Cayla Skillin-Brauchle – Chicago, Illinois

THE HUMAN XEROX PROJECT, Ongoing performance, 2014

THE HUMAN XEROX PROJECT, Ongoing performance, 2014

Briefly describe the work you do.

Ownership over possessions as well as ownership over individual or collective thought both fascinate me. My work spans a variety of media and takes the form of interactive art events and meditative studio based projects (such as Indian Pattern Archive, a drawing made for every week I lived in Mumbai, India). Much of my work involves the design and execution of projects that combine elements of interactive installation and performance with printed and handcrafted ephemera. Through these projects I rely upon community participation and view everyday people as experts on their own lives; lives that ultimately form our shared experience.

With The Declaration and Preservation of Love, I literally sugarcoated and displayed gallery goers’ possessions; during Certifying the Truth, a multilingual performance in Mumbai, India, I offered to verify any version of the truth presented to me which in turn created a public platform for discussion and debate; and with THE HUMAN XEROX PROJECT, I drew participants’ favorite things as described to me and began the compilation of an ongoing record of American ownership.

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

I grew up in rural Vermont with unconventional, thrifty, and exceptionally creative parents.  Consequently, American consumer culture feels mysterious to me.  This combined with living abroad in both India and Thailand drives my curiosity to discover patterns in human behavior and thought across geographic, social, and economic borders.

Certifying the Truth, Bilingual and Interactive Performance at the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, 2013

Certifying the Truth, Bilingual and Interactive Performance at the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, 2013

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 hard time divorcing the idea of “being in the studio” in a traditional sense from the performances I give in public.  For me a public event functions as a form of research and represents just one intervening step that often informs the conclusion of a larger project.  For example, my Certifying the Truth performance resulted in over 100 written versions of the truth.  Later, I compiled a selection of these truths in a bilingual (English/Marathi) artists book, Everything is the truth.

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?

Over the years I have come to see artists as a crucial contributors to social and political dialogue.  I now see myself as an “Artist as Engaged Citizen” and believe that all artists have the unique opportunity to imagine and present alternative approaches to everyday life and cultural conundrums. 

Everything is the truth. (DETAIL), English/Marathi Artist Book, 2013

Everything is the truth. (DETAIL), English/Marathi Artist Book, 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? 

Whenever possible, I work first thing in the morning when I tend to have the most clarity.  When that’s not possible, I work throughout the day in small concentrated chunks of time, which is surprisingly effective.

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

Five years ago I worked primarily with print media.  Since then my work has expanded across several disciplines.  I once compartmentalized and cherished my art practice, but have learned that letting it seep into the rest of my life makes that practice more joyful and relevant.  The result has been more collaboration—especially with my husband who is a creative force— as well as the discovery of an intuitive approach that allows my projects to develop organically. 

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

I am in awe of great storytellers and especially love listening to This American Life and A Prairie Home Companion on NPR.  Visually, innovative graphic design and inventive product packaging provide constant inspiration.  I feel hugely fortunate to have great mentors, an outstanding peer group of artists and scholars game to throw around ideas, and a problem-solving partner willing to help me figure out how to do anything.

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

Perhaps a textile designer because I love patterns!


HeadshotCayla Skillin-Brauchle’s trans-disciplinary studio practice spans printmaking, drawing, installation, performance, and social practice. Her work has been shown at venues including JDK Gallery in Burlington, VT; the Rotunda Gallery in Bangkok, Thailand; ROY G BIV Gallery in Columbus, OH, the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, India; and 621 Gallery in Tallahassee, FL.  Skillin-Brauchle earned a BA from Beloit College (2006) and her MFA in Printmaking from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio (2012).  In 2012-13 she was a Fulbright Fellow in Mumbai, India and this fall she will join the faculty at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art. 

IPA: Indian Pattern Archive: Contact Paper, Navi Mumbai, Mixed Media Drawing, 2013

IPA: Indian Pattern Archive: Contact Paper, Navi Mumbai, Mixed Media Drawing, 2013

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

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