Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Art Space Talk: Scott Wolfson

Scott Wolfson, born 1978, was raised in Brooklyn, New York. In May 2000, he received a BA with Honors in Studio Art from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. After graduation, Scott traveled for six months to the Middle East, East Africa, South and Southeast Asia. Since then he has lived in Rome and New York. For the summer of 2004, Scott returned to India, a trip that deeply influenced his work. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn while teaching art to children in New York City. Scott is currently an MFA candidate at Hunter College.

Chasm, 2008, acetate on coroplast, flourescent light; rocks: foam and spraypaint, 117" x 168" x 25"

Brian Sherwin: Scott, this is your second interview with Myartspace-- your first being a video interview with the founder of Myartspace, Catherine McCormack-Skiba. Much has changed since that first interview and you are close to finishing your MFA studies at Hunter College. Can you tell us about your experiences in that program? Perhaps you can tell our readers about some of the instructors and how they have influenced or motivated you?

Scott Wolfson: Hunter has been one of my best artistic experiences yet. I had been out of school for five years before returning for my MFA and had been making art on my own fairly consistently and thought I brought a high level of criticality to my studio. However, within the first month of starting at Hunter, I was completely reevaluating what I was making and what I was really interested in and exploring. Having gone to a liberal arts college, as opposed to "art school," I also felt I needed to do a little catch-up in regards to the way of looking and really thinking about how ideas are or are not manifested in one's work.
Bob Swain was my seminar professor that first semester and he set up a great methodology for looking at and talking about art. He really challenged us to get to the core of the work we were critiquing. He kept asking us to define a work's logic and go from there. Even now, six semesters later I (and others in that class) still question what he really meant by the logic, but it definitely helped me to become more critical.
Jeff Mongrain and Nari Ward are two other professors with whom I have really liked working. Nari has a great way of looking at work and also doesn't shy away from talking about the art world. This past year I have been fortunate enough to start getting some recognition, and with that have had lots of questions about the professional side of being an artist. Nari has been a great to talk and break down the system for me, telling me about his personal experiences and advice. I think MFA programs in general need to be more willing to address this professional side of making art and creating a life around it. But that might be getting into a whole other topic.

Untitled, 2007, paper collage on cardboard, 88" x 144" x 11"

BS: At Hunter you have served as a Teaching Assistant under Nari Ward and Jeffrey Mongrain. You have also been an artist-teacher at the Joan Mitchell Foundation... care to discuss those experiences? Do you plan to instruct art full-time on the college level at some point? Is that a goal that you have?

SW: I would love to teach on the college level after graduation, along with the other 10 million artists out there. Being a teaching assistant with Jeff and Nari was really helpful, both showing me what I would and would not do if I was teaching my own class.
Nari's class was Drawing 1, so it was more just an introduction into drawing and therefore more about teaching specific techniques and approaches. In that sense it made me think a lot about what to teach to those who have never drawn before.
The class I TAed with Jeff was an upper-level BFA class and was run much more like a graduate seminar, in that two or three students would present work each week and the class would discuss it. That class was really fun, but also made me realize how hard it is to lead a class like that since you need to be able to speak intelligently about everyone's work even when you may not have anything to really say. So from watching Jeff I started to figure out how to approach that...just keep asking questions.
Untitled, 2007, paper collage on cardboard, 72" x 144" x 15.5"

BS: Scott, you tend to enjoy travel. For example, you traveled for six months to the Middle East, East Africa, South and Southeast Asia... and have lived in Rome. You have mentioned that your trips to India deeply influenced your work. Can you go into further detail about how your travels have influenced you?

SW: I think the most relevant aspect of my travels to the work I make is that after returning from different trips I felt that I was unable to truly and fully translate my experiences to others back home, especially places that are so different from what most of us know. I took tons of photos while traveling and everyone would comment on how nice they were, but I didn't feel like a couple of nice photos and some commentary necessarily relayed my experiences--experiences that were so important to me.
My previous work has always sort of been about the generic ideas of time, place and memory, etc. and I started using this idea of translating an experience to others through photographs as my starting point. My work has evolved a lot since, but I think that has been the driving force behind a lot of my decisions.
Untitled, 2007, paper collage on cardboard, 96" x 144" x 14"

BS: Can you tell us about your influences? Aside from your travels, what else has influenced your art?

SW: I go see a lot of art and I think that definitely influences me. It is sometimes the work that seems to have nothing in common with my art that influences me the most or gives me the most ideas. It can be a material, a way of working with a material, a method of presentation, or a way of visualizing an idea.

BS: Many of the images I have viewed seem to have a apocalyptic feel to them... they seem to be reminders of past wars or warnings of wars that have yet to be fought. They remind me of scenes from war torn areas of the world that I have viewed... and of degradation of society that we face each day. Can you go into further detail about the themes that you explore with your art and the social implications of these works?

SW: I think the social implications in my work deal more with how we relate and engage with issues and events around the world rather than the specifics of the events. I am interested in the idea of presenting images of situations or ideas that are somehow bigger than us, that can be the enormity of the devastation from a tornado to the vastness of the sea to the particle accelerator that physicists are now experimenting with to recreate mini versions of the Big Bang.
I suppose on one level I'm interested in the sublime, and on another level I'm interested in how we relate to the photographic representations of the sublime, specifically in the media. I am also curious about the relationship between artificiality and reality and how that boundary can explored.
Open Casket, 2007, acetate on coroplast, 45" x 73" x 15

BS: Scott, can you tell our readers about your process? Perhaps you can briefly explain your studio practice or select one of your works to discuss as an example?

SW: Without giving away all of my secrets, I scan newspaper images and enlarge them onto a medium, recently corrugated plastic. Once I have that large image, I begin cutting apart the image and reconstructing it three-dimensionally. I have recently starting playing with incorporating lights into the work.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give us some insight concerning the direction you will be taking with your art in the future? Do you think about long-term goals... or do you focus on the 'here and now', so to speak?

SW: I am definitely a planner. That pertains to current projects and the future. There is always some play and dialogue between me and my work throughout the process, but I am usually a couple of steps ahead of what is in front of me. With that said, I am planning to make "viewing situations." So rather than just presenting the viewer with an image, I want to create to begin directing different ways for the viewer to engage with the work and the images I present by making more immersive environments that become full sensorial experiences.

BS: As you know, I observed your art at the New Insight exhibit at Art Chicago this year. New Insight is comprised of artwork from 24 graduate students at 12 of the country's most influential Master of Fine Arts programs. The exhibit was curated by Suzanne Ghez. Can you tell our readers what that experience was like for you?

SW: It was great. I have made some really good connections from that show. It gave my work a lot of exposure and gave it some added credibility in as much as I haven't had any major shows or press. It also made me deal with logistical issues of crating, shipping, exhibiting, etc which goes back to what I was saying earlier about the professional side of art that MFA programs often avoid discussing.
Untitled, 2007, acetate on coroplast, 93" x 144" x 14"

BS: Will you be involved with any other exhibits in 2008? I believe I read that you have an upcoming show in France, is that correct?

SW: Yes. I currently have a piece in an inaugural group show at Galerie Nordine Zidoun in Paris. Also, the Peter Miller Gallery in Chicago took one of my pieces for a group show at their space after the New Insight show. And I'm currently in dialogue with a couple of other galleries. One group show this summer in New York, and another in the Canary Islands in November.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or about the message you strive to convey to viewers?

SW: Check out my website at www.scottwolfsonart.com to see images of my work and get upcoming news. Thanks for the interview, Brian.
You can learn more about Scott Wolfson by visiting his website-- www.scottwolfsonart.com. Scott is a member of the www.myartspace.com community-- www.myartspace.com/scottwolfson. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- www.myartspace.com/interviews.
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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