E-mail interviews of Oly artists in conjunction with current shows around Olympia. The format of the interviews is as follows: three questions are e-mailed to the artist, the artist responds to the three questions, the answers are mulled over, one final question is e-mailed to the artist and the artist responds. All questions and answers are posted on OlyBlog.
My goals are: to promote the local artists and art scene, allow artists to express themselves in a nontraditional format, allow a potential audience to experience the art slightly differently than the status quo and to get to know local artists in a fun and playful manner.
If you are an Oly Artist with upcoming or currently accessible art in the Olympia area and you're interested in an e-mail interview, please contact me at: wordsrend(at)gmail(dot)com. If possible I would like to see your work prior to extending questions. A .jpg of your work to accompany the interview on OlyBlog would be super fantastic.
enpen: Sometimes when I look at your photography I feel like I'm in the middle of such dense vegetation that I'm surprised I can't hear any bird and animal noises and sometimes they make me feel like my eyes must be playing tricks on me. What do you think about as you're in the process of creating one?
Jeremy Kraft: My pieces can be very thick and at times overwhelming. I include spatial cues that are intended to disrupt an overall sense of coherent space, yet come together to work as a unified whole. This can be contradictory to a typical state of visual awareness, hence the tricks.
In an age where it seems as if everybody has a camera, why do you choose to use that medium to work abstract images?
I don't look at what I do as abstraction. I use symmetry to exemplify the forms and shapes that I choose. As for why a camera, I have been photographing for 20 years and have developed a passion for light. Using a camera to "capture" light has led me to a higher state of observation and awareness of the interactions and interconnectedness of all that is around us. The prevalence of the camera and the imagery from it inundates our daily lives and even our global consciousness. Most of these images make a direct visual statement to the viewer. In my work, I make an attempt to break up the conception of "the image." Through the interleaving of planes and spaces I am engaging the viewer to move through the piece differently than they would an image, I offer the viewer a place to wander and wonder. Maybe that is abstraction…
You're charged to find one iconic aspect of Olympia that you find to be emblematic of this city and work it into an art installation. What would you choose? Why would you choose that? And what would you do with it?
One of my favorite things to work with are the blossoming fruit trees and gardens in the neighborhoods of Olympia. Walking the eastside, westside, southside, and outer limits of town in the spring sunlight can be a real treat if you keep your eyes open. Many of the pieces I have created from these walks have the spiritual atmosphere of a cathedral. I have at times called them "Fractal Mandalas" however, I am now reluctant to use the term "fractal." I recently came across the term Yantra (similar to Mandala) meaning a diagram intended to concentrate thought on the divine. This definition has given me yet another clue toward my own understanding of the pieces I create. What I work with is the primal energy flows that fractal mathematics attempt to articulate. Its patterns, tendencies, habits, choices, and dreams are the basis of our very existence. I capture that momentarily, usually at 125th of what we deem is a second's breath of light. To see my work adorn the walls of homes and public space in Olympia and beyond, to share my vision, to offer up these pieces as physical manifestation of my meditation on the divine…that is my dream, that is my work.
After being introduced to Wagner's music Claude Debussy often told his contemporaries that he felt his own music to be poisoned in that he struggled to escape Wagner's influence. What influence have you found yourself struggling the most to break free from?
I look at this from a different perspective. I draw influence and inspiration from so many places; musicians, photographers, poets, painters, the eastern philosophies, Gaia theorists, plant medicines, metaphysics, indigenous cultures. I haven't ever felt the need to "break free" from these, almost the opposite. I've always tried to get closer to them so I can understand them from the inside out. What I feel has tied all of these together has been a deep respect and relationship to nature. If any thing, I've had to break free from the concepts of a prevailing culture that is so disconnected with nature and therefore disconnected with what its true self can be.
Jeremy Kraft's work can be seen throughout February and March as part of the Petal, Leaf, Stem group show at Artisan's Cafe. The opening reception is Friday, February 1 @ 7pm.
enpen: Science Fiction author Brian Aldis has said that for him writing a novel requires two ideas, "the familiar" (an everyday in his life) must come first and then be affected by "the exotic" (beyond experience). Looking at your work I'm struck time and again by how familiar the forms are despite the abstract whole. Do you find yourself working more often from a starting point of the tangible or the metaphysical?
Laura Sharp Wilson: My images are tangible to me though I'm never sure of their outcome. I hope they are metaphysical to everyone else. It is my world and I hope nobody else occupies it.
If you were given one physical subject and three materials with which to work in order to produce 1,000 art works, what would they be and why choose those?
Subject: A Monkey-puzzle tree. Materials: Unryu paper, graphite pencil and gouache. I had never seen a Monkey-puzzle tree until I moved to the PNW 2.5 years ago. A Monkey-puzzle tree looks primordial, plastic, and packs a textural shock; it grows in common places like people's yards. I like Unryu paper because it has the qualities of paper and fabric, I love its sturdiness, yet delicate look. Unryu isn't a consistent flat surface, it has these gorgeous fibrous threads running through it. Graphite is great because you can vary the value and color, you can erase it and graphite creates a color unlike that of paint. I started using gouache when I studied surface textile design. Gouache is an opaque watercolor that has traditionally been used on renderings of pattern designs for fabric, because it provides a flat clean "read." An opaque watercolor like gouache is also used in traditional Indian Miniature painting, which I love. The flatness of gouache can have a jewel-like effect.
Your upcoming show is a mini-retrospective linking your art to real world socio-political phenomena. In the last 10 years what has been your most prescient work? And what has been your most dated?
A painting I did in 2000 is eery in foretelling the events of September 11, 2001. The piece depicts a masked figure with the text "There Are Things to Know About This World." The figure is a Caucasian male, his mouth is covered by a burka like mask. Two palm trees frame the figure's face. He wears a shirt with a Russian Constructivist print and a woven straw hat. I think a lot of Americans in 2000 felt the rumblings of collectively not paying attention to U.S. government and world goings on. That luxury of ignorance was blown open on Sept. 11 and I think a lot of people are paying more attention these days. My most dated pieces are probably the "bad" drawings I did around 1999. They are hastily done, quirky figures, some with text, a la Karen Kilimnik. They were fun to do, but definitely not my best work.
I understand that you curated and were a co-conspirator behind the idea of last year's Heroes show at Bryce's Barber Shop and room 30. As somebody accustomed to bringing your ideas into reality, what was it like turning your idea over to other artists and seeing the resultant interpretations?
It is exciting asking other artists to respond to a particular subject, or idea. I would put artist"s responses in three categories: 1) they match what you are thinking 2) they present aspects and notions you never have or would consider 3) they just aren't inspired by the parameters of your project/exhibition. Some artists really don't work well outside of the realm they have created.
Laura Sharp Wilson's show "Busy (a retrospective)" can be seen throughout April at The Black Front Gallery. Opening reception is Friday, April 4th and begins at 5pm. Her co-curated show "Heroes" debuts the same night at LUMP in Raleigh, North Carolina and more examples of her work can be found online at McKenzie Gallery, Byron C. Cohen Gallery and Friesen Gallery.
enpen: Which technique/trick do you find yourself using the most in your art (e.g. horizon line, cross-hatch, etc.)?
Matthew: If I were to tell you the most useful trick in my arsenal, it would no longer by a trick. Therefore destroying the entire experience of visual art for the viewer...
As an artist, what about red is important to your work?
As a viewer, what about red is important to you?
Had you all the time and resources in the world, what story/history would you put into visual form and how would you do it?
The only one I know.
Grasping at straws is like submarines with a couple screen doors.
If 1+1=3 then I really don't know, I was never all that good at arithmetic.
It's the water and I know how to use it.
Matthew’s work is at Metro Body Piercing (214 4th Ave E) during Artswalk weekend (April 25th & 26th).
enpen: You get a brand new (still packaged chessboard, a post marked 1879 .02 Vermilion Jackson, a blue bic pen and some white 1" masking tape. What do you make of these?
Ruby Re-Usable: People are always trying to give me their junk, especially their styrofoam, I DON'T WANT ANY OF YOUR JUNK, THANK YOU!
There is this woman who lives in my neighborhood, she read about me in the "0" and started leaving me the stuff that she collects while walking around town. She is a Jehovah's Witness and so I imagine she collects it while knocking on people's doors. Odd stuff, like broken toys, colorful plastic lids, shiney wrappers, buttons, usually presented in a plastic take-out tray. I havent used any of the stuff yet, I am so intrigued by the motely collection. I just stick it on the shelf. Little time capsules. Besides, I generate plenty of junk on my own, especially living with 2 sons and husband. I specifically am into "domestic junk," stuff generated from my life as an everyday housewife, as oppossed to seeking it out in flea markets or salvage yards or Boeing Surplus. I started using plastic wrap when Marie P., who works at the Oly Food Coop, asked me if I wanted a roll that they couldn't use. It changed my life. Now I am doing life-sized sculptures out of plastic wrap and tape, also plastic bags and tape. I stuff them with bubble wrap that I beg for from downtown businesses. Its a very humbling art form.
So the above items? I would be excited about the tape, maybe I would use it for tape tagging, but a Bic pen? bleh, send me a sharpie! A brand new chess set? I've got enough chess sets, thank you. That gets passed on to some school or something. A 2cent stamp? Stamp collecting doesnt really interest me, I wouldnt even notice the postmark, sorry, I have no idea, am I supposed to MacGyver something here?
If you had super human powers, what would be your potentially fatal weakness? Why?
I would suffer from some sort of Cassandra Syndrome, where I would be able to see the truth and beauty that is hidden from the world, and dedicate my life to fighting for it, but no one would believe my visions.
I already feel like I know what is real and right but I can't convince others to listen to me. Maybe this is because I am an artist working in an unconventional media. And, of course, I am an unconventional female artist: a mother, and not young or cute or involved in the music scene. So, despite my hard work and modest success, I feel dissed, ignored, a pariah, a "prophet everywhere but in my own land." I get gigs as an artist-in-residence in Tacoma and Seattle and Shelton even, but very seldom in Olympia. Few folks own my artwork. Since I am not a painter or a potter, I cant get my work shown in the galleries here in town (my work is in the Black Front Gallery boutique, but I havent had a show there yet). It has been difficult for me to find a gallery that will show my work even though it has been exhibited in various museums like the Bellevue Arts Museum, Hallie Ford Museum in Salem, OR, Whatcom Musuem in Bellingham, and is part of the City of Olympia portable works collection (my work was on the cover of the Spring 2004 Arts Walk poster).
When you reuse an item and integrate it into a new work, how does it become art?
I dont use items that are special, that sounds more like "found object" art, which tends to be too precious. I re-use materials that are readily available and yet usually unloveable, like plastic. I started using plastic bags and plastic bottles to make doll-like figures back when these materials werent being collected for recycling yet. My signature series, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Being," started in 2000, when my then ten year old son, who was raised on whole wheat and tofu, demanded red meat and Wonderbread (he has since stopped eating the stuff).
I feel like it becomes art when it is formally introduced to the public for display. Until then, it is an idea waiting to be fully expressed. Art needs to be seen, which is why I am interested in public art and street art.
250,000 years from now Bag Lady, missing both arms, is unearthed during a highly contentious and contested dredging of coastal waters for the purpose of greater military access to the port. Her discovery causes an uproar. What are three things you hope they think about or as a result of her rediscovery? Why?
1) They wonder: What is she made of? what are these strange materials that are made from fossil fuels and don't biodegrade? 'cause she is made from (reused) plastic bags and (reused) bubble wrap and packing tape, but the question remains, why are these wasteful products even produced to begin with? Which is why I use them in my art work, to call attention to over consumption and waste.
2) They wonder: Why is she so thin? Is this the ideal woman from these times? Did this culture worship unmotherly female figures? She was cast from a size two mannequin, which is what was available to me; I have also used Kannako/Dumpster Values' plus size mannequin Brandy for another sculpture, but most mannequins have absurd proportions. I much prefer to use real people, although I cant always get real people to commit to staying still for several hours while I wrap them up in plastic bags or plastic wrap and tape.
3) They are filled with a sense of wonder about the Wonderbread and the other colorful and decorative patterns on the bags, wondering what the meaning of it is. Is this a mummy, wrapped up in the special cloth of her people? There is something slyly subversive about using junk food wrappers to make junk art. Wonder bread is the quintessential white bread, and white bread implies blandness, plainness, boring. She is part of the "Unbearable Whiteness of Being" series, in which I am exploring my whiteness.
I also did a "White Trash Wedding" series where I used lots of trash to make art that was white. It had its debut at Evergreen in 2002, which was fun. My first solo show, even though I am not a Greener.
It is my intention that my art work fills one with a sense of wonder and hope, not despair, even though waste is overwhelming, there are creative and viable solutions if we try!
Ruby Re-Usable's art is currently on display in the Art of the Written Word exhibit at the Arts Council of Snohomish County gallery in Everett until June 24.
The EnviroHouse at the Tacoma Dump is holding a group show featuring Ruby Re-Usable's art along with works by Barbara De Pirro, George Kurzman (another Olympian), Ruby the Resourceress and Holly Senn. The opening reception is June 21, 6pm - 9pm, and the exhibit runs through September 21.
Ruby's work will also be a part of Tacoma's Art on the Ave as an interactive exhibit featuring life sized plastic bag/plastic wrap and tape sculptures in a baby stroller, on roller skates, and in a wheel chair. Wheeling these sculptures around the fair will be encouraged. Some other figures will be stationary at a table with information about recycling.
enpen: If you could take any organ from your body, sculpt it into anything that you'd like and mount it on a public pedestal for all to see, which organ would it be, what would you sculpt it into and where would you locate it?
stevenl : My heart. It is such a powerful symbol. I'd probably put wings on it or something. But if I took it out and made an art piece of out if it, I'd be dead, and aorta know better than that.
If you were trapped in a whale and had the materials and time to create one more story before being digested, who/what would be the central character and why?
In an answer that sort of links to your first question, I would draw a black and white line story with #1 lead pencil called "15 Heart Attacks." It would be based on a friend of mine who died mysteriously in Roswell, NM a dozen years ago. Really. Actually, I have put some work into this project over the last 3 years, but I think I would be required to be inside a whale in order to have the peace and quiet to complete it. I would also need ambergris -proof boots.
Is it true that you recently took away all of your work from The Danger Room in order to manipulate the art market?
Yes, I recently retired my comix inventory from the Danger Room. The reason was simple. I'm broke and needed the $$$. But my comix still appear on eBay and through Rick Bradford's site.
What is Morty the dog's song?
Morty the Dog sings in many of his comix-- an influence of those old Mad Magazine "sung to the tune of" tricks. His song is in the cadence and timing of his speech. If he was in animated cartoon, I would imagine his voice to be deep, alcohol-ravaged, and wheezed out from too many cigars. When I write his dialogue I frequently think of Bogart in the role of Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre .
Click on the picture for the interview in its entirety.
enpen: Olympia needs some new public sculpture. What sort of representation do you think would be good for stirring up the imagination in downtown Oly?
bil fleming: This is a hard question. I think the imagination (mine while I'm downtown in particular) is pretty well stirred.
Having said this though, I do think Oly is in want of some new public sculpture. So much of what we end up with has minimal content (the minimalist sculpture in the traffic circle at the top of the new bridge). I don’t see this as an insult or criticism to/of the many fine artists who have work sited in Olympia. I see it as a criticism of the way the public art process is hampered by bureaucracy and the "least offensive to the most people" kind of atmosphere that has pervaded our city's past art choices. I remember reading something in one of your earlier interviews with artist baso. He was right on when he said "(p)eople need to get over hating what they don't understand." It sometimes takes time for people to get there and unless we are willing to give stuff we don"t understand a chance (a BIG ONE is necessary at times) we will miss many opportunities for positive personal and cultural growth. Olympia Arts Commission and all of us need to get some back bone and allow some controversy! People will be critical of how public money is spent no matter what you do with it!
My next submission for public art funding will be something like "Performance Dishwashing." Don't miss it! I's sure to make a big splash!
If all the world is a stage, what are those two pits next to the Capitol Theater's?
I will answer but feel a need to convey two references your question evokes for me:
"All the world's indeed a stage,
And we are merely players,
Performers and portrayers,
Each another's audience
Outside the gilded cage."
Lyrics by Neil Peart from the song Limelight by RUSH
Of course RUSH was merely paraphrasing Shakespeare. We are all familiar with the first line but I was curious about what followed. Here it is:
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
— Jaques (Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)
William Shakespeare's As You Like It
Shakespeare brings us to the stage and its "pits." The pits (orchestra pits?) were probably originally "royal boxes.” Wikipedia says "Boxes: typically placed immediately to the front, side and above the level of the stage. They are often separate rooms with an open viewing area which typically seat five people or less. These seats are typically considered the most prestigious of the house. A state box or royal box is sometimes provided for dignitaries." So the "pits" are where the Queen of England or George Bush would sit if she/he were to see a movie at the Capitol Theater. Since Abe Lincoln's time and given the present level of insecurity/security maybe these boxes are less than desirable seating areas for visiting dignitaries and so have fallen into disuse.
I cannot remember anything of note ever being done with them in the twenty some years I have been going to the theater except that they were often filled with "trash." My installation continues that tradition by literally using trash as a medium. The spaces were dubbed the "Gardens" by the theater in their call for artists to display work. Perhaps nocturnal, albino chlorophyllless plants once were grown there by some troglodyte volunteer.
I have named one of my installations "The Projectionists' Gardens" in order to combine references to the space's given name as well as the current situation involving the OFS board and the theater"s projectionists. The electricity/lighting for the spaces is controlled from the projectionist"s booth. I am also referencing my interest in how meaning is projected by viewers/participators of my and other art work. Much like the control the projectionists have of the lighting and electricity in these spaces that controls how and whether the theater patrons see my work, the viewers of my work are also projectionists (in the psychological sense) in that preconceptions influence personal meaning and the relevance of what we experience. To quote my statement for the piece: "In this space known as the "Gardens" controlled by the projectionist, I have installed a garden of flowers made from the fruits of our culture. This is a system driven by our actions and given meaning by our projections. We are projectionists.”
Is trash more indicative of where we've been or where we're going? And how do the unintentional/unknown effects of decay fit into this narrative?
I don’t know if it is either/or. To me it is both and more. Trash as I see it has more to do with identity than teleology. It is closer to who we are and what we are. It is what we leave behind in the world when we are done with the parts we need and/or want. It is our personal and cultural excrement. If we are what we eat, what is what we excrete? I would suggest that what we excrete is a very personal gift we give back to the world. It can be nourishing (in the sense of compost and soil amendment) and yet it can be putrid and foster disease and pollution if allowed to "soil our nest." Whole academic disciplines like Anthropology and Archeology are built on data derived from examining cultural trash from middens. So to some refuse has great meaning.
My materials are things that I find or that I have been given, that were deemed useless or have become disassociated from their original environment of use so that they are "useless." Our judgment of whether something has value has much to do with our ability to find use for it. Our compost waste is valuable, a dirty disposable diaper (i.e. landfill) is not.
When we look at healthy functioning ecosystems we see "closed loops," systems where the wastes from one organism become essential for another's survival and vise versa, creating a web of interdependent life. To the extent that we as human kind can intentionally or unintentionally weave our actions into the web of life on our planet, we will either "be" or "go."
In terms of narrative, I will leave the creation of this to the viewer/experiencer. My work/play is more singular than what I think of as a narrative, more like an expression or oeuvre. To some degree I believe this gestalt is a characteristic of most visual art. The individual's experience and consequent understanding is what drives formation of narrative and that is created by the perceiver not by the creator or the event.
One day while working a lamp into shape a blue haze suddenly envelops you and a scratchy voice calls out, "bil! You get one sense at 20X its current strength. Choose!" Which sense do you choose to enhance? Why that one and how do you think it would affect your art?
There are so many smart-ass (donkey) answers to this and they are all cop outs. But since most people would consider me a smart-ass (donkey) I’m going to try out some of these just to start and get loosened up.
Sense of balance
Sense of proportion
Sense of justice
Sense of fair play
Sense of direction
Sense of humor…. There are many more, but that is probably enough.
The sense I would choose is the sense of touch. Of all the senses, I think touch is most associated with pleasure. As an artist I feel some level of responsibility falls upon me to be a loyal hedonist in the great tradition of artist/hedonists. My American Heritage dictionary defines hedonism as: 1) Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure. 2) The ethical doctrine that only that which is pleasant is intrinsically good. (Greek hedone – pleasure.) The word "carnality" might be applied to my preference: 1. Relating to the desires of the flesh; sensual. 2. Not spiritual. (From Latin caro – flesh) I propose that second meaning, negating the spirituality of the carnal or the flesh, is a more recent meaning that became associated with carnality as Christianity and Catholicism became influential. It parallels Christian and Catholic rejection of earthly rewards in favor of those to be had after death. Sentient, a word that is on the same page as that of sensual (relating to the senses), seems to suggest a twist. Sentient: 1. Having sense perception. 2. Experiencing sensation (from the Latin sentire - to feel).
I can’t help but integrate these words and meanings to arrive at some conclusion (I am an assemblage artist, remember). It seems revelatory that sentience, in modern usage as connoting consciousness (from a different dictionary – I won’t bore you with more definitions), comes from a word that originally denoted feeling. Modern sentience has connotations of self awareness and hence spirituality as, at least in non-Christian /Catholic thought, self awareness is a prerequisite for spiritual enlightenment. So possibly the ancients when speaking of feeling, which is locked in our flesh, were also speaking of self awareness and spirituality. It is a stretch I know…but hey I‘ve done my best to rationalize what is ultimately a non-rational decision based solely on my own preferences and feelings.
Choosing to multiply my sense of touch means choosing to multiply my perception of textures, temperatures, pressure, pain, even itch. Other senses are focused in one area of the body. Sight – the eyes. Hearing the ears. Smell the nose. Taste the tongue. With touch, not just one sensory organ, but our entire bodies are capable of the sense of touch - inside and outside - head to toe. Of course some parts of us feel more than others by virtue of having a greater number and concentration of nerve ganglia. Hands, fingers, faces, lips, tongues, feet, genitals. What pleasure to have these feel even more.
P.S. Don't forget to touch my work at the Capitol Theater. Its OK go ahead!
bil fleming's show The Projectionist's Gardens is on display now through November 29, 2007 in the "royal boxes" of the OFS Capitol Theater.