Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Art Space Talk: Barbara Stanczak

Barbara Stanczak, an art Professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art, agreed to do an interview for myartspace.com after I had finished an interview with her husband, Julian Stanczak. Barbara has been a practicing artist for most of her life. She also has several decades of experience as a college/university art instructor. Originally a painter, her work has evolved into sculpture- she works primarily in stone and wood.

Brian Sherwin: Thank you so much for this interview Barbara. You are a sculptor... you work primarily in stone and wood. Do you have other artistic pursuits as well? Painting? Drawing?

Barbara Stanczak: The problem is that everything fascinates me and I was told me when I was young: "you can do anything and everything!" and so I do! I painted for a good 20 years but my canvases grew off the wall and became loaded with sand, lead, copper, found objects, until they were total 3d constructions. I do believe in the Renaissance ideal that an artist should be able to do anything their mind's eye can perceive.
I am not a woman of all trades but I don't get intimidated by any material and pick up the skills readily for any execution. I feel very comfortable in print making, casting lead, bronze, paper, plaster, weaving, photography, book design, computer design...

BS: Barbara, you have said the following, "In my work I try to transform matter into spirit: the tree trunk into memories, the rock into emotion.". Can you go into further detail about this? How has nature, aside from the materials that you use, influenced your work?

BS: Nature has been my teacher in how shapes are formed, colors are blended, edges highlighted, concavities enriched, emptiness mystified... I observe intently, photograph incessantly and try to make sculptures that reference but not imitate nature. I would like my work to feel intimate, be part of everyone's human experience and connect to the universal desire for beauty. I want to re-awaken the sense of touch through my carvings, the child-like pleasure of petting and caressing a contour (which is hard to do to a flower).

Yes, the materials that I am involved with for the past 20 years, are nature's emissaries. The rocks tell me of the geological history of the world, of sediments, crystals, displacements/shifts. The tree trunks give evidence of weather conditions, branching, patterns, diseases, even wind patterns. The more I know, the more I appreciate the unique beauty of each piece I touch. I want to share their inherent uniqueness by choosing shapes that can best reveal it, and intuitively touch the human spirit.
Shapes and colors provoke certain psychological reactions, materials carry with them symbols and traditions and art history confirms form rightness,- all of these have to overlap in an effective sculpture.

BS: How did you find the spiritual in nature... or did it find you?

BS: Good question,- do we ever know? Perhaps everyone has a different answer and experience,- I feel peace in nature,- or outrage when it is suffering. I sense a connection, empathy, as well as a responsibility.
When horseback riding in the park, for example, you pick up the rhythm of the horse's gait in breezing, becoming one heartbeat. Or cross country skiing, or swimming in the ocean you subordinate, loose, yourself to the larger creation. It frees you from your bounds/physical boundaries and gives you, and me, the spiritual feeling of absorption into something larger than yourself.

BS: Barbara, can tell our readers about your youth? Do you have any memories that made a huge impact on your life and art... as far as nature is concerned?

BS: Being born into the distress of WW II in Germany in the 1940's, our good fortune was that my mother, a physician, managed to be transferred out of the city into the countryside. Since she was responsible for a large territory, we children were often alone in the woods, exploring, gathering food, playing in the water, climbing any tree, taming little animals...
This experience and hanging around my older brother, no doubt, formed my fondness of nature, my self-reliance and problem- solving skills. I also feel fortunate to be part of a family of generations of artists, painters, goldsmith, graphic artists, writers, musicians, scientists,.. and being exposed to their skills, determination, resourcefulness...

BS: So... would you say that you are in search of natures secrets?

BS: Always. Aren't we all? But I want some secrets to be undiscovered...- I like the mystery.

BS: I understand that you have instructed art on the college/university level. Where did you teach? Also, how did you find balance between being a practicing artists and an instructor of art?

BS: Yes, I have been teaching for 33 years at the Cleveland Institute of Art and will continue till my students don't need me. I teach mainly Foundation Design, which covers compositional dynamics, psychology of vision, color theory, 3D material investigations, concepts and skill development.

No. I don't find a conflict between teaching and my own work, rather a fulfillment of my efforts in one arena into the application in the other. So I do not only "talk the talk but walk the walk". It takes time and energy but the young people are an inspiration of idealism, integrity, and endurance and often it takes courage to keep up with them!

BS: Barbara, your husband is the legendary Julian Stanczak. May I ask how the two of you met? Also, how has he influenced your work... and how have you influenced him? Have the two of you ever collaborated on projects?

BS: After 45 years of marriage, how can we not influence one another? (you sort of loose the edges where one person ends and the other one starts!) Julian was my teacher of painting in Cincinnati and since then, life is a collaboration. I still strive to live up to his ideals of perfection and clarity. If I influenced him, it might be with my energy, adventurousness and positivism.

Julian helps me with keeping my priorities straight and building sculpture bases. I borrow him my hands for anything needed. In our team, he is the head, the inspiration and I am the heart and facilitator.

BS: Having spoken with people who knew Elaine de Kooning (wife of Willem) and Lee Krasner (wife of Jackson Pollock) personally, I must ask you this question... please do not be offended... do you think that your marriage to Mr. Stanczak may have held your own career as an artist back? Or should I say that the artworld of the time may have held you and other female artists back? It is no secret that the artworld is often dominated by males... did you ever feel over-shadowed?

BS: If Art Making would be based on quantity of production,- one would say yes. But I believe that creativity can find expression in any task, in child rearing, in manual duties, in gardening or kite flying,.. It is as important to develop the human being as the professional. Yes, I had much less time to work but that's no excuse for stopping to sculpt in your head, to plan, to clarify concepts, and when you get to work, you are really focused and productive.

Looking at art magazines one might conclude that the art world is a macho world. Looking at my students in class, the ladies outnumber men 5 to 2. What happens between art school and New York? The young people are very talented and under tremendous financial and social pressures. The young men still have to take their place in competitive society and prove themselves; the young ladies, competitive though they are, find satisfaction in a broader range of occupations.

BS: Barbara, have other artists influenced or inspired you? Perhaps you can go into further detail about those artists and how they have had an impact on your artistic philosophy?

BS: My greatest influence I owe to my high school teacher, a nun, who gave me unrestricted access to the art studio which balanced the pressures of English, French and Latin requirements. As a highly respected professional artist, she exposed us to many materials and artistic processes. She was the only female assistant Henry Moore had. The other artist I greatly admire is Isamu Noguchi, whose daring yet sensitive sculptures inspire and whose intimate response to nature parallels my aspirations.

BS: Barbara, how can our readers learn more about you and your work? Is your work being exhibited at this time?

BS: No, I don't have work on exhibit right now, except for the yearly CIA Faculty show in October. I had two exhibitions last year, one in the University of Wisconsin in Madison and one at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Exhibitions are very time consuming. I have several possibilities for 2008. I am also in the process of setting up my own website- not just tucked away under Julian's (www.jstanczak.com).

BS: Barbara, do you have any suggestions or advice for emerging artists? Any survival tips for the world of art?

BS: Follow your dream, your little voice that urges you on and believe you can do anything,- with hard work that is!

BS: Thank you so much for doing this interview...

BS: Thank you, Brian, for asking.
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Barbara Stanczak. I'd like to personally thank both Barbara and Julian for their interviews. It has been a wonderful experience.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Monday, July 30, 2007

Art Space Talk: Rhett Gerard Poche

I found Rhett Gerard Poche on myartspace.com while viewing the Featured Artist section. I recognized his name- having viewed his work at Art Chicago. His work conveys a controversial message about sexuality and the role of gender. Rhett is represented by the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery: www.zollaliebermangallery.com

Brian Sherwin: Rhett, you were represented by Zolla/Lieberman Gallery at Art Chicago. How did the exhibit go for you?

Rhett Poche: Yes, I have been represented by Zolla/Lieberman since 2004, and have shown with the gallery at Art Chicago for the past two years. Art Chicago attracts international attention, and any opportunity to exhibit during the fair is a reward in and of itself. I have yet to sell work during Art Chicago, but I "pretend" to have the luxury of not worrying about sales (that’s my dealer’s job anyway). I have a great relationship with Zolla/Lieberman, and the gallery is very supportive of my work. I couldn’t ask for more.

BS: A lot of critics had said that the success of Art Chicago and the Bridge Art Fair would decide if Chicago remained a hub of the art world or not. It seems to me that Chicago is still in 'the game', so to speak. Do you agree?

RP: Chicago is definitely in "the game." Naturally, New York and Los Angeles are still considered to be the major hubs of the American art world. Other smaller markets, such as Miami, are gaining considerable exposure and periodically receive attention similar to that which is focused on New York and Los Angeles.

Chicagoans do tend to suffer from "Second City" syndrome, especially when comparing Chicago to other major cities such as New York. However, the Chicago art scene is just as relevant as any other. Its longevity is a testament to that. Luckily for me, as well as many other painters, Chicago tends to value well-crafted, hand-rendered art above all else. Historically speaking, Chicago has always been dedicated to conventional image making. However, more "experimental" and "non-traditional" art forms have not been displaced. Chicago’s scene is very traditional, yet diversified, and that’s part of its charm and success.

BS: You obtained an MFA at the University of Notre Dame. Who were your mentors at Notre Dame? Can you tell our readers about their art department?

RP: I studied under Maria Tomasula, who, in my humble opinion, is one of the most brilliant and talented American painters. She is a true master, and I consider myself fortunate to have studied under her. Maria has definitely set the bar for working artists, as well as artists who also happen to be academics. I will always have the utmost respect and admiration for her as a mentor, as well as a friend.

Given its Catholic identity, Notre Dame strikes many art professionals as a conservative, and therefore strange, place for one to pursue an MFA in Fine Art. Primarily, I chose to attend Notre Dame for the opportunity to study with Maria (I was also her TA for a year).

In all honesty, my experience at Notre Dame could not have been any better. Every graduate student receives waived tuition and a fairly generous stipend in exchange for working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (instructor of record). The teaching experience alone is priceless and does give students a leg up when applying for university jobs. The program is very nurturing and supportive of its graduate students. My early graduate work was sexually provocative, perhaps even more provocative than my more recent work. Yet, the faculty at Notre Dame was willing to critique my work with fairness and objectivity. I found the professors to be very open-minded despite the assumptions of a catholic university being otherwise.

BS: Rhett, you were born and raised in New Orleans. How did growing up in a pleasure-seeking and sexually charged environment influence your future work?

RP: New Orleans is unlike any other place in America. It is truly unique, and has its own idiosyncratic culture, and a very rich culture at that. It’s certainly cosmopolitan, drawing people from all over the country, but it’s also like a European, even Caribbean, city. Obviously, it gave the world Jazz, Creole and Cajun cuisine, and it’s own version of carnival, but other less known cultural eccentricities hold the greatest fascination for me. New Orleans is a very poor city, but poverty gives way to invention; things are constantly reused, traditional modes of expression reinterpreted through improvisation. I can think of no better example than the Mardi Gras Indians, those groups of working class African American men who sew (yes, men who sew) elaborate Native American-inspired costumes every carnival and sing songs inspired by Creole and afro-Caribbean rhythms infused with funk. One will have difficulty finding a live performance of this music anywhere else in the world.

In relation to my work as an artist, New Orleans’ repertoire of offered experiences frequently revolves around excess. New Orleans has always had a reputation as a "party city," one that caters to any imaginable excess (be it food, alcohol, gambling, or sex). This reputation has been withstanding since the city’s French colonial days. Growing up, I remember walking through the French Quarter (on Bourbon Street) during several outings. Back then, the French Quarter was even more "adult-oriented." I remember passing bars and strip clubs that had sexually explicit photographs of naked women (and in some cases, men) in sidewalk display cases. I remember peeking into adult "bookstores" out of curiosity. However, at night, the pictures on Bourbon Street come to life. As an adult, I have seen drunk people puking, pissing, and flashing in public. Public sex was never out of the question. This behavior is not indicative of the city’s residents, though. These "revelers," especially during Mardi Gras, are visitors who want to participate in an artificial, and supposedly liberating, experience. I have seen things that would make a stripper blush, and I suppose I have always been fascinated by how excess, especially sexual excess, can function as a vehicle for how one performs his or her gender.

BS: Your experiences have led you to create work that asks questions about the hypersexual gender performances within contemporary youth culture. Why do you focus on these themes? What is your goal in revealing the social implications of these actions and behavior?

RP: I grew up in a single-mother household. My mom had to be both mother and father of four boys, three of whom are identical triplets (I’m the middle triplet; the weird, artistic one). I literally learned how to "be a man" from my mother’s example. From a young age, I associated traditional masculine roles and codes, such as that of provider and disciplinarian, with femininity. A particular feminine grace and tender nurturing also accompanied my mother’s "fatherly" role. That dynamic has always stuck me as a testament to the fluidity of gender roles and codes, and how (and by whom) they are performed.

I have always had an interest in how we as a culture perform gender. Young women of today seem to be performing versions of femininity that I see as contrary to what I know as liberated and enlightened conceptions of femininity and sexuality. Now, I’m not prudish. I’m not taking a puritanical stance against feminine sexuality, quite the contrary. I’m merely concerned that young women (and men) are squandering their rights to gender equality by confusing sexuality with gender, (two concepts that are intrinsically different) and conflating them into one cultural construct.

My goal in revealing the social implications of these actions and behaviors is not to offer a solution, nor is it to judge. With my work, I intend to highlight the problem, and hopefully encourage dialogue and debate. Unfortunately, we no longer have a consolidated feminist movement. There is no entity to blow the whistle and set things right. In fact, many well-educated, young women completely disavow themselves from feminism and dismiss it as old-fashioned, man-hating rhetoric. My hope is to get young people to reevaluate their conceptions of gender and its performance.

BS: Would you say that contemporary society has fostered a form of gender confusion-confusion in that roles and anti-roles of gender have been defined, re-defined and exploited by popular culture to the point that gender equality is now just a hodge-podge of scattered notions as to what it is to be male or female? Is this a bad thing?

RP: Ironically, I believe that our current situation is symptomatic of the sexual revolution, the very movement that was intended to free us from binding notions of gender. Old-guard feminists (both men and women) fought for, and won, equality (with varying degrees of success). However, with freedom, comes great responsibility, and today’s youth culture does not seem to hold themselves responsible for upholding the hard-won advances made by their mothers and fathers. Young women of today own their bodies (this much is true). However, they are abusing this right (a right granted to them by the feminist movement) in an attempt to satisfy themselves, as well as men, sexually.

I actually would like to think that gender equality is a "hodge-podge" of different ways to demonstrate one’s maleness or femaleness. If that were the case, traditional binary codes of gender would be obliterated and true equality could be achieved. Young women in particular are not formulating new ways of performing their gender. They are merely adopting stereotypes of masculine sexual identity in a proclamation of their own sexual power and equality. The problem arises when this sexually masculine version of femininity causes women to knowingly label themselves as sexual objects, perpetuating subordination to men. Young women are revealing themselves in highly provocative ways that open the door for objectification and misogyny.

I do think popular culture bears some responsibility for reinforcing antiquated notions of gender that are mistakenly seen as progressive. For example, "celebutants" such as Paris Hilton present us with a very theatrically sexual version of femininity; one that reinforces gendered clich├ęs that are inevitably emulated by other young women, continuing the cycle of regression and repression.

BS: What other threats to do you see in regards to the success of gender equality... and how do they play a part in your work? Do you blame the media for some of the struggle?

RP: I believe that the attitudes of young men (perhaps even more so than that of young women) also threaten gender equality. Young women seem to be giving their male counterparts "permission" to view them as sexual objects, and young men are eager to oblige. I try to demonstrate this dynamic in my work by creating images that project a gender-neutral gaze, one that could either be from a feminine or a masculine perspective. I am very interested in presenting work that can be seen from either perspective, allowing viewers to both receive and project masculine and feminine codes.

I don’t know if it is entirely fair to blame the media for our current situation. Media outlets are responsible for making this dynamic more visible and, to some extent, they perpetuate the cycle. However, I do not think they are solely responsible for the negative gender codes and roles we currently see. In my opinion, the responsibility lies with individuals, and a lack of awareness of our history as a gendered society.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the artworld?

RP: I would like to see more young artists produce work that is passionate and not so apathetic. There seems to be a great deal of apathy and self-indulgence injected into the work of many young artists. To me, art that does not contribute to or critique culture is "art for art's sake," and I find such work incredibly boring and irrelevant. I want to see art that is intellectually engaging and teaches me something, instead of merely telling me something. I want to see artists who have passionate opinions and actually care about issues and debates broader than themselves.
Thanks for reading my interview with Rhett Gerard Poche. Remember, you can create a www.myartspace.com gallery (sample above) and network with Rhett and the many other artists that can be found on the site.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Friday, July 27, 2007

Art Space Talk: Tanya Ziniewicz

In 2003, Tanya Ziniewicz earned a BFA in Drawing from the Cleveland Institute of Art- She then completed an MFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006. I discovered Tanya's art while searching for artists to tag as 'Featured' on myartspace.com. I was attracted to her focus on the overlooked details of life.

The accidental, overlooked, and underestimated details surrounding us are extremely precious to Tanya. Her work is about observations of subtleties in human nature, the vague shift between emergence and disappearance, and the interdependency of positive and negative space as they explain one another's existence.

Brian Sherwin: Tanya, you studied drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art and printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design. Who were your mentors? Can you tell our readers about the art departments?

Tanya Ziniewicz: At the Cleveland Institute of Art, I did most of my work with Ralph Woehrman (drawing and printmaking), Holly Morrison (drawing and printmaking), and Alan Zimmerman (East Asian philosophy). I had a critique with Julian Stanczak once when he stopped by as a visiting artist - I noticed you posted an interview with him.

At the Rhode Island School of Design, I studied primarily under Andrew Raftery (printmaking), Nancy Friese (printmaking), Henry Ferreira (printmaking), and Yuriko Saito (aesthetics).

The Drawing department at CIA was fantastic in that it allowed me as much freedom and independence as I needed. I never felt pushed to fit anyone else's idea of what I should be doing, and as a result I feel like my work was able to mature in ways it wouldn't have otherwise. In addition, the foundation program at CIA was so excellent that I left feeling very confident about my life-drawing skills as well as my conceptual development.

I chose the Printmaking department at RISD for its openness to integrating different media and new ideas into the traditional methods of printmaking. Here too I appreciated the freedom I had to explore different media according to my individual interests.

The pace at RISD was very fast and indeed extremely challenging. I was exposed to a diverse range of artists, ideas, histories, etc. that made my time there a very rich experience.

BS: I really enjoyed the interview I had with Julian Stanczak . Can share more of your experience with Mr. Stanczak? How did the critique go?

TZ: I remember the critique being very fun. It was my mid-year critique in preparation for my BFA thesis defense, and his coming by to participate was a complete surprise, so I was a bit nervous. But it did go very well - at least I think he liked my work, and he told me something along the lines that my idea is worth pursuing, which is always encouraging to hear...

BS: Tanya, would you say that you search for the spiritual in your work? You've mentioned that you are a Gemini and that you draw inspiration from Taoism and other influences that involve natural energy.

TZ: I only mentioned the Gemini thing to be silly. I wouldn't necessarily say that I search for the spiritual in my work. I would say that many of my ideas are rooted in research I've done relating to East Asian philosophies, including Taoism.

BS: So... how long have you studied East Asian philosophies? Also, what other studies have found their way into your art?

TZ: My dad is a philosophy professor, and East Asian philosophical ideas have been present around me my whole life, but I started seriously getting into it while I was in college. I must have been 18 when I first started reading Lao Tzu and was able to really digest it.

More recently, as in the past couple of years, I've gotten into the writing of John Dewey. His work has been influential in helping me to solidify ideas about perceptions of time and experience.

BS: You have described yourself as people watcher in that you search for the subtleties in daily life. You also focus on the small details of daily living... the impression a stranger's body leaves on the seat of a chair, the bits of spit that fly from the mouth of someone who is in a lively conversation, the exchange of body heat between people standing in line at a grocery store... in that since you are a life watcher. How have these visuals- this study- given shape to your art? How has the visual documentation of daily life given you direction with your art?

TZ: I write a lot, and I take notes on things I see and/or think about. As I see different visual forms, such as spit bubbles or mold spores, I tend to develop new methods of mark-making based on those forms. I take notes on the way things disperse, grow, break, etc. The visual documentation of daily life has given me direction in that I find the subtleties in daily life to give depth to experiences in daily life.

Standing in line at the grocery store, for instance, is far more interesting if you try to imagine where exactly the body heat from the person standing behind you is crossing over into your personal space, and what shape and color it would be if you could see it.

BS: Tanya, you have stated that each example of your work represents a stage of growth that is essential to the development of future work. In a sense, you view your work as an organic unit- one piece flows into the next- a life chain. Can you go into further detail about these thoughts... about the philosophy that goes into your work?

TZ: In life, we constantly build on a collection of experiences. Each new experience lends new meaning to experiences we may have had ten years ago, and the things we have experienced ten years ago help shape our understanding of what is happening to us now. That is sort of the idea behind my work.

Old ideas spark new ideas, and between the old and new there are all kinds of idea branches growing out of every new project that comes up. Some of those branches end up extending back to the old ideas, and some grow out to develop into new clusters of projects.

Printmaking is conducive to this kind of development because you begin with a matrix and have the option of continually testing variables and recording changes as they occur. Does that make sense?

BS: Do you feel that most people miss out on the small details of life? How does your work serve as a reminder that we should be more observant of the world around us?

TZ: There are too many small details of life for anyone to possibly catch all of them. Those small details wouldn't be nearly as precious if we were entirely aware of them. I wouldn't say that my work serves as a reminder that we should be more observant of the world around us. I would say that my work pays little tributes to the small details of life, and that it excites me when, after seeing my work, people take an extra moment to look closely at something they might not have looked at as closely before. That excites me because it means someone is experiencing a memorable moment out of a thing they might not have ordinarily noticed.

BS: Are you working on any projects at this time? When do you plan to reveal new work?

TZ: I'm currently working on new ways of documentation. Many of my projects work best when viewers can experience them from varying distances - from far away to very close. I am currently investigating ways to document my new drawings with photography and video in such a way as to demonstrate the ideal viewing experience. Ideally, this documentation then becomes an extension of the drawing and a piece that can be exhibited along with the drawing.

BS: In regards to documentation... do you plan to utilize the internet in that pursuit? It seems that now- more than ever- artists have the ability to expose viewers to their work in ways that artists of the recent past would have only dreamed of.

TZ: Yes, I do. It's funny you ask, because that topic is one that I've been thinking about a lot recently. Printmaking and drawing are two examples of many media that are going through the same thing, and they are the two I can talk about first-hand. Both are tactile and intimate by nature. Both contain so many subtleties that need to be examined in close proximity, in person.

My work is extremely subtle, and sometimes really important aspects of my pieces disappear during the documentation process. Basically, it is a difficult task to translate subtle work to a digital language that is removed from tangibility. However, art is a form of communication, therefore the object of making art is for me to make my ideas accessible as many people as possible.

Currently, the internet is a fast, wide-reaching communication tool, which means I need to figure out the best ways to adapt my work to this virtual space. Not to abandon gallery showings and in-person viewings by any means, as those are vital experiences, but simply to work with this new means of communication that has opened up in the past several years.

BS: Speaking of technology and art... do you feel that the internet is changing the world of art? As in... does it seem as if artists have more control over their careers since they are able to create large networks of supporters on sites like myartspace.com, myspace.com, livejournal.com, youtube.com... and so on?

TZ: Yes, the internet is changing the world of art in that people now have access to an unbelievable amount of information - emerging artists, networking, ideas, research. In a way it seems like we have more control over our careers because so many people can access our work, or even simply remember our names.

The cynic in me wonders if the ease of access to large networks of supporters somehow waters down the authenticity of appreciation. Does online appreciation begin to numb the desire for tactility? But the optimist in me asserts that we can balance the virtual with the tangible.

We can utilize the internet as a form of publicity, and that publicity enables us to draw people out to our gallery shows and studios.

BS: Finally, where do you see your work going in the future?

TZ: It keeps growing! I'm making plans to start some wall and floor installations soon, and I'm excited about the possibilities of documentation that will come with working in large spaces.

You can learn more about Tanya by visiting her site: www.paperandplate.com -you can observe one of her www.myartspace.com galleries below:

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Art Space Talk: Kristina Faragher

Kristina Faragher received her MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 2001. Through video and installation, Faragher enters into the world of visual sensuality, with the body at the center of her explorations.

Kristina Faragher combines recognizable imagery and layered sound with abstract passages and slowed movement to create short video meditations on human presence in relationship to both urban and natural environments. Direct reference to meaning is denied as viewers explore layers of possibility and attempt to piece together narrative elements. Hand-held motion and rough edits serve to reinforce corporeal reality and position the artist at the center of an exchange between mediated image and truth.

Faragher’s solo and group projects have been exhibited at: the Autry National Center, the REDCAT Theater, Shoshona Wayne Gallery, Andrew Shire Gallery, Los Angeles, SITE Santa Fe in New Mexico Highways Performance Space, Sweeney Art Gallery at U.C. Riverside, and The Museum of Modern Fine Art in Minsk,Belarus.

Faragher’s videos have been presented on several billboards throughout Los Angeles as part of LA Freewaves Ninth Annual International MediaFestival. Her work was recently presented at both the Fifth and Sixth Festival International de la Image in Colombia, South America, sponsored by UNESCO Digiarts.

Her work is presently being exhibited at The Oakland Museum in Oakland as part of the traveling exhibit"Yosemite: Art of an American Icon". Publications include: The Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Art and Extensions: Online Journal of Embodied Technology at UCLA.

Brian Sherwin: Kristina, you earned an MFA from Claremont Graduate University. Who were your mentors at that time? Can you tell our readers about the art department? How did your studies there shape your future work?

Kristina Faragher: I had several mentors while I was attending Claremont Graduate University and I still am in close contact with some of them. The most influential mentors in regards to my own work were (are), Anne Bray and Martin Kersels. I also worked closely at that time with Michael Brewster, Connie Zehr David Amico and Roman De Salvo. They are all such brilliant, successful artists and so generous with their experiences and knowledge. I really value the guidance they gave me and feel so fortunate to know them.

The art department at CGU is just phenomenal. The Los Angeles based artist Roland Reiss conceived of and established a democratic community of artists in an environment that nurtured a rigorous, creative academic setting. For example, the graduate students would review new applicants work and participate in the voting in of the next class.

My studies at CGU have significantly shaped my experience as an artist in several ways. I received a working knowledge of the historical and contemporary theoretical framework of the art canon. This is invaluable if one would like to create artwork that is germane, visionary and informed.

I think it is essential to acknowledge influences and develop an acute consciousness about what one is contributing to both the cultural and global dialogue, especially on a planet where for better or for worse, objects abound! Secondly, the emphasis at CGU of a strong, on-going “no matter what”, “art star or not” studio practice has been and continues to be a wonderful foundation in my art career. Because of the community environment I have made life-long friends and colleagues who are still actively sharing their journeys with me and I with them.

BS: You have been a part-time faculty member at Riverside Community College in Riverside, Calif. Do you draw inspiration from your students? How did you find a happy balance between being an instructor and working on your personal art?

KF: To keep it simple, I think that to return what I have received strengthens my own practice and expands my experience of the world. This is the great benefit of teaching- Balance is an on going trial for me in this field. Artists (unless they have the means financially) are constantly working, they often have two full time jobs: their art career and their paying position.

I should say three full time occupations, because to be successful, an artist also must spend a great deal of time making and keeping connections, writing about their work or writing grants to do their work, keeping up on other artists locally and globally, up dating websites, in other words, the endless business aspects of an art career need constant tending.

Beyond the time it takes for thinking, developing and investigating concerns and ideas and finding solid blocks of time in the studio to fully realize the art! Many artists, including myself, also have to face job insecurity, and continue to look for teaching gigs in the over crowded, impacted “art job market” in Los Angeles. Kudos to artists ,we must be tenacious dynamic individuals (or complete and utter fools) to survive this profession even for a year!

That old stereotype of the lazy, flaky artist drives me nuts and has to go, Artists are some of the most industrious humans I have ever encountered!

BS: You combine recognizable imagery and layered sound with abstract passages and slowed movement to create short video meditations on human presence in relationship to both urban and natural environments. Can you go into further detail about your goals as an artists? What are you attempting to convey to the viewers of your art?

KF: That description is of my digital video work. So I will pick up where I left off. Another of my immediate concerns using digital technology as a fine art medium is to preserve the numinous presence of an actual body or object. Cropping and isolating sections of the individual and/or object and zooming in as close as possible is a technique that visually exaggerates the illusion of physical closeness.

This technique can also facilitate transcendence in that viewing an abstract passage in film or video can suggest something else and what that Something Else is or means-I often leave for the personal psyche of the viewer to consider and assign meaning to.

I do not use a tripod. Humans rarely, if ever, view something from a perfectly still, non-moving body! I hand hold my camera and come very close to the subject I am filming, this introduces a certain sensuality to my process and when successful, translates through the medium. Sometimes the acute close ups can create an attraction/repulsion effect, but I find that this paradox and duality of experience is immensely interesting.

I often collaborate with composers and musicians when constructing soundscapes for the pieces. The challenge for me as someone based in painting, drawing and sculpture is introducing the element of sound as a pseudo visual experience, another layer in the imagery.

What I attempt to convey to an audience of course varies somewhat for each piece, but underlying all of my art work is this desire to takes the ordinary into the extraordinary and create a visual experience that is from a perspective the viewer perhaps never encountered on their own. Why do I desire this…..because we shouldn’t have to live without wonder. In the plastic work, there is a very corporeal like, visceral presence when one encounters them (parallels my compulsion to shoot subjects up close), This work often produces a physical response in the viewer, “oooo I love it , I want to touch it, viewer comes closer well, maybe not; actually I should stay away, but wait -oh look…what on earth is this about? I want to touch this!”

Again, the dual experience with the work is what I am after and again to incite curiosity and imagination and an experience of Something Else, the “in between” the “third thing”.

BS: Kristina, you were recently featured in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, (Vol. 42, No. 3-4) for your accomplishments and insight into a model's contribution to the fine arts. In the article, you discusses your experience as an artist's model and its relationship to your current performance, installation, and body art pieces. Can you go into further detail about this? How has working on both sides of the camera... as a model and as an artist... helped you with the work that you create today?

KF: This experience is one of many that I have had on my journey in the arts and I find myself still referencing the body at some level, even when its subtle and or layered in my work today. The study of the figure or natural forms although dissolved to a certain point in some of my work has been a foundation and I could safely say that this is why I was attracted to not only drawing and studying the figure, but to try the very spatial aspect of modeling.

BS: In your video Thick (stills above), the viewer watches a close-up of honey pouring from beyond the frame into an open, receiving mouth. As the liquid glides into the orifice in slow motion, the viewer is visually seduced by the golden substance as it glitters in the sun, running over pink flesh and teeth. At first it appears that this action is enjoyable to the receiver. But as the honey begins to pour furiously, covering the mouth like a golden gag, it struggles to reject the excess. The video then reverses, and the honey winds up and out of the mouth, returning to the anonymous source. Can you discuss your motives behind this piece? Why did you decide to juxtapose something that is naturally beautiful (the shine of the honey) along side something that is revolting (the hint of impending death due to suffocation, choking)?

KF: Before I discuss the specific video , Thick, I would like to provide somewhat of a context for my work in general, since the motives that drove me to create that particular piece are parallel to those that influence and inform most of my work. I do not create work with the thought of comforting or disturbing others. I am irresolute to create from a deep place of question and inquiry, even if the outcome is perceived of at times as horrible, abject and undesirable.

One of the major artists that has influenced me profoundly and had an impact on the creation of Thick, is Goya’s work; specifically the series of sublime etchings 1810-1820, The Disasters of War depict graphically the terror, brutality and torture that took place during the of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808. The war in Iraq had recently been waged and I was feeling powerless to stop such insanity. In a flash the idea of this nations greed and desire for “sweetness” at any cost formed the vision for the piece.

I juxtaposed the “revolting with the beautiful” because I think that both exist with or without our imposed aesthetic definitions of them and I refuse to sacrifice one for the other. As a maker of “art”, I do comprehend that the juxtaposition of any contradiction is going to be potentially difficult for the viewer ie; the beautiful honey pouring and then the gagging, and potential death. If indeed art imitates life, then I suppose the “difficult” is unavoidable.

The piece was presented at the REDCAT theater and on electronic billboards on Sunset Blvd. as part of LA Freewaves, International Media Festival, How Can You Resist” in 2004.

BS: Kristina, are you working on any projects at this time? Can you give our readers any details?

KF: Yes I am working on several projects simultaneously. One of the projects is a collaboration with visual artist Curt LeMieux that involves creating a series of 12 digital video shorts and one performance that we have developed over a period of eighteen months. I am also intensely immersed in completing a body of sculptural wall hangings to be used in an installation.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the art world?

KF: My favorite author and philosopher Henry Miller once said, “Art is only a means to life, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.”
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Kristina Faragher. You can find more samples of Kristina's art by doing a search for her on the myartspace.com site.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Monday, July 23, 2007

Art Space Talk: Julian Stanczak

Julian Stanczak has been exploring art for over 60 years. He is considered by some to be the father of Op Art. However, that is a title that Mr. Stanczak is not very fond of. I found Mr. Stanczak to be extremely humble considering the mark he has made in the world of art. Julian is an artist who does not permit ego to overshadow his work.

Julian's art is an exploration of what it is to see- his work challenges the viewers perception through his mastery of color. His art can be viewed as a journey into the miracle of sight and an amplification of discoveries in that journey. This understanding of color is only matched by the seriousness in which he creates his art- a life long journey that he continues to explore. His ongoing contributions to the artworld are considered to be one of the most significant since the American Abstract Artists movement.

Mr.Stanczak's art can be observed in several major public and private collections throughout the world- including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC). Julian's art can also be found in the collections of several colleges and universities- Princeton University, Dartmouth College and the University of Illinois, just to name a few.

Brian Sherwin: The Op Art movement was named for your first exhibition in New York. Held at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1964, the exhibition was titled Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings. Can you recall how you felt having had an art movement named after your work? How does it feel to be the father of Op Art?

Julian Stanczak: I don't consider myself the "Father of Op Art" and I hated the title of my first one-man-show in New York. I was shocked by the terminology "Optical Painting" because it diminishes the seriousness of the artist's search, the hard work and convictions - regardless of the visual form that it might take. Martha Jackson used the title as a means of provoking the media to respond,- and they did! So it was clever politics... I never did nor ever will consider myself "Father of Op Art"!

Optical Art existed through millennia as the visual investigation of human perception. With the years, I learned to accept the terminology and I adopted my philosophy: now the name attached to me is just a name.

BS: Mr. Stanczak, may we discuss your youth? Can you reflect on your past and explain how it shaped your future in art? At the beginning of World War II you were forced into a Siberian labor camp, where you permanently lost the use of your right arm (You happened to be right-handed.). In 1942, at the age of 13, you escaped Siberia to join the Polish army-in-exile in Persia. How did these early experiences of struggle and war influence your future work? Also, how did you make the transition of having lost the use of your right arm to painting with your left-hand?

JS: The transition from using my left hand as my right, main hand, was very difficult. My youthful experiences with the atrocities of the Second World War are with me,- but I wanted to forget them and live a "normal" life and adapt into society more fully. In the search for Art, you have to separate what is emotional and what is logical. I did not want to be bombarded daily by the past,- I looked for anonymity of actions through non-referential, abstract art.
In visual art, there are two important elements: 1. boundary formations and the tease of the familiar, and 2. the poetics of color. I am juggling both of these visual quests for the past 60 years and I am finding echoes through-out history of these same concerns.

BS: Many people would stop working after loosing the use of their main hand. I actually know a few artists who stopped working after enduring such a tragedy. They never got over it. Considering the experiences of your youth and the loss of the use of your right arm... all of the obstacles you had overcome... would you say that your work is about survival? Was that a key element to your growth as an artist?

JS: All human chosen preoccupations are about survival!

BS: Can you tell our readers about some of your other influences? For example, has music inspired you?

JS: All the arts feed on one another and help clarify the quest. The greatest influence I find in the parallel of art,- the creative richness of nature. I greatly admire Far Eastern Sumi painting, Egyptian figures, Monet's colors, and Van Gogh's abstractions....

BS: You received your Master of Fine Arts from Yale University School of Art and Architecture in 1956. Who were your mentors at that time? How did they influence or inspire the art you have become known for?

JS: Conrad Marca Relli and Josef Albers were my teachers at Yale. One would clabber me and the other would protect me from clabbering myself. They took away everything I thought I knew- and at the end,- through self-confrontation,- they offered much and I found myself whole. I learned to love my teachers.

BS: Mr. Stanczak, in the early 1960s you began to make the surface plane of your paintings vibrate through your use of wavy lines and contrasting colors in works such as Provocative Current (1965). These paintings gave way to more complex compositions constructed with geometric rigidity yet softened with varying degrees of color transparency such as Netted Green (1972). Can you recall the progression of your work? Was it an issue of trial and error... or did you map out the progression of your work?

JS: Anything one designs to follow in one's art, through working many pathways offer themselves as visual possibilities. This awareness of possibilities leads you: you weigh and analyze and project mentally the validity of those possibilities and with truthfulness you decide if these should be yours. You syphon out what fascinates you, which you modify and they in turn enrich the direction in which you should go.

BS: In addition to being an artist, you have also been a teacher, having worked at the Art Academy of Cincinnati from 1957 to 1964 and as a Professor of painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1964 to 1995. How did you find balance between being an art instructor and a working artist? Also, were you inspired by your students?

JS: Teaching and having a regular income was a necessity for me. Teaching makes you crystallize your ethics and concepts. Having fragile young minds around you, full of anxieties, is challenging. To be of assistance and help and recognize surprises (each of us is so different) one has to tune into their state of mind. This unveiling of new creative life/energy is the reward.

BS: Mr. Stanczak, your most recent work has been creating a large-scale series, comprised of square panels on which you examine variations of hue and chroma in illusionistic color modulations. Are you working on anything at this time?

JS: Yes, and I still have lots of work to do... I am a colorist and I do not dwell any longer on the resolution of the unknown - which is color! Physical problems, acquired through age, make large paintings impossible - but I work on small panels and bring them together into a new totality. These are the constellations that I work on now.

BS: Finally, is there anything you would like to say to younger artists? Do you have any suggestions or advice for them?

JS: Don't look for art outside yourself,- you can only find it within yourself.- and most likely,- you are already stepping on it!

I would like to publicaly thank Mr. Stanczak for allowing me the time to ask him a few questions. I would also like to thank Neil K. Rector, Krzys Stanczak, and Barbara Stanczak for their help in making this interview happen. You can learn more about Julian Stanczak by visiting his website: www.jstanczak.com
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Art Space Talk: Michael Sherwin

Originally from Southwestern Ohio, Michael Sherwin received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from The Ohio State University in 1999, and in June of 2004 he received his MFA in Photography from the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. Michael has worked as a Visiting Professor of Photography and Digital Imaging at Central Washington University and is now an Assistant Professor of Art, Digital Photography at West Virginia University.

Time, and an awareness of the change it brings, is at the core of Michael's artwork. Incorporating both the still and moving image he attempts to tap into the perpetual systems of the world, from the surface of the sea to the very ground beneath his feet, in order to explore the mystery behind their elusive nature. Michael searches for an underlying structure hidden in the seemingly random patterns, a window onto the intersecting space where objective and subjective perception meets.

Brian Sherwin: Michael, I understand that you earned an MFA in Photography from the University of Oregon in 2004. Who were your mentors at that time? Can you tell our readers about the photography program at the University of Oregon?

Michael Sherwin: I had the fortunate opportunity to study with Dan Powell at the University of Oregon, who became a great mentor and friend. Dan has been the anchor of the UO photo program for many years, inspiring students of all levels with his incredible intellect, genuine kindness, and approachable attitude. His positive style of teaching is perhaps the single biggest influence in my career. His work is also amazing!

He rarely uses a single image, rather combining them in diptychs, triptychs, etc., to suggest a sort of language between seemingly disparate things that was otherwise unseen or unspoken. His fascination with contemporary philosophy and semiotics, along with an informed knowledge of current and historical photography blend beautifully in his art and teaching.

I also had the chance to share a studio with Peter HappelChristian, who was a second year grad in the photo program when I started. Peter and I became good friends, sharing similar ideas, motivations, struggles and lots of coffee. I was inspired by his unconventional approach to the medium and the rigor of his ideas. We continue to stay in contact, still sharing the same topics and discussing the possibility of a collaborative project sometime in the future.

The photography program at the University of Oregon is still very traditional in output (silver gelatin, C-prints, etc.), but where it lacks in digital curriculum; it excels in concept building, reading, feedback and resources for research. There are excellent facilities in place for digital output and students have the option to take these courses, but faculty who are part of the monstrous Multimedia program teaches them.

BS: You are currently employed as a Visiting Professor of Photography and Digital Imaging at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA. How do you find balance between being an instructor and working on your art? Does teaching help to keep you on your toes, so to speak?

MS: Actually, I just recently took a position as an Assistant Professor of Art, Digital Photography at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. We spent eight great years in the Northwest, but we grew weary of being so far from our families back east, especially with our 9 month-old baby girl.

Establishing the balance between work and art has been one of the biggest challenges of my career as a professor. The Professor/Artist career is much more difficult than I had imagined it would be in graduate school. I think it is particularly difficult for young professors, who like myself, are overwhelmed at first with the long list of responsibilities that come along with being a professor.

In addition to your teaching responsibilities you are expected to be active on department, college and university committees, and contribute to the community in some way. Your creative component really becomes one third of your job description. Of course, this depends somewhat on what school you’re teaching at.

Some schools will put more emphasis on teaching, while others stress the research aspect and therefore limit your teaching load. After the first year, I was able to settle down a bit and make some work over summer break, and the following year of teaching went a little smoother.

Either way, I do find that teaching keeps me on my toes. I spent a year out of graduate school as a Gallery Manager for a little photo gallery in Jackson, Wyoming. Ultimately, it was a great experience, especially from the business perspective of the medium, but it was also suffocating creatively. I was basically working 9-5, five days a week, and then teaching part-time at the Center for the Arts in Jackson Hole in the evenings. So, I didn’t really have the energy or motivation to do any work in my limited free time.

As a professor, I was able to apply my education in more positive ways. I was surrounded by other colleagues who were actively exhibiting and creating, and a handful of graduate students, a lot of whom were my age or older. I think it’s the common bond we share as artists that encourages us to keep challenging our work and ourselves. Also, being in that environment requires you to create work and exhibit.

Sometimes, I find I need this little push to get me going again. Of course, the students also keep you on your toes. The best students are the demanding ones. Although challenging at times, they press you to be one step ahead of them.

A good professor will be versed in the many forms of the medium as well as the current and historical trends associated. I am always reading, looking, and researching other artists’ work, or new methods/applications of the medium.

BS: You say the following in your statement: "We live in a world of continual flux, where everything is in a state of becoming. Even the most seemingly solid objects are made up of countless microscopic particles in a constant state of motion, including our very own bodies. We are nothing more than a cloud caught in the breeze, appearing randomly on the scene, shifting, changing, then eventually returning to the source from which we came. Our physical existence hinges upon this inextinguishable forward motion of time. Photography interrupts this continuum, presenting us with a fragmented form of reality. It allows us to pin down the changes in order to see what we could otherwise not see, to document and record the fleeting in an attempt to reveal the patterns of a transitory world." Can you go into further detail about your artistic philosophy?

MS: I don’t know that I really have any sort of artistic philosophy or agenda I adhere to with my work. It may sound strange, but I try to let the ideas and the work come to me, being as patient as possible. I have a lot of different ideas and I do some journaling to keep a record of thoughts as they pass through my mind or an interesting quote. The ones that stick around for a while usually evolve into something tangible. Occasionally, I’ll sift through a stack of my old journals and find a couple of sentences, or an idea that will spark a new direction.

In some ways, my work has always had something to do with the tenuous relationship between humans and the natural world. Lately, this interest has taken me to examine scientific surveillance systems. I find myself interested in the space between science and art. The two disciplines share similarities in their quest for answers to the unknown. It is the great mystery of life and our futile urge to understand our place in it that fuels the work.

BS: In your statement you go on to say: "In its totality, my work establishes a dialogue between sameness and difference; the variety of natural form within the uniformity of each species; and between the stability of the object or picture and the mobility of the viewer. I am interested in observing and documenting change within the continual evolution of time, drawing from the reservoir of processes and marks, the signs of the everyday and the ordinary, which constitute the lived world.". Is it safe to say that you want your viewers to question their own perceptions of nature and of their place within the context of the world?

MS: Absolutely. I want the viewers to ponder their connections to the natural world and I want them to think about the relationship between the finite and the infinite. I want them to be inspired, challenged, and most importantly, more aware of their surroundings.

BS: With your piece World Wide Web, you revealed how photographs have become a universal form of language online. The Internet is a global communication device, where photographs have become a universal form of language. You virtually circumnavigated the world in a little over a week, appropriating various web cam images as you went. Can you go into further detail about this project? What were your goals or motives going into the piece? Is the Internet a constant source of inspiration for you?

MS: I was asked to exhibit at a local gallery in Washington with only a few months to prepare. Our baby was very young at the time and I found the only studio time I had was after 10pm. I had recently bought a new computer along with wireless Internet and I was doing a lot of research online. Somehow I stumbled upon this site called EarthCam.com and began clicking around. I found this map dotted with thousands of web cams from all over the world. You could click on a dot and it would take you to the site that hosted the web cam. So, I took one region at a time (Europe, Soviet Union, Africa, South America, North America, Antarctica, etc.) and clicked on every single dot on the map.

Many of the links were broken, and some of the cameras were no longer in use. It was also difficult figuring out the right time of day to "travel", so that you weren’t always visiting at night. But, as I got into this site, I became fascinated with this idea of an armchair adventure. I could sit in my quiet house in Ellensburg, Washington, and simultaneously watch a stranger pass through a plaza in an obscure foreign country.

I was also astounded by the abundance of really odd web cams out there. Many were recording nothing representational at all, yet were automatically submitting image after abstract image online. I love this indiscriminate process that web cams provide. These cameras are meant for purely objective means, but when the image loses its identification or signification, meaning becomes fluid as we ponder the source of the image and it’s subject.

As I navigated my way around the world, I appropriated images from a variety of different web cam sources making note of their geographical location. A selection of these images were placed on the gallery wall that had been laid out with a grid referencing longitude/latitude coordinates. What I didn’t expect, was that continents began to form from the groupings of images as I placed them in the relative geographical location they were taken.

For the most part, however, the images chosen don’t directly reference their source. There are certain signifying images, such as a misty view of the Statue of Liberty, which places you in a certain location, but it is the tension between the representational and the abstract that keeps the viewer guessing. I like this mystery in the piece. I don’t want to give the viewer everything. I want them to be more of a participant in the work, and for the work to be open to various interpretations.

This is really the first time I have used the Internet as a resource for making art and I found it liberating. I feel like I just scraped the surface of potential projects based on the amount of imagery available online. I am actively thinking of more ideas and trying to find time to surf the new frontier for inspiration.

BS: Michael, are you working on any projects at this time? Care to give our readers details about your next project?

MS: My biggest project at the moment is revitalizing a dilapidated photography program here at West Virginia University. We moved here just one week ago, so I am still trying to find a space to empty all my studio boxes and supplies. I have ideas for new projects, but they are still very unresolved in my mind. I’m the type of person that needs to have everything organized and taken care of before I can really begin to work creatively. I need the headspace and the time to contemplate my ideas.

Lately, I have been thinking about this really old wood cabinet I found in the basement of our new house. It has probably been there since the house was built in the 1940’s. What I love about it, is its 50-100 little drawers, all the same size and shape, and lined up in a long narrow grid. The cabinet looks like something you would store a great collection in and the drawers are like little specimen boxes. I’m not sure whether anything will come of it, but I’ve been thinking about using this piece of furniture to form a collection of photographs and sounds from the past eight years in the Northwest.

The viewer would doubtfully open all the drawers, so they would be left with a loose narrative formed from the pattern of chosen drawers and imagery within. This is definitely a departure from my earlier work in that there is much more of a personal history involved, and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with that or not. I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens next…

BS: There are still people today who do not view photography as a form of art. The same people question the validity of digital art as a form of artistic expression. I find it hard to believe that in 2007 there are still people who question photography in this manner. What would you say to people who do not accept it? Or do you feel that it is best for them to discover the value of photography on their own?

MS: The majority of people are very resistant to change. I think most of the people who still question photography or digital art as an artistic medium stopped learning/questioning somewhere in the mid 1900’s. There is no way to define what "art" is and what it is not, and anyone who thinks they can, is very narrow-minded. Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. More importantly these days, it is not about whether you pick up a paintbrush or a mouse, but rather what are your ideas, and what’s the best way to express them.

What I love about the medium of photography is that it cannot be defined by one specific discipline. Depending on its context, photography can be artistic, journalistic, ethnographic, scientific, etc. In a lot of my work, I am directly challenging these boundaries. I think this is troublesome, especially for a conservative audience, who are trained to believe that art consists of paint on canvas, or sculpted stone. I don’t think I would want to try and change anyone’s opinion about the medium, but as you say, "it is best for them to discover the value of photography on their own".

BS: Finally, where do you see your work going in the next decade? Do you think on the long term as far as your work is concerned?

MS: My work seems to be following a trend towards more technology based projects, and I can see the possibility of advocacy related concepts. I am truly concerned about the current state of our environment and the general human disconnect from the natural world. I have never been one to preach or create work that is overtly social or political in theme. However, I have been hovering around statements in my work that to some extent address current issues I have with the environment. Ultimately though, I try not to think too far ahead. I prefer to take it as it comes.

I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Michael Sherwin and his art. You can learn more about Michael by visiting his site: www.michaelsherwin.com.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin