This is the seventeenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists have been announced, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Paul Shortt
Age: 32
Website: http://paulshortt.com
Current Location: Mt. Vernon, Baltimore, MD
Hometown: Floyd, VA
School: Kansas City Art Institute, BFA Painting, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, New Media

Please No Photos, 2012 Performance

Please No Photos, 2012 Performance

Current favorite artists or artwork: Pilvi Takala, Ana Prvacki

What is your day job? Artist Registry Coordinator and Program Assistant at Maryland Art Place (MAP). The MSAC website and Artists’ Registry recently went through an upgrade, and I would encourage you to check it out and sign up. It’s a free resource for Maryland residents. As part of my job, I also run the Resource Bulletin for the state, which is housed on MAP’s website and has tons of regional, national and some international calls for art. I feel that part of my “job” as an artist is to create opportunity for other artists and contribute to the local art scene. I’m happy that my day job at MAP allows me to do that.

How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? Working part-time helps, in addition to having a very understanding fiancée. I’ve also found going to the gym everyday is a good way to decompress and stay focused. Much of my practice takes place in my notebooks or on my computer so I spend a lot of time in cafes. I spend about 70% of my time trying to get the work I’ve created out, proposing projects, or applying for grants, and the other 30% developing and creating new work.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? I keep a notebook of ideas that I constantly go back to and update. From there I usually discuss my projects with friends for perspective. Then I tend do drawings, mock-ups, test videos, and write about it more. I lot of time is spend figuring out what the best way to convey the subject matter is and what would be the best materials and media to create it. Then making it could mean sending a file off to be printed, spending hours in the studio to create it, or finding the right collaborators to make the performance or video happen.

What research do you do for your art practice? I tend to find as much information about a subject that I can, which means I end up reading a lot of non-fiction, and spending tons of time online.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? I just read Herzog On Herzog, which is an incredible collection of interviews with the filmmaker. Also Kippenberger: His Life and Work about the artist Martin Kippenberger. The book was written by his sister, who’s a journalist, and the first 100 pages really lay out the complexities of not only who he was but also the contradictions you can find in everyone. I also recently enjoyed Killer on the Road by Ginger Strand, which combines a history of the highway system with true crime to explore the realities and myths around the idea of the killer on the road. Movies? “How To Survive a Plague.” It’s heartbreaking but really shows how information and activism can bring about change and save lives. I also really enjoyed “The Lego Movie.” For a film that is about a product it does a good job of exploring rules, conformity, and creativity. Television? “Mad Men,” “True Detective,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Community.” I’m also re-watching “The Wire” to see how many locations I can spot now that I live here. Music? Arthur Russell, Lonnie Holley, Idiot Glee, Tame Impala, Mark McGuire, Sam Cooke, The Swans, John Maus, Bill Callahan. My music taste is always evolving and changes depending on mood.

I would add: Radio: Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Favorite Coffee shops: Milk and Honey and Spro. Museum: I went to the BMA for the first time recently and loved the contemporary wing. They have a really incredible collection.

 

Smog, 2014, HD Video Still

Smog, 2014, HD Video Still

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? Everyone goes through rough patches. I clear my head out by going to the movies, reading the New York Times, walking around thrift stores/antique shops/libraries, etc. I’m of the belief that you have to go out and live a little to have something to make art about.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? I’m constantly challenging myself to dig deeper and get to the essence of what my work is about and attempting to do. Right now, for me it’s about having a large scope to my projects. I tend to be working on multiple projects at the same time that on the surface may seem separate, but often are interrelated, and as a whole speak to the larger vision of where I’m growing.

What is your dream project? I would love to create an interactive public art project that becomes a part of a city’s identity, like Anish Kapor’s “Bean” in Chicago and Chris Burden’s “Urban Lights” in Los Angeles. That said, I have a lot of other dream projects.

This is the sixteenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists have been announced, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Stephanie Benassi
Age: 33
Website: www.stephaniebenassi.com
Hometown: Providence, RI
Current Location: Charles Village, Baltimore
School: Undergraduate: UMASS Dartmouth
Graduate: VCU

Benassi_03

Favorite Artists: Joachim Koester and Sarah Charlesworth, John Divola

What is your day job? Adjunct teaching in Photography and New Media at George Mason University

How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? Managing a day job while maintaining a consistent studio practice is a difficult juggling act, as many artists know.  Art is a way to “stop” doing a day job and escape the bureaucracy of academia, meetings, schedules ect… Teaching is responsibility and not always in the good way. It can drain me, limit my studio time and force me to interact with “protocols,” “course objectives” and other office jargon but I do it anyway. I wanted to be an artist to get away from that but, I too, needed school to help me become more disciplined and raise the level of my work. I learn a lot from students and teaching can help reinforce good studio habits. Seeing them struggle and helping them understand that is part of the process.  When I am in the studio and I am struggling, I have to stop sometimes and take my own advice —- that I am not making art for an institution or to be liked but rather, I am there to make discoveries. Art and its making allow me to be more “reckless,” but, I believe that this balance of “responsible” teacher and “reckless” artist help me find myself in my practice. I do however think that I could make art if I was not a teacher but I don’t think I could teach art effectively if I was not making art.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? My art practice concentrates on the use of photographic images and processes to conceptually engage the contradictions, limitations, and fragmented simplifications that are inherent
in photography. Specific research, travel, and material experimentation are developed into gallery installations that incorporate straight photographs, performative process-based works and sculptural elements in order to create a complex visual and material experience. Drawing from diverse photographic genres such as landscape, forensic, Victorian momento-mori, occult, and camera-less photography, I investigate the ways in which the material conditions and specialized languages of the photographic medium shape our relations to history, power, and the production of images.

Benassi_02

What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most?  Making the art is really exciting, fun and it keeps my mind and hands active. It is exciting to make new discoveries in the studio and darkroom. Traveling and first hand research is also a major part of my studio practice, which is always fun and fruitful. The least? My least favorite part of art is self-promoting and advertisement, website maintenance and “CV building” all of which are outside of art making itself but are necessary. I find “professionalism” is a real drag. I am trying to get better at it, become more assertive and I am attempting to become more organized and set more time aside for those kinds of things.

What research do you do for your art practice? The way I go about research depends on the individual project. Much of my work starts with an investigation of a particular historical, material, or cultural aspect of photography, which may then lead to travel to a specific site of interest to gather information and some preliminary documentary photographs. Sometimes a project may also present itself through direct experimentation in the darkroom, creating crude pinhole cameras, or collage. These preliminary field and studio-based studies will then lead to further content, research and then the cycle begins again until overtime I develop a catalog of related images and objects. Much of my process then involves editing and organizing these fragments.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Mike Kelley’s Foul Perfection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog, The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult, Anything by J.G. Ballard, Agatha Christie novels- Guilty Pleasure, Bill Bryson’s Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America. Movies? anything by Werner Herzog

Benassi_04

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? I wouldn’t say that I have dry spells, but rather moments of panic and anxiety, as well as issues with confidence in the work I am making. More often than not, I will begin a project and it will end up going nowhere. I try to will it and wrestle with it as if it were an alligator and this often leads me to a dysfunctional mindset about my practice. (Friends refer to this aspect of my personality as “oh no, she’s on the ledge again!”) Often I have to set projects aside and move on to something else completely different. I keep the abandoned projects including research, sketches, prints, or materials in storage bins in the studio. Every now and then I go through these bins later and see the work with more clarity and then declare… “Oh, it’s not as bad as I thought,” and I can work with it again or change the focus of it so the work transforms into something else.  I am beginning to make some progress in trusting this cycle of attack and retreat, and I am becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable.  The projects that seem most resistant or uncomfortable in formation often are the ones that prove to be the most challenging and interesting in the end.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? I try to challenge myself every day in little ways in the studio or change the way I approach the work in general. Sometimes I decide that I don’t like a certain method or trope in photography. I let it stew underneath the surface and then I try to consciously ask myself why I don’t like it. This simple questioning of my own taste may then lead to deeper questions about this particular photographic or artistic convention. After sometime I find myself asking what this mode or convention may be useful for and it may force me to try things that I may have dismissed. For instance, a good example is cyanotypes or sun printing. To me it has a certain “handmade” nostalgia built into the method. Often I will see it presented as “old” or “traditional.” I will start making cyanotypes and ask myself, what can I do to make it do something different or dialog with the present moment rather than pretend it is of “another time”? How can I defeat its nostalgic, romantic quality?

What is your dream project? My dream project would be to travel and document silver and salt mines. I am becoming more interested in looking at the materials of darkroom photography. Sometimes because of the romance of the darkroom, we forget that there are complex geological and industrial histories imbedded in these materials.

Congratulations to our 2014 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize finalists!

Lauren Adams (Baltimore, MD)

Lauren Adams creates artwork that explores the histories of power, labor, and material culture to make connections that resonate with current sociopolitical issues.  She has had recent solo exhibitions at Back Lane West (Cornwall, England, 2012), the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (St. Louis, MO, 2012), Conner Contemporary Art (Washington, DC, 2011) and the Royal NoneSuch Gallery (Oakland, CA, 2010).  Her work has been featured extensively in group exhibitions including those at School 33 Art Center (Baltimore, MD, 2014), American University Museum (Washington, DC, 2014), Nymans (Sussex, UK, 2012), CUE Art Foundation (New York, NY, 2008), the Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh, PA, 2008), and The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, PA, 2005).  She has been awarded the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris residency, the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture residency, and she is a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant recipient.  Adams is also a cofounder of Ortega y Gasset Projects, a gallery and long distance artist collective in Queens, NY.  She is a 2007 Master of Fine Art graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, and is currently a fulltime faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

(Interview with Lauren on baltimoreart.org: http://www.baltimorearts.org/sondheim-interviews-lauren-francis-adams/)

Kyle Bauer (Baltimore, MD)

Kyle Bauer, currently an artist-in-residence at Baltimore Clayworks, creates mixed media sculptures that reference maritime navigation while conveying balance, tension and control.  Bauer’s work has been featured in more than two dozen regional, national, and international exhibitions, including shows at Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA, 2014), School 33 Art Center (Baltimore, MD, 2014), The Shed (Galway, Ireland, 2013), Pine Box Art Center (Baltimore, MD  2013), Maryland Art Place (Baltimore, MD 2013), Masur Museum of Art (Monroe, LA) and The Clay Studio (Philadelphia, PA,  2012, 2011, 2010).  He was a 2013 participant in Maryland Art Place’s 30 Under Thirty artist lecture series, and currently works at the Baltimore Museum of Art as the Conservation Technician of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.  Bauer received his Masters in Fine Art from Louisiana State University in 2011.

(Interview with Kyle on baltimorearts.org: http://www.baltimorearts.org/sondheim-interviews-kyle-bauer/)

 

Shannon Collis (Baltimore, MD)

Shannon Collis, a native of Canada, is currently an assistant professor of Art at the University of Maryland, where she teaches Digital Foundations and Print Media.  Her studio practice focuses on creating installations and interactive environments that explore various ways in which digital technologies can transform one’s perception of audio and visual stimuli.  Her work has been exhibited widely across North America as well as in Europe, Asia and Australia, including in exhibitions at Open Studio (Toronto, Canada, 2013), The Art Gallery, University of Maryland (College Park, MD, 2012), Conkling Gallery (Mankato, MN, 2008), Gallery FAB (St. Louis, MO, 2008), Lahti Art Museum (Lahti, Finland, 2004), and SideOn Gallery (Sydney, Australia, 2003).  Collis is a 2005 graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and has completed post-graduate research at Concordia University in Montreal in the area of Digital Media and Computation Arts.

 

Marley Dawson (Washington, DC)

Marley Dawson received both his Bachelor of Visual Arts (2004) and Master of Visual Arts (2008) from Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney, Australia.  Dawson works in sculpture, installation and performance, creating often monumental kinetic installations that draw largely on physics, mathematics and do-it-yourself construction techniques.  His work has been exhibited widely across Australia, in Asia and Europe and locally in Washington, DC, including exhibitions at HEMPHILL (Washington, DC, 2014), Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (Sydney, Australia, 2013), Washington Project for the Arts (Washington, DC, 2013), Hillyer Art Space, (Washington, DC, 2013), Hamiltonian Gallery (Washington, DC, 2012), Museum of Old and New Art (Hobart, Australia, 2011), Para Site (Hong Kong, China, 2009), and Point Éphémère (Paris, France, 2006).  Dawson approaches the studio environment as a test laboratory, creating work that considers the viewer is an intrinsic component of his work and that provides opportunity for engagement.

 

Neil Feather (Baltimore, MD)

Neil Feather is internationally known as an experimental musical instrument inventor and performer.  Feather’s music generating sculptures are listed in the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments and he has a long history of exhibits and performances.  He has performed in more than 200 concerts of his original music using these sculptures, including venues such as the American Visionary Art Museum (Baltimore, MD, 2008), the Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh, PA, 2008), Area 405 (Baltimore, MD 2007), the Knitting Factory (New York, NY, 2005), and the Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD, 2004).  In 2007, Feather was both a recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award and a Sondheim Semi-Finalist.  Feather is a founding member of the Red Room Collective and the High Zero Foundation, the organizations that support and provoke Baltimore’s world-renowned experimental music scene.  He has presented his instruments recently at TEDX Baltimore and this July his works Anaplumb and his Magnapooter will be featured in a ballet produced by BalletX at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.  He received his Masters of Fine Art from the University of Montana and his Bachelors of Fine Art from Pennsylvania State University.

 

Kyle Tata (Baltimore, MD)

Kyle Tata is a native of Baltimore City and a Bachelors of Fine Arts graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art.  His work primarily uses photography, printmaking, installations, and artist books to explore the cultural history of Modernism.  Tata has an extensive local and regional exhibition history, including exhibitions at Current Space (Baltimore, MD, 2013), the International Print Center New York (New York, NY, 2013), Furthermore gallery (Washington, DC, 2013), Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (Philadelphia, PA, 2013), and Maryland Art Place (Baltimore, MD,  2011).  His artist books are held in collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The International Center for Photography and the Indie Photobook Library.  Tata is currently the instructor of photography at Baltimore School for the Arts.

 

Stewart Watson (Baltimore, MD)

Stewart Watson creates site specific sculptural installations that are informed and inspired by genealogy and by furnishings that have been preserved by her family as important artifacts, regardless of those object’s usefulness or beauty.  Watson’s exhibition history is extensive and includes recent exhibitions at FJORD gallery (Philadelphia, PA, 2014), Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York, NY, 2014), Rice Gallery (Westminster, MD, 2013), Jordan Faye Contemporary (Baltimore, MD, 2011), the Contemporary Museum (Baltimore, MD, 2011), the Washington Project for the Arts (Washington, DC, 2011), and Current Space (Baltimore, MD, 2010).  Watson has received Individual Artist Grants from Maryland State Arts Council in 2011, 2007, and 2001, and was the winner of the 2010 Sadat Art for Peace prize.  She has been a finalist (2004) and semifinalist (2012, 2007) for the Trawick Prize and was a 2013 Sondheim Semifinalist.  Watson currently teaches sculpture and drawing at the University of Maryland College Park.  She was a founder and since 2003, has been the Executive Director of Area 405 exhibition space and neighboring Oliver Street Studios.  Watson received her Bachelors of Fine Arts from The Pennsylvania State University and her Masters of Fine Art from The University of Maryland.

 

This is the fifteenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists will be announced in mid-April, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014. (UPDATE: Finalists have been announced, congrats Lauren!)

Name: Lauren Frances Adams
Age: 34
Website: http://www.lfadams.com 
Current Location: Remington, Baltimore, MD
Hometown: Snow Hill, North Carolina
School: BFA, UNC-Chapel Hill in studio art and art history, with Honors; MFA, Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Tour Fan, 4' x 6', sintra, paint, hardware and wood, 2012, site-specific project at Nymans House and Gardens in Sussex, England

Grand Tour Fan, 4′ x 6′, sintra, paint, hardware and wood, 2012, site-specific project at Nymans House and Gardens in Sussex, England

Current favorite artists or artwork: Rediscovering Meyer Vaisman and Adriana Varejão for their mashups of the political and decorative. All time favorite artists:  Robert Rauschenberg, who challenged painting with print and sculpture, David Mabb, a contemporary British artist who thinks carefully about how utopia is tied to the domestic, Sigmar Polke, who invokes the decorative within and against abstraction and figuration in paint, Rodchenko and Stepanova, whose failures were the most noble, and my students, who are brilliant and excite me with their fearlessness and curiosity, and my artist friends, who in their varying levels of artistic engagement remind me that being an artist is a lifetime pursuit. The artists I love to teach to my students: Van Gogh, Rembrandt, William Kentridge, Vermeer, Fred Wilson, Matisse, Nedko Solakov, Magritte, Helen Frankenthaler, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Ana Mendieta, Morris Louis, Mona Hatoum, Max Ernst, Nicole Eisenman, Philip Guston, Francis Picabia, Katharina Grosse. . .

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? I teach painting and drawing full-time at MICA. I love working with students. The best is when the concerns in my studio align with those of my students. I find this maxim useful: You teach what you most need to learn. So, it’s a mutual learning environment. I’m very lucky to have a teaching job, particularly because my work is maybe more free from market concerns, which typically haven’t been kind to installation work and political work. I don’t have full time gallery representation, so being a free agent really suits my artistic ambitions.

Installation view of Elusive Contact, Rotating History Project at Clermont Forum II, Clermont Foundation, Virginia, 2014

Installation view of Elusive Contact, Rotating History Project at Clermont Forum II, Clermont Foundation, Virginia, 2014

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? An attempt to elevate the forgotten or overlooked. An investigation of exhausted grand narratives.

What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? I like when ideas seem to come out of nowhere after you’ve been banging your head for days. Synapses firing in the most unusual ways lead to creative breakthroughs. The worst is that you can’t predict that — you can set up conditions hoping it’ll happen, but you can’t force it. I like the positive outcomes of being curious about our world.

What research do you do for your art practice? I am a completely research-based artist. Even though my work is personal in that I’m exploring aspects of my identity, history, and culture that I care deeply about,  I am most inspired by archival investigations and the illusion of reality that the archive presents. I also enjoy the kind of code-breaking hunt that archival research allows. For the current project I’m working on, Elusive Contact (When you cut your finger, bandage the knife), I’ve been doing so much research with images that are difficult to locate the provenance of that my whole practice feels like it’s based upon reverse Google image searches. However, I always enjoy on-site research, and I am particularly inspired by the ways in which museums and cultural heritage sites display historic information.

Elusive Contact  #19  (Umbrella decorated with the Dutch Ridderzaal contemporary throne pattern, also with Tournai blue and gold plate sherds from Den Haag, Netherlands, late 1700’s/Woodblock print, ‘Dutch man taking a walk with his Javanese slave’, 1780’s, Nagasaki-e, Japan, now in the British Museum), Gouache on paper, 14” x 20”, 2014

Elusive Contact #19
(Umbrella decorated with the Dutch Ridderzaal contemporary throne pattern, also with Tournai blue and gold plate sherds from Den Haag, Netherlands, late 1700’s/Woodblock print, ‘Dutch man taking a walk with his Javanese slave’, 1780’s, Nagasaki-e, Japan, now in the British Museum), Gouache on paper, 14” x 20”, 2014

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? Right now my reading is all non-fiction related to my practice: Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America 1780-1865, by Marcus Wood and Representations of Slavery: Race and Ideology in Southern Plantation Museums by Jennifer L. Eichstedt and Stephen Small. I’m also digging back in with the catalogues from recent and historical art exhibitions: Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art and Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade (from a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum). As for sound, I listen to NPR and podcasts in my studio, I’m currently a fan of Marc Marin’s WTF podcast and Bad at Sports art talk podcast out of Chicago.  I’m a complete cinephile and two recent films come to mind: Slavoj Zizek’s Pervert’s Guide to Cinema and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? Yes, this is normal and a universal experience. I usually do what I tell my students to do: just start making something, get your hands dirty, and even if it’s a failure it will usually provoke something that is much more interesting.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? Obviate the known by choosing to make things/engage with ideas that I don’t yet understand.

What is your dream project? Collaborative artist in residence with William Kentridge and Fred Wilson at the living history museum and cultural heritage site in Jamestown, Virginia

This is the fourteenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists will be announced in mid-April, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selcected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Lu Zhang
Age: 31
Website: www.lu-zhang.com
Current Location:  Baltimore
Hometown: Born in Chongqing, China / Grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
School:  BFA (General Fine Arts) from MICA, MFA (Painting) from Frank Mohr Institute in the Netherlands

6 out of 40 postcard designs for Postcard Sale - de Loods (Silo) Groningen, the Netherlands /  2013

6 out of 40 postcard designs for Postcard Sale – de Loods (Silo) Groningen, the Netherlands / 2013

Current favorite artists or artwork: Bas Jan Ader, John Baldessari sings Sol LeWitt, Marjin Van Kreij, Sophie Calle, Francis Alÿs, JCJ Vanderheyden, Mark Dion, Bernd and Hilda Becher, Wolfgang Laib, Shigeru Ban. YouTube video of Billie Whitelaw’s performance of Samuel Beckett’s Not I.

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? I have a few day jobs. I’m the Business Manager at The Contemporary, a Managing Editor at bmoreart.com, and I teach part-time at MICA. I wouldn’t say I’m balancing work / studio / life. Each day has different priorities and what gets attention depends on the deadline. I set studio deadlines and I tell other people my deadlines as a way to keep myself accountable.

It’s nice that all my jobs are art centric, either working with artists, talking about art, or trying to engage a larger public in that conversation. It also makes it more challenging to compartmentalize since I’m more personally invested.

Drawn Line /  2012 / handcut acrylic on vellum / Installation size variable, line measures 656 feet by 1/8th of an inch

Drawn Line / 2012 / handcut acrylic on vellum / Installation size variable, line measures 656 feet by 1/8th of an inch

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? I view my work as experiential drawings that exist between sculpture and painting. I’m responding to things that already exist in the world – opera costume elements, a gaudy Chinese vase, a pair of coasters from Jerusalem that I found in the Netherlands, an unwanted building. I choose these things because I have a unexpected emotional reaction to them which I want to explore further. I’m interested in ownership, how one acquires things. I’m also interested in playing with the gesture of drawing and documenting memory as a drawing process. For example, creating a long sculptural line in a very absurd way or remaking an image again and again.

Postcard Sale - de Loods (Silo) Groningen, the Netherlands / 2013

Postcard Sale – de Loods (Silo) Groningen, the Netherlands / 2013

What part of artmaking do you like or enjoy the most? The least? 

Most:

The moment when a lot of lines I’ve been following come together
Experimenting with unfamiliar materials and new processes
Problem solving
Being in the studio with coffee and NPR

Least:

The time between projects
Paperwork
When a project/idea I’m was really excited about is way less interesting a few days later, essentially when it doesn’t pass the vetting process.

What research do you do for your art practice? It depends on the project. I’d say my work tends to be research intensive. It varies from material or process specific to more context-based. For example, in earlier works I was really interesting in creating a drawn line that had a lot of body. That required doing tests with different mediums and application techniques. I’ve also tried to teach myself how to make a fresco through Internet sources. That required extensive research on recipes for lime plaster as well as doing studies on how certain pigments reacted with the lime over time. That project actually got so research heavy that it kind of killed the work.

I often need to learn new processes for each project, for example ceramic glazing or how to use a laser cutter (luckily I learned that when I worked as an architectural model maker). Right now I’m working on a project around a specific historic event. It is requiring more research into primary sources. I’ve needed to find access to those resources and to find people more knowledgeable than myself to interview. So I guess, there’s a bit of stalking as research too.

Dropped Vase / 2011 / handcut acrylic on vellum / size variable, undropped vase measures 16 inches in length

Dropped Vase / 2011 / handcut acrylic on vellum / size variable, undropped vase measures 16 inches in length

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? I like Paul Auster’s writings, specifically The Invention of Solitude and New York Trilogy. As a reader, you are aware of how he uses language to construct characters in a very transparent way.

I’d recommend a short video called Overview done by Planetary Collective. Astronauts talk about the overview effect – the experience of seeing the earth from outside. There’s one part I love about how from space the sky looks like a line. I also like This American Life and Radio Lab.

I try to watch the dumbest TV possible which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, but it’s perfect for shutting down my brain to decompress.

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? Absolutely. Though I think they are part of the process, incubation periods. That’s what I like to tell myself anyway. I give myself assignments. For example, to make X number of things everyday. Most of my “creative dry spells” happen when I’m overwhelmed by a lot of things I really want to explore to the point that I just get stuck and I don’t know where to start. I find that forcing myself to focus on tangible things and materials helps. Once I’m able to free up that mental space things tend to fall into place.

This is the thirteenth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists will be announced in mid-April, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Adam Farcus
Age: 30
Websites: www.adamfarcus.com
leaseagreementbaltimore.blogspot.com
Current Location: Waverly neighborhood, Baltimore, MD
Hometown: Coal City, IL
School: Undergraduate: Illinois State University (BFA – painting/drawing)
Graduate: University of Illinois at Chicago (MFA – studio art)

Boil Order (salt; installed publicly) 2013, 12' x 12'

Boil Order (salt; installed publicly) 2013, 12′ x 12′

Current favorite artists or artwork: (This is tough because there are so many) – Jason Dodge, Vanessa Safavi, Gabriel Orozco, Amalia Pica, Amanda Ross-Ho, David Hammons, Bill Conger, Pierre Huyghe, Oscar Tuazon, The Jogging, Vanessa Place, Kenneth Goldsmith, Karin Sander, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Agnes Martin, Carol Bove…

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? I am an adjunct professor in Art History at MICA and also the Gallery Director for the Hodson and Whitaker Galleries at Hood College. I also co-direct Lease Agreement, an alternative space in my house. I often come up with ideas, or update old ideas, throughout the course of my day. This means that I always feel like I am working on my studio practice. But, physically working in my studio happens primarily happens when I need to (to execute or test ideas) or when I have time to. I will have a more regular schedule in the Fall and plan to have studio hours (T/Th: 12p – 4p, F-Su: 9a – 3p).

Garrison (from the series, Garrisons) (acrylic paint, wood glue, and wood; installed in every window) 2013-2014, roughly 10" x 8" x 2½"

Garrison (from the series, Garrisons) (acrylic paint, wood glue, and wood; installed in every window) 2013-2014, roughly 10″ x 8″ x 2½”

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? My work is conceptual, in that it often begins with an idea and moves to research and making. The concept often dictates the medium and materials for a work. I purposefully leave conceptual space or play in my pieces to allow for both emotional affect and a variety of interpretations.

What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? I most enjoy the research and testing of ideas, and least enjoy repetitive work.

What research do you do for your art practice? The research I do includes traveling to sites, photographic documentation and categorization of said photographs, internet searching, and reading. Most often I amass a collection of photographs and notes on things I’ve found in the world before I move into production.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music?
Maggie Nelson, Bluets (read this for the third time a few weeks ago) – book
The Walking Dead – tv show
Edward Mullany, Figures for an Apocalypse – book
Mary Pipher, The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture – book
Marjorie Perloff, unoriginal genius: poetry by other means in the new century – book
Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes – music
Locrian – music

The Green Boat (photographs and snow globe) 2014, 3½" x 4" x 2"

The Green Boat (photographs and snow globe) 2014, 3½” x 4″ x 2″

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? I only get dry spells if I am too busy with teaching or with one of my three galleries. In these situations I prioritize making by doing it first thing in the morning. The rest of the day then is for “work” and it usually easier to do if I spend time in the studio beforehand.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? I have the best critic as a partner, Allison Yasukawa. We share a studio and support each other out a lot in our practices. I also take time read and to see art as much as I can.

What is your dream project? A piece called Deluge that would be installed around the city at a variety of public sites and gallery locations. Each site of the installed piece consists an audio track of cawing crows and ocean/bay buoys that are chained to the ground or floor. The title of the piece has slightly different parenthetical titles which corresponds to that location’s current height above sea-level. By example, if this piece were installed at the Ynot Lot it would be titled Deluge (94.094 feet). Or, an installation of the piece at Rash Field (near the Maryland Science Center) it would be titled Deluge (7.414 feet).

sketch for Deluge (acrylic paint, spray paint, and collage on paper) 2013, 5" x 7"

sketch for Deluge (acrylic paint, spray paint, and collage on paper) 2013, 5″ x 7″

 

This is the twelfth in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists will be announced in mid-April, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Jon Malis
Age: 29
Website: www.jonmalis.com
Location: Live – DC, a new landing spot is TBD, but I’m looking to buy.
Studio – Bloomingdale (DC)
Work – Baltimore
Hometown: Boston, MA
School: UG: George Washington University (DC)
Grad: American University (DC)

Unknown Russian B&W Paper, RC, c.1991
13cm x 18cm unique photogram on expired paper, 2013

Current favorite artists or artwork: This is a good one… I just returned from London a few weeks ago, and saw so much amazing work that I’m perpetually horrible at picking favorites. Locally, I had a chance last week to tour the Winogrand show at the NGA with the show’s curator, and that was just an amazing experience. When I was in London, I had a chance to spend an afternoon with James Turrell’s show at Pace, and just the way he works with light…

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life?
I’m an Assistant Professor of Photography at Loyola University, and, honestly, at the moment, I’m not balancing my work/studio life as much as I should be. This is my first year at Loyola, so there have been a lot of administrative and teaching factors that have kept me out of the studio lately. I can’t wait for the summer to be able to spend the majority of my time in the studio, I’ve a lot of new ideas to develop.

Kodak Medalist (Double Weight), G surface, grade 2, expiration 6/70, emulsion # 57801-11102R 8” x 10” unique photogram on expired paper, 2013

Kodak Medalist (Double Weight), G surface, grade 2, expiration 6/70, emulsion # 57801-11102R
8” x 10” unique photogram on expired paper, 2013

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? I alternate between calling myself “an artist who works within the greater realm of photography” and a conceptual photographer. I’m fascinated with how viewers interact with work – and how you can look at the same thing, but through different devices (projection, print, slide, screen, etc), and come away from it having experienced something completely different. My studio practice really works to examine the mechanisms behind viewing art, from old and tarnished slide projector screens (like what you’d have viewed the family trip on when we all shot slides on vacation) to pixelated computer screens, expired black & white photo paper, and everything in-between. I just received a summer research grant to stretch these ideas into a new tangent, and I’m super excited to see what I’m able to develop.

What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? Please don’t get me wrong – I love the process of creation – but, personally, my favorite part of art(making) is having a chance to disconnect from the work from time to time, and just think about things that interest me. Idea generation really is the key (in my opinion) to successful work, and just having an opportunity to sit back, not worry, and think is pretty awesome. As an educator, my favorite part of art (in general) is being able to sit down with my students, look at their ideas/work/etc, and help them figure out where to go next – it’s easy to tell students what they should do, but it’s much more rewarding to help guide them to their own conclusions, which I then get to see the results of. My least favorite part is the paperwork and business of being an artist – I’m willing to bet that this is a common answer, but I’m much more involved with the process, and my work, when I’m creating than when I’m filling out forms and fighting bureaucracy.

Kodak Kodabromide (Single Weight), F surface, grade 2, expiration 6/71, Emulsion # 57101-12044H 8” x 10” unique photogram on expired paper, 2013

Kodak Kodabromide (Single Weight), F surface, grade 2, expiration 6/71, Emulsion # 57101-12044H
8” x 10” unique photogram on expired paper, 2013

What research do you do for your art practice? I look at research in three different modes – conceptual, technical (practical) and theoretical. Conceptually, my research is a very internal process – how I approach viewing & interacting with work, seeing work, thinking about how I see work, and how others see my work. Technically, it’s the how I create my work – is there technology involved (I have a new project on the horizon that hinges on custom 3d modeling and printing interfaces I need to develop), what format will the work be in, how will it be presented/mounted, etc… Theoretically, it’s about how my work fits in the current conversations among artistic, as well as scientific/philosophical/etc, ideas. There’s a lot of work being created that deals with archival materials and/or alternate narratives, which I’m really interested in. Likewise, as technology develops, there are more and more ways of viewing content, and with each new device of viewership, there needs to be an understanding of how that device influences its viewer.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? To be honest, most of the books I’ve read lately are all tied to this spring’s teaching – I’m a little embarrassed by the lack of things I’ve read for myself recently. I did just see a great documentary, though – Particle Fever. I think, given my interests in science growing up, it’s really awesome to see so many scientists excited over a single machine. As for music, it depends on what I’m doing – I tend to equate different memories and motivations to music, so, really, it all depends on what I’m doing. If I’m writing/researching, I love Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way, chiller Moby, Bon Iver, etc. If I’m working in the studio, it’s usually uptempo pandora mixes (there was a lot of Girl Talk and things like that going on in grad school among). When I’m in the office or commuting to work, it’s usually NPR and NPR podcasts. I still love reading the New York Times (in its printed form), but I just don’t have the time to do it consistently anymore.

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? All the time! I’m lucky, though, in that I usually have enough material to keep on with something – if I get stuck on one project, I’ll move to another, then back, etc. This was especially true when I was working full-time in the film business, as corporate/commercial work tends to be very quick – I’d be able to take a few-day break from my own art, then, when I came back from the job, I’d be ready to take it back on. Now that I’m teaching, I think I’ve got enough ideas to last a few years – they’re probably not all winners, but they’re things to explore when I get stuck on my primary body of work.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? Right now, the challenge is just to keep making. I really hate how slow my production has become this year, and it’s definitely a rut I’m looking forward to escaping this summer. Overall, though, I think the challenge is to stay relevant – and not let others get you down. I know there are artists out there doing similar things to me, some more successfully, but ultimately, it’s how my work all fits together that keeps me on track. If my overall themes start to lose focus, then, I think, it’s time to re-evaluate what it is that I’m doing. But, if one small facet has been done before, the challenge becomes how I can present that sub-body of work in a way that is cohesive with my overarching premise, and not making it look like I’m copying someone else conceptually. I don’t necessarily agree that “It’s all been done before”, but, as artists, it’s our challenge to take the everyday that we live in, and put our own spin on it.

What is your dream project? That’s a tough one – I’m really interested in the memories I have of images I shot when I worked as a photojournalist. Since the newspapers I worked for own the copyrights to the images I made while employed with them, I’d love to work with my memories of these images in some way. Conversely, I’d love to travel to London (which could arguably be my unofficial second home – I love it there) and do something with a series of underground dark, underutilized pedestrian passageways networked throughout the city.