CALL FOR ENTRIES: Strange Bedfellows

ORGANIZED BY WASHINGTON PROJECT FOR THE ARTS

CURATOR: Blair Murphy, Independent Curator, New York, NY

ELIGIBILITY: Open to all artists regardless of media

ENTRY FEE: N/A

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: June 6, 2014 by 5:00pm
EXHIBITION DATES: October 17 – November 2, 2014

LOCATION: VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville MD 20850

ONLINE SUBMISSION

 

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

The notion of intimacy is simultaneously idealized and fraught. It describes human relationships, acting as a metric of the physical closeness, emotional bonds, or personal knowledge shared by two people. It can refer to the accumulation of knowledge about complex topics or–as in the phrase intimately aware–a familiarity with difficult truths. Though we strive for it, it can be difficult to achieve and painful to sustain. It provides us with unbelievable joy and immense disappointment.

Strange Bedfellows will explore intimacy in its various incarnations, approaching the topic from a variety of angles. What do we expect from our closest relationships and how have those expectations changed over time? How are knowledge and intimacy intertwined? How does technology impact the way we build connections and what we expect from relationships? How do we build deep knowledge of other times and places? How do our political and civic institutions cultivate closeness (or, alternately, distance)?

The call is open to all artists regardless of media used or geographic location. Artists do not need to be WPA members and there is no submission fee.

 

ABOUT THE CURATOR

Blair Murphy is a curator and writer based in New York City. Before moving to New York, she spent seven years in DC working as an administrative jack-of-all-trades for various arts organizations, including Washington Project for the Arts (WPA), DC Arts Center (DCAC), and Provisions Library. She was Program Director at WPA from 2011 to 2013 and a curator with Sparkplug, an artist collective sponsored by DCAC, from 2008 through 2011. She holds a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and an MA from Georgetown University. Blair is currently the New York City correspondent for Bmoreart and a contributor to M Daily.

 

CALL FOR ENTRY INSTRUCTIONS

Submissions for Strange Bedfellows will be accepted through an online submission form on the WPA website: http://wpadc.submittable.com/submit/29180. Submitting artists must complete the registration form and upload the materials listed below with their submission. For any questions or technical difficulties related to the submission process, please contact Samantha May, Program Director, at smay@wpadc.org or 202-234-7103 x 1

 

Required Submission Material

1. Current CV

2. Artist Statement and/or Project Description
This text may discuss the artist’s work more generally or be a description of a specific project or project(s). 500 word max.

3. Up to ten work samples, either still images or video

If appropriate for the work, artists may submit multiple images or videos to represent a single piece or project, but the number of individual work samples may not exceed ten.

4. Image List

Please list each attached image with: title, year, medium, and dimensions.  If submitting video work that is password protected, please include passwords on the Image List

 

FORMATS FOR SUBMISSION MATERIALS

Text files: CV’s and artist statements should be submitted as .pdf or .doc files.

Images: Submit as .jpg files, 72dpi and no longer than 7″ on the longest side.

Videos: Submit as links to the appropriate video on a video sharing website (YouTube, Vimeo) or personal site. Artists who wish to password protect videos should include the password in the Image List.

 

TIMELINE

●      Friday, June 6, 2014 by 5:00pm: Submissions deadline

●      Friday, July 18, 2014: Notification to selected artists

●      Tuesday, October 14, 2014: Installation

●      Friday, October 17, 2014, 7-9:00pm: Opening Reception

●      October 17 – November 23, 2014: Exhibition Dates

●      Monday, November 24, 2014: Deinstallation

 

ABOUT VISARTS AT ROCKVILLE

VisArts at Rockville is a dynamic, nonprofit arts center dedicated to engaging the community in the arts and providing opportunities for artistic exploration, education and participation. Through educational programming, gallery exhibitions, and a resident artist program, VisArts provides children, teens, and adults with opportunities to express their creativity and enhance their awareness of the arts.

VisArts at Rockville is located three blocks from the Rockville Metro station at 155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD. For information, please visit www.visartscenter.org or call 301-315-8200.

VisArts Gallery Hours:

Wednesday & Thursday: 12-4:00pm

Friday: 12-8:00pm

Saturday & Sunday: 12-4:00pm
Exhibitions are always free and open to the public.

DUE: JUNE 30, 2014

TO BE CONSIDERED FOR AN EXHIBITION

We will accept submissions during the month of June only. Please expect to hear back from us in August. Submissions emailed later than June 30th will not be reviewed until the next submission deadline in 2015.

Your submission should include the following in ONE email:
– 10-15 images. Please label your JPEG files as
“Lastname_Firstname_imageNumber.jpeg” (ex: Greens_Mixed_01.jpeg)
* The total size of all the images combined must not exceed 10MB.
* If your work cannot be documented as a JPEG image file
(ex: video artists), please send a link that contains the necessary
audio and/or video.
– Annotated image list including the title, year, medium, and dimensions of
each work
– Artist statement
– Current resumé with contact information including telephone number,
email address, and website
– In the body of your email, please explain why you think your work fits into
Mixed Greens’ program (250 word maximum)
– Supplementary materials such as press clippings can be included, but are
not required

Please do not send materials via file sending providers such as WeTransfer or Hightail. Due to the high volume of submissions, we need all materials to be attached to one email.

Send submission to submissions.mixedgreens@gmail.com with “2014 SUBMISSIONS” in the subject line. We no longer accept any physical submission packets.

Currently, we only accept submissions from artists living in the United States.

TO BE CONSIDERED FOR A WINDOW PROJECT

In January of 2015 we will accept new proposals for the Mixed Greens windows (3 windows facing 26th Street). Click here to download the window measurements.

Artists must email a proposal of images, mock-ups, and/or diagrams that approximate the installation along with text describing the project to info@mixedgreens.com in January of 2015 ONLY. Please write “WINDOW PROPOSAL” in your subject line. We also request a resume, statement, and a link to your website. The project needn’t be part of a series, but it must relate to larger themes in your work.

Site-specific window installations change every two to three months. To see window installations from the past, look under the “Windows” section on the site. If you would like to make an appointment to see the space behind the windows, email heather@mixedgreens.com. We are looking for site-specific projects that take the light, location, and unique constraints of the space into account.

Currently, we only accept proposals from artists living in the United States.

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.

The Hyattsville Community Development Corporation (CDC) in partnership with Maryland Milestones/ATHA, Inc. and the Art Lives Here Initiative, seek muralists to propose and paint designs themed in commemoration of the War of 1812. Murals designs are sought for three distinct locations: upon the Route 1 Overpass, at the union of Baltimore Avenue, and Alternate US Route 1 in the  Gateway Arts District of Prince George’s County. Mural designs of two distinct scales and character are desired. The mural sites will be prepped and primed, and will be ready to be painted by (jury-selected) muralists at the event: “Bursting in Air,” Saturday, July 26, 2014. The call is open to all area visual artists age 18 and older; preference to those who work/live/exhibit in the Gateway Arts District. View the full RFP.
For questions or comments, contact Justin Fair, Hyattsville CDC, (301) 683-8267.

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.