Behind the Scenes: Understanding the Contemporary Arts Purchasing Program and Its Role in “New Arrivals” Through Committee Advisor Cecilia Wichmann

As New Arrivals 2017 winds to a close, I’d like to explore the exhibition’s beginnings.

The Contemporary Art Purchasing Program is the UMD initiative that brought New Arrivals to life. Thanks to six incredible students (Rachael Carruthers, Grace DeWitt, Nicolay (Nick) Duque-Robayo, Kathleen Hubbard, Damon King; Sarang Yeola) and their dedicated advisor Cecilia Wichmann, the thought-provoking, compassionate works displayed in the Stamp Gallery are permanent cultural contributions to the Student Union.

To enlighten us on the curatorial process behind New Arrivals, Mrs. Cecilia Wichmann graciously offered her reflections from the year-long program.

If you could describe CAPP or your CAPP experience in 5 words, what would they be?

Elaborating an ethics, together.

What is your favorite memory involving CAPP?

Every moment that we spent visiting with artists and looking at artworks together in person was my favorite! An intriguing dynamic developed over time as we played with the balance of looking quietly as individuals and tuning in as a group, between contemplating and sharing responses to works of art in a variety of ways. We had an amazing experience early on when we visited Morton Fine Art in DC and encountered work by Nate Lewis for the first time – all of us seemed to feel personally compelled (and right away!) so it was enormously exciting to get to look closely together and share our unfolding observations live and in detail. A similar converging energy took place as we learned about Joyce J. Scott’s brilliant work with Amy Raehse at Goya Contemporary in Baltimore.

Equally exciting were the experiences in which we all had very different takes and rates of response and found ourselves puzzling through these differences together, coming back to them in some cases as their effects sunk in over weeks or months.

We had numerous unforgettable visits to artists’ studios in DC, Mount Rainier, Baltimore, and New York. We met so many wonderful people who welcomed us into their work spaces and devoted an enormous amount of time to talking with us about their ideas and processes – Margaret Boozer and Red Dirt Studios, Cheeny Celebrado-Royer, Zoë Charlton, Nona Faustine, Taha Heydari, Phaan Howng, Joiri Minaya, Jonathan Monaghan, Sophia Narrett, Liora Ostroff, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Paul Rucker,  Joseph Shetler, Jowita Wyszomirska, as well as the MFA studios at MICA Mt. Royal School of Art and University of Maryland-College Park, and Open Studios at The Fillmore School (pilot program of the Halcyon Arts Lab). So much work of many kinds goes into preparing to welcome visitors to a studio or gallery, and we felt constantly grateful for the expertise and warm hospitality that met us at every turn, including those artists and gallerists with whom we hoped to–but could not ultimately–make a visit happen.

Getting to experience so much art, in such great concentration over time and with such dedicated individuals, amounted to a rare thing — a really complex and not always verbal conversation sustained for almost a year. For me, those moments when we shared a space with artworks and each other felt magical and life-affirming, and have changed my model of a meaningful life.  

 What does contemporary art mean to you? Has your definition been shaped by your experience with the program?

For me, contemporary art — art being made by my fellow human beings in the recent past or present — invites me first and foremost to consider those people who call what they do ‘making art,’ and therefore regularly consider what it means to live and work as an artist in the world right now. The answer is not singular — I think part of being an artist has to do with putting intentional thought into that question, orienting and reorienting oneself to it over time. Exploring what this profession or vocation might mean for one’s identity and vice versa, and envisioning what kinds of social obligations might therefore pertain.  I admire and value that effort. And I admire and value the 2016-17 CAPP committee’s respect for and interest in artists,  relatively free of preconceptions about who or what  an artist is supposed to be or do.

The brilliant arts leader and advocate Deana Haggag – formerly of The Contemporary in Baltimore and now President & CEO of United States Artists in Chicago – has recently made important observations related to artists as a labor sector, including the perplexing but revealing finding of a recent Urban Institute Study that while 96% of Americans value art only 27% value artists (check out recent interviews with Haggag on this topic on the Bad at Sports contemporary art podcast, on Artspace, and on Vogue.com). My experience with CAPP taught me so much about how I might endeavor to approach my work, aware of this disconnect, so as to better advocate with and for artists.

What is the importance of featuring contemporary art in public spaces (and UMD specifically?)

Contemporary artworks percolate questions, live with ambiguity, represent aspects of experience and identity otherwise papered over, invite mindful attention to the weirdness and instability of perception, engage profound ideas with humor and sly tweaking of expectations, thicken the sensory environments in which they are situated in ways that invite us to attend more carefully to the thick sensory possibilities of our own living bodies. I think these kinds of qualities make a difference to our encounters with public space, where we are more often confronted with invitations to conform to an existing plan, to accept a limited range of representations as a given or norm, and to make sense of ourselves matter-of-factly as consumers. I think it’s especially important to have contemporary artworks always on view at The Stamp – UMD’s student union – because it’s a place where we all spend time and go repeatedly to work, to eat, to connect with friends, and works of art can intersect with these contexts, calling us to slow down, return to them again and again (for a private moment or to share with someone else), to examine our own assessments of their beauty, to consider the shifting stories they might have to tell, and to register the ways in which our growing knowledge and shifting views inform these experiences as we ourselves change over time. 

 

Written by Sarah Schurman 

 

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A Way to Understanding Art

Difficult Ordinary Happiness

Those Girls Clenched So Many Hopes, Dance, Dance, Dance, Thrice

Line Up! Take It Like a Man, But Don’t take it up with ‘The Man’

Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering, Soundless Invisible angels

As a fun experiment, I made a collage poem out of the titles of the artworks currently on display. The creative process was quite intuitive. Similar to how these artworks visually and conceptually complement each other, their titles happen to poetically complement each other and collectively take on a meaning that captures the essence of the New Arrivals 2017 exhibition.

I find that I like processing ideas in my mind through drawing, writing, or creating music playlists, whatever the subject matter is. It helps me gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what I am trying to learn, especially when it comes to art. That being said, visitors are welcome to bring a sketchbook to the Stamp Gallery. Did any of the artworks remind you of a song? Tell a docent and perhaps it will be added to the playlist of Art Hour, Stamp Gallery’s own radio show. Whatever the case, getting creative and acquainted with the artworks is highly encouraged!

Come experience the New Arrivals 2017 exhibition in The Stamp Gallery, happening now through October 14, 2017.

Written by Cristy Ho

 


How do you look at art? Wait, what?

One question that I’ve been pondering lately is quite annoying in its apparent simplicity: How do you look at art? In our busy lives, going from point “A” to point “B”, and trying to get everything possible done during the day, we often forget how to just look and think. In the Stamp Gallery I am asked a lot of questions about meaning and why a piece is what it is.  Often times I can give the inquirer  an answer but that answer is either one from the artist’s statement or from my own interaction with the piece. It is not the individual person’s individual answer. Why does that matter you might ask? Well in some ways it doesn’t matter. My opinions and the creator’s opinions are some ways of understanding the works but in my opinion experiencing art is more complex than that – not more difficult, just more complex. Asking yourself what you think when looking at a work of art has the potential to be infinitely more rewarding than trying to find an answer through somebody else.

With this idea in mind I present to you some thoughts on how to look at art.

1.Taking your time

The Stamp Gallery is an easy place to speed through. The gallery itself is not huge but there are many pieces housed here for the enjoyment of patrons. It is surprisingly easy to pop into the gallery and speed through on the way to class or work, spending little to no time with the pieces themselves. One of my biggest suggestions is take your time! Come in, look around, read descriptions, ask questions, sit down a while and think about what you are seeing. Come into the gallery when you have some time to spend with these awesome works of contemporary art. If you only have enough time to speed through, note which works are calling to you and make time to come back at a different time to explore them. Thought is best cultivated with time.

2. Going where you are pulled…

Art isn’t meant to be a chore – most of the time. Trying to pull something from a piece you have no interest in can be a good exercise but there is something rewarding in trusting your instincts and going where you are pulled. Do you like a specific piece? Ask yourself why or why not. Do you notice yourself pulled towards a certain medium or subject matter? These observations about what you like can provide insight into the works themselves and into your own opinions and worldviews!

3.Thinking about context…

If you are lost when it comes to meaning, think about the context of the piece. How is it presented to you? What does the description tell you about intent? A lot of contemporary art tends to interact with the world in which it is created. How do you think it works in the world around you?

4.Don’t judge yourself and your ideas – interpretation says something about your perspective on the world around you!

Sometimes you may think something about a piece and then dismiss your ideas as incorrect or stupid—don’t! Even if you pull something from the piece that the artist may not have intended in its creation, it does not mean that that something wasn’t in the piece too. Interpretation is a valuable part of the art viewing experience. Examining your own feelings and opinions towards a work can at times be even more valuable in reflecting on your own life than the artist’s original intentions are. Don’t judge yourself for thinking.

5.Be courteous and kind to other patrons!

Having your own experience with the art is important; however, remember that other people in the space are doing the same thing! Unless the art dictates otherwise, these spaces are generally good places to keep at lower volumes. Discussion is great when with a friend but when in the gallery, be courteous to people around you who might not want to deal with a lot of distractions competing with their experience. Read the room and you’ll be fine.

6.Have fun with it!!

Like I said earlier, art is not a chore. While pieces may be taxing emotionally or mentally, coming to a gallery should be an experience you enjoy. Galleries are fantastic places to reflect, to appreciate, to wonder, and to question things that you normally wouldn’t have the time to question otherwise. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Art is a purely human endeavor and is therefore a miracle in itself.

Written by Kat Mullineaux.

The current show in the Stamp Gallery, CAPP: NEW ARRIVALS 2017 runs through October 14th.

Come by the Stamp Gallery and have your own experience with the art:

Monday – Thursday (10AM-8PM)

Friday (10AM-6PM)

Saturday (11AM-5PM)


Words heard and shared throughout CAPP

In 2005, the Adele H. Stamp Student Union—Center for Campus Life inaugurated a student-led Contemporary Arts Purchasing Program (CAPP) with the mission to educate and inspire by exposing the campus community to thought-provoking art by noted contemporary artists. As of 2017, the CAPP Collection has grown to encompass more than 50 works of art by 42 artists working regionally, nationally, and internationally.


You can teach people to collaborate; you can teach people to converse. You can teach them skill sets, etiquettes, processes, and protocols. You can motivate them and challenge them and record and reward their successes. But, you can’t teach them how to care. You can make them care, with personal, emotional, or financial incentive. But you can’t forcibly expand one’s capacity to care: to immediately, genuinely, deeply, closely, care for a mission or a cause that exists far beyond one’s circle of life. This is a sentiment that is not meant to be a morbid one; it is meant to separate the human from the worker. Protocols and record keeping is not subjective. The realms in which we each care, wholly and completely, is.

So, when the innate, sincere capacities to care for the same cause overlap in enormous proportion in six individuals  − from different places and with histories and narratives that are nearly void of tangencies − who then sit at the same table every week for thirty-one weeks, their work is likened to the dazzle of stars which align. These people recognize that money is power, that people are power, and that their role can have meaningful impact if they want it to. They meet over and over, until they are comfortable beyond the honesty of audibly liking or disliking a work of art. They meet to the point of comfortable vulnerability: celebrating the thrills of found artwork that meets both personal and common visions for the community, vocalizing when a work feels misguided, or admitting when a work feels right but you need the words of your peers to express how.

They begin the task at hand by learning to articulate their collective questions, and craft their collective wants:

We work in consensus; we do not vote.

We can invest in aesthetics. We need to invest in message, in artist.

Who’s voices can we give volume to who have been absent so far?

Controversial is okay. Triggering is not.

All depths of appreciation are valid. All depths of appreciation are equal.

These works are for you, and you, and you.

What is the greatest gift we can give to people, with the power we have?

How can we help people heal?

Visual language can celebrate the sameness of our hearts and the differences of our selves, simultaneously.

I had the privilege of working in precisely the above symphony this past year, and I recognize that it may seem dramatic to compare our communicative chemistry to something of cosmic magic. Our group purchased artwork for a university collection. We did not change statistics, laws, news bytes, missing rights, elections, or minds.

But, if I am a better person today than I am a year ago, I am by learning − through the admirable interactions we did initiate and complete − that the voicing of emotional attachments to things such as this one that I was a part of, concepts such as those we advocated, and people such as those we researched and shook hands with, is not only justified in its own right. It is respected.

Empathy is the newest marketable skill, sensitivity is now a priceless tool, and personal attachment is a universal saving grace. Championing dialogue, emphasizing the gravity of decisions, and verbalizing one’s feelings in poetry or pros or anything in between, require no defense or excuse. They are needed and expected, now more than ever.

To see the artworks acquired by the 2016−2017 CAPP committee mentioned here, visit New Arrivals 2017, exhibiting in The Stamp Gallery now through October 14, 2017.

By Grace DeWitt

 


Interview with “I’m Fine” Artist Rachael Carruthers

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This is the fourth installment of the I’m Fine artist interview series.

Rachael Carruthers || UMCP ’17 || Exhibiting in I’m Fine from June 5th through July 28th, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery || University of Maryland, College Park || Interview by Christopher Bugtong

Let’s start with some background information about you. Where are you from, and whatfirst got you into art?

I was born in Sheffield England in 1994 and moved to Takoma Park, Maryland in 2001. I have always been an avid figure drawer ever since I was a very young child and after
taking a ceramic class in my freshman year of high school I began working as a figure
sculptor.
What drove you to pursue a degree in studio art?

I want to continue the work of the femme sculptors before me, and continue carving
room for femmes in sculpture to live and work in their truths. I feel at this point the best
way to do this is to pursue an MFA and then a tenure track teaching position at an
academic institution.

You performed Dirty Laundry on two separate occasions in the Stamp Gallery: once for the filming of the piece, and once again live during the opening reception. What is it like, placing yourself in that performative role under such different circumstances?

My performances, being endurance in nature, always reinvigorate me upon completion.
It is a very rewarding experience to push the limits of one’s patience and fortitude. In
the vulnerable state of being on the floor undressed and exposed during the opening
reception I become so comfortable that I began to drift in and out of sleep after twenty
minutes or so. This particular outcome continues to astound me and causes me to
further reflect on the subject of violence. My exposed body is protected by the public
nature of the event, there is safety in visibility.

Cold Comfort and Dirty Laundry seem to explore the relationship between sculpture and performance/video. What drew you to these art forms, and how do you interpret this relationship emerging in your work?

My sculptures have always revolved around the body and it wasn’t until my fabrication
of Cold Comfort that my sculptures began to be directly related to, and formed from, my
own body. When it came time to display Cold Comfort, it became clear to me that the
presence of my body was important for the audience to understand the conceptual
aspects of the work, and that my physical presence could cause discomfort and intrigue
in the viewer.

Are there any particular artists, art movements, or other concepts that inspire your
current work, or your art overall?

History inspires my work, I study patterns of oppression and resistance. Reading through
testimonials and hearing from femmes within and outside of my community drives me
to make work that probes systems of power.

 

You mention in your description of Cold Comfort that it is the first of your “Pillow
Series”, and your artist statement elaborates further on the process. How do you see each piece within the series distinguish itself and speak to the series as a whole?

Each piece reflects a different aspect of seeking comfort, whether that’s exploring what
comfort is sought from or what transpires to result in needing comfort. I develop these
narrative through the material usage and the position in which the piece relates to the
body.
How do you see Cold Comfort and Dirty Laundry in relationship to the other works of the I’m Fine exhibition?

In these tumultuous times it was interesting to see so many artists turning inward
towards the body and their own personal experiences. It was great seeing such varied
voices battling with similar subject matter through so many different media and
perspectives.

Any future plans for your work and yourself? Upcoming exhibitions? Graduate school?

I am currently attending an artist internship at Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota
and this upcoming winter I will be applying to MFA programs.

For more information on I’M FINE and other upcoming gallery exhibitions, visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery


Interview with “I’m Fine” Artist Brandon Chambers

This is the third installment of the I’m Fine artist interview series.

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Brandon Chambers || UMCP ’17 || Exhibiting in I’m Fine from June 5th through July 28th, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery || University of Maryland, College Park || Interview by Cristy Ho

First, please tell us about yourself. Where are you from and when did you get into making art?

I grew up in a middle class nuclear family in a safe community of single family homes. I certainly remember it as an ideal childhood. I had friends at church, friends at school, and friends in the neighborhood. I had an older brother and a younger sister to play and fight with, and my grandparents lived a five minutes’ drive away. My mother was a doctor and my father was a teacher. Perhaps I over-idolize them, but in my mind, they represent the ideal humans, or at least humans striving towards the ideal. Hard-working, patient, nurturing, intelligent, wise…resolute.

On the last day of second grade, I vaguely remember being told that I would not see my classmates again. My parents, having prayed deeply on the issue had decided we were moving to Jamaica, where they had grown up. I had been there before on vacations to visit cousins and my great grandmother, but had never thought living there was even a possibility. We’d gone to beaches only locals would know about, and I thought that meant I knew the country.

The difference between visiting a place and living there are vast, but I learned fast. I learned to call my teachers ‘miss’ and that saying ‘God know’ is like saying ‘I swear’. I learned that electricity and water pressure are not guaranteed, and to be careful carrying hot water. I learned about hurricane season. I learned that in church, the opening prayer can last thirty minutes. I learned that a mind is all it takes to be creative. Whatever else I learned there came to me through culture and socialization, and was too subtle for me to be aware of, but nonetheless has greatly affected my way of life.

Living in Jamaica gave me the opportunity to compare and contrast different environments, different societies, different experiences of life. Jamaica is, in many ways, where I developed my sense of self. I continued my childhood in that new environment and seven years later, to facilitate my brother going to college, we moved back to the U.S. Back to Maryland.

I did not start making art at any specific time in my life, and my family was not particularly art-centered. I developed whatever skills I have over years of dabbling, and for a long time considered that to be enough. I went as far as getting an associates in science before I realized that I was going through the motions of learning, but had no real excitement in it. No drive. Perhaps it was immature, but I wanted to follow what gave me pleasure because to be the person I wanted to be, it would take real commitment rather than sporadic interest.

So I changed my major, began taking art classes at Montgomery College, got an Associates degree in Art, transferred to UMD and just continued applying myself. I can’t say I had any artistic style for most of that time. If anything, I tried to keep myself and my ego out of the work. I have been consistently making art since then.

You focus on the idea of impermanence in your work. What draws you to this concept?

Impermanence is one of those existential truths that really resonate with me both because of my personal experience and as a modern societal trend where, because there is more activity, more things begin and as a result, end. Whether it is an emotion like fear, joy, confusion or anger, a school or career you are in, your friend group or relationships, your life or your favorite television shows, we are presented with endless examples of things that reach a conclusion. Beyond the sadness and feeling of loss, though, there is also the beauty of completion and the ability to look at something as a whole rather than a work in progress.

Your video “Reviling of Pleasing Corruptions” has attracted many perplexed viewers into the Stamp Gallery. As a docent, I am often asked why you chose to drink dyed corn syrup out of Pepsi bottles. Are you warning about the substance’s adverse health effects and is there a deeper underlying meaning to this?

Rather than warning people about the adverse health effects, it was my belief that people were already aware of them. What I wanted people to reflect on was the reality that knowing something is harmful is not always enough to end the behavior. I chose dyed corn syrup and Pepsi bottles because drinking two or three bottles of Pepsi a day was one of the habits I found myself repeating, and I realized that collecting the bottles and seeing them as a whole gave me a long term perspective of the cost, not only in money but also the unseen cost my body was paying.

The deeper meaning I hoped to convey is that there are countless things we consume that negatively affect us, and like the Pepsi for me, our society often makes these things particularly easy for us to obtain. These things are packaged and marketed in a way that psychologically attracts us. They are designed to be if not physically, then mentally addictive. What’s more is that the negative effects are often unseen and easily ignored until the habit is just a part of who you are. It doesn’t help that we are in a society where people generally encourage you to be who you are rather than change.

Can you elaborate on what the white cloth represents?

The white cloth represents that blank canvas of a person’s life experience. It is the untarnished mind and body. After the first sip, I spit out the dark, viscous mixture onto the cloth in disgust, but spitting it out, rejecting it, doesn’t make the cloth clean again.

The cloth is also meant to provide a sterile setting for the interaction. There is a man, his addiction, and a lack of any alternative. After spitting out the drink, after indulging and rejecting an experience, it would be great to move on to something better, something different. But, much like going to a vending machine and hoping to find something without corn syrup or without food coloring, something nutritious, there is often no real alternative, so we return to the same thing we rejected, again tarnishing the cloth.

Over time, the cloth is a giant mess, and one more round doesn’t seem like it will make much difference. There is no worry about containing the mess since it is already made, and the habit has been going on so long that in the grand scheme of things you might as well just continue.

It is important to note that while it is viscerally visible in the video, in reality, most of this is happening internally, and isn’t disgusting the people around you (or their disgust is also internal).

How did you feel before, during, and after the recording of your performance?

Directly before the performance my main feeling was relief that it wasn’t just a crazy/cool idea. There are so many times that I have ideas of things that could be created and it doesn’t happen, either because I’m too self-conscious or I spend too much time fantasizing about it rather than doing it. So yeah, it was a good feeling having everything set up since the only thing after that is the action, and I find that is the simplest part. What little anxiety I had was from worrying that I would break character or overact and ruin the shot. But that’s how creating anything is, and it was easy enough to ignore when the time came.

During the recording I really had to actively be in the moment while simultaneously being aware of composition, timing and the perspective of the camera. It was like being in a trance where, even though I saw the people and things around me, they weren’t separate from me and the performance. By the time I got 5 minutes in, I was in my own head, ready to go on, but knowing there was a lot of time to go. There was a point where fatigue, the smell, the taste, the sight and the repetition took me to a place of enlightenment, where I had a true, visceral knowing of the futility of the action. I continued with the performance after that, but it was the moment I felt I had been working towards, where I had learned or experience everything the activity had to teach.

After it was all done, I was just tired and sticky and covered in gunk naked. I had to take a shower/bath in a large sink with cold water, and wipe the corn syrup off with paper towels. But it was done, and I was relieved. More than that, it was one of the few times where I put that much physical commitment into a project, and the feeling of being a creator was overwhelming. It was the feeling of completion, where all that was left to do was to look at what I had done. I loved it.

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Moving on to your next piece, “Endless Impermanence” has a system of discolored patches and holes that are reminiscent of the visual complexity of a map. What materials did you use to create this effect?

‘Endless Impermanence’ is the result of laser-cutting into graphite grounded Bristol board. I used a combination of drawing, photography, digital painting, and digital editing to create an image in Photoshop to excavate from the paper using the laser cutter by burning into the sheets at varying depths and intensities to create the visual complexity.

Taking into consideration the abstract nature of this work, how did you know when it was finished?

‘Endless Impermanence’ is really the result of months of trial, error and success with the technique. To go too far could mean literally burning the paper away to where there is nothing substantial to present, or, after hours of working with the cutter, having a product that is a uniformed blankness. Luckily, I got to a point where I could tell on the computer roughly how far to go, and it was finished when the laser cutter stopped cutting.

More broadly, what concepts or artists inspire you?

The idea of virtual reality inspires me greatly. The possibilities fill me with as much fear as joyful anticipation. To me it represents the ability to fully have someone’s attention and have them immersed totally in the art. It brings up questions about what it is to be conscious, how vital the ‘real world’ is if the mind can be more expansive in the virtual one. I’m interested to see if the technology reaches a point where it takes effort to remain aware of which reality you are in. All these thoughts worry me, but that only hastens me to wonder and imagine more.

I’m also interested in the idea that information has a lifespan of usefulness. I was really excited when I saw the promotional posters for “I’m Fine”, but at the same time, I realized that once the show is over, it isn’t really useful information, just a signifier of something that happened in the past. The same is true for the majority of emails, flyers, texts and so many other sources of information. At the risk of seeming to promote book burning, a lot of the information we have surrounded ourselves with is outdated, and beyond being useless, can at times be harmful to people who mistakenly treat it as relevant or reliable. I’m interested in the idea of being able to separate timelessly relevant truths from temporary ones.

What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?

Well, I’ve been working on a project where I illustrate interpersonal relationship dynamics in a hieroglyph-type aesthetic. I design a scale system that force the figures in the composition to be placed in positions where they balance the scales and cause stability, or take actions that unbalance the system. The simplest example I can give is to have you imagine a see-saw with two people on either side of it, causing it to be balanced. In order to get closer to each other, they must both move towards the center. Now imagine there are three people on the see-saw where two of them want to be together, but the third does not. What type of balance would they need to reach, or how willing are they to unbalance the system to reach their goal? I am in the early stages of this project, but my end goal is a series of simple but powerful narrative images that can give me an insight into relationship dynamics.

As for the future, I’m looking at grad programs for next year. Until then I’ll just be developing skills, and doing what each moment calls me to do.

Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

I guess the advice I have is to start seeking out a variety of experiences to draw from. If the only animal you’ve ever seen is a cat, making art about birds becomes pretty difficult. The narrower your experiences, the less you can express, and the fewer people you can connect with.

For more information on I’M FINE and related events, visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery


Interview with “I’m Fine” Artist Nicole Osborne

This is the second installment of the I’m Fine artist interview series.  

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Nicole Osborne || MFA at GWU ’18 || Exhibiting in I’m Fine from June 5th through July 28th, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery || University of Maryland, College Park || Interview by Christopher Bugtong

Let’s start with some background information about you. Where are you from, and what first got you into art?

I was born and raised in Gatlinburg Tennessee. I have been creating art since I could remember. I grew up within the 15 mile stretch of the Arts and Crafts community where my parents owned a shop. For as long as my mother could remember she could sit me in a corner with a sketchbook and I would be satisfied for hours.

What drove you to pursue a degree in studio art?

I knew that creating art was something that I would be doing for the rest of my life and so when I was told I had to go to college I chose the Fine Arts. Wanting to further my craft and learn more about modern and contemporary art while being in a creative community much like what I had grown up within was just instinctual for myself.

I understand that previous installations of 611 Timber Ridge RD, Gatlinburg TN 37738 have included your live performance. Has the use of prerecorded audio for the duration of this exhibition altered your perception or expression of this piece?

My first experimentation with this instillation had a performance component. The Audio is a way for myself as well as my mother to be present with the viewer. I couldn’t be there in person for the social interaction of the piece and am using the audio as my substitution as well as an instrument of bringing the viewer even further into those moments in time.

Your works in this show all invite the viewing public to participate in the artistic process. How does interactivity involve itself in your conception of these pieces, and in your artistic process in general?

I am a tactile person and am constantly being yelled at in museums for getting too close to the fine art pieces. I enjoy participating with a piece and breaking the rule of “hands-off” while in gallery and museum spaces. These pieces invite the viewers to participate or donate their own pieces of work to an ever growing representation of our societies either through the instillation of the work or the social media spaces where they can even post their interaction with the pieces if they so choose.

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While working this show, I’ve noticed that visitors of all ages—from children to the elderly—take the time to participate in So We Color and Classification of Other on Paper. Is this a surprising observation, or did you intend for those works to have a more timeless appeal?

It is really funny to think about these pieces. I had a visiting professor who was determined not to interact with these and stated that he did not like them “AT ALL”. I see it as an opportunity for the viewer to break a norm within a gallery space and invites them to be a part of a piece of artwork. I am thrilled with how well received the pieces were while being a part of this show and I plan on taking whatever pieces of donated artwork along with the piece so that it will continue to grow with time along with us.

Is there any significance to the figure depicted in So We Color and Classification of Other on Paper?

Yes. The figure is meant to be neutral in aspect so that the viewer can allow their own interpretation of society to be placed onto the other figure. It is interesting to see the results of the interactions of colors and how I allow them to tell me whether the figure is male or female, happy or sad, and so on. It is somewhat disturbing and enjoyable to see how these figures come through in the black and white Xerox copies that are placed on the wall. While sitting in the school chair, I feel the pressure to conform to societal norms intensify. These other figures in black and white pressure me to conform, representing all of those rules of coloring inside the line instilled by the teachers from the public school system screaming in my head and the effort I put in to fight against the invisible hold it has on me. The feeling when I open the binder and realize that I am not alone in this is comforting, especially after the pressure of the chair.

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How do you see your pieces in relationship with the other works and overall theme of the I’m Fine exhibition?

I feel that the curators did an excellent job of placement. 611 Timber Ridge RD, Gatlinburg TN 37738 is both a cathartic work that is a representation of something that is lost and a way of healing while being more in the current moments of my life. It interacts well with the other pieces in the show, which I feel are cathartic in process for many artists and invite the viewer to rest for a moment. So We Color and Classification of Other on Paper are examples of the pressures that are placed on us during our everyday submergence into society and the comfort of knowing that we are not alone in this process. I believe that many of the pieces in the show are some kind of commentary of society or are a cathartic process that helps the artist to cope with the emotional onslaught of loss or disturbing revelations within our society.

Any future plans for your work and yourself? Works in progress? Upcoming exhibitions?

I am currently with the MFA program at George Washington University. I am expanding more on the Other Series and the Wall Flower Series. My thesis exhibition will be focused around the Other Series. I am continuing to enter the Other Series into shows all over but If you follow me on any of my social medias @Ozzyarts I will post when and where the next installations will be.

Before we go, is there anything you would like to highlight about your work or the show as a whole?

I really appreciate the opportunity I was given and the great results of the curators of this exhibition. As for my work I am eternally in a constant struggle against the instilled social norms that I find suffocating whenever I hear the voices in my head. This series will continue for as long as I feel uncomfortable within my surrounding standards, and I do not see those going away any time soon.

For more information on I’M FINE and related events, visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery.