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Thursday, February 28, 2008
Art Space Talk: Matthew Mahler
Brian Sherwin: Matt, you have studied at Hofstra University and Queens College. Can you tell us about your educational experiences? Have you had any influential instructors?
Matthew Mahler: I know school is not for everyone, but I have nothing but good things to say about being there. Currently pursuing my MFA at Queens College, I went to Hofstra University as an undergraduate where I studied art education. However I was really lucky and had some great teachers dating back to elementary school that nurtured my curiosity for learning.
I worked with the illustrator, Jeff Fisher, for many years. First I studied with him and then eventually helped him teach a few independent courses. This was between the ages of 17 and 23. Jeff really taught me how to see and draw. I saw that he was able to sustain a living as an artist, and it was something that I aspired to do.
However, it was while I was at Hofstra University that I studied with abstract painter Laurie Fendrich, who sent me in my current direction. Laurie really challenged me and pushed me away from the quasi-figurative works I was making and towards non-objective abstraction. It was at Hofstra that I really started to learn how to paint. Up until then, I had been primarily making "drawings" even if I was using materials traditionally used to make paintings.
In my second semester of graduate study at Queens College, I was lucky enough to take a course with artist Justin Lieberman. Lieberman exposed me to a whole other side of making "things", and exposed me to a number of artists that I had never accepted as making legitimate work. Through a number of intensive lectures I started to find validity in artists like Jack Smith, Paul McCarthy and even Lieberman’s own work.
BS: How is your upbringing reflected in your work? Are there traces of your youth to be found within the context of the work you create at present?
MM: Raised by two teachers, and with my father being a high school art teacher, I was exposed to art at an early age. My dad did a great thing by never forcing it on me, but kind of just offering it to me as an alternative to watching t.v. and playing video games. As I got older, I split my free time between playing sports and making drawings.
By my junior year in high school, I never went anywhere without a sketchbook. Whether out at dinner, or sitting in my dad’s garden in the summer time, I was constantly drawing from observation. I still try to approach my work with the same attitude as I always have. I try to keep it an enjoyable activity even if my approach has gotten more focused.
BS: What other influences do you draw inspiration from? Have you been influenced by any specific artists or art movements?
MM: I would not be making art today if I hadn’t seen a Salvador Dali show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a kid. He was the first artist I though was really "cool". My art influences have varied over the years but I would say are pretty much grounded in a lot of Picasso, early American abstract expressionism, contemporary painters like Eric Sall, Chris Martin and Mark Grotjahn and a wide variety of musicians ranging from John Coltrane to the Mars Volta. I've spent a long time making work that was solely inspired by what I was listening while in my studio.
BS: Tell us more about your paintings and the thoughts behind them...
MM: After spending 23 years in suburban Long Island, I moved to Queens, NY in ‘05 that turned out to be a huge environmental adjustment. No longer was I surrounded by trees and grass, or a 10 minute drive from the beach. From early on, my living environment offered a great deal of inspiration as an artist. I’ve kind of come back around to this idea as my current body of work is inspired by the excess stimuli that I encounter on a daily basis. I guess I was forced to start finding beauty in things other than some flowers growing behind my parent’s house, or the mangled sand fence at the beach. Now I make paintings about the things that catch my eye while I’m out and about in my neighborhood, or riding the subway.
For example "Gene Tree" was inspired by a quick screen shot I saw while watching the eleven o’clock news one night. I combined my memory of the experience with some elements of crappy street art that I couldn’t get out of my head. And bam! Just like that I had the information to make a new painting. I find that working from memories allows a lot of room for "weird" things to happen in my painting. Though my current pieces are highly planned, I make sure to allow enough room for improvisational moves. I hope this is what makes them exciting to look at.
BS: Are you interested in the emotions that you can convey through painting... or are you more concerned with the process of painting itself? Or do you focus on both of these aspects?
MM: Making art is about making some kind of emotional connection for me. It’s just a matter of how the artist wants to address this issue. Much of my earlier works posted on the site are examples of highly emotionally-driven pieces. The work itself was reliant on my being in a particular emotional state at the time of its production. The idea of working almost solely from emotion became problematic for me and forced me to stop focusing on my old ideals. At this point, objects, experiences and other "things" that generate a strong enough emotional response become the subjects of my work.
As a result of making a greater commitment to painting, my process has played a much stronger role in my production. Though my work is not void of serendipitous invention, I’ve become quite aware of it’s presence in relation to my creative process and have had to put a limit on how much I allow into a painting.
BS: Matt, with your Street Scars series you utilized digital photos. Can you tell us about that specific series and the motives behind it?
MM: Living out in Queens, I became extremely aware of the abundant amounts of left over graffiti littering so many public spaces. When I say "left over" I mean the spaces that had once been tagged only to be hastily painted out by the property owner or city, more often than not leaving behind a "scar" in a sense marking where the graffiti once was.
The series works on two levels for me. First I’m interested in how the property owner wants so badly to get rid of the "vandalism" of their space, that they don’t even take the time to cover the markings up with the correct color paint. It’s ironic because by doing this he/she ultimately brings just as much attention to the space that was vandalized. Did they really fix the problem?
On another level, I was very interested in how these "scars" marked the local facade of my neighborhood, often offering some unexpectedly beautiful painting to it’s community. Instead of walking past these spaces, just writing them off as visual litter, I decided to document them with my digital camera, and have them printed at the local drugstore. I did this to connect the accessibility of the subject with the accessibility of the medium by which it could be viewed.
BS: Would you say that one practice feeds off of the other when you are working with different mediums?
MM: Absolutely. I found that I was attracted to the utilitarian aspects of digital photography which is something that I think will definitely be showing up in my future works.
BS: What are you working on at this time? Also, will you be exhibiting any time soon?
MM: I’m primarily in production mode at this time, focusing my energy toward making my work and developing as a thinker rather then selling it. However I will be in a small group show at Four Walls Gallery in Portland, Maine come April.
I’m really focusing on furthering the development of my ideas and making bigger, better paintings. I’m incorporating many new materials into the mix, which I hope will allow for more dynamic work. Keep your eyes peeled.
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?
MM: Thanks for looking at it.
Matt Mahler is a member of the www.myartspace.com community. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Art Space Talk: Nicole Natri
Brian Sherwin: Nicole, do you have any formal training in art? Where did you study? Can you tell us about your academic background?
Nicole Natri: I’m autodidact in terms of formal training, but I’m currently studying Art History (major), Religious Studies and History of Ideas at the university. These studies give me such an input of everything, it inspires me.
BS: Nicole, through diverse antique and semi-antique materials you examine the history of dualism and double standards. Can you go into further detail about your interest in these themes?
NN: I think it has to do with what I mentioned above about my interest in various subjects. I like to dissect science and make up my own stories and facts – sort of using common symbols in a new way.
BS: In your work you often scrutinize canonical, emotional, religious and psychological statements. What troubles you about these issues? Why do you use your art to challenge them?
NN: These issues challenge me everyday – all the time. I mean, we just have to look around us, it’s there! My work reflects my take on our common history, present time and what might be the future. What also interests me is the fact that so many people can relate to my stories even if we interpret them differently.
BS: Do you see your work as a form of activism?
NN: Haven’t thought about that… Maybe it is, on a more personal level.
BS: Your work often contains symbolic items. For example, knives become a symbol of danger and surgical equipment become symbols of the dismantling of humanity. Can you tell us more about the symbolism behind your work?
NN: The symbolic language is extremely important to my work. We’re surrounded by symbols and have always been, so I’m not that surprised that people read and understand my stories visually. It’s a call on inner reflection – at least I hope it to be.
BS: Have any specific artists or art movements influenced you? are you influenced by Dadaism?
NN: No, I’m not inspired by Dadaism, but I did found some inspiration in the collages of Max Ernst when I first started out working with the collage form. Instead I tend to be more influenced by painters like Tom Krestesen and Francis Bacon for their personal approach and sense of roominess.
BS: Nicole, can you go into further detail about your artistic process? Place us in your mind as you start to create... perhaps you could select one of your works and describe its creation-- both physically (the materials that you used) and mentally?
NN: Well, as for Survival Of the Fittest, I already had the theme in my head when reading a book on health from the late 19th century. The text below one of images read "An idiot child". To me she looked perfectly normal and I was trigged by how the text made me see her differently. The three children along with three knives became symbols for selection in a wider sense. Also, what would happen if they actually started playing with the knives?..
BS: What are you working on at this time?
NN: I keep on working with my paper-on-paper collages combined with antique media, exploring different techniques. Oh, I have so many stories left to tell – you’ll see!
Nicole Natri is a member of the www.myartspace.com community. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,
My Art Advice: Is it a waste of money to attend a small college to study art?
I'm not going to drop names, but I will say that I've known students at very respected art schools that have transferred to smaller schools in order to receive what they felt was a better education. I've also known students from smaller schools that have moved on to larger schools for the same reason. Thus, the value of education-- and what can be warranted from it -- is in the eye of the beholder. Keep that in mind.
Take care, Stay true,
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Art Space Talk: Caitlin Karolczak
Brian Sherwin: Caitlin, I understand that you studied fine arts and art history. Where did you study? Can you tell us about the program?
Despite all the positives, college is one of those things I would really like to do over. I began attending college full time when I was 16. I took my first studio arts class my sophomore year. I was too young and confused about what I really wanted to do to take full advantage of the facilities, instructors and opportunities. I did become better grounded in theory and conceptual art, but I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I need to learn about painting technique.
My art history studies focused on Classical, Medieval and early Japanese art. My major research projects were on the phenomenon of children in medieval effigy / funerary art, and Greco-Roman mummy portraits. I know both had a marked influence on my attraction to similar subjects. I studied under some REALLY incredible professors in the art history department. Unfortunately, I think they have all retired!
BS: You have stated that you are motivated to create art due to your interest in creation and experimentation. Can you go into further detail about this?
CK: Painting needs to be enjoyable or it just gets frustrating. Experimentation offers a distraction from tedious painting methods and sometimes enlightens me to important techniques I was previously ignorant of.
BS: Caitlin, what are the specific themes that you deal with? What attracts you to these themes?
CK: Some of the themes I have been dealing with include the physical limitations and fragility of the human body; the classic notion of the beauty of death, its youthful ideals and colorful decay; cultural beliefs about the martyr. I’ve recently been reading works by Mishima and have found that he speaks to many of these same issues.
My source imagery often comes from the vintage medical photos that I collect. Modern medical images tend to simply show a condition, devoid of the individual. Vintage medical photographs, on the other hand, portray debilitating physical conditions in a notably artistic way. Often times they are not anonymous, looking more like artfully done portraits than anything.
If they do attempt anonymity, it has an entirely different effect, giving a leper the appearance of a classically draped nude or giving the subject a fetish-like appearance by awkwardly covering the individual’s features with bands of fabric. My attraction to these images reflects a desire for my work to mirror these sentiments of beauty and distress, but at the same time take them a step further in a way that photography cannot.
BS: Caitlin, you embrace accident with your work. Why does that form of spontaneity intrigue you?
CK: When I was very young I tried to make perfect images. Different medias frustrated me because I didn’t have control over them. Actually, the first time I ever painted, I hated it. I wasn’t good at it. I wasn’t thrilled with my professors tedious color theory (although I have benefited from it). I was not going to take another painting class. Fortunately for me, underclassman don’t have first choice for classes and I was forced to take intermediate painting. Since then I’ve come to embrace the lack of control of some mediums.
I’m also a very impatient painter distracted easily. This impatience has occasionally caused disastrous consequences in my work, but I’ve also discovered some interesting techniques - changes in surface, etc - this way. That spontaneity intrigues me because there is no way I can entirely recreate or mimic those qualities on purpose.
Sometimes these "accidents" are not entirely obvious, but I think these different layers add distinction to a finished painting. I like seeing these traditionally "abstract" methods of painting alongside classically "accomplished" techniques and I want my future works to be a successful blending of the two.
BS: You often use recycled materials-- such as aged or use surfaces... what is your motive behind this practice? Also, is there a personal philosophy behind your work? Is it reflected in your choice of materials and surface?
CK: I’ve always appreciated the handmade quality of vintage paper and textiles. I started out using recycled materials out of financial need (and still do) but found that I appreciated the difference in color and texture. By trade, I co-own a gallery specializing in mid-century and antique furnishings. When I go to estate sales and auctions, I often have the privilege of getting my hands on some really interesting supplies. Everything from textiles and paper to antique vials of powdered pigments and oils for bargain prices.
I collect antique paper from books that are in disrepair, some as early as the 17th Century. At one sale, I was lucky to find a quantity of high quality Italian art linen, something that I could never afford to buy new. I haven’t had to buy paint for years, because I constantly find old tubes of vintage oil paints and frankly the quality is better then most of the modern brands. When I do have to buy something new, it’s usually for archival reasons.
An added benefit to vintage and recycled materials is the sense of history, almost a kind of past life aura. There is nothing like working with a one of a kind found object and making it your own.
Sometimes my recycling has a sinister aspect to it. After I’ve made SURE they had no monetary value, I’ve often painted over found paintings! I’ll think to myself "That isn’t half bad... someone put some work into this..." The need to have canvases always prevails though.
I guess you could say many different historical and organic objects provide inspiration. Everything from vintage art supplies and rotting fruit to my collection of animal skulls, mummified critters, embalming fluids, neglected and abused dolls, weird religious artifacts etc.
BS: Caitlin, you are interested in exploring aspects of the human condition within the context of your work. Your practice often has a psychological basis. Do you study psychology? If so, what schools of psychology do you adhere to? There seems to be a Jungian quality to your work...
CK: Jung provides a wealth of psychological information that applies to art in a very direct way; however, I haven’t studied any school of psychology in any formal way. I’ve always had interest in it, but I’m usually more preoccupied with the physical element of the human mind, disease and injury. The mental processes of the human mind provide an endless wealth of artistic subject matter. I plan on exploring them more.
The Jungian quality some of my work might have is probably due to my attempt to confront the viewer with a conflict between the limitations of the physical body and the spiritual world.
BS: Is the act of painting a spiritual or therapeutic practice for you? Or do you stave off those emotional energies in order to simply focus on the process of painting itself? In other words, are you interested in the emotional aspects of creation or are you more focused on the methods and techniques of creating the image-- or is it a combination of both for you?
CK: It’s a combination. It’s therapeutic in that painting is a treatment for daily stresses and emotional anxieties. At the same time, it is an obsession for me, in a way that becomes emotionally exhausting. I think those emotional energies are imperative to my process and focus, but sometimes I just need to relax and focus strictly on method.
Any painting I make is a result of different energies and methods in different points of time. One move or color choice might be purely aesthetic while the next might be a result of an emotional impulse.
BS: Would you say that your work is a reflection of yourself more than a reflection of society? Is your work a search or examination of your identity, so to speak?
CK: My work is definitely an examination of my identity, my experiences and anxieties but I also think its impossible for an artists work not to reflect society, even if its in the subtlest way. I think some of my future work might be more obviously critical or reflective of society, but I’m also very critical of myself.
BS: What are you working on at this time? How does your current work reflect the themes we have discussed?
CK: I’ve been saving up piles of beautiful antique frames, most decrepit in a unique way. I’m cutting panels to fit the many non-standard sizes. Panel is my choice material for ‘experimentation’. The scraping and layering I enjoy is often too rough for stretched canvas.
I am working towards developing the ideas behind my paintings more thoroughly. One of my goals is to produce a series or two of works that will play off each other more cohesively. Medical and psychological trauma, symbolism, and the reinterpretation of classic feminist themes will all be victim to my visual translation.
BS: Do you have any exhibits lined up?
CK: There are a few exhibits in Minneapolis I have lined up for 2008. Information about current and future exhibitions can be found on my art site: www.studiosilenti.com. When I am not showing anywhere, I always have work up at my Mid-Century furnishings gallery in Minneapolis (www.spinariodesign.com).
The Hennepin History Museum in Minneapolis will be exhibiting my collection of 19th Century post mortem photography in spring of 2009. Other than that I am actively seeking to show my art elsewhere!
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?
CK: I look forward to growing as an artist. I hope my future work sufficiently speaks to the observer and gains a wider range of viewer-ship.
Caitlin Karolczak is a member of the www.myartspace.com community-- www.myartspace.com/mutantsloth. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews
Take care, Stay true,
Friday, February 22, 2008
Art Space Talk: Kevin Sharkey
Creation by Kevin Sharkey
BS: Kevin, due to your accomplishments you are considered a legend in the Irish art scene-- having been called Ireland's first art superstar - and have established international acclaim. Your work is collected by several celebrities-- Kate Moss, Enya, and Courtney Love. You have been creating - and surviving off of - your art for over 15 years. Can you recall your early years before this success... did you ever have any lows? Or did you expect to become as successful as you have been? Were there ever any doubts?
I believe that only someone with real experience of life's lows create the kind of work I want to see or hear for that matter. Energy is all that we each have that makes us unique and I guess most artists strive to be immortal by capturing their energy in their art...I know I do. I always expect to be the best at everything I do,why else try.
As to doubts... If I did NOT still have them I would have stopped years ago. I think humility and confidence should be bedfellows for balance.
Horizon by Kevin Sharkey
Morning has Broken by Kevin Sharkey
Paradise by Kevin Sharkey
KS: Process me hole... I am not comfortable with process, I prefer to get the paints out and paint! I don't use brushes, I do make a fucking huge mess, and I don't need to be anywhere special to paint. I try not to think while I work - I try to keep my head as empty as possible and that includes no music. I really believe that you are communicating with your soul if you're doing it right. I guess you could say my soul does the painting... I only open the bottles.
KS: I have just finished a collection of work which is now called EXPECT MIRACLES. I have also just finished five huge paintings for new Irish companies in Dublin. I am painting now for exhibitions this year in Moscow and Bahrain.
The Bridge Over the Lake by Kevin Sharkey
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Art Space Talk: Rebecca Rome
Brian Sherwin: Rebecca, I understand that you studied at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Can you tell us about your educational experiences? Did you have any influential instructors?
Rebecca Rome: I started studying photography in high school and enjoyed it very much, but had my first truly inspirational and challenging artistic experiences during my Intro to Photography class, taught by Michael Kolster at the Academy of Art University in 2000. And although that was an essential and amazing start, the majority of my photographic education and growth occurred at The Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, Maine where I did a one-year resident program in 2001-2002.
BS: Rebecca, can you tell us more about your thoughts behind the camera? For example, when you are behind the camera do you think of yourself as a viewer or do you- emotionally or spiritually --consider yourself a part of what you observe? Are these photos a reflection of your identity? Do you have an emotional connection to your work?
RR: First off, it is important to realize that I am in fact the figure appearing in each image. I consider myself much more a subject than an observer in these photographs, and yes, they are very much a reflection of my identity.
A long exposure is necessary when working with a pinhole camera, and this became a useful tool for me, allowing the time and space I need to express deeper and less accessible parts of myself. When I am making these images, I run into the frame and do whatever comes spontaneously in response to the landscape, and completely out of my sub-conscious.
BS: The figures in your photographs often appear to be displaced or confused... there is a psychological quality to these works and what they express. Are you interested in psychology?
RR: Very much so, but my interest in psychology is not so much scientific as it is felt. Psychology endorses the hypothesis that certain behaviors and actions are the result of deep-seated emotions and past experiences. This strongly relates to what happens when I make this work—the inspiration arises from a place that I am not entirely aware of.
BS: Rebecca, I enjoyed viewing your diptych series. The diptych series of photographs strongly convey the themes that you have been working with. Can you give us some insight into this specific body of work?
RR: The diptychs were the first body of work that I made with a pinhole camera. Looking back on them in relation to my more recent work, they seem very dark and wrought with intense emotion. They embody sexuality and death; both of which are, for me, strongly linked to the relent of self-possession. During the making of these images, I needed to express my battle with physical and emotional exhaustion, and the desire to completely submit to forces I could not command.
BS: Your work has been described as visual poetry. What is your response to that opinion?
RR: I am very flattered by this description. I have written a number of poems in the past, and have always appreciated poetry immensely. In fact, I find my work often parallels the words of certain poets more so than the work of other visual artists.
BS: Can you tell us about some of your other influences? Are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?
RR: I believe all of my experiences and the entire contents of my sub-conscious are what truly inform my work, but looking back at it from some distance and after some time, I see very distinct relationships to feminist and surrealist photography. In particular, I relate deeply to the work of Francesca Woodman and Ana Mendieta, both of whom were artists strongly informed by internal emotion and a profound and often agonizing sense of an unstable self in an ever-shifting environment.
RR: The majority of what takes place during the creative process is contemplation, experimentation, and subtle expression of self, and is separate from an end product or pre-meditated contrivance that aims to entertain others with a finished object. Artwork can take place almost entirely internally, and it is an extraordinary gift to the world when an artist is able to externalize it and express it in a format that is accessible to others. That said, most of the work I am doing now is taking place cerebrally. I ebb and flow as an artist, and often take long breaks from actually producing finished pieces of art, but the internal work transpires and flows through me always.
BS: Do you have any exhibits lined up for 2008?
RR: Yes. I have a show coming up at Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, opening on April 27, which is International Pinhole Photography Day. It is a two-person show that I will share with another pinhole photographer, and will be a fantastic celebration of the pinhole photography tradition. Most remarkably, the exhibition will be composed of work that aims to express the most complex and elusive aspects of the human psyche without the use of a lens or complex mechanics.
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?
RR: I would like to say that I am so immensely grateful to those of you who have seen, understood and been touched by my work. There is no greater reward as an artist than to know that you have moved another person in a way that makes their experience, while still uniquely powerful, a little more understandable and a little less isolating.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Premium Selection: Carson Collins, Caitlin Karolczak, Dave Behrens
"I've been working on The Ocean Series for thirty years. The Ocean Series is a Remodernist response to the color-field paintings of Mark Rothko. Intriguing, relaxing, and evocative, these colorful images appeal to serious art lovers, those who meditate, and ocean lovers as well." -- Carson Collins www.myartspace.com/carsoncollins
"I am motivated to create art by an interest in creation and experimentation. Several different themes and ideas fascinate me including but not limited to anatomy, mortality, behavior and the history of symbology and gestures." -- Caitlin Karolczak www.myartspace.com/mutantsloth
Dave Behrens (db3) was born in Sydney in 1967 and moved to Maryborough QLD in 1972 where he remained until 1998, He's been calling Brisbane QLD home since then. What started out as a hobby back in 2002, to fill some empty spaces on his walls at home, has now become a passion to bring vibrant colour and a look that is refreshingly different to the art scene of Brisbane and the wider population. www.myartspace.com/davebehrens
To learn more about Premium Service on myartspace visit the following link-- www.myartspace.com/premium
Art Space Talk: Dennis Jones
Wake me when its time to go, Installation view
Brian Sherwin: Dennis, can you tell us about your academic training in art? I understand that you studied at the University of Detroit and Wayne State University. Did you have any influential instructors? Can you recall any specific experience during those years that have inspired you to present day?
Dennis Jones: My undergraduate degree is in architecture from the University of Detroit and I continue to practice. My architectural training has influenced my art through an understanding of history, material, construction, scale, space, form and conceptualization. Architecture is the mother of all art forms.
I completed my MFA in Painting from Wayne State University. My influential instruction is minimal but I've had influential personalities and two graduate school people worth mentioning are Dick Wray and Peter Williams.
BS: I understand that you are an instructor as well. Where do you teach? What is your educational philosophy?
DJ: I teach part-time at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. I would like to find a full time position outside of Michigan and continue to look. I currently teach 2D and 3D design, but I've taught architectural design and drawing at the University of Detroit, Wayne State and Macomb Community College. I try to cultivate an atmosphere where creative awareness, inquiry, exploration, discovery and execution can develop and grow.
BS: Dennis, you utilize text within the context of your work. As you know, words can be very powerful-- they can send a nation to war and inspire the masses to behave or act out in certain ways. What interests you in using words directly as a form of expression?
DJ: Images and words are interchangeable. The use of text in my work is relatively new for me, which has developed in the past two years. I had been working with images for sometime and I started to incorporate text along with images which became redundant and then I abandoned a specific image altogether. If a picture is worth a thousand words, with this new work I wonder how many (mental) pictures can be drawn from a single word? I'm also interested in the interaction between the formal elements of painting, its physical surface and abstract text.
BS: Can you tell us about your artistic practice in general? Give us some insight into these works... perhaps you could select a piece and tell us about it.
DJ: Influences come from many sources – the trick is in finding how they're interrelated or not and then piecing them together. These paintings are about skepticism, propaganda, delusions, absurdity and discontent – all accumulating.
I'd rather not discuss any one particular painting but I could give some thoughts on how to approach this work; look at the color and scale, look at the text, look at the overall shape and its construction, look at the surface, then move onto the next one and then come back, all the while asking yourself what does it say or not say. I think these paintings take time and must be seen in reality to fully appreciate their nuance.
DJ: I carry a small notebook around with me for errant thoughts and ideas. Ideas come during daily activities, which includes working at my studio. We're bombarded with words and images through newspapers, magazines, television and the internet; look around there's plenty of material for paintings out there.
BS: Can you tell us about some of your influences? Have any specific artists or art movements inspired you?
DJ: This work has been influenced by abstract expressionists such as Pollock and DeKooning; early pop artists such as Johns and Rauschenberg whom questioned all the flinging paint; Robert Indiana, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Naumann, Richard Tuttle, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and Richard Prince to name a few. Thomas Kinkade, the so-called "painter of light", has also influenced me. Other influences include the authors, Daniel Dennet, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens who have examined belief in their writing.
Toyland, installation view at Zeitgeist Gallery
DJ: Toyland took about two years to complete and it was shown in parts until a show at the Zeitgeist Gallery, which led to a larger version at Gallery project in Ann Arbor where the installation grew to include about eighty pieces and occupy an 1100 square foot space, which then led to inclusion in the Windsor Biennial.
Toyland expresses a sense of play, wonder, delight and discovery. These thoughts and emotions are directly expressed with a simplified color palette and the varied presence of a child-like everyman. The figures suggest an innocence and hopefulness of childhood—I think of them as my progeny—a metaphor for the creation and realization of ideas—and avatar for the artist as a perpetual child. I think of toyland as a kind of memorial to these sentiments.
With the realization the figures are also small toys to be manipulated, trophies to ambition and vanity, or puppets to be controlled, an undercurrent of irony surfaces as the installation comments on the formation of identity and a creative process that has become corrupted, where innocence and naiveté are doubtful possibilities.
DJ: Mark Lalibrete, the curator for Dehuman contacted me after he saw my work at the Tangent Gallery in 2002; it took four more years to put together an itinerary that included six venues across Canada. I'm showing with three Canadian artists, Ed Pien, Balint Zsacko and Daniel Erban and each of us are showing expressive figurative drawings. Visit www.dehuman.com for images and itinerary.
BS: Will you be involved with any other exhibits in 2008?
DJ: I'm currently participating in a three-person show that included Chris Crowder and Tom Carey. Chris and Tom are showing figurative drawings and I've done an installation of text paintings.
I'm actively looking into museums and gallery representation outside of the Midwest. The Fundamental(ist) exhibition would make an excellent traveling show. There are twenty paintings that fit well in an 1800 square foot space; there are complete full color catalogs - it’s tight. All I need is the opportunity. I was recently in Los Angeles and my work will be included in a text show at Solway Jones. There has been some interest in New York too and I plan to visit there in early March.
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?
DJ: The freedom of ideas sustains me as an artist and always think before you believe.
Monday, February 18, 2008
My Art Advice: If I post my work online doesn't that mean that someone is more apt to steal my style? I don't want people to paint like I do!
This concern over 'style theft' is common. I frequent several art forums and find that many artists think that they own their 'style'. These artists get very upset when another artist decides to work in a similar manner. Legally speaking, you can't copyright an artistic style. The image itself is copyrighted, but not the manner in which you created it-- the methods you used and the marks that you made. Allow me to repeat that in bold-- YOU CAN'T COPYRIGHT AN ARTISTIC STYLE! For example, if you paint blue figures with white backgrounds you can't file suit if someone else does the same unless the paintings are very close to being identical. There is not much that you can do legally if an artist utilizes the same types of marks, the same colors, and even similar subject matter. If this was the case people would not bother to paint!
Still worried about people stealing your 'style' if you upload your work online? Think of it this way, are you influenced or inspired by another artist or perhaps an art movement from the past? If so, in some way-- even if it is buried in your mind --you are 'stealing' from those styles... those ideas. You are utilizing similar marks and taking a similar direction with your art-- marks and direction that you may not have taken had you not had knowledge of that artist or art movement. By doing so, you add an authentic touch to that visual tradition-- but you can't deny the debt that you owe to those who have came before.
Styles and methods of creation have been 'borrowed' throughout time. One artist will 'take' ideas from another artist or a group of artists and build upon it. We all owe a certain debt to artists who have came before... so it is naive to think that your 'style' is free from the observation and exploration of others-- I would go as far as to say that it is a sign of insecurity if you feel that way. Thus, who are you to say that your art should be free from the observation and exploration of your peers?
I will go further with this! I think it is safe to say that every artist has told visual white lies with their work-- we are all inspired or influenced by someone-- and those ideas are molded into our practice-- even if we are not aware of it. One could say that this is a glorified type of theft. In that sense, every artist is a thief. So if you are worried about someone 'stealing' your 'style'... step back-- view your work --and ask yourself how many artists you've stolen or borrowed from. After giving this some thought... ask yourself how many artists they have stolen or borrowed from. At that point you will see how the cards are stacked and you will be less likely to conceal your hand.
We do 'borrow' or 'steal'-- though steal might be a bold choice of word --from other artists regardless if we admit it or not... or are even aware of it. Show me your work and I can show you the work of a dozen artists who worked in a similar manner-- artists who have had a lot of exposure... meaning that at some point you have probably observed their work in a book, magazine, or on TV. Think of it this way, when we are young a peer draws a smiley face in class-- what happens next? A dozen kids end up drawing a smiley face and each add their own bit of truth to it. However, the original motivation to draw the smiley face was 'borrowed' or 'stolen' from the kid who did it first. Each child adds his or her own perspective to the original image that had been etched into his or her mind, but the foundation for that creation can be traced back to the child who drew it first in the classroom. Those of you who have taught will know exactly what mean. Is that not theft of style on its most basic terms? Does it matter?
I'm not suggesting that people should openly steal styles, but if someone does it to you... don't feel so bad. As I mentioned, it obviously means you are doing something right. Your focus should be on creating new works. In a sense, we humans are conditioned to borrow ideas, to steal ideas, to build upon the information that we have observed-- and make it our own. This is not exactly a negative trait... and none of us are above it. As far as art is concerned, we experience this theft in our youth the first time we draw a smiley face... so why do we feel that we are above it later in life? Why feel that your art should be protected from the thoughts and actions of others?
Here is my direct answer to this question-- if someone wants to 'borrow' or 'steal' your 'style'-- let them without a second thought. Chances are they will not have the same energy in their work that you do. Who knows... maybe they will end up utilizing the skills they have learned from 'borrowing' in order to develop their own visual direction. Perhaps they will end up doing what you do-- better. That is how art movements are made and shaped. It is the foundation of art history! To fear this is nothing more than a sign of insecurity. Again, that is my opinion-- and I understand that it is a philosophical one --take it for what it is worth.
Take care, Stay true,
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Art Space Talk: Shadi Yousefian
BS: It is my understanding that you studied photography on the academic level. Where did you study? Did you have any influential instructors during those years?
SY: I studied photography and received both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at San Francisco State University. Professors, Lewis DeSoto, Alice Shaw, and Dale Kistemaker, were influential in shaping my art. They familiarized me with photography techniques and artistic concepts and helped me find my own individual artistic direction and style and never tried to change who I am as an artist. Also, professor Whitney Chadwick, my art history teacher helped me understand art theory and criticism.
SY: I work directly on the surfaces of my negatives leaving my own expressive mark, the same way a painter or a collage artist creates a piece of art. I scratch the negatives and combine pieces and fragments of different negatives to create my final piece. In this way I’m introducing other layers besides the photographic shot.
SY: I would say therapeutic. I release personal emotions through my work. These are emotions that I don’t normally communicate through words. I think communicating these profound feelings through art has a therapeutic effect on me.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Art Space Talk: Savako
Cojomojo Forest, installation- Lunarbase, Brooklyn. 2004
Brian Sherwin: Savako, you create what has been described as bold, free standing sculptures which profess a retro, mid-twentieth century futuristic view. Your subjects are aliens that live in an imagined Utopia on a planet that you have named Pajamaja. Can you tell us more about this world that you have created?
Savako: Planet Pajamaja is simpler than human being society, and the Planet Pajamaja is full of feelings of happiness. They have a civilization that is on a better level than human beings. But they do not depend on intelligence and material gain. They build their paradise while having a heart like a child.
BS: Savako, your sculptures are known for being humorous. Viewers often smile upon viewing your works. Is there a serious side to these works or do you simply strive to make people smile?
S: I regard senses when viewing art as very important. My work may become humorous even if I go about it in a serious manner. It can display both humor and seriousness depending on the interaction with the viewer. I allow viewers to wonder. Maybe, When I create it, I feel that I am happy and that is why some people view my work as humorous. Due to this perhaps my feeling will reach people.
Alien in the City by Savako
BS: You have exhibited your work in NY several times. How have your travels influenced the work that you do?
S: I enjoy exhibiting outside of Japan because I like the thought of people viewing the world I've created. My work is for the here and now rather than for future generations. The interactions that viewers have with my work are an important drive for my creations.
BS: Is there a difference in the way that people react to your work in the States compared to the reactions you get in Japan?
S: The reaction of a person sympathizing with my view of the world in both Japan and U.S.A. is very direct. American viewers are wonderful even if the emotional display is rich. The Japanese tends to enjoy a character. One of my collectors in Japan carries my "Portico Popilyn" and continues taking souvenir picture at various places. For example, a certain person made a song of Portico Popilyn. And, a certain person made juice which resembled Planet Pajamaja. Children who are acquainted with my work make pictures of Portico Popilyn in their notebooks at school almost every day. It is very interesting.
BS: Savako, where did you study art? Have you had any influential instructors or mentors? Tell us about the academic side of your work...
S: I learned most of the techniques of sculpting by self-education. I did not like school. The work I seen coming from schools did not appeal to me. So in a sense I am self-taught.
BS: Can you tell us about some of your other influences?
S: 4D-world, Black hole, Moon, Ancient civilization, Fairyland, etc...
Alien in the City 2 by SavakoBS: Tell us about your process... how are these creatures created, so to speak?
S: I regard unconsciousness as very important; you do not need to use your brain in order to be good. I feel that the neutral state that is not controlled by feelings and reason creates the best image. I choose some shapes from a lot of sketches and use those shapes when I create my sculptures.
BS: Will you be involved with any exhibits in 2008?
S: I have two solo exhibitions in February and April in Japan. I will be displaying an installation and will reveal my new expressions. I hope that I can exhibit it in the U.S.A. and Europe.
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your work?
S: At this time I'm making a production of a big UFO titled Came from the Planet Pajamaja. It can disintegrate, and the transfer is going to be enabled, too. I look forward to it and hope that everyone enjoys it.
You can learn more about Savako and her art by visiting her website-- www.dugazig.com. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews.
Take care, Stay true,
Friday, February 15, 2008
My Art Advice: Should I send a gallery a link to my art or images of my art by email in order to be considered for gallery representation?
Before you send a random email to a gallery about your art remember that there might be hundreds of other artists doing the same thing at the same time. What will happen? You will most likely have your email marked as spam or blocked. If you are not blocked and you continue to send messages about your work you will most likely become an inside joke at the gallery rather than land representation. Worst case scenario... you will annoy the person on the other end and they will end up telling their associates about you. Word can travel fast and in the art world-- even on the most basic level --everything is about presence. You want to put your best face forward-- not blow it off with one quick letter. Annoying gallery owners can be career suicide depending on the status of the gallery .
Artists often forget that a gallery is a business. Galleries do not display work simply for the viewing pleasure of visitors. They have paychecks to write and lights to keep on-- it is a business just like any other. While it is true that galleries need artists to run their business, you need to remember that they already have a stable of artists-- they need art, but that does not mean that they need your art. You might be thinking, " If that is the case, why do the galleries have their email listed if they don't want artists to contact them?"... In most cases a gallery has their email listed for two reasons. 1.) They can send out exhibit information to their email list from that account. 2.) A random collector can write to them with questions about an artist that the gallery represents-- though most will call the gallery before writing them. Having an email address listed does not mean that the gallery is offering an open invitation to hopeful artists.
There are exceptions. Some galleries want artists to send examples of their work by email. Many of those galleries have ads in art publications stating that fact (just as galleries that do not want artists to send samples of their art by email will often have some fine print-- sometimes BIG print --stating that under their contact information!!!). However, I think it is better for artists to attend openings at the gallery they are interested in instead of sending a desperate email to the gallery about their work and why it should be represented. As I stated before, there could be thousands of artist worldwide sending emails to the gallery with the same hope that you have at the same time. You want to be a face... not a random name listed in the galleries email inbox-- or trash bin for that matter. Brick & mortar galleries do not have the manpower to address thousands of emails like that.
So what can you do? Attend openings-- get to know the people who are already exhibited at the gallery and be friendly to the gallery staff. By getting to know people and being friendly I do not mean that you should go up and say, "I really like this space. Are they looking for new talent?" or "Can you get me in here, my work is great!" to everyone you meet! Just enjoy yourself... be yourself-- leave the 'I'm a brooding artist' or 'I'm better than this place' persona at the door. Eventually you can slide the fact that you are an artist into the conversation, but keep it short.
Business cards that contain a link to your personal website or accounts that you have on art sites like www.myartspace.com can come in handy if a conversation goes well-- be prepared!
Some of you might be saying, "But I live hundreds of miles away! Sending an email is my only option!". Well, if that is the case you might want to ask yourself if you want to be represented by a gallery that you can't visit in person at least once per month, especially if you are new to the scene. With a ton of luck your email effort might land you gallery representation, but if you are not able to actually visit the gallery you will not know if your work is actually in sight of gallery patrons or somewhere in a backroom waiting to be pulled out when-- and if --someone wants to view it. That is not to suggest that galleries are shady, but they do tend to cater to the needs of represented artists who can actually visit the gallery often. Thus, you might want to focus on exhibiting opportunities near you or online venues that specialize in giving opportunities to artists who would otherwise be isolated.
Keep in mind that I'm mainly talking about city galleries. Rural galleries might have a different outlook on 'view my art' soliciting. I still think that getting to know more about a gallery in person, no matter where the gallery is located, is the best choice for you if you are seeking gallery representation. Also, remember that you do not exactly need to rely on brick & mortar galleries ... you can always represent yourself by utilizing sites like www.myartspace.com, www.youtube.com, and www.myspace.com as tools for exposure. Combine your efforts-- place links to your art accounts on your Youtube and Myspace account and place links to your Youtube and Myspace accounts on your art accounts. Be active online... network with artists and curators that you meet. Keep in mind that many established artists started out this way. Don't sweat over gallery representation.
Take care, Stay true,
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Art Space Talk: Jonathan James
Invasion by Jonathan James
Brian Sherwin: Jonathan, do you have formal training in art? Where have you studied? Have any of your instructors influenced you?
Jonathan James: Yes, I started out going to Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland to see if it would work out, since then I recently transferred to the Academy in San Francisco, and it has really taken me a long distance in my work. One Instructor really stands out when I think of this question. Her name was Donna Hepner, real honest type woman who, if you show the initiative, she will show you the way. She basically exploded my creative mind, and now I'm trying to piece it all together in an intelligent way.
BS: Jonathan, when I view your work I get the impression that you are a painters painter... meaning that you seem very interested in the process of painting itself and the expressive qualities that you can capture through the marks and strokes that you make upon the surface. Is that so? Can you tell us about the motives behind your work?
JJ: Surface quality is just as important as the image itself. I really try to work the dimension of texture and give my pieces the chance to express themselves. This also gives the viewer the chance to follow the progression of the piece, we have that connection in a way at that moment of communication when we both know how it went down. Motivation is such an incredible word. When it comes down to it my entire lifetime has been a motivation to make art. Specifically, and more recently I have been interpreting my studies into world religion, ancient civilizations, and pre-1900's philosophy.
BS: This is an age old question-- is a work of art ever truly finished? What are your thoughts? For example, when a piece leaves your studio do you ever wish that you could work back into it? Or do you view it as the end of one process and the start of a new one?
JJ: There are some points when you just know. It's like giving birth, when they are ready they let you know, and you let them fly into the world with everything they need for a beautiful life. Give them a fancy suit, a few phone numbers, and let them know they are always welcome to come home. I recognize this point in art making at that pivotal moment when you realize, by adding even the slightest more, you will only be selfishly taking away from the image. This process is never ending. The end of one piece is always the beginning of a new one, this is aside the fact that there are always 5 pieces being worked on at any given time. It's a cycle that I'm particularly glad I became a part of.
BS: Jonathan, religion and politics seem to mesh and clash... fight and scream within the context of contemporary society-- does your work convey this struggle? Are there any social implications to be found in your work?
JJ: Religion is a big issue for me. I find that the greatest human inspiration comes directly from religious and spiritual sources. Religion drives people, it forces them. For me, it is not so much organized religion that I find most curious, but more-so that common Source they all have. This force moves with me, through me. I can only be a part of it.
BS: Tell us more about some of your influences. Are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?
JJ: I can only give credit to all of those who came before me. I am influenced by everything that was, is, and is going to be.
Enlightenment by Jonathan James
JJ: Sure. "Enlightenment" is my most recent finished painting. I have been getting really interested in the connection of the Pineal Gland to the Universe as a whole. I recently stumbled onto the idea of the Pineal, and have since found all of these wild connections. First they say it is the pre cursor to the human eye, it has a lens and a retina. It is connected to the Sahasrara Chakra, and is located directly behind the "Third Eye" Chakra. Scientists say it takes 49 days, and the pineal spontaneously appears in the human fetus. Buddhists say the after death to reincarnation process takes 49 days. So on and so forth. Things like coincidence, and deja vu' to me just mean that the world is letting me know I am on the right track. After all of this intense information exchange with the world, I sat down to reflect on what I have encountered and began to work on Enlightenment.
BS: Jonathan, can you tell us about your studio practice. For example, do you listen to a specific type of music or radio station while working? Do you work in silence? Do you read before working? Is coffee a must? What are the little things that you do before and while working?
JJ: Working in the studio is definitely not quiet time. To start out working I read a bit from a random book, set out a few artist books around, prepare my area and set out the supplies. Music is a must, but it depends on the mood of the day or what I am painting. Tribal music is nice, Native American, African, Indian etc...
JJ: Right now I'm working on this Pineal thing. It is sort of leaking into a disconnected conversation with the world around me. I have my coursework in the mix too, anatomy, color, sacred geometry golden section, and figure painting. This usually keeps me on my toes as well. It is almost ridiculous how much agony we go through just to make these images, but I can no longer help myself. It has to happen i suppose.
JJ: I think it really opens up the world of artists to fellow artists. At times I will pour through these sites to find work by contemporary artists and be so extremely amazed at the talent in either one. At the very least it is a way I find to see recent work going on in places I would otherwise be completely in the dark about.
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?