Tag Archives: David Johnson

ANDREW BLANCHARD [on] LYNN MARSHALL-LINNEMEIER

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia {2014}

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

ANDREW BLANCHARD: Lynn! How the heck are you? It’s been a while since we’ve talked… I know you’ve been entrenched working on this massive new project… How is it going and what does it encompass?

LYNN MARSHALL-LINNEMEIER: I’m good, great actually. I just finished the installation for Fulton County (GA) at Wolf Creek Library near the airport. It was a big public art project, a part of the 1% For Art program.  The installation included sculpture, photography, and textiles. This project was part of the Journey Projects, which began in 2010.  The Journey Projects functions through the universality of ancestry. Everyone and everything has an ancestor.

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014}

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

The project’s title is Beneath the Ogirishi Tree and includes an 18′ sculpture adorned with over 800 handmade ceramic objects, hundreds of beads, and tiled seating. The installation also includes a 153 square foot textile work that includes photographs of ancestors of residents who reside in Fulton County. The teen area features photographs taken by youngsters from the area. The Ogirishi Tree is a sacred tree in West Africa–found on altars in some communities. 

The installation brought together so many people from the South Fulton Community.

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014}

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree. permanent site-specific installation, Wolf Creek Library, Hapeville, Georgia. {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

AB: 
It sounds to me that you have been extremely productive, busy! Congrats. So, for as long as I have known you, it seems, much as with the Wolf Creek Project, that your work is very community oriented, with oral and ancestral history at the core of your conceptual intention. Am I right, and if so, could you elaborate?

Cyanotype workshop, Southwest Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia {2014 }

Cyanotype workshop, Southwest Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia {2014 } Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

LL: Yes, that’s pretty accurate. The community projects are heavily photo-based and include a variety of media. They rely on collaboration. The community builds components of the installations, which are intergenerational. For instance, children as young as three made cyanotypes, a non-silver photographic process. I worked at two arts centers in South Fulton County and a church. The cyanotypes were made from pre-treated fabric were later sewn into the textile work. Elders from the community donated photographs of people that they wanted to remember. I also did free workshops for teens and they photographed the landscape. This interaction with community is really what energizes the projects and the part that I enjoy most.

Work installed at Old Church, Oxford at Emory University, Oxford, GA {2014}

Work installed at Old Church, Oxford at Emory University, Oxford, GA {2014} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

ABAnd what about your current project?

LL: 
I was introduced to Central State Hospital through Mab Segrest. Mab was the Fuller-Maathai Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Connecticut College from 2002-2014.  She has published articles on Central State Hospital’s history and is working on a book-length study.  We met in 2011 to discuss the project.

Redressing the Stone. Agan Ceremony, Lithonia Women's Club, Lithonia, Georgia. {2012}

Redressing the Stone. Agan Ceremony, Lithonia Women’s Club, Lithonia, Georgia. {2012} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

The exhibition is informed by archival material from Central State Hospital, and in particular the intake documents of a woman we are calling “Mary Roberts.” Because of confidentiality laws we cannot use her real name. She was interned in 1911 at what was then the Georgia State Sanitarium for singing, praying, crying and shouting.  The archival materials refer to her “exalted on the ward” and I imagine her dancing as she attempts to heal herself.  The exhibit also remembers the over 25,000 patients who were buried on the grounds of the hospital, which opened in 1842 as Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum.   Located in Milledgeville, Georgia, what is now known as Central State Hospital was at times in the 1940s and 1950s the largest mental hospital in the world. Milledgeville was also the state capital of Georgia from 1804 until 1868 when the legislature moved it to Atlanta.

The mixed media installation is entitled Angels In Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward. It includes a straightjacket installation. My goal is to invert the meaning of the straight jacket in a way similar to Anna Schuleit Haber’s installations at Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC). It’s quite a challenge.

Angels in Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward. Image for Georgia College Department of Art Exhibition. {January 2015}

Angels in Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward. Image for Georgia College Department of Art Exhibition. {January 2015} Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier.

 AB: Lynn, many thanks for sharing your new projects with the Uncompromising Tang audience and me! Cheers!

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier: is a Visual Mythologist, a Maker of Things. She works through the Journey Projects, which uses community collaboration to address notions of ancestry and memory. Her work weaves together stories, myths and visions from the prehistoric past to the present day through large-scale sculptures, mixed-media assemblages, and installations, using a variety of media including photography, painting, textiles, oral histories and other primary source documents. An honors graduate of the Atlanta College of Art (1990), she received a BFA in photography and an MA from the University of Mississippi in Southern Studies (2005).

Andrew Blanchard:is an artist-printmaker living in Spartanburg SC. He is currently represented by M Contemporary in New Orleans, LA and Southside Gallery in Oxford, MS. His prints have been included in Schiffer Publishing’s Printmakers Today and the Southern Edition of New American Paintings magazine. Recently, Oxford American magazine selected Blanchard as one of the New Superstars of Southern Art. In 2014, his work will be featured in the International Painting Annual No. 4, published by Manifest Creative Research Gallery in Ohio.  He became pals with Lynn Linnemeier while earning an MFA in printmaking at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 2004.

JONAS CRISCOE [on] ANDREW BLANCHARD

Within Shouting Distance

Within Shouting Distance. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

Jonas Criscoe: A number of your works contain subject matter and imagery that is connected to the South and Southern culture. Can you discuss how “place” has influenced your work and/ or process?

Andrew Blanchard: Man, without place, I’ve got nothing-ha. It’s ALL about the American South, my work. It’s people, historical backlog, land management, socio-economic landscape; not to mention the stereotypes and the acres of baggage. All of my images are culled from the lower 48 [states]; living in South Carolina has provided me with numerous visuals, but I actually do road trips to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia quite frequently.  I’ve got buddies and relatives sprawled out all over the South; which provides me with such an extraordinary breadth of material for my output. These works tow the line [between] the urban, rural, and country quadrants of Southern living…and all the cuts in between. “Place” for me is stumbling upon gang scrawl out deep in the county, and likewise, running across more and more chicken coups in city folks’ backyards; these aspects of “place” are influencing my current works—where I fear Southern “places” are beginning to homogenize, I run across the aforementioned sprawl and enjoy taking part in witnessing this present evolution of the South. Process wise, it’s all screen print technique and acrylic inks. Those materials work best for how I want my work to look for the viewer—an unbiased honesty only achieved with photo based screen emulsion coupled with a distinct surface texture that lends itself to a painting—how I see the South, man.

Learnt A Thing Or Two About The Socalled Good Life

Learnt a Thing or Two About the So-called Good Life. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

JC: As you mentioned, photography in tandem with photo silkscreen plays an important role in your process. Could you elaborate on how you go about collecting imagery (taking photos) and the process involved in bringing that imagery into work?

AB: Yeah man… I mean, screen-print, as you know, is so versatile. I can have a picture perfect photographic outcome via the CMYK process, or I can have a completely unaltered open mesh screen frame, and just go at with inks like two pit bulls wearin’ tights. From there, I scrape, sand, spray, overprint, offset print, stencil, etc…Heart of a painter, if you will, with the brain of a print-maker.

No Shirt No Shoes No Service

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

Collection wise, and due to the nature of most Southern towns and cities that fix/clean/beautify and tear down, I try my best to document as quickly as possible when I see something that sparks a possible image or a visual that I know I can utilize further down the road. I have a few buddies that I go on local road trips with; 1/2 day trips. And then I have a duo of compadres that I go to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and to New Orleans with annually. All these friends shoot their own material—sometimes there is crossover, but, they mainly document figures/folks/portraits. If one were to look at my oeuvre of work(s), you pretty much get the gist of what I collect. As a challenge, sometimes I watch subject matter I know I want, but will let it evolve a bit over time; see if it changes color, or if it rots a tad more…Or if, say, an old pickup truck changes owners—I wait and keep a mental collection in my head—just like a sketchbook. One time, I watched this old, shiny black pick-up all over town, for a year—never able to catch it parked or a chance to ask the owner to shoot it. It had Jesus and hearts all over it, most probably airbrushed. Finally not too long ago, he pulled alongside of me at a red light and I pounced; asked what year it was and if I could shoot a quick pic. Obliged, but on a honey-do to the post office, he said he’d meet me at my studio around the corner in a few minutes. An hour later, and I never heard from him. Two hours had gone by—thinking it was a blown chance, and I heard a bunch of horn honks outside…There he was! He proceeded to turn around in traffic, block all 4 lanes and let me shoot his “baby”! Other times or places may be so sketchy, I do “drive-bys” or go super early or on Sunday to shoot stuff. Don’t want any trouble, ha.

From there, as mentioned earlier, I keep a balance between obtaining an honest capture and nuancing it in combination with a more “painterly” surface texture—I cut clear stencils to protect the photo based screen-print portions, then I work intuitively on foregrounds and backgrounds.  I layer and strive towards making those two main types of execution blend without one dominating the other. I set up personal challenges too; say, to use a specific color, or try to recreate brush marks, though by using a screen-print squeegee. I have all size widths; just cut them down on the table saw; the size of brushes almost.  Man, there are my secrets, shoot.

County LineUrban Limit

County Line: Urban Limit. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

County LineUrban Limit II

County Line: Urban Limit II. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard

JC: Who are some the artists that you’re into/looking at these days?

AB: After printmaking since high school (20 years), I’ve shied away from what’s happening now, in academic printmaking. I just needed a different source of inspiration—that’s mainly painting/-ers now; a few sculptors too. I am really digging Charles Ladson’s work.  I’ve seen his last two shows at Winthrop and in Asheville; he’s a GA painter. I just saw a new collection of Bo Bartlett’s work, again, a GA born artist. Crazy enough, those folks paint tons of figures, and that’s nice to take in as a viewer, since I usually keep away from folks and I am more interested in the assumption or the notion of them in my work. Of course, I always lose myself in Dunlap’s (Bill) landscapes, as there is way more going on in those than meets the eye.  Our show together “Keeping it Between the Ditches” this past October put me and my own work into perspective: an icon and a rookie side by side. We are doing the same thing more or less, layering historical implications and our own perspectives on top of the images of barns and gas stations (among others). Ron van der Ende’s relief sculptures have a real sense of textural maturity that I need to align myself with; and though I can’t say I understand the conceptual prowess of R. H. Quaytman, I enjoy [her] use of screen-print and structural integrity to get across to the viewer exactly what one needs to say.

Surely A Revelation Is At Hand. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

Surely A Revelation Is At Hand. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

I Think You Might Be Wrong.

I Think You Might Be Wrong. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

Grand Of The East!

Grand Of The East! Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

Cutty Life.

Cutty Life. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.

All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight. Courtesy of Andrew Blanchard.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ANDREW BLANCHARD earned a B.A. degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000 with an emphasis on printmaking and a minor in photography. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Paris, France to work and study with Frederic Possot, a master lithography printer. This experience solidified his desire to be a lifelong artist-printmaker. In 2004, he earned his M.F.A. degree from The University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS.  Recently, several of his prints were included in Schiffer Publishing’sPrintmakers Today, the 2011 Southern Edition of New American Paintings magazine and the Oxford American magazine, of which he was selected as one of the New Superstars of Southern Art. In 2014, his work will be featured in the International Painting Annual No. 4, published by Manifest Creative Research Gallery in Ohio.  He is currently the Associate Professor of Printmaking and Photography at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

JONAS CRISCOE is an interdisciplinary visual artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States, most notably the International Print Center in New York and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Criscoe has also been featured in various art publications, Including Art Lies and New American Painting and most recently was a Jerome Fellow at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking as well as a West Prize acquisition recipient. A native of Austin, Texas, he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of Texas at Austin, and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. Currently, he is an art editor for DIALOGIST, a journal of Poetry and Art.

PATRICK WHITFILL [on] JONAS CRISCOE

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2 Marks. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 18” x 24” x 2” {2005} Jonas Criscoe.

Patrick Whitfill: You’ve moved around and lived in a variety of different places—from Mexico to Seattle to Spain—and I wonder how you see place in relation to your process as a painter. Do you find that the two are linked in any way?

Jonas Criscoe: Well, I have always chosen my path based upon a commitment to my work. Though this has not always left me in the most secure position, it has provided me with the drive and determination to pursue my passion—my Art.

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Overpass. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 48” x 2”, {2007} Jonas Criscoe.

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Overpass. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 48” x 2”, {2007} Jonas Criscoe.

It has instilled within me the need to create, the focus, drive and motivation to explore different modes of making, and in turn alternative ways of seeing the world around me.

The influence of “place” is a common thread that binds a number of my past works and series’ together. Though its impact might change in focus, degree, content and form, it is a significant element in my creative process. From the distinctive light that radiates from a particular sky, to the resulting tones and hues that electrify the landscape; from the languages and dialects that drift upon the air, to the people, stories and adages that I become acquainted with, all of these elements combine to form the palette of a place and in turn inspire me to create.

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Little Mansions. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 36” x 2” {2004} Jonas Criscoe.

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Stop N’ Shop. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 24” x 48” x 2” {2005} Jonas Criscoe.

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Plane & Graffiti. Acrylic and Silkscreen on Plexiglass, 12” x 24”x 2” {2004} Jonas Criscoe.

PW: Many of your paintings utilize images of “contemporary” American structures—from corporations to name-brands and advertisements—and I’m curious what started this fascination for you. Also, how do you feel that your approach to this issue has evolved into your current work?

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When The Coyotes Return. Acrylic and Collage on Constructed Panel, 72” x 48” x 12” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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When The Coyotes Return. Acrylic and Collage on Constructed Panel, 72” x 48” x 12” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

JC: It is what it is.  I saw them for what they were when I first really looked at them:  generic sets created for commerce, made of sheet rock and plastic, blanketed with a patch of sod and every now and again a few windows to let the light in.  I suppose I animate them in the sense that they take on their own characteristics by way of advertisement and marketing.  Such is the governing structure of the world we live in. Fascinated, appalled, Art is about understanding the world- it is an existential scenario.  So, yeah, I’m trying to ‘get’ at things, which means there has to be an attracting force.  The most intense attraction is a mere fact: this is what our life and a good portion of America looks like.  This is our cultural landscape, our capital’s design. So, yeah, I’m trying to ‘get’ at things, more as a witness rather than as a critic.

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What I saw When I looked Deeply Into The Kudzu. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 24” x 36” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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What I saw When I looked Deeply Into The Kudzu. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 24” x 36” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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Shoo Fly. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 36” x 48” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

Shoo Fly. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 36” x 48” x 4” {2011}

Shoo Fly. Acrylic, Collage and Silkscreen on Panel, 36” x 48” x 4” {2011} Jonas Criscoe.

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Saluda. Acrylic and Collage on Panel, 24” x 56” x 4” {2008} Jonas Criscoe.

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Saluda. Acrylic and Collage on Panel, 24” x 56” x 4” {2008} Jonas Criscoe.

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Johnson City. Mixed Media on Panel, 48” x 96” x 4” {2009} Jonas Criscoe.

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Johnson City. Mixed Media on Panel, 48” x 96” x 4” {2009} Jonas Criscoe.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

PATRICK WHITFILL: lives and works in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 2008, Texas Tech gave him a PhD, and since then, he has served as a writer-in-residence with Hub-Bub in Spartanburg, taught as an instructor at a few colleges and universities, waited some tables, and sold some books at an independent bookstore. His poetry has been published in such places as The Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets and in other online and print venues. Along with poet Eric Kocher, he is the co-creator of the New Southern Voices Reading Series. In the fall, he will join the faculty of Wofford College as a Visiting Assistant Professor.

JONAS CRISCOE: Jonas Criscoe is an interdisciplinary visual artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States, most notably the International Print Center in New York and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Criscoe has also been featured in various art publications, Including Art Lies and New American Painting and most recently was a Jerome Fellow at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking and a West PrizeAcquisition recipient. A native of Austin, Texas, he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of Texas at Austin, and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. Currently, he lives in Minneapolis where he is on the faculty of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts as well as an art editor for DIALOGIST, a journal of Poetry and Art.

IAN THOMAS [on] PATRICK WHITFILL

“Somewhere down
the road, in the lake house, the pillows won’t
get any softer than they are now. I’d say that’s
about four Candles short of a Light.” (Curiosity XXXVI)

Ian F. Thomas (aside as intro): Through the bottom of a highball glass, Patrick and I became friends. Meeting weekly to laugh, drink and talk about our individual practices and to complain about life.  While the outcomes of our individual works may manifest in different ways, I couldn’t help feeling a parallel to the self-deprecating nature and self-righteous hypocrisy that lie beneath our waxing veneers. Years have passed since those times but they are some of my most fond memories, two friends drunk and delusional thinking that they are the only two people in the world that know anything. How wrong we were.

broadside

Broadside, screenprint. Collaboration between Patrick Whitfill and Jonas Criscoe.

IFT:  As a writer who engages in collaborations with visual artists, how do you think of visualization as it pertains to poetry, and what connection(s) do you see that tie this type of pictorial description to the methodologies of visual artist?

Patrick Whitfill: When I’ve worked with visual artists, what I’ve noticed is how differently they approach a poem, because it isn’t about the tradition or the publishing world or anything else but the thing directly in front of them. That’s what they trust to work with. From there, the process of hearing and reacting to a single reader’s response, who has ideas and directions I couldn’t have guessed at, lets me take a new direction in the piece, or embellish an old one, or try something completely different. In terms of visualization, I want the image to come through in a poem, to come through and stick right in the front of your mind for a bit after reading it. Maybe for a long time after reading it. To me, that’s what I’ve collaborated with in the past: artists who want the image and to make it stick.

IFT:  Patrick as I read your work I keep feeling as though guilt plays a role.  Whether it is personal guilt or the sense that there is guilt placed upon you, there still seems to be an undertow of this feeling.  Is this a cognitive decision on your part?

PW: Most of everything I do, up to and including poetry, is in response to guilt. I couldn’t tell you where this originated—maybe from growing up in predominantly Southern Baptist cultures, maybe not—but I’ve always approached my life as a series of potentially embarrassing mistakes that I’ve gotten away with. If I don’t write, I feel guilty. If I write poorly, I feel guilty. If I think I’m writing well, I feel guilty. It isn’t healthy, of course, but I suppose it keeps me from dipping into pride and self-aggrandizement, which I have an almost physical aversion towards. My poems approach this issue as best they can, try to unpack it, get to some root of the issue, but they never do. And they don’t get there because I can’t get there. But that’s what makes them fun, I guess, that constant searching for a conclusion that simply doesn’t exist. And, when it’s not guilt that I’m dealing with, it’s fear. Guilt and fear. Without those two little minions prodding me along, I wouldn’t get anything done.

IFT:  I can unfortunately relate being deeply riddled with guilt, but anyway.  You’re currently working on a massive poem.  Could you speak to the size and importance of this work and to how an undertaking such as this one has been different them your previous works?

“I never have learned how to draw. I consider
this a desperate kind of failure, like walking
into the same wall for an entire afternoon,
wishing it would turn into a door by the sheer
force of my dumb will.”  (Curiosity IX)

PW: My latest project happened in about a dozen different ways at once. Or it felt like that at the time. At its heart, the book, called Curiosity, is a long poem about not knowing where or what home is. That’s basically the center of it. And, in that, and maybe only that way, it resembles my older work. The central image of the book is the Mars Rover, the Curiosity, and I spent some time researching all of that business. By “researching,” I mean, I trolled the internet and read lots of unreliable information about Mars and space travel. Then I opened up my research some, read more reliable/textbooky stuff on physics and Mars and the history of space travel, the Voyager satellites, Carl Sagan. I wanted to write about the magnitude of the Mars Rover when I first started, this thing on another planet streaming video to us. I couldn’t get to it, though, that sense of awe, so I started writing about everything else that happened when I thought about space travel. From there, I just let my brain unravel on the page. So, the poem will go from some physics-speak—like a complete misreading of the Pauli Exclusion Principle—to a story about buying beer in Nazareth, TX as a teenager, to a consideration on the sound the word “popsicle” means when you say it too many times in a row. So, things get oddly personal for a book that’s supposed to be about science. But I don’t really understand science. And I don’t really understand myself. So, I combined both fascinations into one poem. Like an experiment.

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Left: Collaboration, Eli Blasko, Ian F. Thomas and Patrick Whitfill, graphite, chalk, on light grey Stonehenge. Right: Collaboration, Eli Blasko and Patrick Whitfill, graphite, coloured pencil, on light grey Stonehenge.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS:

IAN F. THOMAS: is an installation artist living in Slippery Rock, PA and works at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. He holds a BFA from Slippery Rock University and an MFA from Texas Tech University. Thomas received additional training at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia, and The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. His work has been featured in the contemporary ceramics magazines Ceramics: Art and Perception and Ceramics Now. Recent exhibitions include Filtered Permeability at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, and Push Play at Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle. And Is co-founder of One Wall Gallery.

Patrick Whitfill: lives and works in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 2008, Texas Tech gave him a PhD, and since then, he has served as a writer-in-residence with Hub-Bub in Spartanburg, taught as an instructor at a few colleges and universities, waited some tables, and sold some books at an independent bookstore. His poetry has been published in such places as The Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets and in other online and print venues. Along with poet Eric Kocher, he is the co-creator of the New Southern Voices Reading Series. In the fall, he will join the faculty of Wofford College as a Visiting Assistant Professor.

RYDER RICHARDS [on] IAN F. THOMAS

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41.807296,-77.077468, panoramic installation view. Mansfield University, Allan Hall Gallery. By Ian F. Thomas.

Ryder Richards (aside as intro): I met Ian while he was in graduate school and running an alternative art space. He was continually collaborating and pushing boundaries while I was hosting events and creating new venues for display. Finding we had a similarly ambitious drive fueled by a bizarrely protestant and alcohol-fueled work ethic we started the Culture Laboratory Collective. We have worked together on international exhibits, collaborative shows and art works, and have plotted and schemed around the ever-elusive vanishing point of success.

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P4142100 By Ian F. Thomas

Trained as a ceramicist with exquisite craft, Ian is capable of producing beautiful objects, yet is also constantly exploring conceptual issues related to craft, technology, process, and performance.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

While in Dallas a few years ago, Ian (and collaborator John Shumway) created Incidental Transformation, a “digital projection on ceramic” installation that confounded traditional exhibition strategies while providing a series of improbable “view points” from which to engage static ceramics and ever-shifting contemporary technologies.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

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Incidental Transformation {2012} Richland College, Dallas, TX. By Ian F. Thomas and John Shumway.

RR: Ian, your practice can, at times, seem schizophrenic. Do you see a gap between your more traditional ceramic vases and your conceptually grounded pieces–such as Yesterday’s Tomorrow where a performer rubbed Pennsylvania coal onto a ceramic mound? How does object creation align with works such as Please Excuse the Mess?

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Pots {2014} Ian F. Thomas

IFT: There are of course many differences between the two but I have always viewed my practice as a physical extension of personal ideologies.  In one instance I may be thinking of some social/political issue and in the next I might be fantasizing, but no matter how fractured the individual works may appear, they are rooted in my observations and interpretations of myself and the world around me.  I try not to separate or influence my works based on some stylistic constraint. I look at the work in-and-of-itself, each piece being a separate thing that needs to function on its own, in a context, without concern for style or brand.

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Please Excuse the Mess {2014} Spinning Plate Gallery, Pittsburgh. By Ian F. Thomas

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Please Excuse the Mess {2014} Spinning Plate Gallery, Pittsburgh. By Ian F. Thomas

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Please Excuse the Mess {2014} Spinning Plate Gallery, Pittsburgh. By Ian F. Thomas

Coming from a craft heritage background and positioning myself in the Post-Craft movement, I can trace similarities between my vessels and works. Yesterday’s Tomorrow and Please Excuse the Mess are a direct commentary on labor, manipulation, the gallery itself and its ability to glorify almost anything that is placed inside it.

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Yesterday’s Tomorrow {2012} ceramic, audio, hired laborer, coal, acrylic, found bench. By Ian F. Thomas.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow utilized a day-laborer within the gallery context and allowed viewers to ogle a human doing a task. The worker himself had no idea why he was doing the task—his only concern was doing what he was told and being paid for it. The art work utilized this person, a laborer, thus rendering the work as spectacle, contextualized within the surrounding traditional artworks. Yesterday’s Tomorrow narcissistically called attention to itself.

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Yesterday’s Tomorrow {2012} ceramic, audio, hired laborer, coal, acrylic, found bench. By Ian F. Thomas.

This call for attention was also prevalent in Please Excuses the Mess. As part of a group show, this work, or non-work, shifted the viewer’s vantage point so that they didn’t know that they were looking at an art work. The gallery itself appeared under construction as if the workers had not finished in time for the opening. The laborer is still the object of focus. While the person is not physically present this time, it seemed as though the painters had just stepped out for lunch and hadn’t yet returned to finish the job at hand (in this case, painting the wall.) The work relies on the viewer’s own memory to help finish the piece, and the assumption that it is not an art work at all but is a momentary glimpse behind the curtain of the everyday.

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State Change {2014} metal ring, photography, video. By Ian F. Thomas

Another recent work is a collaboration with jeweler/metalsmith, Sharon Massey, entitled State Change.  The intended audience will be metal-smiths at their annual conference this year in Minneapolis. Sharon gave me a meticulously finished piece of studio jewelry, a large silver ring. I then filed the ring down to nothing.

state change_screen capture-massey-thomas-Screen Shot 2014

State Change {2014} video still. By Ian F. Thomas

While this work references Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning Drawing, it is also a physical representation or statement about technical work that is devoid of content. Through compulsion, persistence and patience the ring has been reworked offering a new ideological context, removed from its intended beginning and re-positioned as an art object, freed from its function and the body. The work consists of a projected video of the act of the filing of the ring, a large format photo of the original ring and the detritus of the ring itself in it new state, rendered formless but equally as conceptually useless as the original ring was in it finished state (ouch, haha!)

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State Change {2014} ground metal ring. By Ian F. Thomas

 ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS:

RYDER RICHARDS: is a Dallas-based artist and curator who recently co-curated Boom Town at the Dallas Museum of Art, directed The Cube in Roswell, New Mexico during a year long residency, and co-developed the RJP Nomadic Gallery. He has shown work across the United States, in Germany and China. He is a member of several collaborative art groups including The Art Foundation and Culture Laboratory, writes about art, and teaches at Eastfield College.

IAN F. THOMAS: is an installation artist living in Slippery Rock, PA and works at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. He holds a BFA from Slippery Rock University and an MFA from Texas Tech University. Thomas received additional training at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia, and The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. His work has been featured in the contemporary ceramics magazines Ceramics: Art and Perception and Ceramics Now. Recent exhibitions include Filtered Permeability at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, and Push Play at Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle. And Is co-founder of One Wall Gallery.

DAVID JOHNSON [on] RYDER RICHARDS

RYDER RICHARDS

Antiquated Modernity-Do Not Seek the Treasure, gunpowder, gold leaf, graphite on Arches paper 32″x40″, Ryder Richards

David Johnson (aside as intro): I first met Ryder while we both where at Texas Christian University in 2003 while Ryder was getting his MFA and I was working on my BFA. Ryder was first the Teaching Assistant for my painting class and later my figure drawing instructor then eventually friend. Time went by and I moved away to St. Louis to pursue my MFA. Every once and awhile we would reconnect. Generally this would happen after I had been in the studio working and begun listening to one of the many masterfully mixed CD’s Ryder made me before my semester in Italy.

After a while we got back into conversation about things—what we’re doing in the studio, the process and how the “machine” works.  Ryder’s been a friend, mentor, collector and curator of mine and I thought it would be compelling to put our email conversations into form.

David Johnson: How’s it going? Last time we saw each other we were eating dim sum, trading art in the parking lot and getting our faces melted by Omar Fast at the DMA.

Ryder Richards: Yes, face melting at the Dallas Museum with a belly of dim sum and a car full of art. A really good day.

RYDER RICHARDS

Antiquated Modernity- Power, gunpowder, gold leaf, graphite on Arches paper, 32″x40″, Ryder Richards

DJ: You have your hands in a lot of different art related practices. You recently finished a year long residency in Roswell making new and incredible work, you just gave a paper on the failure of the B.F.A degree, you teach, you are a gallery director/coordinator, you have had several different curatorial programs, you write about what’s going on in the art scene in north Texas and the list goes on.
I’m always curious on how an artist navigates his or her own practice. It appears that, gone are the days of sitting in the studio just making. Most artists, I know are curating, writing, showing, working for other institutions, working for other artist and freelancing (sometimes for free). Do you feel that these are different practices away from your studio do they inform each other or do you delegate them to different “boxes” or “hats”? Are you just trying to pay rent? Or does it matter?

To be honest, this question sometimes bores me. It might not matter, and as long as people are adding to the conversation, it can’t be that bad.

RR: Paraphrase: isn’t it fucked up how much we work?

Yeah, it is kind of boring to talk about how hard we work and how many jobs we all have because we are preaching to the choir; we are all serving a penance or brutal apprenticeship for choosing art. However, we did choose it, so we need to understand what that means. Maybe that can lead to change, maybe.

There is a problem within the system in that we need to have reputational aplomb in order to have our work recognized; we have to prove our dedication and seriousness before being taken seriously. In this way the system turns us into what it needs us to be: hard workers or great bullshitters, but more than often we become both.

I think this brings up the odd commingling of personal biography/celebrity and the art we make. These can seldom be separated. When I first got to Dallas I noticed a group of ‘usual suspects’ who were invited to do something in every interesting show. Some of their work was good, but more importantly people thought of them when it was time to put together a show. I needed to be that, but I also needed to be as smart and accomplished as these people, hence all the extra jobs.

Ryder Richards

Tower I, gunpowder and graphite on paper, Ryder Richards

I don’t really do all these jobs for the money, like there is any. I did when I started, but for the last few years it seems like I have trained myself to work all the time so I could climb the art mountain and now I can’t stop. The art world has turned me into what it needs: A cultural production machine.

If you get a chance read Greg Sholette’s “Dark Matter” where he talks about the 99% of the art world supporting the top 1% of artists and how each individual has 3 jobs: 1 pays the bills and is usually in the art world, 1 is a version of art that is commercially viable, and the last one is the job we need to fill our soul and give back to the community since we have sold ourselves doing the first 2. Is that depressing or simply what we signed up for and no one told us?

DJ: Yeah, we have talked about “Dark Matter” before; I still need to spend more time with it. Its great how he discusses the 99% working for the 1% before the Occupy Wall Street movement started catching on. It feels like some of the art world problems go hand in hand with the cultural/economic/ “the world is not the same as our father’s” problems. Very few people are getting paid what they are worth and have to spend time doing a lot to try and squeak by with whatever debt or finical shortcomings they may have.

On a more optimistic note, we get to choose this life.  However hard or monetarily unsuccessful it may be, it’s still a privilege. We don’t have to worry about walking 7 miles everyday for water–most of us have accepted that we have to think and make to be fulfilled. The problem is finding ways to do it.

Yes, no one told us how hard it was going to be, but how could they? Each artist has a different career path or finds validation in his or her own way.  We can only teach young artists how things have worked in the past and how to refine their studio practice and skills, but it’s their choice to work every angle to find success or define what success is for themselves.

All these jobs or titles may actually help my studio practice. I get to talk about, train people in, and be around the thing that I love to do. Yes, I wish I could be in my studio more or not have to worry if I need to choose between framing a show and getting film developed versus paying rent and grad school loans.

So thinking of this “odd commingling of personal biography/celebrity and the art we make,” how do you get started on an idea or working through an idea? Do you need to have the personal biography to create or does each new idea or work exist on its own?

RYDER RICHARDS

Coercion I, gunpowder, pigment on paper, 30″x22″, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Coercion, gunpowder, pigment, acrylic, wood, 70″x60″x14″, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Commensurate, graphite, acrylic, wood, 70″x48″x24″, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Conflicted (Installation View), Museum of Art, Roswell, NM, Ryder Richards

RR:  Excellent points: art is our choice and we are lucky to have it. I really resonate with the thought that no one could tell us how hard it would be because we are in a different time and it is silly to think a fellow artist/mentor could predict our predicament. My parents clearly told me it would be a hard life.

I am getting more practical about what I expect from a show: if 20 people see it, good; if I get some press, great. I don’t know if I can realistically (honestly) ask for more. Which leads us back to this “odd commingling” of art and biography. If put simply, people trust that they will see something “interesting” from “interesting” artists, but they are not sure whom is interesting at first. If someone can make their name synonymous with that accursed ambiguous adjective “interesting” there is hope that people will ponder the work a bit longer. Which is a gift.

On the other hand, I once had a lady at a gallery talk ask me if  I “just made art about social topics or if I actually did anything (Forgive her aggressive angst: she was fresh from grad school).” I defensively responded that she was only seeing one facet of my work, the commercial gallery’s physical objects. I was tempted to slap down my thickly padded resume and point out the community inclusive projects, crazily wanting to shield myself from criticism with my biography by using a slew of writing, curating, teaching, nomadic gallery exhibits, collective events, lectures and residencies as validation of something. This seems to point to this odd commingling where more is needed than art, an additional justification is often demanded.

As to ideas and working through them I have several that spring from reading (Groys, Zizek, and Lethem lately) or art world interactions, but more often I set up a situation where I force myself to create and fulfill new ideas, such as working in a collective with a specific theme and limitations.

Culture Lab had a show where I needed to make a piece with 100 multiples, so I started reading and somehow decided a ‘lost  aura’ could be regenerated if the objects worked together to permeate the space rather than being passive. I ended up making my first sound piece using 100 iPhone ear buds.

RYDER RICHARDS

From the sketchbook, Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

iComm, 100 iphone 3 earbuds, mp3 players, amps, shepherd’s tone, wood, acrylic, wire, Ryder Richards {2013}

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iComm (detail), Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

Culture Laboratory: An Investigation of Extra Terrestrial Issues for the Uninitiated, Ryder Richards

Sometimes it is more practical, like at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence when I built a gallery inside my studio called The Cube.  National and local artists showed there and I created some installations torturing a pedestal. Great fun. The whole project acted as a social/communal platform questioning public/private space while playing with gallery pretensions. Yet it also gave me a very practical place to develop other bodies of work and drink beer with friends.

RYDER RICHARDS

The Cube Inquisition (detail), Ryder Richards

RYDER RICHARDS

The Cube Inquisition (detail), Ryder Richards

After spending a year in Roswell, I am working on a series about informational vagaries and the monumentalization of informational absence as a psychological ploy. Ok, ok, it’s really about UFO’s. So, right now I am trying to balance my desire to go X-files on it with my desire to strike a more formal poignancy related to information redaction. Those inner critics are nipping at me to go formal.

RYDER RICHARDS

Safe I: Contagious Within a Certain Circumference, Ryder Richards

DJ: That’s a truth that I need to remind myself of more often: 20 people at a show good, press is great and selling something a god-send. I’m often caught thinking about where and how one gets validation in the arts. Getting or hearing validation as artist seems to be difficult when your work is wrapped up in such a personal process. You can’t get it from the looky loos looking for something “interesting” when they don’t really consider what is “interesting” or not interesting in context. But how helpful is it if we have to keep validating or justifying ourselves? Merit is a muddy thing in the arts and even less understood by audiences. I’ve kept a core group of peers that can and will call me out when something is slacking.

In your projects, how do you set up situations to create, do you have self- imposed “rules” when making? Is it a different process or a different outcome if you didn’t have predetermined themes or limitations? Can you start on something if you don’t have a deadline or theme? You seem to go back to drawing.  Even with your larger installation you have or hint at drawing.  Is drawing where you work out your ideas?

RYDER RICHARDS

Executive Order 13526 (file 231), pigment on paper, 15″x22″, Ryder Richards

RR: Looky Loos, indeed. Yes, our art making process is personal and most people who see it will be judging the work without proper context, but the only way we can balance against that is working on how our pieces communicate OR we can decide not to worry about it and keep making work for ourselves and those insightful few. I typically try to strike a balance, providing entry points to the work so that the uninitiated can access the ideas. That may be out of vogue given much of the purposefully obscure or vaguely pointing metaphorical works that I see. I think it is smart to make work that is open enough that people can fill it with their own ideas, but I assume that the artist’s merit or personality starts to count for even more in the interpretation of the work. If that makes any sense, then perhaps it underlies the reason why we must continually validate our work, which is really about validating ourselves. In a classical model of the art world good work would stand on it’s own, but contemporary art does not need to follow that structure, especially as it becomes intertwined with socio-politics and economics.

RYDER RICHARDS

Executive Order 13526 (file 644), pigment on paper, 15″x22″, Ryder Richards

{Exec Order 13526 is an order to classify information for national security, whatever that may be. The file number is rubbish really- I just type numbers into the Dewey Decimal system until I stumble across a topic I like and used that number.}

At times I abstractly think I have a handle on the art world, but when I am in the studio I become classically stupid about wanting to make nice objects instead of being a ‘post-objectarian’ or whatever the latest frontier may be. When I go into the studio to make I am comfortable doing certain things: drawing and woodworking. With no rules I tend to repeat myself: using the same materials and solutions that have worked in the past, so I impose small rules on myself inside a body of work (such as “no gunpowder” or “strip away one component for each piece”) and when I really need a leap I make a new body of work with a larger set of rules (research information voids, physicalize a psychological condition, develop a means of user interaction, and utilize one new skill/media).

And, yes, having friends who care and know your work is vital. One rule my friends and I followed was to say, “yes” to every opportunity. Another was: “there is no excuse for poorly designed or crafted work, no matter how good the idea.” It is easy to make a crappy piece and declare it profound, but can you remove the roadblocks that prevent the piece from declaring itself to the viewer?  Do you want to? What is the role of craft in the piece: a distancing mechanism, a purveyor of honesty, and a dematerializing agent?  Of course, like most rules there are times to break them, but once they are habitual breaking them forces more consideration.

RYDER RICHARDS

Safe I: Contagious Within A Certain Circumference, gunpowder, hydrocal, salt, 18″x18″x20″, Ryder Richards

Another imposed rule: DEADLINES may be the most important thing I have. They keep me active, honest, and humble… and a bit stressed. I make work without them, but a deadline and a venue tighten the knots on my loosely flapping sails. For me, the space has become even more important. Starting with a theme is easy, ideas are easy, but giving shape to them requires planning out how the viewer will encounter the work. I usually plot this through drawing, which may be why drawing features so predominantly in my work. As you well know, it is my first love and is closely linked to how I process information and illustrate ideas. My work, even as it moves towards sculpture and installation, is really a series of drawings that are built or building as drawing. The planning and actions echo each other. Especially as a drawing designates a specific point of view from which the work will be seen and developed, which lends a level of controlled theatricality to the work: this piece is meant to be seen from here, in this way.

RYDER RICHARDS

Deposition IV: Hold Back All My Dark, wood, acrylic, 64″x36″x42″, Ryder Richards

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

RYDER RICHARDS Ryder Richards is an artist, writer, and curator based in Dallas, TX.  He has taught art at the collegiate level for a decade and has been writing art reviews for the past few years.  As the director of both privately owned and collegiate galleries Richards has been curating exhibits for 9 years.

DAVID JOHNSON is an artist based in St. Louis, MO. He received an MFA in Visual Art from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007 and earned his BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Photography from Texas Christian University.  In 2011, David was awarded the Great Rivers Visual Arts Award from the Gateway Foundation. This biennial award culminated with his 2012 exhibition Institutional Etiquette and Strange Overtones at the Contemporary Art Museum in Saint Louis. His photographs have been exhibited internationally, including: the Contemporary Art Museum, Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, Los Caminos, and Boots Contemporary Art Space, all in St. Louis; Isolation Room, Copenhagen, Denmark; La Esquina, Kansas City, MO; Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, OR; Maps Contemporary Art Space, Belleville, IL; and Blue Star Contemporary, San Antonio, TX.  His work can be found in the collection at The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. Currently, Johnson is a Lecturer at Washington University in Saint Louis and Saint Louis University.