OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Corey Postiglione

Baroque Tango #3, 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 40 x 80 inches.

COREY POSTIGLIONE's paintings use the visual language of geometric abstraction in combination with the literary device of metaphor. In crisp, flat color, he returns again and again to the curved line, the oval and the interlocking chain, allowing the meaning of these recurring forms to shift from painting to painting. Corey received a BFA in Studio Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a MA in Art History and Critical Theory from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited widely since the 1970s with solo shows at Thomas Masters Gallery (Chicago), Westbrook Modern Gallery (Carmel, CA) and Jan Cicero Gallery (Chicago), among others. In addition to his career as a practicing artist, his critical writing has been published in Artforum, The New Art Examiner, Dialogue, and C-Magazine (Toronto). He was a founding member of the Chicago Art Critics Association. He is currently Professor Emeritus from Columbia College Chicago where he taught Art History and Critical Theory as well as studio arts for over 25 years. You can see his work through March 1, 2019 in Curators Create Second Biennial at the Bridgeport Art Center (Chicago). Corey lives and works in Chicago.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do geometric abstraction and metaphor work together in your paintings? Are they balanced equally, or does one drive the work more?

Corey Postiglione: This question is essential to my entire artistic practice, which extends over many years. I have always been attracted to the possibilities of abstraction—especially the geometric style— for its formal innovation, its freedom for color, no longer restricted to nature, and its potential for ambiguity of content. This last is where I have used abstraction for its metaphorical possibilities referencing such things as population growth (the Exponential series) or the recent effects of globalization (the Tango series). Also in this regard, the concept of personal “life paths” began with the Labyrinth series in the early 90s. 

Vortex # 14, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 16 x 16 inches.

OPP: Your titles are significant in terms of pointing to the metaphors, which are still quite open to interpretation. What do TangosVortexes and Lines of Flight have in common?

CP: All these series rely on certain themes mentioned above, a visual complexity or conundrum; the lines suggest flight or trajectories.  In fact I named one series of works Lines of Flight, for the possibility of escape. The Vortex series just increases the above concepts of visual complexity in the extreme as a metaphor for our current condition: where do we fit in this complex network of international globalization.

Dancer in the Dark #2, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 30 inches.

OPP: You’ve been working with recurring visual motifs for at least 15 years (if not more). What keeps you excited about curved lines, ovals and interlocking chains? Are you ever tempted to paint something drastically different?

CP: Since the 2000s, I have mainly used curved forms, ovals, circles, to further my themes of complexity and interconnectedness.  Moreover, what I like about using these curved forms is that they can be both mathematically geometric but at the same time suggest organic images.

The artist Robert Mangold, one of my early heroes, has said that when you reach a certain point in a series and it no longer provides a new and exciting place to go. In other words, when you have exhausted the possibilities, then you need to move on. This is excellent advice and one I take very seriously. Cezanne’s’ doubt is always hovering over you in the studio. However, these forms continue to supply me with new and exciting ways to create fresh work. But when that time comes, when I feel these forms are no longer providing new and innovative visual possibilities, I will take Mangold’s advice and move on.

Tango Primary WBG, 2012. Acrylic on canvas. 40" x 40."

OPP: You’ve written that you are “inspired by the great utopian notions of late modernism (the cult of the right angle),” but it seems you haven’t painted a right angle lately. How would you describe your relationship to Modernism? 

CP: This is a very complex question but a good one. In the early 90s, I started to question the notion that Modernism—or maybe more precisely Modernity—could solve the world’s problems through technology, science, design and aesthetics. I specifically titled a piece Utopian Dreams, visually referencing these doubts. We also saw the rise of Postmodernism(s) that critiqued traditional modernism. I never rejected the right angle, and some of the early Labyrinth series incorporated a stricter geometry. The curved forms just provided me with a more complex lexicon of visual potential that would better serve my personal and political content.

Tango Eclipse Diptych, 2015. Acrylic on canvas. 40 x 60 inches.

OPP: What’s happening in your studio right now?

CP: I am continuing to explore new visual permutations with these curved forms. I am currently working on The Baroque Tango series. It follows the extravagant ideas imbedded in the concept of the Baroque: a rich and strong palette, emphasis on movement across the pictorial field and spatial complexity. It should be noted that as much as I strive to embody my abstraction with life-world content, I have always tried to make work that was visually generous in color and form. In other words, I want the work to seduce the viewer. I want the work to also be about the pleasure of the aesthetic experience, what Andrea K. Scott recently referred to as “retinal pleasure.” This is whether one gets what ideas are behind the making of the work. Otherwise I would just put up a didactic written statement. No, I am still an advocate of Visual Art with the emphasis on the visual.


To see more of Corey's work, please visit coreypostiglione.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.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Anne Yafi

Plush Grid, 2018. Pipe cleaners, mixed media. 144" x 96" x 20"

Bright color and texture are the purveyors of mindful pleasure in ANNE YAFI's conceptually-driven painting practice. She uses mass-produced materials that reference consumerism and hobby craft to subvert the values of Minimalism. Her pipe cleaner grids, whether hovering in space or popping off the wall, are malleable, resilient, and defiantAnne earned her BFA at Northern Illinois University (Dekalb, IL) and her MFA at The School of the Art Institute Chicago. Her solo shows include Anne Yafi, Fresh Work (2016) at Free Range (Chicago) and Does It Feel Delicious (2017) at Kruger Gallery (Chicago). In 2018, she collaborated with Christalena Hughmanick to create a site-specific installation called There's Nothing Natural About This at Wedge Projects (Chicago). Her most recent solo show is currently on view at 65GRAND (Chicago). Dip In My Daydream runs through February 23, 2019. Anne lives and works in Chicago. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: American culture sends mixed messages about the value of play. We are constantly being sold entertainment and pleasure, but there’s also a underlying, dominant idea that it isn’t productive or useful. How do you think about play and playfulness? 

Anne Yafi: Pleasure gets a bad rap, and rightly so when it doesn’t empower one’s life experience. It’s really a matter of perception and attitude, I’m solidly pro-pleasure! I think the critique regarding play in our culture when associated with pleasure is largely addressing passive and escapist consumer behavior versus one of active participation that I engage for my purposes as an artist. I’m well aware of the judgement and my continued interest feels defiant which makes it even more compelling to me. I think my embrace of play really took hold after creating my first pipe cleaner grid and closely observing visitors enter my studio.

Sex Karma (detail), 2014. Pipe cleaners, plastic beads.

OPP: How did they respond?

AY: Some of the most stoic, hard-core academics would break into a smile; others stood mesmerized, their eyes traveling about the grid. Several looked for ways to climb into the grid, while a few have absentmindedly reached for the pipe cleaners, stroking them like a pet while talking to me. Seriously fascinating. What does this mean in the context of art? I think the more interesting question is, how does an artwork shape the experience of viewing? 

Snuggle Wall (Make Love Not Walls), 2017. (detail)

OPP: What led you to work with mass-produced materials, including pipe cleaners, Perler beads and Ikea straws?

AY: My response to a newly found material or object is always highly visceral as I immediately fall in love with its materiality and the possibilities for abstracting it away from its intended function. I began grad school as a painter and had to reinvent my work because of a 60-mile commute into Chicago. I live in a rural community where every big box home improvement and craft store is within three miles of my home studio. IKEA is a store I frequent because I grew up with it as a child visiting Sweden decades before it entered the US.

2013-2017, Limited Edition, 2017. Ikea drinking straws. 50" x 40"

OPP: And you work with these materials as “painting?”

AY: These materials are a conceptual approach to drawing and painting. The IKEA straw works reference hard edge abstraction as well as contemporary issues on consumerism. They question value judgements around pleasure and on non-art versus art. The pipe cleaners are a linear medium that I alter through a painting process or punctuate with alternating color and texture with the beads.

Good Intentions, 2018. Pipe cleaners, mixed media, ceramics. 33" x 60"

OPP: How are the dimensional grids different from the wall works?

AY: After making a few two-dimensional “drawings” with the pipe cleaners in 2014, the three-dimensional grid was a natural progression in keeping with my subversion of Minimalism. The fantastic thing with pipe cleaners is they have a strong wire interior buried inside all that soft, disarming fuzz, and I employ these contradictions in the work. The grids begin as an invitation to an exhibition space. On my first visit, I’ll read the light, interior architecture and converse with the director about their mission for exhibitions and community. For this reason, I define the grid installations as site-relational rather than site-specific.

During the installation of Dip In My Daydream at 65Grand, Chicago

OPP: Tell us about Dip In My Daydream, which opened last week at 65Grand in Chicago.

AY: For this work, I wanted to reference process as it applies to pre-install preparations and to my imaginative experience while making. I began by creating the color palette in a multistage process of spraying and dipping over 9000 white pipe cleaners—approximately 300 at a time—with my paint mixture. Once install began I continued to dye pipe cleaners in new color combinations as the “palette" needed adjusting. I worked unassisted to build a 11’ x 9’ x 17’ hanging grid in eight days. There was no plan other than the grid’s systematic structure which functions as an allegory for how painters negotiate the pictorial frame or canvas. It’s an intuitive process that involves the selection and consideration of color and value relationships as I “paint” in the third dimension. The title also implies an invitation for the viewer to enter into this fantasy space that I’ve created. However, like its grid predecessors, the installation is built with only the illusion of entry as I’m drawing comparisons to the immersive experience one has when viewing two-dimensional paintings. 

Untitled, from the series Does It Feel Delicious, 2017.16" x 16"

OPP: The series Does It Feel Delicious? evokes decorated donuts and bagels with beautiful schmears. This work and its title seem to be a direct response to the term “eye candy,” which is often used in the art world in a dismissive way. Why are so many people so skeptical of visual pleasure?

AY: For the title, I chose a tactile descriptor in place of the visual for a twist on how paintings (again) are perceptually viewed and experienced. The heavily gessoed panels were created as topographical “meringues” to challenge my artist’s hand in painting a straight line repeatedly, the process thereby creating the resulting image. I found a pathos and humor in navigating that self-created obstruction. 

To answer your question, I think those who are skeptical of visual pleasure find it to be the antitheses of the intellect. This is a story old as time—body versus mind—and projections abound. I’m more interested in having them coexist within a contemporary female narrative because desire is not going anywhere. 

Overflowing Yummy, 2018. 24" x 24" x 6"

OPP: Well said! Can you talk about the recent addition of ceramics to your toolkit? I’ve seen images of works in progress on Instagram

AY: I was drawn towards ceramics because I could create exactly what I imagined. I entered this medium and its history with little experience which suits my preference for a direct and if you will, faux-naïve engagement with form. Plus, the glorious glaze colors, a candy store of options! The stripes on the “beaded” ceramic elements are painted by brush, a progression from painting on the gessoed reliefs to a fully three-dimensional object. Additionally, I’m currently in the process of making a variety of wall anchoring devices for the pipe cleaner works. There’s an inherent fragility in ceramics. That possibility of cracking or breaking regardless of its earthy density is compelling to me and in stark contrast to the pipe cleaner’s weightless strength. I’m always searching for materials where opportunities for humor and contradictions coexist.  

To see more of Anne's work, please visit anneyafi.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.


OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Claes Gabriel

The ouroboros, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 36" x 35"

CLAES GABRIEL's (@claesgabriel) work is energetic, even hypnotic. His paintings push the boundaries of what paintings are. In addition to the conventional rectangle, he shapes his canvases to mimic masks and statues. These works, which put mythological and historical figures on equal footing, vibrate with color and pattern, making it difficult to look away. Claes earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1999. Exhibitions include Stand In (2016) at Automat Gallery (Philadelphia), Images from the Floating World: The Works of Claes Gabriel and Tyler Wilkinson (2017) at University City Arts League (Philadelphia) and solo show Thicker Than Water (2015) at Platform Gallery (Baltimore). Most recently Other Than Human was on view at the Philadelphia International Airport, and he was featured in the online literary journal A Gathering Together (Spring 2018). His work is included in the permanent collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. Claes currently lives and works in West Philadelphia. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: Have you always been a painter? 

Claes Gabriel: What a great question: have I always been a painter? I just read Alan WattsBecome What You Are. so in a way, yes. But mainly because my father was a painter. He studied in Paris and New York and came back to Haiti with a fierce style which he passed on to me. The content of my work followed the change, I think. 

Esther, 2017. Acrylic on shaped canvas. 69" x 40" x 30."

OPP: When did you first start painting on shaped, sculptural canvases? 

CG: I began to shape canvas in college almost twenty years ago. I was fascinated by Frank Stella, Elsworth Kelly and Sam Gilliam. They broke out of the square shape. I wanted to mix what I learned from them with the rich Haitian history I come from. Usually I make the structures, then stretch and gesso my canvas and then begin drawing with charcoal.

The Haitian Revolution, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 72" x 56"

OPP: You’ve represented archetypal figures such as The Elder and The Sea Nymph, goddesses from various parts of the world, including Circe and Green Tara, and historical figures like Little Ruby Bridges and Touissant Louverture. Can you talk about the way mythology and history live together in your practice?

CG: Mythology—that comes from my childhood in Haiti. I grew up hearing the voodoo drums in the background. We talk of spirits as if they are a real thing. The history part is simple. I have a pulpit as an artist that I want to use to bring up issues we may have forgotten that are still relevant. 

Little Ruby Bridges, 2018. Acrylic on linen. 15" x 6" x 4."

OPP: I was really struck by the image on your website that shows you standing on a stool working on The Harlequin. It emphasizes that these statues tower over you. Can you talk about the scale of the statues and the masks as they relate to the emotional tone you hope to evoke for the viewer?

CG: If I make the piece slightly larger than life, it might seem more human.

Queen of Time, 2016. Acrylic on shaped canvas. 50" x 36" x 12."

OPP: Can you talk about those recurring concentric circles, the undulating shapes of the masks and your palette?

CG: I think of tibetan sand paintings when I am making the circles. It's a meditation. 

The Ouroboros, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 40" x 50."

OPP: What does the ouroboros mean to you? You have at least three different paintings with that same title. 

CG: I will probably keep working on that theme. It’s the snake eating itself. The best thing I could think of for a self portrait.

To see more of Claes' work, please visit claesgabriel.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.


Going Strong for 7 Years: Justin Richel

Did you know the OPP blog turns seven-years-old at the end of August? In honor of our upcoming birthday and the artists we feature, we'll be sharing some blasts from the past. In this post and over the next few weeks, we'll share new work from Featured Artists interviewed in the first year of the blog. Today's artist is Justin Richel.

Justin at John Michael Kohler Art Center

OtherPeoplesPixels: What's new in your practice, since your interview in 2010?

Justin Richel: In 2013 I received an Arts/Industry Residency at Kohler Co. through the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which altered the way I would think and make work there after. Since that time I have focused my efforts on a sculptural practice, shifting from painting exclusively to a multidisciplinary practice that allows for both painting and sculpture and the mixing of the two.  

Endless Column (Toast), 2017-18. Urethane plastic, acrylic. 36 x 4 x 4 inches.

A series that I am currently working on is titled Tall Order this seres takes it’s overall aesthetic from early modernism and minimalist idealisms and subverts these with a bit of pop culture, humor and a maximalist approach to detail.

Zips, 2016 - 18. Bass Wood, Gouache, acrylic, sterling silver and 23k gold leaf.

Another series titled Zips takes it’s name from the famous zip paintings by Barnett Newman. An homage to the artist but also to the object that created the paintings. Constructed from carved wood, painted with gouache and gilded with gold, silver and copper leaf, they reference the object-ness of a paint brush yet lack its functionality, resulting in an object that resists definition. It is simultaneously a brush, a sculpture, a painting, a zip, a portrait of the artist and yet none of these things by classical definition.

The Artist, Alone In A Vacuum, Gestating The World Into Being, 2015. Gouache on board. 9 1/8" x 10.25"

In 2015 I received an artist residency on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine. This residency afforded me the necessary time to make a clean break from the paintings that I had been making during the previous 12 years. Monhegan is known for being an art colony among early modernist painters, undoubtedly for it’s rugged coast line, extreme weather and solitude. My paintings now incorporate the stigma and stereotypes surrounding the archetypal permutations of the artist and the creative process. I am particularly interested in portraying the ”shadow” of the artist, which metaphorically represents the darker underlying struggles that exist in the character of “Mankind.” In this work I draw from art history, mythology, pop culture and Jungian psychology. The paintings are composed almost exclusively from borrowed imagery combined and reconfigured to create new narrative structures that build on the past.

Endless Column, 2013. Slip cast vitreous China. 96" x 4 1/2" x 4 1/2"

In 2016, my partner Shannon Rankin and I moved from Maine to New Mexico. Shannon had received a residency from the RAiR Foundation which provided us with a house, studios and stipend for one year. We liked it so much that we decided to stay. 

I currently have some work in a show titled Parallax (A RAiR Connection Exhibition) at the Roswell Museum and Art Center in New Mexico. This three-person show features works by Emi Ozawa,  Maja Ruznic and myself, who are all partners of current or former RAiR grant recipients, and is on view through September 2, 2018. 

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Isak Applin

He Was a Friend of Mine, 2016. Oil on canvas. 36" x 48"

ISAK APPLIN's painted vignettes often depict quiet moments that point to the internal experiences of their subjects. A man chops wood while remembering a betrayal. Solitary figures stroll through the forest in contemplation. Although there is occasional drama—sometimes a man is knifed outside a bar. Regardless, these works balance site with story. His attention to color and texture demands that viewrs take the environments as seriously as the action. Isak earned his BFA in Painting at Maine College of Art and his MFA in Painting and Drawing at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His numerous solo shows include: Dark Holler (Chicago, 2006) at Contemporary Art Workshop, Six More Miles (Chicago, 2008) at Roots and CultureChocorua(Ontario, 2013) at Evans Contemporary, and Now Chicago (Sydney, Australia, 2014) at The Hughes Gallery. Around the Mountain Again, a two-person show also featuring the work of Featured Artist Carl Baratta opened at The New Standard Gallery (Sydney, Australia) in early 2018. He is currently at the Stephen Pace House Residency in Stonington Maine. Isak also runs Titan and Weald, a private press specializing in chapbooks, fine press books and relief prints. Isak lives in Queens, New York.

OtherPeoplesPixels: What’s your relationship to the woods?

Isak Applin: I see the forest as a place of mystery and change.

I grew up in the woods of the Taconic Mountains on border of Massachusetts and New York State. In the 19th century, lumber mills, small factories and sheep farms deforested much of the region. As these industries waned during the mid 20th century a rich forest quickly grew back. And yet traces of the old way of life remained: logging roads, building foundations, stonewalls, mysterious piles of rocks and weathered fence posts were scattered throughout the woods. I witnessed the tail end of this transformation as a child; even then I found it awe-inspiring, disconcerting and sublime.

As a child and teenager, the forest was also a stage for adventure—it was my African jungle, Sherwood Forest and Siberian taiga. Later it was the place for one’s first kiss and precious hours of freedom from school and parents. 

The inhabitants of this forested area were also equally fascinating. During the 1970s, the area was settled by Whole Earth Catalog inspired hippies, Vietnam Vets seeking solace and New Yorkers who had always dreamed of owning a horse. It was also a place of big dreams and spectacular and frightening failures. Within a few miles of my house there was a thriving Sufi commune, a huge Indian style Peace Pagoda built entirely by volunteers and a failed nudist colony—it had descended into violent, drug-ridden chaos. I’ve always been extremely fascinated and moved by my neighbors’ eccentric and epic lives. 

The Letter II, 2014. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: How you think about the woods when painting?

IA: Many of the paintings attempt to capture the sentiments I described above. They are simply an edited depiction of that landscape or the story set in that landscape. I have always been a collector of stories and situations I find moving, strange and unique. Sometimes, often years after the event, I feel the need to make a painting of one of these stories in an attempt to record and share it. And this is how much of my work is generated: I hear a story or experience something, find myself reflecting on it, and at some point decide that this event needs to be shared with the rest of the world. 

Forked Lake, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 12" x 9"

OPP: What’s your relationship to landscape painting?

IA: My relationship to landscape paintings is that of a magpie to its nest; I’ll steal from any tradition if it helps me convey the spirit of the story or place I’m depicting! In general, the compositions are largely influenced by Medieval Sienese paintings, Persian and Indian miniatures and various Chinese paintings. Early and mid 20th century European and American modernists often inform my color choices and paint handling. Lately I’ve been under the spell of Monica Poole and Gwenda Morgan, wood engravers from Britain that created marvelously inventive landscape prints.

His Last Night in Randazzo, 2017. Watercolor and gouache on paper. 19" x 14"

OPP: His Last Night in Randazzo (2018) and Goodbye Jay (2017) have a cinematic quality, in the sense that the scenes floating around the central figure indicate something other than what’s happening in the present moment. I keep flipping back and forth between thinking they are the near future, the distant past or a complete fantasy in the heads of the figures in the bottom of the the paintings. Thoughts?

IA: Both paintings are inspired by true events, and both depict several different points of time within one composition. The events are fragments, and they do not necessarily come together to form a coherent narrative. In these paintings I hope to capture what it feels like to hear the stories (or the storyteller) that I’m working with, rather than transcribe these events into a linear narrative.  

Goodbye Jay is a memorial painting, albeit a light-hearted one, depicting events from the life of a friend who was a sailor on research vessels in the Arctic and the South Seas. He lived in a comic book world of maritime violence and South Seas romance. His Last Night in Randazzo is a little less straightforward. I used the space to the left of the tree in the center as a container for vignettes depicting an acquaintance’s escape from Sicily and his flight to Detroit. To the right of this tree is a couple walking down a path in the present day--they are the ones that have to live under the weight of the events on the left.

Fantasy is sparingly added to these compositions, I only include fictional events in the paintings if I feel that it will enhance or clarify the feeling that I’m trying to convey.

Spring '96, 2013. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Can you talk about the recurring themes of being chased, watched or stalked?

IA: The chase themed paintings began in 2012. A friend and I were cycling along a wooded path on a drizzling November afternoon, and we were suddenly chased by an incredibly fast deranged man wearing a cape of burlap sacks. Around this same time everyone in my apartment building was unexpectedly evicted. I started making some drawings of being chased while cycling, and the chase theme became an allegory for forced flight.

The “watching” paintings are about longing, loss and the quixotic behavior of scorned lovers. Like the other paintings, these are based on true events from the distant past that have haunted and moved me. I never really set out to make a painting about being stalked, but I can see how some of the compositions could inspire that interpretation.

Dennis and Marilyn, 2016. Oil on canvas. 30" x 30"

OPP: Tell us about the process of making collaborative prints with Carl Baratta and Oli Watt?

IA: This series started in 2007. One of our primary goals is to create a collaborative piece where the viewer can’t see each artist’s hand. Put another way, we hope that no one will be able to look at a piece and suspect that I drew the bottom, Carl drew the top and the middle looks like something from one of Oli’s prints. To achieve this, we try to draw in each other’s style, we often take turns carving different parts of the wood block, and we generally make all decisions collectively.

Old Woman Spring Road I, 2016. Collaboration with Carl Baratta, woodcut on paper. 9" x 12"

OPP: Did this collaboration teach you anything about your solo practice?

IA: For a long time, the collaborative work was a place where I (we) explored fantastic and mythological themes that were absent from, or didn’t seem to fit into, my personal work. The collaborative prints were a vessel for passages from the epic of Gilgamesh, invented deities and the depiction of other worlds—content that seemed at odds with my paintings set in the contemporary world. To my surprise, in 2014 the apparitions, ghosts and angels from the collaborative prints started creeping into the personal work, enriching it in a way that I could never have anticipated.

To see more of Isak's work, please visit isakapplin.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). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Florine Demosthene

Releasing the Truth, 2018. Mix media on canvas. 32 x 48 inches.

The female figure in FLORINE DEMOSTHENE's mixed media work hovers in a gauzy, blue and gray haze. In some works, she sprouts whole other versions of herself from her back. In others, she lovingly carries herself in her arms or on her shoulders, as a parent carries a child. This figure represents our relationship with ourselves. She is both a physical body and a symbol of the spirit. Florine earned her BFA at Parsons the New School for Design and her MFA at Hunter College. She had had solo exhibitions at Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands), Gallery MOMO (Capetown and Johannesburg, South Africa), Semaphore Gallery (Neuchâtel, Switzerland) and Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana). She has received grants from Arts Moves Africa and Joan Mitchell Foundation. Florine resides between New York, Accra and Johannesburg, although she's spending 2018 in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a 2018 Tulsa Art Fellow.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do you see the relationship between the mind and the body, the internal and the external?

Florine Demosthene: The works are about the relationship we have with ourselves. . . the different parts of ourselves and how we are engaged in this continual battle. I have been investigating the duality between mind, body, emotion, spirit and essence through this series of works. I have not quite formulated a solid understanding of these components and how they interconnect. It's like I have gone down this rabbit hole that keeps getting deeper and more nebulous. 

Disappear Into Myself 3, 2013. Ink, charcoal, graphite and oil bar on polypropylene. 9 x 12 inches.

OPP: It seems like you are really talking about a spiritual path of inquiry. How does art-making aid in that path? Can you share any insights or observations you have?

FD: Making art in integral to my path of self-awareness and discovery. It allows me to create a cocoon around myself where I can delve deeper into my psyche. It has been an intriguing journey. I find when I allow my anger to rise to the surface, I make leap and bounds in my art work. I don't want to be in a perpetual state of rage, but it does serve as a catalyst for me to push past my boundaries.

Illumination #11, 2018. Collage on paper. 11 x 14 inches.

OPP: Are these works self-portraits?

FD: I don't necessarily see the works as self-portraits but rather an exploration of ideas. I reference myself, particularly my body, because it is readily available and I can easily manipulate it in the way that I want. 

OPP: Can you talk about Mind Chatter and The Story I Tell Myself? Is the secondary figure a burden to the first? Or simply an integral part that the main figure must nurture and carry through life?

FD: Those two works are addressing the shadow aspects of who we are and what exactly constitutes our personal narratives. I find that we fear the darkness within ourselves and shy away from addressing that truth within us. With those two works, I was searching for how to unburden this aspect within us.

Meta, 2018. Mix media on wood panel. 40 x 52 inches.

OPP: Blue lines seem to operate differently in different works. In Meta, they grow from the fingertips and remind me of Freddy Krueger’s knife glove. In Wounds #2, they seem more like blood dripping and in Wounds #7, they shackle the feet. How do you think about the blue in these works?

FD: Firstly the large areas of blues and black are glitter. The blue glitter lines are a continuation of the yellow beams that I was using in a previous series. These lines represent energetic communication or a sort of higher consciousness.

There has been this question that has been gnawing at me for quite some time: If we are only using like 10% of our brain capacity, then what would it look like if we say use 55%-100% of our minds? 

In the quest to find answers to this question, I have come to the understanding that it is not about our brains, but rather our connection to our soul/essence/spirit...that spark that ignites the life within us. If we could gain full access to this spark, then we can propel the brain (and how it functions) to level unimaginable. The thing is, we are so disconnected from this aspect of ourselves. In these works (the ones with the radiating lines) I'm attempting to bridge that gap between mind and spirit. . . to somehow build a connection to allow for direct communication.

To Come Undone, 2018. Mix media on wood panel. 52 x 120 inches.

OPP: In earlier works, the figure feels trapped in the backgrounds because there is more visual noise and, in some cases, actual locations with buildings and furniture. But in more recent works, the figure seems to be floating in an empty, abstract space. Can you talk about this change?

FD: The simplified background was just a natural progression of the work. In earlier works, I was concerned quite a bit with the figure/ground relationship. As the series developed, it became more and more about the body—and what's within the body—and less about the space in which the figure resides. This gradual shift helped me to hone in a bit more on what I wanted to convey with these drawings and paintings.

Meta-Two, 2018.  Collage on canvas. 36i x 48 inches.

OPP: In 2018, you won the Tulsa Fellowship, which offers an unrestricted award and brings artists from elsewhere to Tulsa for a year. Tell us about the experience. What has it been like to relocate? And what are you working on?

FD: I have been out of the USA for four years, so I had to mentally adjust for this fellowship. Thus far, the fellowship program has been surprising (in a good way) and it is allowing me to have some much needed time to regroup. I plan on continuing this series as well as possibly incorporation 3D and digital works. . . but we shall see how that goes. 

To see more of Florine's work, please visit florinedemosthene.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). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Susan Klein

Small Sculptures, 2017. Oil on ceramic and epoxy clay.

SUSAN KLEIN's work weaves in and out of an irreverence for the sacred and a reverence for the banal. Her sculptures and drawings are playful, colorful and humorous. . . and they take themselves seriously. They are complex explorations of ambiguous forms—urns, gravestones, altars, severed fingers—that evoke the human devotional impulse. Susan earned her BFA in Studio Art at University of New Hampshire, followed by her MFA in Painting at University of Oregon. In June 2018, she was an artist-in-residence at the Wassaic Project in Wassaic, New York, and she will be spending July at theInternational Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn. She is the curator of Nighttime For Strangers, which features the work of Skye GilkersonHeather Merckle, and Holly Veselka, at the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn. The show opens this Friday on July 6 and runs through July 27. Her upcoming solo show Susan Klein: New Work opens on September 6, 2018 at the Sumter County Gallery of Art in South Carolina. Susan's work in represented by The Southern. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

OtherPeoplesPixels: How do you define the Sacred?

Susan Klein: I think of the sacred as that which is imbued with a specific religious or spiritual significance. This can be an object or living being that is revered and often held as directly connected to a god or gods. I am interested in the arbitrary manner that objects can be consecrated and made sacred. An ordinary object can be transformed into a thing that carries power, weight and spirituality. It can act as the connection between this world and another.  

Offering, 2017. Oil and acrylic on ceramic stoneware. 84 x 84 x 6 inches.

OPP: Can you talk about that recurring form which is sometimes a severed finger, sometimes a gravestone, sometimes a monument?

SK: This form references a pattern on an Etruscan artifact. I have played with it many times in painting, drawing and sculpture. I like how it can shift between a finger, figure, phallus and monument. It is a form that symbolizes creation, touch and commemoration. 

It is interesting that you mention it as a severed finger! The violence associated with that connects the form to Shadow Things (2014-2015), a body of work that directly relates to cemeteries, urns, grave markers and funerary ornament. I was thinking about how these markers or holders of the dead are used to commemorate and bridge the living and the dead. Mausoleum and the related works grew out of visits to museums to see artifacts (Roman and Egyptian funerary artifacts to name a few) and out of my experience in Berlin’s Weissensee Cemetery, the second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe that miraculously survived WWII. Many Jews hid in the mausoleums there, but I think most were found and killed. Despite this history—or maybe because of it—it is an amazingly beautiful place. Humans have a way of turning death into something beautiful. Through religion, commemoration, decoration and the use of the sacred object or altars we find ways to grapple with that which we do not understand. 

Three Rainbows, 2017. Oil on canvas and wood. 60 x 48 inches.

OPP: What role does humor play in your work?

SK: Humor is a counter to the heaviness in life. It is a way we can process and manage emotions, trauma and current events. For me, it is also a way to prevent work from becoming literal, heavy-handed, overly simplified and a one-liner. It keeps complexity in the work, and that mirrors the human psyche.  

The finger form is as funny as it is serious. I often use shapes or imagery that shift from serious to playful, venerated to irreverent. This slippage is important to me, and one of the main reasons I am currently working with the ubiquitous symbol of the rainbow. It is used in religion, new age spirituality, emojis, stickers, etc. I think it is funny to use a cliched image in "serious," formal work. There are so many associations we have with the rainbow as a symbol. Rainbows are very seductive and silly in reproduction (but a real rainbow is always beautiful). It is fun to play with those associations, to personify and glorify this image. Plus, how can I resist a good color gradient? 

Landed, 2018. Oil on ceramic stoneware. 18 x 14 x 7 inches.

OPP: It seems like you began in drawing and painting and moved into sculpture. Is that the case? What led you toward sculpture?

SK: In graduate school, I cut up drawings and made three-dimensional structures out of them. I would use these structures as stand-alone sculptures and as still life subjects for paintings. I also began using small foam and spilled paint sculptures as subjects. This process continued after school for many years. Later, I pulled forms from paintings and made them into sculpture. There has been a continuous back and forth, although I had about three years or so where I focused entirely on painting. A collaborative exhibition in Berlin in 2015 brought sculpture back into my practice. I incorporated the furniture in the exhibition space into my work. That certainly changed things! In some ways, straight painting and image making never satisfied me. I continuously was thinking of the painting as object, so moving into sculpture made perfect sense. Strangely, much of the art I admire most are very quiet paintings, like Giorgio Morandiand Édouard Vuillard. Although Betty Woodman and Jessica Stockholder rock my world. 

Looped, 2018. Oil on ceramic stoneware. 15 x 9 x 9.75 inches.

OPP: When did ceramics first enter your tool kit?

SK: In 2016 I began making forms out of Sculpey, epoxy resin and air dry clay as a way to solve an architectural issue with a cement piece. These forms and materials clicked, so I made more and more. A year ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the artist in residence program at Otis College of Art and Design. They have a ceramics studio and an amazing ceramics tech there, so it was the perfect time to experiment with clay. I loved it immediately! Instead of glazing, I fire the clay and oil paint it.  This keeps the work firmly connected to painting and allows me to work with a process that more spontaneous than glazing. I also love how the oil paint takes to the fired surface. It is very buttery and satisfying!

OPP: Talk about your choice to present artist statements in the form of audio and video that doesn’t tell us much at all. You could have no statement at all, as many artists do. Are you a contrarian? Or genuinely mystified by writing an artist statement?

SK: Ha! I have "proper" artist statements that I use for applications, exhibitions, and whatnot, but I like resisting language on the website. I think the work creates its own language and presents that to the viewer. I am not so interested in layering verbal/written language on top of that. Although I am an academic, I have a small problem with the academicizing of visual art.  Artist statements are a direct result of the proliferation of the MFA and the professionalization of the field. . . so yes, maybe I am a bit contrarian! But I also like that image and sound can exist as a statement or descriptor of the work. There is something pre-lingual in my work and in my experience words can obfuscate, confuse and miscommunicate as often as not. One must be a very good writer to illuminate the world.

Peach Diamond Reverence, 2016. Foam, paint, glitter, resin, clay. 12.5 x 11 x 9 Inches.

OPP: What’s frustrating about how viewers respond to your work?

SK: For some reason, I dislike the word whimsical being applied to my work. I don't know why! Maybe because it makes me think of cuteness. My work incorporates play, humor and improvisation, but it is also rigorous. Whimsy feels a bit fluffy. 

OPP: What’s satisfying? 

SK: It is satisfying when viewers really engage with the work. When they spend the time to get lost in it a little, when they start to react the dark side as well as the light. I do like to see people having fun with my work as well! My art idol is Elizabeth Murray, who created work that embodies many things at once. It is playful, humorous, rigorous, serious. 

To see more of Susan's work, please visit susankleinart.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). Most recently, Stacia created Renunciation Reliquary as a one-night installation for Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Mikey Kelly

Be Love Now v1.0 17.084. Acrylic on linen. 60" diameter x 1-1/2" depth. 2017.

MIKEY KELLY (@mikeykellystudio) explores the spiritual undertones of abstract painting. Line is his primary mark, and his meticulous methods yield surprising, vibrating networks of color. Mikey earned his BFA at University of Oregon and his MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work is included in the permanent collections at the Cranbrook Museum of Art, the Frankl Foundation for Art and the Neiman Marcus Corporate Collection, and he has been an Artist-in-Residence at Kala Art Institute (Berkeley) and at Lucid Art Foundation (Inverness, CA). He's represented by Chandra Cerrito Contemporary(Oakland), where he has had two solo shows. His work is on view until May 20, 2018 in the Lucid Art Foundation Annual Artist Show at GRO in Point Reyes, California and in Proto_Pop at Dab Art in Ventura, California. Mikey lives and works in Napa, California, where he recently completed the Painted Poem Mural

OtherPeoplesPixels: In your statement, you say, “The paintings truly need to be seen in person to fully experience them.” What am I missing as a viewer who’s only seen your work online?

Mikey Kelly: Changing tonalities and perspectives can’t be caught by the single image capture of a camera and need an advanced brain and the higher resolution of the human eye to truly experience these effects. When one gets closer to the paintings colors begin to separate and what you may have thought was a blue was actuality your eye mixing two or even three different colors to make that blue. There are also times when the canvases seem to bow or stretch visually as one moves around the pieces. These paintings test the viewer’s visual, neural and perceptual plasticity.

Embattlements 13.218.1. Mild steel, powder coat. 26"H x 21"W x 4"D. 2013

OPP: You used to work in powder-coated steel (2011-2014). I see a formal connection between your current systems-based paintings and the line variations in the steel sculpture. Are the processes at all similar despite the difference in media?

MK: All my work starts with a line. Formally they begin at the same place, but the sculpture work is much older than the drawings and paintings. The sculptures did dramatically inform the drawing and painting from their beginning, as I was familiar with playing with lines and the patterns that overlaying subsequent lines create. The process of making work changed dramatically a few years ago when I moved from the sculptural realm to the two-dimensional.

Mantra (Om Namah Shivaya) 17.016. Acrylic on linen. 24"H x 24"W x 1-1/2"D. 2017.

OPP: Can you describe your algorithmic process for making paintings? 

MK: My process starts with an analog program using encryption methods developed for secretly passing information that can convert language into numbers. This is a generative way of designing paintings that leaves the outcome unknown. I start with a base 26 variation of a Vigenere cipher that allows me to convert language into numbers. The result is a string of numbers that I then use to calculate the angle of each series of lines. I end up with an algorithm that directs the line spacing, angle, line width and color in a predetermined sequence before I ever start painting. This means that I work with no preconceived idea of what the final piece will look like. Each series of lines results in color shifting and new interference patterns each step of the way.

Buddha 16.264. Acrylic on Linen. 11"H x 11"W x 1-1/2"D. 2016

OPP: How do you get such straight lines?

MK: The painting process starts with the construction of a scale outside the boundaries of the canvas. This allows me to use a straight edge to maintain the same angle across the canvas as each line is painted. I use a pin striping tool that was developed in the early 1900s—it is essentially a syringe with a wheel at the end. This tool allows me to paint consistent straight lines of the same width without variation.

OPP: What can the paintings do that the sculptures could not? And vice versa? 

MK: While both are quite formal, the paintings feel more like true expression of myself. Sculptures on the one hand allow space, distance, volume, light and shadow into play. This creates a lot of variables that a two-dimensional painting can never encompass. But the paintings have allowed me to incorporate outside interests into the design and underlying structure of the work. This is why I have been exploring ways of combining the two so I can incorporate what I love in both into one piece.

P.O.S., Acrylic on goatskin, wood and deer lacing, 62”H x 42”W x 1-1/2D.” 2018.

OPP: Recently, you’ve shifted away from the conventional rectangle to the circle and even stretched goat skin. What’s led you to this format change? Are these anomalies or an entirely new direction?

MK: This is definitely a new direction that the work is heading in. Working the way I do, I find that using a shape other than a square or rectangle allows for more freedom and a less confined feeling to the painting. This came about from working on a few murals and installations that I completed in the past year.

I have been working towards the goal of making more dimensional paintings that incorporate many different techniques and materials. I plan on incorporating more leather, steel and neon into my work in the near future. I find the flat surface of a painting to be confining and would like to see how warping or stretching the canvas or leather over other shapes will influence the viewing of the work.

The Happiness Project, 2018. StARTup Art Fair LA, Acrylic on Cardboard, 96”H x 192”W x 192”D.

OPP: Tell us about the Happiness Project.

MK: The idea was to make an installation that felt like the positive energy that was in the paintings. The Happiness Project started while I was preparing for StARTup Art Fair LA and was trying to figure out how I could transform a hotel room into a full immersive experience. I decided the way to accomplish this would be to fill the entire room by lining every square inch of the walls with painted cardboard panels. I began by taking two word positive affirmations, running them through my analog program and then painting the resulting angles on cardboard shipping pads. Over 30 panels were cut and fit around all the furniture, light switches and outlets.

After the initial installation, I had the opportunity to install the panels again this time at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary. For this iteration I decided to further cut the panels down and to also rotate them creating more complexity to the installation as the lines now ran both vertically and horizontally and the joints became more complex and varied.

The third iteration was as a Special Project Artist at StARTup Art Fair SF.  This installation became the backdrop for their panel discussion series and broadcast on Facebook live. This most recent version included much smaller pieces while still playing with the complexity of the previous version.

16.058. Acrylic on Paper. 40"H x 26"W. 2016

OPP: What does the phrase “spirituality hacking” mean to you?

MK: I started looking at different forms of religion and certain religious movements during a time I attended a series of events at the Rubin Museum in New York City. Most religious belief systems seem to have a short cut to attaining enlightenment or a closeness with God. Saying a certain prayer, doing a certain form of meditation or the spinning of a prayer wheel are all ways to cheating the system in a sense.

So this Idea of “spirituality hacking” became an element that I started incorporating in my work. I began by using the analog program I developed, which enabled me to take a prayer or mantra and to use it as the input. This then gave me a series of numbers that I could use as direction to paint from. This also led to incorporating rotations of the canvas during the painting process to create a painting as a representation of a spinning prayer wheel.

Mantra (Om Ami Dewa Hrih) 17.040. Acrylic on linen. 12"H x 12"W x 1-1/2"D. 2017.

OPP: But it sounds like the precise complexity of your process isn’t really a short cut at all. Perhaps the focus and flow of the studio is the direct path to enlightenment. . .

MK:  Although there are elements of my work that have a very spiritual jump off point, I feel like the work truly needs to be viewed as an abstract piece of art first and foremost. Throughout art history spirituality has played a very specific role. When abstraction began in painting, that role did not diminish; it just went unspoken. I have chosen to be vocal about the influences of spirituality in my practice. But if I am not there or if the wall label doesn’t tell you, then the work simply becomes a painting to be judged on its formal qualities.

Many people think that making this work must be meditational. Making these paintings means making the same type of mark thousands and thousands of times. Muscle memory aside, if I just leave the present for a moment while painting, I will make a mistake. It can be very stressful and physical. I endure the struggle because the end result contains such an amazing vibratory power. I hope the work brings joy and physical beauty into the lives of others and maybe helps them find a direct path to enlightenment.

See more of Mikey's work at mikeykelly.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. Where Do We Go From Here? just closed at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois). In conjunction with this improvised installation, Stacia invited eight OPP artists—Kathryn Trumbull Fimreite, Brent Fogt, Melinda Thorpe Gordon, Jaclyn Jacunski, Jenny Kendler, Meg Leary,  Geoffry Smalley and Erin Washington—to respond to the text "Where Do We Go From Here?" Each artist approached the question from a different angle, emphasizing that both the We and the Here are not the same for each of us. For Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress, Stacia will create a one-night installation that solicits the help of benefit attendees.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Amy Babinec

Golden Rule Mine (Glass), 2016. Acrylic on panel. 12 x 16 in.

AMY BABINEC's (@amybabinecdrawings, paintings and plaster casts are driven by the recovery of memory. Informed by her educational background in Archeology, she emphasizes the fragment and the excavated object as poetic stand-ins for all that is lost. Amy earned her BFA in Painting and Drawing at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA in Visual Art from University of Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include Remnants (2015) at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois and Underlayer (2012) at Morton College Gallery in Cicero, Illinois. Amy's upcoming solo show Golden Rule opens at Riverside Arts Center’s FlexSpace (Riverside, Illinois) on June 2, 2018 and runs through July 7, 2018. The opening reception is on Sunday, June 3 from 3-6 pm. Amy lives and works in Evanston, Illinois.

OtherPeoplesPixels: Generally speaking, how do fragments relate to the whole in your work?

Amy Babinec: My work uses fragmentation as a metaphor for memory and the failure of memory. So many of my memories are fragmentary, particularly of my childhood. Images such as a wallpaper pattern, a book cover, and the smooth texture of a rock, conjure up a host of memories of my family, and a reminder of their loss over the years. Objects isolated from their environments can become artifacts, evidence and mementos. Subtracting context leaves the object open to fantasy and speculation. These fragments embody the nostalgia and longing I have for family relationships for those who have passed on. The objects become substitutes for keepsakes and stories from my own family. 

Reenactment 14, 2009. Oil on canvas. 24 x 18 inches.

OPP: In your 2017 artist statement, you say,"By combining elements of archaeology, personal history, and fiction, I set up an opposition between abstraction and figuration, past and present.” And I see this very much in the series Reenactment (2009-2010). Can you talk about this body of work in relation to this statement?

AB: I created the Reenactment paintings in graduate school at the University of Chicago. As an instructor of a beginning painting class, I found stacks of paintings that college students had discarded after the class ended. Many of the paintings were abstract, thus presenting an opportunity to use them as a free-association prompt. I selected and cropped the abandoned student paintings that had compositions, spatial relationships, or colors that reminded me of a place, person, or situation from my early life in Belleville, Illinois, the town in southern Illinois where I grew up. For example, a vivid orange geometric abstractioncould be turned into the orange brick cul-de-sac behind my elementary school. I intervened in the paintings with the minimum I needed to do in order to visualize that memory. The resulting paintings remain abstractions, but with my memories (the figuration) embedded within it.

Wildwood Mine, 2015. Plaster, 4 15/16 x 4 5/16 x 3/4 inches.

OPP: When did you first start making work based on artifacts found in abandoned coal mines?

AB: I started my research into this topic in 2009 when my parents discovered cracks in their basement foundation in their house in southern Illinois. The cracks were caused by subsidence, or the collapse of coal mines under the surface. Unfortunately, the area under their house, and most of the town, was undercut by underground coal mines which had been operated by individual owners or small companies from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Buildings and roads on the surface could prove unstable because of hidden processes under the earth and could cave in at any time. I was struck by the metaphorical possibilities of that phenomenon, that events in the past could affect the present, sometimes suddenly and drastically.

I used Illinois State Geological Survey maps, Google Earth maps and historical records, and triangulated the location of mines, then drove out to find them. These sites were largely on private land. Many had been completely erased from the surface, but some had pits, coal and slag piles, railroad tracks, and other evidence of the coal industry. I discovered that many of the abandoned mines had been used as a trash dump for domestic items such as plates and cups from the 1880s to the 1960s. As part of my studio practice, I visit the abandoned mine sites throughout the year, conduct surveys and digs and bring artifacts and documentation back to my studio in Evanston, Illinois.

Hill Mine Grid 3, 2013. Acrylic. 30 x 30 inches.

OPP: You work in a variety of drawing and painting media, as well as cast plaster. How do you make choices about which fragments should be painted in watercolor or oil versus cast in plaster? Does the object dictate this?

AB: I am a materials and techniques nerd. I enjoy the process of experimentation (most of the time!) to find the technique that fits the idea. In the Subsidence project, I have used a variety of materials to interpret the data I have found. I document the mine sites through drawings, video, and photography, and collect personally resonant objects to bring back to my studio. My focus on particular facets of this process leads to the media that will reflect my investigation.

Abandoned, Golden Rule Mine, Lenzburg, Illinois, 2017. Watercolor, colored pencil, and charcoal on paper. 11 1/4 x 15 inches. 

OPP: In both Golden Rule and Remnants, the found objects are isolated from their original context in backgrounds of (almost) black or white. Is this an erasure of the sites that inspire your work? Why or why not?

AB: My background includes a masters degree in Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland and twenty years’ experience as a museum professional. I use archaeology as a touchstone throughout much of my work. The white background evokes the practice of archaeological illustration of objects uncovered at a dig, and the photographic documentation of objects in a museum. I also use the square format as a reference to an archeologist’s grid. I often show objects in a meditative, quiet manner echoing the precision of archaeological drawings. I repeat certain objects, such as a spoon, to provide a sense of scale, following the archaeological practice of including a ruler or penny in photographs of finds.

Unlike an archaeologist, I am selective about what I collect at a site and represent in my work. Recently I have been most drawn to domestic artifacts dating from my grandparents’ generation in the early to mid-twentieth century. For example, a small triangle of colorful glazed ceramic, which had been broken off from a figurine of a house, takes on further resonance for me. I feel the pathos of this object, once highly valued by someone, but now abandoned by its owner to be buried in the dirt and be subjected to the elements. 

To see more of Amy's work, please visit amybabinec.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 (Indiana 2017). Her most recent installation Where Do We Go From Here? just closed at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois). In conjunction with this improvised installation, Stacia invited eight OPP artists—Kathryn Trumbull Fimreite, Brent Fogt, Melinda Thorpe Gordon, Jaclyn Jacunski, Jenny Kendler, Meg Leary,  Geoffry Smalley and Erin Washington—to respond to the text "Where Do We Go From Here?" Each artist approached the question from a different angle, emphasizing that both the We and the Here are not the same for each of us. For Chicago Artist Coalition's annual benefit Work in Progress, Stacia will create a one-night installation that solicits the help of benefit attendees.

OtherPeoplesPixels Interviews Hector Arce-Espasas

Dancers (Metallic), 2015. Fruits, Flowers and Porcelain. Dimensions Variable.

HECTOR ARCE-ESPASAS explores the relationship between desire and exploitation by employing the loaded symbols of tropical paradise in paintings, ceramics, and screenprints. Hector earned his BFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his MFA at Hunter College in New York. He has had solo exhibitions at Taymour Grahne (2016) in New York, Evelyn Yard (2015) in London, and Luce Gallery (2014) in Turin, Italy. In 2016, he was named one of 10 Exceptional Milennials to Watch by artnet.com. Hector lives and works in New York. 

OtherPeoplesPixels: Can you talk about the myth of the Tropical Paradise and how you use it/subvert it in your work?

Hector Arce-Espasas: Throughout the history of mankind, different cultures, in their pursuit of the ideal, have invested symbolic meaning into objects and elements of their environment. In the process of exteriorizing inner quests, these objects have become sensuous representations, i.e. symbols that express intangible truths or states. A symbol corresponds to a precise time in history and it transcends history to become universal in its function as an image. Universality of the symbolic image enables the transformation and adaptation of the symbol by different cultures, but this process also carries numerous misconceptions, misappropriations and colonial fantasies.

The idea of the Tropical Paradise is the present day transmutation of the ancient historical myth of the Garden of Paradise. The concept of Paradise as a garden is found in most eastern cultures: a secure, everlasting place in which Man can transcend his frail human condition. In biblical terms the notion of Paradise became associated with the Garden of Eden. Its earthly representation became a walled garden with dominant water features and planted with date palm trees. In western societies, this idyllic garden idea was often associated with the Latin term Locus Amoenus, a pleasant place which in time became a poetic convention for a description of an idyllic setting where a romantic encounter could occur or which belies an impending threat. 

The transformation of the eastern idea of the Garden of Paradise into the western version of Eden as Paradise combined with the notion of the Locus Amoenus became the seeds for the creation of the new Tropical Paradise: an exotic, idyllic place with palm trees by the sea. Unlike its theological version, this Paradise is within easy reach, ready to be appropriated, consumed exploited and spoiled. In present times, commercial media and the advertisement industry have successfully reconfigured some of the Paradise images, within different contexts, transforming their traditional meanings, adapting them and making them trans-cultural, with far more reaching and readily consumable results.

Untitled (red) Clay Paintings, 2014. Stoneware and Acrylic on Linen. 60" x 72"

OPP: Palm trees and pineapples are recurring images in your work. Are these symbols stand ins for Tropical Paradise?

HAE: All the compositional elements from this garden are transfigured and transubstantiated to recreate the new Paradise. The river becomes the sea. The coconut palm tree, brought from the Pacific Islands by the Europeans to the coasts of West Africa and the islands of the Caribbean, replaces the date palm tree as the official iconic image for this new exotic landscape. The insertion of the pineapple as the attainable, sensuous new fruit of this Tropical Paradise emerges. My images visually demonstrate how easy the association and transition from the date palm tree to the pineapple might have occurred; thus becoming the fruit associated with the coconut palm tree. 

No, these are not paintings they are Pineapple Decor, 2015. Acrylic on Canvas. 60" x 79"

OPP: Can you talk about the abstract screen print works? I have a sense that this is representational imagery, but blown up so large that its referent disappears?

HAE: Some of the work deals with the deconstruction and recombination of images of the pineapple, in order to demystify its meaning as a fruit representative of the Tropics. The images lure and repel while playing with the idea of the pineapple as the easily attainable commercial fruit of the Tropical Paradise. This idea is extended metaphorically in regard to having viewers question their expectations of a Tropical Paradise in itself: at what cost, to their own reality or to that of the place to stand for their fantasies.

Still of Paradise (Purple Shade of Light), 2017. Acrylic on Canvas. 24" x 29"

OPP: You’ve recently shifted into more painterly representations, whereas in the past, the palm tress have been more graphic and reproduced through printmaking processes, which connects them to mass produced media. What led to this shift?

HAE: After a few years of working with printmaking, I wanted to take a shift from the mechanical to the hand-made process without loosing the elements that I was working from. The paintings that I did in the past are created by photographing palm tree leaves then zooming in to create an abstraction. Then the images were made into transparency that get exposed into a screen. The end result is painting with acrylic and the use of large format screen-printing. I use a similar process with the derriere paintings. First a model derriere wearing jeans gets directly painted, later she makes a mono print using her derriere in the canvas leaving the in prints by her moves (similar to Yves Klein). Later these are photographed and altered using the same method as the palm tree paintings.

Dancers (White), 2016. Fruits, Flowers and Porcelain. Dimensions Variable.

OPP: It’s really jarring to see the body—well, the hips and ass, in particular—as a vessel for serving fruit. How does this work speak to exploitation of the Caribbean world?

HAE: My intention is to leave interpretation open to the viewer. Sometimes I like to ignite dislike, discomfort, disagreements with the elements I choose. A good example is the derriere sculptures. Its an image we constantly see exploited, usually direct in the Latin culture. As once the pineapple or this idea of the tropical paradise was a coveted and luring concept, in today’s culture it is the derriere. My last installation of the sculptures, named Ode to Paradise was made into a pyramid like stage/shape with a lot of tropical foliage on the top with the idea of empowering the figure, which I feel is what our culture has greatly done.

To see more of Hector's work, please visit hectorarceespasas.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 (Indiana 2017). Her solo installation Where Do We Go From Here? is on view at Robert F. DeCaprio Art Gallery (Palos Hills, Illinois) through April 20, 2018. In conjunction with this improvised installation, Stacia invited eight OPP artists—Kathryn Trumbull Fimreite, Brent Fogt, Melinda Thorpe Gordon, Jaclyn Jacunski, Jenny Kendler, Meg Leary,  Geoffry Smalley and Erin Washington—to respond to the text Where Do We Go From Here? Each artist approached the question from a different angle, emphasizing that both the We and the Here are not the same for each of us.