Monday, March 31, 2008

Art Space Law: What you need to know about Copyright laws

I am pleased to introduce a new series on the Myartspace Blog-- Art Space Law. In this series I will tackle various issues concerning art law. I will focus mainly on issues involving art law and the Internet. For this series I will ask professionals for their opinions. Gary Schuster, an attorney with Jacobowitz & Gubits, LLP (Walden , New York) has offered his time and knowledge about various laws concerning art. For the start of this series I will ask Mr. Schuster various questions about art law. Enjoy.

Brian Sherwin: Concerning copyright laws... my understanding is that a work of art is automatically copyrighted at the time of its creations, but there is still a burden of proof if at some point an issue over a piece goes to court. Some artists will document their work-- take dated pictures of the piece as it is being created and finished, place the pictures in an envelope, and mail it to themselves as a form of 'poor mans' copyright. Does the poor man method hold up in court? Or should artists be more serious about having their work legally copyrighted?

Gary Schuster: There are several good reasons to formally register your work, and as you say, one of them is evidence. How do you prove what you created, and when, and what it looked like? The certified mail method does provide some evidence of that and could hold up in court. However a clever lawyer could cast doubt and poke holes in that evidence. How do we know you (and not someone else) created the work that is in the envelope? Where has that envelope been since it was mailed and received? How do we know you didn’t steam open the envelope and replace the contents with something else? What if you lose the envelope, or your dog eats it? These are called "chain of possession" issues.

Formal copyright registration eliminates most chain of possession issues. When you submit a registration you must submit a copy of the work. That copy just sits there, undisturbed, in the vast files of the Copyright Office. There is no threat of steam, loss or dogs. When you get to court, the copy that comes from the Copyright Office is the strongest possible evidence.

Furthermore, the copyright law provides that a copyright certificate constitutes "prima facie evidence" of the validity of the copyright claim and of the facts stated in the certificate. That means there is a "rebuttable presumption" that your copyright is valid, and that you are the author of the work. You do not have to prove those facts at all. They are presumed. Instead your adversary has the burden of proving the facts are incorrect. That is a significant advantage that you would not obtain with the certified mail method.

There is more. You may not bring a copyright infringement lawsuit unless the work has been registered. Furthermore, if the infringement occurs before registration, you are limited to receiving your "actual damages". If the infringement occurs after registration you are eligible for "statutory damages", which can be both higher and easier to obtain. You will also be eligible to recover your reasonable attorneys fees and costs. Actually, the mere fact that you are eligible for statutory damages, attorneys fees and costs puts you in a stronger position in pre-litigation settlement negotiations. If all you can get is actual damages your settlement leverage is much reduced. With a law firm retainer of $5,000 or $10,000 or more for litigation, you definitely want to try to settle.

You get all this for just $45. Even so, I understand this can get very expensive when there are dozens or even hundreds of works to register. Ideally each work will have its own registration. However, you can also register a collection of works under a single title. The Copyright Office website has instructions and regulations on doing that. That is not ideal for the long term but it will serve in the short term.

The information in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice for any particular person or circumstance, or for Internal Revenue Code purposes as described in IRS Circular 230. This article is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney based on your particular circumstances.

Links of Interest:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Gicleé digital printing on-Demand

myartspace has begun delivering on-demand Gicleé printing for its members in conjunction with ePingo. On-Demand Printing allows you to take any one of your digital images uploaded to your myartspace image library and have it professionally printed and delivered to you.

We would like to encourage you to give it a try at our introductory price of $20 for a 16" X 24" high resolution satin finish Gicleé print. While many other sites are charging $30-$50 for the same size/quality print, we are introducing a more attractive price point for you to try this out. For this special, prints can only be shipped to the USA and shipping and handling charges are $7.50. We think it's a great opportunity for artists to experiment with this. You can, of course, order as many as 10 prints at this introductory price. myartspace makes it simple to do, and your print arrives by US mail at your door.

You may want to sell your print, gift it to someone, or keep it for yourself. In the long term, myartspace will allow high quality digital printing on a variety of materials (such as canvas), in different sizes (up to 5 feet wide), and in different types (Duos, Triptychs or Quads).

Our On-demand printing will be done by a professional service using state of the art digital printing technology. The prints will be produced on a Hewlett-Packard Designjet Z6100 printer with the new Vivera pigment ink system and premium photo paper. Prints come out with vibrant colors or striking black-and whites, with a long life life of over 100 years under glass

To watch a brief video presentation on how to create a Gicleé print, click HERE.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Art Space Talk: Rimi Yang

Alan Rankle introduced me to California based artist Rimi Yang. Rimi's increasingly sophisticated paintings imbue traditional Asian imagery with a contemporary spin. Intensely emotional, vibrant and often whimsical, Yang’s work shows a technical mastery that can only be achieved through an ardent dedication to the act of painting. For Rimi, this act is highly intuitive, and often a celebration of the uncertainties of life.

In addition to her training at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, Rimi has studied at Otis College of Art and Design, and spent a summer in Florence, Italy, studying at the Florence Academy of Art. Her work has been exhibited on both coasts, most notably in New York and Los Angeles, and she has been featured numerous times in the Kyoto Journal. Her work has been exhibited at several galleries throughout the United States-- including, Lowe Gallery (Atlanta, GA), Stricoff Fine Art (New York, NY), and Art Amo Gallery (Santa Barbara, CA).

Jade by Rimi Yang

Brian Sherwin: Rimi, can you tell us about your academic background? Where have you studied art? Also, have you had any influential instructors? Did your studies make an impact on your artistic practice?

Rimi Yang: As a painter I am a late starter as I have only been practicing for four years. I have a Masters in Library Science, and worked as a librarian for many years. As to formal training, I took various classes, and workshops over the years including sumi ink drawing in Japan, some old master painting/drawing classes in Florence, and many classes in the US. My best teacher was the artist (and friend), Regina Lyubovnaya. There were many great teachers, and my nature is to be easily influenced by work that I see and people I meet.

BS: Rimi, you are interested in the duality of life. The dual elements-- female and male, happiness and sadness, love and hate, black and white...and how one would have no purpose without the other inspires you. You enjoy observing the confusion of this conflict. Can you go into further detail about this interest and how it is conveyed in your art?

RY: I simply think of duality as a balance and a matter of truth. Last night I just read something about "ying and yang." It said that the advent of development of static words, has added to the world has being out of balance in becoming more "yang." I kind of agree with that, but I think the advent of Internet might help to bounce back the world to become more "ying" and to be more balanced. That is my hunch.

I need many dual elements such as sharpness and fuzziness, cold and warm colors to make my paintings to become a balanced and thereby successful. I do not think of this while painting, the balancing is instinctive and comes automatically.

I need to go through this process, learning technique to build structure and then destroying it with energy to reach what I feel is a comfortable balance. Again these are dual elements that I must go through. I do not delve into my work on a deeper level, I leave that to the audience and the critics, but I do hope that my art reflects some truth as a petite planet on canvas with all kinds of dualities.
Blue Lake by Rimi Yang
BS: You have stated that it is difficult for you to describe your art... and have suggested that often times it is an illogical process. Would you say that art should speak for itself? In other words, would you prefer that viewers find their own dialogue within the context of your work rather than have you spell it out for them, so to speak?

RY: There is a group of people who visited our studio complex, and I was asked to give a talk. I have difficulty doing that, and mostly refuse as my language as an artist is not words. Rather my language is shape, color, form, scale, stroke, texture, etc. Joseph Campbell, the mythologist once said the best things in life are the ones that you cannot describe, like love, and if I could accurately articulate my paintings in words then I should be a writer.

I believe paintings allow viewers to instantly sense time, feeling, energy, complicated context, etc. as a whole. Once they start to deconstruct it the work becomes something else. And being able to feel, enjoy, and identify what make paintings great is a valuable talent. That could just as important as the creating part. I always admire the people who have keen gifts of seeing. Thus I rather listen to those viewers than my speaking about my works. Others can teach me what I am doing.
Some Thoughts (after Eizan) by Rimi Yang

BS: I understand that you are interested in Taoist philosophy in regard to art. For example, you admire the art of Shen Tusn-Ch'ien. Can you go into further detail about this connection... do you feel connected to this way of observing art-- and life for that matter?

RY: I do not know if I have an ability to understand his work, but in reading his writings I think that his thoughts are very close to the goals I have for my abstract art.

He does talk about very strict things like, "the young artist should copy masters, and should not be famous in early of his career, nor think of success…" So I must copy from a master for 200 years to be able to become one so-so novice artist. Well, I am a woman who loves to buy a new pair of shoes and indulge myself shopping, so I do not agree with him 100%, yet, I feel many of his thoughts are admirable like, "For painting is only an art, yet is has the power of create ion of the universe itself."

I have read a lot about Taoist, but I have forgotten all that now. As a Taoist, my image of Tao is one of old friends drinking and partying next to the river, being lazy, and laughing at the moon. They are aware that the world as a chaotic place, and they can still enjoy the life. They are the coolest of all.
Madam in Blue (after Ingres) by Rimi Yang

BS: Can you discuss some of your other influences? For example, are you influenced by any other specific artists or art movements?

RY: Abstract painting has always fascinated and confused me. I kind of like to be in confusion, as when you are confused you cannot lie. But I also feel close to some Asian art. I read a story about a centipede when I was young. One day the centipede realized that he uses his 100 feet to walk, and get confused how he does that, then he froze as he tried to figure it out, and then he forgot what he was thinking, and started walking again. I was impressed by that story. That is how I discover and learn about abstract painting.

BS: You create a rich distorted quality with your work. Would you say that you acknowledge the confusion that you observe by painting in this manner? Are these paintings a reflection of that confusion-- the battle and embrace between the opposite forces of duality?

RY: First of all, I did not know my art is distorted. I have right eye has a perfect vision, but left is totally bad. That must be related to that.

I am aware of this chaotic life, yet I am not Tao enough to laugh at it. I am still fearful, so when I paint, I am always searching through the application of layers of paint, always looking for the balance that tells me that I am done.

Tumbling Lemon by Rimi Yang

BS: Can you tell us about your painting process?

RY: When I rented my first and only studio about 4 years ago, I did not know what to start to paint. That terrified me so I had to push my fear further down. I did not understand abstract painting, so I started painting abstract. My process can be described as exploring what I do not know. If you know exactly what you are going to paint, there is no discovery, no chance, no delight, so what is the point of painting?

If your life is mere routine, then what is the point of living? I also try to be honest to myself. If I am confused, fearful, and lose confidence, then I have to fight my way through all of that on the canvas.

If you are asking me how I painted most of my figurative works, then, I started off painting abstract grounds, and sometimes, I see figures and I paint them. Sometimes, I paint figure first, and I paint some layer of abstract to express something instinctive.

BS: Rimi, you currently live and work in Los Angeles. How have you handled the transition of moving to the United States? Also, how is that change reflected in your work?

RY: I am a Korean, but was born and raised in Japan. I was already a minority before coming to the US. Thus it is wonderful to be greeted by a lot of other minorities here. In Japan Koreans are the sole minority. In the US, all the minorities make a majority. See, this is another duality.

I did feel the sense of acceptance of being an individual in the US. In Japan I felt like I had to conform, so I follow the rules, but here, I can express myself without any specific identity. Now I feel it is OK to pretend to be an old-Italian master, a geisha girl, or to drip paint like a cowboy abstract expressionist.
Shaman Dance by Rimi Yang

BS: What are you working on at this time?

RY: I rented one section of a wall at our studio complex and drew six ten foot high nudes under my Japanese name, Satomi Yoshimoto. I rented another wall and covered it with CDs. I wanted to see a shiny wall and do something very large.

I just started painting a nude from a drawing. Usually I paint figures from my head or use some references from classical paintings or Japanese woodblocks, but I wanted to try painting from drawings I did of a nude model. I have some time before my show in New York this October, so I will try some new ideas.

BS: Rimi, you have had several exhibits in recent years. You exhibited at Art Miami and have had shows at Stricoff Fine Art in New York and Lowe Gallery in Santa Monica. What do you enjoy most about exhibiting? Do you observe the reactions of onlookers?

RY: I am exhibiting constantly and currently have a show at Winsor Gallery in Vancouver. I love to talk to people at the opening and gather their reactions. On the door of my studio, there is a sign stating, "Do not disturb. Seriously naked." But at the open studio day, I love to open my studio and talk to people. People can teach me a lot about my paintings, and I am easily influenced by that opinion, and I like to be influenced.

BS: Speaking of exhibits... will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work in person?

RY: We have a Santa Monica Art Walk coming up 29th of this Month. You can view my six 10 feel tall girls, and you can visit my studio in Santa Monica Art Studios. And the show in Vancouver is still going on until end of this month. I am scheduled to have a show Oct. 4th at Stricoff Fine Art in NYC and am in discussions with other galleries about new exhibitions.
Whisper of Rose by Rimi Yang

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have as an artist?

RY: When I lost my job, and decided to paint full time, I thought I would spend just 2 years. But now I decided to keep going until the end of my life regardless of commercial success. That is my simple yet tough goal.

I totally respect art. I do not know how to describe it in words, but art is tremendously important to me. I am very thankful to be have a life in painting and have people respond strongly to my efforts. On personal level, through my paintings, I am able to experience new worlds and meet new people. For this I am very grateful.
You can learn more about Rimi Yang by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Art Space Talk: Donald Fodness

Donald Fodness utilizes seemingly benign and enticing imagery to draw his audience into a layered and unsettling world of complexities. His work is full of cliche, visual puns, and juvenile humor. For Donald this humor parallels the absurdity of contemporary life. His work deals with social imprinting, the loss of innocence, image abundance, and personal experience.

Confabulation: Driving with Mom by Donald Fodness

Brian Sherwin: Donald, you attended the University of Illinois and the University of Colorado. Can you tell us about your academic years? Did you have any influential instructors?

Donald Fodness: I am still earning an MFA at CU Boulder, and working with both Alvin Gregorio and Francoise Dureese. Both painters have different styles but each have aspects that I connect to and both have expanded views of painting. While at the University of Illinois I studied Art History and had some high caliber professors such as Jonathan Fineberg, Anne Hedeman, Dana Rush, Jordana Mendelson, and Eun Young Jung all of which have introduced me to great art, and have shaped my understanding of art.

Also while at the University of Illinois I worked as a guard at the University art Museum, and would spend hours studying the art; some of the works that I became familiar with and that have stuck with me are Peter Saul’s "Typical Saigon", Vernon Fisher’s "Bikini Island", and "Suffering Softens Stones" by Yves Tanguy.

Confabulation: Playing with Uncle by Donald Fodness

BS: Donald you are known for creating works that are deceptive in that they explore a detailed and complex world of social issues that mirror our own. Further investigation of these works reveal the confusion of society. What are the social implications of your work?

DF: I would say that that confusion is an important aspect to the work. I am not sure that any of these issues really get resolved or become clear in the work as much as they are vented among a cast of other issues. These worlds are uncomfortable messes, though they have cute moments of optimism, they are also pessimistic and sarcastic.

BS: Do you explore your life experiences with these works? In a sense, would you say that your work is a form of confession?

DF: Yes, my work is a bit like variations on "The Picture of Dorian Grey" that I can identify with and that I think others can identify with as well. These works deal with my frustrations with my own role in the world’s problems, my role as a consumer, and my own inconsistencies and shortcomings. The images have multiple layers like geological strata, and at one level I do insert personal narratives sandwiching them along pop icons, and everyday objects. While these images are important to me in terms of being my access point into understanding value systems, social structures, and human behavior, I try to sneak these images in because I want the work to have enough open endedness that it is as much about the viewer as it is me.
Hang On Kitty by Donald Fodness

BS: Can you tell us more about your early years-- specific memories that have allowed you to expand on the art that your create today?

DF: 2 stories:

The last time I saw my Grandpa John alive was when I was about eight years old. I was staying with him for a short time during one of my summer breaks. Grandpa had just moved "into town" from the farm he had rented, and worked on, for about thirty years. His new location was a small weathered house in a town of about five hundred people and one could easily walk to the grocery store from his house. One nice morning I had finished playing with my cousin and entered Grandpa’s kitchen through the back door where he met me and requested that I go to the grocery store to get him a loaf of bread. I complained about the chore, and specifically stated "I don-wanna go". Grandpa immediately pulled open a cabinet drawer causing the silverware to clank and drew out a large butcher knife. He pinned me up to the counter holding the knife against my face and told me I would "go to the store or else"… I went to the store. The next time I saw him, about a year later, was at his funeral; he died of a heart attack.

On my dad’s side both my Grandpa Milo and Grandma Ann had extreme hording tendencies and kept entire segments of their old farm house packed full of collected stuff. These collections ranged from outdated domestic goods, and surplus of practical utility, to precious and rare collectibles such as zap comics, baseball cards and new cowboy boots, to sentimental objects and silk flower arrangements. In "the upstairs" buried underneath Grandma’s collection was my Aunt Roxy’s bedroom left just the way it was when she prematurely passed away in a car accident (she died before I was born, and my dad has shared with me an elaborate conspiracy about how my uncles killed her). Grandma stored her collection in "the upstairs" and Grandpa kept his in "the downstairs"; the only real place for living was on the ground level. Both the basement and the second floor had a literal footpath paved through piles of stuff and both my grandparents knew if, and where, something was stored deep inside each of their collection. While both "the upstairs" and "the downstairs" were equally packed full of stuff, Grandpa had the advantage; he was an auctioneer to supplement his farming income. If something did not sell at auction he would bring it home and fill up the basement, when that filled up he started filling up Quonset huts, and when those were full he just dropped stuff in the yard.

I suspect that their tendency to do this may have come from living through the depression, but also a means of survival in the rural Midwest. Either way the visual and spacial understanding of the way they organized their lives has had as much impact on my aesthetic roots as the experiences I have mentioned about my dad, and those of tight living with my large mixed family in Colorado.
Sunflower Snowman by Donald Fodness

BS: What else has influenced you? Are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements? Music?

DF: I am interested in Funk Art and The Hairy Who (HC Westermann, Ed Paschke, Jim Nutt, Robert Arneson…) I also like Peter Saul, Robert Crumb, Christian Schumann, and Trenton Doyle Hancock. Some of the old masters that have informed me are Hieronymus Bosch and Giuseppe Arcimboldo .

Outside of art I am more influenced by architecture than music. I have long been interested in alternative architecture, specifically the Earthship which is a self sufficient house built out of tires and pop cans. While I like the ethical aspect to reusing materials, I am also interested in ideas of building that challenge the mainstream way houses are currently being built. I have also worked for Paolo Soleri at Cosanti in Scottsdale, Arizona; and I have experience in architectural restoration and historic preservation.

BS: Tell us about your process... how do these works come into being-- imagine that there is a blank surface before you-- how do you start?

DF: I don’t work much with a blank canvas, I instead need some sort of system to work against. This is one reason I began working with the paint by numbers; I was interested in the contour cells as forms-departure points for improvisation. When I see something that the system suggests I rough it in with graphite then when large portions of the work are roughed in I go back in with ink. For the assemblages and the furniture I can sometimes start with one object and play with it turning it at different angles or juxtaposing it with other objects until I find an arrangement that works.

BS: Donald, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your present work?

DF: Currently, I am working on large scale drawings on MDF which I am interested in as a readymade with a particular manila tone and ability to absorb ink. I am also interested in the way the common building material can change subtly over time. In these works I have projected engine schemas as a system of line networks to start the automatic drawings. Over the engine schemas I have superimposed coloring book imagery as an additional layer and system. The complexity of intersecting line networks lend themselves to the automatism. Along with traditional artist mediums to color these images I have been using household goods such as used motor oil, anti freeze, Windex, cough syrup, and bleach. I am also making a walnut wardrobe that incorporates a found cast iron base.
Carousel Horses by Donald Fodness

BS: Will you be involved with any exhibits in 2008?

DF: At the beginning of the year I was showing in Puerto Rico, I am putting together a show in Jakarta, and I have decided to start submitting my furniture work this summer.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the direction that you are taking with it?

DF: I recently started an animation and am thinking of ways to make the work both sculptural and interactive. I am also incorporating furniture imagery into my iconography as a way to have a dialogue between these two aspects of my work.

You can learn more about Donald Fodness by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Monday, March 24, 2008

Art Space Talk: Laurel Swab

Laurel Swab is a painter and sculptor originally from Louisville, Kentucky. Laurel graduated with honors and received a B.F.A. in 1991 from the Kansas City Art Institute where she studied sculpture and fiber arts. While attending K.C.A.I. she was exposed to a variety of media and still constantly seeks new processes and materials to further expand her visual vocabulary. Her work is expressive, poignant and thought provoking. It addresses issues of confrontation, cultural boundaries and personal evolution. Swab has earned the respect of regional gallery owners, collectors and museum curators and directors. Her work is in numerous private collections throughout the United States.

Breathe, oil on canvas, 22 x 32"

Brian Sherwin: Laurel, I understand that your father is an artist as well and that you decided to follow in his footsteps. Do mind telling our readers about the influence your father has had on you? Did he help you in your decision to attend the Kansas City Art Institute?

Laurel Swab: I grew up surrounded by art, my father's art, my grandfathers art, art my parents have collected. As a child, my father spent a lot of time in his shop sculpting or working on projects around the house. I learned most of my skills as a sculptor form watching him. He taught me how to use hand tools and power tools, he taught me how to be a creative problem solver and any engineering abilities I have are the result of observing his process. He is an exceptional craftsman and educated me about quality and the importance of creating a well-executed product. Most importantly my father, and mother as well, have never wavered in their support of my creative endeavors.
Fool, oil on canvas, 30 x 24"

BS: While at the Kansas City Art Institute you studied sculpture and fiber arts. Did you have any influential instructors at that time? What was the program like?
LS: KCAI was a four year program. The first year consisted of an introduction to a variety of media and instructors. It was designed to get your feet wet and help you discover what your focus will be for the next three years. What it did for me was convince me to pursue sculpture as a major instead of commercial arts. As far as influential instructors go, I had a few. George Burris taught Jungian psychology and I took every class I could with him. This ended up having a major part in sculpting my life philosophy and largely affected my work. I also had a drawing instructor, Lester Goldman who challenged me to the point of great frustration but eventual great success..

The Thought That Consumed Me, oil on canvas, 30 x 24"

BS: Laurel, I understand that you have ten years experience working as a museum exhibit designer. How did that experience help you as an artist? Also, why did you decide to leave your position in order to pursue you own art full-time? At what point did you know that focusing on your own work was the only direction for you?

LS: When I started working for museums I was hired to help build crates for a traveling exhibit that was about to tour. I worked my way up to Exhibit Preparator and finally Exhibit Designer. Being part of the exhibiting facet of the "art world" helped me immensely as an artist. I learned how to address art institutions when soliciting my work and how to work with them without creating animosity. More specifically, in regards to my work, I was inspired by the collection of the institution I was working for. They have an extensive collection of native American and Hispanic artworks, obviously heavily colored by spiritual and religious motivations. I have been interested in the concept of religion and exploring all mythologies since before college.

As with most artists it's the ultimate goal to be able to focus solely on ones own work and nothing else. The opportunity presented itself to me and I took it. However, I haven't been completely removed form museum work, I have been working as a contractee for the past five years. I found I missed the social interaction of working with others and the challenges that exhibition work can present. As we all know it's not easy surviving on an artist salary and this kind of work is definitely more palatable than other options out there.

Leonardo's Wings, mixed media, 24 x 45 x 20"

BS: Laurel, you paint and sculpt... you are primarily recognized as a sculptor. Can you tell us about why you decided to pick up a brush? Also, how do you divide your time between sculpting and painting?

LS: I taught myself to paint after a trip to Italy in 1997. I was moved by the works of the "old masters", the quality of light, the emotion, the atmosphere of the magical worlds they created with paint. When I came back I was inspired to try this medium for myself. I don't necessarily divide my time between the two mediums. I am primarily painting right now, when I get the urge to sculpt again I will. Usually one method of creation will be screaming louder than the other, that's how I decide what gets my attention.

BS: Is there ever a conflict between working in these two mediums? Or would you say that one process builds upon the other?

LS: I wouldn't say there is a conflict between the two mediums, both ways of working allow me different freedoms. I have always been drawn to discovering new materials and combinations of materials, sculpting allows me to embrace that. Another passion of mine is exploring color and creating mood, which I find more attainable through painting. There is also an instant gratification that come with painting where it might take me months to complete a sculpture it only takes days or weeks to complete a painting (creative energies permitting, of course). My background in sculpting has honed my skills of creating three-dimensional forms which I apply to my paintings, sculpting with color and values instead of metal and wood. Painting allows me to create and control the worlds and atmospheres for my subjects to exist in, when you sculpt, your work is ultimately at the mercy of the surroundings in which it is placed.

Heads, mixed media, 22 X 32"

BS: When you sculpt a form with your hands... do you view it as a sensual process? How is this different compared to painting? Is there a difference for you?

LS: sculpting is definitely a sensual experience. Due to the variety of media that I combine in any given piece the process becomes one of engineering as much as of sensuality. It is very different when I paint. There is no engineering and there is no actual physical contact between my hands and paint.

BS: Laurel, your work deals with issues of cultural boundaries, confrontation and personal evolution... can you tell us why these themes are important to you? What is the motivation behind your work?

LS: It's just "life stuff" things we encounter every day. I am motivated by my experiences. I am (we are) part of a very large network of energies and forces, some within my control and some without.

BS: Can you tell us more about the philosophy behind your work? What is the message that you hope viewers grasp upon viewing your art?

LS: The specific emphasis seems to change from time to time depending on my mood. Most recently I have been very preoccupied with the specific inherent dangers of our cultural evolution; war, climate change, cultural and societal ignorance, etc. Utmostly I am obsessed with the importance of each individuals ability to instigate change. I want people to take more responsibility for their actions and not be afraid to think for themselves.
Consciousness, mixed media, 28 x 42"

BS: Laurel, can you select one of your paintings and one of your sculptures and tell us about them? Give us insight into why you created these two pieces.

LS: "Consciousness" is one of what I consider to be my first successful paintings. It goes back to my studies of Jungian psychology and the idea of the "collective consciousness". That we are all part of a whole, each of us an integral influence on the potential outcome of events. I am constantly reminded of the importance of this concept.

"She Gave up Her Arms for Wings" is a piece I did when I decided to pursue my art full time. It was a scary decision, part of me was afraid that I was going to be crippled financially, but I knew I needed to sacrifice that security in order to, hopefully, fly.

Forming a Thought, oil on canvas, 30 x 32"

BS: Tell us more about the social implications of your art. Have any specific events influenced or inspired you?

LS: There have been many specific events that have influenced me, some too personal to discuss. Mostly, though the thing that inspires me is the culmination of experiences I have had that have formed my philosophy and approach to life. It is important to challenge what you've been told, to look for your own answers and not be afraid to act.

BS: Finally, do you have any upcoming exhibits? What are your plans for 2008?

LS: I have a show coming up in mid April at the William Havu Gallery in Denver, CO and another show this summer in Colorado Springs. Other than that my plans are to keep painting and continue the ever present task of expanding my audience.
You can learn more about Laurel Swab by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Friday, March 21, 2008

Art Space Talk: Patrick Duegaw

Patrick Duegaw is a member of the artist cooperative known as Fisch Haus. The cooperative, which was founded over fourteen years ago, is a source of creative energy for Patrick and his fellow members. He has stated that his paintings are a palimpsestic narrative that he achieves with the application of thin paint over the top of previous drawings on sheetrock, cut from the walls of his studio. This prompts an interaction between his old and new thoughts, creating a layered study of connections between the past and the present. His paintings are visual journal entries; not only recording a few of the people and spaces that exist within the Fisch Haus, but the passage of time within each scene as well.

Maha with Floatation Device: (or) She Floats in…She Floats Out, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 35" x 35", 2006

Brian Sherwin: Patrick, can you tell us about your early years? Where did you study art? Have you remained close to the artistic path that you originally decided to travel?

Patrick Duegaw: My maternal Grandmother was a painter, and I grew up with her paintings in every room. My mother encouraged my imagination by playing drawing games with me, one of which I still use regularly as a warming up exercise. Deciding long before that I’d be a painter, I actually studied and received a degree in architecture, though I still managed to cram as many art classes as possible into the regimented program.
Much of what I learned from my professors, in both art and architecture, changed my way of thinking and helped me to see. I would say that my most important education came, however, from my experiences with being involved with Fisch Haus.
Two Rooms with Insufficient Light: (or) Portraits of Kent and Mel, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 60" x 114", 2007

BS: Patrick, you are involved with Fisch Haus Studios... can you tell us about Fisch Haus Studios? Perhaps you could briefly tell us about the other artists there?

PD: Fisch Haus was originally an artist collective started by myself and three other artists back in 1990; Eric Schmidt, a sculptor/ painter turned inventor; Kent Williams, painter who is now doing large public projects (I studied architecture with both Schmidt and Williams) and John Ernatt, a painter who now runs The Diver Studio located in a warehouse just up the street.

Fisch Haus began with roving one-night-only exhibition events, with work hung in empty spaces in the mostly vacant downtown of Wichita in the early 90’s. The first event drew a few hundred people, and the next, double that amount. We produced 1-2 major shows a year, with our audience growing exponentially with every show.
In 1994 we bought our own building downtown; a 21,000 sq.ft. warehouse, where we built studios, a wood and metal shop, and an exhibition/event space. With the addition of artists Jamie Tabor, painter and entrepreneur, and Elizabeth Stevenson, painter, writer, inventor, and acting Director/ Curator, Fisch Haus now produces several large-scale shows annually, and hosts numerous community art events, ranging from visiting artist exhibitions and performances, to lectures, classes, benefits, readings, and music festivals.

Compulsive Fear Of Arson: Self Portrait With Bad Ear; with companion piece, AM Radio with Fire Extinguisher, Mixed Media on Sheet Rock, 53" x 39", 2004

BS: Patrick, you are interested in exploring various materials within the context of your art. For example, you often utilize recycled materials and push said materials to their limit. Where does your need to explore stem from? Are you naturally curious?

PD: The use of salvaged materials is as much inevitable, as it is a desire to experiment, because that’s usually what is most available. This approach to art, as well as to design, in my mind, is as distinctly Fisch Haus, as it is my own. Almost all of the artwork, framing, as well as the construction of the spaces and furniture within those spaces were built using what could be easily found. When I cut a hole in the floor to build stairs, for example, I used the floor boards to create the framing for some of my more significant paintings. This philosophy has bled into other areas of my life; I enjoy cooking and my best meals are generally improvised from ingredients I happen to have on hand.

Swimming Through Interiors, Mixed Media on Sheet Rock, 46" x 79", 2004

BS: I understand that you often utilize thin paint over the top of your previous drawings... can you discuss your process?

PD: My latest work is done primarily on sheetrock substrates. In the early years, I spent the cold winter months in the Fisch Haus in a smaller, warm room, that functioned as both living and work space. The walls of this space became covered in drawn or painted studies, and in some cases, these sketches began to overlap, and develop into a singular idea.
Originally these images where just part of the environment of my space, until it occurred to me that I might actually like to show some of the more interesting pieces. It was then that I started cutting the better ideas out of the walls, and invented a way to present them. Experimenting within the framework of this process of painting has pushed me to work beyond the mere novelty of the material, allowing me to test my skills as a painter, as well as to explore as an artist.

Amy with Butter Knife: (or) Dreaming of Open Washers and Empty Dryers, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 36" x 32", 2006

BS: Patrick, your fragmentary style of composition and canvas construction has been compared to the approach of Australasian artist Rosalie Gascoigne and her use of assemblage as a critical foundation for successful meaning-making. Is Rosalie an influence? Tell us about your influences...

PD: To be honest, I had not known much about Ms. Gascoigne, or even thought that a comparison could be made with my own work until I’d read Dr. Royce Smith’s review of one of my exhibitions. I have drawn encouragement from so many artists, most notably the artists of the German expressionist period. I think the strongest influences in my life and work, however, have been my friends and colleagues at the Fisch Haus, who I have, essentially, been in school with for the last 25 years; and perhaps more specifically, Elizabeth Stevenson, who is my inspiration, most important critic, and who also happens to be my wife.

BS: In your own words, what are the social implications to be found in your art? What are the specific themes that you challenge viewers with? Do you leave the works open to interpretation... or is their a specific social message that you strive to convey overall?

PD: As is most of the human race, I am interested in storytelling; either through verbal, written, or illustrated means. I use all of the elements at my disposal to set up the opportunity for stories to be told. Through my Painted Theater installations, I am creating autobiographical scenarios which I hope will function as part documentary, where I chronicle my experiences of living in a dichotomy that is both the American Midwest and the Fisch Haus; and part allegory, as tales that the viewer may adopt as their own.

Elmo 'Buck' Davis with Hour (Wine) Glass: (or) Pretty Good So Far, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 28" x 21", 2006

BS: Would you say that you adhere to a personal philosophy or code as far as your art is concerned?

PD: As discussed above, I think one philosophy is essentially "use what you have". Sometimes limiting or narrowing down choices, when building, cooking, painting, or really any other creative process, allows one to focus on what to do with the materials themselves, as opposed to spending time and energy choosing materials that may not even be appropriate or contextually relevant. The recycling aspect is important, but it’s more about knowing that the objects had a prior life, and for me, this makes them precious.

BS: Patrick, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current body of work and the thoughts behind them?

PD: I am very interested in the process behind making work. I prefer studies sometimes, over their finished paintings. In my latest body of work, I combine construction drawings, and other studies, with final paintings in an installation entitled "Not to Scale: The Construction of Two Rooms". This Still Play, as I have termed it, introduces The Builder, who has created a multi-faceted interior environment with a series of specific tools.
The exhibition, mounted at Fisch Haus in November 2007, focused on the metaphorical construction of a bond between two people, and the resultant filtration process that becomes inherent in their co-existence. The installation itself featured several detailed portraits, and a series of over 50 ‘prop’, tool paintings, all on sheetrock (drywall) substrates. I’m currently working on a new painted theater project.

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits? Also, where can our readers view your work in person?

PD: My next scheduled exhibition will be held at the Wichita Art Museum in March-April 2009. My work can be seen by appointment at the Fisch Haus most of the year, except from mid-June to mid-September, when Elizabeth and I are in Montreal.

Matthew's Room, Mixed Media on Sheetrock, 20 1/2" x 48", 1999

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

PD: Just this last thought, that one of my primary goals is to achieve many different types of layering, and on different levels. I have mentioned this in reference to the overlapping of drawing and paint, as well as in the narrative aspects of the work, and the tangible expression through the use of relief; by incorporating evocative shapes within the substrate. I also try to introduce a subtle layering of form and detail that grows more apparent from different perspectives; my hope is that the painting is as interesting to view from up close as from a distance. The ‘zoom’ tool on myartspace page is my favorite feature.

You can learn more about Patrick Duegaw by visiting the following, You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Thursday, March 20, 2008


CHICAGO – A carefully vetted compilation of 181 of the world’s foremost contemporary and modern art galleries will be exhibiting at Art Chicago 2008, running April 25 – 28, at The Merchandise Mart.

Kohei Yoshiyuki
From the series The Park,
Untitled, 1979
Gelatin Silver Print
© Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Galley, New York

A 17% increase in applications was received for Art Chicago 2008, with 350 galleries submitting in contrast to 300 the previous year. Additionally, 95% of the 132 exhibitors who participated in the 2007 fair re-applied for 2008 -- a dramatic increase from the 75% re-sign of the 104 participating galleries in 2006. Under different ownership, Art Chicago 2005 saw only 50% of galleries reapplying. International representation has been bolstered 36% for 2008, with 30 cities presenting, up from 22 in 2007. The strong roster of U.S. galleries continues, with 27 cities represented, a 35% increase over 20 in Art Chicago 2007.

Jennifer Bartlett
Twilight, 2007
oil on canvas
Courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery , Chicago / New York

"In every measurable way," commented Merchandise Mart Senior Vice President Mark Falanga, "Art Chicago is bigger and better. We attribute many of these improvements to the standards established by our Selection Committee, which was re-instituted in 2007."

For more info visit--

Art Space Talk: Patricia Volk

Patricia Volk is a sculptor who admits that the human head has become an obsession in her work. She states, "In my treatment of the heads, I want to get away from realism, the over-wrought and the unnecessary (almost baroque) detail I see in a lot of work depicting the human figure or face – and concentrate on simplicity in form and inner emotion." Her heads, like faces in a crowd, are indistinguishable amongst all the others-- each with their own private tensions and sadness.

Brian Sherwin: Patricia, can you tell us about your educational background-- where you studied and who you studied under?

Patricia Volk: I went back to study art as a mature student. I studied Foundation and 3-D design at Middlesex Polytechnic. It was always my dream to go to art college but with my background it seemed impossible at the time. I had no set idea what I wanted to specialize in, but as soon as we were introduced to the workshops I felt immediately this was where I belonged.
I went on to continue my course at Bath Spa University, but to be honest I didn’t find my time in college particularly inspiring. Middlesex was much more Fine Art oriented and that was OK, but in Bath I felt like a square peg in a round hole, and didn’t particularly get mentored by any of the tutors.

BS: Does environment play a part in your work? For example, do your experiences of living in Northern Ireland enter into your work?

PV: Yes, inevitably. One’s cultural background has an immense influence on the work you produce. Although brought up as a Protestant, I was always struck by the more over-the-top imagery of Catholic churches contrasting to Protestant plainness. I’m sure this formed the springboard for my interest in creating what I call modern icons and pieces that reflect back on religious imagery in the history of art in the past.

BS: Patricia, you are interested in using the shape of the human head in order to convey your message to viewers of your work. You focus on the simplistic form of the head and inner emotion. Can you go into further detail about this interest?

PV: My interest is in the human form, whether a torso or a head, that’s true. I find you can convey all the emotion you need to in one of these or the other (but, to me, putting them together can create problems: a bit like overkill). When I’m doing a head I let the material dictate to a large extent and I’m fascinated by the fact that a difference of just a millimeter can make a huge change in the emotional impact or the elegance or strength of a piece.

BS: You have stated that the heads are containers of secrets and of the essence of the spirit-- not of intellect. Can you further discuss the thoughts and philosophy behind your work?

PV: It doesn’t mean that I don’t myself have an "intellectual" train of thought behind what I do, but often this is only apparent to me much later, in the realization of what has been influencing me. For instance going back to the Celtic so-called "cult of the head" in history and mythology – it is very complex and used in various cultures.
I read somewhere that in a certain African tribe they make a little head and when a child is born they break it to release the spirit. By concentrating on the simplicity of the head, I like to allow the viewer to extrapolate the inner life from the form I’ve created in clay and that’s essentially an emotional inner life rather than a logical or factual one.

BS: Would you say that the act of sculpting is an emotional release for you? Is there a spiritual side to the act of creating itself?

PV: Yes, definitely. It is the ultimate thing, I suppose: when you get engrossed in the process of making, when there seems there is nothing else around you but the work itself. I think there is a certain kind of healing, or repairing theme, possibly. In a way I am creating my allies. There is definitely something very cathartic about it, even though it is tremendously demanding as I am an absolute perfectionist: the work demands that I do it again and again as I can only see the flaws that other people would never notice. A quest for perfection. But flaws and imperfections of course make something human and one never wants to lose that. In fact it is the very thing one wants to capture, the way an actor sometimes catches it in a look, a movement, and it is all encapsulated there and it looks so easy.

BS: Can you tell us about your process? Do you keep journals of ideas?

PV: Being very dyslexic (which is what held back my ambitions in school), I would find writing a journal not only difficult but actually quite a nightmarish undertaking. Also, I do not work from drawings (though I think drawing, like life drawing, is valuable to keep the eye "sharp"). I prefer to allow the material to take me where it will. Clay is terribly unpredictable even if you have a notion in mind of what you want to do. It can depend on the temperature, or the weather, any number of things how something turns out.
Basically I tend to work two ways, either completely hyperactive and productive, or in exhausted pause-mode, when I get organized and absorb new ideas without really knowing how they will come out, if they come out at all!

BS: Patricia, tell us some more about your influences... are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?

PV: My influences are very eclectic. To begin with I was very influenced by Renaissance painters like Fra Angelico (my first series was of Virgins and Heroes). In college I was fascinated by the anatomy drawings of Vesalius and the leather sculptures of Mandy Havers. Then Modigliani and Giacometti, and Ana Maria Pacheco, who combines stunning workmanship with amazing visceral power in her imagery.
Recently I have been looking at medical imagery – decorating my heads with the shapes of pills and capsules – and I have even been getting inspiration from textiles: how certain colours sit against each other. I have even taken to tearing swatches from glossy magazines if a combination strikes me as a good one. I’m not proud, I’ll take ideas from anywhere. It is not a very academic stance. It is a very ordinary stance in fact.

BS: Patricia, as a sculptor... what are some of the concerns you have about the direction of the art world today? Do you think that art-- in general --is heading in the right direction? Or would you say that people need to be more aware of their artistic roots, so to speak?

PV: I don’t like the present trend in the media which is extremely anti-intellectual and often to do with a resentment based on money. I mean the way Damien Hirst for instance is pilloried by the tabloids, and this common notion that art is "easy". (This is done by other artists, too, which I think is extremely negative and unhelpful!) Art and culture should be valued as something vitally important. It’s a failure of education and government that it isn’t. We need to have imaginative thinkers of all kinds working out there without fear of failure so that new ideas from all fields filter down and benefit us all, and enrich all our lives.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

PV: I am concentrating on a new series of pieces which aim to simplify the forms even more, so that they lose the "head" idea entirely and just become abstract. It will be interesting for me to find out to what extent they are still "me"! I continue to be absorbed by the idea of surface decoration, the obsessive nature of doing that which suits my personality, and the idea of the surface being a kind of map of the journey of life – a kind of visual "life story" of the piece. I like the marks being based on chemical symbols or atoms because we are all composed of chemicals, when all is said and done.

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

PV: I am exhibiting again at "Sculpture in Paradise" which is set in the cloisters of Chichester Cathedral. I really like the idea of that setting and I particularly like the idea of my quite contemporary pieces in a historical place with those associations. I think they are quite contemplative and complement well the spirituality of the location, even though they are not meant to be specifically Christian in any way.

I am also giving a talk as part of 18@108 at the Royal British Society of Sculptors in May, which also has an exhibition alongside it. And I am showing at Hillier Gardens, Hampshire, and at The Gallery at Bevere in Worcester. Amongst other places.

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

PV: As a general statement? I suppose that running through my approach, iconic figures and busts are common throughout art history so I feel I’m part of a noble tradition. Traditionally they convey strength and political or religious power, but I want to add to my "modern" icons the more contemporary human frailties present in us all. I hope I can touch the viewer if I can convey that none of us is perfect: even those we set on plinths. Or, you could say, especially those.

You can learn more about Patricia Volk 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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Art Space Talk: Wafaa Bilal

Wafaa Bilal's art is of a political nature that speaks to the oppression of the human spirit, including that of women who are bound by the rules of culture and the horrors of war. Wafaa has won many awards for his art as well as a scholarship to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for post graduate study. He is now teaching at SAIC.

A survivor of Saddam Hussein's regime, Wafaa travels to give lectures on the oppressive nature of the regime in the hope of informing people of the complexities of the situation as well as the atrocities committed and the importance of nonviolent means of ending conflict. He has been interviewed by the History Channel and spoke on the Iraqi conflict at the Democratic Convention in New York City.

Still from 'A Bar at the Folies Bergere (after Manet)'- Interactive video, 37 3/4" x 51 1/4" images on an approximately 4' by 8' foot wall. It starts out with Manet's famous painting on a video screen. When people approach the work, they trigger sensors in the work. That causes the barmaid in the painting to morph into what appears to be a living, breathing woman (actually, a model who was selected and costumed to suggest the woman in Manet's painting.) The morphed barmaid moves around behind the bar, sometimes yawns, sometimes leaves her place behind the bar. All of these activities are prompted by the movement and positioning of the viewers which are picked up by the sensors in the work.

Brian Sherwin: Wafaa, you are originally from Najaf, Iraq. I read that you dreamed of becoming on artist, but you were prohibited from studying art in Iraq. Instead, you studied geography... but continued to create art. Eventually you were arrested as a dissident for art that was critical of Saddam Hussein. Can you tell us about those years and how they influenced you as an artist?

Wafaa Bilal: The art school rejection opened my eyes to how powerful art can be; to the point that Saddam’s regime would deny a dissident admittance to art school. Najaf was always a center of opposition to Saddam; since the conflict between Shia and Sunni has existed for a long time and Saddam saw the Shia stronghold Najaf as a central threat to his regime, he always was suspicious of people from Najaf. So automatically, I was branded. Additionally my cousin was executed by the regime, which guaranteed my denial to art school. The whole thing set in motion the idea of art and politics as being inseparable, because art is a reflection of life; and life is a reflection of art.
Still from 'One Chair'. One Chair is an interactive video installation. The project is shown in a large rectangular room. One short wall has a life-size projection of seven men of various ethnicities eating at a long table. Each individual is eating rice; except for the man in the center who is eating steak, potato, and beans. The composition is based on Leonardo's The Last Supper.
BS: Considering your past and the losses that you have endured... how have you kept from being wrathful with your art? I assume that it would have been easy for you to have given into hate and to use your art as a vehicle for that anger...

WB: It's not what we go through in life, it's what we make of it. Understanding that hate can only generate more hate and anger, I try to stay away from messages of hate and aggression because that alienates the viewer instead of engaging. Especially when we try to engage people who live far away from the war zone, I've come to understand that a message of hatred destroys our inner strength. It becomes about not the other but ourselves; how can we survive after these tremendous events we've encountered. It becomes a matter of not shedding these atrocities; but reflecting them to prevent others from going through the same thing.

BS: Would you say that your work helps you deal with those memories? Or are you more focused on the 'here and now', so to speak?

WB: Very much so... it does help me deal with those memories. To carry that burden alone is very heavy. By reflecting and sharing it with others, the load becomes much lighter.

Imbue, Lamda photographic print, Approximately 44 by 48 inches (smaller-sized prints also available)

BS: In 1992 you came to the United States to study art at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, from which you graduated with a BFA. You later attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where you earned an MFA. Can you tell us about your academic years? Did you have any influential instructors? Also, how did you deal with the transition from having lived in Iraq?

WB: At the beginning at the University of New Mexico, I had such a hard time doing what I believed in – political art. I was rejected from advanced painting classes so many times, to the point I was almost giving up on the university and about to move. Then I came in contact with a professor named Jose Rodriguez, a professor from Venezuela who restored my faith in the institution and gave me the means to continue. That led to getting to know Patrick Nagatani, a great intellect and photographer who was head of the photo department. They both became my mentors throughout my studies and Patrick eventually was the head of my honors thesis committee. Without their support and vision, the whole journey would not have been possible. Also professors David Craven and Steve Berry at the University of New Mexico had a big impact on me. At the SAIC, Joyce Jimenez and Greg Bordowitz both were influential.

BS: Would you say that your mentors influenced your teaching methods at SAIC? What do you expect from students?

WB: Yes, what they gave me the most was the ability to give but without expecting anything back. One has to be very generous and clear about their giving; that's one of the best things an instructor can do for a student is being honest and direct with them without destroying their spirit. What do I expect from students? Their best. First of all I look for commitment.

BS: Wafaa, you consider yourself a political artist. I must ask, which comes first in your mind... art or activism? Or do you view both as equal?

WB: Activist art gets a bad reputation; art is political in nature. You cannot separate the two. Even if you decide not to do political art, that is itself a political act according to Adorno. Which comes first, art or politics? I think art becomes the reflection and the record of time…but life is politics, and usually art imitates life, except occasionally when life imitates art.

BS: Allow me to ask some specific questions about your work. In May of 2007 you began a thirty day long project called Domestic Tension. This project involved you living in a gallery in Chicago. During that span of time you were only allowed to eat and drink donations from viewers... while online viewers were able to shoot at you with a remote controlled paintball gun at anytime during the night or day. Domestic Tension was a very interactive piece-- very controversial as well. My understanding is that you were shot over 40,000 times. I'm certain that you spoken about Domestic Tension often... perhaps you have further insight to offer our readers?

WB: Anonymity brings out the worst in people. One must think, if that is the future of warfare, what is our destiny? If anonymity brings out the worst in a human being and war of the future depends on anonymous technology, what is our destiny as the human race?

BS: For 'The Night of Bush Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi' you hacked into the Al Qaeda created game, 'The Night of Bush Capturing'. Can you tell us more about that?

WB: The Night of Bush Capturing was created by Al Qaeda, and has been labeled by the State Department as an Al Qaeda recruitment tool. I hacked into the Al Qaeda game to highlight the vulnerability of Iraqis to recruitment by terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda; and the lack of a strategic plan on the US’s part to secure Iraq after the invasion and occupation. I also want to show how violence from the US generates more violence – Iraqis losing their family members are given an incentive to react violently.

BS: I understand that you were invited to give a lecture about your latest work at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on March 6th and that the RPI administration censored the exhibit and has since refused to re-open it. The censorship was due to the fact that the College Republicans called the Arts department "a safe haven for terrorists" due to your lecture and exhibit on the campus. What are your thoughts in regards to this form of censorship? Also, how do you deal with controversy in general as it pertains to your art? Does it upset you? Or do you observe it as a sign that your work has a strong message?

WB: The censorship by the RPI president reinforced the Young Republicans’ idea that art is terrorist propaganda and the art department is a ‘safe haven’ for terrorists. There is no one way to deal with controversy. The best way is to stay calm…the censorship is unfortunate because it closes off the very platform I’m trying to build.

BS: Wafaa, are you ever saddened by the reactions people have over you work? For example, the anonymous cruelty that occurred during Domestic Tension. Do you think that people missed the message that you were striving to convey?

WB: Domestic Tension became a very clear reflection of life. People acted on their impulses and inner conflict. As much as I was saddened by their cruelty, I was also overjoyed by the human kindness I encountered during the project. That's every artist's hope, that the work does not become didactic, confined in one line or direction, but instead becomes an open narrative that allows the viewers to be part of the creation of the narrative.

BS: Wafaa, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers any insight into your current work?

WB: I’m working on two other projects currently. One is Dog or Iraqi, I’ve been recruited by the company Torture Choice LLC to be involved in this high stakes democratic election to decide who to waterboard – a dog or a man. I was intrigued by Torture Choice and very flattered to be chosen to be part of this project. I would do anything possible to protect this nation; and this contest underscores the right of the US government and military to do whatever necessary to protect our American rights and freedom.

The second project, to be unveiled later this year, is born of my desire to unite the United States and become a father of this nation, especially since I missed the opportunity to be one of the Founding Fathers. Some people think this project is trying to Iraqarize the United States, which I don’t agree with.

BS: Finally, where can our readers view your work in person? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

WB: FlatFile Galleries in Chicago will reopen "Night of Bush Capturing: Virtual Jihadi" this summer. And I am part of the aforementioned project Dog or Iraqi, and I would very much like if people vote for the dog to be waterboarded, not me.
You can learn more about Wafaa Bilal by visiting the following sites--,, You can read more of my interviews at--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Ending Soon: The Next Perspective Photography Competition

myartspace and HotShoe International have teamed up to introduce Next Perspective, a juried photographic competition. The competition is open to all myartspace members and the submission fee is $20 for up to 20 photographs. The jury panel is top-notch (jurors from Rhode Island School of Design, Sotheby's, and The National Portrait Gallery in London) and the top prize is a portfolio feature in an upcoming HotShoe magazine and $2,000. The competition ends April 11, 2008.

To learn more visit the following link:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Premium Selection: Birgit Zartl, Louise P. Sloane, Alicia Bailey, Mark Pack

"My current paintings are strongly influenced by my therapeutical work with clients. Similarities can be discovered in my intuitive approach to images that connects the mind to the spirit and the illusionistic effects I use to convey them. I find the subjects evolving from dreams and memories, and how one previous piece can transfer to the next. Like a journey, one painting leads to another and often when working in this manner (or series) I can accomplish a specific idea to its fullest. A challenging moment when I can say a series is complete, and the works can speak in their multiple existences. Most interesting for me is the exploration of internal landscapes." -- Birgit Zartl

(Birgit has chosen html galleries, visit her link to view her work.)

Louise P. Sloane -

"I've worked over 25 years as a studio artist, in a variety of media. In 1994 I began producing pieces that relied on concepts, materials and structures found in book design and construction. Working in the book arts field allows me to work with the materials and production method that best suit a particular project's concepts and goals." - Alicia Bailey

"Growing" is the word that best describes my primary concern while painting. Growth happens in all living things. If something grows, it is not made. To "make" a painting is to not make art, but if one lets, that painting grow, then art is made. The difference being that the former is only made by the maker and reflects only the maker’s mind. The latter allows for its own making and thusly develops a mind of its own." - Mark Pack

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Art Space Talk: Kalliope Amorphous

Kalliope Amorphous is a performance artist utilizing photography. Kalliope focuses on the self portrait as a means of exploring identity, archetype, myth and gender. Her approach to photography is entirely intuitive and autodidactic, and changes shape almost everyday. Prior to working with the still image, Kalliope was a spoken word artist and performed extensively in New York City in various theatrical presentations and poetry slams. She later began to dabble in the still image as a catalyst for all of the moods and personalities she had previously expressed through theater.
She Would Wait Forever by Kalliope Amorphous

Brian Sherwin: Kalliope, you spent much of your youth in New York City. Would you say that the environment you were raised in has influenced the artistic direction you are on today?

Kalliope Amorphous: I was born in Providence, RI and later moved to Rehoboth Massachusetts where I attended high school. It was a very small town, and I was an absolute misfit and unable to fit in whatsoever. I essentially ran away to New York when I was in my teens, hoping to find a place to fit in. I put on every item of clothing that was in my closet at once, snuck out of my parent's house and got on a bus.
Through my late teens and early twenties, I spent a lot of time very involved socially in the theater scene in New York. I've always been attracted to the old days of vaudeville and early Hollywood, and I saw glimpses of it in the cabaret and theatre scene. I think this inclination toward the theatrical and nostalgic, both in my personality and in my aesthetic affinities, reflects in my work today.
First Feathers by Kalliope Amorphous

BS: Did you have any formal training in art? Are you self-taught? Perhaps you could expand on life experiences that have guided you with your work...

KA: I am self-taught. Art is a primarily intuitive process for me, and it has always been more of a necessity for fulfilling catharsis rather than something I sought to learn or decided to do. I have always had a hunger for knowledge, and am self-taught on a variety of subjects and arts. The focus of my study has leaned heavily in the direction of mysticism, philosophy, poetry, ancient history and sacred texts. These interests often reveal themselves in the images that I am drawn to create.

I've always dabbled in one artistic form or another. I've been writing poetry since I was three years old and spent many years devoted solely to the written word. In New York, I experimented with performance and slam poetry. My writing took on more of an activist slant while living in San Francisco, as I was very actively involved in various anti-war and human rights efforts there. I'm all over the map in regard to life experiences that influence my work today. I've tried on so many different masks in my life, and I think this contributes to the work that I am doing with conceptual self-portraits.

The issue of self-expression is a thread that has been weaving through my life since I was a child. I think I have always been considered rather eccentric, and art is the only place that I have ever felt comfortable. It never crossed my mind that I might one day use photography as a catalyst for manifesting my desire to evoke and provoke, but now I see that it is the most powerful tool for me.
Fame by Kalliope Amorphous

BS: Kalliope, you use yourself as a model for your work... yet you have stated that you do not view your photographs as self-portraits. You also make it clear that you are a performance artist with a camera-- not a photographer. Can you go into further detail about this and about the motives or philosophy behind your art?

KA: Technically, these are self-portraits, but it is very difficult for me to identify with them as such. So much effort goes into the creation of these characters that I quite literally get taken out of the picture and they become separate entities with their own stories. I don't see the images as images of myself at all, and I think that those who view my work might also have a hard time figuring out who Kalliope is as a personality/individual. Certainly, the images are reflections of my ideas and imagination, but I do not identify with them as 'self', because I don't think they are... I like to consider myself a screen that I invite these various identities and moods to play on. The paradox is that these images are self and other at the same time. I think sometimes people associate self-portraits with narcissism, but I view my self-portraits as exactly the opposite. They are a release from the cage of the self, and the illusory nature of ego and identity. I really have to drop the idea of 'Kalliope' in order to be able to convincingly become these other characters and moods.

What I am most intrigued by about the process of creating these images is that I sometimes have very little control over the final outcome. My process is always filled with huge amounts of serendipity. Sometimes I set out to create a certain image or feeling and get something completely different. I do as much as I can to evoke a vision, but things will often manifest that I had no intention of creating. Some characters come through very strong, and seem to really hold their own personalities and stories. When I look through my images at the end of a shoot, I am always surprised to see what turns up.

I do consider myself a performance artist with a camera rather than a photographer, because the focus of my work is on the creation of separate entities and characters. There is so much more involved in the creation of the image beyond the act of actually capturing it. Often I will spend hours in makeup and costuming before even turning on my camera, or I will spend days trying to find the perfect backdrop or prop. The photograph is a way of enhancing the concept via light, shadow, and the capturing of nuances in the still image. The performance art comes first, followed by the photograph. This is why I prefer to refer to myself as an artist with a camera instead of a photographer. I am not just capturing images that are already there, I am transforming myself into the actual image and then using the camera to make it tangible. The whole process is alchemical for me, in the sense that so many different elements are combined to create the finished work as a single image.

I like to explore what I define as self and other by playing with ideas of identity, gender and archetype and the countless ways in which they can be represented visually. I am absolutely fascinated by all of the variations in mood and personality that we human beings are capable of. I can really touch and explore those idiosyncrasies by physically and mentally transforming into them.
Birth by Kalliope Amorphous

BS: So your work plays with the idea of identity... are you influenced by psychology in that sense? Any specific schools of thought?

KA: I am more influenced by spiritual philosophies that explore the duality and non-duality of identity and consciousness, particularly Eastern expressions of belief such as Advaita Vedanta and Tantra. These tend to focus on the idea that everything is connected or one with a divine source. I don't cling too firmly to any one belief system or religion, but I have always been drawn to exploring the higher nature of consciousness, and the pulling apart of the ego. Teachers like Ram Dass and Nisargadatta, as well as my own experiences influence me in that regard. I am also a big fan of people like Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary and their thoughts regarding memory, perception, reality and consciousness.

Because of my inclination toward 'all is one' philosophies, I am absolutely fascinated by things of a paradoxical nature, and I think this reflects in some of my work. I enjoy subtly juxtaposing seemingly contradictory elements to create images that may come off as disturbing or unsettling. I also am drawn to the surreal and the bizarre, so these elements become part of it as well.

BS: My understanding is that you have worked in other mediums and that you discovered that photography is more artistically fulfilling. Can you go into further detail about this? For example, as a performance artist why choose photography over video? Or are you searching for a specific moment... containing a specific memory?

KA: want to be able to say in one single still what might take an entire video or performance to say, but to leave it up for interpretation to a certain degree. For me, it's all about being able to mix the elements of theatrical makeup, lighting and facial expression to provoke a response to a story that may not necessarily be the same for each viewer.

When I write poetry, there is a lot of imagery that is used, but it is not tangible and touchable. It can be seen in the minds eye, but it is not fixed and manifest. Creating these images is similar to poetry, except that it becomes tangible and viewable, and I really enjoy that manifestation part of it. There is an extra dimension there that I love playing with. The still image is the best way for me to translate the visions in my imagination in a very direct, immediate and lucid way.
The Moment Before I Was Devoured by Kalliope Amorphous

BS: Tell us about your Eastern Mysticism series... can you tell us more about the connection that you feel with it?

KA: I have always been drawn to Eastern culture both spiritually and artistically. I am very moved by the devotional images and methods of worship in Buddhism and Hinduism as well as the architecture and fashion. I find it all incredibly beautiful and resonant, and always have since I was a child. I am also very influenced by the imagery in devotional, or bhakti poetry, such as that of Rumi, Kabir, Hafiz and other Sufi poets.

After many years of having an affinity for Eastern philosophy and culture, I followed a female Indian guru for several years and further studied Vedanta. All of the images that I have created for the Eastern Mysticism series are based on various mystical visions that resulted from meditation and being on the devotional path. Much of my poetry also reflects these experiences, as well as the eventual break up of the guru-devotee relationship, and my own personal revelations, which followed thereafter.

The images in the Eastern Mysticism series are probably the most personal ones for me, and the creation process there was not only an artistic one, but a sacred and spiritual one as well. In various traditions, devotees dress up as their chosen deities in order to celebrate and honor them. This was the spirit in which I entered into creating these images.

You will notice that images of the goddess Kali dominate much of the series, and this is because I have always resonated with her metaphorical iconography. Kali is probably the most misunderstood deity of the Hindu pantheon. She is often misinterpreted as a purely wrathful, grotesque and dark deity, though her symbolism goes much deeper than that. She represents the perfect balance of elements, as a creatrix who contains all within her, dark and light, horrifying and beautiful. Kali is the ultimate paradox. My self-portraits as the Goddess Kali were done in the style of Hindu temple statues, or murtis, which traditionally have a very life-like and animated appearance to them.

The Eastern Mysticism series, like mostly all of my series, is ongoing, and new additions get added to it as the mood strikes.

BS: Can you tell our readers about other influences? Do any specific performance artists influence you?

KA: A lot of people ask me this question, and automatically assume that my biggest influence is Cindy Sherman, who is known best for her self-portrait work. However, it wasn't until people started drawing connections between our work and insinuating that she was an influence that I became familiar with her. As an artist, I feel it is important not to be boxed into a particular category or comparison. I feel that my work is completely individual and not influenced by any other artists in particular.

My art comes from visuals that I create internally, which are heightened by things like poetry, music, memory, nostalgia and things that I love. If I feel drawn to a particular energy such as a historical figure, a feeling, a time period or culture, I am drawn to interpret that visually. I think that I am inspired most by my own imagination. I can be inspired by anything from the lyrics to a song to a memory of a dream I might have had. Something as simple as a hat I find in an antique shop can start visions of a character in my mind, and the concept will snowball from there.

There are several artists that I admire tremendously. Leigh Bowery would be at the top of my list because of the way he constantly reinvented himself without regard to social conventions or acceptance by any particular art scene. Bowery was literally a living art installation and an absolute original. I really admire the effort he put into manipulating his own image for the sake of art. I also am a fan of the artist Harris Glenn 'Divine' Milstead, who is best known as simply 'Divine' in the films of John Waters. Divine is someone who certainly saw no boundaries when it came to being visually provocative, which is exactly the type of ravenous passion I admire.
I would also have to count the legendary San Francisco theatrical troupe, the Cockettes as a group of artists that I really admire, especially the elaborately magical self-creations of George Harris Jr., a Cockette known by the pseudonym 'Hibiscus'. I am also a fan of Man Ray, DaDaism, Avant Garde, Pre-Raphaelite, Visionary, Outsider, Tramp, Lowbrow, Surrealist and Pop-Surrealist art.

My influences and the things that inspire are me are all over the map, which accounts for such a wide range of concepts in my art. I am drawn to everything from the bizarre and disturbing to the romantic and beautiful to images that are just completely over the top and bordering on kitsch. This might make my work difficult to fit into a particular niche, but I find it impossible to attach myself to one particular feeling or mood.
One Last Dance with Devi by Kalliope Amorphous
BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your future series of work?

KA: Right now, I'm working on a series that seeks to visually explore ideas about gender and sexuality. I also just started a series using Venetian masks, which is evocative of the Commedia dell'Arte, a form of improvisational theatre popular in Italy during the 16th through the 18th centuries. I consider all of my series to be ongoing in the sense that they may get revisited as the mood strikes. For example, a new clown may get added to the 'Circus Ghosts' series if I am inspired in that direction. I am always creating new series while revisiting established series every now and then.

I tend to have spurts of near obsessive creativity and inspiration, which accounts for such a large body of work in such a short period of time. It's only recently that I have started putting my art out into the world, so I have been focusing on the marketing aspect just as enthusiastically as the creative process. Other than creating new work, I am always trying to make my work visible, and to find platforms for it via publishing and exhibiting.

I am currently on exhibition with the Floating Art Project here in Providence, RI, where I am currently living. I also have a solo show coming up at the Hive Gallery in Providence this summer.
Clementine by Kalliope Amorphous
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the direction you are on?

KA: My goals for the future are to continue to create art that is mentally, spiritually and psychologically provocative. I'm very grateful for resources such as and other virtual platforms that are giving artists a new space in which to share their art. Part of the joy of creating is putting it out into the world for others to view, so thank you for your interest in my work and for this interview!

You can learn more about Kalliope Amorphous by clicking on the following links--, You can read more of my interviews by visiting--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin