Briefly describe the work you do.
I use video, sculpture and drawing to explore generational influence, connection, and the changes that occur over time within a family structure and culture. I often use the surrounding landscape as a stand in for people, objects, or institutions with which I have had influential relationships. Through material experimentation, endurance, physical proximity, and imitation I attempt to learn something about place, existence, vulnerability, and identity.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
The interpersonal dynamic of my immediate family and the place I grew up has a large impact on my work. I consider the cultural, educational, regional, psychological and emotional influences of growing up in a Catholic, Italian, and Eastern European family in rural Ohio. Through my work, I yearn to better understand these influences on my own personality, and to trace backwards through time how certain behaviors and tendencies such as repression and anxiety become normalized and accepted as truth in this place.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My video work takes me to environments where I can play with the landscape as a character and material. I am interested in learning about behavior and relationships through acting and reacting to situations and allowing a strong sense of intuition in the moment to guide my actions and intentions. I try to allow anxiety and impressionability to manifest between myself and the object/landscape.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I find myself playing the roll of therapist, cheerleader, worst enemy, guru, laborer, editor, film crew, cook, actor, administrative assistant, collaborator, agent, colleague, explorer, mother, friend, teacher, manager, wife, director, writer, etc..
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
So far my practice has been whenever time allows but I am constantly striving for a more structured routine in the studio. I oscillate between working in an actual studio and working in a more undeveloped landscape, often a public park.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I have moved through materials while constantly paring down and reframing my ultimate questions and motivations. I started using my family in a more direct way by featuring them in videos and casting parts of their bodies. Making video work has stayed fairly consistent throughout the last 5 years.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I feel like I received an education of possibilities by viewing the work of Joan Jonas, Vito Acconci, Ana Mendiata and Pippilotti Rist. I have also been influenced and inspired by filmmakers such as Victor Erice, Harmony Korine, Lars Von Trier and Ingmar Bergman.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I care a lot about experiences and opportunities for young people. I have worked in many different levels of education from Kindergarten to my current position of teaching undergraduate students. Education, and the influences a young person experiences as they develop has always been a strong interest of mine.
Cari Freno was born in Garfield Heights, Ohio in 1982. She currently lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She uses video, drawing and sculpture to explore the landscape where internal and external worlds intersect in an attempt to understand how concepts of self and personality emerge from lived experience. She has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally including venues in Chongqing, China and Berlin, Germany. Her work has been exhibited at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, South Carolina and in various other national exhibitions. Recently, Cari spent time as an Experience Economies: Landscape Experience Fellow at Mildred’s Lane in Beach Lake, PA. She is currently a professor of Drawing and Sculpture at Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.