Briefly describe the work you do.
My work often manifests as mixed media sculpture with kinetic elements. However, I am increasingly exploring the realm of two-dimensionality with hybrid works that merge paintings, drawings and occasionally photographs. Materially, my repertoire includes low-grade materials like plywood, extruded polystyrene insulation foam and airbrushed acrylic paint.
Conceptually, I am interested in issues of gender, power, culture and complicity. My work is invested in the intersection of nature and culture; this often materializes as a play between two-dimensional and three-dimensional elements in a single piece. The slippage between those elements suggests a tension between the “real” and the represented. I infuse my work with wry humor and a kitsch sensibility. The two combine to create a space for playfulness amidst the conceptual tension of my work, as I address what it means to be a human animal in contemporary culture.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
Much of my artistic trajectory was determined my freshman year in the 3D lab at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design under the tutelage of Steve Lacey. He taught me such rare gems as “you can’t make a piece of shit and then turn it into something nice,” which I have since passed down to my students.
When I first entered the 3D lab at MIAD I had no experience using tools whatsoever. I was intimidated and fascinated in equal measure. That combination has become the common thread that keeps me invested in my work. The thrill and challenge of creating work that married technical, formal, and aesthetic success compelled me to declare a major in sculpture by the end of my freshman year.
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 nature of the work I currently make requires a fairly formal workspace. That being said, the studio itself is not always glamorous; it has ranged from my basement to a backyard in Mumbai. The idea of post-studio is sexy, but for now my collection of tools, in a space that I can use them, is sexier.
Additionally, I have recently found that community-based maker spaces are excellent studio alternatives. They are wonderful spaces to both access technology and connect with a community of expert problem solvers.
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?
As a young artist I assumed I would (after many years of practice) master my materials and processes. Now, I realize that my constantly changing materials and processes (that forever elude perfect mastery) keep my love for my practice alive. The endless exploration and problem solving that inherently accompanies being a mixed media sculptor invigorates my practice, challenges my thinking and expands my skills as a maker.
As an extension of this, I never conceived that my practice would require me to be a technologist. Currently, I am learning basic micro-controller programming and exploring the use of technology including CNC routers and CNC plasma cutters.
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?
Mornings are my optimal time to make art. I am most productive with a cup of coffee, a good playlist and a clear mind.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Conceptually, my work has continued to develop along the same trajectory it was on five years ago. However, it has grown more nuanced. Currently, I am finding myself interested in making two-dimensional works, in addition to my sculptural works. Technologically, my work has evolved in recent years. I am now replacing the simple motors I formerly used with micro-controllers and servomotors.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family has always been extremely supportive of my work as an artist. Additionally, I owe a huge artistic debt to the many amazing professors who have mentored me over the years. (Not to mention the equally huge financial debt I owe to the institutions at which they teach.) My artist peers have also had a tremendous impact on my work; there is nothing like a peer critique to keep you seeing clearly.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
For the purpose of this question I am going to disregard all of the arts related jobs I have held in the past and/or continue to hold including: business owner, non-profit artist/teacher in residence, art history professor, art professor, and camp director- to name a few.
If I were to select an occupation outside of the visual arts, I ’d be a writer for Lonely Planet. Next to art, travel is my life’s passion. Any Lonely Planet folks reading this? Feel free to contact me.
Carrie Fonder is a sculptor whose practice focuses on mixed media pieces that are both materially and conceptually driven. She earned her MFA in sculpture at Cranbrook Academy of Art and her BFA in sculpture at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Fonder worked as an adjunct professor at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit and The Art Institute of Michigan in Troy, MI, before relocation to Sarasota, Florida earlier this year. In 2010 she was awarded a Fulbright Nehru Grant to explore the influence of culture on gender identity via depiction of the feminine in India. Fonder’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. This year she was awarded Best of Show in the Detroit Artist Market Biannual All Media Exhibition and received an Award of Excellence in the Fl3tch3r Exhibition at the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.