Q & A with Allison Rose Craver – Contain Yourself

 

What prompted your interest in creating work about the body?

My interest in the body revealed itself over time. In the beginning it was not a conscious pursuit. As I generated more and more work, however, the body was an obvious thematic pattern. I choose to embrace it. My personal history includes caregiving, and I have been witness to a great deal of physical pain. So, it makes sense that my work would reflect this preoccupation.

 

 

What is your process for choosing materials and the scale for a particular piece?

I usually start with a material that I am drawn to. Whether it is fiber or a specific clay body, I won’t understand its role in my studio practice until I have spent time playing with it and exploring all of its properties. This process could happen very quickly, or it might take many months of rumination. But eventually I will realize how the material relates to my conceptual interests, and a piece will follow. The process is very intuitive. In terms of scale, I often make work that relates to the size of my own body. I also appreciate making work that acknowledges my physical limitations; I am unlikely to make something that I can’t lift or move myself. I enjoy feeling autonomous, especially in the context of my studio.

 

 

To what extent do you plan out a piece before executing it?

While I might plan something in the beginning, this is usually just a strategy to get myself started. As soon as I begin working I am looking for moments that hold potential, and I am always open to changing the piece. The work is the result of a process – I can’t relate to the idea of ‘executing’ a piece. It would be more accurate to describe the idea as fuel: it gets burned off.

 

 

What research is informing your current work?

My work draws from my personal experiences and an eclectic mix of readings, observations, artworks, and stories. Research is important because it gives work context and keeps it relevant, but my work and research interests are not linear. I spent a lot of time in graduate school reading about nursing and other forms of caregiving. I was fascinated with Florence Nightingale.

 

 

What have you learned in the process of creating this work?

Preparing for this show has been challenging! I just graduated from Ohio State
University and moved across the country, so I have been learning about the challenges of working, living, and art-making outside of a structured academic setting.

 

 

How do you go about titling your pieces?
I spend time reading the dictionary, looking up words that seem relevant to a particular piece. I like pulling apart definitions and finding linguistic connections. I try to keep titles simple and let the works speak for themselves.

 

 

What is the most necessary and/or important item in your studio and why?

This is a really tough question! I can’t think of anything I couldn’t do without. I like to believe that my practice doesn’t rely on anything besides my hands and my curiosity.

 

 

How do you seek inspiration for a new series?

It is difficult for me to break my work into series or discrete investigations. Each piece builds on the last, and the work is a continuum. When I need inspiration I usually don’t have to look further than my studio table. If things feel stale, spending time in the world and reading will help me see older work from a fresh perspective. I am always making work about the same things – always trying to answer the same questions. Again and again.

 

Questions by Gallery Assistant Kristen Holmberg

Q & A with Kate Roberts – BOWING

Has clay/porcelain always been your preferred media?

Yes! I have been working with clay since I was in high school. I fell in love with its ability to be manipulated into anything. It’s just dirt. It can be hard, soft, rough, wet, vitreous, and all of these qualities can come together to make a beautiful piece. I have been working with porcelain specifically since my senior year of undergrad.

When did you feel established and confident in your use of this medium?

I’m the type of person that once I become confident in the way I make something I try to find a new way of doing it. I tend to lose interest when I become extremely confident in a medium. So that I don’t get bored with clay, I am constantly trying to explore the different qualities of the medium. I love to experiment and see how far I can take clay before it falls apart.

 

How do you balance your time as both an art educator and a working artist?

This is very tough and I’m not sure if I have found a good balance yet, but I am constantly striving for it. I teach two days a week and often have meetings on the others. Currently, I am trying to balance not just being an art educator and artist but also a life outside of art. It is important to take care of yourself because it directly benefits the other areas in your life. I try to take time to explore my surroundings because they often inform my work. When I take this time I find that my time in the studio is more structured and enlivened with new ideas.

Currently, who or what influences your work the most? Dance is a huge influence right now, specifically the dancer Martha Graham. Her ability to take feelings and emotions that are ephemeral and make them into something solid through movement is amazing. I am always searching for ways to turn certain emotions into something that is solid.  I love watching how dancers contort their body to evoke these emotions.

What creative habits do you have that you find contribute to your success?

I’m always looking for an alternative way of doing things.  Whether that be showing in a space we might not usually assume art would be shown or using a material in a way that is not typical.  It makes people stop for a moment.

How do you feel your style is evolving?

It is becoming looser and more abstract in its imagery. I am allowing the nature of the material to dictate what will happen.

 
When do you know when you are finished with a piece?
It might be cliche but a piece never really feels finished. Time often is an indicator for me. I always think more could be done and question how I did something. These questions in turn inform future works.

Questions by Gallery Intern Kristen Holmberg

 

Q & A with Eileen Cohen – For the Frill of It

Eileen Cohen

Where did you find the inspiration for this project?

A few ideas played into the conception of this piece. I knew I wanted to use the wall and create work with a strong visual impact. I was thinking about fabric moving on or off the wall, about molding and how it is used to hide or conceal seams and dress up a space, and about ruffles and tutus. Further, the connection to ceramics as a material and its history was an important factor and consideration. The work references roof tiles and makes a connection back to clay as a humble material, one with function and purpose. I questioned the purpose of making ruffled tiles to make a pretty wall and the value of doing it, For the Frill of It, so to speak. The journey has been invaluable and full of unexpected lessons.
What are some of the challenges you faced while creating?

I spent several months testing what size and shape to make tiles and how to install them on a wall. The scale of the project grew beyond my original conception leading to storage issues, time constraints, cost, etc. I have a small workspace and quickly max out space, impacting production.

Eileen Cohen's Artist Studio

How have the quantity of tiles and repetition that goes into creating each individual tile contributed to your experience and the meaning of this piece as a whole?

I enjoyed the repetition. The repetitive action is a practice or discipline. It helped set goals for how I used my time in the studio and kept me focused and goal-oriented. The quantity of tiles made me question the practicality of this project and ask questions about how I spend my time, effort and money.  I struggled with acceptance of my idea and the value of doing it but at a certain point I fully committed. In the end, it was completely worthwhile and a valuable pursuit.

Eileen Cohen's Studio

How have people responded to this project so far?

Overwhelmingly supportive. Curious. Interested.

Eileen Cohen's Studio

What message would you like the viewer to take away from this installation?

I wanted to create a warm, soft, feminine space. I hope the viewer stands in awe of it for a moment.

Ceramic Tiles

What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Trust yourself. Commit to your ideas. Ask for help. Plan ahead. Ask questions.

Eileen Cohen in her studio

Questions by Gallery Assistant Katie Smith

Q & A with Keren Kroul – Unquiet Territories

When did you begin working with watercolor?

I began working with watercolor as a primary medium 15 years ago. I was pregnant with my first child, and I wanted to keep working consistently without the use of toxic materials and fumes. Before this I had painted with oil paints on canvas.

Keren Kroul's sketchbook

How do geometric shapes relate to your personal memories? What shape and color does a positive memory tend to form in your mind? What shape and color do you use to depict negative memories?

In this body of work, I am using the geometric shape less for its meaning and more as a tool. To me it works as a unit of imagery, like a line or a brushstroke. It is a unit of visual language and also a unit of time, a building block building a larger image from tiny shapes. The color, however, is more specific and meaningful. I love color. I find that color is strongly connected to moments and impressions. For example, blues are the sea of my childhood in Israel and greens are the lush vegetation of Costa Rica, where I lived as a teen.

Keren Kroul painting

Are you willing to share with us a specific memory that is included in this exhibition?

The 12-panel piece that is purple with green and yellow depicts the following memory: The small black vertical lines that seem to be tangled and flowing downwards represent my great aunt’s braids. She was my grandmother’s twin sister. Her name was Judith, and she died of typhus at age 23 in a concentration camp in Jurin, Ukraine, in 1945. Throughout her life, my grandmother kept those braids wrapped in silk in a drawer by her bed and was eventually buried with them. To me this image represents loss, of course, but also continuity, hope, and memory as an active living companion.

Keren Kroul's studio

What is the most difficult part of the process for you?

The beginning and the end of each piece are the most difficult, in the sense that I am doubting myself. In the very beginning: how to begin, what colors to use, and what overall shape? In the end: when to end, how much is enough, and what will tip the image over the edge and ruin the thing?

Keren Kroul's studio

What is your favorite part of the process?

Every part of the process is both challenging and fun.

Keren Kroul's paints

Who are some of your major artistic influences?

I am inspired by a range of artists and art practices: from Rothko and Frankenthaler (for the monumentality of their work and their belief in the emotional universality of color); to Guston and Amy Sillman (painters working at the cross of abstraction and figuration); to traditional world crafts like textiles and tiles (for their use of specific geometry and intense saturated color.)

Books in Keren Kroul's studio

What advice would you give to emerging artists?

a) Have a source of income that is not your studio work. b) Show up to your studio practice as often as you can.

Quote on Keren Kroul's artboard

What is next for you?

Artistically, I am moving on from the geometric imagery into more representational/specific imagery and looking into the possibility of moving away from the wall. What would that look like? Professionally, I am exploring more exhibition venues and teaching opportunities

Questions by Gallery Assistant Katie Smith

Q & A with Megan Vossler – Terra Firma

What lessons did you take from Dante’s Inferno, and how do those themes play throughout your artwork in this show?

I read Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Inferno (Graywolf Press: 2013), and I was struck by how she brought the narrative into the present day. Her translation is full of references to current events and popular culture. This really brought the story to life and emphasized the timelessness of the human behaviors that Dante classified as “sins” — even the specific characters in his story (especially certain politicians and the like) have their counterparts in today’s world. But what interested me even more than the characters and their transgressions were the landscapes that Dante invented for each of the nine circles of Hell. Each circle has its own distinct terrain, climate, and weather that is perfectly tailored to the punishments that occur there. For example, the second circle is characterized by a ferocious wind that tosses about the bodies of those who are punished for sins related to “Lust”: the way that their bodies were out of control in real life is re-created eternally in the afterlife.

So each circle is a different microcosm and a different landscape. In the narrative, the circles are loosely connected by a network of rivers, swamps and waterfalls. In the large drawing, titled Geothermia, I tried to stay faithful to these different landscapes, while avoiding directly illustrating very many literal scenes from the text. I think, in the end, that piece becomes less about divine punishment and more about the earth itself — the earth is buckling under the weight of human transgression. It’s almost as if the earth is being punished.

Water is a strong theme within your show; could you tell us more about what it means to you and its influence in this work?

Water functions as a connective element between the circles of Hell in Inferno, but it is also treacherous: at the fifth circle, for example, Dante and Virgil are ferried safely across the river Acheron, but it is filled with the souls of the sullen, who are choking on mud. Bodies of water in both the narrative and in real life have a dual nature as both conduits of passage and a source of danger, and this informs all of the work in the show.

Could you tell us more about the life jackets? What is the symbolism behind them and the paper, bronze, or moss that they are made of?

The life jacket is a small object with very large connotations and symbolism. Their inclusion in this show came initially from the conflation of water and danger in Dante’s narrative. But the forms of life vests and rescue boats take on a more immediate urgency with the refugee crisis in Syria, which has left more than 10 million people displaced. Almost half of those have fled across the Mediterranean in often deadly conditions. The lack of safe passage across the sea is only the beginning of their dangerous journey.

The cast paper and the bronze are each extreme examples of materials that cause the life vest to lose its ability to function. The arrangement of the paper life vests on the floor is meant to have a certain immediacy, as though they just washed ashore — and the translucent paper makes them almost ghostlike. The moss life vest is titled “Ruin,” evoking a sense that it has been abandoned and eventually overgrown.

What are some of your biggest challenges to overcome during the creation process?

In general, I would say my biggest challenges usually center around the question of what to include and what to leave out. In Geothermia, I had to continue to remind myself that I was not illustrating the book. There are so many vividly detailed scenes in Inferno that would be so great to draw, but I had a goal to make a piece that would stand on its own, so I had to scale back on the direct references. I also found the composition pretty challenging, to figure out a way to link the different scenes together without resorting to a simple cone shape with concentric circles in it. Then, there are always technical challenges — in this case, this is the first time that I’ve made works in bronze and cast paper, so there was a steep learning curve there.

What words of wisdom would you pass along to aspiring artists?

Just to start. Beginning is the hardest part. If you have an idea that nags at you, no matter how ridiculous it might seem, you should try it. I talk a lot about the importance of failure with students, and it’s just a fact that not everything you attempt will succeed — and that can feel very intimidating at first. And failure is incredibly uncomfortable at times. It sucks. But if you get good at starting things, you’ll always have another project to jump into. It’s easy to finish something that’s going well — it’s a lot harder to start something new that is a risk. So I think cultivating the ability to start is almost more important than cultivating the ability to finish.

 

Questions by Gallery Assistant Katie Smith

 

Q & A with Kimberlee Roth – What We Have to Lose

Could you briefly explain your process for us?

The end goal is to have work with curvilinear edges and interiors having singular, or multiple, distinct concave sections. The outside edge of the work is drawn onto paper and then transferred to either Styrofoam or clay. The interior and sides are then carved. If the piece is clay, it is fired to cone 022. I then make a plaster multipart mold and use that to make the final slip cast porcelain forms.

How do the ideas and creation process start and how do you know when you’re done?

I look at a lot of artwork, keep up with current events and try to learn from what I think are successful art forms as to how their political and environmental issues are represented, distilled and communicated successfully. As an artist I’m never done; each previous installation supports the next and sparks more ideas.

What originally inspired you to bridge the gap between utilitarian ware and wall sculpture?

It evolved over a number of years. I initially wanted to move away from round forms made on the potter’s wheel and started slip casting. Slip casting naturally led to making a large number of the same form, and then it again came naturally to place the work into repetitive patterns. The negative spaces created between the pieces are quite lovely, so I experimented and played with making forms whose negative and positive spaces looked balanced and made an interesting composition.

Kimberlee Roth Studio 

Who are some of your major artistic influences?

Eva Zeisel and Richard Notkin

I noticed that you include some glaze recipes on your website. What tips might you have for people looking to experiment with creating their own original glaze recipes but aren’t quite sure where to start?

Go to the library and look at glaze books or look on-line for a glaze you like, and then make a 500 gram batch. Glaze a small cup and bowl with it. Test it in both oxidation and reduction. Then, take out the oxide colorant and see what the base glaze is like. If the base glaze seems promising, that is you like the way it feels or looks, then test the base with a variety of different oxides and percentages of oxides. An example would be to make a 200 gram batch and add 1% of an oxide, dip in a test tile, label it, then add another 1% for a 2% test, then another 2% for a 4% test, and then another 4% for an 8% test and see what the glaze looks like on these 4 test tiles. I’ve made hundreds of glaze tests, but the best glazes I have are from trying new oxide blends in tried and true base glazes.

 

What is your favorite part of the ceramic process?

Designing the forms and laying out the finished work into a pattern.

Could you tell us a bit about your educational experiences? What led you to originally pursue a science degree and then later pursue an art degree?

Everyone has choices to make throughout their life; each choice leads to a different path. I made a choice during high school to pursue a Math and Physics degree because it came easy to me and it was safe. I knew I would be able to get a teaching job after college and be secure and self-reliant as a single woman in the 1990s. But teaching high school became redundant and I needed to challenge myself. At first I was planning to get my PhD in Physics, but a few key choices and a hard look at what made me content and happy led me back to school for art. I always had the peace of mind that if things did not work out I had my Physics and Math degree to fall back on. I know I made the right choice because of how happy and challenged I am when I am in my studio.

Kimberlee Roth Studio

How does your math and science background come into play with your artwork?

My science and math training taught me perseverance to solve problems. I am used to getting things wrong the first few times and working through ideas to find a reasonable solution. I think to myself – we humans have created a variety of complex and amazing inventions, I can figure out how to solve this or that problem within my ceramics – it’s not as if I’m making a rocket to go to the moon or an integrated circuit from square one. Along with this tenacious attitude, my science background has taught me confidence and experimental skills, both of which I use while pushing the boundaries of the ceramics medium to its physical limitations and in glaze calculation. I consider my ceramics studio a chemistry and engineering lab.

Kimberlee Roth Studio

What else can you tell us about your exhibition What We Have To Lose that we might not get from your artist statement or simply by viewing the work?

It’s harder to make small turtles and snails then it is to make the larger tiles and top pieces. 🙂

 

What tips do you have for artists trying to minimize their environmental impact while still being able to effectively create work and get a message across?

Try not to use plastic, synthetic fabric or other materials refined from crude oil. Then use whatever is the best material to get your ideas across.

Kimberlee Roth Studio 

What is next for you?

I am developing new forms and glaze colors, and working simultaneously with another slip body. I also have ideas for other tile forms with incised imagery. I work best if I follow ideas down varying and multiple paths, keep experimenting and allow every kiln to be a sort of test.

Kimberlee Roth Studio

Questions by Gallery Assistant Katie Smith

 

Q & A with J.M. Culver

J.M. CulverDescribe your creative process. How do you get started? Do you ever face an artist’s block? If so, what do you do to avoid/get out of it?

I like to work on multiple pieces at a time. If I feel stuck, I can just move on to the next. Each painting helps inform the other. It’s always interesting to see how it develops as a whole. I don’t have an artist’s block in terms of coming up with ideas for my work, but I have issues with motivation. It’s hard to always feel motivated in the studio on a daily basis. I think the most important thing is to find a theme that you really care about and can connect with. I think you have to remind yourself that it’s okay to make a bad painting. Just get up and paint. If it’s bad, then you can paint over it, try the same idea in a different way, or just move on to the next idea. The longer you procrastinate, the harder it is to go over to the canvas.

How many hours a week do you set aside to be in the studio?

I’m a full time artist so I work daily in my studio, including studio work and marketing. When I have a large project or overlapping deadlines, I work during the day and night with just a nap in between so I can efficiently utilize all my time. I work on both personal projects and commissions throughout the year.

What are studio practices you recommend to emerging artists?

For emerging artists, I highly recommend keeping a specific studio schedule. It’s a lot harder to motivate yourself to work in the studio when you are an independent artist. You have to make your own schedule and deadlines. Even if you have an outside job, set specific days and hours to be in the studio. Create project outlines and to-do lists. I personally like to use an annual planner for my yearly goals and break it down into monthly, weekly, and daily to-do lists. I also keep a dry erase board for the month and have my phone calendar to remind me of deadlines. I’d also recommend reading articles and books on marketing and the business of entrepreneurship. A former professor once said to me “There are 24 hours in a day; make it work!”

What challenges do you face when starting a new project?

I spend a lot of time researching and writing out my ideas in my visual journals. I have a new journal/sketchbook for every project to keep things organized and to revisit old ideas. It’s very helpful, especially if you work on multiple projects in your studio. I spend more time writing than I do sketching. I do basic sketches of my ideas and for the compositions. I don’t like to plan all the details or the work doesn’t feel fresh when I start on the canvas. For large work, I hire someone else to build my stretchers and do the prep work. Sometimes I’ll start paintings pinned to the wall, then I’ll figure out the specific size and have the stretchers made. Delegating the prep work allows more time for my painting and marketing.

Through your exploration of memory, are there any themes that tend to resurface in terms of how you express a certain situation/feeling/memory?

A lot of my work pieces together fragments of memories that I find connect with one another. Some of these fragments and images have become part of my own visual language and resurface in new work. I think that they can start to create a new narrative and possibly a new interpretation of the original memory or experience. Sometimes these characters and objects seem to take on a life of their own in the work where things come out on a more subconscious level. Sometimes it takes the viewer to even point these things out to me, or I step back and discover it after the piece is finished.

What new projects or exhibitions are you looking forward to next?

I’m looking forward to my work being in the Christie’s Auction at MCAD in May. I also have some commission projects lined up. My grant project has sparked a lot of ideas for future paintings and drawings. I’m looking forward to continuing to explore my current theme and see how it develops this coming year with both drawings and paintings.

J.M. Culver stands next to an artwork

Questions by Gallery Intern Johanna Goggins.

Q & A with artist Jeanine Hill

What is the main focus of inspiration for the pieces included in this exhibition?

I have spent the last two years working on the pieces for this show. In this time I have traveled quite a bit, and the extensive traveling has been an inspiration. But I would have to say that the greatest influence or inspiration for the work is the experience of landscape, the role it plays in our lives, and the way in which place enables us to not only understand who and where we are but also to navigate our world in a more grounded way.

How would you describe your creative process?                                                

I usually work in shifts. Because my studio practice involves a wide variety of materials, I rarely work with multiple materials at the same time. Working this way allows me to deeply focus on the material at hand and the processes required. A year of my artistic life will often involve six to eight months of working in clay, three months of drawing, and perhaps a month or two working with textiles. That being said, there could be a year that doesn’t look like this at all and I spend the whole year throwing pots or drawing. It all depends on where I am emotionally and physically at the time.

Where did your initial attraction to examining your path in life as a visual record stem from?

I come from a long line of storytellers and within this history there are diverse ethnic backgrounds that come into play. Storytelling and the making of artwork have played a tremendous role in my family’s history. I think that coming from such a diverse background as I do, as well as all of the moving and traveling I have done in my life, have required me to be constantly reflective. The consistent examination of who I am as a human being allows who I am to remain in a state of constant flux, which I suppose in some ways allows the change to not be so difficult.

What message do you want to get across to viewers through your art?

I don’t know that there is a specific message I am hoping to get across. I simply hope that in the telling of my story, it enables the viewers to see their own story within the work as well, that perhaps my work is simply a window or door into their own lives.

Jeanine Hill Artwork

What are some of your artistic influences?

I am drawn to well-crafted, process oriented work that shows the presence of the hand in the work. So within this realm I would say that one of my biggest influences is Lee Bontecou. As an artist she possesses a strong integrity to craft and content, and it shows in the work. I am also deeply influenced by the work of Georgia O’Keefe. I find it refreshing to look at works of art that speak of beauty. Lastly, I would have to say I am heavily inspired by Karen Karnes. Her later, more sculptural works possess a strong sense of the unknown, while still trying to name the mystery of existence through the use of the hands.

You describe your work as “relics of visually constructed memory.” What influence does this kind of recordkeeping have in your day-to-day life?

I believe strongly in the recording of life so I carry a pen and journal wherever I go. There is something deeply personal about writing down notes that document your life, not so much so that you can go back and read it but to simply become acquainted with pausing throughout your day to witness and reflect. By witnessing and reflecting on my life through the written work and other materials such as clay, I am able to put it outside of myself and move on.

Jeanine Hill Artwork

Would you say you are striving to create a visual diary?

No, not a diary, a visual landscape yes. A few years back I read this amazing book called the “Anatomy of the Spirit.” In the book the author talks a lot about how our bodies become a biological landscape of both our physical and emotional lives and that everything we go through both physically and emotionally affects our physiology. In essence we become a walking landscape. When I think of the work I am making, I suppose I think of it in a similar way. It is a visual landscape of my work, and one piece could be based on one particular moment or nine years of my life.

What are some of the reactions you have received from people viewing your work?

I have heard from quite a few people that they see my work as being fairly poetic and quiet. 

Jeanine Hill Artwork

What is one thing you have learned about yourself as an artist in creating these works?

I have learned that it is helpful if I have time and space to slowly create the work, one piece after another. If I am able to sit with all of the work for a prolonged period, slowly, I am able to see how the pieces should fit together, who are the characters, and what the story is that needs to be told.

What kind of experiences do you draw from for inspiration?

I draw from all of my experiences, both the good and the bad. All of it is meaty and offers substance that can be used as inspiration.

Jeanine Hill Artwork

How long did it take you to develop your own style?

I am still creating it.

Most of your ceramic pieces are rounded, organic and flowing shapes. Is there a specific meaning behind this?

I suppose when I think of the human body and the movement of landscapes, I think of soft, organic shapes.

Jeanine Hill Artwork

Does your work on one project often lead to the inspiration of your next endeavor?

I do my best to not take too much down time in between projects, so the short answer is yes. But I would also like to believe that because it is my hand that is making the work, there will always be a consistent line of thought between the vast expanses.

What’s next? 

Keep making, making, making. It is all in the work.

Jeanine Hill Exhibition

Questions by gallery intern Johanna Goggins.

Q & A with artist Roger Boulay

First I want to thank the Augsburg Art Department, Jenny Wheatley and her staff for accepting my exhibition application and being very gracious hosts. I also want to thank my family, Harvey, Shirley, Dekker, Charlotte and Brian for their support. A big thank you to Janet Hawkes, Rod Hawkes, Joan Lawrence and Joyce Lawrence, who helped me obtain a good chunk of the books for the piece. Kate Hawkes, my partner, has been wonderfully supportive and inhaled way too many gold paint fumes because of me and is a great accomplice in all things art and in life. – Roger Boulay

Where did the books come from?

The books came almost entirely from library book sales, where I could purchase fifty or sixty books for a few dollars. I also bought a few lots of books off of ebay to obtain specific genres for the piece that I couldn’t find at library book sales.

Have you read these books?

I have read a few of these books previous to making the piece. One hope I have is that viewers will identify certain books they’ve read in the piece and then have a connection to a few of the stories alluded to in the work.

What was the selection process for the books used?

The piece is made entirely of paperback works of fiction. I selected books that had some gold element on the cover, often embossed gold text. A book had to have a gold element on the cover and be fiction to be in the piece. Some books appear more than once.

How did you assemble them?

The covers are glued to each other. I used the backs of many of the covers to attach the piece together. First I made fourteen 3′ x 5′ rectangular panels and then attached those panels together and filled in around them to create the final composition.

What will you do with the text pages of the books?

I am not entirely sure yet, but I have some ideas for a sculpture or to reform the text pages into a recycled paper.

Can you explain the similarities and differences that “All That Glitters” and your previous exhibition titled “Pulp” share with one another?

Both bodies of work use paperback fiction as a starting point. Both projects are about erasure and disappearing. My process for some of the work in “Pulp” is a little different in that I’ve photographed some covers or pages to create larger panels that make shifts in scale or accentuate markings. “All that Glitters” is made exclusively out of actual book covers. Both projects reference building facades. Both works are about deterioration and change.

“All that Glitters” is different in that I’m concentrating on the possible meanings and associations of a particular color (gold) and how it relates to the mash-up of genres and time-periods and stories of the books in the piece.

Why did you organize the books into the shape you did?

On a basic level, I designed the piece for the Christensen Gallery. I didn’t make a piece that was thirty feet tall, because it obviously wouldn’t have worked for the space.

I want the shape of the piece to have different associations. For example, to me it references the periodic table, a fragment of a building facade or a big pile of gold bars.

What is your favorite genre to work with?

I enjoyed working with pulp fiction because the stories are so strange and the covers are really unique.

What kind of recurring themes did you find while working with the covers?

A lot of the titles use cliché in a specific way. There are tropes of particular genres such as the “damsel in distress” on the front of romance novels. By painting around the blonde or “golden hair” on these covers, it becomes more ambiguous as to who is male and female. That particular trope gets put into question.

What are some of your artistic influences?

I was thinking about the work of artists like Annette Messager, El Anatsui, Robert Heinecken, Adrienne Salinger, Patrick Manning and Mark Bradford while I worked on this project, all for different reasons. I also watched and rewatched a lot of Law and Order (the original series) while I worked on the piece.

What would you like the audience to take away from your show?

I hope people have an enjoyable visual experience and make connections to certain titles and text or some of the bits and pieces I didn’t paint gold that are floating through the piece. One of the strengths of this particular gallery is the ease with which the viewer can see things from a distance and also up close. I hope this enriches the experience of the work. I also hope the piece makes people think about value and how we assign value.

What would you like future generations to take away from this artwork if it is rediscovered a century from now?

That is a difficult question. I guess I wonder if print media will have mostly disappeared by then so this piece will speak to a particular moment of transition in our culture. I also hope the piece will describe how we constructed narrative and thought about color in some ways. Hopefully we are still around in a century…

 

Questions by gallery intern Megan Bartylla.

Q & A with artist Stephanie Hunder

What is the reference of the exhibition title?

This title specifically comes from a poem by Pablo Neruda, Entrance to Wood. To me, this poem suggests that there are spiritual qualities in the material, physical qualities of nature, similar to what is expressed in the artworks in the exhibition.

What originally inspired you to work with nature?

From childhood, I have always been exposed to and interested in scientific imagery – including natural history. When I learned to photograph, however, my real love of “close looking” at nature developed – the patterns and details are endlessly fascinating and almost miraculous.

Tell us a little bit about your connection to nature and how it affects your work.

It’s probably a general characteristic of Midwesterners to love nature – who around here doesn’t enjoy camping? Growing up, our house was on the edge of town, backed up to fields and forests that we spent plenty of time exploring, and we spent several weeks of every summer deep in the BWCA and Quetico. Nature always feels complete, whole, is beautiful, and makes sense.

I have tried in the past to make work that is more expressive of political ideas, or things I want to protest, but it is never inspired. I feel I have to make work about things I love, things I feel passion for, things that are inspiring – and then the work also contains those feelings.

What was your process of picking objects to run through the press?

In Johnson, VT, where my artist residency was, there was a stream that ran through the middle of town – so I just stepped off the sidewalk into the snowdrifts and hiked along it – it was pretty wooded and very snowy. I snapped off dried weeds and plants that had graceful lines, or somehow stood out by their gesture. Many things you cannot run through a press because thick or hard objects will damage the roller. Many things are also too large – the press bed there was only 28” wide, and plants are surprisingly big.

The first item I tried was a kind of thorny weed that we used to call “trip weed” – you know, the one that makes an arc and reattaches to the ground. It really was too thick and sharp – it made big wrinkles and punctures in the paper in a very “incorrect” manner – but I discovered that these marks spoke to me. One reason I am a printmaker is because I love process – how the act of printing a piece changes and adds to the image. Here, the process was extraordinarily apparent and clearly part of the image.

I experimented with different types of plants – when I returned home, I worked with a lot of the meadow grasses and wildflowers that grow around our house. But it was always things that caught my eye, or contained a voice. Whenever you walk outside you probably notice things like this.

On average how many times would you run one piece of paper through the press?

When I am doing traditional screen prints and intaglio, a print can have anywhere from five to fifty layers. For these prints however, each piece of paper has been run through the press only once- the layers here are made by multiple sheets of paper and collage instead. This process was notably hard on the paper – it came out wrinkled and stretched, and often cut or sliced by the plants.

Is there a specific fairy tale that you would say is prominent in your prints?

Stories where people are turned into trees…

Did you use reoccurring objects in your prints?

Often similar plants were used, while experimenting with what they would produce. The printing technique itself also creates several related images for each object used.

What surprises did you find with the technique you used?

I was a little surprised at how evident the collagraph process was – how the action of the press and paper became such a part of the image. In the gum-bichromate photograms, I was surprised at the variability of sharpness and shadow, and then the play of space between the collagraphs and photograms.

What is one symbol you use in your work to evoke a sense of familiarity with the viewer?

The works in the show have more expressive than symbolic qualities. However, there are some aspects that are recognizable, the most obvious being that they are plant matter – which has to do with life, growth, cycles, etc. The arrangements and textures may also evoke any branching structure – rivers, families, knowledge. I am interested in the iconic meaning of forms– in which objects are not associated with a specific cultural meaning, but have a meaning suggested by their form, the way they look.

What was the most challenging aspect of this process?

The pieces are big and messy, and exhausting to handle. The plants have a limited amount of time you can work with them before they become dry and crispy. Unlike the more planned printmaking I’ve done before, it’s hard to know how things will turn out, and there are no multiples to experiment with.

What are some of your artistic influences?

Mark Rothko, Judy Pfaff, Minor White, Terry Winters, Brice Marden, Karl Blossfeldt, Doug & Mike Starn, Audubon birds, scientific drawing, photomicrography, botanical art

What is next? Will you continue with this series or has it inspired another series/direction?

I am continuing with these collagraphs prints, but combining them with other imagery including old medical drawings – my next exhibition may be more of an installation, with loose papers hanging in overlapped arrangements.

Questions by gallery intern Megan Bartylla