Saturday, November 10, 2007

Art Space Talk: Anne Wilson

Anne Wilson is a Chicago based visual artist who creates sculpture, drawings, Internet projects, and DVD stop motion animations that explore themes of time, loss, private and social rituals. She uses found materials (table linen, bed sheets, human hair, lace, thread, and wire) that are familiar and rich with cultural meanings. Wilson's work is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago and Paul Kotula Projects, Detroit. She is a Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Topologies-- Anne Wilson

Brian Sherwin: Anne, tell us about your educational background. Who were your instructors?

Anne Wilson: BFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art; MFA, California College of the Arts. Gerhardt Knodel was an amazing teacher and mentor at Cranbrook; Bella Feldman and Ruth Boyer at CCA.

BS: Tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

AW: At 15, I began to be challenged and radicalized in many ways after leaving my childhood home in Detroit to attend a Quaker boarding school, George School, in Pennsylvania. I was deeply moved by my training in passive resistance techniques and their philosophical basis: Gandhi's teachings on non-violent politics. Especially moving to me was his exhortation to all Indians to practice spinning -- for social, political, economic and spiritual reasons. That struck me as profoundly important, as did Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique. As well, at this same time, I worked with an ambitious painter/teacher, Robert Dodge, who encouraged me as an artist.
Chronicle-- Anne Wilson

BS: Anne, Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use? Can you discuss the inspiration that set you on the path that you have been exploring with your work?

AW: In Berkeley in the 70's I developed, with my colleagues, a warrior-like spirit about the relevance of fiber and textile processes in art making alongside more conventional fine art materials and techniques. An accomplished weaver for my own art, I taught weaving privately to support myself and curated museum exhibitions of historic textiles. Inspired by contemporary art discourse, feminism, multi-culturalism, the art fabric movement, and Arte Povera, I participated with commitment to expand boundaries of process and materiality in art.
Topologies-- Anne Wilson

BS: Anne, can you go into detail about the artistic process behind your work? Perhaps you could discuss the materials that you have utilized and the meaning behind it?

AW: One period comes to mind: Grieving my father's death (beginning in 1995), along with the loss of friends with AIDS, was a deeply wrenching, lengthy process for me. I spent much of that time alone in my studio, often overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and loss. Eventually, I was able to make some of my most deeply felt and poignant work that used worn family linens that represented security, stability, propriety and formality -- stitched through with human hair that represented the visceral, the unkempt, the disruptive, the deadly. In this work I expressed the inevitability of losing what one loves.

I think of much of my art of the past 15 years as a kind of conjunction between visual art concepts and material culture where the histories embedded in materials and the way things are made are critical to the content of the work.

The ongoing installation, Topologies, first presented at the 2002 Whitney Biennial, was a breakthrough for me. I was able to continue using found textile materials, in a complex and layered manner. The work is organized conceptually in three ways: 1) as a kind of living, growing biological system; 2) like an architectonic of seemingly unending urban sprawl; and 3), as a complex networked system represented visually. Rebuilt at each new exhibition site, Topologies is a "materialized drawing" that evolves and changes each time it is created.
Portable City-- Anne Wilson

BS: Anne, can you tell us about what you are working on at this time? Any new projects? If so, can you tell us about the philosophy behind this new work. What motivates you to create it?

AW: A new project called Portable City is related to Topologies in that it is also a horizontal topography -- at once sculpture, textile, and a materialized drawing. With destruction surrounding us, this work is a meditation on building, and rebuilding, and building again.

Portable City proposes liaisons between textiles and the built environment. Comprised of a horizontal field of 48 mobile platforms, each platform holds a structure of thread or wire filament constructed of knit, crochet, or lines under tension, suspension, compression, or collapse. Elements of ancient handwork participate in new thinking about the viability of lightweight mesh structures to create temporary and portable architectures.
A city is imagined as tensile networks, deflated domes, skeletal igloos, flattened tents, elevated canopies, schematic cooling towers, linear pathways, rubble from collapse, stacks and parts to rebuild. Portable City is not a utopian projection; the overall field suggests a macrocosm of detailed worlds of connections where ideas and implications may emerge of both usefulness (possibilities of useful application) as well as complete disjunction.
BS: Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music.

AW: Music/sound is very important to my studio process, both as inspiration and pacing while making work, and as part of the work itself. I have been collaborating with Shawn Decker, Chicago sound artist and composer, on several projects. Our newest collaboration is called Notations. We are thinking about the relationships that exist between the pacing and rhythms of textile hand processing and sound.
Errant Behaviors-- Anne Wilson
BS: Anne, do you have any upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work?

AW: I am in a 7-artist exhibition opening at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London November 13, 2007, and a solo show at the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago opening January 25, 2008. This web site has information about recent projects:
BS: Anne, the Internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how have sites like empowered artists?

AW: The opportunities for timely open communication and exchange are fabulous!
You can learn more about Anne Wilson by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interview by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anne Wilson is a favorite! so glad to see this interview. I remember seeing 'Topologies' at the Biennial and feeling soooo immensely satisfied by it. - just the mixture of concept and form that moves me.
-Darlene Charneco