This week a nice little write-up was posted on Parallel Planets about my work. Nicole Lane, who wrote the article sent me these questions in prep for the piece. Answering them proved to be a really enlightening exercise for me. Since they weren't posted along with the article, I figured I ought to post them here, if only to not forget - where I've been, where I am, and perhaps where I'm headed. As I've been working on my thesis, I've been asking myself a lot of grand existential questions - and here I try to articulate some of these thoughts...
1. How do you work? Do you have your own studio space at home?
I’m really lucky to have a beautiful spacious (and free!) studio right now since I’m in grad school. It’s a luxury, really. I’m getting ready to graduate this spring, so that’s all about to change. I can already feel my work shifting a little bit – as if it’s trying to prepare me for this loss in some way. Recently I’ve been really absorbed in these tiny and labor-intensive collages. I try to have a number of projects going at once, but there’s usually always one that occupies most of my time/studio/headspace. It’s always changing. I have a tendency to start projects on impulse, spend a lot of energy on them, and then abandon them once I find something I’m more excited about. There are a lot of abandoned sculptures in my studio. But often I revisit them. I feel strongly that an artist shouldn’t force something into existence – the work itself needs some freedom in its own becoming.
2. I read in some articles that you were originally a business major! Did you ever practice any art before you entered college? What was the process of deciding on art?
I was totally enamored with art in high school. I was invigorated by the creative freedom it provided and would spend all my spare time working on projects. But I had absolutely no clue what it meant to be a professional artist. When I started thinking about college, I didn’t even consider majoring in art. It was just something I did for fun. Once, as a freshman, I went to a visual arts club meeting, which was held in the sculpture studio… I completely fell in love with the cavernous mess of a space! I knew I had to take a class. Once I did, I was hooked. The more I learned about the wider discourse of art/art history/theory, the deeper the urge grew to be a part of it. By that time, I was pretty deep into my business studies, so I chose to double-major. I was quite conflicted about art as a profession because it didn’t seem to have a useful place in the utopian theories of anarcho-capitalism, by which I was quite smitten at the time. I still don’t quite know where it fits, but I know it’s critical to humanity. Unlike business, art is irrational, and I’m okay with that.
3. How has your practice changed over time, especially since graduating from undergrad?
It’s changed a lot. In undergrad I was making huge interactive installations and I couldn’t imagine making anything else. When I got to grad school, though, I had the time and space to work on multiple things at once. I was encouraged by my professors to try lots of things, to take risks and not be afraid to fail miserably. I once made a sculpture that (seemingly out of nowhere) combusted and caused a fire in my studio. That was mildly traumatic, but ultimately a good thing for my practice. I was afraid to work with a lot of the materials I had previously been working with (particularly the oil-based polyurethane) so I started toying with collage. Thanks to that shift, I was able to work out some ideas more quickly. I started to pay closer attention my impulses, which has since revealed a lot to me about my work, the world around me, and my on-going role as an artist.
In other ways, it hasn’t changed much at all. I find myself working in certain ways over and over again, without even intending it. Like, I have this tendency to wrap things in a circular motion, be it cardboard, little magazine clippings, tracks of hair, whatever. I tend to work repetitiously and in layers. I fill things with other things – from pouring plaster into my belly button to stuffing animal intestines with insulation. Examining these patterns leads to research, often of a philosophical nature, which helps me to gain insight into ideas I didn’t even know I had.
4. What are your goals when going into a piece?
I typically don’t go into a piece with many expectations. The impulse to make a certain thing is often rooted in a material interest or curiosity. I tend to get fixated on a certain material and then try to exhaust its array of possibilities – which often involves combining it with other materials of interest. Other times I’ll start with a form in mind, but have no clue what it should be made out of. Ultimately, my goal is that the finished work will have a certain familiar ambiguity – though my work is non-representational, it’s often evocative of a variety of conflicting associations. My hope is that the viewer can sense this tension, even if he/she can’t articulate it.
5. Can you expand on your use of the word “ontology” in your artist statement and its relation to your work as a whole?
That’s kind of a lofty word, isn’t it? Ontology is basically just the study/philosophy of origins and existence. It begs the questions “why is there something rather than nothing?” and “what does it mean to bring something into existence?” I think about these things a lot. Ontology is such a big part of being an artist. As one who creates, the artist is constantly bringing new objects, images, and ideas into existence. I like to think about this in terms of the overlapping of creature as creator and the creator as a god. Much of the content of my work is also concerned with origins, both physically and metaphysically. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about holes and the concept of the “omphalos” (greek for navel). Physically, there’s the belly button, this curious depression which marks our physical link to the past as well as our individual existence apart from it. Then there’s also this broader notion of the “navel of the world” or “axis mundi” which refers to various symbolic “centers” believed to join heaven and earth. Ultimately I’m interested in looking at the body as a microcosm for this wider scope of thinking – the body as a temple, so you could say.
6. Where do you collect your materials?
You’d be surprised what all you can find on Amazon. I get my animal innards from a company called “The Sausage Maker, Inc.” – the intestines are packaged and sold primarily as natural sausage casings. I spend a good amount of time in thrift stores digging around for wigs and I get hair extensions and eyelashes from various beauty supply stores. My mom saves up her fashion magazines and mails them to me every few months, so I’ve always got plenty collage material. And my husband (who is also an artist) currently works in retail so he’s my go-to guy for cardboard boxes whenever I need them.
7. What do you do to stay inspired?
I read a lot. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that right now I have 50 books on loan from the library. Lately I’ve been really into metaphysics and existential theology. I stumbled upon a book called The Meaning of the Creative Act by Nicholas Berdyaev in a used bookstore a year or so ago and it has radically affected how I think about my work (and my vocation) as an artist. I try to stay open to providential occurrences such as that. I also try to look for parallels – because they are everywhere. Kids really inspire me too - I can’t get enough of their candid curiosity (and their cuteness)!