J Myska Lewis – Madison, Wisconsin

Scar in the Air,Monoprint: Paul Celan’s poem To Stand, toner transfer, and graphite on paper, scratched plexiglass, 38” x 50”, 2013

Scar in the Air,Monoprint: Paul Celan’s poem To Stand, toner transfer, and graphite on paper, scratched plexiglass, 38” x 50”, 2013

Briefly describe the work you do.

I use a variety of printmaking techniques and craft based processes (embroidery and crochet) to create two dimensional works and installations. At the core of my work is an investigation into how we read and how reading affects us – not only how we read and understand text, but also how we read, consume, and understand common everyday objects. My work also often addresses human desires for comfort, sustenance, and intimacy.

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

I grew up in a household full of Legos, Lincoln Logs, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, finger paint, yarn… I received a sewing machine for my 9th or 10th birthday… my parents definitely encouraged my brothers and I to be creative, and I definitely think that played an important role in compelling me to become an artist in the first place. I also grew up reading a lot and many different types of texts, and I think that has shaped the way I view literature now and fostered my appreciation for the subtleties of the written word. I see how my upbringing has influenced how I equate reading with making, and thus I hold both as priorities in my role as an artist. 

You Don’t Need a Solution, Installation: drypoint on Kozo (text from Maggie Nelson’s book Bluets), wheatpaste, Approximately 10’ x 8’ x 10’, 2012

You Don’t Need a Solution, Installation: drypoint on Kozo (text from Maggie Nelson’s book Bluets), wheatpaste, Approximately 10’ x 8’ x 10’, 2012

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 have a traditional studio space, but I also consider the library and my reading chair at home to be part of my studio. I have a few methods of working, each of which require me to think in a very different way, and so I have found that I need to establish distinct spaces for each of these ways of thinking and working. I go to the library when I need to do research or collect samples of text. I do the bulk of my work in my studio – experiment with materials, fail a lot, figure things out, conceptualize projects, and finally actually produce completed pieces. At home, I either read and organize found texts or work on smaller tedious tasks that I am able to bring home from the studio. I love to constantly be working, so I do most of my crochet or embroidery work from home while “relaxing.” 

to scale the walls, Installation: thousands of cut shapes, Xerox on vellum, approximately 8’ x 6’ x 8’, 2013

to scale the walls, Installation: thousands of cut shapes, Xerox on vellum, approximately 8’ x 6’ x 8’, 2013

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? 

Constantly – I try to incorporate my work into as many aspects of my life and my daily routine as possible. I do set specific times in my schedule to actually go and be in my studio; I have found that the more consistent I am in keeping studio hours, the more I treat it almost as a “real job,” the more productive and driven I am. On the days I don’t have to go to my “real job,” I get to the studio around 7 or 8am and try to stay until 5pm. Then I usually migrate home where I continue working on the less messy parts of my studio practice.

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

Both visually and conceptually my work is completely different today than it was five years ago. The only element of my work that has not changed over time is my use of text, repetition or serial forms, and a tendency to work within some sort of system or set of guidelines.

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

I think whatever I have recently been looking at or experiencing has an impact on the way I think about and approach my work. Lately I have been looking at a lot of work from Christopher Wool, Zarina Hashmi, Lawrence Weiner, and Joseph Kosuth. I also have been reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski and listening to Ayn Rand audiobooks and the “This American Life” podcast.

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

I always joke that I would probably love to work on an assembly line. My studio work includes many tedious and repetitive tasks and those tasks are usually my favorite part of being in the studio. 

About 

JML_headshotJ. Myszka Lewis received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has exhibited throughout the Midwest, in New York City, and in Australia. From 2010-2011, she was a co-founder and curator of the The Parachute Project, a mobile arts organization in Milwaukee, WI. Lewis is currently a MFA Candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is an assistant to the Master Printers at Tandem Press.

JML_04

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

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