Cona. 2013. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches

Cona. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

Elise Rasmussen: I had the pleasure of seeing your most recent body of work, P.A., at Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto in the Fall. Could you tell me a little about your process… how did you find the people you photographed and what is the overall arc of the work?

Elaine Stocki: This body of work shoots off in a few different directions, but the heart of it is significantly influenced by American street photography, more so than the other work I’ve produced. That’s a function of my education at grad school and of growing the balls to get out into the world and photograph rather than just planning ‘photo shoots’.  But I will never be one of the greats of that street photography tradition, nor do I wish to be, and I know that I’m pretty much in my head when it comes to making art, so I wanted to mix a certain tradition of image making with studio constructed images that were emotionally viable next to the street images. So, for example, the amateur wrestlers and ‘God Hates Us’ revival meeting meet their emotional counterparts in the semi nude and vulnerable shots of men taken in my studio.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 1. 2013. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 1. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 1. 2013. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 2. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013}. Elaine Stocki.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 3. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013}. Elaine Stocki.

Nudes Moving An Abstract Painting 3. Silver gelatin archival print. 20 *24 inches. {2013}. Elaine Stocki.

And then, as I continued to photograph, this thing started to happen where the work started to become about the making of work. As I keep doing this, making art, and getting older, it seems inevitable that the fact that you devote all your time to making art starts to be in some way what the work is about. While all your friends of a similar age are making families and buying houses and establishing some sort of asset list you are diddling around on ‘stuff’. It’s inevitable that you feel some sort of emotionality about the arc of your life and all the things you don’t have because you have chosen to make art. But I digress. I’m referring to the Nudes triptych, which to me are more engaged with art historical discourse, in a broader sense, than anything I have made before. But I also love those pieces because I own the entire process – I made the paintings, and the paint splattered studio is mine, and I am photographing it as a way of finally resolving the state of all these failed attempts in my life that have amounted to diddly squat. That’s more personal than most people would read into it, and probably less interesting than the way that a good friend aptly put it: {it’s the pre-modern object of painting moving the postmodern object of painting}.

The title of this body of work, P.A., refers to a “Public Address”, and riffs on the idea of the PA system. I love the sound (pardon the pun) of that name, it sounds idealistic and lofty in its ambitions and maybe a titch dictatorial…  it also fell in line, and in deference to, the title of Garry Winogrand’s great body of work, Public Relations.

Ellice. 2013. Silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches

Ellice. Silver gelatin archival print. 29*29 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

ER: I know you had taken a departure from photography and had been working on painting. I find it interesting that the works straddle both mediums. The images are hand printed and many are painted. Although editioned, each is unique, which is counter to the photographic process, especially with current technology and digital practices. In a sense they become more like a painting. How did you come to this process and why was it necessary in the making of this work?

ES: I’m interested in making objects, and that’s true whether I’m painting or photographing. When I’ve done photography I’ve always developed the film, worked in the darkroom, etc. and I stopped photographing for a while to paint because I wasn’t able to do those things (and I had previously painted in undergrad but wasn’t able to do that when I went to grad school). I was craving the feeling of making something. That craving isn’t necessarily satisfied when I photograph and scan stuff and look at images on a computer. In New York I found a hard time photographing but I did have a studio I could putter around in and make work in. The downside to that was I couldn’t get to the same level of intensity in terms of content. My figurative work in painting had an element of cartoonishness that wasn’t intentional.

When I relocated to Winnipeg I was able to work in a more hands on way with darkroom photographic practice, but I also became interested in hand colouring because it mined a certain aspect of photographic history that isn’t explored too often, the ‘hobby’ aspect that doesn’t exist in the realm of fine art. Its kitsch is what makes it a really ripe place for interesting ideas. It can look really incredible, and I was excited about working with content that historically wouldn’t have been hand coloured. The tastelessness of it seemed really exciting. And yeah I was definitely excited about making prints that were one of a kind and that were produced laboriously and uniquely.

K. 2013. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29 * 26 inches.

K. Hand tinted silver gelatin archival print. 29 * 26 inches. {2013} Elaine Stocki.

ER: After living in New Haven (for Grad School) and New York you moved back to Winnipeg. How have you found your work to be informed by your physical location?

ES: New Haven and Winnipeg have been good to me in terms of idea making, and the ability to cook up and idea, try it out, disregard it, and then move to the next thing. It seemed like all my ideas in New York were half-baked. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s more exciting to me to be operating a bit out of the centre of things.


ELAINE STOCKI was born in Winnipeg in 1979. She holds an MFA from Yale University (2009) and has been awarded numerous grants including a Tierney Fellowship and a Canada Arts Council Project Grant. Her work has been exhibited in the US, Canada and the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin. Stocki has been nominated for both the Grange Prize and the Sobey Art Award (2011 and 2012, respectively). In 2014 Elaine will be in residence at the Mountain School of Arts (Los Angeles) and her work will appear in solo exhibitions in New York, Montreal and Alberta.

ELISE RASMUSSEN is a Canadian-born Brooklyn-based artist. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2007) as a Merit Scholar and her BFA from Ryerson University (2004).  Elise is represented by ESP | Erin Stump Projects in Toronto, and has upcoming shows in New York at Pioneer Works and Momenta Art.

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