Briefly describe the work you do.
As an artist, educator and curator, I maintain an expanded multidisciplinary practice, with projects that make visual connections between art, science, history and culture. My workencompasses a diverse mix of making and collaborating, from painting, sculpture, and installation, to curatorial and educational as well as social practice. Materiality, the physicality of the world, informs my content- how meaning appears through articulation in material form, and how context and history further deepen content.
Recent projects integrate raw materials as medium and content, using the language of scientific, artistic, and historical archive and display. Often interactive, these projects engage the audience in making, using an artistic action as a way to connect to cultural narratives. Collaboration allows me to combine my artistic, educational, and historical expertise in bringing artist and community together. For a recent project supported by a grant, I brought together 10 artists to collect oak galls (wasp nests historically used to make ink) from nature centers and private land around the country, culminating in a collaborative drawing exhibition. Satellite collaborations have popped up with artists who were far flung, and I hope to continue that collaboration this year.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I have a background of research in a wide range of historic and contemporary artistic technologies, the methods and materials which humans have used to make art. I lecture and teach about this, but it also informs my connecting art, history, science and creativity within studio projects. I consider how we perceive ourselves as separate from the nature and physical world, and yet we are intrinsically incarnate, embedded within it. Material has agency, a nature of its own, with a distinct history. It is a silent but indispensable participant in that history, and can reveal a complex political and social context when considered itself as content. We think of technology only as modern, such as computers, but I try to expand that into a less binary notion of old and new. Technology in essence is how we transform the material world into tools that serve our needs. This was no different in ancient times than now. An innovation in any area had scientific, artistic, political, and social consequences that impacted communities and history. I am interested in having that conversation through the language of art.
I have also always been interested in artist-run culture. Making space for artists to create, exhibit and collaborate reflects my commitment to artistic community. I developed a collaborative workspace residency program at MAPSPace, the project space I founded, and am always looking for innovative ways for artists to work together in their own capacity, and to take control over the ways their work is produced, shared and supported. I am also involved in the Maker movement, which is an inspirational community of passionate makers. Their philosophy- that we can be creators rather than merely consumers, no matter who we are, resonates deeply for me. This has influenced my curatorial and educational work, bringing me into the dialogues around STEM to STEAM in education and contemporary art, and engaging me in new modalities for learning and teaching. I developed an educational program to put my artistic and educational ideas into action called Alchemical Tech, bringing this to spaces of all kinds, from schools, museums, to community.
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.”
Although my focus is my studio, since I work in an expanded practice I am in often in different places. I’m in my studio, curating in my space or others, working in museums or schools, or teaching in different places from college to K-12. My work also involves research, so I am reading, or on the computer. So I could be painting, drawing, making video , sculpture or collaborating. Like most artists, I have an enormous library, and am always finding new sources of study and inspiration. My studio is in an adjacent space to the project space, so I work fluidly between the roles. It means diligence when I have a focused project, but openness to having to at times move between roles from moment to moment. In terms of medium, this also is fluid, as the project may dictate what form I work in. Some projects are more research-based, culminating in an installation with various elements from 2d, 3d to video, others are more discreet object-based, making paintings or sculptures. Often it’s a combination, and that seems to be the direction I am moving.
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 was young I had no idea what an artist’s life looked like. (There were no professional practice courses such as the ones I teach today.) I just knew that three things were non-negotiable for me, one, that I wanted to be in my studio in my day to day; two, to work with and be around artists; and three, to work with original art. Everything else grew, slowly, out of that commitment. I started a business not long after undergrad, taught myself how to run it, to support my studio and my work. This eventually grew into a gallery, which became an aspect of my art practice itself. I started teaching and found that I had an ability to communicate, and was passionate about art’s importance in culture and about each person’s creative abilities. All these things today are intertwined branches of my work. This led to collaborations, and collectives, and my continuing curating of exhibitions in my space and others. My studio practice is the heart, and everything grows outward from there.
As founder and director of an artist-run gallery and project space, I believe that artists are vital, and they can create active, sustainable, art communities through a hyper-local, grass roots model. I implemented a collaborative workspace residency program, this falls was the fifth cycle. Residencies have ranged from a month of social practice events including a micro-grant dinner; avant-garde theater for young audiences; an environmental installation; and an interactive installation using massage and the kneading of bread as a theme for human connection from an artist who emigrated from Iran.
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?
Since I work in so many different ways, it varies greatly from day to day, month to month. I might be in the studio, curating, teaching, at a residency, then in the studio again. Most of my time is spent in the studio, even when I am working on other projects. So it always changes. I’ve never been comfortable with singular routines. I suppose this feeds my curious nature, I am always learning something new, seeing new work, meeting new artists, thinking about how art impacts my life and the life of others. I teach college, as well as develop curriculum-based programming for K-12 and museums, so I am always thinking about pedagogy, about the role of art in community.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed a lot- it seems to change from project to project! I started in sculpture in undergrad, then worked primarily two-dimensions for years, although my work always maintained a sculptural quality in its materiality. I’ve always been interested in materials, how they communicate content and bring their own language to everything you make. Recently I have begun to bring my research in art technologies more explicitly into my work, and have become more interested in collaborative and interactive work. This means the work became more installation, such as recent projects around oak gall ink and cochineal dye, both of which are rich in history and science. It has also recently become important to me to express a more outwardly political perspective in my work, and am still finding ways to do that. I’ve always been political in my personal life, and it influenced my work, but it feels more urgent to make it more directly visible in the work.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Too many to list! I’m a little obsessive about reading across many subjects- art, science, philosophy, politics, history and culture from different places and time periods. Close artist friends in particular, as well as students I teach, always impact my thinking about my work, making me question and push further. We form a creative community, sharing the challenges and joys of being an artist. My husband is an artist, we support each other’s work in a myriad of ways both personally and professionally. Being in partnership with an artist means that art is intertwined into every aspect of my life. Mostly it’s artists- I’m surrounded by artists! And, my five sisters, who are not artists, are always an inspiration.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not want to be an artist or imagined being anything else. I think that I’d love to be a scientist, but being an artist means that I can work with science and scientists, I can explore the questions that science asks, but I can posit them in the questioning language of art, which doesn’t require answers but a more poetic response. And of course, more questions.
Patricia Miranda is an artist, educator, and curator, using interdisciplinary and interactive exhibitions and projects to make connections between art, science, history and culture. She is founder and director of MAPSpace, miranda arts project space in Port Chester, NY, a gallery and collaborative art space in Port Chester NY, where she instituted a collaborative workspace residency program. She has been visiting artist at Vermont Studio Center, the Heckscher Museum, and the University of Utah, and been awarded residencies at Weir Farm, Julio Valdez Printmaking Studio, and Vermont Studio Center. She has been the recipient of grants from ArtsWestchester and New York State Council on the Arts, and an NEA grant working with homeless youth. She is currently visiting assistant professor at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts of University of New Haven. Miranda develops education programs for museums, community institutions, college and K-12 schools, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institute. She has exhibited at Wave Hill, Bronx, NY; the Cape Museum of Fine Art, Cape Cod MA; the Belvedere Museum, Vienna Austria; Metaphor Contemporary Art, Brooklyn, NY; and Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Larchmont, NY.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.