Zina Mussmann – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Precautionary Measures III, Mixed Media on Paper, 9X12", 2015

Precautionary Measures III, Mixed Media on Paper, 9X12″, 2015

Briefly describe the work you do.

My studio practice revolves around confronting issues of safety, vulnerability, and perceptions of danger and anxiety. I make mixed media drawings that reflect the unease of contemporary existence and my own state of mind. In these drawings, I depict figures who are dressed in protective clothing in an environment that contains no discernable hazard. Lately I have been incorporating abstract floral shapes derived from my research into plants that are toxic to humans, some of which were often used in Victorian art to symbolize impending doom or a threating situation.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I come from a very loving family who were also prone to worry and often overcautious and guarded as a general way of life. I grew up believing that there was danger lurking around every corner. This upbringing, combined with what I believe is a biological “nervous disposition” in myself, has turned me into a pathologically anxious individual. I have come to realize that this way of seeing the world is more common that I once thought. I believe that this constant state of fear is the way that we as a society have come to conceptualize our own existence.

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

My studio practice consists of research, which can be conducted anywhere from my couch to simply walking down the street and observing. However, I value every moment I can spend within the walls of my studio; it has become a place where I can retreat, think and mostly importantly focus.

Precautionary Measures IV, Mixed Media on Paper, 9X12", 2015

Precautionary Measures IV, Mixed Media on Paper, 9X12″, 2015

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I never thought I would run a gallery. In 2011, Rachel Quirk and I rented a space that we intended to be a studio. We started to have open studio events and eventually renovated half of it into a formal exhibition space. We now show local and national artists.

I didn’t picture myself teaching because I have always considered myself somewhat of an introvert. When I’m in the classroom, however, I become extremely extroverted. I love working out ideas with students and helping them realize their goals.

Co-directing a gallery and teaching have made me grow and flourish as an artist. All three of these things inform and strengthen one another and I feel very lucky to be able to do them all.

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

I used to make art whenever my crazy schedule would allow. Recently, I have decided that it is important to me to set aside specific times and days just for studio work.

Precautionary Measures I, Mixed Media on Paper, 9X12", 2015

Precautionary Measures I, Mixed Media on Paper, 9X12″, 2015

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

This work started out by me passing time while waiting for some painting surfaces I had prepared to dry. I used to paint with oils and was very particular about my surfaces, so I would devote entire days to just getting things ready. I had some photos and started playing around by drawing from them, using inks and watercolors that were laying around in the studio. Painting has fallen by the wayside, and my practice is entirely mixed media. I also feel that I have gotten mixed- media to work better conceptually than I ever could with painting. I am now incorporating cut-out elements into the work, which is something I experimented with early on, but could not get to function the way I wanted to. It is my experience that my work evolves when it is ready, and I think it seems ready for this.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

The work of the writer Samuel Beckett has had a direct influence on the work. I started drawing on gray paper specifically because of reading Endgame. There is a part where one of the characters looks out of a telescope and reports all that he sees is gray. “Light black. From pole to pole.”

The Existential philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard’s themes of dread, anxiety, alienation, individuality and subjectivity has also had an impact on my life and work.

I’m always drawn to people that see the absurdity of the human condition.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

I have many interests such as philosophy, literature, psychology and science, but I see them as a way of informing my artistic practice. Early on, I thought I wanted to be an experimental psychologist, then a criminal profiler (brought on by watching too much X-files in the 90s), then a photojournalist. But art was always something that I kept coming back to and I decided to commit to it.

About

Zina 365 headshotZina Mussmann received a BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2002 and an MFA from Northern Illinois University in 2008. She has exhibited her work regionally and nationally. Her work has been featured in the Manifest International Painting Annual, The Alchemy Magazine of Literature and Art and Lunch Ticket Magazine. Zina is the co-founder of Greymatter, an artist-run space dedicated to showing conceptually driven and challenging work by local and national artists; and the curator of 365 Artists 365 Days. She is also a faculty member at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design where she teaches in the Foundations Department.

Zina in Studio

zinamussmann.com

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

 

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Rachel Quirk – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Engulfed II (detail from series of 25 prints) Photo transfer on fabric 10x10” 2015

Engulfed II (detail from series of 25 prints)
Photo transfer on fabric
10×10”
2015

Briefly describe the work you do. 

My photo transfer work is about the complexity of stillness. When I think about what it means to be still and just be in your surroundings, there can be an uneasy feeling or conversely a tranquil feeling as well. I appreciate the subtlety of this experience and want to investigate it in my work. I keep the work within a vast open space and focus on one dense area to push the idea of stillness. The stillness can also be seen as isolation.

I enjoy the photo transfer process and the unpredictable nature of it. I can have an idea of how the image will turn out and inevitably I will be way off.    

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

I’m a sculptor at heart, but have been making 2d work most recently. My grad-work was object/installation-based, where I would incorporate video. That was definitely a point of departure for me. My videos were short loops of small actions repeating, like a head turning or a hand writing the same sentence over and over. I continue to be interested in small moments and the impacts and possibilities of them.

While on a trip with my mom I noticed we were going through a lot of tunnels. These were enormous tunnels that went through the sides of mountains. I took a number of photos as we went through them and as we exited. There was something very exciting to me about the possibilities that existed on other side of the tunnels. Would there be danger? Excitement? Beauty? Tragedy?

I brought these images with me into the studio and started to produce photo transfers—a process that is in itself unpredictable. The resulting images are abstract dark spaces in a vast open white space where the uncertainty of a moment is frozen in time.

IV (The Road Series) Photo transfer on fabric 20x16” 2015

IV (The Road Series)
Photo transfer on fabric
20×16”
2015

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

My studio practice is chaotic, I tend to work in bursts as the ideas come. I don’t have a typical set schedule for when I work in the studio, rather I’m working on ideas, filming and photographing when an idea strikes.

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I don’t think I would’ve ever imagined I’d have an artist-run gallery space or be part of a project like 365. I have loved every minute of it. When my partner, Zina Mussmann, and I first rented our studio space it was not our intention to transform it into a gallery space. The building that we are in has a number of galleries and artist studios. We were asked to participate in an open studio event the building was having, and after taking part in a couple of these, we saw the possibility the space could have. We decided to reimagine the space and open it up for other artists to show. We now keep our studio practice in the back room and reserve the exhibition space for local and national artists. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience that I’m very glad we’ve taken on.

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

A little bit of both, I have some set time in the studio. But, I mostly work as time allows. For a couple of years, my schedule has been erratic so I had to fit in time when I was able. This year I am freeing up more time so I can actually have a set studio schedule. That’s at least the plan for now.

V (The Road Series) Photo transfer on fabric 20x16” 2015

V (The Road Series)
Photo transfer on fabric
20×16”
2015

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

My work over the past five years has become more refined and minimalist. When I first start working with a different format or concept I tend to keep adding additional layers. It can be hard to pare down and just stop and edit a piece to only the essentials. I’ve decided I can say much more with empty space. Conceptually, I think I’m still working in the much the same direction. My work is still concerned with navigating the space between small actions. For example, a recent series of mine was filming a candle burning. At the time, I was so busy and being pulled in many different directions that I felt I really needed to just stop and not be distracted by anything. So, I filmed a candle burning from beginning to end. I forced myself to spend the time watching the flame flicker down the wick. It was a calming experience that I needed at the time. The resulting images that I produced are transfers from stills of the video. When you see the images, you only get the brief moments that I share, but there is so much that happens in the space between each image. It is these in-between spaces and the stillness that accompanies these experiences that interest me.

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

My biggest influence would be my partner. We guide each other in right direction and help one another every step of the way. And since she’s also an artist she never sugar coats things for me, which I appreciate. Being part of the 365 project with Zina and Frank has been amazing. Seeing so much great work has had a profound impact on me as an artist.

I think the biggest influence on me is just living and letting life happen. It’s when I’m not expecting an idea to come, or stressing over what I’m working on that my best ideas will come to me. And, I listen to a lot of Morrissey, and I’m sure has an impact on my work! Maybe that’s why the work has become more somber and sedate?

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?

Funny story about that. During high school, I procrastinated on deciding a theme for my studio art class that I had to explore for the entire year. When the time came to pick something I panicked and chose chairs. Well after spending a year making small metal chairs, I thought I might like to be a furniture designer. I’ve used chairs a bunch in my work and still continue to, but I never fulfilled that dream of becoming the next great furniture designer. Maybe someday I suppose, there’s still time.

About

Quirk-headshotRachel Quirk is an artist and co-directs the artist-run space, Greymatter Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She received her Bachelors degree in Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her Masters in Fine Arts-Sculpture from Northern Illinois University. She has exhibited nationally and is busy working on a new series.

Rachelquirk.com

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

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Frank Juarez – Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Wishbone, oil on canvas, 16x20", 2013

Wishbone, oil on canvas, 16×20″, 2013

Briefly describe the work you do. 

The paintings I create are visual recordings of how I see the world around me. My paintings are driven by a collection of certain things I feel can influence my work. In my studio I reduce those visuals into paintings with a minimalistic approach. Through this process I am able to bring what is important to the surface so that the viewer can interpret his/her own meaning.  

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

I am a Wisconsin artist, photographer, gallery owner, art educator, advocate, and community leader living and teaching in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. In 2005, I committed my life to expose, educate and engage others on the importance of experiencing and supporting the Visual Arts. Organizing local and regional art exhibitions, community art events, facilitating presentations, and supporting artists through professional development workshops, use of social media and networking has placed me in the forefront of advancing and promoting local artists and attracting regional and national artists to interact, collaborate, network and exhibit in the Sheboygan community.

Engaging in various aspects of the art world has provided me ways to see my art through multiple lenses. When I create a painting what is the intent? Is it to deliver a certain message? Is it a way for me to work out what is happening inside my head? Is it more for my own personal growth? It is my way to distract myself from reality? I believe it is a combination of all. Being exposed to a variety of studio practices and processes provide me the opportunity to reflect on my own practice and try to make sense of what I am doing inside the studio.

Curtain, oil on canvas, 16x20", 2013

Curtain, oil on canvas, 16×20″, 2013

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

When I go to my studio I turn on the turntable, put on some jazz, open the laptop, get my cameras ready, do some organizing, throw a canvas on the wall, do some social media, grab a brush with paint, begin doing an underpainting consisting of random markings, put the brush down, check Instagram, go back to painting, take a few shots with my iPhone, edit, post on social media, continue to organize my studio, go back to painting. Repeat.

You might get the impression that I am a bit A.D.D. Never been diagnosed, but I would say that I am. My practice is driven by what I am thinking at that particular moment. My time in the studio can range from a couple of hours to a full day. Regardless of the outcome I always leave my studio with an idea of where I would like to continue next time I go back. On a brighter note I have decided to take time off from running my gallery to spending more time in the studio. I once wrote, “painting is the only thing that makes me feel alive”. It is easy to forget this when your professional life is being stretched in multiple directions by your own doing.

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

A few years ago I bought a book called, The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love “ by Jackie Battenfield. I came across an activity where she encourages artists to write their own obituary. It was through this activity that I started to think about what type of legacy I would like to leave behind when I leave this earth. I knew that I wanted to commit my life to the only thing that has been a constant factor in my life and that was ‘art’.

For the past decade, I have committed to advocate for the Visual Arts in Wisconsin and to support artists. About three years ago, my practice as a painter has slowly merged into the art of building art community, which has opened many doors to projects, opportunities, and programs. This has been such a great ride in bringing the local visual arts into the forefront in my community as well as to continue to nurture the visual arts throughout Wisconsin.

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

The best time to make art is on Sundays. There is something magical about this particular day. It is so quiet.

Stack Series No.1, oil on canvas, 12x12", 2015

Stack Series No.1, oil on canvas, 12×12″, 2015

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

In the past five years I have noticed that my color palette has become more limited, final paintings have now become underpaintings flooded by a solid color, texture has found its way to the surface, the Exacto knife has become another tool for creating, and spray paint has now become another medium. I also have noticed that I am enjoying experimenting more with my work.

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

The 365 Artists 365 Days Project has been part of my life for the past two years. What started as an ambitious project has now became part of who I am today. Publishing our daily artists has impacted how I view art today. Being exposed to the different types of processes, ideas, and media shared across the globe has continued to challenge me to think on how I can continue to move forward with my work. Working with Zina Mussman and Rachel Quirk on this project has been a rewarding experience both personally and professionally. Opening the channels of communication has allowed me to share my thoughts. A big thanks for Mary Dally-Muenzmaier for sharing our project to her audience via her blog, CricketToes and to the Wisconsin Art Education Association for selecting our project to be presented at the 2014 and 2015 annual art conference.

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?

I am pulled in different directions everyday. Perhaps it is because I have my hands into many fabulous things ranging from owning an art gallery to working on the 365 Artists 365 Days Project, designing artist-inspired lesson plans for the Midwest Artist Studios Project to publishing a quarterly art publication called Artdose Art Guide, teaching secondary art full-time to speaking at conferences, putting together an art e-newsletter called Frank & Co to networking with artists, and facilitating community art-based events to advocating for the Visual Arts and art education in Wisconsin. Regardless of how my time is divided it always comes back to why I decided to commit my life to art.

Other interests that I have is to write to become an author, to continue traveling, studio visits, curating, and to become a resource for visual artists living in and out of Wisconsin.

About

FrankJuarez111415-013

Photo credit: William Zuback

Frank Juarez is the art department chair at Sheboygan North High School. He is actively involved in local, regional, state, and national arts organization such as the Wisconsin Art Education Association, and the National Art Education Association. He has served as a board member in the following organizations: Milwaukee Artist Resource Network, Arts Wisconsin, and the Cedarburg Cultural Center. He is the founder/former director of the Sheboygan Visual Artists. In 2011, he has opened his first art gallery, EFFJAY PROJEKTS Gallery (now called the Frank Juarez Gallery), in Sheboygan. He has been presenting at local universities/colleges on the Business of Art | Art of Business. He founded two projects focused on contemporary art and art education called The Midwest Artist Studios and the 365 Artists 365 Days Project. Recently, he has been recognized as the 2015 Wisconsin Art Education Association Teacher of the Year. In 2016, he will be receiving the Wisconsin Art Educator Award at the National Art Education Association Convention in Chicago, Illinois. 

Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

frankjuarezpaintings.com

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

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Thank you from Frank, Zina, and Rachel

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LtoR: Frank Juarez, Rachel Quirk, and Zina Mussman. Photo by Irma Roman.

Frank, Zina, and Rachel would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU for following the 365 Artists 365 Days Project for the past two years. What began as a one-year project rapidly grew into two-years of highlighting artists from across the globe. It was great to see the artists’ enthusiasm through sharing our posts especially their own. Although this project is now coming to a close in the next few days we plan on keeping the site up & running. This project is too important to take offline. In addition, we are in the process of creating our 2015 Artist Database, which can be downloaded from here.

We would like to conclude this project by highlighting our work as artists. Being gallerists is a rewarding experience, however, it is very important to us that we continue to make art.

We encourage you to keep us posted on all of the fab things you are doing via facebook.com/365artists365days.

Frank, Zina, and Rachel

IMG_20150307_190909 IMG_20150315_185111

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Ching Ching Cheng – Altadena, California

Title: Kodak Flashfun Medium: re-purposed books and maps, acrylic mirrors, adhesive Size: 15"x9"x5" Year: 2015

Title: Kodak Flashfun
Medium: re-purposed books and maps, acrylic mirrors, adhesive
Size: 15″x9″x5″
Year: 2015

Briefly describe the work you do. 

Exploring identities and cultures in scientific, psychological conditions are my main practice with various approaches using mixed mediums and found objects through drawings, paintings, sculptures and installation.

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

I grew up in Taiwan, and moved to the United States 12 years ago. Different places have different cultures, and human beings will naturally change and adapt to different environments. When people travel, they bring their culture and identity with them. Sometimes the culture and identity that they bring with them changes and adapts to that new environment. In the end, it changes to a modified new culture or a different identity. I always put myself in the situation to make the subject matter more personal to me, so my work gives an intimate and personal account of my own exper­iences while simultaneously encouraging the viewer to recall their own.

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

I do a lot of thinking and planning outside of my studio, and when I go in to my studio, it is work. Having a toddler, I don’t have much time I can waste. So when I get a few hours or even one hour can be alone in the studio, I will make sure my time is well spent!

Title: Polaroid Minute Maker Medium: re-purposed books and maps, adhesive Size: 8"x10"x10" Year: 2015

Title: Polaroid Minute Maker
Medium: re-purposed books and maps, adhesive
Size: 8″x10″x10″
Year: 2015

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

It is a lot harder than I thought! I have to be very good at managing my time, and get on top of checking my emails, and reaching out to other artists, curators, and gallery directors. Also be good at talking about art and writing about art too!

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

My studio time right now is all depends on my toddler’s nap schedule. If he naps longer, I will have longer studio time! I also have part time babysitter too, so I can have longer hours to be focus on making art.

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

It changes from time to time. It all depends on my life at the current stages and also the environments around me.

Title: Speed Graphic Medium: re-purposed books and maps, adhesive Size: 13"x11"x17" Year: 2014

Title: Speed Graphic
Medium: re-purposed books and maps, adhesive
Size: 13″x11″x17″
Year: 2014

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

Because my work is about identities, families and friends are definitely having a big impact on my work. Also being in a critique group with other artists haven been very helpful with my practice too.

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

I was a graphic designer and illustrator working on freelance projects and also working at in house advertising company. I was also teaching kids and adults in different profit and non-profit art centers. But way before I went to art school, I was majoring in Materials Engineering and Science. I like math and science since I was little!

About

bio picDifferent places have different cultures, and human beings will naturally change and adapt to different environments. When people travel, they bring their culture with them. Sometimes the culture that they bring with them changes and adapts to that new environment. In the end, the culture changes to a modified new culture. I always put myself in the situation to make the subject matter more personal to me, so my work gives an intimate and personal account of my own exper­iences, while simultaneously encouraging the viewer to recall their own. The subject matter that influences and inspires my work the most comes from my own cultural experiences. My work is mixed media and found objects from various locations. I work digitally and traditionally as well as three dimensionally, and like to experiment with different techniques and mediums.

detail

chingchingcheng.com

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

 

 

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Leora Armstrong – Falls Village, Connecticut

Grey Field April 28th 2014 Oil on Canvas 42 x 38 inches # 4017

Grey Field April 28th 2014 Oil on Canvas 42 x 38 inches # 4017

Briefly describe the work you do. 

My concepts have evolved around the issues of external light and reflection, working with edges or fields of colour, using various media.  The work depicts the energy and space  of light in the landscape,   this energy created by the meeting of two fields of colour, edges holding on and off one another,  lines crossing entwining throughout, continually allow me to search and explore. The multi layering of the colour creates unique rhythms in each work. These reductive images with minimized colour, allow the viewer to experience the work as a sensed encounter of a place.

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

I grew up on the West Coast of Scotland on the Isle of Islay, a remote place,  but with rare beauty. I know this early influence to  open space and light was imprinted in me and now comes through my work. The isolation and beauty of  raw landscape combined with the  silence  of the surrounding, makes us feel quite humbled to be in its presence. Where water meets land there is a natural etched landscape created  which has huge strength, even when calm.  The stillness one finds in deeply remote places echoes loudly in our memory. 

LA_Green Field x 12

LA_Green Field x 12

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

To me,  physically being in the studio working, is where I make most of my work, I aim to get there everyday. However when not in the studio I am always working and conceiving, never far from a camera or with a notebook to hand.  I live rurally and  am exposed to fantastic  light surrounding me most days, so in some ways I ‘live in my studio” as well. A keen walker   I use this contemplative practice,  as a part of my studio practice, being outside, feeling outside envelopes me to make the work. 

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art? 

I had not thought about making my work with children but as a mother I find that seeing the world through their eyes opens up mine. They are still young but are learning to see the things I see, as well as their own vision, which  we discuss which I love sharing as a family. My children continually bring me objects to inspire me, nests, leaves and stones and their own work!

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

I tend to get to the studio in the mid morning and then stay until  mid afternoon when my children come home, it does vary depending on our lives and schedules, sometimes I can only be in the studio for short periods but that time can help me be present with my work, I only paint in natural light

Drift V June 24th 2015 Acrylic on wood 16 x 20 inches # 4060

Drift V June 24th 2015 Acrylic on wood 16 x 20 inches # 4060

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same? 

The work has primarily stayed on a similar focus but is  continually growing.  I am always trying  new experimentation of various  mediums  and surfaces working them into my own practice, the work evolves all the time but I am still drawn to less is more.  

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

My father was a quiet man who taught me to work on my own and to find my own way.  Roger Ackling was my tutor at Chelsea Art School and his teaching pushed towards where I am now. I have been inspired by  the  work and writing of Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Andy Goldsworthy, Gaston Bachelard and  Colm Toibin to name a few, the list is endless and evolving. 

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

I was a chef for 6 years before I went to art school and I cooked  through my art college  to earn money.  I still love to create good locally sourced food and I am also  a keen gardener. 

Leora-Armstrong-in-her-Studio

leoraarmstrong.com

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

 

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Megan Berner – Reno, Nevada

 "Ice and Light", photograph, 2015

“Ice and Light”, photograph, 2015

Briefly describe the work you do. 

In my work, I explore the ways we interact with our environment—how we form relationships with it and how those connections influence our interpretation of the world around us—what marks we leave behind, the experiences—intangible and manifest, and the action of moving through or being in a place.

The concept of claiming space is interesting to me. All of us have different places that we can claim to be our own because of our unique experiences there. The idea of place becomes much more internalized and individual. My work is as much about fantasy and the idea that a map or photograph is merely an interpretation and representation of something, an internal experience of a place.

I am interested in liminal spaces, internal and external—spaces that are transitional and in-between, not quite here or there. Mirages and other light phenomena, states of meditation, suspended moments, and dream states all occupy this kind of territory.

Whether through reinterpreted historical photographs of explorers, vistas of sunrises, interactive installations of flag poetry, or letterpressed artist’s books, I am interested in creating spaces for daydreaming, exploration, and discovery to occur. 

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

Coming from a desert home, I have always been drawn to more desolate, inhospitable, and subtle landscapes—places that seem to only show themselves to those who spend time in them and seek out what they have to offer. For me they have always invited introspection and reflection on the complexity of human-place relationships and our own internal-external manifestations of these relationships. I am particularly interested in mirages and other light phenomena as visual representations of the liminal spaces of these relationships.

Travel and art have gone hand-in-hand for me since the beginnings of my practice. There is something about being exposed to the unfamiliarity of new places that creates a hyper-awareness of the surrounding environment. It always connects me back to myself, which is the basis for most of my work, although not often in a literal sense.    

"Good Morning", series of Instagram sunrises made from my window, 2012-present

“Good Morning”, series of Instagram sunrises made from my window, 2012-present

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

I am constantly collecting materials for my work and thinking about it–particularly when I travel but also just in everyday life. I find that all kinds of things can spark ideas and find their way into my work–something I hear on the radio while driving, a conversation. I use my cell phone camera as a sketch book. I’ve never really been a studio artist or someone who schedules time to be in the studio. I tend to work when I can and sometimes the materials I am collecting and thinking about gain their own momentum and turn into something unexpected. I do most of my work while I’m daydreaming and then make the time to put it together into a tangible form. I also love to collaborate as a part of my practice. That dynamic is exciting to me. Since my work is in multiple media, various places become my studio–the outdoors, my kitchen table, the library. It is important for me to make a space for creating no matter what is going on in my life or where I am and so I find my practice is very adaptive.

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I’m not sure I was ever really conscious of what it meant to be an artist as I embarked on this journey. Maybe that is because there are so many different avenues to take as an artist. I have spent a lot of time teaching and being an educator recently and in some ways that surprises me. The role of the artist can be complicated. I often feel as if I am an intermediary of sorts, making connections and interpreting information then offering it to others for their own interpretation and experience. Philosopher, researcher…

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

This really varies for me. I go through cycles with my art making. There are times when I am very productive and then times when I need to just take things in, digest, and withdraw. I don’t schedule time everyday to actively make work but I do consider the time I am thinking as equally important and productive. Sometimes that thinking time is structured and sometimes it isn’t. 

 "Desert Garden", HD video (still), 2014

“Desert Garden”, HD video (still), 2014

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

I’d like to think that my work now is a bit more subtle in conveying ideas and not as literal as it might have been in the past. Although, I go back and forth between using humor and the obvious and then drawing upon things that are intangible and hard to articulate. What is most interesting to me is that from very early on to the present, there is a common thread thematically in my work without it being purposeful in some cases, even though visually the work is very diverse. My style may be more cohesive now and more sophisticated but the basic questions I am asking are still the same. 

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

Everyone around me influences my work in some way. I reference all of these things in my work–particularly historical photographs and events in my “Explorers” series, other artists (isn’t that inevitable?), and philosophers and writers in my text and flag pieces. I think all of it shows up in subtler, subconscious ways too. 

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

I think when I first became really interested in art in high school I never saw it as something I could actually do with my life. I spent a lot of time trying to talk myself out of it in college–dual majoring for a while in environmental science. I always came back to art. Then I realized that it wasn’t a choice for me. I love to cook and bake and could probably be very happy doing that. I would love to write and maybe someday I’ll put my energy into that (that’s a lot like being an artist though). My other passions are travel and language–I find a way to incorporate that into my artistic practice as often as I can.

About

Berner_HeadshotMegan Berner is a visual artist living and working in Reno, Nevada. She earned her MA and MFA in Intermedia from University of Iowa. Megan is currently a lecturer at the University of Nevada Reno where she teaches photography and video classes. Her work is greatly influenced by the landscape of her native Nevada home as well as the vast prairies of the Midwest, being a twin, mapping and exploration, and countless hours of daydreaming. She creates site-specific installations that incorporate video and sound and constructs performative scenes that ultimately exist as photographs. Other forms her artwork takes include artist’s books, collaborative interactions, textile projects, and narrative videos. Megan’s work has been shown nationally and internationally and is represented in both private and public collections in the US and abroad.

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All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

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