OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Russell Prigodich

Brace (2019) Soap, aluminium. 8" x 20" x 12."

RUSSELL PRIGODICH's minimal color palette allows his materials—soap and metal—to take center stage. He juxtaposes rigidity and flexibility, durability and impermanence, hard and soft in elegant sculptures that sometimes only last days. In recent works, physics and chemistry are at play as the weight of steel pulls and presses on the shrinking, drying soap. Other works employ common domestic objects—matchbook, radiator, drawer—as "proxies for the people who live among them." Russell earned his BA in Studio Art at Saint Michael’s College (Colchester, VT) and his MFA in Sculpture at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. In 2019, His work was included in exhibitions at Conroe Art League (Conroe, TX) and Five Points Gallery (Torrington, CT). Other notable shows include a two-person exhibition  Site: Brooklyn Gallery (Brooklyn, NY). He has been an Artist-in-Residence at UMass Dartmouth (2015-16) and The Studios at Billings Forge (2009) in Hartford, CT. Russell lives and works in Maryland.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How long have you been working with soap as a primary material? What do you love about it? What is challenging about this material when it comes to process?

Russell Prigodich: I have been using soap on and off for about 12 years now. It can be a tricky material. I love the soft folds and wrinkles that soap holds and its relation to the body, but it can be a mess to work with. Anything it touches gets soapy, hands tools, finished metal, so I have a set of tools and supplies I use only for soap. There can be a lot of setup time and energy just to have 1 fold go wrong on a big sheet and then that piece is shot and has be reprocessed. But despite these challenges, I love the material. 

Humans use soap every day, now more than ever, and it is a material with which people have developed a relationship. This daily use and the sensual and visceral nature of it, bring the viewer in. It intrigues them and helps them to relate to the work physically, emotionally and conceptually.

Radiator (2017) Soap and lead.

OPP: What are the similarities and differences in the process of manipulating metal and soap? I imagine they aren’t as different as their final forms imply.

RP: Until recently I was using sheets of metal and sheets of soap, trying to build a relationship between the two materials with process. Both are cut, bent and folded into forms, the steel obviously rigidly holds its form while the soap shifts with time and age. Both require planning because once the fold is 

made it cannot be undone. The metal really has to be forced into shape while I often let the soap and gravity dictate the final form. I think of the process as a means of engaging with the viewer, emphasizing the act of folding.

Matches (2017) Soap and lead.

OPP: In your artist statement, you write: “These sculptures recast seemingly mundane objects of daily domestic life as proxies for the people who live among them. […] Their monochromatic clarity and minimalism invite the viewer to psychologically inhabit them.”  Can you say more about the minimal aesthetic as a vehicle for conveying psychological experience?

RP: I want to try and leave room for the viewer to bring their own experience to the work, and I think that the minimalist aesthetic leaves a space for that. The objects evoke ideas/places such as containment, room, love and loss. By outlining the concept I hope to leave room for the viewer to fill in their own narrative. More recently I have been building tension into the work, forcing the metal and soap together. Some recent soap and aluminum pieces only lasted a couple of days before the soap broke. The simplicity of their forms and surfaces allow the actions and results to be the main focus.

Box of Nails (2017) Soap and lead.

OPP: In Fold, soap mimics fabric, often draped over a radiator or folded neatly in a drawer. So the metal either supports or contains the soap. How do you think about the relationship between the two materials in this body of work? Are these physical or metaphoric relationships?

RP: I think they are both. The physical relationship is evident in their stark structural difference. When I think about soap as a skin both representing and standing in for the human body, the steel sometimes becomes the skeleton, holding and supporting it. This is most evident in Radiator, where I bent the square tubing on a diagonal so as the soap slumped and aged, the metal structure underneath became more and more prominent. In some works, the soap stands in for the body, a piece representing the whole. It’s folded into the steel structure, protected, stored, or contained, locked away; it can go a lot of ways depending on the work. Even though the soap is impermanent and the steel is enduring, the soap takes center stage, it’s about us and the steel works are the spaces we have lived.

Untitled (2019) Soap, aluminium. 10" x 24" x 12."

OPP: Your 2019 works that combine soap with aluminum are more abstract than the soap and lead works. How has your approach shifted in pieces like Brace and Rotor?

RP: In these works, I really wanted to dramatize time. The soap has always had a lifespan lasting months and years, slowly shrinking, cracking and aging. But, as I said,  some newer pieces only last days. There is suspense in an aluminum disc being held by a soap rod. We don’t think it will last and we wonder when it will finally break. I wanted to focus on that anticipation. I also was intentionally trying to make more abstract work. I liked the domestic reference of Fold and I think it helped build the dialogue between the soap, metal and viewer, but I was feeling confined by it. Also, I had access to a machine shop and that process lent itself to abstraction. I really believe in the meaning of material, listening to it and allowing it to speak. 

To see more of Russell's work, please visit www.russellprigodich.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 Associate Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received her MFA in 2006. Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan, 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis, 2017), Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018), Kent State Stark (North Canton, 2019), and Finlandia University (Hancock, Michigan 2020). 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Emily Budd

Hot Pants (from The Things We'll Carry), 2018. Cast aluminum. 21” x 2” x 18”

EMILY BUDD's cast sculptures explore the relationship between objects, humans and geologic time. Whether working in bronze, aluminum or conglomerations of concrete, plaster, paint, resin and found garbage, she reminds us that we are—right at this moment—in the process of becoming the fossils of the future. Emily earned her BFA in Sculpture at Miami University in Oxford, OH and her MFA at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. In 2018, she was an Artist-in-Residence at Recology (San Francisco), Salem Art Works (Salem, NY) and will be rounding out the year at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts (Saratoga, WY). In September, she created a one-night installation at the Abandoned Railroad Station in Salem, New York titled The Exorcism of Emily Budd. Emily is currently based in the Bay Area.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What do you love about bronze as a medium and/or casting as a process? 

Emily Budd: Foundry casting techniques interest me by embodying both a traditional craft but also an evocative potential to address themes of time, loss, mimicry and fossilization in a contemporary context. I like this harmony of temporalities, and I regard the extensive process involved in getting there as a metaphor for a journey of transformation.

Water Bottles, 2017.

OPP: What role does stratification play in your work. I see it in the Water Bottles and the Artifictions

EB: I use layering to evoke geologic strata that to me, is also a creative record of time that is additive, liquid and dirty. That is how the earth and time tell their story, a diary using stratification as a language. In Artifictions and Water Bottles, I transformed garbage into imagined geologic matter, altering and stratifying it into molds made from discarded objects, as if formed eons beyond their use. 

Vulcan's Stockpile, 2018. Rebar, joint compound, graphite, plaster, concrete, paint, broken glass, caulk, epoxy, plastic, sand, grout, garbage. 42” x 18” x 34”

OPP: For the mold-making-challenged among us, can you explain lost-wax casting?

EB: Lost-wax casting is ancient but it stayed sexy. I love the exchange of liquid to solid, solid to liquid, heat and alchemy. You build a form in solid wax, and put a sturdy material around it such as a plaster or clay. Applied to heat, the plaster or clay hardens and yet the wax, like a candle, melts out in a designed escape plan. This is my favorite part of the process, and also the most anxiety-inducing because after the wax melts out, there is no sculpture. There is only a void left that the molten material can be poured into, recreating an exact copy of the original in durable metal.

OPP: What happens to the original sculptures after the metal version is made in works that use a different casting method? 

EB: That depends on the type of mold you make. In lost-wax, the wax melts out so you lose the wax form. There are variations on this process and strategies of using it in more experimental and modern ways. I have explored many different materials other than wax using the lost-wax process. I have burned out fruits and vegetables, seeds, wood, plant matter, garbage and textiles as a means to immortalize them, documenting their otherwise impermanent existence into long-lasting metal to ask deeper questions about the perception of time scales.

Cast Forward (Archway), 2018. Styrofoam, plastics, textiles and garbage cast in solid aluminum, steel rebar, plaster, iron oxide, ink. 59" x 96" x 22"

OPP: You were an Artist-in-Residence at Recology in 2018. Will you tell us about your experience at this unique residency? How did it affect your practice? 

EB: The Recology residency was really cool because you get access to the public dump and therefore anything discarded there. It makes you start looking at literally everything as a potential art material, even beyond the residency experience. I approached my trash-digging there thinking in terms of archaeology, imagining how our discarded materials will inform a future about our derived present.

Stalagmites, 2017. Aluminum. 22"-74" h, 5" -19" w/d

OPP: In Cast Forward, you shifted from bronze to cast aluminum. . . was this a practical, aesthetic or conceptual shift?

EB: Both bronze and aluminum have conceptual interest for me. Bronze is used in death memorials, grave markers, cremation urns and monuments, so it has this capability of retaining memory that is interesting to me when that is shifted. In my piece Lost Wax, I did a lost-wax burnout using a raw beehive honeycomb original to memorialize a potential future loss of bees. In Cast Forward, the aluminum, being lighter and cheaper, allowed me to realistically explore larger forms which I wouldn’t have been able to do in bronze. I also like how aluminum is newer and in a way tackier with its chrome-like reflection, like the more contemporary attitude of quick and cheap built environments. 

The Exorcism of Emily Budd, 2018. Cast iron, cast beeswax, found furniture pieces.

OPP: So what’s next? Any new directions in your studio?

EB: I’m developing a new body of work that I think will open up a lot more over the next year. I am collecting fossils and found objects and experimenting with various casting materials such as beeswax, iron and glass. I am reimagining post-apocalyptic tropes by designing artifacts that display a dissonance within our current world. Thinking out of context of time and place, I want to make objects that memorialize change and unknowability.

To see more of Emily's work, please visit emilybudd.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 Stacia was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at  BOLT in Chicago.  Her solo exhibitions include shows at Siena Heights University (Michigan 2013), Heaven Gallery (Chicago 2014), the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago 2014), The Stolbun Collection (Chicago 2017) and Indianapolis Art Center (Indianapolis 2017) and Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois 2018). During summer 2018, Stacia created  Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress and was an Artist-in-Residence at Facebook. She is currently preparing for a solo show titled Practice, which will open in April 2019 at Kent State Stark.