New York Studio Conversations -  - ebook
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New York Studio Conversations presents a series of sixteen interviews with female artists conducted by the art historian Stephanie Buhmann. Looking for an approach beyond the mainstream media coverage of the art market, Buhmann visited the artists in their studios and gained insights in this intimate space of artistic practices. All based in New York, the artists represent a wide range of different styles and media. New York Studio Conversations uncovers their artistic practices and creative approaches as well as philosophy, sources of inspiration, and personal stories. Artists presented in this book: Lisa Ruyter, Kiki Smith, Joyce Kozloff, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Kate Shepherd, Tara Geer, Hermine Ford, Polly Apfelbaum, Kathy Butterly, Kathleen Kucka, Leslie Wayne, Jennifer Riley, Melissa Meyer, Jacqueline Gourevitch, Luisa Rabbia, Michelle Jaffé.

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Edited by Stephanie Buhmann

NEW YORK STUDIO CONVERSATIONS

SEVENTEEN WOMEN TALK ABOUT ART

FOR PAULINA MCKENZIE BLUEMAY YOU BE INSPIRED YOUR ENTIRE LIFE

INTRODUCTION

LISA RUYTER

KIKI SMITH

JOYCE KOZLOFF

URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD

KATE SHEPHERD

TARA GEER

HERMINE FORD

POLLY APFELBAUM

KATHY BUTTERLY

KATHLEEN KUCKA

LESLIE WAYNE

JENNIFER RILEY

MELISSA MEYER

JACQUELINE GOUREVITCH

LUISA RABBIA

MICHELLE JAFFÉ

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

ARTWORKS

INTRODUCTION

In 2013, I became increasingly disenchanted with the media’s fixation on the soaring art market and the inherent discussion of art as an investment rather than a source of inspiration. As a result, I began to work on this text, which aims to present the artist’s perspective and to explore art in the intimate context of the artist’s studio. Embodying a place of ideas and experimentation, the latter marks the place where art begins its journey from inspiration to manifestation – and ultimately, emancipation. It also represents the time before art becomes public, is displayed, marketed, sold, and moves on in the care of others. It is in the artist’s studio that one can directly discuss the embedded thought process and sense the mystique of the creative process devoid of outside manipulation.

With this in mind, I began to conduct a series of sixteen interviews with female artists based in New York, of various ages and working in different media and styles. At first, my decision to focus exclusively on women was simply a way to further narrow down the field, statistically as well as geographically. While I aimed to document the incredible diversity of approaches to art and the varied experiences and concerns entailed, I was conscious of the fact that some parameters were needed.

However, soon after I had decided on my theme, I came across an interview with Georg Baselitz conducted by the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel [January 21, 2013]. In it, Baselitz stated that in his opinion “women couldn’t paint as well as men” even though there are more women enrolled at art academies than men. While this notion is patently ridiculous, it is nevertheless disturbing for the fact that it was both uttered by one of the most celebrated living post-war German painters and widely publicized by a leading news magazine. It was Baselitz’s absurd prejudice that turned my initially rather practical-minded decision to focus exclusively on women into a more feminist one. It made me aware of the fact that I still do not see enough female artists featured in major museum retrospectives; that there are still almost always fewer women artists found in gallery programs (worldwide) or in group exhibitions for that matter. In the liberal arts, we might like to proclaim that we are oblivious to color, gender, social inhibitions and norms. Perhaps we are, but so far, we, meaning curators, critics, collectors, dealers, gallery directors, publishers and educators, have not truly moved things forward in the past two decades. In fact, it has been twenty-three years since the Guerrilla Girls collaborated with the Women’s Action Coalition (WAC) for a joint action outside of the SoHo Guggenheim Museum in New York, demanding the inclusion of nonwhite, non-European, non-male artists in the museum’s opening show. There still is a need for more diverse, community-responsive curating.

All of the conversations in this book were conducted in the studio. They consciously focus on the works on display at the time, which ranged from current to retrospect and in progress. They often refer to the artist’s process, but also discuss personal history, philosophy and sources of inspiration. What they lack is genderspecific questioning. I did not ask what it feels like to be a woman artist in New York, if any of them felt at a disadvantage to their male colleagues, or whether it’s hard to juggle family and work. I wouldn’t ask male artists similar questions either. Instead, I believe in contemplating what art is and what it can be. There is so much to gain, particularly insight into our own nature, by simply engaging with it on a sincere level – alone or in conversation.

The selection of artists in this book reflects diversity on multiple levels. Their age ranges from the mid-40s to mid-80s; some are internationally known, others show primarily in the United States; some work representationally, others completely abstract. Their works entail drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, sound installation, and mixed media. I have a deep admiration for all of them. I have known many for years, visiting their studios regularly. Others, I have solely known through their work and I enjoyed meeting them in person through this project. All of the oeuvres involved have kept me engaged over time. However, it was through the process of conducting these interviews, transcribing and editing them, that I have had the chance to contemplate each artist through their own words and over time. It is a treat to contemplate the art of our time, but to be able to hear the artists’ thoughts on their own work transcends enjoyment. It also signifies a crucial resource for discussing their work.

LISA RUYTER

LISA RUYTER

DECEMBER 12, 2015

BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN

STEPHANIE BUHMANN: WE ARE LOOKING AT A FAIRLY RECENT BODY OF WORK, EXAMPLES OF WHICH YOU SHOWED AT ELEVEN RIVINGTON EARLIER THIS YEAR. COULD YOU DESCRIBE ITS CONTEXT?

Lisa Ruyter: In 2009, soon after the economic crash of 2008, I started to appropriate works from the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection archive housed at the Library of Congress. Before, I had worked largely from my own photographs.

WAS THERE A PARTICULAR REASON WHY YOU FOCUSED ON THIS SPECIFIC ARCHIVE, WHICH SERVES AS A PICTORIAL RECORD OF AMERICAN LIFE BETWEEN 1935 AND 1944?

No, it’s something that’s always been a reference for me. When I started taking photographs for my paintings, it’s what I imagined a photograph should look like. You know the photographers, such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, for example, and this kind of documentary style is very familiar. To me, it was what a picture should look like. It’s somewhere between journalism and something else. Many of the things about the recent mortgage crisis are similar to the circumstances that led to the Dust Bowl era in America decades ago (as made visible by the FSA archive); the economic policies that led to ecological disasters. What’s happening now is very similar to that time, we just see it unfold on a much more epic scale now.

WHAT WERE YOU WORKING ON AT THE TIME?

In 2009, I was just coming from a very intensive series of paintings from photographs I took at the International Atomic Energy Agency just as the Iranian Nuclear stories were coming out. At that point I felt that I had lost the dialogue with an audience. I had lost the ability to talk about the guts of the content I wanted to talk about with my own photographs. It provided a complete conceptual shift, because working from an archive instead of my own photographs meant that the work doesn’t have this indexical relationship to my lived experience.

THE ARCHIVE IS COMPRISED OF COUNTLESS IMAGES. HOW DO YOU SELECT ONE FOR A PAINTING?

The point was to work with an archive as subject matter. That particular archive has so many interfaces at this point and it is so famous. It was my intention to do something about American identity, which is in some ways very much built on these types of images. At first, I used the archive a bit randomly, but then I realized that it didn’t really look like I was using appropriated images. But I do want that particular issue to be understood, because I think that even appropriation has changed in the past twenty years. I knew then that I had to make paintings from the more famous images to set the ground.

EACH WORK IS TITLED INDIVIDUALLY, BUT IS THERE A TITLE FOR THIS GROWING BODY OF WORK AS WELL?

I have been titling each show that features these works with Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, for a couple of reasons. One is that it is an appropriated title related to a very specific moment in the archive as it was a spin-off project by Walker Evans and James Agee. The whole history of that is great and provocative. Secondly, every time I use the title it takes on a different meaning. It’s a formal indicator. Now that I’m beginning to shift away from the more famous images, it indicates that it’s still the same body of work.

WHILE THE CONTENT OF THESE RECENT PAINTINGS ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOUR WORK OF THE 1990s, THEY REVEAL A SIMILAR AESTHETIC AND ARE RENDERED IN YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE.

The paintings I was making in 1993 for example were very drawing-driven. I was using an archive of found images, collaging them together. Pre-dating the Internet, it was about authorless architecture and systems. Working with the Farm Security Administration archive is dealing with the same topics. But since people are so dependent on a consistent aesthetic connection, I wanted to find something that made an aesthetic connection to my earlier works.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON SCALE? I’M CURIOUS AS YOUR PAINTINGS CAN VARY SIGNIFICANTLY IN SIZE.

That’s different every time I work. So far, I found that I prefer a smaller scale when working with these images. However, I do have ideas in multiple dimensions of what to do with them. The whole point of working with this archive is that I can continue with that story and also move into multiple directions, such as sculpture or film. That’s all a bit of a learning curve for me and scale is part of that. I tend to find them more interesting when they are quick. It’s almost like letting the work be a bit closer to the photograph somehow.

WHEN LOOKING AT YOUR WORKS, ESPECIALLY THOSE BASED ON LESSER-KNOWN PHOTOGRAPHS, IT’S INTERESTING THAT DESPITE ALL THEIR ABSTRACTION, ONE STILL SENSES THAT THEY DEPICT A MOMENT OF THE PAST. IT’S HARD TO PINPOINT WHY THAT IS. IT’S CERTAINLY NOT BASED ON COLOR. YOUR PALETTE IS VERY SPECIFIC AND I’M CURIOUS, HOW DO YOU WORK WITH COLOR?

The color is not as calculated as you might think. When I’m painting I never know what it’s going to be. I start with one color, putting it down and then the next responds to that. It’s done intuitively and it changes a lot. I don’t mix colors for the paintings; I use colors that I have already mixed. I’m using acrylic paints, but because the matte acrylics are too matte, and the shiny ones too shiny for my taste, I tend to mix both together. I like something in-between. The colors also get picked up from one painting to the next. It’s about having a minimal palette and minimal resources. That goes back to the time when I started and didn’t have as many resources. I feel a need to recreate the situation a bit with color. When it gets too calculated it becomes an entirely different craft. It’s not something I’m that interested in. But it’s not about colorizing.

YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU NOW FEEL FREE TO TAKE YOUR WORK INTO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS, INCLUDING SCULPTURE AND FILM. IS THERE SOMETHING SPECIFIC YOU HOPE TO EXPLORE?

I think that my way forward is collaborative work – with other people, not necessarily other artists. Since using the archive, I’m already collaborating in a way. The thing that I’m feeling is missing in my life the most is a dialogue that is taking place at the production side. I always have been very self-contained in the sense that I never needed help to realize things. To find someone who really gets the work and also gets the career end of it is almost impossible. I find this real commercial aspect of things very difficult to navigate. So I’m thinking about developing projects that are not about shows necessarily and to expand my approach. I already have great conversations with people about what this archive means. There is Mohammad Salemy, for example, who wrote this really great piece for Flash Art about some of the Salvage Paintings from the show at Eleven Rivington. It’s so specific and he really got what I was after. That turned into an ongoing conversation. He is also somebody, who is blurring edges. He is writing sometimes and he is also more of a producer than a curator. I like the idea of stopping to put labels on what our activity is and to just talk. He is someone I really would like to develop a collaboration with, but I don’t know yet what that would look like. I can also see someone respond to the work architecturally or through film. I think it’s what exhibition-making used to be, but now it’s more like “let’s have ten paintings in a gallery space”. I find myself so bored now walking into painting shows and I want to get outside of that without getting trapped by it.

THE QUESTION IS ALSO HOW TO KEEP THE AUDIENCE ENGAGED AND HOW TO KEEP PEOPLE LOOKING AT ART DEEPLY AND WITH TIME. WE LIVE IN THE QUICK INFORMATION AGE, WHEN PEOPLE LIKE TO SCAN EVERYTHING RATHER THAN ABSORB IT.

I think that is especially true in the so-called art centers like New York. In Vienna, where I spend much of my time, I feel that people still take time to look at art and they will sit through an entire film. It’s a very different audience there.

WHEN DID YOU START GOING TO VIENNA?

My first trip there was New Year’s 1993 and then I moved there in 2003. In the beginning, I moved back and forth, then for a while I was only there, and in the past couple of years I started going back and forth again.

WHAT MADE YOU COME BACK TO NEW YORK?

There’s a lot about the European system that looks to New York and my identity – even though most of my shows have been over there – is as an American artist. I came back here to get the support system that I need to get put into place. I discovered that you can’t go back to something that doesn’t exist anymore, but I found that I have to either rebuild myself as a European artist or to rebuild and not lose what I have here. Also, so many of my ideas I see them much clearer here. I’m an outsider in Vienna, more now than when I first moved there. I still absolutely love it, but it’s a challenge. I think that it will be a lot more interesting and that I will be able to do a lot more if I maintain both perspectives.

DO YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC RHYTHM FOR GOING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE TWO CITIES?

Three to four weeks in each city works best for me. That way I can live in both cities at the same time and I don’t lose my relationships. Also, after three weeks, I start to forget what I was working on in the other place. Even if I’m working on the same thing in both cities, it’s still very specific to a place. It’s not something aesthetically I could show you, but it’s about familiarity I guess.

DO YOU TRAVEL WITH WORKS-IN-PROGRESS IN ORDER TO NOT LOSE YOUR TRAIN-OF-THOUGHT?

I am now. It applies to these works on paper you see here, for example. It’s my way of connecting the two studios. But most of my works are too big to travel with. I’ve thought of making work on the computer so that I could easily travel with it, but it’s not working out so well. There’s no place on the computer and I forget that it’s there.

WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE A NOSTALGIC PERSON?

No, I’m not a nostalgic person. I don’t have the patience. I’ve been super hyperactive from the very beginning, but even with all that speed I can still see the depth. I think that there are big conceptual shifts now, but I don’t think you can make an equivalent to huge moral shifts.

YOU THINK A LOT ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE, THE SHIFTS THAT ARE OCCURRING IN OUR TIME. THAT MAKES ME WONDER, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ART?

First of all, I don’t think that art is something that is in the objects. It’s not something that you can trap in a painting, a sculpture or picture. I’ve always thought of art as something in between things or people even. An artist is not somebody who makes art. An artist is somebody who makes a conversation about art happen somehow. I think that we really lost that train.

YOU MEAN THAT WE LOST THE CONVERSATION ABOUT ART AND HAVE BECOME TOO FOCUSED ON THE OBJECTS?

Yes. It’s the same problem we have had for centuries. It’s the Old and New Testament idea of representation, embedding things in objects. Of course there is something interesting in that. I don’t know how to get to other modes of representation or whether we really need them, but it would be very useful to try. In order to get there, one must take the art of the objects again. People working in different fields coming together can make the world change.

LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR PAINTINGS WE SEE HERE, FEATURING THE SHAPE OF TENTS.

Those go back to the time when I was running this space in Vienna until I started to come back to New York again. In that space, I wanted to build a series of conceptual theater spaces, one being very flat and long, for example, so that performers wouldn’t be able to pass each other. I wanted artists to respond and actually build these stages. Then I saw the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp by Le Corbusier with its many stages and it blew my mind. It was exactly the type of space that I was trying to build; different theater stages, indoor and outdoor. Just perfect. It makes you want to perform and do something. I then began to think that I wanted to place or make work outdoors. Shortly after that experience in Ronchamp I was at Basel Miami Beach. I walked down the street and there were all these tents, each having another art fair in it. Suddenly, I had this Eureka moment, seeing that the tent is an architectural structure which functions exactly as the lines function in my painting. It creates this possibility for individual expression, but at the same time it neutralizes it. The tent is this perfect form: it can be low, it can be high; it can protect you from the wild or function as a way for you to experience it. It has no inherent meaning, which is fantastic. It’s still an image for me and I have a million directions where I want to take this.

A TENT AS AN ICONIC IMAGE ALSO EVOKES A VERY CURRENT INTERNATIONAL ISSUE, NAMELY THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND EUROPE.

That’s a conversation I have a lot of thoughts about. I’ve been thinking about it for years before. After the 2008 crash things impacted Americans so quickly, but it took a longer time to impact the average person in Vienna, for example. In the United States there were so many people suddenly homeless; they had jobs but just lost their house. During that time, my International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokesperson contact, Melissa Fleming became the spokesperson for the High Commissioner of the UNHCR. She suggested to me back then that I should paint the refugees. Though I thought that it was too literal an approach, I still found it a fascinating idea. I realized that it wasn’t my story and that was one of the reasons why I started painting from the archive rather than using my own photographs. Because when I photographed people I realized that the exchange was completely screwed up, appropriating people’s lives or situations. By appropriating something that was already in the past and had already been mass-appropriated made more sense. But the idea stuck in my mind for years. I can imagine trying to take some kind of project to places like Dadaab or Darfur, for example, these huge camps with two or three generations of people, families, who don’t have somewhere else. These really are the cities of the future. Especially because I do think that art – or whatever it is – is as essential to human life as food or shelter.

IT’S INTERESTING THAT YOU HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS TOPIC FOR YEARS. DO YOU FIND THAT IT’S A CONVERSATION AMONG ARTISTS AT THE MOMENT?

I found that the artists in Vienna were already very much involved in protests to raise awareness for refugees long before it became widely covered by the news. This will be the thing that will change the world more than anything else in the next ten years. Would you have thought five years ago that Europe could change so much? I think the problem is that there was nobody dealing with it as a problem and they only want to deal with it as a crisis. What we have done to ourselves in the whole world is to make it so that we can only deal with things when they become a crisis. Crisis is supposed to be something that you solve and then go past. But we now have crisis economies, which means that you have to maintain the crisis; we have to make it a continuous crisis to run economies of change. It’s crisis as existence – across the board. I think that now every field is like this.

KIKI SMITH

KIKI SMITH

NOVEMBER 17, 2015

EAST VILLAGE, NEW YORK

STEPHANIE BUHMANN: WHAT YOU ARE WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

Kiki Smith: The work you see here is a layout for a doll. I made the drawings for it about four years ago when I was in Italy. When I came back, I worked on it with the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia, where I had already made a smaller flip doll in 2002 called “Owl and Pussycat”. The one I’m working on now is a flip doll as well of Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf. But after I made her face, I thought that it looked too forlorn so I’m remaking it right now.

TO ADD A SENSE OF STRENGTH TO HER EXPRESSION?

No. I thought that she looked too melancholic and sad. So I wanted her to look a bit happier.

THE PROCESS INVOLVED HERE IS PRINTMAKING?

Yes, it’s silk-screening so you have to work on each layer of color. Right now I’m working on the red layer in her face, drawing it on vellum. I’m a printmaker.

WHEN YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE A PRINTMAKER, DO YOU MEAN THAT PRINTMAKING IS THE MOST CONSISTENT MEDIUM IN YOUR WORK?

It’s one of them. Different things take precedent at different times. Or certain things are more interesting to you at different times. I have been doing a lot of printmaking in the past year. I made about nine different editions of prints, just because I wanted to and had ideas. I also teach printmaking so when I’m teaching I try to learn something new in order to show it to the students and to discover a different aspect of printing. I like that printmaking can have a drawing aspect to it.

DOES THE TIME DELAY THAT IS INHERENT IN THE PRINTING PROCESS INTRIGUE YOU AS WELL?

Yes, enormously. It’s process-oriented. You make a decision and then you go back and re-address it. You have a relationship with something. For me, a lot of my work is print-generated, whether it’s sculptural work, tapestry, drawings, or dolls – even when it doesn’t use some kind of print matrix or methodology. In fact, my works often come from prints that I have made; I use them as a model.

DO YOU OFTEN LOOK AT YOUR PAST WORKS AS A REFERENCE?

No, not on purpose. I look at older works when I haven’t finished them. When it’s going on for four years, I have to deal with that fact.

WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOUR WORKS BUILD UPON OLDER WORKS, THAT THERE IS A CONTINUUM?

Yes, there is. I don’t know if there is a narrative, but works certainly build on other works that I’ve done. Sometimes, I very specifically go back to older things, just because it occurs to me in that moment or because they are around. It just happens. I always say that I don’t try to do anything particular. I don’t try to get anywhere. Things just go along and your interests change. You see something that is interesting to you or you have an opportunity to do something that you haven’t had before.

HOW ABOUT INSTALLATION WORKS, DO THEY START WITH ONE WORK AND BUILD FROM THERE OR IS THERE A LARGER CONCEPT FROM THE START?

I would say that I only make installations in the sense that I make exhibitions. Sometimes you go into a space and you have an idea to build a sort of narrative – that could be a material narrative or a subject narrative. So then you try to make a body or constellation within that space, which somehow engages you. It’s for the most part made of autonomous works that go together or make something happen collectively. Later, they become autonomous again.

HOW ABOUT THE DOLL AT HAND, WILL SHE BE PART OF AN INSTALLATION?

No. She is just a doll for kids to play with. I have made dolls in the past. The first ones were about eighteen to twenty-four inches tall. Then I thought that I would like to make one that is a child’s size. When I was a child I had a dancing doll of Pippi Longstocking where there were elastic on her feet so that you could have a dance partner and gleefully flitter around the room. The doll was about my size and I thought that that was truly marvelous; that you could lift and carry something around that almost had your scale. It is a pleasure to think that you could make something that would enable a child to have a magical experience dragging around a wolf by its ear or telling secrets to an owl. But, it’s not art.

IT’S INTERESTING THAT YOU MAKE SUCH A CLEAR DIFFERENTIATION IN THIS CASE. IT’S HARD FOR ME NOT TO THINK OF THIS BEAUTIFUL OBJECT, WHICH IS SO OBVIOUSLY MADE BY YOUR CHARACTERISTIC HAND, AS ART.

I have always made functional objects. I have made T-shirts and scarves, for example, which are just that and not artwork. I like to make things that have a practical application in people’s lives. I care about attention to beauty and pleasure in the surroundings of one’s life. Of course, this doll probably ends up taking me ten times longer to make than a regular drawing. Like most printmaking, it is much more arduous in its process than many other things. But it is a thing that is meant to be used in the world – maybe in a different way than art is.

DO YOU LIKE THE IDEA THAT THE DOLL IS OBTAINABLE BY MORE PEOPLE THAN YOUR ARTWORK?

Yes, I like that a lot. They still are not cheap exactly, but they are within some arena of affordability. I would love to make very inexpensive things that people could afford. But then, you have to manufacture lots of them. However, these dolls are still handmade; someone prints and sews them by hand.

YOU HAVE WORKED WITH LOTS OF DIFFERENT MATERIALS, SUCH AS GLASS. HOW DO YOU DISCOVER THEM FOR YOURSELF?

I’m interested in how different materials have been discovered, invented and used. The stained glass history, for example, is why we live in the buildings we do; because people devised leading small pieces of glass that enables light to penetrate an enclosed space. We have an enormously rich history of material innovation and it is wonderful to have the possibility to utilize the wealth of knowledge that has come before us.

WHEN YOU WORK WITH A MATERIAL THAT HAS A LONG HISTORY, SUCH AS STAINED GLASS, DO YOU THINK OF IT AS CONTINUING A TRADITION?

No, it’s about having an experience. Things just keep being vital if they are vital to people.

BUT BY BRINGING SOME OF THESE OLD MEDIUMS AND TECHNIQUES, WHICH SOMETIMES BELONG TO VANISHING ART FORMS, INTO THE CONTEXT OF CONTEMPORARY ART, YOU DO HELP TO KEEP THEM ALIVE.

I don’t think it’s useful to try to keep things alive in a nostalgic way. I think that things stay alive, because they have an undiscovered vitality within them. It’s different from having a romantic notion about some other time. It’s just that different methods of doing things afford you different experiences. One has to be curious about having an experience with a material.

IN OTHER WORDS IT’S NOT ABOUT ATTAINING A SPECIFIC GOAL?

No. In fact, I don’t really want to become proficient at anything. I don’t have a desire to be a master of something or to become masterful. I don’t try to get anywhere with any of this.

IS THERE A CERTAIN KIND OF MATERIAL OR PRACTICE THAT YOU ARE INTERESTED IN, BUT HAVEN’T EXPLORED YET?

Probably lots of things. I don’t know offhand what I’m yearning for particularly. Certainly, when you go to a museum and see all the ways things are made you realize that there’s a lot you haven’t experienced yet. There are infinite amounts of things you know nothing about. I want to make stained glass windows for a place of animals and also for a moth collection.

WHEN YOU DO BECOME INTERESTED IN A NEW MATERIAL OR TECHNIQUE, DOES A LOT OF RESEARCH PRECEDE THE EXPLORATION?

No. I don’t do any research about anything. One often makes things, because something presents itself. I work a lot with the Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt, a studio for artistic mosaics and stained glass in Munich, for example. Friends of mine, the artists Stefan Huber and Raimund Kummer had worked there twenty years ago and I had done some stained glass in America so they said: “Oh let us show you this studio.” When I went there I said: “I will be part of your family.” They looked at me as if I were crazy, but years later I’m still working there. It’s just like that and simple. Also, you don’t need the best. Mayer is really great, but I also work in foundries in garages. Sometimes it’s really trying, but it doesn’t make for better or worse work. I also use student and school print shops. I like the idea of something just finding you and that there is something in front of you all the time. One day you see it, it’s interesting or relevant to you and then, your life changes.

TO ALLOW FOR THINGS TO FIND YOU RATHER THAN SEEKING THEM OUT REQUIRES THE ABILITY TO REMAIN OPEN AND PATIENT.

Yes, but some people really have a fixed path and there can be enormous space within that, too. It’s something that engages them in a broad way. Whereas me, I just sort of wander around here and there, all the time. I am for the most part someone using materials that don’t have an inherent form. I don’t use found objects, for example. The materials and methods I use have nothing inherently prescribed within them. I like that they are unpredictable and that they turn ways you weren’t planning on. I like the struggle and that you have to figure out what to do.

DO YOU THINK THAT A SUCCESSFUL WORK OF ART REQUIRES A CREATIVE STRUGGLE?