Madeline Zappala is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist driven towards creating conceptual archives of our digital experiences. She received her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University after studying American Culture at Vassar College. Her work is largely informed by her background in photography and her interest in the intersection of collective cultural consciousness, technology and identity. Her recent projects rely on generative and conceptual writing methods to extract alternate narratives hidden in everyday digital interactions.
Brian Fouhy is a photographer and digital concept creator who has grown an international following with his efforts to transform the internet into one big friendly neighborhood. Injecting all of his work with a shot of humor, Fouhy offers a unique take from behind the viewfinder.
As a constant observer, Fouhy has taken notice of the words surrounding us every day that go unnoticed. The storefronts, graffiti, city signage, and art of which they are a part give them a richer visual experience, opening up the imagination to interpret words beyond their dictionary definition.
Wherever he goes, Fouhy makes an effort to see what he can find, and enjoys getting "lost", which is where the most interesting words are often found. "I like the words I don't see coming, which I'll sometimes pass only to realize I need to track back, photograph, and collect." Throughout this project Fouhy has learned that words and objects in the world are more ephemeral than we realize. Often thinking we'll catch it next time, but it is important to remember there may not be a next time, and remind ourselves how important it can be to live in the moment.
Fouhy currently resides in Boulder, Colorado and travels extensively. He has been collecting words for the past 7 years, amassing well over 600 photos.
Give us a little bit of a background on how you got started in your art career.
I received my BFA from Syracuse University, so you could say it started there, but I didn’t really start to get serious about my art career until 7 years later when I moved to Boulder, CO for grad school and I embraced the iPhone and the convenience of having a camera on me at all times, this was also when Instagram launched. The combination of having a camera in my pocket and regularly viewing photographs and absorbing different techniques for composition, color, and content, was a great learning tool that I was able to apply to my own work in real time. Instagram is also where I began #CollectingWords. Creating a theme to work with I feel was really beneficial in helping me to become a better photographer and motivated me to consistently be taking photos with the byproduct of also becoming a better observer of the world and things that surround us. From Boulder I moved to New York City, which allowed my collection to really grow, from there I moved on to Pittsburgh. It was while there, through coolhunting.com, that I discovered a publishing company in Sweden called New Heroes & Pioneers. I pitched the idea of creating a book from my collection, which had grown to around 500 photos, I also added an extra conceptual layer for the book, utilizing the words in the photos to create a series of short, visual stories, in a bit refrigerator magnet style, and becoming a little poetic in nature. I now find myself back in the Boulder/Denver area continuing to collect words, travel as much as I can, and experimenting with different ways to display my photographs, including projecting them on old tube televisions (https://vimeo.com/171496652) and with 35mm slide projectors.
Tell us about your process. Do you have to be in a certain mindset to explore and discover the images you are after?
I don’t set out looking for any particular word or types of words, I try to let the words find me, and allow myself to let things happen. Maybe I take a right 2 blocks early, or pass the left I am supposed to take and inevitably take the “long way” to my destination. I suppose what draws my eye to the words I end up finding is subconsciously affected by my mood or the state of mind I am in that day, but ultimately the process I most like to employ is putting myself places I might not have intended, combined with some happenstance.
Your practice sounds like it has meditative and mindful qualities. What advice would you give others who are interested in pursuing a project that involves exploration and elements of surprise?
Don’t overthink it, don’t have any kind of in-depth plan, and don't put any unnecessary pressure on yourself to find anything specific. Just let it happen, go where your gut leads you, and trust you’ll find something, even if it isn't what you were trying to find.
What was your favorite place which you traveled to up to this point?
This is a tough one. I haven’t done nearly enough international travel, but I loved Copenhagen. I also loved Asheville, NC. And going back to New York City always inspires and leads to finding something unique and unexpected.
Share a favorite quote or piece of advice that has helped you on your journey so far.
I have always enjoyed this Warhol quote “I Never Read, I just look at pictures.” I Feel like my Collecting Words project exemplifies this and also slightly subverts the meaning Andy intended it to have.
Another good quote or piece of advice that ties back to Warhol comes from this interview (https://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/how_i_collect/how_i_collect_peter_brant-52192) with Peter Brant and what he references having learned from Andy: "Beauty is all around you, and you just have to open your eyes and look at the architecture and the clothes and the magazines and the movies—that’s the culture. Creative things are being done every day in all of these mediums, and if you're aware of it then your life will be more beautiful.” I think this is a big one, and important to remember, culture is what we are experiencing every day, it’s in the streets, it’s not just in museums, and movie theaters or coming from the TV. Essentially we are all "the culture."
What contemporary artists or creatives inspire you?
I really like the work Sebastian Errazuriz has been creating. I love the way he subverts objects and words and presents them in ways that cause you to think about them completely differently than you would ever expect.
I also recently saw the Stephen Shore exhibit at the MoMA in NYC, and fell in love with his work from the 80’s and his “Uncommon Places” series. The compositions and color palettes are what I aspire to create with my own photography.
What's next for you? What should we be on the lookout for this year?
To bring it back to the Warhol thought, combined with that same Dada, Duchampian philosophy that beauty is all around us, I am planning to start exploring bathrooms and capturing the spectacle that is the urinal. From their dirtiest forms to their most beautiful. I find we often use bathrooms without giving it much thought, by photographing these spaces my hope is it will cause people to think about those environments more and realize that even toilets can be beautiful and unique. Focusing on urinals also has a pretty obvious tie back to Dada and Duchamp and his Readymades, which I was inspired by while in school at Syracuse.
Stephanie Hirsch appropriates iconoclastic images and sayings and infuses them with the anarchistic spirit from whence they came. Through her use of beads, sequins and embroidery, Hirsch's canvases are literally 'illuminated' with words of enlightenment and hope. Her simple text and quips often cause the viewer to question their moral standings and beliefs, all the while offering aesthetically charged images that are simultaneously foreign and familiar.
Hirsch states, "Mental and physical blockages in life are often self-inflicted, both literally and figuratively. I explore my journey through life as a quest to uncover the truth around me and to express my position through the multifaceted meanings inherent to the words we use and actions we do."
Stephanie Hirsch is currently the PS3 artist in residence through Art Production Fund at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Her residency runs from April 15 – May 10.
When did you first start using text and positive messages in your work?
In 2008 I had a dark night of the soul where literally and figuratively my life shattered and my shell cracked open. I desperately needed to pull myself out from the darkness. Words have power, and spirit guided me to put the eternal truths of hope and enlightenment onto the canvas.
It's refreshing to see such inspiring words and sayings in the midst of the current art world chaos. Does your work have a personal meaning to you?
Yes, it is everything to me (besides my kids). It is my meditation, my soul, my lover, my friend. I read a beautiful saying that "art reflects the times and it is the job of the artist to speak of the eternal truths." In these times of darkness and chaos where so much negativity bombards us, I use my gift to connect to a higher consciousness. If my work resonates and uplifts others, I am blessed.
How long have you been an artist? Tell us about your creative journey.
I was born an artist. I don’t know any other way than to create from what soars within my soul. My first endeavor into the artistic world was as a fashion designer. I created works of art on a resort and swimwear. When I sold my company in 2008, another form of artistry came to me, and that was to work on canvas.
Congratulations on your recent success at Art Miami. What would you say helped push your art career to the next level? What tips would you share with our readers?
Thank you! I authentically live from my truth. If this inspires others and gets them to gravitate to my work I am grateful. Each and every one of us is given our own divine gift. It is our job while in physical form to find it, devour it and release it into the universe.
How important is fun and experimentation to you? Describe a typical day in the studio.
I deeply love what I do. I am constantly reading, meditating and connecting to source. Experimentation and joy are a constant in my life and art. My studio is my solitude.
What are your plans for the near future? What should be we on the lookout for?
I am finishing up my 5th solo show at Lyons Wier Gallery in NYC this winter. I have a busy spring ’17. I am participating in 2 group shows and have a solo show out West (details shortly). I am also working on a public art installation.