Calling all superheroes! We’re celebrating our one-year anniversary with a Superhero Masquerade this Friday, May 26, 5-8 pm. There are some serious perks to dressing up for the celebration, including exclusive access to a VIP breakfast cereal bar and the chance to win cool prizes in our costume contest. DJ Miss Ginger will provide music, and the El Sabor Spanish Tapas Y MASS food truck will be parked out front. The event is Santa Fe Reporter‘s calendar pick for Friday. Here’s Alex De Vore’s take on the proceedings:
It’s been a whole damn year since form & concept took over the old Zane Bennett Gallery space on Guadalupe Street, and the new-wave monument to contemporary weirdness, performance art and all-around killer visual creation is still going strong. Celebrate this achievement with an anniversary party for which attendees are strongly encouraged to arrive dressed as superheroes.
The Superhero Masquerade marks the debut of two new shows. The One-Year Anniversary Exhibition fills our ground floor and features new work by all of our represented artists. Upstairs, artist duo NoiseFold unveils an installation of glass art with a special multimedia element. Emily Van Cleve reports on NoiseFold’s new work in Santa Fe Arts Journal:
Form & concept celebrates its first anniversary on May 26 with a special installation by NoiseFold, a collaboration between interactive media and sound artist Cory Metcalf and visual artist, composer and performer David Stout. “We are trans-disciplinary artists working at the fuzzy boundary blurring nexus of visual art, music and interactive cinema,” explain Metcalf and Stout, who presented their first evening length work under the name NoiseFold in 2006. “Our work is hybridized, both solitary and social, often involving close collaboration with virtuosic performers, programmers, designers and scientists.”
Like the artists of Marvel Comics and DC, Albuquerque sculptor Elana Schwartz is a universe builder. Just after high school, she started creating whimsical characters by tearing apart stuffed animals and stitching them back together. She picked up wood carving at the University of New Mexico, and the material brought her characters to life in a new way. Suddenly, complete story arcs were forming around the figures that she carved. Inspired by the mythologies of cultures from around the world, she envisioned her characters as a pantheon of fantastical deities.
Schwartz’s colorful characters will be in good company at form & concept’s Superhero Masquerade: One-Year Anniversary Celebration this Friday. At the special event, we’re challenging visitors to dress like superheroes for the chance to win special prizes and partake in a VIP breakfast cereal bar. Read our interview with Elana below, and come meet her at the Superhero Masquerade on Friday, May 26, 5-8 pm. She’ll present new artwork in our One-Year Anniversary Exhibition, which debuts at the party.
Tell us about growing up in Albuquerque, and how you were influenced by the confluence of cultures here.
Growing up in New Mexico, I learned a lot about Native American and Hispanic Catholic cultures. The anthropomorphic, human-animal deities of Native American cultures and the retablos and scenes from Christian and Catholic religion have informed my work. I also am inspired by the Hindu and Buddhist religions.
Why is religious iconography so inspiring to you?
The gods and deities imbue so much meaning into these pictures or sculptures. Someone’s feelings can be so affected by just being near that sculpture or picture. I was inspired because I wanted to make something that could have a fraction of that impact on someone that’s looking at it.
When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I didn’t even know I wanted to be a fine artist until after high school. I was always into art and creating. I would sketch and make things in clay, but I didn’t know I wanted to be an artist until I started creating dolls and puppets after high school. I actually went to college for psychology, and decided to switch to fine art because I spent all my time making art instead of studying.
Tell us about those early characters you were creating.
Right after high school I started making little creatures out of just about anything. I would go to the thrift store and buy stuffed animals and cut them up. I’d use fur and Sculpey and wire. I was really into making specific characters come alive. That’s what inspired me to start making art in the first place, this idea of creating another life.
When did wood carving enter into your artistic practice?
I went to UNM for my last few years of college, and I did a sculpture class with my professor Steve Barry. We could use whatever materials we wanted for this project, which was supposed to be a narrative. I decided to use wood, and created a little man on a whale. That was my first wood piece.
I just loved the process of reductive carving. It’s such a meditative process, because you have to keep cutting in until your figure starts to show in the wood. To me, that just became an addictive thing.
So even in that very first project, you were able to envision a form within the block?
Yes. When I see a block of of wood I know what I want to create. I can see a figure or a gesture in the wood, and then I just carve away the other parts of the wood.
What’s your favorite thing about wood as an artistic medium?
I love working with wood because it’s a natural material. I love creating something so that in the last phase, you can really see the wood grain come out. I’m taking something that already has a life and spirit of its own, and creating something else from it. It’s like I’m transferring the energy that’s already there.
Lately, you’ve been incorporating different kinds of wood, inlaid stones and event taxidermy animals into your sculptures. Tell us about the array of materials you’re using.
I started working with wood, but I wanted to incorporate different mediums. It adds a little more interest to me. For example, I like adding pops of color using gems and minerals.
It happens to be that I love doing taxidermy, and taxidermy goes really well with wood. Those things both happen to go really well with inlay, and different kinds of wood, and crushed turquoise and gems. I put them all together to create my new style.
You dream up complex mythologies for your characters. How did that element of your work develop?
I got really into creating these universes where my characters were interacting with each other on different levels. They deal with deep moral and universal issues that everyone can relate to.
Do they all exist in the same universe, or are they involved in different stories?
I would like to think of all my creations as existing on the same pantheon of gods and deities and characters that interact in that world.
How does that inform your own sense of spirituality?
I wasn’t raised religious and I don’t consider myself to be a specific religion. However, I do find peace of mind in creating my work. I’ve come to the conclusion that creating art has become a religion for me.
When your sculptures are together in a room, it’s almost like they’re onstage. Does that resonate with you?
Definitely. I like them to look like they’re in the middle of a great scene. Maybe the final scene of an opera. This is the most dramatic moment of their lives.
Do you ever wish you could slip through the veil and exist in this world?
Absolutely. I often wish that I could be part of this reality that I’m creating. But I have to exist in this world in order to create the other world, unfortunately.
How do viewers react to the storytelling element of the work?
A lot of people ask me detailed questions about the mythology. But you know, I make my mythology pretty vague for a reason. I want people to create their own histories and mythologies with the piece that they interact with and are attracted to. I’d like for them to be able build from mine. People that see them can add to and change that history. I like to hear other people’s interpretations of the work.
I create these characters and put them into the world. From there, they kind of fly free. They create their own destinies and tell their own stories that are apart from me. There’s nothing I want to do to get in the way of that.
Click here to browse all of Elana Schwartz’s artwork, and make sure to RSVP on Facebook for our Superhero Masquerade: One-Year Anniversary Celebration on Friday, May 26, 5-8 pm.
Our recent event for the form & concept shop, In Process: Artist Jewelry Talks, made for an inspiring Saturday earlier this month. The six participating jewelers set up tiny versions of their studios in the gallery’s atrium, and took turns discussing their design methods with visitors. It was a delight to see the artists interact with each other and the audience, asking questions and trading ideas.
Each designer also came bearing new treasures for the form & concept shop. Look below for photos and quotes from the In Process talks, and fresh designs by each of the artists. Make sure to mark your calendar for the next In Process event on Saturday, July 29. We’ll announce more details on the event shortly.
“I’ve realized how powerful objects are on the body—and not just for decoration. There’s a whole history of objects on the body being imbued with power, like talismans and amulets. I became obsessed with rocks and minerals, so I was trying to figure out how to wear them in the most simple, elegant way.”
“I make bronze jewelry using bronze metal clay, which was originally invented by Mitsubishi in Japan. They suspend tiny particles of the metal in an organic binder, and it feels like clay. I am originally a clay artist, so it was very easy for me to get into working with bronze metal clay. After you’ve made the form, it’s fired in a digital kiln and the binder burns out. The metal particles blend together to form a solid mass. What comes out is pure, solid bronze.”
“I have a background in biology, so I think about my work as behaving like a living thing. I think of the materials that I make the work out of as a resource for the work to exploit. I’m always trying to find new materials to make work out of.”
“I met a woman who had a Japanese paper company in Albuquerque. She offered me a show, if I would make my collages with her paper. Ever since then, I’ve concentrated on using Japanese paper. At some point my stack of scrap papers was so thick, that I decided to find a way to use the scraps. That’s how I came up with the earrings.”
“I make three-dimensional constructed gold and silver pieces, which can be worn or framed and hung on a wall. I immigrated to the United States when I was 20, and got my doctorate in psychology at the University of Rhode Island. That’s when I started taking night courses at RISD, for jewelry design. That was the beginning.”
“In terms of inspiration and process, wood has been my medium from day one. With so much of what I make, I go through four, five, six, seven iterations before I come to a design that I can start repeating and subtly changing. So much of my work comes about by necessity, and by solving a problem that’s presented to me. I learned that from my days in the School of Architecture at University of New Mexico. Here’s the brief, how are you going to solve it?”
You could call Wesley Anderegg‘s earthenware figures superheroes, though they’re (mostly) not the kind with masks or capes. Anderegg depicts everyday heroes, and their gap-toothed grins are evidence of their grit. “They’ve been through some hard knocks, but they are survivors, still doing their thing day in and day out,” the California artist says.
Anderegg is originally from Arizona, and started his art career making functional ceramics. He’s a lifelong people watcher, so his subject matter inevitably shifted into the figurative realm. Watch our video interview above, and scroll down to read the full conversation and learn how Anderegg developed his idiosyncratic sculptural style.
Speaking of superheroes, form & concept celebrates its first anniversary on May 26 with a Superhero Masquerade. Anderegg will appear at the opening, and his work will be on view in our One-Year Anniversary Exhibition. Make sure to wear a superhero costume to the event, which will feature a costume contest and VIP cereal bar (costume required for VIP cereal bar entry).
Did you make art when you were a kid?
No, I wasn’t an artsy kid. Not at all. I was a baseball player, beer drinker and motorcycle racer growing up.
Do you think growing up in Arizona has influenced your ceramics work?
The desert colors definitely influenced me. My palette is always earthen colors. I don’t go for crazy magenta, it’s just all ochres and red irons and black. That’s more my palette.
So you’ve always resisted using bright colors?
Yep. If it’s too bright, I run the other way. Lemon yellow is not going to happen. I gotta make it ochre, you know?
You studied geology for your undergraduate degree. When did art enter the picture?
I was working on the oil fields up in Wyoming, and I had all of these miserable jobs. My mom said, ‘Why don’t you go to school?’ I said, ‘Sure, sign me up.’ She signed me up and she picked my major, and that was it. She thought I could become a schoolteacher and I’d have a decent job.
I was a junior when I took a ceramics class as an elective, and that was it. I knew. That was the first art class I’d ever had in my whole life. I was petrified going in there, because I thought, ‘Everybody’s going to be so good, and I don’t know anything.’ Everybody was a beginner, so I felt right at home.
Why do you think you fell in love with ceramics so quickly?
I’ve got super good hand-eye coordination, from sports. I’m really good with my hands. The clay, it came easier to me than probably most people. I worked really hard, too. I loved it. I made more work my first semester than the rest of the class combined. I was in there all night, every night of the week, just learning how to throw on the potter’s wheel. I wanted to learn how to do it.
So you graduated with a degree in geology. How did you start your career as an artist?
Every summer, I would go to California and I’d live in my van on the beach. I’d save up $500, and I’d get in my ’65 Volkswagen van and I’d drive it over to California, and I’d live on the streets in my van at the beach. While I was doing that, I realized that I didn’t want any kind of straight job. I didn’t want to be in the mainstream of America.
I thought, ‘If I could just make pots and have a little shack by the beach and maybe sell something here or there, that sounds great.’ When I graduated, I just set up a studio and went to work.
Did you have any reservations about diving straight into it?
I was young and naive. The doubts didn’t even enter my mind. I said, ‘I’m going to make this work, come hell or high water. I’m just going to do this.’ But I also knew that I had to make a product that sold. When I was starting out, I was trying to make stuff that people liked.
I just put all that money away, and after about 7 years I was totally sick of being this little machine and pumping out these pots. So I started making the figurative stuff. I started pinching these little cups with faces on them.
Tell us more about the early figurative work.
When me and my wife first started going out, we would go to the bar and we would drink kamikazes and stuff like that. I started making these shot glasses that had these crazy faces on them and were all bent up. Before that, all I had ever done was throw on the potter’s wheel.
The faces were really ugly, but I kind of liked them ugly. So did everybody else. They were really gnarly, and I was kind of angst-ridden, and I wanted to express my gnarly-isms, you know? People liked them, so I just took off on those. They even had the funky teeth and everything back then. I didn’t want anything cutesy.
At some point after that, I stopped making cups and they became sculpture.
Why were the original pieces so grotesque?
I was an angry young man. I had a lot of stuff I wanted to get out. It was therapy, you know? It was a cathartic process to vent all this stuff.
They were autobiographical, and emotionally how I was feeling. How do you explain feeling like you’re being torn apart? You actually tear somebody apart. Or I had people sucking my blood. I would create mosquitoes and ticks, making that reference of people sucking you dry. All these little narratives were filtering through my work.
Were any of them portraits?
Some of them are based on real people, like heroes or interesting folks. A lot of them represent me, but emotionally what I’m doing or going through.
A lot of your figures are in danger!
They often are in peril. That’s what I’m drawn to. I like characters. The beautiful people don’t interest me at all. I like the funky people, and the people that are going to tell you just what they think. Those are the people I gravitate towards.
Tell us about your studio.
We live on a 22-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere in California. My studio is a 10-stall horse barn that is 60 x 40 feet. It’s 2,400 square feet on the bottom floor, and then there’s a second story. It’s a wonderful structure.
Does it feel like you always have a little audience, with all of your work surrounding you?
Sometimes there’s more of a crowd depending on how much work’s around. Everybody’s got eyes, and everybody’s hanging out. It doesn’t bother me, but I think some people get creeped out by it.
Speaking of the eyes, they’re so realistic! Why are the faces and bodies so stylized, while the eyes have this realism to them?
The eyes take me time. I do it for two reasons. One is because I like the reality of it. Two, people think you know what you’re doing after you’re technically tight enough. The rest of my work can be pretty loose, but I let people know that I’m doing this looseness because I want to. I’m going to give you some tightness here in the eyes, just for you.
What’s the range of reactions you get to your work?
There’s all kinds of reactions. Some people get the humor and laugh, and other people punch their partner and say, ‘Oh god, look at this shit, man! Bleeeeh!’ You can tell if they get it or if they don’t, it’s really funny. I like it that way, because it means that you’re not middle-of-the-road.
My wife is a potter. She makes beautiful pottery. When we were on a residency at Anderson Ranch Art Center, people would come in our studio and would either walk right past my work and talk to Donna, or they would ignore Donna and talk to me about my work. There was nobody who liked us both.
How would you boil down your artistic philosophy?
Everything that I try to put out there is genuine to me. It’s my stuff, I’m not looking for other influences. I’m just trying to talk to people about my existence.
Generally, I think that as people, we have so much in common but nobody really thinks we do. We’ve all been heartbroken, we’ve all lost loved ones. All different circumstances, but we all share all these emotions. That’s all part of being human, you know? We share that. How do you express that, and relay that to people?
We’re so much more alike than we are different, but nobody wants to talk about that, especially in today’s climate. You don’t think exactly like I do, but I’m sure we could agree on something.
Do your works look like you?
If you look at me, you’ll see the resemblance. Actually I have really good teeth, but my face is pretty haggard. I’ve got way too many wrinkles already, but that’s just the way it goes. (laughs)
Dolores S. Slowinski has lived in Detroit for over 60 years. She received her BFA in weaving and ceramics from Wayne State University. After more than 40 years as an art writer and arts administrator, she returned to her studio practice in 1999. She’s found great success since then, showing her work in numerous exhibitions in Detroit and beyond.
Dolores’ artwork explores the use of thread as line, in the form of hand-stitched drawings on paper. Recently, she started applying these drawings to recycled, industrial-grade corrugate to create architectural statements about neighborhoods, urban decay, and gentrification. Archipoptosis, her artwork in our Shifting Landscapes show with Surface Design Association, is one such piece. We interviewed Dolores about her life in Detroit and how it has influenced her artwork. Watch the video above, and scroll down for the full interview.
Have you always lived in Detroit?
Except for two years, yes. I went to college there, at Wayne State University.
And when you were growing up, the auto industry was—
Could you talk about your experience of that history?
One of the things you did in Detroit, when you had friends or relatives from out of town, you took them to the Ford Rouge Plant for the factory tours. It’s not the sanitized version you get now. I remember they took you along the catwalks through the foundry area, so I saw the blast furnaces being emptied.
I saw this big ladle of molten metal, which was so hot I thought my shoes and my tights were going to melt. I started crying. And finally, my father or an uncle picked me up, and I saw it being poured into the carts that took the molten metal over to be cast into ingots, which where then flattened into steel. I saw those slabs of steel in the rolling mill, rolling back and forth, and they were still red hot. I don’t remember much of the rest of the tour because that made such an impact.
When I was in school, there weren’t field trips to the art museum, but I knew I liked art. My school was run by nuns who had background in art, and they let us paint murals on the blackboards during the holidays. I thought that was wonderful.
When I was 13, my best friend and I decided to take two buses downtown and got to the Art Institute on our own. We walked into the Great Hall, which is where they have the Diego Rivera murals. It was like PTSD. I had immediate flashbacks to those tours of the Ford Rouge Plant.
Right, because those Rivera murals were commissioned by Ford.
Right. There was a blast furnace at the top of one of the murals, and you could see how hot it was. There was an assembly line on another wall, and one of the men looked like my father.
I just started sobbing and went crying out of the room into the ancient galleries. My girlfriend said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘I can smell it, I can see it, I can feel the heat. I can’t go in there.’
That taught me the power of art. It made me want to become an artist even more.
What happened next?
Well, I went to a parochial high school that had no art program. I started college at the University of Detroit, studying biology and chemistry. In 1967, my classes were interrupted because of the Detroit rebellion. I wanted to attend the Art School at the Detroit Society for Arts and Crafts, but they didn’t offer a degree. They had an art department at Wayne State, so I just walked across the street and registered to study weaving and ceramics.
After graduation, I wasn’t able to do much with ceramics because in the city you’d have to get permits to build a kiln outside. So I bought a $200 loom from a farmer’s wife who used it to weave rag rugs, and set it up in my bedroom.
Then I got a job on Art Train, which had me travel all over the state. I eventually moved to a one-room school in Cass City and set up a studio there, which is where I met my husband.
Let’s leap forward to today. Detroit is a very different place. How did you come up with the title of your Shifting Landscapes artwork, Archipoptosis?
I would drive around Detroit from one place to another, and see these abandoned strip malls. I consider the strip mall to be the death of American architecture. Apoptosis is the term used to identify an event that triggers the death of a cell. With the proliferation of strip malls, I saw that as architectural apoptosis. Thus, Archipoptosis.
Human displacement, whether voluntary or involuntary, is what triggered the decay. You had loss of customers, businesses closed and were vandalized. Scrappers came in and stripped the copper out of buildings. You’d see shattered windows, and security gates that were pried open. It was a real devastation there. It was like the lifeblood of a neighborhood literally seeped out. That’s why there’s all that red bead work on the piece.
Did you see hope there as well?
If you’re a gardener, you know that anything that dies can go in the compost pile, and compost is a source of tremendous nutrients. At the same time that the decay was there, there was also great opportunity.
It’s the human beings that are restoring the city, using their own ingenuity. Sometimes it takes a big influx of money, sometimes it’s a lot of sweat equity. That’s why the little hand is on top of the piece, because humans are bringing it back. It’ll take a long time, it won’t look the same, it won’t be the same, but it’s coming back.
This piece tells a pretty complex story. How does that come together?
It comes from the experiences you have. When you live in a place for over 60 years, you’ve seen all these changes. You’ve thought about the children that walk to and from school past these empty buildings and wondered how they feel, and then you hear about the school closing and kids being shuffled around to schools far from their neighborhood.
And so, it’s all there. If you live in a place long enough, all those experiences are there and you just need the opportunity to give them voice or vision or form.
In the form & concept shop, paintings appear beside jewelry designs and sculptures mingle with hand-painted ceramics. The space, which adjoins form & concept’s ground-floor exhibition rooms, is a powerful expression of the gallery’s mission: to blur the lines between art, craft, and design. This weekend, form & concept teams up with local jewelers to celebrate jewelry design as its own exquisite art form. IN PROCESS: Jewelry Artist Talks will feature special demonstrations from a number of jewelry artists represented by the form & concept shop. Participating jewelers include Bunny Tobias, Charles Greeley, Brian Fleetwood, Debra Baxter, Danny Hart and Victor Atyas.
Debra Baxter is a sculptor and jewelry designer who combines hand formed bronze with crystals & minerals. Baxter’s work is rooted in craft, honoring the materials that express her ideas. Her wearable sculpture piece Devil Horns Crystal Brass Knuckles (Lefty) is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian.
For the past forty years, Bunny Tobias has created cutting edge ceramic art, paintings, mixed-media collages. She designs and fabricates jewelry using the same eclectic imagery. Recent work includes hand fabricated bronze jewelry set with a vast array of crystal and gems.
Brian Fleetwood is a Santa Fe-based jewelry artist whose work addresses the connections between knowledge and the act of making, and the ways we can use making as a way of knowing. His work explores scientific themes, especially relating to biology and ecology, systems, and taxonomy.
Charles Greeley attended the New York School of Visual Arts, and moved to San Francisco in 1967 where he is in the permanent collection at SFMOMA. He uses the spiritualization of nature, the fantastic, the dream, psychedelics, and the study of Eastern religions as themes in his collages and jewelry.
Danny Hart was born and raised in New Mexico. Hart’s childhood in Santa Fe cultivated his passion for creative processes and design. In his jewelry design work, he draws inspiration from the colorful landscape of his home state, his father’s woodwork, his mother’s inherent craftiness and his background in architecture.
Victor Atyas was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina, grew up in Italy, and at age 20 immigrated to the United States. Now a long-time Santa Fean, Atyas is well-known for his signature three-dimensional constructed gold and silver pieces, suited to be worn or framed and hung on a wall. His metalsmithing ability is reflected in the fine craftsmanship of the refined and elegant jewelry designs.
Click here to learn more about IN PROCESS: Jewelry Artist Talks, and make sure to RSVP on Facebook. If you’re coming to see a particular jeweler, here’s the speaking schedule. All of the artists will be in the gallery from 1-3 pm.
Bunny Tobias | 1:00 pm
Debra Baxter | 1:20 pm
Charles Greeley | 1:40 pm
Danny Hart | 2:00 pm
Brian Fleetwood | 2:20 pm
Victor Atyas | 2:40 pm
When SITE Santa Fe set out to design an education program targeted at college-age artists, there was one pitfall they wanted to avoid. “We looked at what other museums were doing, and so many of them only offered unpaid internships,” says Joanne Lefrak, Education Director of the contemporary museum space. “We didn’t want to ask students to work for us for free.”
Then she heard about the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, and something clicked. The institution offers free studio and exhibition space for young artists, curators and critics. Lefrak and her team crafted an experience that offered a wide range of opportunities to higher education students across New Mexico. The SITE Scholar program is now in its sixth year, and has served 75 undergraduate and graduate-level artists so far.
SITE Santa Fe usually hosts a group show for the SITE Scholars at the end of each year’s program, but the museum is currently undergoing a major expansion that will be completed in fall 2017. form & concept was more than happy to host the 2016/17 exhibition, Deliberate Acts, which opens this Friday, April 28, 5-7 pm. SITE Scholars hands up-and-coming artists a Swiss army knife of tools to navigate the art world. We’re excited to work with SITE to offer the Scholars a bridge into the gallery world. Scroll down to preview the show, and make sure to RSVP for the opening and artist talk on Facebook to show your support.
Click here to preview more of the Deliberate Acts artwork.
Janis Kerman‘s artistic career is imbued with a remarkable symmetry. The Quebecois jeweler established Janis Kerman Design in 1977, and mounted her first solo show at The Guild in 1978. This week, she returns to the Montreal art space for a 40-year retrospective exhibition and book launch. “It just brings everything nice and neat into a little closed circle,” Janis told Metalaid in an interview about the show.
Janis’ jewelry, on the other hand, embraces asymmetry. “Balance, not symmetry,” is one of the artist’s credos, and there’s conceptual reasoning behind it. “Doing something symmetrical or identical is simple. You only work out one problem,” says Janis. “When you have to work out something that has to be balanced, that is a pair, but not identical, that is for me more challenging and much more fun.”
She conducts this balancing act with one-of-a-kind designs and small editions, employing precious metals, gems and alternative materials in her exquisite creations. “Sometimes a stone is just going to tell me exactly what it wants to be when it grows up!” she says. “Other times, I will be staring at all my stones and will start to play. It all comes back to finding a balance in what I am making.”
We’re pleased to welcome Janis, one of Canada’s best-known contemporary jewelers, as our newest represented artist. Browse more of Janis’ work on the brand new form & concept shop website.
Rena Detrixhe’s artwork in our Shifting Landscapes show has been a source of wonder and puzzlement since the exhibition opened in late February. Visitors have posited that the rug pattern filling a large swath of the floor in our upper galleries is made from ceramic, leather, silk and even cocoa powder. It’s actually loose dirt from Detrixhe’s current home state of Oklahoma, stamped with old shoe soles to form a trompe l’oeil tapestry. The piece, titled Red Dirt Rug, took the top jury prize in the show. Detrixhe’s work is also receiving accolades across the digital landscape. The popular art blog Colossal just posted about her work:
“This rich red earth is the land of the dust bowl, the end of the Trail of Tears, land runs and pipelines, deep fault-lines and hydraulic fracturing,” said Detrixhe in her artist statement. “There is immense beauty and pride in this place and also profound sorrow. The refining and sifting of the soil and the imprinting of the pattern is a meditation on this past, a gesture of sensitivity, and the desire for understanding. It is a meticulous and solitary act.” By using this fleeting form Detrixhe questions the permanent decisions that have been made to the region’s environment.
Alice Zrebiec, a curatorial consultant based in Santa Fe, also wrote favorably about Detrixhe’s work in a review for the Textile Society of America:
Its rich color has a visceral appeal while the delicate designs evoke textile traditions and traces of human passage. Installed without barriers, as Detrixhe prefers, the mutability and transitory nature inherent to Red Dirt Rug was readily evident.
Detrixhe discusses her work in the video above, and you can see images and read a full interview with the artist below. Shifting Landscapes is a juried show featuring members of the Surface Design Association, and its closing date has been extended to June 10. Make sure to come see Red Dirt Rug and other incredible fiber and fiber-inspired artworks in person!
Tell us about your work in Shifting Landscapes.
I’m here showing a recent work called Red Dirt Rug, which is an intersection of landscape, textiles, and research into the history of Oklahoma, where I’ve been in residence for the past year.
You’re exploring so many different layers of that history. What has this rich, red dirt come to represent to you and other Oklahomans?
I think that the dirt means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It’s definitely symbolic of the region, and is related to a lot of these histories. I’m still finding out things all the time that I can bring into my work and talk about.
I’m still really not sure if it represents all of the many things that I want it to. But it’s a very new body of work for me. I’m interested in furthering my research and continuing my work to see how it grows.
You’ve created several dirt rugs previously. How was the experience of making the rug for Shifting Landscapes new or different?
It was interesting for me to be able to show this work in a different state. When I’ve shown it before, it was in Oklahoma. And in a lot of ways, the work is about Oklahoma, although I think a lot of the things I’m talking about are universal, or deal with the United States and colonialism and a lot of these histories that are very universal for us.
I think it has an interesting connection to New Mexico as well. This is a place that’s known for its landscapes, and its landscapes in art. And it’s also known for textiles and objects like rugs, and the sale of these objects. So I’m really interested in what it means for a piece like this to be shown here.
Your work is so ephemeral, as we learned last night at the reception when someone accidentally swept away the corner out of it [to see the smudge, view the video above]. What’s your reaction to moments like that?
I actually really love that smudge. I’m always aware that things are going to happen throughout the course of the show, because it’s going to be up for months and things will change over time. I love that there’s a little smudge in the corner, because it gives one more visual hint of how fragile and ephemeral the material is.
In a show called Shifting Landscapes, your work is truly the most shiftable.
It’s pretty literal, yeah.
Did that really resonate with you initially when you first read the title?
It really did. And not just the title, but the description of what the show was trying to be. It’s about different depictions of landscape, and all the different things that can mean. It’s open to literal representations and more conceptual depictions of landscape, and puts that into a contemporary context. It’s so important to talk about these issues and how they relate to the earth.
Could you describe your process, from shoveling the dirt all the way to creating the pattern?
I start by gathering buckets of dirt with a shovel, quite literally. Then I bring it back to my studio and process it, which means breaking it down to be fine, soft dust. I do it mortar and pestle style, breaking it down with a hammer and getting out the rocks. And then I sift it through various levels of screen, and then finally sift it through silk.
Once I have the very fine soil, I spread that out on a fine, flat sheet. The pattern is made by imprinting the pattern with little stamps that are made from isolating the patterns on shoe soles. I work from the center outwards.
I liken the process to the Tibetan sand mandalas. I think that’s the closest thing I can relate it to, both on a conceptual level of doing this meditative act, and also the time consuming quality of the work.
When you de-install one of these pieces, do you find that difficult?
Like mentally hard? No.
You’ve learned to let go.
Yeah, it’s kind of fun. This time I won’t be doing it myself, so that will be fun too. But I don’t know, maybe we can record it.
We did a time lapse when you installed it, and now we’ll do a time lapse of its destruction!
Yeah, and I’m still thinking about what ultimately will happen to the material. At this point, I’m saving the soil because I want to have the opportunity to show this work in different places.
I’m interested in how the monks, when they’re finished with a mandala, they deconstruct it and take the sand to a river and release it. It’s the end of the cycle. I’d like to do something like that, but I’m still thinking about what that might mean.
Click here to see other posts about Shifting Landscapes on our blog, and browse the whole show here. Come see the exhibition during the opening reception for our new show, Deliberate Acts: SITE Scholar Exhibition 2016/17, on Friday, April 28, 5-7 pm.
SITE Santa Fe is undergoing a radical transformation this year. Come fall, the contemporary museum space will debut a renovated and expanded building that includes a brand new education wing, extra exhibition space and much more. In the meantime, SITE’s education department has been working on a different type of construction project. Their SITE Scholar program, which is in its 6th year, lays the foundations of art careers for undergraduate and graduate students from across the state.
Each year, SITE asks faculty members from diverse New Mexico institutions to nominate outstanding creative students for the program. The fifteen scholars that are selected gain access to an impressive array of art world resources and opportunities throughout the year. The program culminates in a group exhibition that’s usually held at SITE. In lieu of exhibiting in a construction zone, the 2016/17 scholars will take over form & concept’s ground floor to mount their show. It’s an exciting extension of the program, allowing the participants to gain experience in the gallery world as well as the museum world.
Deliberate Acts, the 2016/17 SITE Scholar exhibition, opens at form & concept on Friday, April 28, 5-7 pm. It features artwork by students from Santa Fe Community College, St. John’s College, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Institute of American Indian Arts, University of New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands University. We’re so excited to host this emerging art project, particularly after working with the featured artists for the last few months to prepare for the show. Their passion is infectious, and their artistic voices are highly developed.
Many of the artists are exploring identity in fresh and exciting ways. Eric-Paul Riege, from University of New Mexico, made an enormous Dine’ jacla from mixed media fabrics and other materials. Attached to the sculpture is a turquoise necklace that Riege made, and a jacla that was passed down to him by his mother. Kristen Roles, who’s getting her MFA at UNM, captured the residue of memories by printing photographs and screenshots on temporary tattoo paper. Sarah Canelas of SFUAD created a multimedia installation by tearing pages out of a notebook, covering them in porcelain slip and firing them. The completed video piece shows a field of delicate, crumpled forms with a notebook in the middle that’s covered in confessional scrawls.
Deliberate Acts is imbued with the crackling, contemporary energy of artists who are just starting their aesthetic explorations. Come experience the show at the opening reception on April 28, and join us for an artist talk on Saturday, April 29 from 2-3 pm. Click here to learn more about each of the 2016/17 SITE scholars.