Jenn Angell by Altered Esthetics

Jenn Angell is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Disquiet, on view at the Southern Theater through November 5, 2017. I This group exhibition addresses feelings of unease, anxiety, paranoia, phobias, or what lurks beneath the surface as we move through daily life. Twelve artists explore these themes through sculpture, painting, photography, collage, and video.

Jenn Angell is a visual artist currently based in River Falls, WI. She received a BFA in ceramics from University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May 2017. She has attended workshops at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado.

Works by Jenn Angell

Works by Jenn Angell

Jenn, thanks for exhibiting with Ae! Can you tell us about your background as an artist and how you came to work with ceramics? Why does clay appeal to you as a medium?

I started working with clay when I was in high school and came back to it a few years later when I was in college. At first, I was just taking ceramics because I liked it and was sort of familiar with it. I kept taking it and finding it more and more fascinating and eventually decided to get my degree in ceramics.

I really enjoy the process of working with clay, and how it has so many parallels to the human experience. A professor of mine would often talk about how clay has a memory, and that always stuck with me. Every little touch or push or pull is recorded in the clay whether you can see it or not. It begins as a soft, malleable material and grows and transforms into something mature and strong and along the way it responds to the environment. The process also forces you to stay present, and work with the material through the different stages, it’s not like a painting where you can leave it alone for a month and come back to it- clay will be dry and unworkable. It forces you to move on even if you’re not ready and keeps you engaged and in the moment. There’s also a spirituality about working with clay that’s special to me. Clay has such a long and rich history, people have been making things with it for literally tens of thousands of years, and it is so rooted in tradition. I feel connected to something bigger than myself because of ceramics, and that’s pretty cool to me.

I’m curious to hear about other artistic mediums you may use. Do you work in any materials aside from clay? Do you make traditional, functional ceramics? How do other processes inform each other in your practice.

In college I also studied painting and photography, and I do make functional pots. When I was first introduced to ceramics, it was through functional pottery and I think that has informed how I make sculpture.

I think different ideas sometimes need different mediums, and in my experience, I’ve had to work through certain ideas and concepts in other mediums before I could successfully bring them into clay.

Jenn Angell, Fear, Porcelain, Insulating foam, and glass, 8.5" x 5.5 " x 5.5"

Jenn Angell, Fear, Porcelain, Insulating foam, and glass, 8.5" x 5.5 " x 5.5"

Your works in Disquiet are physical representations of negative emotions. Why do you work with this subject matter? How do you translate the intangible into your sculpture?

Making art is very therapeutic and cathartic for me. I had been experiencing a lot of negative things and I’m the type of person to bottle them up and try to ignore them. This is my way of addressing those emotions and working through them.

These pieces started out with me thinking about what different emotions might look like if they were physical things, like what would your anxiety look like if it formed growths or cysts in your chest? What does defeat look like? Anger? Shame? I think a lot about these things and then give them a form. The glaze surfaces and textures of the objects are also important to me. If something is smooth and shiny, it’s going to elicit a different response than if it’s bubbly or dry or crusty. Even though the viewer isn’t physically touching these pieces, you can imagine what they feel like, and how that might be connected to the emotion.

Your ceramics are housed within glass jars and containers. Can you talk more about this display method and how it relates to the content of your work?

I wanted the pieces to be reminiscent of scientific specimens, hence the jars. With this work, I was thinking a lot about how we tend to contain our emotions and experiences, particularly the ones we don’t want to feel. I was in a psychology class at the time I started making this work, and we were discussing Freud’s theory of the unconscious, specifically the concept of repression. I was thinking of that part of the mind that is out of our conscious awareness, and it being a sort of cabinet of curiosities that houses all of the experiences that we’ve repressed or chose to not fully feel. I view the contents of the jars as the physical manifestations of these emotions and experiences that have been extracted or dissected from the body, and then stored away for later examination.

Jenn Angell, Anger, Porcelain and glass, 10" x 6" x 6"

Jenn Angell, Anger, Porcelain and glass, 10" x 6" x 6"

You included a wonderful Louise Bourgeois quote in your submission to Disquiet:

“My sculpture allows me to re-experience the fear, to give it a physicality so I am able to hack away at it. Fear becomes a manageable reality. Sculpture allows me to re-experience the past in its objective, realistic proportion.”

How does looking to other artists shape your own work? What other artists are you influenced by?

I get stuck on ideas and concepts a lot and looking at how other artists have solved similar problems or presented similar ideas helps me figure out what I’m doing. I don’t want to say I copy other artists, but often times I’ll see a form and think, “wow I want to make forms like that,” and try to make a form reminiscent of that, which often sparks new ideas for me during the making process.

Louise Bourgeois has been a huge inspiration for me. Lauren Gallaspy and Jason Briggs are both ceramic artists that I look to a lot. I also look at a lot of medical illustration, something about it is really fascinating to me.

How do you hope viewers interact with your work? What do you want them to take away from it?

I hope people approach the work initially with a sense of curiosity. I want people to examine the contents of the jars and maybe even reflect on their own experiences with the emotions. These pieces did come from very personal exploration, but the topics/emotions are universal enough that I hope people can relate in some way.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

I have a show at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, WI that will be opening in January 2018.

Where can we find and follow you online?

Instagram: @jennxangell

Facebook: Jenn Angell Art

I also have an etsy shop for my pots: etsy.com/shop/JennAngellStudio

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass.

John Ilg by Altered Esthetics

John Ilg is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, The Art of Change, on view at the Southern Theater from July 9, 2017 - July 30, 2017. In this exhibit, six artists explore collaborations between artists and viewers to create interactive experiences and changed works of art.

John Ilg is a multimedia artist based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He holds a BFA and MFA from the University of Minnesota.  John has also been the recipient of several grants and awards from the U of M, Jerome Foundation, Minnesota Artists Association and others. His work has been shown nationwide and has received acclaimed reviews and awards.

John Ilg, Job Search, Archival digital prints on Rubix’s Cube, 2.25” cube, 2012

John Ilg, Job Search, Archival digital prints on Rubix’s Cube, 2.25” cube, 2012

John, thanks for exhibiting with Ae! The Art of Change challenges viewers to go beyond looking and interact with works of art. What do you feel are the biggest benefits and challenges in creating interactive art?

I’m not certain I set out to create “interactive art” per se, but the initial piece I created in this series, HONESTY surely inspired people to interact with it. They seemed to know what to do. My original concept for the piece was to challenge a person's moral fiber when presented with a moral hazard. I presented 316 dollar bills rolled and inserted into hardware mesh with nothing but friction and viewers’ ability to resist temptation being the only forces holding them in place. At its debut showing at the 2008 Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition (where 200,000+ people would be passing by), I expected such a number of bills would be taken so the word "HONESTY" would dissolve into illegibility—wouldn’t take many missing to have this happen—and eventually ALL would be gone. But Minnesotans = hyper-honest! In fact, people could not keep their hands off the money but not as expected. To my surprise and financial good fortune, people inserted nearly $150.00 additional dollars into the piece! Although people altered the letters somewhat, (especially adding to the “Y’) they didn’t remove or replace any bills as I had originally inserted them. Watching people “work on” this piece was a delight for the staff and I heard many funny stories.

HONESTY after being exhibitied at the Minnesota State Fair, 2008

HONESTY after being exhibitied at the Minnesota State Fair, 2008

There is another HONESTY (in a series of 6) permanently installed in a conference room at the Radisson Blu, MOA where guests are slowly taking money from it. It is now quite distorted but still legible. The Radisson staff members were replacing bills but told me they couldn’t keep up.

The version I initially exhibited at the State Fair was eventually stolen from a gallery at a local community college. The story was covered by all the local news outlets and eventually was picked up by UPI and traveled around the world. Amazingly (and quite “interactively”) people were mailing me dollar bills to help cover the loss! During a following art Crawl, I placed a blank grid on the wall and a sign asking people to “help recreate HONESTY” which they did.  Donated about $120.00 in all. It was interesting to see how people weren’t so concerned about the dollar itself but where to place it.  It had to be on a significant letter or an important place on the letter. I guy came back and actually moved his bill to a different spot. This level of concern was all a wonder to me.

HONESTY after several years at the Radisson Blu, MOA

HONESTY after several years at the Radisson Blu, MOA

HONESTY provides viewers with the temptation to take a piece of your art with them, in this case dollar bills. Do you feel this work has given you some insight into the minds of your audience? Do you think HONESTY would have a different outcome in a large city? In a smaller one?

“Honesty” turned out to be an unexpectedly interactive piece that got under people’s psychological skin. It is about both the force at the center of our moral/ethical self and resistance to temptation.  The piece calls on the psychological space between trust and integrity, desire and restraint, impulse and regret.

This piece has been shown in all kinds of situations from little or no security to very intensely controlled and monitored spaces and in cities large and small.  I’m not sure the outcome would be as positive if there were larger bills inserted ($5’s, $10’s, $20’s, etc.).  All things considered, I don’t think people would sell their souls for $1 but maybe for $20(?!).

Rebuild Honesty Project in the artist's studio during the St. Paul Art Crawl

Rebuild Honesty Project in the artist's studio during the St. Paul Art Crawl

Two of your pieces featured in this exhibition, HONESTY and Job Search, use American currency. What drew you to this imagery?

Aside from the psychological weather created by HONESTY,the use of US currency has made its way into other pieces of mine.  Not Getting BetterBrokeRecession Blues, Bitter Pills and others.  My sculptures use the spiritual aspects of mundane, vernacular objects to make tangible broadly understood realities while also allowing for a wide range of personal interpretation. These repetitive patterns of mass-produced objects, combined in a fashion at odds with their traditional function, become an anxious and somewhat wry carrier of the message. My goal is to start with an abstract social/political/economic reality and create from it a beautifully constructed, profoundly ambiguous “object”–both clear and vague, confrontational yet accessible. The broader purpose being: the activation of the psychological space between the viewer and the piece itself.  Which in some cases inspires actual physical interaction with the artwork--a unique and exciting feature of these sculptures.  The most familiar, powerful and readily available “unique object” that triggers all of the above is money.

John Ilg, Narcissist, Silver and gold mirrors, 17" x 18.5", 2016

John Ilg, Narcissist, Silver and gold mirrors, 17" x 18.5", 2016

Other works in this exhibition, Narcissist and Mirror, mirror, both use mirrors. Can you tell us about the process involved when working with this material?

The mirror idea makes the viewer part of the visual dynamic of the piece– not simply a detached viewer of the artwork but an image IN the artwork. The most notable result is watching how people look in from the side or below the work to AVOID seeing their own reflection– a curious sociological aspect.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

I will be having a large exhibition of about 20 of my recent sculptural works at The Artistry, Inez Greenberg Gallery opening in January 2018.  Look on their site this fall for specific dates pertaining to this event http://www.artistrymn.org.

Where can we find and follow you online?

There are about 75 of my works online at http://www.mnartists.org/johnilg. You can also find me on Facebook.

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written by Maggie Schuster, edited by Sarah Kass.

Miles Phillips by Altered Esthetics

Miles Phillips is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Earth Works, on view at the Southern Theater from June 9, 2017 - July 2, 2017. In this exhibit, sixteen artists explore the implicit presence of land and earth in our everyday lives. All are invited to the Public Reception on June 23 (RSVP on Facebook).

Miles Phillips is a photographer based in Minneapolis. He is currently pursuing a BFA in Photography from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and will graduate in 2019.

Miles Phillips, Anthropocene 7, Inkjet print, 24 x 36 inches

Miles Phillips, Anthropocene 7, Inkjet print, 24 x 36 inches

Miles, thanks for exhibiting with Ae! Your work featured in the show, Anthropocene 7, is part of a series documenting the contrast between man-made and natural features of the Earth. Can you tell us more about what inspired this series and how it was made?

Over the course of the past five years, my interests as a photographer have gone from capturing skateboarding and architecture, to capturing nature and the passage of time, as well as capturing geometric abstractions within the frame of the lens. After experimenting with all of these forms of subject matter, I've found that by capturing the contrast between manmade and natural features is the best way for me to include all of my interests into one image. I've made considerations of changing my main areas of study to environmental studies/cultural studies/music before, but I've found that working these subjects into my artwork satisfies my need for conceptual depth.

I’d love to learn more about your approach to photography. Can you tell us about the equipment you use, your editing process, and how you choose to display your photos?

Each project is a little bit different, though they each have some sort of blend between old and new technology. I find the aesthetic appearance of film to be much more pleasing than digital photographs even though I understand the benefits and advantages of using digital technology. I use medium or large format negatives usually, because I can scan them at a very high resolution into a digital file that can be printed at billboard size if I want. I edit these files like normal digital files, altering warmth, contrast, white balance and things like that to make it have as few mistakes as possible. I like my final products to be prints, as they are best viewed that way in my opinion.

Image from Cross Pollination project, 2017

Image from Cross Pollination project, 2017

I’ve noticed your photography has a strong sense of place. How do you go about capturing a specific location in an image? What do you hope viewers take away from these works?

I think location is vital when judging the importance of all images and art in general. I try to capture locations that hint at certain themes conceptually, without being instantly recognizable as a specific location that everyone knows. Many photographers like to make work at places that have already been made famous by those before them, and that's never really been an interest of mine. There's something really satisfying about finding a spot nobody else has been to on your own. It makes me feel like I'm moving the art of exploration and photography forward.

You are currently studying at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). How has your time there impacted your work?

I think MCAD has really influenced me positively on the technical side of making work. I've gotten into this rhythm of practicing technical skills during the school year and putting them to the test when I travel on breaks. I can see steady improvement in the physical quality of images I'm making as I venture to new places each year. Being a student at a place with so many other forms of talented artists really is a blessing too. I've found new influences through friendships that I see lasting for a lifetime.

Photo from Miles' recent trip to Nepal

Photo from Miles' recent trip to Nepal

You recently traveled to Nepal. Why did you choose to travel there and what has been your experience photographing abroad?

I was looking for internships and jobs that involve travel and one of the opportunities that came up was a volunteer project to help with earthquake relief in Nepal with an organization called All Hands Volunteers. I saw this as an opportunity to do some good in the world as well as make a new series of images. I spent a few weeks with them and spent the rest of my month there traveling to the mountains and rain forests, learning the native language, and making friends. Living there is definitely a challenge but I really grew to love the people and land that they live in. Nepali culture is very genuine and accepting. In fact, I wish I could stay longer than I did. I plan to go back for a longer Southeast Asia trip in the future, and now I have friends to visit and  a pretty good sense of how to live a sustainable lifestyle in that type of environment.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

My next project, “Nepal” will be displayed in a gallery setting in MCAD and possibly other locations in the Twin Cities/US/Nepal. Since I've just returned from my trip, it's hard to say exactly what it's going to look like and when it will be open for public view. However, I can promise that it will be my best work to date once I've finished sorting everything. I've never had a more life changing and mind opening experience than this.

Where can we find and follow you online?

Instagram: @milesphillipsphoto

Website: www.milesphillipsphoto.com

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass.

Katie Hargrave by Altered Esthetics

Katie Hargrave is featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Earth Works, on view at The Southern Theater from June 9, 2017 - July 2, 2017. In this exhibit, sixteen artists explore the implicit presence of land and earth in our everyday lives. Earth Works will be on view during Northern Spark 2017 (June 10), the Public Reception will be held on June 23 (RSVP on Facebook).

Katie Hargrave is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chattanooga, TN. She received her MFA in Intermedia Art from the University of Iowa, MA from Brandeis University, and BFA from the University of Illinois. In addition to working with the collaborative groups, “The Think Tank that has yet to be named” and “Like Riding a Bicycle,” she also teaches at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

Katie Hargrave, Don't Tread on Me: Flags for Plants, Tyvek printed flag, 24 x 36 inches

Katie Hargrave, Don't Tread on Me: Flags for Plants, Tyvek printed flag, 24 x 36 inches

Katie, thanks for exhibiting with Ae!  Your work, Don't Tread on Me: Flags for Plants, gives voice to endangered plants. Can you tell us more about this project and why you chose to speak from the plants’ point of view?

My art practice deals with how American history can impact our current reality or how American history can be deployed in a critical way. Conservatives in this country are really good at this, and I hope to become more tactical for myself as a progressive/liberal artist. I like to think about symbols (flags in this instance) and how their official nature can be manipulated. In these pieces, I began thinking about the phase of the Gadsden flag (the original “Don’t tread on me” flag with the snake) and thinking about other things that phrase could mean. These flags are for endangered plants that are impacted by trampling (usually by the expansion of human development or by grazing animals like cows). What if the plants could speak for themselves? What if they had the agency that humans had to make and deploy official symbols like flags?

How does your work respond to its surroundings including natural and manmade environments?

I am very interested in the idea of what “natural” is. The United States is known for its wild spaces, and these spaces are a part of American identity (as the colonizer, as the cowboy, as the transcendentalist, and so on). What’s fascinating to me is that these ideas of what “natural” means are constructions. All of this land was impacted by human development long before this land was colonized by euro-Americans. This preface is important to me because we all (everyone living in the US) have to deal with the spaces we (euro-Americans) occupy, while what it means to “deal” might change in different contexts. I try to do that conceptually within my work, but I also think about this when I work within a gallery setting. Most of my work is responsive to the location of the gallery in which it will be shown, for instance this piece features plants that are from the Great Lakes region.

Using wall space to plan out a project

Using wall space to plan out a project

Your work is rooted in research and history. You also say you like to take things apart and put them back together. What does your creative process look like?

My work often starts with a narrative (something I read in the newspaper or a book) and then I start to delve in deeper. I love archives and history books, and I try to get a grasp on the historical antecedents for whatever current event I am interested in. Sometimes the work pulls from collage, taking two disconnected ideas and putting them into context. Other times the work is participatory and I use historical and current information as a framework for participants to work within. My studio is always a mess; I work on many projects at the same time (partially because I collaborate with lots of different groups).

I am also interested in metaphorically taking apart systems. For instance, right now, I am unpacking the history of public land in the United States, looking at the history of the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and reading novels about range wars, reading about barbed wire, looking at the creation of native reservations, manifest destiny, and the history of the design manuals for US government offices. Once I know that history, I can mix it together and put things into context in stranger ways. Those stories are becoming installations, books, and embroidered patches right now.

Many of your projects include collaborators or audience participants. Why are these connections important to your work?

So many reasons! I consider myself to be a socially engaged artist, which means working with people throughout the process is important to me. Not every project is participatory, but it is an important tool in my toolbox. Working with participants, I hope to move the audience from a viewer that analyzes the work to an engaged co-creator in the work. I hope to do this throughout my process (sometimes in the research phase and sometimes in the final works) in order to open up space and allow the audience to see their own power. I am an educator, and I am not interested in hierarchies within my work, so I seek to dismantle the idea that the artist is the genius through making work that relies on other people.

Collaboration allows me to work on different bodies of work at the same time. I can work on projects about cycling, skill shares, and neighborhood engagement as a part of “Like Riding a Bicycle” and I can make work that unpacks mental health systems, support structures, and gentrification as a member of “the Think Tank that has yet to be named.” The people I work with are super smart and have different areas of interest than me, and we enrich each others’ practices by working together. Within my own work, I don’t have to worry about being a total history nerd; I can just go there.

A sewing project in-process

A sewing project in-process

Do you consider your art to be political? What do you hope viewers take away from your work?

My work is absolutely political, but I engage in a quiet politics. While I am protesting or working with local community organizers outside of my art practice, I hope to think about a quiet or a slow activism within my work. How can small changes to our sense of self alter the way we move through the world? We all know how important the symbolic is, but if we are able to point to the absurdity of the way those symbols are created, can we make new, more meaningful symbols? I think being in the world is a political act; there is no way not to be political. Making something lovely, being thoughtful, moving through the world with your eyes open, these are all important. Perhaps it is easier to see how my work is political, which deals with the construction of the identity of a nation state, than the work of artists that are perceptual painters, for instance, but I would argue both are about paying attention. That’s political.

I hope viewers begin to see themselves and their own power. I hope they identify with or against a story I am telling. I hope they share their own story. I hope they’re present and excited enough to become engaged, if only for a moment.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

My work is in a show called Needlework: Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance that opens June 9 at Prøve Gallery in Duluth. I am also getting ready for a couple of exhibitions this fall. I’ll be in solo shows at Michigan Technical University in Houghton, Michigan and Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida this September. I’m also excited to be included in a group show, Imagination Unbound, at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. That show explores how preparatory sketches for artworks can be shown alongside finished work. It’ll be a busy season.

Where can we find and follow you online?

http://katiehargrave.us

@katie_hargrave_ on Twitter and Instagram

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass.

Hend Al-Mansour by Altered Esthetics

Born and raised in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia, Hend Al-Mansour currently resides in the Twin Cities and is a featured in Altered Esthetics’ new exhibition, Turbulent Identities, on view at The Southern Theater from 3/3 - 4/2/2017. All are invited to the Opening Reception on Friday, 3/3, from 5:00-7:00 pm. RSVP on Facebook.

Hend Al-Mansour, Facebook-I, 2013,  Screen printing on paper, 40 x 46 inches

Hend Al-Mansour, Facebook-I, 2013,  Screen printing on paper, 40 x 46 inches

Hend, you have referred to yourself as a “Minnesotan Transplant”. As an Arabic woman that has migrated to Minnesota, a predominantly White state, have you felt as if it has been difficult for your narrative to fit within the constructs of this state? What has living in Minnesota taught you?

I suffered from alienation and marginalization in my home country and that is why I sought another home in Minnesota. I am enjoying freedom of expression here. I also can address issues that are important to me: Gender justice and sexual independence. My artistic language however has been difficult to translate to my new audiences. I found myself often unexpectedly explaining images that Arab audience will take if for granted. I am still learning how to make art that can speak to both audiences. Living in Minnesota had expanded me personally and artistically.

Women are consistently featured in your works. What do they represent to you? What do you hope viewers will take away from your work?

My work seeks to restore social gender balance. I do this through telling stories about women who are sacred or iconic in the Arabic culture. Or by depicting the holy mosque in Mecca as a feminine goddess. I use the spiritual sphere as a forum because it is often from there that maleness are made superior.

Hend Al-Mansour, detail from Haneen, 2016, installation at Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College

Hend Al-Mansour, detail from Haneen, 2016, installation at Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College

Cultural appropriation is the central theme to Turbulent Identities. What is cultural appropriation to you?

I like it when my culture can inspire others. I don’t like it when that goes without credit. Sometimes the term is applied to any borrowing of other cultures even if it is done respectfully. I rather like cultural interactions and exchanging knowledge and ways of life. Cultures and individuals always do better when they grow outside of their traditional limits. And where do they get inspirations? From others around them of course. Sometimes, however, there is a tendency of the appropriator to annihilate her source. But in general that does not succeed or only succeed for a short while.

Do you believe it is possible to appreciate a culture without appropriating it? What advice would you give to humans unsure of how they can appreciate a friend, colleague or partner’s culture without appropriating?

Just acknowledge your inspiration. For example, the great Islamic Art is inspired by Byzantine and Roman art and all other local arts that the early Muslims settled in but the result was an incredible aesthetic vocabulary and priceless treasures that has its own character. This had worked on individual levels as well.

You have a degree in Art History. How has this study impacted your work? 

It made me pay more attention to the artmaking process. Where my art is coming from and how can I optimally present it. It also made me aware of the responsibility that I accept by becoming an artist. Not only responsibility of education and presenting visual knowledge but also of honest expression. An artist is her community’s spokesperson whose work represent others’ thoughts and feelings.

Hend working on an original pattern inspired by Islamic design

Hend working on an original pattern inspired by Islamic design

Who are some of your favorite authors, artists or directors that address these complex ideas of identity and cultural exchange?

Artist Shazia Sikandar. Artist Kehinde Wiley. Artist Hayv Kahraman. Artist Mona Hatoum. Poet Mahmoud Darwish. Edward Said’s Orientalism.

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions and/or projects we should know about?

I have an exhibit that opens and runs at exactly the same dates as TI. That is why I am not here. It is at Eisemann Center in Richardson, TX. Closer to home I will be in a three women’s show at the Phipps Art Center in Hudson, WI in October this year.

Where can we find and follow you online?

www.hendalmansour.com

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written by Shivani Vyas, edited by Sarah Kass.

Christopher E. Harrison by Altered Esthetics

Christopher E.  Harrison is a Twin Cities artist who is featured in Altered Esthetics’ new exhibition, Turbulent Identities, on view at The Southern Theater from 3/3 - 4/2/2017. All are invited to the Opening Reception on Friday, 3/3, from 5:00-7:00 pm. RSVP on Facebook.

Christopher E. Harrison, Masquerade II, 2014, Plaster, Collage on Chicken Wire, 11"x14"

Christopher E. Harrison, Masquerade II, 2014, Plaster, Collage on Chicken Wire, 11"x14"

You work in several mediums. Can you tell us more about the materials you use and how you choose them?

The materials I use vary depending on the piece. I try to stick to natural components like tempera paints, plaster, paper, inks, etc. I do this because I want to build sustainable materials into my practice, which then harken back to the organic themes that are prevalent in my work. I do use acrylic paint which is an exception because of its low toxicity and quick drying time.

In addition to making art, you also work as an arts educator. How do these two roles influence each other?

As an educator, providing the community with the service of discovering and appreciating the arts in its many forms is very important to me. Its an intellectual as well as an aesthetic benefit to society that we all as citizens should strive to uphold. I’m always learning from being in the space around great art and processing this information to give to patrons and this in turn informs my practice in the studio.

As of recently, you have described a change in your approach moving from dimensional/figurative art to a more non-objective, biomorphic/organic form of art. The works featured in Turbulent Identities demonstrate your earlier style, can you elaborate on what inspired you with these works? Do these themes show through your current works?

There’s many inspirations inherent in my work, whether it be politically, socially or environmentally based. Although the earlier Masquerade series pieces are figurative as compared to my current work, the thread for me still deals with the ideal of “otherness,” meaning that I create around images that could be seen as outside of the what is considered normal or obvious. As a person of color, this is a concept that I live with on a everyday basis. So whether it’s through my older figurative works or abstract forms I use diverse optics like collage or disparate materials to tell those stories of differences coming together to create new experiences of seeing the world.

Christopher giving a tour at the Walker Art Center, Photo by J. Wren Supak

Christopher giving a tour at the Walker Art Center, Photo by J. Wren Supak

Cultural appropriation is the central theme to Turbulent Identities. What is cultural appropriation to you?

I define cultural appropriation as recognizing an aspect(s) of an alternate culture and adapting or absorbing it into the greater, more dominant culture for the greater culture’s own benefit, so much so that the origins of this aspect becomes minimized or forgotten. For Turbulent Identities, I feel that the show’s theme has artists challenge cultural definitions through their work and explore what a true diverse world looks like.

Do you believe it is possible to appreciate a culture without appropriating it? What advice would you give to humans unsure of how they can appreciate a friend, colleague or partner’s culture without appropriating?

I do believe you can show culture appreciation as long as the history and origin of the culture are realized and shared in a respectful manner, even to the point where aspects can be borrowed to create some more interesting. The advice I would give is to always reference the source first. Knowledge is the greatest teacher. Learn what you can from people or information that’s available so you’ll know what is celebratory or taboo. If some cultures hold their identities as more sacred than others, respect that by leaving it alone!

Who are some of your favorite authors, artists or directors that address these complex ideas of identity and cultural exchange?

I enjoy James Baldwin’s writing, in particular Native Son, a great tome for exploring the journey of a Black man’s self discovery. I’m also inspired by Jean Michel Basquiat’s work for it’s in-your-face expressive visual sense of urban urgency that is still potent today. I’m also a fan of artists Joan Miro whimsy, Romare Bearden’s grittiness, and indigenous arts from the Pre-Columbian era, Asia and Africa.

Christopher E. Harrison, Constellation Conception, 2016, Acrylic, tempera on raw canvas, 6' x 6'

Christopher E. Harrison, Constellation Conception, 2016, Acrylic, tempera on raw canvas, 6' x 6'

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions and/or projects we should know about?

I have a show coming up in July at the Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids, MN that will showcase my abstract art based on the themes of my creating an imaginary alien race.

Where can we find and follow you online?

My website is http://www.harrisonartstudio.net

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/christopher.e.harrison

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/charrchr

Twitter - https://twitter.com/@ceh8ball

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written by Shivani Vyas, edited by Sarah Kass.

Shivani Vyas on Turbulent Identities by Altered Esthetics

Shivani Vyas is a Curatorial Assistant with Altered Esthetics. She is directing the upcoming Ae exhibition, Turbulent Identities, which will be on view at The Southern Theater 3/3 - 4/2/2017. We are accepting submissions for Turbulent Identities through 1/29/2017: http://www.alteredesthetics.org/form/submit-art-upcoming-exhibition  

Nalini Malani, Childhood fears, 2009, Numerical pigmentary print, 54,6 x 76 cm

Nalini Malani, Childhood fears, 2009, Numerical pigmentary print, 54,6 x 76 cm

Shivani, give us a brief bio: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

I am originally from Washington State and I am finishing up my Art History major at St. Olaf College. I’m currently working at Flaten Art Museum as a collections and museum assistant. I’m also an intern for Gallery 71 and obviously Altered Esthetics as well.

You are currently a student at St. Olaf College. Why did you decide to study art?

My interest in art manifested through my volunteer work at Seattle Art Museum during my sophomore year of high school. My passion in art comes from its powerful potential to initiate discussion, educate and influence. For me, the most important part of art is how the juxtaposition and display of artwork plays a huge part in the way it is received by audiences. Today my passion focuses on historical accuracy of artifacts and the narratives that museums emphasize through curation.

Photo of Shivani Vyas

Photo of Shivani Vyas

The intention of this exhibition is to create a discussion around cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. What was your inspiration for the Turbulent Identities exhibition?

My inspiration for this exhibition comes from personal experience. As an Indian American brought up in Seattle, Washington, I found it difficult to balance my two identities. I felt I was American, but not American enough, and when I went to India I found that I was Indian, but not Indian enough. It is painful to remember the time when I was ashamed of being Indian to the point where the fact that my parents carried their culture through their accents and style would bother me. I found myself trying to assimilate into American society by hiding my accent and adapting my food choices so they were more closely aligned with the less-fragrant foods that most students brought to school.  I felt the need to closet a part of my identity that I deeply appreciate today. So having to understand how these two identities have shaped me into who I am today took a long time and it still continues to be a point of reflection for me. These experiences have made me sensitive to the way different cultures and traditions are misrepresented and commodified in much of Euro-American/Anglo-American society. Many immigrants and people of color experience microaggressions with regard to the way they dress and speak, so it is frustrating to see mass media trivialize these exact traditions for the purpose of profit. This frustration collided with my passion for art this past year when I was studying art in context in London and one of my classes focused heavily on the narratives enforced in museums. Understanding how colonization silenced the narratives of the colonized at such institutions helped me realize that the appropriation of cultures and the looting of goods and narratives are rarely acknowledged. This exhibition seeks to create a space in which such narratives are recognized and addressed.

What do you hope artists gain by participating in this exhibition?

I hope that artists can use this space as a platform where they can express their cultural identities through art and constructive dialogue.

What do you hope viewers will take away from this exhibition?

I hope that viewers leave this exhibition with a better understanding of cultural appropriation and the urge to continue discussion outside of the exhibit space.

Kehinde Wiley, Saint Adelaide, 2014, Stained Glass, 96 X 43.5"

Kehinde Wiley, Saint Adelaide, 2014, Stained Glass, 96 X 43.5"

Who are some of your favorite artists that address these complex ideas of identity and cultural exchange?

Shahzia Sikander, Nalini Malani, Kehinde Wiley, and Aidan Salkhova.

To submit work to Turbulent Identities, complete the web form by 1/29/2017: http://www.alteredesthetics.org/form/submit-art-upcoming-exhibition  

 

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass