Posts in Issue VII
Lorena Mateu

Lorena's paintings have been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions and art fairs in Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the U.S.A. She earned her BA in Fine Arts at San Carlos’ College in Valencia, Spain. She also went on to complete her MA in Artistic Production at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain in 2008. In 2007, Lorena was awarded with the 1st prize for Artistic Creation by the University of Zaragoza; furthermore, she has been selected in numerous painting’s awards.

“My intention is to focus my painting towards the presence of nature and our relationship with her. It is also to understand the existence as a process of changes and transformations, in other words as an act of reinventing oneself. The nature’s view emerges as a means of encouraging the awareness about who we are.”

Jeremy Burks

I grew up as an only child in Dayton, Ohio, reading and drawing constantly.

I am primarily a self-taught artist. My formative influences were days spent exploring the scrap yard where my father worked and summers roaming the Dayton Art Institute. I was, in turn, obsessed with mythology, magic, ancient cultures, historical piracy, horror and mystery novels, fantasy, science fiction, comic books, heavy metal, hip-hop and punk rock. Not that much has changed.

I lived in a bunch of places (but often New Jersey), working in various capacities in fine art, film, and design. For over a decade, I have resided in Austin, Texas with my talented wife and brilliant son.

www.jeremyburksart.com

Interview: Jen Dwyer

I grew up in Northern California. After high school, I attended University of Washington, where I studied science and art. After graduating, I moved to Brooklyn New York to pursue art. I am a practicing artist working primarily in ceramic art. 

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Statement

Our current political and social climate is arguably the most divisive or turbulent period that anyone of my generation or younger has ever experienced in this country. With the past election, it was and continues to be hard to listen to the news, open a social media app, or even listen to a podcast without hearing strong discourse. My making comes from reflecting on this polarized time.

My most recent works, Current Mood and Nasty Woman Tiles, were created in response to President Elect bragging about grabbing women by the genitalia in an Access Hollywood tape recorded in 2005. He responded to this video by calling it “locker room banter”. It's important not to let our new president’s hate speech become normalized. I added subtle individualization of each tile by showcasing each person's unique handwriting and installing each tile at the specific pelvic height that person.

Now more than ever, people are open to dialogue on issues thought to be subjects once left unspoken. My porcelain boxing gloves and knuckles are a part of a series Objects of Mass Production. The works were created earlier this year in response to our current administration and the unknown decisions they will make.

Lastly, my two porcelains of Venus of Willendorf holding a pager, cell phone, and edible objects were created as good luck charms in this time of so much uncertainty. Now more than ever, people are open to dialogue on issues thought to be subjects once left unspoken, my work is created in response to these conversations or feelings.

www.jen-dwyer.com

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Were you always interested in ceramics? Tell us about your journey as an artist.

Early on I fell in love with clay, I had a really incredible high school art teacher that gave me a lot of freedom to play and explore. In college I proceeded to explore ceramics as well as environmental science. I’ve always been interested in a multitude of things, I think that’s why I love art, because I can investigate, research and explore all of my interests through my practice. I was also always a creative kid but once I began college I started applying concepts to my making. The history of ceramics is so broad and from a technical standpoint, there is always more to learn. The material is also full of contradictions. Porcelain in particular has a very interesting history in regards to Imperial Europe. It was once seen as the highest taste of the royal court and then later pushed aside for being overly decorative, or rather feminine. I also love the tactileness of clay, in the postdigital age avoiding my computer and playing with clay is really all I want to do.

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What inspired your pieces that explore the female figure?

A Jill Soloway quote that really resonates with my and speaks to why I love the femme figure so much is “art is propaganda for the self”. My work has always expressed my lived experiences, complemented with research of contemporary and historical issues, so inevitability the femme figure, or parts of the body play a role in my work. I also think it’s so interesting that one of the first art objects know to us is a ceramic fertility goddess. Although no one knows for sure what/ why Venus of Willendorf or any of the other ancient figurines were created, one of theories is that they were thought to be self portraits, which I just love. Perhaps the Venus of Willendorf was the original depiction of the female gaze.

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There is a beautiful element of play in your work. How important is this to your practice?

There is this age old trope that I want to resist in my work that ‘the artist’ has to be this serious cowboy that can only create in an altered state of agony. That being said I do have a pretty dedicated studio practice that isn’t always fun, it can be a challenging to get into the studio everyday and it’s definitely hard work. But it’s work that I really enjoy. Plus if I wasn't creating I’m not sure what else I would do. Not to say I don’t love it, but I don’t know really know what I would be without art. Even as a young kid my mom created a small art studio for my sibling and I, who is also an artist. It’s kind of all I know. However most of my work tries to deconstruct value structures, and I do think playful, colorful, femme artwork is taken less seriously. I am interested in challenging those preconceived notions.

What is your studio time like? What do you think about when working? Describe a typical day.

I’m currently pursing my MFA at University of Notre Dame so my day is structured around academia but I still retain a solid studio practice. I wake up teach an undergraduate ceramic class for two hours in the morning or go to my art history class, work in my studio for 5 hours, go for a run, work in my studio for another 5-7 hours go home read/ research and repeat. I’ve noticed this past year I’ve become a bit of a recluse in the studio, I’m definitely trying to be more self aware of that thinking ahead to twenty eighteen. I want to carve out more time for self care and friends are definitely going to be more of a priority next year.

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How do you overcome creative blocks and recharge?

There are many things I’m not good at, but I don’t really know how to not create. If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed with a body of work and find I need a break from it, I will usually work on another series that is less heavy on research. For example right now I am working on two different bodies of work, Constructed Paradise, that is a compilation of imaginary plants and ancient venus figurines. This work doesn’t take much planning and I work rather intuitively to create it. However the other body of work I’m in the middle of is Blind Spot, is about reclaiming the female gaze and decentering the divide between self and other. This work was inspired by contemporary and historical issues related to the objectification and value of femme bodies. It’s nice to have a more light hearted series of work to dip my toe in and out of while creating work about something I’m really passionate about.

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What advice would you give artists that are starting out for finding their voice but not being afraid to take risks?

I would say take all the risks at first. I’m really introverted and can be really self conscious about putting myself out there, I find it’s really helpful to pretend like no one is watching and try everything. I’ve also found listening to your intuition to be one of the most important parts of art (despite what they teach you in academia ;). I’ve also found everything comes in time. So my advice would be work really hard, try everything and be really patient. For example I’ve always been a feminist and a ceramicist but now it seems they are both rather trendy. It’s nice to have recognition but I think if you only create for recognition it will be very disheartening and probably not very fulfilling. I’ve had the most success with my work as soon as I started creating art about things I really care about. It’s hard to not want to make work that you think people will like, but if you’re able to make work that feels most true to your interests, I think that will benefit you in the long run. Otherwise I would image it would feel like you’re always chasing something unattainable.

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What are you currently working on?

Oh too many things, I have three pots in the fire right now. My main focus is a body of work I started this fall, Blind Spot . This series of work explores the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies. I’m currently reading Staying with the Troubl e by Donna J. Haraway, and she really highlights the ways everything can be turned into a product, women’s bodies, nature, etc. Similar to women’s bodies, porcelain has a long history of being exoticized, for example in Imperial Europe it used to be called white gold because it was more valuable than gold. This work is inspired by Rococo porcelain objects that once were more valuable than gold however now are seen as decorative, kitsch, and feminine. Food is also beginning to play a large role in my work. I find it’s also tied to femininity and consumption. For example a model holding or sitting next to an edible product begs the question which one is the object for consumption. Over all this body of work is in response to the depressing treatment of women and girls in the world, but particularly now at this moment in time in the US.

I’m also working on another body of work Constructed Paradise that is a little bit more playful. This work is a reflection of a time of so much uncertainty and how we deal with that fear. These wonky imaginary plants and ancient venus amulets are meant to be a fictitious refuge or mirage for escape, and/ or a good luck charm to carry around during the day. This body of work is kind of my go to when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with the state of everything. Although art is certainly a refuge to express frustrations and I do think it can help lead to social change, it can be depressing to spend all my time researching and reflecting on these issues, therefore my constructed paradise series is a fun repreve.

I also have a little functional art side project, JED Ceramics . It’s helpful it make and sell functional art objects to help offset the costs of larger sculptures ;)

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Karen Navarro

Karen Navarro is an Argentinian photographer. She was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she studied Fashion Design at the University of Buenos Aires. After studying fashion design, Navarro relocated to Texas and studied at the Houston Center for Photography. She now combines her interests in fashion and photography through highly stylized images that she often views as self-portraits using models.

She says that photography is a medium for her where she can create worlds. "I do not want to accept the world as it is. And in this obstinate attitude of mine is the unity and concord of my opposing souls. That's why I redo it with my fantasy.

My work is an examination of the inner world that occurs in the minds of different female personalities. I create surreal scenes through the use of color theory and minimalist details.

Many times the individual is shown in the quiet scenery, evoking a state of introspection. My photography allows the expression of self-referential questions and constantly seeks connection with the viewer. It is a way of questioning the attitudes, imposed norms and unwritten rules that have formed us in society as a woman and our behavior within it."

These portraits belong to a series called Deconstruction. This series calls in to question the idealization of women, showing how we reconstruct ourselves based on what we have learned and what has been imposed upon us. According to Navarro, the perfect world is only an idea and here she shows both perfection and the uncertain.

Sierra Barber

Sierra is a self-taught encaustic artist and has been working with the ancient painting technique for nearly 10 years. Her practice explores the natural characteristics of beeswax as a material, creating a seamless bind between reality and the imagined. Her process involves a repetitive build-up of thin layers of melted wax that create mesmerizing forms specific to how the material was applied at the time. The layered process allows the wax to gradually grow and change on its own, transforming into controlled chaos that appears to have happened organically.

Throughout her professional practice, Sierra’s work has explored themes of preservation, transformation, the collection of memory, virtual nostalgia and curiosities of time. These concepts are re-imagined and retold in beeswax, pulling them back into a natural world to be analyzed and interpreted.

Rebecca Reeves

Born and raised in Bucks County, Rebecca Reeves continues to live and work in Upper Black Eddy, PA. Reeves’ work has been exhibited at the Rockford University Art Gallery/Clark Arts Center, IL; Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, IL; Fuller Craft Museum, MA; Kemerer Museum of Decorative Art, PA; Paradigm Gallery, PA; Grounds for Sculpture, NJ; Trestle Gallery, NY; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, WI, and various other venues. Reeves received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BFA from Tyler School of Art/Temple University, both with a focus in Fiber. She also studied at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland, while earning her BFA from Tyler.

Reeves’ system of living becomes the foundation for her work. Her observations fuel the need to clean and organize to gain control over her environment. In her current body of work, Reeves considers herself the “Collector, Protector and The Keeper” of numerous family heirlooms. Like the meticulously detailed Victorian human hair art that represented the family tree, Reeves uses miniature furniture as representation for the objects in her home, her family tree. She obsessively cocoons the miniatures in thread to contain and preserve, nearly suffocating them in the process.

Blurring The Lines Between Genders: Synaesthetics Illustration Interview (NSFW)

The power of a tiny change in how we represent men and women through art is fascinating. Something as simple as the placement of large hoop earrings on a masculine lumberjack can seem so out of place. Society places great importance on what is considered inherently male or female; however, life is not so black and white.

Blurring the lines between genders in my artwork allows me to explore and challenge these steadfast notions of male and female. The female figure saturates art and is often used and abused in many art forms. I choose to draw predominately male or androgynous figures, placing them in clothing and situations that society has deemed to be feminine. The female figure seems to be fair game when it comes to art – place a male in the same position and you will get a completely different reaction. I am compelled to draw beautiful images that contrast our ideas of what male/masculinity is with how women are portrayed within art and society as a whole.

Using pencils and musical inspiration, I create concepts that not only encourage people to question their gender beliefs, but entertain them. Erotic and playful, each piece is inspired by the colours and feelings that music can create in us. Certain tones will trigger distinct colours and the general drone of a song will have a weight to it that will either be atmospheric or item/texture specific - high pitched electronic sounds are shiny and sparkly, whereas thumping bass is rubbery and liquid like.

My work is an examination of us as humans, as participants, voyeurs, followers and change-makers.

www.highglosserotica.com

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When did you develop an interest in art? Tell us about your creative journey.

Early – Colouring in books pushed me over the edge. My anal retentive need to colour within the lines coupled with the frustration that the lines never went where I thought they should be or cut through images in sloppy black mess forced my hand (figuratively and literally) to create what I wanted to see and colour on a page. 

Drawing people or humanesque figures was always a favourite thing – I enjoyed the amount of detail and movement I could put in these pictures. They could be anything, relatable and realistic, doing human things or they could be turned into fantastical creatures all butterfly of wing and sea creature of tail.

At about the age of 8 or 9, I distinctly remember my dad taking me to the National Gallery of Victoria and suddenly being struck by the…permission to not have to draw clothing on these humans anymore. I had always considered the idea but somewhere along the line also decided that it would be rude of me, or that people would be embarrassed by me doing so. This now flew in direct contrast to what I was now seeing “real artists” do.

Flash forward to high school, the 14-15 year old me is continuing with this nude is good discovery. However, I can’t say this went down well in a high school setting. Turns out people, particularly teenagers are embarrassed by nudes, even when the possess the same body parts. The teachers weren’t much better – the words “pornographic and disgusting!” were screeched by my art teacher across the staffroom during a drop off of work for a local art competition (which, hilariously – I won). My inability to find the words to defend myself and my work, combined with a school fire that destroyed both my graphic design and art portfolios in my final year of study led me to give up on art.
 
A 120 Faber-Castell Polychomos pencils set would be my artistic denial undoing. I’d been gifted as a gift for completing high school studies, but I buried them within the depths of a cupboard, and there they lay for 10 years. I was terrified of them. They were a threat to my rationale for not drawing, and a totally unfamiliar medium. When I rediscovered them years later, I couldn’t bring myself to sell them and I couldn’t bring myself to draw so they sat, now within line of sight on a bookshelf for a further 2 years. Daring me to see how atrocious my skills would be after years of neglect. As you can guess, I caved.

In the Tl:dr version of events: I started using coloured pencils for the first time in 2014 and haven’t looked back.

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Gender and sexuality is an important subject given today's political climate. What do you hope the viewer takes away from your work?

I would be lying if I said I start each piece with the intent of an emotional reaction of the viewer, however, that frequently happens and I enjoy it – good and (especially) bad. I’m not looking to make political statements, almost the opposite? In doing so, I inherently am making a statement and that statement to be frank, is that I don’t give a fuck. I don’t think a person’s sexuality or gender identity should be a political issue and there is something decidedly broken in society when it finds itself wielding that as threat or something to be feared.

I don’t care what humans choose to clothe themselves in. The fact that I could draw an image of what might be considered a hyper masculine scene, fit for the cover of an action movie, and add a set of giant hoop earrings or batwing eyeliner to the main character and suddenly people are questioning what’s going on just fascinates me. Why so much power in such a tiny object/look? How can something so arbitrary totally change the story of an image, and in the context of the world, the way we would perceive and interact with another human? From that, I suppose it’s about what I want to take away – I want to know why it’s alright to apply certain clothing or poses or settings to one gender but not another. In the case of my androgynous characters, why it’s important to the viewer to know what genitalia they might poses before they decided how they feel about the image. Which to me says more about the viewer that it does about my work.

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Tell us about what inspires you. How do you come up with the images and decide what to draw?

The first instigator of imagery within my mind is always music. It gives me the weights, textures and often the colour scheme of the imagery. To that I add one or more of my characters and then play around with different music to alter the mood. I’ll often set myself a technical challenge within each piece to make it difficult, and to keep it interesting while I work on it.

For example, for my last piece, Do You Feel Loved, I picked up on select words of a song “…scent hanging in the air”, ”…nails under your hide”, “…teeth at your back”, “…tongue…”. These words and phrases all stood out to me as quite animalistic in tone, the droning bass of the song added a rubber/latex texture in my mind. To keep with the animal vibe and give myself a challenge I added in the leopard print. Which then lead my brain to images of house cats preening themselves on window ledges (my brain can be oddly specific sometimes).

Applying this flash of imagery to a character, it begins to become something solid that I can then manipulate and add to/remove from. In this case I chose a pose in which the character was preening themselves as a cat might. I also wanted to juxtapose the idea of predator against prey so I gave him antlers which would of course be something you would see on a male deer however. Despite his stereotypical masculine physique, the character would be viewed as having feminine attributes due to the pose and clothing they have been placed in alluding their sexuality when I’ve not actively said anything at all.

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How do you feel your work has evolved over the past few years?

Quite a long way considering I’d never use coloured pencils before 2014, and prior to that, not drawn anything for at least 10 years. I still have a considerable way to go in terms of technique as I’d like to add much more visual depth and layer multiple images over each other, in a manner more akin to the way my mind sees images. But at this stage I feel I need a stronger understanding of what I can do with the medium before attempting these pieces. It has certainly been a short sharp ride thus far.

Share a piece of advice with our readers that helped you make bold decisions in your work.
I make a point of not self-censoring – I’m not sure if that can be considered bold? If your artistic thoughts consist of butterflies and bunny rabbits it’s probably not going to cause too much controversy. Ultimately it’s the viewer who decides how a work is received so if you consider bold to be something of controversy, know your audience and give them the opposite of what they expect or want – don’t expect to make friends in the process.

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What other artists or creatives inspire you?

My two biggest influences at the moment are Goldfrapp and Nine Inch Nails. They overlap in their electronic elements but contrast each other greatly in tone. It’s fun to take an image in my head that was inspired by one artist and place it within the sounds of another to see what weird twists it puts on the colours or mood of a piece. I also greatly enjoy the works of Hajime Sorayama – it would be great to reach that height of hyper realism in pencil form.

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What are you currently working on?

Currently working on a couple of pieces – one being the largest pencil drawing I’ve under taken so far. It has the added texture challenge of both Glomesh fabric and soap bubbles because apparently, I like to torture myself.

I’m also having some fun with glazed doughnuts in another piece, which may encourage a love of doughnuts or put the viewer off them for life depending on how much you like glaze and where...

Zofia Bogusz

Zofia Bogusz was born in Poland in the ’80s. As a child, she moved to New York City, where she currently works and resides. Zofia received a bachelor’s degree from the School of Visual Arts, where she focused on oil painting and figurative studies. She regularly exhibits her work and enjoys doing commissions, as well as working with nonprofit organizations teaching art to kids.

Zofia paints lone women amid bold animals and/or dramatic landscapes, often using the contrast of deep black and luminous color to highlight the intensity between the individual and the external world. Through her symmetrical compositions, she strives to render the delicate and interdependent balance between mankind and the environment.

Nick Robles

Nick Robles began his art career as a young boy with his first set of Crayola crayons, tempera paints, and Elmer’s Glue. Sticking to his roots set deep in the 80s, Nick’s work retains a childish spirit with plenty of color, funky shapes, and sense of adventure. It wasn’t until after he received a BA at Sonoma State University and moved to Portland, Oregon that he began to focus on using his printmaking knowledge for a textile and photography based body of work. Now a resident of Brooklyn, New York, Nick has established a studio where he works in a variety of mediums that include painting, textiles, and photography.

By infusing personality and energy into inanimate material through portraiture, I explore personal identity and what it is to be a conscious being. I experiment with different processes and unorthodox materials as I search for new applications and results that excite me, all while allowing the images to evolve as I work to better explore this theme. Often working by the seat of my pants, I frequently make new discoveries mid-shoot. As I work within each series, I find my work to be constantly changing and maturing much as we all do as we venture out into the world. The images I create reflect a playful childhood interest in my environment and the unknown.

Monika Malewska

Monika Malewska was born in Warsaw, Poland. She received her BFA from the University of Manitoba in Canada and her MFA degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Juniata College.

Malewska’s most recent series of paintings consists of large-scale watercolors depicting various wreath-like arrangements made of bacon. Most of them are symmetrical and somewhat reminiscent of the Rorschach inkblot test. She enjoys combining the formal elegance of design with the recognizable banality of bacon, along with the surreal and absurd accompaniment of other decorative elements, such as flowers, butterflies, and fruits. The arrangements are playful and whimsical in a Rococo fashion, but also grotesque. In her not-so-still still-lives, she is drawing subtle parallels between the decadence and frivolity evident in certain historical genres and our contemporary culture. Yet, unlike the static tabletop displays of the traditional still life genre, her compositions use ribbons of bacon to suggest optical movement and a departure from the typically somber content of Vanitas paintings.

Malewska works in several art media, particularly painting, drawing, and photography. Her work has been shown in various galleries and museums, including Phoenix Gallery, NYC, Blank Space Gallery, NYC, Denise Bibro Fine Art Gallery, NYC, Camel Art Space, Brooklyn, NY, the Blue Star Complex in San Antonio, Texas, the Benton Museum in Storrs, Connecticut, the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana, CA, to name a few. Her work has been featured in Huff Post (Arts and Culture section), Direct Art Magazine, Hi-Fructose, Fresh Paint Magazine, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture and other publications.

Grace Lang

I am a mixed media artist based in Brooklyn, where I like to use both two and three-dimensional work to tell stories of triumph. Continually preoccupied with the concept of personal demons, my work reflects the internal struggles that plague us all, creating visual expressions of those dark little thoughts that are at once frightening and sort of funny. Much of my work stems from the belief that these personal demons are not necessarily enemies, but, rather, aspects of our selves that can be utilized for good. The women in my drawings, paintings and sculptures are manifestations of my hopes for myself and for women everywhere. With each difficult experience, our armor grows and we become the warriors of our own worlds.

I have a BFA in Illustration from Parsons and a BA in Literary Studies from Eugene Lang College. Books are my favorite.

www.grooseling.com

Vedran Misic

Born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Vedran is a New York City based artist with passions for ink drawing, media arts, and street art. Working with colorful India inks, his highly intricate and symbolic works examine the dimensions of human spirit and the complex world that it inhabits. Using surreal and psychedelic motifs, his drawings explore the metaphysical and seek to capture the often imperceptible geometric systems that permeate through all of nature. While these works stem from the ideas and experiences of adult introspection, they are layered with vibrant colors and fantastical elements that evoke a childlike awe of the magic and mystery of the world.

Vedran holds BFA in Graphic Design from New York Institute of Technology, and has completed silkscreen, drawing, and painting classes at the School of Visual Arts.

www.vedranart.com

Extremities of Human Consciousness: Interview with Sienna Freeman

Sienna Freeman is a San Francisco based visual artist and writer. Her visual work has exhibited across the United States and internationally in Switzerland, London, Belgium, and Canada. Her written work has been published on DailyServing.com, ArtPractical.com, and in the California College of the Arts’ Sightlines journal. Freeman earned an MA in Visual & Critical Studies and an MFA in Fine Art from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and a BFA in Photography from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Statement

My work draws upon significant personal experiences that illuminate the extremities of human consciousness: altered or heightened states of physical, psychological, or emotional condition. In these cumulative moments, which are characterized by their intense, transgressive, revelatory, and often dream-like nature, I find terrain for contemplation and investigation. Seeming to exist simultaneously in dichotomous spaces, perhaps pulled inside out through opposing forces, these dialectical borderland instances expose the complexity of territories between the intellect and the senses, places where the logical mind and subconscious interface with a deeper sense of being.

Through the fragmented, layered, and surgical process of collage, I seek to investigate these surreal areas of radical opposition. Modifying my own photographs, appropriated images, and found objects, aspects of my process can be looked at much like a combination of stream of consciousness and constrained writing techniques. I manipulate and assemble source materials as I go, working within a fixed set of thematic, conceptual, or visual constraints. In dialogue with historic techniques and concepts utilized by the Surrealists, these methods allow for an automatic processing of visual information on a semiotic level, an intuitive sense of sight that is both linked to and detached from our contemporary mass media experience and corporeal understanding of the world around us.

My most recent work investigates fusions and fissures between the imaginary-visual and the material-haptic as tied to perceptions of selfhood and otherness. Here, the material of cloth is metonymic for the boundaries of the body, both formally and symbolically. Culled from the most intimate to commercial sources, such as my own closet to bridal shops on Amazon.com, satins and silks in hues associated with both the inside and outside of the body (blood red, chocolate, taupe, pink) are photographed, dissected, rearranged and then cast in plastic resin, becoming image-based icons for thresholds of (dis)embodiment, corporeality, cyclicality, and circumscription.

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Tell us about your start as an artist.  When did you decide to follow the creative path? 

I was raised by a family of artists, so I was surrounded by people who lived a creative lifestyle, which made it seem like an attainable and possible choice.  When I was a kid, my dad played in a punk band and my mom was a weaver. My grandfather was a prolific self-taught painter.  He helped me pay for undergrad and bought me my first real camera. I didn’t grow up with money, so I never felt comfortable without a consistent financial gig. I suppose that is where choice came in for me.  While I have never considered a life path that did not prioritize making stuff, I did choose to pursue a professional career in the arts outside of my studio practice that had meaning for me.  Early on, this meant working in galleries to support my own work and the work of other artists.  Now that means working in non-profit arts education, which allows me to support and learn from some pretty brilliant makers and thinkers while sustaining an active studio practice.

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What is your work about? 

This new work is inspired by self-experiential moments when the imaginary-visual and the material-haptic bump up against each other, those instances when you perceive yourself as both connected to and removed from your own sense of being.

Making this work, I have been thinking about the word “circumscription” a lot. I’m interested that it means both the act of being limited, defined, or restricted to part of a pre-determined taxonomy, and also the implication of a metaphorical and/or physical surrounding boundary.  Looking at the body as a structural metaphor, the skin serves as a boundary between our internal musculature and the external environment. But it also serves as a cultural signifier for identity in terms of race, gender, and age. While our skin itself circumscribes, the cloth we wear to protect our skin adds another layer of literal and symbolic circumscription.

I am interested in what it means to consider cloth and skin as metonymic, while acknowledging the distance and closeness between the two as we encounter them through touch and vision.  I am also interested in considering this type of perceptual experience beyond that of just the individual, how we experience ourselves as present and absent in the context of collective or communal bodies, and whether such contexts are systematically imposed upon us or we self-subscribe (or are circumscribed) to them. 

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How do you feel the materials you use contribute to the overall meaning of your art? 

The collages that I have made over the past year or so are primarily assembled from self-produced and found photographs of skin and cloth. Photographs of the inside of my own body from a recent ovarian surgery also serve as source material, along-side photographs I’ve shot of liquids in motion, as well as objects that bind or constrain, such as rope and ribbon. The found images are culled from specific types of printed matter, such as wedding magazines, obscure 1970’s porn, and targeted genre publications like “Horse & Rider.”

These source materials are hand-cut into a variety of similar shapes and then arranged intuitively in a non-systematic order, a process that concurrently confuses, conflates, and illuminates the multitude of meanings attached to each image source.  Often, it is difficult to discern which is which in the final piece—a concept that has been driving this new work. They are eventually glued down and cast in a sheet of plastic resin. 

The medium of collage is pretty essential to the overall meaning of work that I make.  My materials and processes are intentionally in conversation with those utilized by historic Surrealists, although perhaps more inspired by the school of Georges Bataille then André Breton. I think about Surrealism a lot—how surrealist goals and tactics were driven by the desire to disrupt social norms and challenge oppressive systematic ideologies.  This seems more fruitful then ever given our current climate. 

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What inspires you to keep creating?

There is just a drive there that tells me to do it.  I choose to listen to this drive, ignoring all of the practical reasons to not do it.  I also feel motivated by my peers and want to contribute to a conversation that is bigger than me and my own motivations. I believe that critical dialog with other folks (artists and not) about meaning and possibility is essential to all types of growth and feel that my creating artwork is just another way to participate in these conversations. 

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What would a dream life look like for you? 

I am already lucky to do what I love on a pretty consistent basis with the support of some pretty amazing people.  But, a dream life for me would have to exist in a word with real equity. For example, I would like to no longer have to pay for and then be taxed on tampons as “luxury goods.” While I’m dreaming, I would also like a lifetime supply of New York pizza and bagels available for delivery to me 24 hours a day in San Francisco, because they are just not the same here. 

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Share a piece of advice with or readers for trying something new in the studio and overcoming blocks.

It sounds cheesy and everyone says it, but just working through it usually pays off—even if you know what you’re making sucks and you aren’t having fun.  I think giving yourself the space to experiment while knowing that failure is part of the process can be liberating.  It can allow you to make the most fruitful mistakes and discover something new in your practice without feeling the pressure to actually produce something good. 

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What are you currently working on?

In addition to these collages, I have also been working on a series of soft sculpture pieces. Textiles, which often appear as image-based icons for thresholds of corporality and cyclicality in my collages, have only recently made their way into my practice in their actual three-dimensional woven forms. I am not sure they are any good at this point, but I am really enjoying working on them and excited to see where they go. I also just curated an online show for the NIAD Art Center in Richmond, CA and am working on a long-term collaborative project with the San Francisco poet Justin Robinson. 

Experiencing Light: Interview With Alison Kudlow

Alison Kudlow lives and works in Brooklyn. She has BA from the University of Southern California, a post-baccalaureate degree from Brandeis University and is currently an MFA candidate (2019) at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has shown her work in group and solo shows in New York, Los Angeles, and Istanbul.

Alison Kudlow translates ephemeral sun events into physical forms, experimenting with how materiality impacts our experience of light. In her studio, she arranges liquid-filled vessels in front of a west-facing window to refract sunlight, and then creates a series of sculptures, drawings, photographs, and cyanotypes of the resulting refracted sunlight (Sun Interpretations). About two hours before the sun sets, the light passes through the vessels of liquid at an angle such that the spectrum of its light is pulled apart and reassembled. As the sunlight lands on the table surface it is reduced to a colorful two-dimensional projection. While the Sun Interpretation sculptures transform the light back into three dimensions, they are a representation of the projection, not the light itself, and are therefore a further distortion. Moreover, the sculptures transform fleeting and ethereal light events into lasting and tangible objects. Using a variety of materials, Kudlow has developed an intuitive visual language to create a series of sculptures that often reject objecthood—sheer lightweight silk sways as the viewer approaches and disrupts the surrounding air, intricate glass webs veer in and out of invisibility, texturally rich surfaces beg for a closer look but remain mysterious upon inspection. The sculptures then function not as representations of light, but as stand-ins for light that evoke their own sense of wonder.

Her process is an enactment of a ritualistic proto-scientific studio practice of sun worship. Invested in the feminist history of pagan worship, Kudlow emphasizes the female form in her photographic renderings of sunlight. While in Western cultures the sun is generally seen as masculine (as opposed to the feminine moon), historically the sun’s perceived gender has changed to suit the needs of the culture interpreting it. For instance, a nomadic culture that relies heavily on hunting for food will generally describe the sun as male; but as that same culture develops agriculture and settles in one place, they will begin to describe a nurturing female sun. The fluidity of the sun’s gender, and of gender in general, can be seen in Kudlow’s aluminum dye sublimation prints. The spectral forms and slivers of variegated color on the metal surface suggest a chemical process as their origin. The bilaterally symmetrical compositions alternatively suggest a womb, a tunnel, a protrusion, a shaft. When the images are inverted (converted to a negative), they do not become opposites but rather similarly ambiguous apparitions. The works question traditional notions of “natural” and its associated binaries and hierarchies.

Kudlow investigates the sun because of its singular universality. She feels that a common visual language, one that articulates the few universal truths, can be arrived at via the sun. As Harold Hay, a pioneer in solar energy states, “Once we begin to go back to a closer understanding of nature and man’s relationship to the Sun, we’re going to start developing whole new concepts of who and what we are, and why, and what our rightful place in the universe really is.”

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When did you first develop an interest in sculpture?

That's a great question because I actually came to sculpture late in my art-making trajectory. I made paintings for many years, but then was invited into a few group shows in some unusual domestic settings--a refrigerator, a swimming pool, a cellar--where it made no sense to show paintings. And so instead I created installations in those spaces that looked a bit like the paintings I'd been making and explored the same ideas. I had so much fun making those pieces and felt so energized by what I could make outside the confines of a canvas that I basically never went back. Now working in three dimensions feels very much like home to me, and is integral to the ideas I'm investigating.

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Your works have a beautifully meditative feel to them. In your statement, you mention an interest in sun worship. How important is spirituality in your process?

I grew up in an atheist home in the Bible Belt. So I was surrounded be deeply religious people, but was always an outsider looking in. I could see that for some people religion brought them peace and clarity in an otherwise distressingly chaotic world. I yearned for a way to make sense of the world, but couldn't buy into any religion. While my father and my brother dedicated their lives to science, I found even that reasonable and fact-based inquiry made for a shaky foundation. In a way my art practice is my way of making sense of life. And my current practice in particular, which involves a ritualistic process of observing refracting sunlight, makes me feel deeply connected to greater forces, to the cosmos, and to the history of solar study and myth.

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What would you say your work is about?

My work is about materializing light. It's a sort of utopian idea, to take something ephemeral and fleeting and make it concrete and lasting, but that's the point. What happens to light that is made solid--what qualities remain and what is gone? I've also been exploring the gender of sunlight, its fluidity and expansiveness. 

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What do you hope the viewer learns or experiences by looking at your sculptures?

I hope my work pushes people to question binaries, to ask themselves how sure they are of what they know, and to feel a sense of great appreciation for their place within an infinitely complex world. Sometimes when people are visiting my studio, particularly if its at night, I ask them to imagine a world without sunlight and that my work is an ode to sunlight remembered. Would interacting with these pieces feel at all like sunlight on your skin?

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Do the materials you choose have a significance to the overall meaning of your art?

Of course. Considering the universality of the sun as both our literal source of life and as mythic symbol, I like to consider myself in conversation with all people before and after me who have wondered at it. I like to blend natural substances (sand, silk, glass) with modern fabrication materials (resins, enamels) to create a sort of anthropocenic blend that is not easily read as coming from a specific era. 

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What is a typical day like do you? How do you find balance and prevent artistic burnout?

I usually have multiple projects going on at the studio at once so when I show up I never know exactly what I'll be working on that day. I rotate around the room, working on different pieces. Practically, that means I'm never doing nothing while I wait for something to dry, but it also prevents me from burning out on one particular way of working.

What are you currently working on and what should we be on the lookout for?

Is it weird to tell you that I think I'm working on the best thing I've ever made? hahaha . . . I guess as artists we're always most excited about whatever we're making now, but I've been working on a complicated sculpture for about three months and I'm genuinely so excited to see it finished!!!

Jennifer McGregor

Stained glass, jello, prisms, oily puddles, jellyfish, watery reflections — all translucent to varying degrees, all refracting, reflecting, or filtering light and colour. Jennifer McGregor’s newest series, Pour, explores her lifelong attraction to translucency. 

Born and raised in rural Alberta, Canada, Jennifer currently lives and work in Toronto.

www.jmcgregor.ca