the ways the text can engage with the space and enhance a sense of movement, and how that sense of movement can in turn influence the reading of the text. I appreciate a lot of Visual and Concrete Poetry, especially early works from Vito Acconci. The masses of text in my work are often written in second person to speak directly to the viewer. Lately, I have also been working towards incorporating text from used books, mainly books about how humans have engaged (whether through exploration, documentation, utilization or exploitation) with the landscape.

Detail of Endless Sea. Sculpture (Ash wood, paper, text). 10" X 18" X 23"

OPP: Obviously repetition—of language and in the process of tearing—is a big part of your process. Is repetition tedious or relaxing for you? Does meditation play a role in your practice?

SH: Absolutely, repetition is an important part of my process for creating the work. It helps provide the level of detail necessary to pull the viewer into the work and the repeated layering of the paper helps the viewer visually track through and into the work. I don't formally meditate, but the production process for the greatest part is meditative. Each word in the text pieces is typically applied manually with rubber stamps, so the repetitive actions help eliminate outside thoughts and bring about a more mindful, focused mode of attention. I typically work in two to four hour periods due to my schedule, so it’s not too hard to maintain the attention required to consistently apply the text and carefully tear the paper. The repeated text becomes a texture that when read helps purge outside ideas and focus on what is at hand when viewing the work. Ultimately, creating an inviting and meditative space is an important aspect of each piece.

Silent Geography, 2014. Sculpture/Installation. 18 x 24 x 30

OPP: In Silent Geography (2014), you shifted scale tremendously. Your page-sized torn papers became a landscape of snow drifts that are waist-high. I interpret the text as spaces that humans trod. Can you talk about the relationship of the scale of the text versus the paper?

SH: This project was a fantastic opportunity to work with the awesome people from Projective City and the former Mixed Greens gallery as part of their ParisScope collaboration. This site-specific installation consumed the entirety of the floor of the gallery to create an immersive psychosomatic garden. Similar to my wall mounted and smaller sculptures, the format of the project mandated that viewers may not physically enter the space, but can only experience the work from just outside the gallery through a peep-hole. It was very exciting to work at this scale and translate forms, paper and text in a way that could literally envelop a person exploring the space.  The size of the text was large enough so that each person moving through the space could easily see and track the text without needing to significantly disrupt their movement, and small enough to beckon a closer look and resemble a lot of the physical printed matter we interact with. As you note the masses of text could resemble evidence of human impacts caused by people passing through or inhabiting the spare landscape—they also allude to water in terms of how it flows to and collects in low spots, eventually seeping in to the landscape or evaporating.

To see more of Scott's work, please visit scotthazard.net.

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), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (2014) and Witness, an evolving, durational installation at The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017), that could only be viewed via a live broadcast through a Nestcam. Now that the installation is complete, you can watch it via time lapse. Her upcoming solo show Sacred Secular will open in August 2017 at Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Darren Jones

Sword, selfie stick, vinyl text

Artist and art critic DARREN JONES wields words well, cutting deeply and quickly to the point. He employs found text, accompanying imagery and site-specificity to contextualize his pithy, text-based works. Playing with homonyms, anagrams, puns, palindromes and insightful misspellings, he asks us to question the verity of contemporary cultural values espoused by advertising, religion and social media, especially the constant striving for perfection. Darren earned his BFA in 1997 from Central Saint Martins College of Art in London and his MFA in 2009 from Hunter College in New York. His most recent solo exhibitions include A Matter of Life and Dearth (2015) New York and Florida. at Index Art Center in Newark, New Jersey and Thunder Enlightening (2015) at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. In 2016, he was an Artist-in-Residence at CentralTrak at University of Texas, Dallas. He is a regular contributor to Artforum, Artslant, Artcritical, and The Brooklyn Rail. Darren lives and works in New York and Florida.

OtherPeoplesPixels: As a visual artist who works primarily with text and as an art-critic who writes about the visual work of others, do you think there is a difference between visual thinking and textual thinking?

Darren Jones: In my case, increasingly, no. Words are the foremost source with which to foment my reactions to the world, whether in a visual arrangement for an artwork, or on a page for an article or review. In both, the aim is to describe and take a position. In art-making, there may be a greater aesthetic element or a requirement for imagery to expand the context, but the primary task is to utilize words in a manner that most effectively conveys one’s intentions. Writing an article, can be very similar to making a visual artwork. In both, one puts something down, considers it, edits it, walks away from it, comes back to it, tussles with composition, meaning, flow, etc. Writing is art-making.

Photographic print, vinyl text
24" x 36"

OPP: What word would you use to describe the short, pithy statements in your work: aphorism, maxim, proverb, epigram, mantra, affirmation, slogan? Does it matter what we call them?

DJ: Aphorismmaximproverbepigrammantraaffirmationslogan. They are probably best described as amalgams or corrupted, dissected or perhaps alternative-truth versions of your suggestions. Anti-proverbs, anti-mantras, etc. Sometimes it is helpful to regard the darker meaning of a statement, in order to counter the unrealistically and blandly positive.

Sketch for arranged products
Variable dimensions

OPP: I’m particularly interested in Sentencing Begins #1 and #2 from 2014, which remix product names into social commentary masquerading as advertising slogans. The Dawn of a Post-Freedom Era is dripping with sarcasm, while I Am Always Chasing Success is critical, but feels more empathetic to what I would call a primary problem of contemporary life. Can you talk about tone in your text-based works?

DJ: Tone can help to pry open a given or common phrase and tease out lesser considered meanings; while a lack of tone can allow for multiple conclusions. The deployment of tone within a work—wryness, archness, hostility, dubiousness—must be carefully considered because it can tilt the viewer to a particular response. Sometimes that might be the intention, other times less so. Tone then, in text based art, can be thought of as a tool, to enhance the piece or prescribe a characteristic to it, or when withheld, to restrict the artist’s influence on the perceived meaning of the piece.

8' x 5'

Even in your “non text art,” text—namely the title and materials list—is often extremely important to the meaning of the images or sculptures. In Duct (2014), for example, the materials list includes various hormones, proteins and enzymes: water, prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, leucine enkephalin, mucin, lipids, lysozyme, lactoferrin, lipocalin, lacritin, immunoglobulins, glucose, urea, sodium, potassium. But a few photographs—Portrait as a Gargoyle (Castle Gloom) and Self Portrait as a Ghost, both from 2012—operate in a fundamentally different way. They seem more personal, emotional and visceral, as opposed to clever and conceptual. Your thoughts?

DJ: I grew up in Scotland, which has had a direct effect on both elements of my work that you describe. Edinburgh was the center of the Scottish Enlightenment. It's a hub of excellence in education, literature, medicine, science, politics and technology. Therefore, reason, precision of thought and the succinct presentation of ideas are a part of the intellectual legacy and character of Scottish society generally. At the same time it is an unimaginably romantic, otherworldly place, steeped in bloody centuries of mythology and the supernatural. When one grows up surrounded by ancient castles and other built heritage, legends of mythical beasts and mesmerizing ghost stories, the line between immediate reality and the supernatural is porous, both are believable, both exist. To this day, Scotland’s national animal is the Unicorn!

So, I am compelled as an artist by both the incisiveness and minimalism of wit and words, that eject the superfluous, and the enigmatic draw of the unknown, the romantic and the haunted. They have largely remained distinctive threads within my practice. . . although the list of chemicals I mention in Duct (2014), while purely scientific, isn’t so far distant in sound and tone from a fantastical list of ingredients one might see described in a witch’s spell. DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
Rearranged keys on broken computer
11" x 17"

OPP: I’m excited by the simplicity of the phrases and how their placement in certain sites or rendering in certain material adds complexity. Can you talk about site-specificity in works like Deeper Understanding (2008), You Will Find No Answers Here (2008), and Pumping Irony (2013)?

DJ: When words that we expect to see within environments that we have become familiar with are altered in a way that contradicts or tweaks social, religious or cultural standards that we have come to accept through repetition or resignation, they can provide a jolt to the complacencies and complicity we have surrendered to the status quo. Art which is effectively, surgically site-specific—and not merely lazily site-specific—retains great power to jar people out of their tacit acceptance of standard beliefs. In those circumstances we can see the disconnect between repetitive standards and more uncomfortable truths. The works you mention were all to do with opposing the odious righteousness of what we are taught to hope or believe in; computers are great and they work; looking muscular by going to the gym, and never giving up on your fitness goals is the optimum lifestyle choice; and religion has all the moral and spiritual aids you need to handle life’s challenges. It is about the ridiculous concept that failure is not an option. In fact that is correct, because failure is not an option, it’s a necessity.

Chalk on gym motivational board / digital image
5" x 7"

OPP: Can you talk practically about your experience as an art writer? Do you choose what you review and pitch it to the publications you write for or do you receive assignments?

DJ: Usually, it is a case of pitching what I’d like to write about. Sometimes a wider ranging article on a particular subject, an interview with someone in the art world or a review. The privilege of writing for several publications is that they each have their own approaches and aims, so I can tailor pitches and write on a wide array of topics in various formats and lengths.

Digital c print from text intervention
Variable dimensions

OPP: Can you offer any practical advice for new and emerging artists about getting their shows reviewed?

DJ: Offering advice in the art world often isn’t helpful because there is no one way to progress or to achieve one’s aims. Some artists don’t try to get their work reviewed at all, but instead concentrate on the work itself, on making it as effective as it can be. Or an artist might try very hard to get a review by focusing on fostering relationships with as many peers, colleagues and friends in the art world(s) as possible; by nurturing contacts and connections, building and constantly expanding a network, treating the art as a serious product to be promoted, exhibited, discussed and disseminated, and by committing to the business of being an artist. What I can say generally is that success in the art world—whether getting a show, review or making money from the art—depends a great deal on who you know. Those in power in the art world would rather deny this because they want legitimacy for their opinions on what is good and bad. But this is an arrogant aim, because art is utterly subjective. Nobody’s taste is superior to anyone else’s. And so the upper gallery system is built almost entirely on the forced opinion of those with influence, propped up with incomprehensible press releases and social media saturation. It is all very insidious. . . and yet, interesting artists, who say intriguing things, do still gain attention. So persevering is worthwhile.

To see more of Darren's work, please visit darrenjonesart.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). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Kyle Herrington

Directions to Nowhere
Mixed media

KYLE HERRINGTON creates humorously profound sculptures, cut-paper works and text-based paintings. Using the vastness of space as a symbolic background for more quotidian psychological and emotional unknowns, he explores the drama and anxiety of being an average human on planet earth in the Digital Age. Kyle graduated from Ball State University in 2006 with a BFA in Painting. He was the 2012  Artist-In-Residence at the Indiana State Museum. Recent solo exhibitions in Indianapolis include The Worst Person in the World (2014) at General Public Collective, Catcalls (2013) at the Indianapolis Center and Backyard Phenomena (2013) at Harrison Center for the Arts. He is currently developing a new series of work which he hopes to exhibit in Fall 2016. Kyle lives in Indianapolis, where he is the Director of Exhibitions at the Indianapolis Art Center.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You work in a variety of media: sculpture, painting, cut paper text and installation. Can you give us a brief history of your life as an artist? Have you always been so interdisciplinary?

Kyle Herrington: Growing up as a teenager, I always saw myself as a painter. I was a big TV kid, and it always seemed like every artist on television was depicted as this serious brooding painter. I went to college at Ball State University for a degree in painting, but I was very lucky that my mentor there encouraged me to work very experimentally and across disciplines. I often found myself skirting the line between sculpture and painting but always landed on the side of painting. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I found myself setting up these complicated still-lives for paintings in my studio and something clicked. I realized that instead of painting these vignettes, maybe I should just let the set-ups be sculptures. That was an important and defining realization.

I’m also a very impatient artist. I work between media and on several pieces at the same time; I like being able to switch gears if I am stumped or frustrated by a certain piece. The pieces can inform each other, have a dialogue, and mature at the same time. Sometimes a breakthrough in a sculpture can lead to a run of resolutions in a painting series or vice versa. Plus, the curator in me really likes to see different mediums living in the same space together.

Skanky Behavior
Mixed media on wood

OPP: Have you always worked so extensively with text?

KH: It was around that same time that the text really started creeping into the work. I was struggling to explore ideas through images and symbols without being overt. At a certain point, I just said screw it and found it was easier to write what I was thinking about directly on the canvas. This was a huge step in finding freedom for myself as an artist. Suddenly I didn’t have to mask or disguise or romanticize what I was trying to explore. Instead I just blatantly put it out there, which also made the work a little easier for the viewer. I found this allowed me to get much more playful with the work and have more fun making it.

The End of Leisure
Mixed media

OPP: I read several articles that refer to your anxieties about turning 30 as a major inspiration for your 2013 show Backyard Phenomena at Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis. The End of Leisure (2012) and Party Killer (2013), for example, are sculptural tableaux that capture the aftermath of fallen meteors on scenes of leisure. I remember when impending adulthood was overwhelming. But now, you are three years older. Have you realized yet that the 30s are WAAAAAAY better than the 20s?

KH: Oh definitely! A lot of that work was a response to the reactions happening around me by my peers and colleagues about aging—I was always very ready to leave my twenties behind. A big influence of that body of work was disaster movies and these images of hoards of people running around completely falling apart and going ballistic. I felt this weird sense of calm isolation at the time while simultaneously witnessing people I went to high school with freak out about turning thirty on social media. At times it felt a bit like the movie Airplane!—completely nonsensical. So, I l decided to indulge the idea and experience of  the melodrama, and I ended up finding a bit of my own anxieties somewhere in the mix.

Three years later, I still find the whole idea relevant, especially the social media/hysterics/sensationalism thing. In a really schadenfreude way I secretly love it when Facebook or Twitter blows up into dramatics over any given thing going on in pop culture. It’s such a disgusting and simultaneously enlightening, entertaining shit show about the human condition in the 21st century. It’s less about aging itself now and more about the fact that people don’t really outgrow these insane, unfiltered sensational attitudes. It’s a really magnified focus onto someone’s character and motivations when they’re so unapologetically dramatic. Sometimes it can be over a legitimate political or human-rights stance, but just as often it’s about something trivial like a celebrity or TV commercial. Those are the nuggets of insanity that I’m drawn to: people evangelizing and going into hysterics about a paper towel ad. To me, that’s absolute gold.

Gay Club
Mixed media on canvas

OPP: Works like Gay Club (2015), Send Nudes (2012) and Motivational Poster #1 (2012), seem to be about another anxiety associated with getting older. . . the insecurities of dating or hooking up in the Digital Age. Could you talk about the recurring vastness of space as the backdrop in these text-based paintings?

KH: Space has become an increasingly loaded symbol for me. It stands in for isolation, frustration, confusion, feeling lost. I never really dated when I was younger so once I started doing so in my 30s it became incredibly overwhelming at times. I joined a lot of dating websites and most times it felt like I was just speaking into these vast voids and hoping something stuck. A lot of those pieces are influenced by that. The whole process of online dating became more and more frustrating, but also more comical.

Spiderweb 3
Handcut grocery circular

OPP: I’m particularly taken with your hand-cut spiderwebs from 2012. They are quite distinct from everything else you do, but some of your text-based works—Another Woman (2015) and Pizza (2015)—are also hand-cut. Can you contextualize the webs for us and talk about why you choose to create text out of negative space?

KH: The webs came from this strange compulsion I have for collecting grocery circulars. They’re pretty common litter and junk mail in Indiana and I would imagine in most suburbs. There’s something very Midwestern about them that I love. I had this ongoing collection of them and one day made the connection between this ubiquitous material and weeds or spiderwebs. Cutting them out with an X-acto knife became a very therapeutic and meditative thing for me, and they’re a nice break from the paintings and sculptures.  I also work a lot on paper so the cut-outs organically carried into those pieces with the Maury show titles. I loved the graphic qualities of those TV show titles, and I wanted to recreate that feeling and not just do handwritten text in those.

OPP: Wow! I didn’t realize those titles came from Maury! But now that you say that, I see more drama in the text that relates to that social media hysteria you mentioned. What are some other sources for text in your work? Is all the language appropriated?

KH: A lot of the phrases or text I use are things I hear in the real world or on television. I keep a sketchbook full of quotes, phrases and pieces of conversations I overhear and pull from them often when I'm trying to resolve a piece. Sometimes they are directly appropriated, but other times they are mash-ups or edited versions in my own wording for better flow. I find myself really drawn to the ritual of people putting on airs or puffing themselves up. It’s this bizarre sense of extroverted or manufactured confidence that I'm pretty mesmerized by. Reality TV and talks show are a great source for this type of hyper-dramatic self-esteem. Also gay bars. I get a lot of ideas for paintings there. As gay men, I sometimes wonder if we have this ingrained flair for the dramatic. Then you add alcohol and you get the biggest display of theatrics. It’s campy and over-the-top, and I just eat it all up with a spoon. I owe a lot of my paintings to my time in gay bars.

Mixed media on hand-cut paper

OPP: What role does humor play in your work?

KH: I told somebody years ago that I liked to use humor as a nasty trick to get people engaged in my work. I felt dirty for a long time about making humorous work. I think it’s very common for artists, and especially painters, to feel pressured into holding this kind of academic reverence for what they’re making. When I first got out of school, I was making these large, very academic paintings that I was trying to show around town and I was really bored by most of them. And then I was making these little wacky funny studies in secret and I was way more interested in those. It wasn’t until I stopped looking at humor as a gimmick and as more of a conduit into serious issues that I felt like I could really pull the trigger on changing directions in my work.

Humor serves as an entry point into topics people may not otherwise talk about; it eases people into an otherwise difficult mindset. A lot of my work deals with anxiety, depression and awkwardness, but the veil of humor makes those topics more comfortable and palatable in order to spark dialogue. I saw the Wayne White documentary Beauty is Embarrassing a few years ago, and I wrote down something he said in one of my sketchbooks: “I'm often as frustrated at the world as most people are. But I think frustration is hilarious. One of my missions is to bring humor into fine art. It's sacred.” I just love that.

To see more of Kyle's work, please visit kyleaherrington.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). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show on view at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art until March 27, 2016.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Shawn Huckins

The Jolly Flatboatmen In Port: I Be Making Moves Forgetting That I Already Have Moves
Acrylic on canvas
40 x 52 in (102 x 133 cm)

Painter SHAWN HUCKINS superimposes Facebook status updates and tweets on top of meticulous recreations of 19th and 20th century paintings. The appropriated text, rendered in large, blocky letters, stretches across the entire surface of each painting, acting as a screen through which we view the images of bygone eras. The juxtaposition of past and present offers us the opportunity to contemplate both what has changed and what is still the same. Shawn earned his BA from Keene State College in New Hampshire and has received grants from Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism (2010), from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. (2011 and 2012) and from The Haven Foundation (2013). He's had solo exhibitions at Foster/White Gallery (2012) in Seattle, L2Kontemporary (2012) in Los Angeles, Art & Soul Gallery (2014) in Boulder and Goodwin Fine Art (2015) in Denver. Shawn is represented by Goodwin Fine Art in Denver, Foster White Gallery in Seattle and Modernism Inc Gallery in San Francisco, where he will have a solo exhibition in Spring 2016. Shawn lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Your practice rests heavily on the strategy of juxtaposition. It's the thread that connects Paint Chips to American Revolution and The American __tier. Does the juxtaposition in these different bodies of work function differently or have a different aim?

Shawn Huckins: The underlying theme to all my current, past and student work has been American culture.  At first, I was studying American architecture with store fronts, gas stations, and the like. Later, in Paint Chips, I was studying the mundane aspects of American culture by superimposing everyday life and objects on common paint cards people use to choose their bathroom colors: a Wal-Mart employee collecting carts, or automobiles laying in flood waters, for example. In my current series, The American __tier, I examine American language and its progression by contrasting two ways of life—one centuries past and the current social media driven society we live in today.

390D - Flood Cars
Acrylic on canvas mounted on MDF
49 x 40 in (124 x 102 cm)

OPP: In American Revolution and The American __tier, you superimpose "21st century lexicons – Facebook status updates, tweets, texting acronyms"on carefully-rendered recreations of 18th and 19th century paintings and photographs. We literally read the image through the text. But we can also read the text through the image. Will you pick a favorite piece and talk about how the juxtaposition affects the meaning of both the text and the image?

SH: When I marry text to an image in the beginning phases of my paintings, I try to choose text that will work well with the image, and I use this process on the majority of my paintings. Sometimes, however, the text and image will have no direct correlation with one another.  For example, when I use simple phrases such as OMG or LMAO.

One of my favorite paintings is from American Revolution. The painting, titled Because He Has Swag And Knows How To Wear His Pants: Daniel Verplanck,  shows a seated, young boy in clothing that indicates he is from an upper class family. The text—CUZ HE HAS SWAG N KNOWS HOW TO WEAR HIS PANCE—came from a comment left on a photo of Justin Bieber wearing pants with the waist coming down to almost his knees. The juxtaposition of this young boy, who is formally dressed and really does know how to wear his pants, provides a provocative contrast to Bieber’s style of wearing pants. Not only do I contrast the way language has evolved over the centuries, but also how fashion has evolved and how the definition of what’s considered 'in,' like it or not, has changed.

Fur Traders Descending The Missouri: Oh My God What The Hell! You Never Did That, Like That’s Like Fucking Crazy! If I Did That I’d Be Like Wow
Acrylic on canvas
33 x 40 in (84 x 102 cm)

OPP: What's your process for and/or experience of collecting social media jargon? Is there a method? Do the sources matter to you? I'm curious if you follow specific people or just meander through random twitter feeds. Do you ever write the text?

SH: This is, bar none, my least favorite process. It involves sitting at a computer for a length of time looking for the right text to use. And it’s a lot more difficult than one would think seeing the thousands of texts/tweets sent every second. I have found an easier method, though, in my years of painting this particular series. In my everyday routine, I will come across a particular word or short phrase that I find interesting—for example, “everything is hilarious”—and make a note of it. When I’m ready to research texts,  I will search for that phrase for people using those keywords on Twitter and Facebook. This is far easier than trolling around various people’s twitter accounts to find that right phrase. Twitter is a great source for text because there is a limited amount of space a person can use, so it can be a potential gold mine. I never write my own phrases as I think it would sound too contrived. I will tweak and bend text to be more fitting to an image, but I will retain the meat of the text to keep it authentic to the original person’s intentions.

Dorothy Quincy: Don't You Realize That I Only Text You When I'm Drunk
Acrylic on canvas
44 x 34 in (112 x 86 cm)

OPP: Do viewers who have never known a world without social media or the internet respond differently/understand the paintings in American Revolution and The American __tier differently than older viewers?

SH: Both young and old viewers appreciate the message I am representing with my paintings.  And yes, for different reasons. Older viewers understand the "old" ways of communication—letter, phone, in person—and see a stark difference in the way people communicate today. Younger viewers, who have always been immersed in social media, may appreciate the contrast of the old and new and may idolize a simpler way of life before the hoards of technology. I honestly thought that older viewers wouldn’t appreciate my work, but at one exhibition in 2012, an older man in his mid 70s acquired a painting on opening night.  

OPP: What do you think about the concept of Progress? Are we evolving, devolving or staying exactly the same?

SH: In regards to becoming smarter, more efficient and healthier with advancing technology, I would say we are most certainly evolving at a rapid pace. Advancing technologies are wonderful and have had positive effects for the human population. But I also think with the abundance of technology, aspects such as human interaction and language could possibly be devolving. The human experience in regards to one-on-one interaction with another human being or even nature, is slowly becoming more and more distant. It’s safe to say that we have an emotional bond with our phones, but sometimes that bond puts strain on actual human relationships.

Sunrise On The Matterhorn: Laughing Out Loud Duh.
Acrylic on canvas
40 x 32 in (102 x 81 cm)
OPP: Humans are often extolling or bemoaning the fact that things have either gotten better or worse. But I think humans are ultimately kinda the same, just with new conditions. When the printing press was invented, it caused the same kind of cultural, social and political upheaval that the internet has in our lifetime. Admittedly, the scope of change may be more extreme with the internet, but I think humans are basically the same. Some of us are open minded; some of us are not. Do you see any continuity between the culture represented in the paintings of the 19th and 20th century and the culture represented by the texts in the 21st century?

I would agree that humans have been pretty much the same over the coarse of history. I wonder what people said when the light bulb came to market. Ha! Change can be uncomfortable for people. Some adapt to it, embracing it full force, and others want life to remain the same as it was in the "good old days." One main difference between the 19/20th and 21st centuries is the amount of images captured. The portraits painted in earlier centuries were mostly for the privileged upper class who could commission them.

Once the camera was invented, ordinary people could have a time stamp of their families at a more affordable price and moments were typically reserved for special events. Today, almost everyone has a smart phone with a camera, so anything and everything is photographed. Whether it be someone’s dinner for the night, a big night out or the cat. . . the abundance of images has grown exponentially. With that abundance, it’s harder to be in the moment and enjoy it. We're so busy capturing it with a camera that we miss the intimacy of the moment.

To see more of Shawn's work, please visit shawnhuckins.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, runs through December 19, 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL).

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Matthew Schlagbaum

If I could have feelings at all, I'd have feelings for you
Inkjet print, hammertone acrylic, artist frame

MATTHEW SCHLAGBAUM's sculptures, installations and photography explore the muting effect of romanticism and expectation on our lived experience. Various visual filters like frosted plexiglass, colored mylar, screens obscure clichéd imagery of natural phenomena including sunsets, rainbows, lightning bolts. The viewer is repeatedly viewing one thing through another, which creates a frustrated desire to experience the imagery directly, and this perceptual frustration is echoed in titles that add interpersonal, emotional narratives. Matthew earned his BFA in 2009 from University of South Florida and his MFA in 2011 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His solo exhibitions include Don’t Stop Now, I’m Almost There (2012) at Vitrine in Chicago, It’s What’s On The Outside That Counts (2013) at Contemporary Art Center in Las Vegas and Wearing Myself Out Trying to Get There (2015) at Bert Green Fine Arts in Chicago. He is currently an artist-in-residence at the Arquetopia Foundation in Puebla, Mexico. Past residencies include Vermont Studio Center (2013), Hatch Projects (2013) at Chicago Artists’ Coalition and ACRE (2011). Opening on September 11, 2015, his work will be included in the upcoming exhibition Making Chances at Gallery 400, which is part of the citywide program Platforms: 10 Years of Chances/Dances. Matthew lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What role does longing play in your practice? 

Matthew Schlagbaum: Longing is a major aspect of my work, but I am no longer very interested the longing related to nostalgia or a yearning for the past. I am interested in representing the desires of the present.

I often feel persuaded into believing that Love and Happiness are obtainable, permanent states of being. In reality, happiness is experienced intermittently, dispersed throughout a gradient of other feelings, most of which are probably pretty neutral. But I often feel the expectation to constantly exist in a high-key. There is a pervasive, erroneous notion that equates not feeling strongly with not feeling at all. Like, if I do not love you so much it makes me sick, then I don’t really love you. 

These unrealistic expectations result in a constant state of longing for something more. Some promised state that is recognizable in others on the streets and in the movies, but that I find difficult to experience. Perhaps Marina and the Diamonds described this more succinctly than I can with their line “TV taught me how to feel, now real life has no appeal.

And all those in love and for those who can remember it
Inkjet print

OPP: I relate to this so much! And, as much as I believe that TV has many positive emotional benefits, unrealistic expectations about the experience of love is a negative side effect. Pop songs certainly play into this, too. Rarely do they capture love, but I do think they are very accurate at capturing infatuation and calling it love. Could the longing to feel more just be a symptom of semantics? Does fine art play into this collective misunderstanding?

MS: I don’t want to give the impression that I am anti-television or popular culture. On the contrary, I’m actually quite fond of them. I do believe that this might be an issue of semantics, in the sense that I often feel disconnect between an emotional reaction and its cultural signifiers. This is a situation that seems pervasive in pop culture, but the Art World is not immune to this either. There is so much work I cannot fully relate to because it’s either assaulting me with its saccharine idealism or smothering me with the horrors of the world. It seems rare to encounter work that addresses the notion of emotional neutrality or explores an ambivalent viewpoint. In response to this, my work is about the person who feels guilty for not crying at a funeral or struggles to muster the level of excitement required to ensure others of their appreciation of a gift—in other words, the person who feels like they are not feeling enough.

The aspirations of the yearning individual in a valueless world
Galvanized steel mounted onto corrugated plastic, refrigerator magnets and imitation gold leaf

OPP: Gold is a recurring color and symbol in your sculptural work. In 2013, you used imitation gold leaf in installations like Treasured, Everything and The Aspirations of the Yearning Individual in a Valueless World. You've also used gold spray paint, gold scrapbook paper and found trophies. What are your thoughts about the color gold and it's conceptual content in your sculpture?

MS: My initial interest in gold came from my inability to convincingly mimic it for a project that I did not have the funds to create out of the real thing. It quickly dawned on me that I had never owned anything made out of gold and didn’t really even know what it was I was trying to replicate. After that I became interested in the value and superiority placed upon the material, its art historical references and the myriad of colors that attempted to imitate it. The imitative materials sort of had this drag quality that I found appealing. They are not convincingly mimicking the original, but that isn’t the point. The act of imitation becomes an exaggeration, and that exaggeration results in something altogether new.  

Now you change. Please. Don’t make me change you. Must I? All right I will. You’re changed now. You are. You did it too. I did it to you but you did it. Yes you did.
Window, wood, paint, Venetian blinds and color changing LED light bulb

OPP: Your titles often contain emotional content that is integral to the work. In some cases—Now You Change. Please. Don’t Make Me Change You. Must I? All Right I Will. You’re Changed Now. You Are. You Did It Too. I Did It To You But You Did It. Yes You Did. (2012), for example—I would consider language a material on par with physical materials. When in your process do you decide on titles? Does thinking about titles shape the evolution of the piece?

MS: Titles are incredibly important to me. They are a way to add an additional reference, layer of content, or entry point into the work. With that being said, titling usually happens after the work has been completed. Like my imagery and materials, I appropriate many of my titles from other sources. I keep a running list of things that I read or hear that resonate with me. When I read, I do a lot of underlining.

Once a work is finished, I comb through all my notes and books and sometimes search for quotes online using keywords or phrases that are related to the conceptual aspect of the work. I like mixing the sources of my titles, and have previously taken titles from movies, television shows, musicians, novels, critical theory, overheard conversations and self-help books.

The title you referenced in your question was taken from the Ernest Hemingway novel The Garden of Eden. The female protagonist convinces her new husband that they should have the same hair, clothes and tanned skin in order to be like androgynous twins. She is constantly altering both of their appearances to suit her desires. In the section this title is taken from, she is trying to convince him that they can switch back and forth between genders, and in that moment she wants him to be the woman and her to be the man. He doesn’t really understand why she wants this or how it would even work, but allows her to assert that this change has taken place anyway. 

Much better
Inkjet print on backlit film and lightbox

OPP: Please talk about the various obstructions/filters that you use to block out or mediate some romantic, natural phenomena like lightening bolts, rainbows or the sunset.

MS: The imagery I choose to work with is meant to represent an extreme emotional state that I often struggle to relate to. Landscapes and natural phenomena work well for this because they tend to be overly romanticized— perhaps a little threatening, but also enticing. I want the images I use to be so familiar that they are simultaneously potent and lacking content. Stock photography has this unique quality of being specific and generic at the same time.  A stock image has to be specific enough to anchor it into a perceived reality, but generic enough that lots of different realities can be projected onto it. 

The plexi, window screen, blinds, etc. that I use to obfuscate imagery are meant to create that sense of longing you mentioned earlier. It allows the viewer to know exactly what it is they are looking at while denying them that full sense of visual satisfaction. I want to manifest a sensation of desiring something that is always just beyond reach.

To see more of Matthew's work, please visit matthewschlagbaum.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 exhibitions include solo shows 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, as well as Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, at Design Cloud in Chicago (2014). Most recently, Stacia created  When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center. Closing reception guests were invited to help break down the piece by pulling pins out of the wall.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Joe Wardwell

Just as Bored as Me
Oil on canvas
38" x 54"

The stenciled text—most often rock music lyrics—in JOE WARDWELL's paintings alternatingly reads as aphorism, advertising, proverb, propaganda and cliché. Combining landscape painting and abstraction, he poetically echoes a persistent human struggle with longing and impermanence in the visual confusion between foreground and background. Joe earned a BA in Art History and a BFA in Painting from the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1996 and his MFA in Painting from Boston University in 1999. Boston-based LaMontagne Gallery, where he has had three solo exhibitions there—Die Young (2009), Big Disgrace (2012) and Party Over (2014)—will take his work to Pulse Miami in December 2015. Joe will have two upcoming solo exhibitions in 2015: at Heskin Contemporary in New York City and Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. Joe is an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachssettes where he lives.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Rock music has been a strong inspiration in your work for at least the last decade. What do you listen to while you work? Do you tend to listen to the same albums over and over again?

Joe Wardwell: I listen to music from all sorts of genres, from country swing to Norwegian Death Metal. While working, I listen less as source material for the individual pieces but more for the overall feel of the work and to get me into the right mental space to create the work in the first place. Most of that albums that get repeated are from my vinyl collection: Neil Young’s Live Rust and Boris with Merzbow’s Rock Dreams and Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow. I tend to binge a bit more on digital music. Sometimes I will spend an entire day just listening to the Melvins, the Flaming Lips, Black Sabbath or Boris.

Quickly Look Away
oil on canvas
38" x 54"

OPP: What is the relationship between rock music and landscape painting, as you see it?

JW: Landscape painting represents an American ideological orientation to wilderness and landscape that embodies a lot of similar yearnings, desires and attitudes I see expressed in rock music. There is something in that shared psyche that I am trying to tap into and tweak. But I am not solely looking for comparisons between the two or necessarily even looking to unify the painting from genre to concept to form. I see painting as a container that I am trying to fill up with many ideas and images that are struggling to get out. 

OPP: Early paintings like Masters of My Reality, Oblivion and Power Cord Serenade, all 2005, portray musicians and their entourages as heavenly flights of angels reclining on clouds. Others from 2004, such as Live Free Bird or Die, visually position the guitar as a portal through which we can enter another reality. But in 2007, you first introduced text, more specifically rock lyrics, into your paintings. What led to this development and how did it grow out of the earlier work?

JW: In 2007, I felt like I was on a gerbil wheel with the work, running round and round. It was too tongue and cheek and ultimately limited my expression. I didn’t see the heavenly rock figures going anywhere. The text and landscape combo has allowed me to be flippant, ironic, sentimental and political with the work. The work is a lot more versatile as a mode of expression for me now.

If you look at one of those earlier pieces and compare it to one of the first text and landscape pieces like Look West (2007), all of the same connections are still there though the representative form appears very different. The abstract, high chroma flames become the stylized text. The text is taken from song lyrics, and the fonts are derived from silkscreen rock posters. The heavenly cloudscapes are replaced with an idealized wilderness landscape, and the figures in the cloud still exist within the prepositions of the text. The implied Me, You, We or I in the text functions as the figure in the landscape.

Talk Past the Future
oil on canvas
30" x 48"

OPP: More recently, the text has begun to completely take over the landscapes. Can you talk about this change formally and conceptually?

JW: Yes, earlier it was too polite. I still love those first paintings and stand by them, however it does seem to me now as if the text is too apologetic in its presence in the painting. It functions too much like an advertisement: first draw them in with beautiful landscape, then sneak in the message. I like the one to one relationship that occurs now.

Each painting has a stage in the process when it is a complete abstract painting and a complete landscape painting. Sometimes I paint the landscape first and sometimes I paint the abstraction first. However the painting starts, I work it until I wouldn’t paint over either the landscape or the abstract painting, and that’s how I know it is ready for the text stencil. It is a painfully destructive process but one that I feel imbues the paintings with a lot of energy. I love having these competing elements battle it out within the confines of the rectangle.

OPP: After recognizing some of the lyrics—like "And this bird you'll never change" from Free Bird, "a man and his will to survive" from Eye of the Tiger and "clowns to the left" from Stuck in the Middle with You—I unintentionally began to play a game as I viewed the work on your website. My initial experience as I looked at each of the text paintings became about trying to name that tune before I began to think about the relationship between the text and the image. I wonder if this is a common experience with your work . . . has anyone told you that? Is this kind of response a problem or an asset? 

JW: In short, yes, yes, and yes and no. I have heard that a lot, and it was certainly more common with the first paintings. Most of the lyrics I first chose were easily discernible to the reasonably musically inclined. I think that gave my audience a way into the work. As the paintings evolved, they tended to be more obscure and less obviously from a single source. My reliance on the music as source entry point into the work has faded. The lyric source for Choose Not To (2013), a mural at Rag and Bone in New York City, is taken from the punk band NoMeansNo. Nothing to Win, Nowhere to Go (2011), currently on view at Northeastern University, takes text from Ad Reinhardt’s writings about his black paintings.

In the beginning, I enjoyed it when people could recognize the songs, but now I don’t care as much. I feel confident that the recognition of the songs is no longer the central way an audience approaches the work, and I enjoy the greater freedom that provides. Lastly, I would add that often I am drawn to lyrics that evoke a visual sense that can’t really be felt in the music that they originate from, such as the pieces Untied We Stand (2011), Mankind is Unkind Man (2011) and Free to Be Evil, Free to Believe (2014).

Something Flickered then Vanished and was Gone
Oil on canvas
84" x 48"

OPP: Because they are presented out of context, the lyrics in your work sometimes read as ironic. Other times they have the ring of profound wisdom. Could you talk about lyrics as aphorism, as proverb, as spiritual teaching or as cliché . . . whatever most interests you?

JW: I certainly try not to be preachy, and a lot of what you describe really depends on the mood I am in and the mood of the piece. I want the work to be flexible and not easily pigeonholed. I am often very upset about the political situation and environmental degradation in this country, and that can drive the landscape and text in a piece. Other times, I feel impish, ironic and silly and make a piece that is quick and off-the-cuff to counterbalance the more serious pieces. Then there are other paintings that are more sentimental. A Big Commercial and On and On and On and On are heart-felt responses to the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch. Similarly, the recent painting Something Flickered for a Minute Then Vanished and was Gone (2014) connects both to my interest in environmental awareness and is a homage to the recently deceased Lou Reed.

In all the work, I try and convey an almost subliminal counter-culture, propaganda-like attitude. Through the use of the text, I tap into and twist the collective psyche I describe above. . . like chaotic advertising exposing our dystopia. I am deeply inspired by the painter Leon Golub. Much like him, I think of my paintings as warriors that set off into the world to change it one person at a time, slowly seeping into the minds of the viewers and irrevocably altering them.

To view more of Joe's work, please visit joewardwell.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 Alex Gingrow

This one is for me personally. I mean, it's not for sale. Well, EVERYTHING is for sale, but...
Graphite and acrylic on paper
22" x 30"

ALEX GINGROW's satirical text paintings reference art gallery provenance stickers and quote gallery gossip and snippets of conversations she has overheard while working full-time as a mat cutter at a framing shop in midtown Manhattan. Individually, each painting evokes a scathing drama of indiscretion and vanity. But, as a group, the paintings reveal a persistent metanarrative of class, value and labor as they relate to art production. Alex received her MFA in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007. She mounted her first solo show, All the Money IS in the Label in 1012 at Mike Weiss Gallery. In 2014 she will participate in The Fountainhead Residency in Miami. Alex lives in Brooklyn, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: The quotes in your recent series All the Money IS in the Label range from obnoxiously pretentious to surprisingly ignorant to potentially profound. There are even moments of poetry. I easily imagine the snobby, entitled person who said "Restoration Hardware? I mean, why? My cleaning lady has that stuff" and the ignorant person who said, "So, what, what's the deal with that gallery? Do they, like, only show black artists?" But other quotes are more ambiguous because we don't have context or tone of voice to help us understand the meaning of the words. I end up really musing about who the people are and what their lives are like. Do you remember who they are once you write down the text?

Alex Gingrow: So far, yes, I can remember the context and speaker of each quote. Every piece has a story behind it. Some are long and detailed and others are as simple as an overheard conversation. As the series continues, this could change. But when I look back at my source material, I am less interested in the quotes from conversations I can’t remember. The details validate the narrative for me even if I don’t share them publicly or if they don’t come through in the finished piece.

I do sometimes take quotes out of context but only when they speak to a higher truth or injustice. And yes, there are certainly moments of poetry. Years ago, a friend told me a tale over several adult beverages. He had a studio across the way from Mary Boone’s apartment back in the SoHo days and watched her light tampons on fire and throw them from her balcony. The story was old. The event was older. But it stuck with me, and I loved it. So, Balcony Burning Tampon Tosser is an homage both to the story, to the storyteller, to Mary Boone and, most of all, to the joy that is slumming around a cozy dark bar with art friends telling wild stories, even if they are a little taller than the truth.

I love storytelling, and I come from a long line of animated storytellers. I find great joy in retelling a story for an interested viewer. There’s a moment of magic when I share a story behind one of the quotes, and the person to whom I’m speaking has a parallel story. Then we launch into a whole conversation based on a simple one-line narrative.

Christie is just a low-class, redneck name with a fancy spelling. Might as well be Krystal. Or Tammi.
Graphite and acrylic on paper
22" x 30"

OPP: What’s the difference between storytelling and gossip? Is it an important distinction?

AG: It is an important distinction. My intent is to generate a narrative, not to spread dirty or juicy secrets. Gossip has an identifiable face, place and plot. Those are the details that hold the recipient’s attention, and I choose the word "recipient" carefully because I think gossip, by nature, is delivered. My goal is to set up the rough sketch, an outline of sorts. Then it becomes the viewer’s job to fill in the blanks according to his or her own experiences, ideas and assumptions about tone of voice. Completion of the narrative becomes a participatory event. Every title is somehow related to the correlating gallery, but the speaker is never identified. It could be the gallery owner, a collector, an artist, a passerby or even someone randomly talking about one of the artists shown by the gallery. The tone is set when the viewer decides who the speaker is. Thus, the story is completed by the viewers’ own ideas. This is why I generally don’t publicly share the genesis of the titles.

OPP: You admit in your statement that this body of work is a "sharp critique of the world in which [you] choose to maneuver." I like that you emphasize the fact that we can be both willing participants and critics of our chosen communities. Has the gallery gossip that you witness on a daily basis at your day job ever made you question your own desire to be part of the New York art scene?

AG: Oh lord, yes. Everyday. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t want to turn to some of the people I encounter at work and in the art world and ask, “Do you HEAR yourself? Do you seriously think it’s okay to BEHAVE like that?!?” I’ve realized that some people truly and absolutely do not care one iota if they come across as assholes. It amazes me. 

But! I can’t be too bitter because they are my source material. I’ve made artistic strides out of a coping mechanism. I think a lot of really good art comes from anger and spite. If the rest of the world could figure out how to channel those very natural human emotions in more creative ways, we’d probably have a more peaceful world and better art to experience.

New York does have its own special breed of viciousness. But I’m not sure that I could operate anywhere else right now. Sure, I have my moments when I need escape more than I need to breathe, but there’s an electricity to the raw brazenness of the New York art world that feeds my practice. I worry that anywhere else would seem too quaint at this point. So I take the good with the bad. The upside to the New York art world is the closeness of the community. I’ve only been here for six years and have met so many smart, talented, kind and supportive artists. I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

Graphite and acrylic on paper
22" x 30"

OPP: The fact that the people coming to pick up the artwork from the framing shop don't consider you, as a service worker, important enough to be discrete in front of reveals an implicit class discrimination and a critique of beliefs about the value of different types of labor. They likely have no idea that you are an artist who also performs a kind of labor that they do value—or at least purport to. Is there a relationship between the labor you do at your day job and the meticulous, creative labor you do when painting?

AG: I’d give anything to be able to support myself solely from my art and to be able to spend long, uninterrupted periods of time in the studio everyday. But that’s not the case right now. I will continue to punch the time clock twice a day and take my lunch at the cold metal-topped table in the drafty back corner of the shop.

I think there is a correlation between service industry workers and the emerging-whatever-you-want-to-call-the-non-Koons/Hirst/Murakami artists in today’s art world. Art has become such a commodity, such a luxury item. Maybe it’s been this way since the advent of the gallery system—and perhaps it’s better to keep fragile egos in check anyway—but the artist as an individual seems to be valued less than the monetary value of the art in the market. Here, gallerists seem way more concerned with how they’re going to sell a work, whether the materials are all archival and how quickly we can pump out new works. Artists sometimes seem like the service workers in the gallerists’ industry. But I’ve witnessed artists being treated differently in other cities and countries, where gallerists take on artists because they like the art and trust the thought processes of the artists. It’s a relationship, not a business arrangement

Man in Ambulance
Charcoal and conte crayon on paper
60" x 42"

OPP: I have to ask about Victim Series (2006-2007), a series of drawings of victims of various violent crimes or disasters. The subjects appear to all be people of color and many are children. This work is so distinctly different—both in subject matter and tone—from your deadpan, text-based work. It's so visceral and emotional and feels even more so after reading the comments of players in the New York art world. Is the satire in your new work a total break from this series or is there an underlying conceptual connection between these older drawings and the work you are doing now? 

AG: Victim Series is the body of work that I presented for my master’s thesis at the Savannah College of Art and Design. The impetus of the series was oddly similar to that of the provenance sticker series in a few ways. I was angry about the disregard many of my fellow students had for the U.S. war in Iraq. In response to an assignment to create an image that was mediated several times over, I chose to draw an image I lifted from a Canadian website of an Iraqi man recovering from wounds sustained in the war. 

Around the same time, I listened to George W. Bush give a speech on our “progress” in Iraq. During the reporters’ questions at the conclusion of the speech, someone asked the President how many Iraqis had been killed to date. His response was, “30,000, more or less.” After I listened to this speech, I got online to find a transcript because I couldn't believe what I had heard him say.  Mind you, this was 2005—before the overwhelming prevalence of YouTube and instantaneous video on the Internet. The only transcript I could find was the official White House transcript which EDITED OUT Bush's flippant "more or less." The transcript read: "30,000 Iraqis. . . and 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq."

I decided to draw his idea of more or less. Babies, children, young men and women. Bombed, killed, maimed, terrified. More or less. The works in the series are large, charcoal drawings. I wanted the images to have an engulfing presence. I used charcoal to both add to the sense of burning and soot and so that I could physically rub and blend the medium as I worked, so as to have a sense of touch and tenderness with the images. I worked on this series for a little over a year and eventually incorporated text from Bush’s speeches into the images. I had to resort to reading his speeches because I got too distractingly angry when I heard his voice. After working on these drawings for a while, I couldn’t get out from under the dark cloud of death and corruption and sadness that was my studio practice. Between that time in graduate school and my move to New York, where I no longer had a studio space that could accommodate the massive amounts of charcoal dust I was creating, I laid the series to rest. The drawings are rolled up in my studio and I look forward to showing them someday. With every political season, the context changes, but they still carry the same potency as they did when they were created. 

I am a young artist with dynamic ideas.
Graphite and acrylic on paper
22" x 30"

OPP: What have you been working on since the exhibition at Mike Weiss Gallery? Are continuing on with the appropriated text or shifting gears into something new?

AG: I am still working on the sticker series. There are about 40+ pieces in the series so far and a good many more waiting to be made. I still make myself laugh when I’m working on them, which is how I know I should keep going. That said, as evidenced by the Victim Series drawings, I tend to make major shifts every now and again. Some artists get to be known for one certain body of work, and they never really stray from it. That works for them, and it certainly works for their gallerists and collectors.

My practice depends on fresh experiments, new ideas and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I am working on some ideas and sketches for an interdisciplinary project that deals with personal narrative, family history and ice skating. I grew up skating and loving it, and I've recently been reexamining the sport in terms of its parallels with the art world and my own studio practice. The project—a long time in the making—will include durational video, a script and sound piece, text-based paintings, model-building and costume design. I am trying to find that sweet spot between so-personal-it’s-universal and awful, sappy, here-are-my-first-world-problems. It’s a fine, fine line. Thankfully, I have plenty of asinine and vitriolic art world quotes to commemorate in the meantime.

To see more of Alex's work, please visit alexgingrow.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 mass media culture 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 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). Her work is on view through September 2013 in Abstracting the Seam (Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago) and she will mount a solo show titled I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Heaven Gallery, Chicago) in January 2014.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Doug Crocco

Turn Your Back On The Hate They Want You To Become
Color Pencil on Paper

DOUG CROCCO uses color pencils to create detailed drawings which reveal the uncertainty of our cultural and ecological moment. He uses pithy text and pop culture visuals to explore where we are as a culture in relation to the precarity of crumbling structures. He received his MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 2003. Doug lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

OtherPeoplesPixels: You work in exclusively color pencils. How did you start using this drawing medium?

Doug Crocco: I've always drawn with color pencils. As a child, I would redraw things like garbage pail kids and cartoon characters with them. In undergrad I played around a lot with assemblage and painting and built a large body of work that was heavy and hard to manage. All the while, I habitually maintained intense sketch books. Since I move a lot, eventually the weight of the paintings lost out to the transportability and ease of storing works on paper. I can put 100 works in a box and that equals a win for me. :)

OPP: What do you love about the medium?

DC: I love drawing period. I love the activity, the hand to surface interaction. I love the freedom of the line. The line can go anywhere and become anything. I also love how color pencils, which are wax, become like paint when you build up the surface. It can become like liquid if you know how to manipulate it.

The Prism of Narcissism
color pencil on paper

OPP: What are some of the limitations?

DC: I don't believe drawings have limitations. In fact I believe the opposite: drawings are transformative, in the sense that you can draw anything. I can draw a sculpture or an abstract space. I can draw a landscape or a flat text piece. Technically I can create the feel of printmaking, painting, or images that are loose sketches of ideas or movements. To draw is to be liberated and to know no limitations.

OPP: Your 2008 series Entropy is a juxtaposition of visuals and text which represent seemingly disparate modes of operating in the face of uncertainty. The colorful drawings with Winnie the Pooh backgrounds evoke a (potentially) overly-sunny disposition, while the black and white drawings evoke heavy metal and hard rock, leading me to think of anxious aggression. Can you talk about this juxtaposition?

DC: This body of work was meant to create a dialog between the images which you have picked up on. The Poohs, as I call them, aren't purely saccharin. I actually find them quite sad, as they plead the viewer to contemplate archetypal idealism while simultaneously being confronted with images that celebrate aggression and dark energy. For example, VIVA DEATH is based on a Bush era campaign button that read "Viva Bush." It was used to target the Hispanic American vote. I turned it into black and white and inserted death, so that it reads live to die, or long live death. I also liked the yin-yang feel of it, conceptually and visually. So when you have an image that reads HOLD ON TO OUR LOVE which implies love is escaping you, next to VIVA DEATH, you are simultaneously engaging polar paradigms that may seem disparate but are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. It is up to the viewer to identify with the imagery. These works also reference the ideas in two books I would recommend, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff and Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace by Gore Vidal.

Executive Power
Color Pencil on Paper

OPP: A lot of your work seems to be about the idea that something is falling apart, both in terms of nature and culture. I see an underlying sense of anxiety peaking through a thin coat of optimism. I can't decide if the optimism is real or just sleight of hand, as used in the advertising you reference in the graphic text you draw. Are you more anxious or more optimistic about the state of things?

DC: Well, if one reads the newspapers, it's easy to come to the conclusion that, yes, in fact, things are falling apart. There are more global crises than I have fingers to count them on, and someone mentioned to me the other day that the end of the world was in December. As every day on the calendar ticks off, people are becoming more and more anxious for good reason. I recently made a piece called Cliff Notes on The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization, because the book would take to long to read, and I only have the attention span to read headlines anyways. I have some musician buddies that made an album called Americas Idle. Brilliant.

In general, I am optimistic, because I think you can't suppress or pervert the good nature of humans forever. I also believe that there is enough money and brainpower on this planet to fix anything, despite the ambitions of a few to hoard wealth and dictate the course of history. Yes, I have a degree in advertising and employ some of the tricks of the trade. I like to think of it as my brand of inverse MK Ultra. But, at the end of the day, it is important for all art to maintain some sense of mystery.
Sea Change
color pencil on paper

OPP: Can you talk about the shift to abstraction in your newest drawings, Quantum Structures?

DC: Yes. It's actually a nice transition from your last question. While not completely separate from my other works, these are more about the invisible. I wanted to create a group of conceptual abstractions that dealt with things that were governed by the laws of nature and not men. They were also a nice break for me to create visual mathematical puzzles. For example, I made an image I called An Algorithm For Fire, which is a fun idea. I recently read The Grand Design, or, as I call it, Stephen Hawking's quest to rationalize why a computer talks for him. Before this, I read a bunch of books on M-theory. I'm fascinated by the superstructures and laws, whether man-made or omnipresent, that govern our lives. I am also interested in the here and now; perhaps I'll draw some nano tech snow flakes next.

OPP: When you talk about the laws of nature vs. the laws of man, I think of an older body of work called New Forms (2006). The hybrid animals could either be the result of man's muddling in nature or the result of some kind of evolution that we can't understand yet. Can you talk about your intentions in this body of work?

DC: I grew up in Miami, but my mother is what you might call a Los Alamos Baby. Both my grandparents worked at Los Alamos Laboratories for over 30 years. When I was a kid, my grandfather told me stories about what was going on there. Beyond all the nuclear research, they are also heavily involved with genetic engineering. I have been making work referencing those stories and these sort of ideas since 2000. However, they are more mainstream now. I just read how scientists have altered cows so that they produce milk that lactose intolerant humans can ingest. I also read about how Monsanto recently made corn that explodes the stomachs of insects. While the possibilities of bio engineering are mind blowing, I feel we are playing with fire. My last piece of that series was entitled Serpents, which is also the title of my favorite Jeff Koons piece. Both have a candy-coated, creepy feel that I get when I think about whats going on.

Color Pencil on Paper

OPP: Do you have an overall favorite piece by another artist? 

DC: I love art. I am a self-described looker, and, in saying that, I can back it up. I go to a lot of the big art fairs and, having lived in NYC and LA, I have seen hundreds of gallery and museum shows. I also look at tons of art online. I'm telling you this to justify my answer of no. I have no favorite piece, because there are hundreds that I love. I think the easiest way to appreciate my taste is to take a second to look at my other website: www.cult2vader.com. It's a visual image bank of things that I'm looking at, and I update it often. The images are all hyper-linked, so if you see something you like, you can easily get more info. I often refer collectors who I consult for to it as a starting point.

OPP: What's your favorite piece of your own work?

DC: It's usually the one I just made. Right now it's a toss up between my latest flag piece and an abstract piece Mr. Hawkins could appreciate called The Possibility of Infinite Possibilities.

To view more of Doug's work, please visit dougcrocco.com.