Briefly describe the work you do.
I am simultaneously indulging in and creating a parody of society’s construction of gender. I use materials that are attractive to me because of their kitschy sparkle, or industrial rawness, and experiment with their interaction until a form reveals itself. Learning the appropriate crafts for fabric, wood, or steel is an empowering process. The sculptures tend to have bright fabrics, tedious pattern, and comical functions, such as shooting glitter when a foot pump is depressed. Viewers are invited to physically interact with each piece, activating the humorous elements and discovering the parody.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
The process of creating my artwork provides me an awareness of the privilege and discrimination associated with gendered activities. The works are a digestion of experiences such as striving to be a fashionable woman and reaping the social benefits, or purposefully avoiding eye contact with the lingering hardware store associate as I choose the appropriate grinding wheel. My practice seeks an understanding of my personal identity as a woman and feminist, and how ideas about gender fluctuate in society.
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 usually have several projects in different stages developing at once. The first part of my process starts with shopping trips! I go to Joann’s, Hobby Lobby, Lowe’s, American Science and Surplus, and roam the isles, acting on impulse and grabbing whatever is attractive that day, of course with coupons ready on my smart phone. When I get to my studio I start to think about why something jumped out at me, perhaps because it was a fabric with an interesting texture, or it moves in a specific way for some unknown original purpose. I experiment with the properties of the materials, cutting, sewing, braiding, and combining them intuitively until a concept arises. Constructing a piece typically involves mechanical trial and error, retrofitting and fabricating the interactive elements. With each piece I challenge myself with a new, usually tedious process, such as forging, wood lathing, or needlepoint, during which time, if the process allows, I might be able to zone out and binge on several seasons of a Netflix original.
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 started school, I was not as aware of how much artists are expected to talk and write about themselves, yet this accounts for about half of what I do in grad school. Giving artist lectures is not something that I am particularly excited about, although writing new artist statements every week helps me understand what I am making and develop ideas further.
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?
Because I am currently in grad school, I must work during every spare minute I have. I have a studio provided by the school, but I also have a mobile studio in my car and a sewing studio on my couch.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I’ve really only developed my work over the last five years. I went straight to grad school after my BFA, and in that time have left behind oil and colored pencil portraiture to try every other possible material through sculpture and public murals. Right now these are two different practices; my own studio time making sculpture, and conducting mosaic workshops for public murals. I have begun to bring mosaic into my current body of work, and I would like to see these two practices overlap more often.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
The largest impact has come from my teachers. At Elmhurst College I caught the mosaic bug from John Pitman Weber, who has continually supported my work in that area. I travelled to India with Lynn Hill and experienced the kind of beauty and hardships that she ceaselessly talks about, inspiring my BFA thesis. At NIU I am in constant dialogue with teachers who help me develop concepts and toss a constant stream of artist references and philosophy at me to digest. Ultimately, much of what I do wouldn’t be possible without the support of my parents, Dale and Diane Dobies, who are everything from financial backers, to my installation team, to my cheering squad, to talk therapy specialists.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I’ve gone over this question countless times, as I think every artist does, because of how economically and emotionally challenging it is to be an artist. I will likely search for jobs that allow me to keep making my art, such as teaching, directing public mural workshops, or conducting wine tasting. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be doing anything else.
Born 1989, Cleveland Heights, OH. Education: BFA (2012) Elmhurst College, BA in Philosophy (2012) Elmhurst College. Exhibitions: Experiences in India: A Two-Woman Show, Dekalb Area Women’s Center (2013-2014), Ten Rounds, Gallery 214, Northern Illinois University (2013), Sixty Three Days, Gallery 215, Northern Illinois University (2012), On Som Bel, Water Street Studios (2012), DuPage Invitational Sculpture and 3D Art Show, Lombard, IL (2011), Faces of Sustenance, Elmhurst College (2010). Bibliography: NIU Alumni Association. (2014 Winter) Artist Pays it Forward. Northern Now, Howerth, Keisha. (2013 November 4) Artwork Shows Labors of Indian Women. Northern Star, Santiago Natalie. (2013 July 23) Piece by Piece by Piece. NIU Today
Burrows, Chris. (2013 August 31). NIU Artist Pays it Forward. Dekalb Daily Chronicle, Winters, Jim. (2011 Spring). Something Magnificent About Them. Prospect Magazine. Santella, Andrew. (2010, December 2). Portraits of Hope. Quick Studies. ABC 7 News. (2010 November 30) Chicago, IL: WLS-TV, Wheeler, Jennifer. (2010, November 24). Daily Herald. Mann, Leslie. (2010, November 23). Feeding Body and Soul. Chicago Tribune. Awards: Graduate Teaching Assistantship (2013), Graduate Assistantship (2012- Present), Student-Teacher Collaborative Research Grant (2011), DuPage Invitational Sculpture & 3D Art Show 2nd Place (2010), Thing 1-2-3 Fellowship Thing 1-2-3 Foundation (2010), Sandra Jorgensen Memorial Renewable Scholarship (2008).
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.