This is the seventh 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: Tommy Bobo
Age: 30
Current Location: Bolton Hill, Baltimore
Hometown: North Augusta, SC
School: MICA and University of Kansas


Current favorite artists or artwork: Liz Magic Laser’s Absolute Event and Rutherford Chang’s 100 White Albums

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life?Currently, I am a full time student with two on campus jobs. I am big believer in taking at a minimum one day off a week. Keeps my head clear and my wife happy. Also I make an effort to stay on a 9-5 schedule. Sometimes it is just better to leave something to be done the next morning. It keeps my momentum up.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? My work is an examination of the different qualities of projected light in between the bulb and the screen. I use lots of projectors, lenses, and diffusion materials. My studio practice is based on experimentation and trial-and-error. I burn through a lot of ideas pretty quickly.

What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? I love that first burst of an idea and those midway through epiphanies . It’s like falling in love. When you just can’t wait to get to the studio everyday. I loathe editing documentation of the work. It feels like a postmortem.  Also I have to spend a lot of time in the dark, which during winter gets quite hard.

What research do you do for your art practice? Right now I am reading specs on different types of plexiglass. I really like new materials, but it requires a lot of reading and experimentation. Amazon reviews are my lifeline to a certain degree. I also read a lot: art history, theory, film history, and novels. When I am working with film as a source material I end up watching a lot of movies looking for particular little details.


What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? Book= Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem – It’s about the lengths we will go to in order to save endangered species. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking book.  BBC Made for TV Movies based on true stories= Holy Flying Circus- Which is about the release of Life of Brian in the UK. The Challenger- which is about Richard Feynman’s investigation into the Challenger explosion. Music= Lambchop’s ‘Mr. M’ and the remix version ‘Mr. N’ Television= Community, Broad City, and Bob’s Burgers

Looking at your work (especially the balloon pieces, and the Sound of Music supercut) how important is a sense of humor in your work? How do you see it working with the main themes in your work, especially considering how some of your recommendations approach this? (especially Bob’s Burgers. SO GOOD.) I have to admit that contemporary art is pretty absurd. The fact that I like to express my innermost thoughts with slide projectors and balloons is funny in of itself. That balloons in question also look like 3 foot long phalli which just makes the point clearer. With all that said I don’t I set out to make humorous work. When I have tried to make funny work, it has usually been painfully unsuccessful. The humor that is in the work is more a reflection of my personality and playfulness in my studio practice.

About eight years ago there was a William Wegman show at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. It was of mostly non-dog art, self portraiture, paintings and video mostly. It was a revelation for me to see such earnest work that was funny. Here I was a goofy kid right out of undergrad trying to make overly serious work about all the darkest parts of my life. I went to see that show 10-15 times. It took a while, but eventually I felt freed from having to be so serious all the time.

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? Dry spells are inevitable. I try not to let it get me down. Usually I try to bring something new into the studio, a book or material. Often I find myself rereading a book I’ve read a dozen times before, and find something new in it that triggers something. It is just about being open and letting connections happen.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? By bringing in new materials and technologies. If I am learning I am working. Also by not being 100% satisfied.

What is your dream project? Big dream: To reinstate the artist-in-residency program at NASA. They have all the best toys. I am not sure what I would make but It would likely involve radio telescopes and weightlessness. Medium dream: To do an installation piece at the Uptown Movie Theater in DC. It’s where 2001:A Space Odyssey premiered and played for a complete year. Every movie is made better by being seen there.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake invites you to get HIP in Baltimore with B-HiP.  The Baltimore Homeownership Incentive Program is hosting a homebuying workshop on

Thursday, April 3, 2014, at the Baltimore War Memorial, 101 North Gay Street, from 11am – 2pm.  

Click HERE for more info.



This is the sixth 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: Elena Volkova
Age: 38
Current Location: Hampden, Baltimore, MD
Hometown: Kiev, Ukraine
School: MICA


Current favorite artists: Robert Irwin’s work follows the aesthetics of “nothingness” in a very interesting way.  I enjoy his writings, and, although rarely, seeing his work.  Pioneer in installation work,  Irwin did groundbreaking research in our perception of space, resisting traditional interpretation of artwork.   Recently, I watched James Benning’s film Ten Skies, which was an incredible experience.  Benning’s work, although referencing an experience, is an experience in itself.   The viewer becomes an active participant of a very powerful experience of nothingness and stillness.   Another artist is Roni Horn; I truly admire her photographic work, as well of her approach to bring forth subtleness of the everyday moments.  I like her work because it is very difficult to do photography and disregard the image; and her work goes beyond image-making; it is about paying attention.

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? I teach art at a local high school for girls, as well as evening adjunct courses in photography. I try to do a little bit of work every day, but get most of work accomplished when I have a chunk of time, especially during school breaks.  If I were to think about balance between studio and life, as much as I try, life wins.  So, I try to think that everything and everywhere is my studio, from a bench in a park, to a pottery wheel at work; it is a lot less pressure that way.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? My ultimate goal is to do a little bit of work every day, even if I only have ten minutes. Looking is very important; looking around or staring in the window, making mental notes of things, observing, all that is a part of my studio practice . Work includes anything that helps me progress, reading, writing, drawing, loading film, or taking one photo a day; anything that takes my mind from a daily routine and into the mode of art making counts. I tend to think a lot about my work, and make the actual pieces when I have free time. I am very critical, perhaps too critical, so I don’t make a lot of work. For my own art, I believe in precision: less work but more profound is better than a lot of work with little meaning. My process is very slow, and it takes several years for a project to come to full fruition.

What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? I like to think about work the most. I also enjoy the process of making subtle decisions while working in the studio. I really enjoy drawing and the labor that goes into a piece, as well as making repetitive marks and the sound of pencil on paper.   Recently, I got back into black and white large format photography.  I absolutely love the process, and it reminds me of the reasons why I fell in love with photography fifteen year ago: it is the slow way of working, as well as element of the unknown in the process.  What I like least is the feeling of emptiness after a project is accomplished, especially when the work is exhibited.  I’m not sure if it contributes anything to my future work.  It is a negative feeling, perhaps related to not knowing what will come next, or fear of repeating the same ideas, or dissatisfaction of the results.

What research do you do for your art practice? Part of my overall research on art production, aesthetics and beauty are thinkers like Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jaque Raniciere.  Some contemporary critical works that I have been reading are The Aesthetics of Disappearance by Paul Virilio and Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime by Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe.  A couple books that have influenced my practice are Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler and The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art after the Readymade by John Roberts.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? I developed an addiction to In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, programs in the fields of culture, philosophy, history, and religion.  I don’t really watch TV, but my recent favorite is The School of Comedy, a British sketch show where kids play adult roles.  A really great film that came out last year, The Grand Beauty (La Grande Belleza).

Is there anything in culture, philosophy, history and religion that ties in with the ideas about emptiness and minimalism you mentioned? Or perhaps other influences, like from your life or places you’ve lived? Culturally, in the western civilization, there is not enough appreciation for space in between, where emptiness, blankness, stillness, free time, and negative space have substantial meaning.  I would describe the focus of my work as the act of paying attention,  and its significance in the human experience. I guess the best link that may be traced is Taoism and Chinese painting, where the empty space,  or the unknown is considered to be the subject of the work, and the brushstrokes serve as framework.  Things on the periphery, marginal, and “barely-there” are explored as a subject.  I consider my work to be post-minimalist because it explores similar themes such as significance of material and relationship of the object to the space where it is displayed.  When I work with site-specific installations, the focus is the way the viewer encounters the artwork, but never the image itself.


How do you challenge yourself in your work? Some big questions include the following: How do you create work that looks like nothing with profound ideas and deep implications behind it? How do you create work that is self-contained and self-referential, yet creates an experience for a viewer. My favorite Robert Irwin quote is Art is what has happened to the viewer; and the challenge is to create those moments. From a philosophical perspective, I question whether image has validity in contemporary art, and what are the ways to create visual art without creating an image, or artwork that does not focus on the image, but rather addresses something else.

What is your dream project? I would like to make work about landscape. My dream project is to figure out a way to make landscape work that will be new and interesting, and not a reiteration of work that has been done by someone else.  It would require a lot of time and a lot of empty space.  A few years ago, I took a trip to Western Ireland, which changed me on some profound level.  Perhaps one day, I would like my work to be close to that experience; but for now, I would not even know where to begin, or even to find the best words to describe it.

This is the fifth 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: Terence Hannum
Age: 34
Current Location: Parkville, MD
Hometown: Chicago, IL
School: MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Current favorite artists or artwork: Anoka Faruquee (moiré pattern paintings are very exciting), Peter Kubelka (the installation of his film for Arnulf Rainer really was an inspiration for this work) and Scott Short’s weird xerox paintings at the moment.  But I could easily add William Anastasi or Jennie C. Jones to the list.

What is your day job? I am an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Stevenson University, who coordinates the Foundations Program.

How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? By not sleeping and keeping a calendar.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? I would describe my work as primarily concerned with the relationship between sound and vision. This body of work is really about this found obsolescent object, the commercial cassette tape.  It is slightly anachronistic in the west, appearing in some subcultures like experimental noise or black metal, but is more widely in use in certain countries in Africa – if you haven’t bookmarked Awesome Tapes from Africa you must (  My studio practice is more of a laboratory where I try out a lot of ideas, I tend to generate sets of formal explorations and then edit them down.  This body of work came from repairing a Roland Space Echo, an original tape delay, and realizing how beautiful the surface of the tape was.

What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least?  The part I enjoy the most is the focus.  It is probably the closest I can get to meditating with my hectic life.  The least, is all the applications, deadlines, etc. and trying to get the work out there.  I always hate that feeling that I lost good studio time to just push paper.  But it is part of the beast.

What research do you do for your art practice? I listen a lot.  Right now I listen to a lot of records that used magnetic tape as a composition element so a lot of Musique Concrete and Acousmatic works, Eliane Radigue, Ivo Malec to David Tudor or early Steve Reich.  I also look at a lot of artists who use hard edge abstraction like Ellsworth Kelley or Frederick Hammersley.  Just try and pay attention and be sensitive to what people have done before you.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? I make a lot of art zines and have really been intrigued by The Photo Book: A History Vol 1-3 by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger.  It’s really comprehensive.

Movies? Derek Jarman’s “Blue” – I love the monochromatic picture, and the poetic intimate story.  I think it is a masterpiece by relying on audio over image, “Our life will pass like traces of a cloud.”

Television? “True Detective” (HBO), Kind of wound the audience up into a quasi-mythic possible Lovecraftian furor at first but ended like some nightmare SVU by way of David Lynch – with some excellent acting.

Music? Outside of the reissues Editions Mego is doing with the GRM studio of people like Luc Ferrari and Bernard Parmegiani, I am really into groups like Rainer Veil’s last LP on Modern Love, the recent collaboration between Sunn O))) and Ulver, the recent Kangding Ray “Solens Arc” and the LP Kevin Drumm just did “Crowded” is so harsh and intense.

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? I did when I was younger.  But now not really.  I just work through them, I just keep trying ideas and making failures.  For me art has this way of solving itself, I’ll go and make some music or read, or do research about a material and then I’ll return to something.  Just because it gets made doesn’t mean it has to be shown.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? Not to be afraid to make a wrong move, just make it and step back and be honest.  Editing is so important, so often its so easy to not know what is essential to the idea or experience.  So I always start asking what is necessary and what isn’t?  The other thing is to find people whose vision you respect when it gets tricky and who know more than you do.  And then actually listen to them.

What is your dream project? I really am interested in experiences, so one of my dream projects is to combine audio installations using analog tape players extended across large architectural spaces.  To use multiple reel to reel tape players to generate delays of original audio.  I would combine this with large cassette tape collages, to allow a slip between the media on a larger scale and make something immersive and push toward the sublime.

The (e)merge Artist Platform presents a vetted selection of works by independent artists displayed throughout the hotel’s public areas. (e)merge is the only art fair that gives free exhibition space to artists without gallery representation.

The 2014 (e)merge Vetting Committee members are: AI WEIWEI, artist, Beijing; MIKA YOSHITAKE, assistant curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; and JEFFREEN M HAYES, director, Rebuild Foundation, Chicago, St. Louis & Omaha.

More information can be found here:

K-Town Studios in Baltimore, Maryland at The Cheon Kroiz Building

At the heart of Korea Town in Baltimore, Maryland, a three-stories commercial building rents out artist studios in varying sizes. The goal of the building is to provide a healthy and productive studio culture for young and professional artists in the area with affordable rent. The owners are artist Mina Cheon (professor of Maryland Institute College of Art, MICA) and architect Gabriel Kroiz (professor of Morgan State University) who both have studio and office in the building.

Address: 100 W. 22nd Street, 21218, Baltimore, MD, between Howard and Maryland, directly across from Nakwon Restaurant, walking distance from MICA Graduate Studio Center, and between Station North Arts District and Remington.

Currently available studio spaces: 

1.  250-300 square feet that is 300 dollars plus 50 utilities (second floor)
2.  900 + square feet that is 1200 dollars and separate utilities (ground floor) the ground floor can open up to a larger usable space with construction and based on need, may be divided into smaller studio spaces. This ground floor is also a promising rental for several artists, collective studio use, larger office space, or made into a gallery.

Studios currently leased on second floor but may open up in the future: Varying sizes: 125, 150, 175 square feet with cost that matches size from 125, 150, 175 dollars + 25 utilities. All studios have windows and shared bathrooms outside its space, on each floor.

Contact: Mina Cheon at, 410 522 6669

This is the fourth 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: Diane Szczepaniak
Age: 57
Current Location: Potomac, Maryland
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
School: BA, Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Studio 70, Sculpture Studio of Michael Skop, (assistant to Ivan Mestrovic)
BFA, Sculpture & Drawing, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
Welding Certification, Northern Kentucky Vocational-Technical School, Covington, KY
MA, Art Education, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

From Behind the Stars, 2013, watercolor on paper, 42”W X 45”H

From Behind the Stars, 2013, watercolor on paper, 42”W X 45”H

Current favorite artists or artwork: Aristide Maillol, Paul Klee, Isamu Noguchi, Martin Puryear, Deborah Ehrlich, Julie Hedrick, Martin Creed

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? I am a substitute teacher for MCPS. I can easily work five days a week, but also have flexibility to arrange my schedule to fit my financial needs and art-related commitments and endeavors. I often substitute for art classes. In addition to the fresh ideas my daily interactions with young people inspire, I’m finding the challenge of communicating quickly and effectively the goals and processes of artists to be helpful in approaching my own new projects.

For example, recently I talked to very receptive elementary school students about space and its usefulness for movement, breathing and holding light and also when designing patterns. I so appreciated their attentiveness, but more important was that the artwork they did next was to my eye both spatial and bold. It appeared to me that space became meaningful to them and the meaning translated into drawings with a lot of dimension. Observing young minds at work adds to my understanding of how we learn and see. I also teach drawing and color workshops about space and the senses. These workshops have attracted a wide range of adults involved in a variety of disciplines, including a fair number of neuroscientists.

How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? I am an abstract painter whose training in drawing and sculpting the figure has led me to create work driven by the dynamics of form. One could almost say that the subject matter of my artwork is form itself, an attempt to capture the essence of an object as I see it in space. I play with light, contrast, scale and how movement and color fill space. Rather than try to reproduce a thing, I work to make visible that which the thing expresses, the natural energy within it that manifests itself in space.

The paintings being shown to the Sondheim Prize committee for this year are watercolors. The paintings are compositions where form emerges from layers of color. I paint with a wide brush and a lot of water. The colors of paint are mixed and then applied one on top of another, red on top of blue, blue on top of red, sometimes yellow over everything. I turn the painting to allow the colors to run and to work from all vantage points. I see relationships among elements of color, space and objects that surround me and fill my thoughts. I translate my sensory experiences into color and space. I use my senses to look through color to content and find links between idea and form.

I work on multiple paintings at once. I paint with watercolor paint on paper and on absorbent ground canvas and also with oil paint and oil/wax sticks on canvas and board. My sculptures range from cast figures to constructed boxes with metal to presently playing with layering colored sheets of glass.

The studio I paint in is a room in my house. I also use the basement, garage, and sometimes the living and dining room to work on sculpture projects or to frame. I like having my studio in my home because I work all odd hours. I work most days or nights of the week. I try to think about my art all the time. I also design frames out of steel and aluminum for my paintings. Formerly I welded them myself, but now I hire someone to weld for me.

Pillow of Winds, 2013, watercolor on paper, 42”W X 50”H

Pillow of Winds, 2013, watercolor on paper, 42”W X 50”H

What part of art making do you like or enjoy the most? The least? I enjoy working toward ideas that have to do with creating space, and/or changing the feeling of a space. I like doing things with my hands, this includes painting, sculpture, welding and sewing my own clothes.

I like walking through open doors so probably the thing I like the least is approaching galleries. I have not had good luck with cold calls. All the galleries that sell my work approached me first.

What research do you do for your art practice? I began my art career in the late 1970s with sculpture, and how objects fill space and be space continues as a predominant theme in my work. Early on, I noticed changes in the way my mind and body feels after spending time looking at space. To heighten this sense experience, I felt I needed to achieve a level of focus that was new to me. My goal became to eliminate the clutter, what people often refer to as “noise,” in my consciousness. To explore my theme, I try to let go of all preconceived ideas and socialization when having a new sense experience. I practice witnessing my thoughts when I see, taste, smell, hear, or feel something for the first time and then work to recreate this first-time sense experience in the studio. It is a practice akin to meditation. I find it is a nice place to be. It is freeing. So I enjoy the work it takes to get there.

Incorporating mindfulness into the creative process is a goal shared by many. Part of my research is to discover and study the writers, musicians, and artists that succeed in inspiring the kind of sense experience I’ve described. Another source of this experience is the natural world. So I garden–an activity that parallels sculpture–and observe how trees grow and flowers bloom. Walking in forests and observing insects and wildlife always feels like time well spent to awaken the senses and clear any mental debris. As I read, listen, and watch, I try to put myself in the writer’s, musician’s or flower’s space to experience their way of being.

For ten years, 14 years ago, I sold my paintings at street art fairs in the Midwest and on the East coast. I was often able to anonymously watch and see how folks reacted to my work. I could see the amount of time they spent looking and hear comments they made to their friends and I noticed that many had a physical reaction to the work. It was then that I realized that the feeling I had while making the art could be transferred to the viewer.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? Most recently, I have been listening to music by Pink Floyd, Chopin’s Nocturnes and Chick Corea, the words, rhythm, drums chords and the tempo have a way that lulls me into a wonderful state of contentment. I listen to music to preoccupy me enough to drive out conscious thought.

Books that have helped me reach my goal are…

  • Open Focus Brain, by Les Fehmi, PhD, and Jim Robbins
  • The Poetics of Space Gaston Bachelard
  • Hidden Dimension by Edward T. Hall
  • The Seven Taoist Masters, A folktale of China translated by Eva Wong
  • Color, A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Findlay
  • Poetry written by Wallace Stevens, George Trakl, Freidrich Holderlin, Basho, Wislawa
  • Szymborska
Behind the Night, 2013, watercolor on paper, 24.25”W X 38”H

Behind the Night, 2013, watercolor on paper, 24.25”W X 38”H

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? I think of any state of mind as part of the process; dry spells force me to try something new. Of course, my productivity varies and if I find that I just can’t work or the work I am doing is empty, I put it aside. Sometimes, I just need to go for a walk in the woods. Of course, there are “non-creative” art related things to do. At my worst, I throw the I Ching and I usually get something positive to think about.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? When I was starting out, the challenge was to not give up entirely on art as a professional pursuit. Now I know I will work at it as long as I am able. Watercolor painting can challenge me because it has a memory of the water and paint that came before, and the paper is not forgiving. And as the paper gets larger the problems get more challenging too. I try to use problems to my advantage. I never, or almost never give up. I have done paintings that have more layers than is rational but I work until each sheet of paper holds a painting that passes my test. A few paintings happen quickly, most take a while. Years back, I had one series I called Struggle I, II and III. I knew I had to get through them, that I would learn something from them, though I couldn’t tell you in words what that was and after I finally finished them, something changed in me. I answered some questions for myself but those answers lie in something difficult to define or explain.

Another challenge has been working to change my medium to canvas so as to eliminate expensive framing. It has not been easy for me. I have finished a few small canvases that I think are successful. I know that if I had more space to have different workstations I would switch between different media more often.

What is your dream project? To create a room where the paintings, each one setting off the next one, hung 360 degrees around the room. I would also like to experience other cultures and make rooms based on my experience of each culture, land, and people.