DRESS WHITE ANIMAL
white war AGAinST SILk
JuSt TAKE her
and RenoUNce THE flesH
ON THE STREETS
Street fashion as performance
Street fashion as… the beautiful shawl (wear yours this summer ladies)
street art as play and feeling
…as…street culture that kinda feels like one can get squeezed out by people, and compressed into places and spaces never considered before (like the concrete silos on Granville Island in Vancouver)
and street theater releasing the emotional intensity of living.
Street life heals the spirit. Thank god we can get wonderfully crazy.
WHAT IS A DRESS?
WHAT IS A DRESS? must it surprise? must it make you confident? must it re-configure the mundane? Rei Kawakubo knows.
When you think you know what a dress is, Rei Kawakubo and her brand Commes des Garçons makes you re-think about dresses that are “beautiful”, “kool”, “interesting”, and “weird” and in a twisted wonderful way she is all of that ‘personified’…
Love love love her work. Totally unexpected, she tears down typical garment construction.
I would say a dress when interpreting Kawakubo is experimental, refreshing, abstract, colorful, and an artificial independent world. Dresses aren’t about female sexuality or pleasing the desires of your man.
The body isn’t important. Ok it is for health reasons, but the chic of Commes des Garçons is also healthy. Never mind how young or old we look, let’s make sure we are draped, sculpted by garments and perceived as a walking canvas of self-expression. She reminds us we are ideas not cultural stereotypes, nor do we have to dress like our biological sex or gender.
Color, risk and feeling. I would like to step into that, and you?
Elizabeth Hawes was a fashion designer and critic of the 30’s, 40’s and well into the 20th century who wrote a book called “Why is a Dress?” and is known for a particular quote that reads
“It is impossible to be completely abstract about clothes because they have no life unless they are worn. They must fit onto a body or they do not exist.”
I thought I would respond with showing you fashion designer Lee McQueen creating a wedding dress through a process of deconstruction in his signature style while Nick Knight films him. Contrasts abound of the sinister in white. Materials get stripped down to a lonely affair of imprisonment and loss. Very powerful, darkly poetic, removed from typical wearable constructs and expressive through and through. The title of Lee’s piece The Bridegroom Stripped Bare is in reference to Marcel Duchamp’s the hard- to- decipher The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelor’s, Even done between 1915-23 which can be analyzed in the category of male and female sexual conflicts. (see first image above)
Dark or light the power of deconstruction in design can inform the artist on how to construct new design. It is a very useful strategy for shaping and arranging form towards innovation.
Stay tuned for more on “Why is a dress?”
I love everything about Kippen: her work, her thoughtfulness, her wisdom and the integrity around her pursuit. She can draw white to feel sunny, gloomy or icey, she makes the intangible tactile, and I feel as though she takes us to these individual worlds as if we were non-human creatures. The visuals below are complex studies; each recorded moment on paper is different to the next and yet we feel space without a sense of time, interiors meet exteriors and the paths of the eye keep continuing and returning. A remarkable delicate treat. Thank you for being in my life!
Where do you begin on paper? Is there a particular mark you rely on in a particular space that starts you off? or is it different every time?
By the time I’ve cut the paper (I use watercolor paper that comes in 10 yard rolls) and stuck on 8 linen tape tabs so I can pin the paper on the studio wall, I’ve wrestled with that paper enough so I can just grab a piece of charcoal and start randomly making gesture marks, any marks. It is a physical act above all else. Even if I’ve cut and tabbed three or four large pieces to have a supply of prepared paper, I still feel entitled to start any and every where I want on a new piece of paper, even if it has taken me a few months to get to the last piece I’ve prepared.
There is an absence of color in some works, how come? what draws you to your uncomplicated palette?
I’m inclined to say it’s because I had my formative art making experiences in sculpture, working in raw plastilene, plaster and then steel. I think I’m more interested in form, in general, and that doesn’t require much color – more a question of tonal variation. Also, my work is increasingly tied to a sense of place. I have been living in the same exact location for almost 20 years now, walking these woods and dirt roads, and four years ago I moved my studio into this building as well. For much of the year it is the blue tone of the sky that appears intermittently, and the rest is earth tones and tonal variations of white. I appreciate color when I see it, but left to my own devices in the green months, I’d rather be down by the brook looking at the water and the rocks. So it is simply a matter of what I see around me that determines my palette.
Your work feels like a form of pre-language, a state of what we know before we learn the language of our culture. I am so curious are you working from memories? narratives that form and go? tangents of conversations that take you elsewhere? imagery to no imagery? or are you in a free-floating empty and contemplative state? elaborate if you can.
As I have kept working, I have become increasingly aware that what engages me most in this place is the constant shifting of the pattern of water in all of its states; liquid, snow and cloud. There are also the more subtle shifting in patterns apparent in the woods including, for instance, tree falls that allow more light to enter the forest floor. Over time, these patterns seem to form a process. I suspect that what you are calling “pre-language” might refer to these on-going patterns and processes that are apparent not only to us humans, but to all living creatures. What I am trying to do is to describe the processes by depicting the patterns. In the case of describing the shifting shapes of snow in the landscape, I can work from the visual information I get by looking out the window in the front door. When it is warmer, I take some paper and charcoal outside and sketch forms that catch my eye, whatever they are. How these images become part of my drawings is in fact more intuitive. It often seems that the next right form suggests itself in the context of the drawing itself, arrived at from some internal library I have amassed by the act of sketching.
Whenever I look at your work I feel like I am journeying through landscapes of tracks, holes, shrubs over and between crevices, cliffs and rocks. How would you describe the presence of landscape in your work? How do you see your continuous fields?
A neighbor and fellow artist, Michael Sacca, recently told me that he thought of my work as mindscapes that are rooted in our common landscape. To follow your lead, the sense of journeying in the drawings might spring from my spending time tromping around the woods behind the homestead. The cliffs and rocks and the continuous fields, now that I think of it, could be a result of what our conservation biologists call “windshield surveys”. As I drive our northbound stretch of VT Interstate 89, the cliffs and rocks are the result of blasting required to create the highway, and the view of distant farmed landscape appears now and again giving the illusion of continuous fields. Last August, while I was working on a nearly finished drawing mostly in blue tones, a smallish triangular shape began to emerge in the drawing and I went for an ochre pastel to mark it, for no apparent reason. That afternoon, driving on the interstate, something caught my eye down in the valley to the left, and there it was; a field of mown hay. My ochre shape.
How would you describe your state of mind before you begin? Is it different with every drawing?
Mostly I’m curious as to what the drawing will be like by the time I’m finished with it. These drawings go through so many stages that I’ve become accustomed to begin with a kind of give and take: I draw some gestural marks with charcoal, those marks lead to so something else. Maybe they get wiped off but another form starts taking shape. Or maybe I get really interested in some clump of snow on a tree branch or a rock I pick up that is in some way relevant to the work.
I sense your work articulates the fragility of boundaries and edges with clusters of organic shapes that appear and disappear intangibly rather than a focus on one particular area of one kind of motif or shape. Does living in Vermont have anything to do with this kind of ‘geography’ or visual construction you reveal on paper?
At this time, the single most compelling reason for my stubborn insistence on living as I do in rural Vermont is that I am able here, as I hope I’ve described, to get a fleeting, intermittent yet real sense of a process that has all to do with appearances but somehow alludes to more than appearances. If the resulting work has echoes of fragility and intangibility as you say, that is the “hard won line” I’m after. It is, after all, my attempt to answer the question that attracted me to philosophy as a college student: “what’s really going on here?” I am not taking a naive or nostalgic stance here, but rather, eyes wide open.
What are some of the drawing materials you use on paper?
I start with vine charcoal because it is so forgiving. After I’ve been working a while I might start erasing back in some areas and then use conte crayon to make more definite marks in those areas. Then perhaps a little earth tone in the form of pigment saturated soft pastel. As I begin to make more articulated forms, eventually I will need to make some real changes that often entail eliminating a form that no longer works in the drawing. That’s where the erasing, the white pastel and the gesso get applied. Again, as I discover areas that I think work well, I use the liquid gel medium to protect them from being rubbed out. There often comes a time after much work that the drawing seems to flounder. At that point it is often helpful to rub the drawing over its entire surface, revealing intricate patterns which emerge as by-products of the initial layers of charcoal, gesso and gel medium.
What is the difference in your creative process between working large scale to small? Is there another kind of feeling and thinking going on moving between scale of works?
I like what I heard (was it Guston who said this?) that when you are working large, the work engulfs you. When you work small, you engulf the work. There is so much give and take in my work and moving forms around and getting suggestions of new forms from the hints from already drawn forms that I like to have room to move around within the drawing. The 42”x52” format is as small as I can get while still feeling that I have the space I need. For now, I have stopped making small work except as series of charcoal gesture drawings.
I love how I can feel all the seasons and a variety of temperatures in your work even though I am seeing roughly a similar palette in each of them. At times I am looking at frozen ground, and cloudy smoggy impenetrable skies to hot spring day to the end of fall, does weather play a part in your work? If not what do you make of the remarkable subtleties in each work with such a clearly distinct style that is yours alone?
Perhaps what you are seeing is the result of my working on each of these drawings over an extended period of time – several seasons. In the course of working on any given drawing I will be responding to the environmental cues around me at that point in time. In the most recent work completed this winter, the influence of snow shapes is obvious. The subtlety is the result of having learned to erase, then draw, then save what I like, then erase and then to be willing to erase the “best” part so as to make the drawing work on its own terms. I had a teacher once who said that erasing something fabulous is never a waste; it will come back later in another drawing. While this may not literally be true, it is certainly a comforting thought.
Do you think your palette will change to another monochromatic range of harmonies and dissonances?
Sure, if I move to New Mexico, for instance, to that area with the amazing red landscape. But I suspect as long as I remain here working in this manner, I will retain this palette more or less.
Who influences you and moves you and makes you think in this world we live in?
Right now I am reading The Shape of a Pocket by John Berger. He has a great ability to describe what artmaking is about. I am taken especially by his assertion that artists are not creators, per se, but receivers. We are in collaboration with that which we see in order to make our work. That is certainly congruent with my experience. Another recent influence is the poet Jean Valentine; her Lucy poems. “Lucy” is the 3 million-year-old skeleton of the earliest known hominid discovered, and the poems fuel my determination to see and receive and respond with my work in the most rigorous manner possible.
All images are the intellectual property of Lisa Kippen. If you want more info about her work please contact her at www.lisakippen.com
The Art of W. David Powell
What does the W in your name stand for?
I see you are starting with easy questions. William.
Do all the things you do flow through your art practice of thinking and making? and/or are you thinking of it but maybe not doing it 24/7?
While everything I do is not truly applicable to my art practice, much of my life revolves around it. I am fortunate that my day job as a college art teacher focuses my thinking on the formal aspects of art making and design, so even when I am not making my personal work, a lot of my waking hours are spent in conscious thought about ongoing and gestating projects.
Do you know why you are doing what you are making visible to many others? Where does the urge come from, you think?
I am a maker—a creator. I supposed that I am wired that way. I don’t believe it is a rational decision. As you express it—it is an urge.
You are gifted and talented and do you see yourself as unique as well? How do you see yourself today as an artist?
Thank you. I do not see myself as truly unique. I am constantly reminded by other artists, as well as by writers and scientists, that my quests are not unique, but have elements of universality.
How do you see the role of the artist today? Does it differ from the ancients?
The truly ancients had elements of ritual and tribute that dominated their art. As patronage became a part of the process, perhaps this was somehow subjugated. I suppose my art is coming from a place that the surrealists were investigating… that of being a conduit for the unconscious and “invisible forces”. I have no firm definition of the artist of today. The art world is very wide open now. There seem to be so many personal and subjective directions for creation that it is both vast and mercurial.
Do you believe artists have a responsibility outside of themselves and towards their culture in any way?
Culture seems global now—and corporate. I have no debt to it. Community seems more appropo to creating meaning and change, but in my fine art practice I am not engaged with either in a conscious way. It is just not the way I think or work. I also have a design practice. In that area community is important. I work with performing arts organizations and a coalition of philosopher farmers in Central Vermont that have vision and purpose.
Does living in Vermont have any influence on how you go about your practice and making? if so or not, then how? or why not?
My Vermont home studio provides me with a quiet, undisturbed setting for making art without the distractions of an urban environment. I don’t make Vermont art. I just make art.
What lead you to using Photoshop? I know you collage, draw and paint but why is it predominantly your medium now? Do you think this will change?
I was an early adopter of the mac platform in 1984 and Photoshop when it became available. I seldom draw or paint and digital imaging plays an increasingly minor role in my current art production. To a large degree I have gone retrograde and have returned to a medium that I used in the past, traditional cut and paste collage.
Do you think your work would have an entirely different ‘reading’ if it were completely painted or drawn?
Since my images are appropriated, yes. The physicality and tactility of the original source materials inevitably enter into the reading.
Does the subject matter of your work come from your experience(s) lived, examined and reflected and then you weave it around a focus and/or are you conceptually driven first which you then seek your visual content after? Could you elaborate on how reflection, experience, collecting imagery and composing come together for you in your artistic practice?
In my current mode the collecting comes first (and is ongoing), the random associations come next and the reflection comes after a number of pieces from similar sources come together. The work is not predetermined. It would then become merely illustration. My work in drawing and painting feels overdetermined and interest me less.
Your work is akin to the field of remixing as opposed to creating an ‘original’ from no external sourcing or a personal narrative from scratch that doesn’t ‘collect’ and reconfigure into new contexts. I think your work weaves both but would you say your overriding critical concerns about where humankind is heading with ‘progress’ at the helm is more important right now? Can you explain your creative methods and strategies and those relationships to the content of your work?
The illusion of “progress” crops up over and over again in the work. I just can’t help myself.
What other artists, visionaries, thinkers and tinkerers are you dialoguing with?
I have a group of collage artists who I talk with fairly regularly. They all live pretty far away, so I meet with them less frequently that they meet with each other, but it is always stimulating. We call ourselves the Rio Blanco Riders and we consist of Varujan Boghosian, Peter Thomashow, Marcus Ratliff and me. On the periphery of this group is a young artist named Ben Peberdy who I met at Vermont Studio Center. He has a great mail art project going. We have been showing together for a couple of years now. Other collage artists that I admire and correspond with are Todd Bartel, Michael Oatman and Lou Beach. I cannot communicate with the dead, but if I could I would add Max Erst, Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausman and Ray Johnson to the list. I also greatly admire Wangechi Mutu, a collage artist who I see as the heir to Hannah Höch’s feminist approach to the game.
What impact has the Vermont artistic community had on you? Do you slide right into a sense of belonging with it or is it a challenge to see yourself growing here? or is it both or is ‘place’ not important for your work to thrive here, you could be anywhere flourishing?
For many years I felt like an outlier in the Vermont artistic community. The community is now more progressive and has many more farsighted contemporary practitioners. Thriving is a tricky question. While Vermont is a great place to make art, both the market for art and the institutional support of it are out of synch with the vibrant artistic community that now exists in the state.
It would be silly to blame sales and the viability of a career on the location since its a tough art market now all ‘round, but I think that the artists who reside in Vermont who are making a go of it are not doing it here in this state.
Many of the images above come from a book on Powell’s paper collages. The writing below reads like a manifesto to me and shares his thoughtful energy around image-making in the cultural machinery we live in today.
All images are the property of W.David Powell. Please visit his website if you wish for more information.http://faculty.plattsburgh.edu/Wdavid.Powell/
Stay tuned for next interview with artist Lisa Kippen.
WYLIE SOPHIA GARCIA
Describe your first experience with fabric and sewing? Is it a distinct memory that influenced and informed your creative practice today?
My first experience with fabric and sewing came from an Ann Hamilton Exhibition titled “Kaph” at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/projects/kaph.html. I was seventeen. It was the first time I walked into an installation and felt like it sucker punched me in the gut. She had made these curved walls that were sweating water and leading you like a cow to the slaughter. There was a lone trapeze squeaking overhead making the whole journey through the space very anxious. Finally, when I turned the last curve there was a woman sitting with a embroidered silk gloves and a seam ripper. The woman was ripping apart the embroidery and it was in that moment that the anxiety within me released. I don’t know what it was about that act, about what it was intended to symbolize, but I related to it. I went back and saw that installation ten more times.
When I think about how this memory has influenced my creative practice I can’t say that there is a direct connection, like a literal connection. It is more of a metaphysical connection; like how an action as simple as seam ripping embroidery on a silk glove can singly deflate the enormity of an overbearing experience. I think of my art as a symbol or metaphor for experience. In 2013 I had the opportunity to see a textile inspired exhibit called “SPUN”at the Denver Art Museum. Ann Hamilton’s silk gloves from “Kaph” were there on display. I cried. It was the first time I have ever been moved to tears by a work of art and not because of the art itself, but because of the experience it conjured up.
Is sewing ( hand or machine) therapeutic, contemplative, a break for you from bustling busy life?
No. It’s a full contact sport. It is contemplative, but more of a combative contemplative battle of wills between what my brains want to do and what my hands want to do and what the fabric wants me to do.
Your fabrics are like differing terrain or territories that you journey over and through with thread by hand, is this kind of mark making reflective of where you live in Vermont or other places in any way or are you following a particular concept and technique to achieve an effect? Explain
I have lived in Burlington, Vermont for 11 years. I grew up in Houston, Texas. Both of these places have very specific terrains that are so unlike the other. I have no idea if the Vermont or Texas landscapes are playing a role in my art, but only because I don’t pay attention to the place itself as much as the people in it. There is this Kant quote that has permeated my personal philosophy since college. “Human beings are not placed, they bring place into being.” I used to think of that as meaning that human beings ascribe meaning to objects to make them create a place of familiarity. But now as I am older I realize it’s not about the objects, but about the people; people make places familiar, comfortable, home.
How does this relate to my mark making? Well, when I am sewing I like to think about the people I know. Those memories or conversations are what drive the “terrain” like mark making. I may set off in one direction but change course, much like a conversation.
Can you elaborate on the specific kinds of historic textile techniques that you use in your installations and dresses?
Yes. I use a lot of trapunto which is a traditional quilting technique. Trapunto was intended as a way to create a decorative raised surface in quilting. It involves stitching a design and stuffing it with fiber fill. The master trapunto crafts folk could do this without making an incision on the back side for stuffing. They would simply make a hole in the fabric by moving the threads out of the way and moving them back. I make an incision.
Land and the female form appear to be significant in your dresses, sometimes taking the viewer into a visceral, vascular, cellular realm as well as a topographical mapping of land patterns. Is there a relationship you are intentionally constructing that speaks to this in the underpinnings of your work? Can you illuminate what this might be?
The female body is very visceral by design. It bleeds, It makes milk, it secretes fluids. It is given organs that make life, support life, spark life, and seduce life. It is fascinating in all the shapes it can transform into and from, again and again as it reinvents itself physically through age and time. I am a new mother, again. And I approach this question from my own experience of having a body that has a mapped landscape of motherhood, stretchmarks, sags, pucks,and bulges. The female body is a powerful landscape, not always beautiful or stoic. It is an expression of change and comfort; a duality of strength and softness. It is also biology, a collection of cells and information strung together to make us human, gendered, and a tangle of neurological information. This information is also interesting to me. Alongside the physical is the psychological which may or may not be born out of the physical (depending on what you believe spiritually), and I kind of sit in the middle of this in between place and hang out drawing inspiration.
How do you find your materials? are they found? have personal significance? bought specifically around the concepts of your individual dresses?
My materials come from all over the place. I usually use what is donated to me or what I have personally in my own fabric collection or closet. I no longer buy materials because I feel like I am more interested in the story old materials can tell. Also the textile industry is very damaging to our environment. Also, as a mother and half of a struggling artist duo (my husband, Clark Derbes http://www.clarkderbes.com is also an artist) I try to be as fiscally responsible as possible to my family and not overspend on art supplies. Also, I have a lot of clothes and when I feel that it is time to purge those clothes, they just get made into art, much like the Amish quilters or Gees Bend Quilters http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quilts_of_Gee’s_Bend or old New England Braided Rugs… I think there is a whole historical concept of recycling clothes into something practical, beautiful and meaningful.
Your dresses feel as though they are characters, have roots with specific stories or people in your life, can you describe the relationship between your titles and female materiality?
The titles come as the dress is being made. When I did “The Dress That Makes The Woman Project” where I worked on and wore the same dress everyday for a month and then, in turn, did so for a year yielding 12 dresses, each dress embodied a certain persona by the end of each month. So I tried to make the name reflect the personality. An example of this is the dress “Cupcake” http://www.wyliegarcia.com/#!Cupcake/zoom/c1k7w/image1u6i. Every time I put the dress on I felt like a confection. I also have to admit to referring to my dresses as individuals. I give them pronouns such as “she” and “her.” They feel like specific people to me, especially when I am exhibiting a bunch of them in one space. Then it feels like I am in a room full of my split personalities; it can be overwhelming at times and other times really funny, like being at a party or fancy social gathering.
How did you arrive at your signature style of staccato mark making, by accident or exploration to then choice?
It happened by accident. I was working on my first dress for the Seven Below Residency here in Vermont. I was under deadline to finish the piece because I wanted to display it for my MFA Thesis Show in Provincetown, MA. I had a lot of ground to cover and needed to do so quickly and efficiently, so I just started sewing in these rows, which became patches, which would then switch direction when I became bored of the repetition. When I was done it was like an “aha” moment for me.
How do you see the role of the artist today?
I have no idea how to even begin to answer this question. I don’t think artists have a role anymore in the traditional sense of internalizing an aspect of the world and translating it into something aesthetic. I don’t even know if they have the same responsibilities we once associated with being an artist. Artists make art. Some times it is beautiful, sometimes grotesque, sublime, interactive, clever, political, and easy. I find myself asking this question a lot though: why do I make art? And I still don’t have an answer.
What strategies do you use in your practice that keep you on track?
Discipline and Rhythm. I work every day if I am able. As the seasons change so do my priorites. When it’s December it’s time to look at residency applications. In the spring I book shows. In the summer I work work work. In the fall I exhibit and brainstorm new ideas. In the winter I research and work work work. Having kids makes it easy to work, I get to work soon as I have an hour or so to spare and immediately after bedtime.
You perform in your garments thus appearing to be the subject of your work – is it important that you are the content or are you a vehicle for the ideas behind these performances?
Yes, it is important that I am a part of the content and context of the work, especially in performances. My art is personal. There may be times when certain tropes can be universalized, but I am primarily telling a narrative from my own point of view and I just don’t trust a stranger or performer or actor to tell my story in the same way I would. I once hired a group of people to help me with stitching. They did an amazing job at helping me finish a huge installation, but since the mark making is not my own, I felt like there were parts of the overall piece that stood out. Never underestimate the visual power of one’s own faulty mark making.
Your 2D works remind me of a state of betwixt and between where veils of semi transparent materials hide in lurking spaces, paths and shadows form in a layering effect, which brings about a real state of impermanence or ambiguous temporality. Can you illuminate the trajectory of your new staccato works?
When I set out to make these works I knew that I wanted to shift from working with just the veneer or surface of the material. I wanted the work to have a greater depth of vision and a saturated quality that really makes an audience spend time with it and look at all of the different layers. I was also feeling ready for a pause with working in fabric. I am still using fabric and layers as a theme, but using gouache and ink and graphite upon wooden panels instead. As a surface, the wood has a feel similar to fabric and has the possibility to create great depth and layers. As for a trajectory for the new works, that is hard to say because it is all still so new to me. I can tell you what has changed and that is showing the work. The fabric pieces were primarily shown in museums, art centers, and academic institutions. The Ink Drawings are now finding homes in galleries and then in turn finding homes in homes of collectors.
Does your 2D practice inform your garment constructions or performances? or are they separate?
They are related. I make copious notes and drawings in notebooks and on the backs of envelopes or on scraps of paper about future ideas or about current motifs I want to further explore. Sometimes a drawing brings about the creation of a dress and sometimes a dress gets deconstructed into a drawing. Regardless, it is all about the fabric and the way it moves and flows, whether in real space or as part of a 2D surface.
Are there particular historical or contemporary female figures that inspire work?
Helen Miranda Wilson
Kelli Scott Kelley
These are all contemporary hard working women who keep pushing boundaries. I happen to know each of them and I am inspired by the ways in which they tell a story, play with the boundaries of image making and space/place making, as well as have the ability to make their audience “dig deep” when viewing their work.
All images are the property of Wylie Sophia Garcia. For more info visit Wylie at http://www.wyliegarcia.com
I just recently discovered Mari Velonaki an artist in emerging technologies and who is Director of The Creative Robotics Lab http://www.niea.unsw.edu.au/research/organisations/creative-robotics-lab-crl and Associate Professor at the National Insititute for Experimental Arts in Australia http://www.niea.unsw.edu.au/about .
Below is a robotic statue I think you will find impressive. She appeals to the physical senses a-typically, with virtually no signs of Classical Greek proportions. ‘Attractive’ in a mysterious way she forces us to understand her intuitively not logically. How strange for an entity of artificial intelligence don’t you think?
What I love about Velonaki’s use of new media in Diamandini, 2013 is that we see the moments from initial impulse to ‘connect’ with erratic moments of silence in the movement between human and machine. Movement being sensory directed is her dialogue with human. Even though this contact is in a state of potential and is thus unpredictable, the interactions are poetic. Imagine we are with Diamandini. I am convinced we would be immediately curious as to what is happening between ourselves and her together in a public space. She is by far so different from us. She is stiff like a porcelain doll and white as milk. She is a work in progress in that soon over the next few years other parts of her body will be less fixed and will perform with more motor control; for instance be able to touch.
As a figure I find her endearing, she has no language but feels like an innocent child roaming around new territory, carrying a trust into an unknown, vulnerable and socially unconditioned. Another feature of her in this stage which perhaps might change in her next phase is her neutral presence, like someone who ‘listens’ as if she hears the many unspoken conversations, or stories rambling through our head. Or even an uncanny ability to connect from a higher plane of consciousness, she is remarkable and so genuine.
Technology is like another kingdom of nature, it has been with us since we needed food, shelter and clothing. I think projects like Diamandini are a wonderful reminder about the way we use technology- to serve us or to consume us? Either way it has equal potential to destroy and be innovative on a human level.
After seeing the video what did you notice? How do you think you would feel if this girl in white were to follow you in a public space? Do you find her threatening, amicable or a non-entity?
You can learn more about Mari Velonaki here: http://mvstudio.org
STAY TUNED: Interview with Wylie Sophia Garcia coming up
Brian Zeigler is a friend of mine, an artist whose work involves play, the I ching, and thoughts on Charles Baudelaire. While his art sometimes responds to current events, his pictorial world reflects his belief in working the muscle of his intuition, chance and being in the ‘presence’ of this experimentation with materials.
The following interview flows from his context as a professional artist today rather than delving into the meaning behind the works I have presented here. These images therefore give us a glimpse into his visual world that leaves ‘control’ and ‘will’ all behind.
1. Tell us about your work. What is it that you do?
I draw. This is simply what I am committed to, and I believe in drawing. Even if everything I do appears different it is all drawing. I think of all of my work as drawings.
2. What experience(s) did you have that made you realize you were an artist? Were you encouraged because you had a natural inclination towards making things, did you get positive feedback from the universe when you made things? was the impulse guided by something mysterious within you?, and/or was it from inspiration when looking at a Rembrandt or listening to the Bee Gees sort of thing…
It has taken me along time to use that word “Artist” and I still have trouble calling myself that. Even though I spend a lot of time making what people would call art and have an MFA. I still find it difficult to use that word and feel awkward when I do. Not that I am against the idea, far from it, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without it. I think I was interested in this title when I was younger. The mystery and magic of making art was something I wanted to be a part of. Watching someone turn lines into a shark or a lion was super exciting and I wanted to be able to perform the same sort of magic. When I got older the word ‘artist’ seemed to carry the weight of privilege and with this weight a responsibility to use skills, talent, whatever we want to call it, to do something that mattered. By mattered I mean something that would somehow effect what is wrong in the world. This is a simple statement or I have put it in a simple way to say where my brain goes with the title of artist. This has been a struggle and is one I keep coming back to. The important thing and the thing which has made the most impact is that I keep coming back to this thing called ‘art’ and I have not given up. I still believe in it and am trying to find my way within it. I have been thinking more and more about those early experiences or memories and have been trying to give them the weight they deserve. What I mean is realizing the importance of those early events that made me say “yes, I want to continue doing this”, there is something here that will teach me what I have to learn. One of my earliest memories of this is drawing with my mom. My parents gave me a Disney drawing device. I say device because it was this blue plastic machine with rollers. A long plastic sheet was set into the rollers and using a china marker you could trace the Disney characters, then paint them and put a background behind them and roll the sheet. This I was told was how they made the cartoons I loved and being able to physically and visually understand the process was something that gave me immense pleasure. From that experience I went on to hone my skills of copying cartoons from the pages of the Sunday paper and the bad Saturday cartoons on TV. These were my biggest influences and the beginnings of my training in becoming an artist.
3. Was this a liberating thing to realize or did the commitment seem overwhelming, thus you postponed or second guessed it?
I believe it has been both liberating and overwhelming. Making art is absolutely liberating in the time with mindfulness spent in the making. The creative process is the most rewarding experience in terms of personal meditation and health. I have found nothing better than consuming one’s whole self in the act of making. The absolute overwhelming part is how what is made should then live in the world, because for the process of making to be fully realized what is made must live.
4. How did you begin that journey after realizing you needed to make it? What steps did you take?
I took as many art classes as I could in high school and drew everyday at my drawing table at home. I went to college and pursued a BFA, majoring in life drawing. At some point after college I decided skill and talent were not enough and I began living. I put myself out in the world and did the things I believed in. I traveled the United States working and learning on organic farms. I became a baker and learned the magic of the rising dough. I worked with the elderly and children. I knew that more than being able to draw standing up and being a part of what I believed in would make me an artist. I am still on this journey of living while trying to connect the practice of making art to my ongoing experiences.
5. What keeps you making here in Vermont?
This is a good question and I mean it in how it sounds. For me I have just begun to make art in this place, I have been here since 2005, but the majority of what I have been making has been in a different time and place. This may be the answer the duel world of existence has much interest to me. The yin and yang of things. This exists because this does. I like black and white. I have been thinking about trees much more these days and rivers and snow, ice, rain and leaves. I have been settling into this natural landscape like a warm bath and it has finally found its way into my art.
6. How do you start?
I start with play. Then I rely on intuition. Sometimes imagination but, always experimentation. Lately I have been trying to work with chance and I have always stayed open when working with the ‘accident’. I have stopped starting with knowing and become more comfortable with not knowing and admitting that. Most drawings start with a line and go from there. Decisions are made but the ‘being’ for me is unknown, I am just responding to the continuous moment of making. I like the journey the making takes me on. I like the interpretation of the viewer. Most of the time I don’t know what I am making until long after it is done and I have spent time in its presence. This is my truth; of being less of a seeker for the right answers, and moving from that place of ‘what I see’ and ‘respond to’ instead.
7. Do you think being an artist now is the all time best in the history of art, or do you see yourself suited to another time period?
I am certainly influenced by the AB-EX painters and a lot of the art that happened in the seventies, eighties and nineties. I think anytime I entertain the idea of being in another time period it is because I have the knowledge that what they were up to worked. Now creating is different, I use what has worked in the past to make the work I make. I do believe now is the best time because the past and the present coexist as they never have before and as artists we are free to do whatever we want. The pressure of being original is not hanging over our heads anymore, it has all been done.
8. Who are those that have influenced you, who have you learned from and do you feel you need to pay homage to them in anyway?
I think we can remember this kind smile as a universal welcome to the New Year. Have a Happy one!
“I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.”