Skye Gilkerson – Brooklyn, New York

Pale Blue Dot Viewfinder (for Carl Sagan) wood, plexi, paper, ink, landscape 1 1/2" x 2" x  2 1/2"

Pale Blue Dot Viewfinder (for Carl Sagan)
wood, plexi, paper, ink, landscape
1 1/2″ x 2″ x 2 1/2″

Briefly describe the work you do.

Through location-specific installation, video and works on paper, I combine divergent elements from the places I have lived, exploring the social implications and possibilities of these relationships, as well as our relationship to nature. Having lived most of my life in the big-empty-quiet of rural, central United States, I am drawn to the potential of open spaces. I look for abandoned structures, overlooked regions: the places in the periphery that are unmonitored and less defined, or so common we forget to see them at all.
I use subtle interventions, constructed from ordinary, often ubiquitous materials, to unfold our awareness of our surroundings and destabilize familiar structures. Space, time, light, and language, as well as architecture, landscape, and changes in the weather all become the materials for this exploration. 

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

My upbringing on a farm in South Dakota has a significant influence on my work. This was the actual setting of Little House on the Prairie–though I lived there 100 years later, the reference is not so far off. My upbringing involved a lot of self-sufficiency and making things by hand. There was something simultaneously magical and excruciating about the disconnect from pop culture in this setting. 

I’ve made a few pieces that address the prairie landscape directly, and I think that all of my work has some sense of the openness, emptiness, and quietness that is characteristic of that part of the world.

Unending dual channel video, each recorded at the same time on opposite sides of the earth size variable with installation 2013

dual channel video, each recorded at the same time on opposite sides of the earth
size variable with installation

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.”

The way I’ve managed to nurture my work is by cultivating a nomadic existence: piecing together different cities, jobs, communities, and especially art residencies. As a result, the physical space of my studio changes often. I’ve been moving and traveling quite a bit, which has helped me to develop a body of work exploring landscape and place.

I have such gratitude for these adventures, and now I am interested in the depth available through roots and stability and structure, although the particulars have yet to unfold.

Wounded in West Texas unfolded page of the New York Times with punctuation removed, ink 22" x 24" 2013

Wounded in West Texas
unfolded page of the New York Times with punctuation removed, ink
22″ x 24″

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 suppose when I first started making art I was a child and didn’t see beyond the pleasure of making a line on paper or in the sand. Since then, I have been discovering the ways that art is connected to other disciplines, and how artists can serve broader culture in our efforts to make meaning.

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? 

Years ago I read an interview with Nick Cave (the singer, not the sculptor) in which he said that he goes to an office everyday and writes songs 9-5. I loved imagining a singer with that much passion and dark energy going to work like a business man. It seems counter-intuitive because we are in love with the romantic image of the artist as untethered to this world. But actually its another side of human nature that passion and creativity deepen with that kind of discipline and especially limitations. In addition to my art practice, I do a lot of freelance projects which mean my schedule tends to shift, but I aspire to be a 9-5er. As it is now, I work on the fringes of my days and weeks, maybe like young Nick Cave?

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

The form of my work changes quite a bit from project to project because I use different materials and media for different ideas, but actually over the span of 5 years a certain continuity emerges. Regarding content, 5 years ago my work was more often focused on architecture and interior space, and over time the focus has shifted toward exterior space and landscape.

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

Many of my favorite humans and dearest friends are writers, and I would be lost without our weekly talks about this tangle of life we’ve gotten ourselves into. I am also in debt to writers because the most effective way to get myself primed for the studio is by reading, especially books on architecture and landscape. I hang on every gorgeous word of The Timeless Way of Building, Poetics of Space, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

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

Can I have two? I would definitely be a writer, and also a scientist. A writer because I adore language. A scientist because I come from a family of scientists and I think at their best, science and art are beautifully connected pursuits of the unknown.


Studio and head shot photo credit: Larkin Clark

Studio and head shot photo credit: Larkin Clark

Skye Gilkerson’s work has been shown in solo, two person, and group exhibitions in museums and galleries across the US including the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, the Temple University Gallery in Philadelphia, and the Dumbo Arts Festival in New York. Skye was a 2011 and 2012 Trawick Prize Finalist, and she was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, a Smack Mellon Studio Fellowship, and Artist Residency Grants with the Vermont Studio Center, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and the La Napoule Art Foundation. Her work is featured in Learning to Love You More by Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July, and is in the Robert F. Pfannebecker Collection, the Notre Dame of Maryland University Collection, and many personal collections in the US and Germany. Skye received her MFA in 2009 from Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Studio and head shot photo credit: Larkin Clark

photo credit: Larkin Clark

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

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