Michael Kautzer – Sussex, Wisconsin

Briefly describe the work you do.

Neu Museum of Contemporary Art, Enamel-Top Table and Mixed Media, 2012, 40”W x 25”L x 72”H

Neu Museum of Contemporary Art, Enamel-Top Table and Mixed Media, 2012, 40”W x 25”L x 72”H

My work is based around three practices including: architectural models, interactive performance, and model railroads. My interest in models lies in their ability to represent architectural ideas and spaces in nice compact packages. This compactness has allowed me to transform them from static representations to being props in my performance pieces. Closely allied with my interest in architectural models is that of model railroads. Always considered a hobby, I recently began to realize its artistic potential and its inherent sculptural and interactive elements.

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

Since childhood I have been driven to create an alternate world. Whether it is with Transformers, LEGOs, or compact architectural pieces showcasing contemporary artists, they are intended to create a personal storyline to share with others. As an artist I have refined this imagery and employed new materials and techniques.

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.”

I wish I could toil away alone in my studio, but my work has led me to create complex if not convoluted pieces that rely on external forces. Each piece requires some degree of collaboration whether it’s during the production or exhibition. I enjoy creating objects, but I also enjoy presenting them.

Kautzer Mighline

Mighline Phase I, HO Scale Trains and Mixed Media, 2013, 72”W x 72”L x 10”H

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?

When I first started producing work after college, my work was very solitary and merely a tool for exploring the physical world. The desire to share my travels and findings eventually led to the addition of public performance. Soon I found myself emphasizing the personal stories they provide.

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? 

The process consists of three stages: development, production, and operation. I am always thinking about new projects even while driving or brushing my teeth. Most of the big ideas come when I am not working on something. Usually, I have more ideas than I know what to do with. The better/achievable ideas eventually work their way to the top. Production follows the thought process being stopped and committing to an idea. It then becomes about refining the details and simplifying the concept. Operation of each piece is more defined, with time and location already determined. They are best activated at existing art and cultural events, although impromptu performances also produce interesting results. 

WISCONSIN TRIENNIAL at FRAME gallery (WTatF), Aluminum Backpack Frame and Mixed Media, 2013, 15”W x 11”L x 32”H

WISCONSIN TRIENNIAL at FRAME gallery (WTatF), Aluminum Backpack Frame and Mixed Media, 2013, 15”W x 11”L x 32”H

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

My work has incorporated the same compositional themes over the past five years including architectural motifs, simple color schemes, and asymmetrical layouts. During school I despised the simple modern aesthetic, and now I find it to be an essential tool in expressing contrast in my work. What changed are the exhibition venues, use of performance, and overall complexity. The simple white box is now mounted on a backpack and carried around rather than fixed to a wall.

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

Major influences on my work are books that deal with the subject of travel and expeditions. Chief among them are A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston. Although they have nothing to do with art, they focus on the issues of micro and macro environments, mobility, and personal interaction.

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

I have spent several years working at a landfill testing lawnmowers, which has afforded me a considerable amount of time to ponder the motion of the sun as well as develop new projects. It also presents me with an inspiring, albeit smelly environment.

About 

Kautzer HeadshotI received my Master of Architecture from UW-Milwaukee in 2007 with interest in bio-centric design. In 2009 I created The Epitecture Studio, which explores “epitecture” or “architecture that relies upon”. The emphasis is on the relationship between sculpture and its architectural context. Several key projects include: Neu Museum of Contemporary Art, Hedstrom Sculpture Park, and The Black Frame Gallery/FRAME gallery. Recently the FRAME, a mobile backpack gallery, held its first triennial that exhibited 200+ artists. Currently, I am working on a series of model railroad layouts called Mighline, which explores color and movement through train cars. 

In the Studio

In the Studio

www.epitecture.com

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

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About Frank Juarez

Frank Juarez is a gallery director, art educator, artist, published author, presenter, and arts advocate living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. 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 him in the forefront of advancing and promoting local artists and attracting regional and national artists to interact, collaborate, network and exhibit in the Wisconsin.
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