Natalie Abrams – Charlotte, North Carolina

untitled 13.08

reef studies: west 82.169 north 23.19

Briefly describe the work you do.

My work is rooted in the concept of systems theory and explores the relationships which develop between species in biodiverse ecosystems and how those relationships are mirrored between people in the urban environment. Furthermore, how both natural and urban systems are affected by external stressors such as climate change, loss of habitat and loss of bio-diversity.

My sculptures consist of vibrant yet unidentifiable creatures and delicate environments created using both organic mediums and man made materials which are new or diverted from the waste stream. Using these different substances, I create playful landscapes which break down to reveal their fragile underpinnings of a system in flux. 

I’m also launching a new project, Define Earth, where my partner and I will sail to different coastal locations experiencing some form of environmental degradation, creating responsive artwork. In each location, we’ll meet with local organizations working to correct the damage, blog about the findings and I’ll create artwork centered around the issues to help draw attention to the challenges they, and we as a planet, face.

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

I grew up running around outside and exploring everything nature had to offer. My family moved around a lot, so I always had a fresh place to explore. I think that contributed to being abnormally observant. Being fairly introverted, I also spent a lot of time alone and developed a very vivid and active imagination.

I learned about systems theory as a small child, and grew up seeing the relationships which form the structure of our lives. That concept, along with my connection to place and nature, formed the basis for my work.

I have a background in architecture, construction and project management. I find those interests have continued forward into the structure of my work; how I design and build my pieces, as well as how I see environments as urban areas.

creature documentation

Mari Flore Damnatis sp. Mlif-ral Rebeus and sp. Mlif-ral Dura Caerulus

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.

For years, I’ve been a very traditional studio based artist although what I used for a “studio” varied. In the good times, I had a dedicated studio to contain my madness. In the bad times, I had a corner of the living room barely larger than the tables I worked on. 

Over the last 15 months, I began to break up that practice by completing three residencies at the McColl Center for Visual Art, Escape to Create and the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts. These residencies gave me the space and resources to expand my work beyond the limitations of my small studio. The residencies also enabled me to begin exploring new work and new mediums. I find the change of environment and exposure to artists working in completely different ways to be really stimulating. I mainly focus on my signature body of work in my own studio, but use the time at residencies to really explore new avenues and ideas. These breaks have been particularly important this year as I prepare for huge changes in my “studio” practice. 

At the beginning July this year, I’ve been transitioning from living in an apartment with a studio and wood shop, to living on a sailboat and beginning a multi-year environmental art project, Define Earth. In each location I sail to, I’ll be creating new methodologies of how and where I work, including what mediums I use. Some of the tools and materials will be the same, but I’m learning how to be much more flexible in my practice.

latex_14.01-house_paint_on_panel-30x60x12-2014What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

It never occurred to me that, through my artwork, I would become an activist. 

When I first started painting, I envisioned that stereotypical notion of artist. Isolated in a studio creating. The work was mostly non-objective and I maintained a very neutral position within the concepts. 

Over time, and through many conversations with different people, I decided I needed my work to take a stand. To mean something. It is the best means I have of communicating my ideas and fear. I go back and forth about how aggressive to be with my work. In the end, I always come back to building relationships. Establishing a connection between the viewer and those whose lives are falling apart because of our careless decisions. 

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’m very fortunate in that I’ve been free to focus full time on my creative practice for the last few years. Even with that freedom, my schedule varies. I’ll go for months developing ideas and concepts, conducting research, working on the business side of my practice, etc., but without actually creating work. Once I’ve reached a place where I’m ready and set up for working, I become almost manic and that period itself can last for several months. Residencies have provided a lot of that dedicated time and space to complete work. 

My work habits are still evolving as I transition from the traditional studio format to working from a sailboat in continually changing environments.

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

The aesthetic is the same, albeit evolved. The concepts behind the work have completely changed. Where the work had been completely non-objective, once I gave myself permission to be forthright about my interests and intent, everything about my artwork, practice and life changed. While I’m still completely in love with the creation of new work, and the work’s development is just as crucial to me, the information and concepts behind the work have become equally if not more important.

During Define Earth, all aspects of the process will really be exposed. The transition and exploration of new locations and populations, the research end of the project and the creation of the artwork. 

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

The people I find most inspiring are those who lead interesting lives. Those who reach beyond their comfort zone to experience new things. Leaders who exhibit grace while standing up for what they believe in. 

My work is more directly influenced by artists and projects that provide tangible links between people and their environment. “Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet”, tasked eight artists to create work after visiting and examining changes in bio-diversity at different locations. Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ “Unburning Freedom Hall” created a personal link between the viewer/participant with ‘unburnings’; pieces which held symbolic representations of what participants wanted to honor and give to the world. Eve Mosher’s “HighWaterLine” and Maya Linn’s “What is Missing?” are subtle artistic works which demonstrate the real effects of environmental degradation and loss of bio-diversity.

There are a number of artists, some I know personally and some I don’t, whose work I really admire. They inspire me to work harder, reach farther, be more than I really ever thought I could or would be.

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

I’ve had a number of different careers outside of being an artist, but I can honestly say what I’m doing now is exactly what I should be doing.

About

Through exhibitions across the country, natalie abramsAbrams’ work has increasingly focused on symbolic use of materials to explore environmental and social issues. Her process utilizes both organic materials such as beeswax and wood, and increasingly inorganic materials otherwise destined for landfill, to create works representing theoretical landscapes.The incorporation of these new materials creates a more thorough representation of the issues Abrams explores, as well as will become the foundation for a long term life-as-art project focused on the parallels of life and viability amongst bio-diverse ecosystems and the urban landscape. In its simplest terms, a circumnavigation exploring environmentally threatened areas and the populations dependent on those areas, with the findings being used to develop site specific installations, exhibitions and publications.

Abrams’ work has been exhibited in national invitationals including the Third Annual Encaustic Invitational, as a highlighted artist at Ball State University with Encaustic Works 07, as well as the 2010 book “Encaustic & Beyond”. “Losing Ground, Gaining Perspective”,Abrams’ first curatorial project, was held at Gallery X at Castle Hill, Provincetown, MA including work by noted artists Laura Moriarty, Lorrie Fredette and Paula Roland and herself. Additional exhibitions include “Dear Nature” at Artspace, Raleigh and “Objects in Perspective” with Aspen Hochhalter at the Gaston County Museum, a solo exhibition “Beneath the Fold” at City Ice Arts in Kansas City, MO and an expanded presentation of “Objects in Perspective” with Aspen Hochhalter at CPCC in 2014. Residencies including the McColl Center for Visual Art, Escape to Create and the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts have helped Abrams’ further explore our relationship to our surroundings in the form of multimedia sculptural landscapes and topography.

www.natalieabramsartworks.com

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

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Chris Mortenson – Iowa City, Iowa

1.Dennis Dutton Pigmented Inkjet Print 16x20 2013

1. Dennis Dutton
Pigmented Inkjet Print
16×20
2013

Briefly describe the work you do. 

My work is about the ways that we define our experiences with the natural world through the use of images and the methodologies we use to share these experiences with one another. 

At what point in your life did you want to become an artist?

My work with the landscape goes back to a long interest with natural spaces.  The first time I can remember being truly awestruck with being outdoors was a family trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota when I was around four years old.  The most powerful moment from this trip – and honestly the only thing I actually remember – was leaving.  I remember sitting in the back seat of the van crying because I wanted to stay and I watched out the back window until they completely vanished from view.  That was a turning point and as I grew I wanted to spend as much time as I could outside.  My love for the outdoors permeated my work from an early point in my career as an artist. 

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 is in some ways very traditional and in other ways very untraditional.  I live in Iowa City and teach at two different colleges, which puts me on the road a lot.  One college is about 60 miles away and the other is 25 miles away, which has led to a necessity of being able to consider anyplace a studio.  I have a main studio set up in my basement, which is really a place I can make frames and hang work-in-progress to consider while I am at home.  I also use both of my offices, a design and digital photography classroom, a table in my living room, the couch, and my car to create and contemplate work. 

3.John Morrell Pigmented Inkjet Print 16x20 2013

3. John Morrell
Pigmented Inkjet Print
16×20
2013

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 saw myself using digital processes to create work when I began. I was very stubborn and reluctant to work digitally when I was in undergrad.  I learned digital when I was in graduate school and became known for the compositing that I do.  In fact, I used to get in arguments with my father about the merits of digital photography and digital media in general and he still gives me a hard time about how long it took me to start working digitally.

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 work best in the afternoon into the early morning.  Something about the rhythms of production seems to coincide with the day turning into night and beyond.  I have tried to be productive in the morning, and I can get some work made, but I like mornings as a time for reflection, walking, and coffee.  In fact, I recently had a conversation about how 6am to 7am is the best hour of the day.

2.John Engelbrecht Pigmented Inkjet Print 16x20 2013

2. John Engelbrecht
Pigmented Inkjet Print
16×20
2013

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

Five years ago I was a graduate student working like mad to produce my thesis show, teaching, and applying for jobs and I was producing large quantities.  In the time since graduate school, I have worked less on my photographic work, but I have still been able to create work.  I have begun drawing more and worked on a series of drawings that are given away when finished, as they are a practice of staying productive more than work for consumption.  Photography is still an important part of my practice and it has recently started becoming the main medium I use once again, though I don’t really like to define my work in terms of mediums.  I have woven in and out of using different mediums and feel as though my work on a whole, while still maintaining the overall theme of landscape, has become more fluid.

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

Early in my studies of art, modernist photographers who showed the power and majesty of the landscape influenced me.  I wanted to photograph in this manner because I loved being in these settings, yet I was never happy with my results.  I realized that the landscape I was moving through wasn’t the landscape I was making work about.  I was living in and visiting a landscape full of tourism, recreation, mineral extraction, ranching, and many other things.  Places like Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug, and The Six Ton Prairie Dog became influences to my work.  Artist that influence me today are the artists of the New Topographics and Joan Fontcuberta.

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

I actually have thought about becoming a glaciologist though it is literally a disappearing profession.  I love the cold and thoughts of climbing around on glaciers doing fieldwork are an exciting prospect.  I recently read the book Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.   

About

HeadshotI am interested in the ways that we define our experiences with the natural world through the use of images and the methodologies we use to share these experiences with one another.

chrismortenson.com

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

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Patrick Romine – Brooklyn, New York

Flying Fish 36”h x 22”w, Oil on linen, 2011

Flying Fish 36”h x 22”w, Oil on linen, 2011

Briefly describe the work you do.

I began as a portrait and still life artist in the 1980’s. Portrait painting is probably the hardest and most rewarding genre. Not just getting a likeness, anyone can be trained to do that, but exploring and capturing in paint a sitter’s character and personality. Everybody has a story and asking the sitter questions about their life and getting them to open up is a way of discovering what they’re all about. I preferred asking people to pose for me rather than taking on commissioned portraits because those are all about vanity anyway. I liked to find people who were also artists or musicians because they tended to be more interesting people to spend time in the studio with.

In 2008 I went back to school to get an M.F.A. at the New York Academy of Art. The experience caused me to branch off into new directions. In my new work I’m painting scenes that are based on things I’ve personally witnessed or from childhood memories. I work primarily in oils on either canvas or panels.

This latest body of work involves a lot of photo references. I take random photos everywhere I go. I then piece them together in surprising ways in Photoshop creating a collage of different images. I like to juxtapose contrasting images. It can be disturbing as well as beautiful.

At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?

When I was a teenager I began taking drawing and oil painting classes at a museum school. There was a feeling of community and I was instantly drawn to it. All the instructors were working artists and some taught at a nearby university. On occasion I would visit their home studios and marvel how the rooms were filled with many works in progress. I loved watching these older artists create things out of thin air. A blank canvas would become animated within a short time.

We also had a neighbor that was renting a garage apartment to an abstract painter who went by the name of John Kennedy, this was the 60’s so the irony was not lost on me. He was an eccentric character and gave our upscale residential block a bit of color (literally, his clothes were splattered with paint) and unpredictability. Maybe that had something to do with it too. 

Big Wheel 52”h x 38”w, Oil on linen, 2014

Big Wheel 52”h x 38”w, Oil on linen, 2014

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

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We had two really good art museums and a local music scene. Philbrook Art Center, was in my neighborhood. My family had a membership so I spent a lot of time there looking at everything from Impressionist paintings to Egyptian mummies. I caught the art bug at an early age. I grew up around music. Lots of my friends played in bands. My brother even had a band, still does in fact. And there were great venues like Cain’s Ballroom where local bands could share the stage with everyone from Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols to country or jazz bands.

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

I am mainly concerned with light and space. For me this is what gives the scene its mystery. My latest body of work involves memories of past experiences as well as personal experiences. I want there to be an almost surreal quality to the scene but still feel tangible and realistic. That is why I use oil paint and work in a traditional manner. It’s still the best way to convey these ideas.

4.Apocalypto 60”h x 54”w, Oil on linen, 2013

4. Apocalypto 60”h x 54”w, Oil on linen, 2013

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?

I think I tend to agree with Mr. Close. You have to show up for work at your studio every day. These paintings don’t paint themselves. Even if you’re going in circles and having a bad day at least you’re going through the process of working out ideas and problems. Eventually something will come together and you will catch that inspiration you’re been chasing. Who knows what inspiration is or where it comes from but you’ve got to put in the hours and the labor to make it happen. Sometimes I will get stuck on a problem with a painting and I find myself sitting there staring at the canvas for hours. Then something happens and maybe I wind up going in an unexpected direction. But that’s part of the process too. 

What artists living or non-living influence your work? 

That list changes over time depending on what I’m doing. Contemporary artists like Vincent Desiderio, Odd Nerdrum and Steve Assael are big influences on me now. I’m also into the late 19th century realists like Joaquín Sorolla and John Singer Sargent who painted with large brush strokes and intense color.

I’m also a bit of a film geek. I watch a lot of movies, new ones as well as classics. Wes Anderson is a current filmmaker that inspires me. That guy can really fill the screen with incredible visual imagery. I’m not always sure what the story is but it’s great to get lost in. 

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?

I watch a lot of movies when I’m at home. I love discovering new directors. Lately, I went through a phase where I watched nothing but Romanian and Czech films. They have a visual sensibility and a humor that I alternately don’t understand yet find fascinating. I travel when I can. These are mostly art pilgrimages to Europe where I visit the great art museums as well as search out small out of the way ones. Every small town has a museum and I can always find a few gems.

About

1. My studioPatrick Romine is a realist artist who works in traditional oil painting methods. He began his career in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he grew up and developed his sense of color, light and space. He moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League in the early 1980’s. During this time he worked as a graphic designer for the New York Shakespeare Festival. He has been represented by galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has exhibited throughout the New York area as well as Vancouver, Canada. He specializes in figurative pieces and still life. He recently received his MFA from the New York Academy of Art and currently resides in Brooklyn and has a studio in the Gowanus area.

In the Studio

In the Studio

www.PatrickRomineFineArts.com

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

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Erica Jane Huntzinger – Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Durations 12, ceramic 5.25x22x4.25x22",  2013

Durations 12, ceramic, 2013

Briefly describe the work you do.

My works are visual documentations of internal landscapes. The paintings I create are an attempt to bridge the dualities of the conscious and the unconscious through sensitive attention to experience, perception, and sensation. Each piece is realized through the use and manipulation of color, texture, text and space; filtered, steeped in and manifested through paint and clay.

At what point in your life did you want to become an artist?

It didn’t occur to me to become an artist. From early childhood I created, and it seemed a natural extension of my self.

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

I was and continue to be influenced by the spaces of my parent’s home states; Maine and Pennsylvania.  The rural landscapes and very small towns they were near fostered a unique and stimulating visual range for me.  The windows, the environment, our collective voices in song and thought, for me, all helped to create a state of connectedness between the visual and the musical. Each are ingredients integral to the growth and development for me as an artist.  I travel between the two spaces, capturing and distilling the essence of what I experience through my bonds with family and friends, the visual and musical stories of each place.  Because I consider my paintings as visual documentations, my perceptions of the world in each season, relationships, books, the news, my cats, water, rocks and stones, barns and houses, peeling paint, music, great food, the changing sky, children’s creativity: all of these things help to shape what I create.  I always carry a sketchbook to document thoughts, quotes, notes and ideas. They are also filled with blind contour drawings, small abstractions and writings. My paintings are multilayered and change several times before finished.  For me, it is a tapping of the conscious and unconscious material and is manifested through manipulation of color, texture, writing and space. I paint as an intuitive act expressed and influenced by interactions, cognitions and feelings, the weather, contemplations of my self and world with music in my head. It is the blood in which the art is formed imbuing meaning to each structure; an inner landscape. 

For John, Watercolor, 2014

For John, Watercolor, 2014

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

I consider myself a painter. I am interested in exploring how I can shape space, manipulate texture and line basked in colors to most closely represent my day, my self. Paintings as objects are a window to make and view the world as I see and experience it.  Paint and clay are have a certain viscosity that creates a fluidity to more easily engage and explore internal spheres. By its nature it allows to be mixed, pushed, scraped and glazed to represent spaces nearest connected to my state of being.

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?

I am motivated by rest, time, exploration, research and discovery. I am motivated by conversation, travel, and beauty found in small arenas and sublime environments.  I am motivated through tears and joys, deadlines and playful times, dreams, rememberings, meditation and connection and aloneness. I am motivated by much.

What artists living or non-living influence your work? 

Good golly, I’ll try to be brief but i’m going to have to edit my long long list and I’ll miss a lot: Cy Twombly, JB Daniel, Byron Gin, Carrie Iverson, Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Eva Hesse, Beth Lipman, Josef Beuys, Joseph Cornell, Jeffrey Cortland Jones, Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Squeak Carnwath, James Kennedy, Henri Matisse, Wayne Thiebaud, Francis Bacon, Richard Diebenkorn, Lucien Freud, Anselm Kiefer, Joan Miro, Franz Klein, Le Corbusier, Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Edouard Vuillard, Rachel Whiteread, John James Audubon, Frank Stella, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Peter Voulkos, and James Castle…and…

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?

I like listening to live music, spending time engrossed in nature, city time, but most importantly spending quality time with family and friends.

About

EJH HeadshotI was born and grew up in Elmhurst, IL. My father was a minister who would sing regularly during services in his beautiful tenor voice.  I was influenced by the glowing jewel toned stained glass windows within the sanctuary. The church choir and the hymns I listened and sang to, created a mesmerizing experience while staring into the leaded glass windows all around.  My mother is a thoughtful and wonderful Psychologist who also spoke about metaphor, relationships, the vast range of feelings we contain as well as and the extraordinary beauty of our world.  My brother and I enjoyed our pets and our family regularly talked about correlations and connections, analogies, visual elements, with singing, playing instruments and particularly listening to a variety of music.

In college, I pursued the humanities, specifically painting and ceramics, and studied art and English literature at Illinois State University and transferred into the painting department at The University of Illinois. In my last semester, I studied art and ecology in England at Wolverhampton Polytechnic.  I graduated from The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and a Major in Painting. Desiring deeper meaning into art and the self, I pursued further education and received my Masters Degree in Art Therapy at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Through my education and personal experience I grew more aware and invested in my art work as well as the act of its creation. I lived and had studio space in the extraordinary city of Chicago for 15 years before moving to Wisconsin 6 years ago. Along the same lake as, I found there, a space close to Chicago that had similar elements of nature that resonated with my parent’s birth landscapes.

favorite place in studio ejhI have shown throughout the country, mainly in my home state of Illinois and Chicago, where several of my paintings are permanently installed at the following: Uncommon Ground (Devon and Grace locations), The University of Illinois at Chicago Children’s Center, and Delilah’s. I was co-owner of a gallery called The Gathering Place in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, IL. I have frequently shown professionally, most notably at The Chicago Cultural Center‘s “People of the Mud II: Another look at Chicago Ceramics”, Silvermine Guild Art Center’s “Craft USA”, The John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s “Eight Counties Art Show”, Prak Sis Gallery’s “Axis International Art Festival”, several shows with Margin Gallery, including their “Sojourn”, “Geographies of the Mind”, and “Retrospective” exhibits, and at The Hudson in Milwaukee, WI. I currently live and work in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and commute often to Chicago and Milwaukee to exhibit my work. 

 www.ericahuntzinger.com

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

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Anthony Castronovo – Gainesville, Florida

After Trillium, 2013, cast aluminum, glass, custom photovoltaic and electronics, 108"x24"x36"

After Trillium, 2013, cast aluminum, glass, custom photovoltaic and electronics, 108″x24″x36″

Briefly describe the work you do.

I am a hybrid artist and I combine elements of traditional sculpture with new media practices like robotics and digital fabrication to explore the resonances and dissonances between nature and technology. My most recent commission was for a solar powered robotic sculpture called After Trillium, which was modeled on the Iowa native Trillium flower. This solar powered robotic sculpture was made of cast aluminum and glass and the flower opens and closes and changes form in response to its environment. Much of my work has always been concerned with ecology in some way, and my recent sculptures continue to reflect this interest.

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

I grew up in rural North Central Florida and had lots of time outside to play and explore the natural world. I loved hunting, swimming in the natural springs and rivers, and especially camping. I also was always interested in technology, initially in the form of electronic games and r/c cars. I loved taking things apart and putting them back together. All of these interests have influenced me as an artist. My love for nature and technology has driven my concern for the natural world and my desire to make work that contributes to a positive future with a healthy environment. In addition, my father is a civil engineer and a skilled carpenter and he taught me how to make things early on. This ability to work with my hands is a huge part of my fluency as an artist.

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.”

Well, at least considering the last four years, any regularity in my studio practice has been challenged by the responsibilities of becoming a parent to two beautiful and amazing children. This has given me a new appreciation for my time in the studio, and I value that time so much. I come from a serious and committed academic background which was established early on as an undergraduate at the University of Florida. I was taught that a dedicated daily studio practice was essential to any success not just as an artist, but as a person and in everything we do. I am excited to have finally gotten back to a dedicated daily practice, and I look forward to the many new projects that will come. In regards to the studio practice being solitary, I do have those times when the work requires me to just be totally wrapped up and alone in the process. However, since my studio is at home and I work for myself I get to see my family often. Furthermore, many of my projects are completed on site and in different locations than my studio. So, sometimes I travel a lot and work in the field, which can be challenging to coordinate logistically with tools and materials. But as for traditional notions, I think that most people would be surprised at how diverse the skill set is that is employed to make the work. On any given day I might be welding and grinding aluminum or bronze, while other times I might be doing 3D drawings in the computer and then printing something three-dimensionally to make a mold and cast the final piece in bronze.

Hybrid Collaboration, 2012, cast aluminum, glass, custom electronics, 48"x72"x36"

Hybrid Collaboration, 2012, cast aluminum, glass, custom electronics, 48″x72″x36″

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 imagined that I would be doing large scale community based educational projects like the work that I did in Michigan for the Art and Sol Festival. In this project I developed a series of workshops to teach kids how about solar power and art. I was essentially creating curriculum for public school kids in Michigan about one of the most exciting topics I can imagine.

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 love to work early in the morning. Getting started at sunrise is ideal for me and helps me to be inspired and focused in whatever I need to do. I work full-time as an artist, so mainly Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm I’m in the studio.

After Trillium, 2013, cast aluminum, glass, custom photovoltaic and electronics, 108"x24"x36"

After Trillium, 2013, cast aluminum, glass, custom photovoltaic and electronics, 108″x24″x36″

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

Over the past five years I have explored many new venues and found many new collaborators for my work. While teaching as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the University of Iowa, I made lots of contacts in the College of Engineering who were eager to collaborate. As a result, I now have multiple projects in the works related to data visualization from water quality or air quality sensors. This is an extension of what I was already doing with projects like Heliotropis, but working with renowned professionals allows a much more refined and scientific conclusion or result. My interest in ecology and the natural world as well as my interest in technology and robotics is an aspect of my work that always been there. Over the past five years I have continued to evolve my kinetic works like the robotic flowers and I have refined many aspects of this work from technical function to aesthetic refinement. Community based projects are a recent area of interest for me and projects like the Superfund Art Project, Ingenuity Festival, and the Art and Sol Festival have given me a new sense of public involvement in my work. Though each of these experiences are different they all involve an open sense of collaboration, and the work is experienced by a diverse public audience which I also interact with.

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

I have been influenced by so many people, it is hard to pick less than a handful but I would have to start with Edgar Cayce and Nicola Tesla. Edgar Cayce was a well know visionary and medium who could communicate with other realms in order to heal physical ailments. I believe I read about Cayce first when I was about 19 or 20 which was about the same time that I began seriously making sculpture. Since I didn’t know Cayce myself I can’t say for sure if he really had the powers that are claimed but I love the idea that this is even possible. So Edgar Cayce gave me a sense that magic was possible and I have always thought of my work as an artist as tapping into a similar potential. Likewise, Nicola Tesla was an engineer and inventor who challenged the conventional knowledge base and created his own system of knowledge about electricity and physics. I love the image of Tesla as this humble wizard who dedicated his life to deepening our understanding of electricity for the good of all people. I have also had many amazing teachers and Celeste Roberge was one of my first teachers and one who had an huge impact on my practice as an artist. Celeste taught me what a dedicated studio practice looked like and encouraged a diverse and multi-disciplinary research practice as a creative driver in the work. She was the first person to show me that art and science were symbiotic.

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

Engineering is obviously something I’m interested in and I would be excited to explore robotics in this field possibly even biomedical engineering using robotics in some way. The field of robotics is still very young and we are really at an exciting point with many new materials and processes drastically expanding our potential here. I would love to have access to cutting edge materials and tools to create innovative solutions to some of the many complex challenges we face.

About

BioPic01cAnthony Castronovo is an American artist who’s works blur the line between sculpture, ecology, engineering, and robotics. Born in Gainesville, FL, he received his B.F.A. in Sculpture from the University of Florida in 2003, and his M.F.A. in Art and Technology from The Ohio State University in 2006. Through his diverse interests he has explored the potential for public art to actively engage participants and create dialogue about the environment. He has taught various art courses from sculpture to performance art, robotics, and art & engineering collaborations. After Trillium is his latest outdoor commission and is a large solar powered robotic flower that changes its form based on environmental conditions. In addition to his sculptures he is a founding member of the Superfund Art Project and Technergeia.org. Anthony lives in Gainesville, Florida with his amazing wife Katy, daughter Raya, and son Leo.

Revision, 2007, stainless steel and glass, 96"x144"x96"

Revision, 2007, stainless steel and glass, 96″x144″x96″

www.acastronovo.com

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

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Francesca Ricci – London, England

 

Fondale XXII mixed media on paper 15×21 cm, 2014

Fondale XXII
mixed media on paper
15×21 cm, 2014

Briefly describe the work you do.

My work is often project-based. An idea comes and linger at the back of my mind and slowly take the shape that best suits it. I work in a variety of media, depending on what project I am developing. I also write, and sometimes collaborate with writers and other creatives, so at times text can accompany or be integrated into my work.At present I am working on a body of small oil paintings based on film stills, as well as continuing developing an ongoing, composite and multi-layered project, ‘Tabula Impressa’. This started in 2011 and was partly developed in collaboration with writer Kiril Bozhinov; it is based on signs found on London’s pavements and broadly inspired by the Jungian concept of the collective unconscious. With Kiril, I am also collecting into a graphic novel-style book, an earlier joint project, ‘I Beg You to Hear Me!’ (2011), based on the life of works of Russian writers active in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Finally, I am also completing an experimental videoclip for the song ‘Colores’ by Uruguayan musician Gaston Gorga, to be released in the forthcoming months.

At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?

I have always been interested in all aspects of creativity, and have been both drawing and writing, but I could properly engage with art only after high school. I enrolled in a Set Design course at the Academy of Arts in Florence, moved to London after graduation and started pursuing my own writing as well collaborating with several fringe theatre companies. However I felt that set design in itself was not my call. Between 2004-2009 I co-funded and co-edited two independent publications for writing, visual art and multidisciplinary projects,Interlude and 20×20 magazine. This experience allowed me to experiment with ideas, and helped me in finding my way again into producing visual work and developing my own language as an artist. It was around 2008 that I felt ready and focussed to start pouring back all I had learned and dealt with ’til that moment into my very own artistic path.

Pessoa High Street digital drawing, then transposed into a wall stencil, 2010

Pessoa High Street
digital drawing, then transposed into a wall stencil, 2010

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

Taking a long time and tortuous road towards being a visual artist has let me integrate the acquired experiences in my practise. I often relate to other fields of expression and disciplines that I have encountered either in my studies or during my early adult years.

Going to the Academy of Arts opened a whole new world of discoveries that overlapped onto my more classical and literary formation. Stage design encouraged a wide and multi-directional approach both on a theoretical and technical level – pushing me to find inspiration anywhere and to use whichever media to develop a visual interpretation of a piece of writing for a live performance. This cross-contamination between disciplines and techniques is a constant feature of my work: literature, poetry, photography, the cinematic image, music, psychology, and the esoteric are all either an inspiration or a presence.

For this reason, each series of work has a genesis and a concept of its own, which is never fully pre-constructed, but develops organically as the work progresses.

Recently I am revisiting my stage design formation, which is inspiring a new branch of the ‘Tabula Impressa’ project: a series of works called ‘Fondali’, which in Italian means at the same time, ‘Sea-beds’ and ‘Backdrops’.

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

I very much see the artist as a seeker and the making of art a sort of alchemical operation. I do not try to make a statement with my work, I see it more as an investigation, a question, an interpretation, a reflection, a comparison, a contamination or an homage – each body of work, for its specific nature, deals with one of those aspects.

For example, in ‘Life Stills’, my current series of small oil painting based on film scenes, I want to both pay a tribute to those film masters that could ‘paint’ with the camera; but I am also trying to crystallise in a captured still that inner experience of cinema, the moment in which the image strikes a deep chord inside of us, whatever that is. Something that appears on a big screen for a fraction of a second is reproduced with the lengthy process of oil paint into a small format; I guess this process in a way mirrors the film experience, through which we are exposed to fleeting images that nevertheless may leave a long-lasting effect within us. 

Another example of contamination of genres was the Pessoa High Street work (2010) Here I took a sentence from Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet and re-wrote it using logos of high street brands. The digital drawing was then turned back into a wall stencil frieze, in the attempt to give back to it its halo of poetry. 

The composite project ‘Tabula Impressa’ has been also an interesting platform to explore exactly this relation between conceptuality, medium and process. In this case, the collection of signs at the origin of the project has transmuted from subject of exploration into part of the process of investigation. The signs were firstly appreciated for their more direct visual qualities, then for their symbolic echoes; then they were catalogued and re-arranged into a new, subjective alphabet and system of interpretation; this was applied to either ‘interpret’ existing compositions of those signs as photographed on the pavement, or to ‘translate’ visually a piece of literary writing. Each of these sections was developed with a different method/technique, and the project keeps branching off in exciting, different directions…

 

LS#12-PP1968 from the 'Life Stills' series oil paint on canvas board 12×17.5 cm, 2014

LS#12-PP1968 from the ‘Life Stills’ series
oil paint on canvas board
12×17.5 cm, 2014

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?

Inspiration and hard work go hand in hand for me, and one is virtually useless without the other. An intuition appears – usually that’s how it happens for me – and it brews in a cocoon for a while. But then it can only materialise by trial and error, so the more I work, the quicker the solution will come and the final shape of a work will materialise. Sometimes it can be an easy process, some other times it can detour thanks to a ‘happy accident’, or it can be a rocky, endless path of which I may doubt the destination. But I would not enjoy applying myself to hard-working in something that does not come out of a strong inspiration. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t pursue stage design as a professional career.I also believe in deadlines, whether external or self imposed; I do not see them as a constrain, but as the best way to keep my drifting mind in focus and pin down those floating ideas.

What artists living or non-living influence your work? 

Dipping into my Tuscan origins, the Florentine Mannerism of Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino and Andrea del Sarto are endless sources of inspiration in their non-conformist and dramatic use of colour, composition and depiction of human traits; as much as the timeless Renaissance of Leonardo and Piero della Francesca.

I like to explore again and again some aspects of the 19th century Avant-garde, never short of surprises. And a big influence has been also the cinematography of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, to name a few.

Amongst more contemporary names, I privilege the work of those artists that manage to combine an idea with poetic imagery, producing works that are both visually and conceptually strong. Giuseppe Penone from the Arte Povera movement, Iranian/Australian artist Hossein Valamanesh, and British artist, marbling master and friend, Graham Day. All of them have in common the capacity of revealing the magic in the simplest and most ordinary things – whether elements of the natural world, geometric shapes or manmade trivial, daily objects. Their work is both truly contemporary and timeless.

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?

I have a alternating phases of predilection for the following activities: writing and reading; listening to music; watching films, mostly World and European cinema; going to hand-picked exhibitions and for long walks in London’s neighbourhoods which I still haven’t explored; or escape to the Mediterranean sea when possible; going to milongas -either to dance, or to watch others dance tango; and conversing about matters of life and art with a few, very close friends.

About

Francesca_Ricci_Head-shotFrancesca Ricci was born in Florence, Italy, and has been living in London since 1998, after graduating in Stage Design at the Academy of Art in Florence. She has been involved in several independent projects, collaborating with theatre companies in fringe shows, writing on art and cinema for magazines and publishing a collection of short stories in Italian in 2003. In 2005 she co-founded and co-edited the independent art magazines Interlude and 20×20 magazine

Forthcoming exhibitions include ‘OFF THE WALL’, The 9th Terrace Annual, London (2014) and a group show at dalla Rosa Gallery (Nov/Dec 2014); other recent exhibitions at dalla Rosa Gallery include ‘Tabula Impressa‘ (Bozhinov/Ricci, 2013); ‘Celestial Bodies’, dalla Rosa Gallery at the London Art Fair (2013), ‘Cross Sections/01′ (2012); ‘I Beg You to Hear Me!’, (Bozhinov/Ricci, 2011); other group shows include ‘20×20 magazine: collected visions’, Madame Lillie’s, London (2010); ‘agency@theAgency’, The Agency Gallery, London (2010); and ‘Art/Value/Currency’, The Pigeon Wing, London (2009).

Her work is in the collection of the Museum of Tarot (Museo dei Tarocchi) in Riola (Bologna), Italy and in several private collections in UK, Italy and Sweden. It has also been featured or mentioned in several magazines, including Dazed and Confused (November 2013) and Abraxas Journal (September 2013).

The Studio

The Studio

francesca-ricci.com

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

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Brennen Steines – Roscoe, Illinois

Neuropathy. 36x36in. mixed-media on canvas

Neuropathy. 36x36in. mixed-media on canvas

Briefly describe the work you do.

Making art is my way of processing my experiences.  Whether it be my experience as a child to my experience as a patient.  Through the use of oil paint and found objects I am able to assess my stance towards a certain experience. Currently I am working on a series that looks at my past traumas with my Immune Deficiency, CVID.  These pictures represent my experience battling my illness.  Making art helps me digest trauma and I believe it helps others gain a further understanding into what plays in the mind of someone afflicted with an Immune Deficiency or a similar disorder.  My work is aimed at not alleviating my experiences, but trying to process them in a way in which I can understand.  It is very much like therapy.

At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?

Ive been drawing since I was young, but I hadn’t thought of myself as an artist until six months ago, after my three month long hospitalization.  After I was discharged, I felt an overwhelming urge to create. A brush with death is what it took for me to evaluate my life and really sort out what was important. Art is important.

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

I was born in July of 1993, in the small town of Roscoe, Illinois.  Despite my disorder, a lot of my youth was devoted to exploring and imagining.  There used to be a large grass field behind the house I grew up in. My sister and I used to ride through it on our ATV.  We would go out, wearing fishing hats and carrying shovels, looking for dinosaur fossils.

After high school, I moved to New York City, where I was a fashion model for Ford Models. Occasionally I would act in a short film. I lived there for three years, but had to move back to the Midwest due to my health.  The city was a great resource for someone like me, who was looking to pursue the arts. New York City is a pool of creativity and inspiration.

I am the oldest of three children. The youngest of my two sisters caught a viral encephalitis, when she was two, that spread to her brain and caused disabling epilepsy.  She is now fifteen.  She is bedridden, is fed through a G-tube, and has a tracheotomy, but when she smiles at you, you can see a youthfulness and purity that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. She is the primary inspiration in my life.

Auto-Immune. 36x36in. Oil on canvas

Auto-Immune. 36x36in. Oil on canvas

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

My work mainly focuses on the psychological impact of disease and the impact to those who are close with the person diagnosed.

I use Greek mythos to aid me in telling the story that the painting is displaying.  I use what I call the “Three Gorgons of Life”, birth, death, and disease. Disease is the only one of these three that is defeatable, much like the only mortal gorgon, Medusa. I think each one of these Gorgons are present in my work.

Cognitive dissonance, the opposition of light and dark, as well as serenity in choas all play a factor in my work.

The use of oil paint along with both non-organic and organic materials, such as bark, leaves, glass, and branches, help project my ideas.

Found Objects

Found Objects

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?

That’s tricky because I think most artists would sympathize with Chuck Close here.  I agree with working hard everyday, but I think for me, the pictures have to come from a place of inspiration. My family has always been a huge motivator.

What artists living or non-living influence your work?

Anselm Kiefer, Egon Schiele, Hedi Slimane, Francis Bacon, Frank Gehry, Christy Brown, Yves Tanguy, Thom Yorke, Jason Shawn Alexander, and Zak Krevitt are all artists who have influenced my work.

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?

I enjoy reading as well as grabbing a cup of coffee at the cafe, talking with friends.  Movies have always been a large part of my life Kazan’s, East of Eden, Jim Sheridan’s, My Left Foot, and Fellini’s, 8 1/2 have had a lasting impression on me. Lately I have taken up fishing and I’ve been told that I am quite the sand volleyball player.

About

portraitBrennen Steines is a self taught artist from Rosoce, Illinois. His work focuses psychological tole of disease and believes painting serves as a way to process experience. His work can be seen in Hedi Slimane’s L.A. issue of Man About Town Magazine. He is also a fashion model for Ford Models and is going into his freshman year of undergraduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In the Studio

In the Studio

www.brennensteines.com/journal

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

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