Interview: Pele Prints and Xochi Solis

Xochi Solis  (b. 1981) is an Austin, TX based artist sharing her studio time between Texas and Mexico. Her works include multilayered, collaged paintings constructed of paint, hand-dyed paper, vinyl, plastics, and images from found books and magazines. Solis considers the repeated act of layering in her work a meditation on color, texture, and shape, all leading to a greater awareness of the visual intricacies found in her immediate environment. She received her B.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of Texas in 2005. Recent exhibitions include: We must build as if the sand were stone, South Texas College Library Gallery, McAllen, TX (2016); Rivers of our Vision, Lawndale Art Center in Houston, TX (2013); Summer Invitational, Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, New York City, NY; Flatlander, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO (2015); New Art in Austin: 20 to Watch, Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX (2008); and currently Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (2017). In 2016, Solis held a residency at Pele Prints in St. Louis, MO and in 2013 was a resident artist at Arquetopia in Oaxaca, MX learning to work with natural pigments. Solis is one of 30 artists featured in the book Collage: Contemporary Artists Hunt and Gather, Cut and Paste, Mash Up and Transform (Chronicle Books, 2014). In addition to her studio practice, she is an active member of the collectively run project space MASS Gallery and spins records with the Chulita Vinyl Club.

Pele Prints is a collaborative fine art printmaking studio dedicated to creating limited edition prints and original works of art. At Pele Prints, we take a non-traditional approach to each project and encourage experimentation. Here artists are free to explore their ideas in the studio, using multiple print processes as a jumping-off point. While the print medium is the primary focus, finished pieces may also include three-dimensional components, collage, handwork, and/or various other elements. The goal is to create a unique body of work that displays the curiosity, learning, and constant discovery exemplified in the collaborative process at its best.

How did you get involved with Pele Prints? 

Amanda: As the master printer at Pele Prints, part of my job is to find new artists to collaborate with in the studio. I always have my eyes peeled for new and interesting work. I first saw Xochi's pieces a couple of years ago on The Jealous Curator site, and I was an instant fan. With Xochi's background as a collage artist, she was clearly already thinking in a very printerly way in terms of layering, mark making, and color. So I knew the work would be a good fit for the process. I contacted Xochi directly to see if she would be interested in working together on a project, and we hit it off. After several conversations we had the beginnings of our collaboration underway.

What inspires you in your daily life? 

Xochi: Above any other activity travel has the greatest effect on my practice. It is my greatest source of inspiration. Being set on edge of a new place and environment makes my surroundings that much more vivid. Currently, I am NYC doing an informal artist residency and I working very hard on a project for a big fall project back in Austin, TX. I believe travel leaves an indelible mark on my way of thinking that finds a way of returning once I am in my studio to channel it. I make a point of traveling to other places several times a year to research ideas or to set up a studio space for a few weeks. The real undertaking is to push beyond my training to be open to chance occurrences and experimentation that take the inspiration many steps further.

In the beginning, like many young artists, I was very concerned with making work that was in the vein of what was being taught to me. These examples presented to you by instructors as being examples of work that is “quality” or just “good work.” A cultural voice is always present in these exemplary works, but for the most part art instructors tend to only talk of “good work” eschewing any political or social implications. It is a constant journey to find and keep your own authentic voice and even more as an artist of color. As the Cuban American performance artist Ana Mendieta said, “It is always about a search for origins.” And that is very true in my practice. Instead of imitating work that I have no connection to, I am continually researching and making work to find the voice that was never taught to me. I believe there is an authentic message that lies deep within my DNA that I hope to infuse my work with.

Looking at other artist’s work is also informative, especially those that focus primarily on color and shape. Longtime loves have been: Hans Arp and his wife Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Cy Twombly, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, Joan Jonas, Yvonne Rainer, Bas Jan Ader, Imi Knoebel, Eva Hesse, Robert Motherwell, Lynda Benglis, Helen Frankenthaler. New and recent loves: Jaime Carrejo, Elena Damiani, Rachel Levit Ruiz, Christine Sun Kim, Rafa Esparza, Daphane Park, Malin Gabriella Nordin, the list goes on!

Tell us about your palette. Is there a significant meaning behind the colors you use?

Xochi: Color wise, my first loves are found among natural objects like granite, fresh mangos, cacti, gemstones, algae on the surfaces of pools, etc. I also get excited about shapes and colors found within the pages of books and magazines, but also the internet and social media feeds full of images of sequins and leather and high fashion costuming. I am continuously thinking of color, both in my work, my home, and as ornament. It is such a constant that I have developed a real intuitive sense of what sort of combinations will work. I do feel that color evokes an emotional space, and I work towards describing mood with the color combinations that I ultimately select.

Have you always been a printmaker? 

Amanda: While Xochi considers herself primarily a painter and collage artist, I definitely have my roots in printmaking. I was hooked from the first day I wandered into the contract print shop at my alma mater over 18 years ago. As I continued to study printmaking more in-depth in making my own art, I had the opportunity to work with several visiting artists on collaborative print projects. There's nothing quiet like the dance of collaboration...bringing together creative voices, sharing technical expertise, all moving towards the shared goal of creating a body work that stands as something beautiful and unique. Today at Pele Prints, this is one of my primary goals as a collaborative printer.

What steps are involved in coming up for concepts for your prints? 

Xochi: The work that I did in 2016 with Pele Prints in St. Louis, MO was my first endeavor in working in printmaking outside of academia, and my curiosity for the medium has continued today. As we speak, I am working with a master printer at Shoestring Press in Brooklyn to complete a special edition that I will debut this winter. Whether working small on illustration board or large scale with site specific installations or now occasionally in printmaking, each work begins with recalling my observations made of organic forms found in the everyday. In reference to these observations, I begin pulling materials together that fit that shape or forms a mood and vibration. In my collage work, once a healthy stack of paper, found images, and painted plastic swatches are gathered, I establish a stacking order with each layer contingent on theprevious layer increasing the complexity of information. I think it is because of this way of working that printmaking has been a medium I am so curious about lately and why, I hope, my prints are successful.

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