Friday, January 25, 2008

Art Space Talk Margeaux Walter

Laura Pabst from the Nohra Haime Gallery introduced me to the art of Margeaux Walter. Margeaux recently graduated from The Tisch School of Arts in NYC with a BFA in Photography. She uses photography and photographic lenticulars "to explore the evolution of human interactions, technological innovations, and the relationship between them." The Nohra Haime Gallery brought Margeaux's work to Bridge Miami in December, and she was quite the rage, catching the eye of press, and selling all the pieces that were on display.

Brian Sherwin: Margeaux, you were born and raised in Seattle, Washington. You moved to New York City in order to attend the Tisch School of the Arts (NYU), where you received a BFA in Photography and Imaging. Can you tell us about your academic years? Did you have any influential instructors?

Margeaux Walter: I started studying photography in high school at The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. There I realized that I wanted to pursue photography and art, and was fortunate to attend the Tisch Photography and Imaging program at NYU. This program forced me to delve into all aspects of photography: to try out different mediums, camera formats, styles etc. It was also a very conceptual program requiring students to define for themselves what art means to them, and what they hope to communicate with it. One of the many great teachers at the Tisch School of the Arts is Diane Bertolo, who specializes in digital photography. I took all of her classes and she became a mentor who helped me bring my project ideas to fruition.

BS: How did the transition from living in Seattle to moving to NYC inspire you as an artist? Did the geographic change make an impact on your work?

MW: As I went to boarding school, I haven't really lived in Seattle since I was 15. My time in New York City has had a great impact on my art. It is a city that inspires creativity with so much happening all the time. NYC is also a claustrophobic city, cluttered with people, lights, signs, noise, and motion – all which influence my views of modernization. But I do love this city, and the subway makes for an amazing place to observe people.

BS: Margeaux, since graduating in 2006 you have been working in design and fashion, while continuing to create and exhibit your own artwork. Was it hard to find balance? Or would you say that one aspect of your work feeds the others? For example, does your commercial work help the development of your personal work?

MW: At first I found it hard to find a balance. I think I was trying to push my commercial work away from my art. Eventually I realized that it is a large part of my inspiration. Since I have accepted this, my work has grown from this interplay. The media, advertising, and marketing play a big role in my view of society, and of my artwork. Design work has really given me access to experiences and materials that I would not have found otherwise. I strive to use advertising techniques in my work, as these are the visual cues that people respond to.

BS: You explore the evolution of human interactions, technological innovations, and the ever-changing relationship between them in your work. What interests you about this? Do you view technology as dangerous to humanity? Do you see it as positive? Tell us more about the thoughts and motives behind your work...

MW: I see our obsession with technology threatening humanity in that we are eager to replace our own skills, and innately human characteristics with digital tools. For example, we access our memories less with so many information-cataloging devices. Our interactions are being turned into TLAs (three letter acronyms) via text messages and email. We are becoming more sedentary because we can now access anything we want with the click of a button.

This said, I am a complete techno-fanatic. Always one of the first to try out a new device, I am fully immersed in technology. My art (and my life as I know it) would not exist without it. And my fears stem from this dependency.

BS: You often use yourself as a model in your work. Based on that... would you say that your work is a very personal form of expression? By allowing yourself to experience your own fears, observations, and fantasies first-hand are you suggesting a search for identity? By using yourself as a model are you suggesting that due to technology the identity of an individual can be lost-- a Ctrl-Alt-Delete of the soul, so to speak?

MW: My work may seem personal, but I tend to assume the roles of imaginary characters in my pieces that are distinct from my identity. These characters are generated by my observations of others and express how I view the world around me. Stepping away from my own identity while I am creating a piece frees me up to experience and portray fantasies and fears that I don’t feel when I am wrapped up in my daily routine.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that technology can delete the soul, but I do see individuality becoming obsolete in the sense that there is less room for it. I see people’s priorities shifting towards the desire to work (produce) and away from family, love, community etc. We are modifying our lives and routines in order to keep up with technological innovations. Each new device that we integrate into our lives forces us to conform both to its limitations, and to mainstream society. These choices can lead to a blurring of our individuality to the degree we embrace the cookie-cutter digital world.

BS: What are your specific concerns about the role of technology in contemporary society? Does your work serve as a warning? Or is it more of a representation of what has already happened... what is already with us, so to speak?

MW: My concerns with technology relate to our continued reliance on it, and that it is slowly becoming a replacement for many of our skills. This is happening without our awareness and it is camouflaging itself as natural evolution. Like many advances in society, we have to take advantage of its attributes while we retain those behaviors that distinguish us as individuals.

Whether my work is seen as a warning is dependent on the viewer and his/her own relationship with technology. I also see my work as playful, and satirical. Although I have concerns about technology, I am keen on using it. I enjoy playing with this contradiction in my work and therefore it can be interpreted in many different ways. When I make my art, I take my observations, combine them with contemporary hypotheses, add my own fantasies, and create each piece from there. The emotions that go into my work are a mix of fear, excitement, desire, anxiety, hopelessness, and so forth. All of these represent my views on society and our future, and thus my work is not created to have one message. Rather I am offering all of these sentiments and asking the viewer to notice his/her own reactions to the images.

BS: What about influences? Are there any specific artists are art movements that have influenced you?

MW: I am inspired by new things everyday, so it is hard to pinpoint a few. But I think the artists that have had the largest influences on me are Cindy Sherman for using herself as a model to express the world around her, Aziz + Cucher for their sculptural work in which they combined the animate (skin) with the inanimate (machine), and Vanessa Beecroft’s repetitious use of the human body in her performances.

BS: Can you tell us more about your process? Place us in your mind as you think about a new piece...

MW: I come up with new ideas in really odd places, so I always carry a notebook, and start each piece by sketching out my thoughts. Once I have a rough image in mind, I create the costumes and photograph and/or montage the backgrounds. Then I photograph the characters (me) in various forms using a timer, cut them out in Photoshop and assemble them into the background. For the lenticulars I create multiple layers in a Photoshop file with the various movements, which I interlace together to create the lenticular print. This means that each photograph/scene is printed in thin strips. A lens, made up of curved ridges is then laminated over the print and lined up with the strips. When the viewer looks at a lenticular from different angles, the lens creates the illusion of movement.

BS: Margeaux, you are involved in an exhibit titled Peopled People at the Nohra Haime Gallery this month. You will have a solo show at the gallery in February. Can you tell us about these two exhibits? What should we expect? How long have been represented by Nohra Haime Gallery?

MW: The first show I had with Nohra Haime Gallery was in December at the Bridge Art Fair in Miami where there was a gratifying response to my work. I am really excited about these two shows in her gallery. The group show has four lenticulars from different bodies of work that I did in 2006 / 2007.

The solo exhibition will be mostly of work from my new series, Oneness. This is a collection of minimalist portraits that highlight subtle motions, gestures, and expressions that I notice in everyday interactions. They express the growing distance between people, as even the simplest act of making eye contact may cause discomfort. These portraits convey the isolation that occurs with every lost, unseen, and confused interaction, and forebodes a mechanical existence.
BS: What else do you have planned for 2008?

MW: I am working on a lot of new projects and also experimenting with other mediums such as 3d, as well as continuing new photographic and lenticular pieces. I am also involved in community collaborative projects with an NYC based art collective, Super Glue.

I have been energized the last several months, preparing for these two shows. As a result, my notebook is full of ideas that I am eager to bring to life in 2008.

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

MW: Ctrl-Alt-Delete or Restart… Take your pick.

You can learn more about Margeaux Walter and her work by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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