Interview with ‘(Sub)Urban’ Artist Nick Satinover

This is the fourth installment of the (Sub)Urban artist interview series. (Sub)Urban features work by Amze Emmons, Yoonmi Nam, Benjamin Rogers, Nick Satinover, Christine Buckton Tillman, and Sang-Mi Yoo.

Nick Satinover | Artist  | Exhibiting in (Sub)Urban from October 30 through December 16, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Tasiana Paolisso

 

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Beginning with some background, where are you from and what first got you into art?

I am a native of Dayton, Ohio, where  I grew up as the son of an artist.  My father holds a BFA and MFA in painting, but never pursued a career as an artist or academic.  He entered the business world, but still maintained a healthy painting practice which continues to this day.  All this is to say, I grew up in a house full of original paintings, going to museums, being supported fully in my eccentricities as a young lad who wanted to record songs and draw.  I thought I’d be a musician, but can see in hindsight I am far more driven to the solitary activity of recording as opposed to playing for people.  Art making is sort of this way too, a private activity which has a public presentation at its logical goal.
What drove you to study art and then go on to teaching students?
I began my academic journey with a computer science scholarship, which I parlayed into graphic design coursework.  After a few years of skipping classes and hanging out I decided to transfer to Wright State University and switch into studio art.  This decision was greatly informed by my father’s pathway.  I had great high school art faculty who encouraged me quite a bit also, so it made sense even though I didn’t consider it too much at the time.  After bumbling through my foundations classes I encountered printmaking.  After that first class with Jon Swindler at WSU I realized my pathway was printmaking and an academic career (I thought doing what Jon did seemed great).  It when then that I quit playing in bands, began spending all my time in the printshop and got super serious about school and showing my work.  I was awarded a Yeck fellowship through the Dayton Art Institute where I was given the opportunity to teach high school students and this confirmed my desire to pursue academia.  Grad school and jobs followed.
You focus on the ideas of memory and place in your work, what drew you to these concepts?
When I started putting together my first conceptually driven works as an undergrad, I was really attracted to the narratives of my wife’s family and their town.  They live in West Alexandria, OH, a town of about 5,000 near the Indiana border.  They are several generations of tenant farmers and factory workers and are the most earnest and hard working people I know.  I was attracted to the idea of production and labor, of the factory making parts which worked together as a whole.  This concept is still at work for me as I make prints which are copies, single component pieces that combine into a whole.  I was attracted to these concepts because I felt guilty about studying art and spending time making pictures.  Printmaking required an incredible amount of labor to create a finished product and it felt like work (heck I even used big machines like my in-laws).  In terms of space and place, to me there is no better way to discuss people than to examine their environment.  It is full of contrast and duality, past and present, and these are things which I think define our existence.
Are there any particular artists, art movements, or other concepts that inspire your current work, or your art overall?
I still look to the work of Josef Albers and other color theorists for inspiration.  Seeing how context affects color, which creates a schism between what we experience and what we know to be true is very interesting to me.  I am inspired quite a bit by writers; Raymond Carver’s short stories and the poems of William Carlos Williams.  These are guys who examine the mundane and present it in the most profound ways.  Williams’ line “there are no ideas but in things” makes a lot of sense to me — it validates my examination of the environment and the potential for the everyday to be arresting.
Are there any other mediums of artwork that you also work in?
I do quite a bit of home recording in addition to image making.  I recently recorded an album’s worth of improvised songs and sound during the month of August 2017. I completed this project by creating an edition of 50 cd-rs with a fold out screenprint poster and sleeve.  To me, tracking sounds and instruments is a lot like creating plates and layers within a print… it requires precise registration and if you pan the tracks you can simultaneously hear part and whole.  One element comes after the other.  I also do quite a bit of collaging with cut-off pieces from editioned print works.  Both of these two “side projects” are ways to work from home without a printshop.  Finally, I make very quick zines (booklets) in order to work through ideas quickly.  These zines are all standardized in terms of size and page amount and usually feature a severe restriction.  For example I made a zine using only a miller high-life 6 pack container as the source of imagery… this allowed me to think through cutting it up, manipulating it on the copier and zooming in on the textures and prints on the box.
How do you see your piece, “Pink Slip Fashioned Flag (for College Park)”, in relationship to the other works of the (SUB)URBAN exhibition?
Matthew’s curation focused on notions of suburban and domestic life and to me this speaks to ideas of banality and routine.  My work utilizes intervals of text/color to repeat two different states (work and worry) to an overwhelming degree.  This is related to my reading of Albert Camus and his idea of the “absurd life” .. that idea is that life is combined of an endless cycle of work and rest, and it is only through accepting these intervals that we can truly be satisfied with our lot.  I related to this view; cyclicality and continuum are facts of existence, they are nonnegotiable.  In my sense of the world, however, rest is replaced by worry (scarcity of resources, reliability of work, etc)… growing up in the rust belt, with family who work in manufacturing this is a truer sense of the absurd life.
Any future plans for your work and yourself? Upcoming exhibitions?
I am currently working on a solo exhibition for the Armstrong Gallery at the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington, IL.  This will happen in summer of 2018 and will feature an entire gallery wallpapered with work similar to the one at the Stamp, but screen printed in very low-threshold colors.  On top of that wallpaper will be corresponding prints in frames.  I will also be producing some portfolio prints for upcoming conferences, and presenting a lithography demonstration at the Rocky Mountain Printmaking Alliance Symposium in Pullman, WA.  A few other things are on the horizon — my hope is to always stay busy to stave off that workman’s guilt I will inevitably feel otherwise.
Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Be open and examine the world around you (there is often great stuff right under your nose) .
Find inspiration in things other than your medium (you will copy less and invent more).
Travel with little money (you know, to see what happens).
Work third shift at a gas station (it will make you an empathetic person).
Find the thing you actually like to do (this seems obvious, but if you aren’t wanting to do it, you won’t)
Build your own scene ((I was better a this when I was younger) because sometimes other people are waiting for something to happen, just like you are)

 

Nick Satinover’s work is included in (Sub)Urban at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from October 30th until December 16th, 2017. Interview by Tasiana Paolisso. 

For more information on Nick Satinover, visit http://nicksatinover.com/

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Interview with “(Sub)Urban” Artist Sang-Mi Yoo

This is the third installment of the (Sub)Urban artist interview series. (Sub)Urban features work by Amze Emmons, Yoonmi Nam, Benjamin Rogers, Nick Satinover, Christine Buckton Tillman, and Sang-Mi Yoo

Sang-Mi Yoo | Associate Professor of Art at Texas Tech University | Exhibiting in (Sub)Urban from October 30 to December 16, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Sarah Schurman

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1. Let’s begin with some background: Where are you from? What made you fall in love with art and printmaking specifically? 

I am from Seoul, South Korea and currently live in Lubbock, TX. As a painting major in my undergrad, printmaking was built in our program at Seoul National University. I loved drawing industrial buildings in the outskirt of the city and the sharp and precise line in etching made perfect sense to tie in to this imagery. Also, the professor, Dong-chun Yoon who just came back from his study abroad in the US brought a fresh influence to the classroom.

2. In both Anomalous Traces and In Transition, you explore notions of home and community across cultural borders. Has the process of creating both pieces developed or changed your definition of home?

Not necessarily. The notion of home is a conceptual realm that exist in our minds. Once you depart from your original home, the home you create elsewhere is a mirror of that kind as in memory, but never the same.

3. Your works underscore surprising architectural similarities between Korea and the United States. Do you think that uniformity in living communities is caused by an individual’s instinct to blend in or the pressure from institutions and governments to conform?

Before I came to the states, I had a certain speculation on American life and individuality. Korean life is still rooted in a collective culture coming from Confucian tradition. Being different/standing out is again the norm when the culture values a modest personality. While my expectation of Western living was much of an individualized living, the the reality was much of the same due to the capitalistic markups and convenience, which is related to the government’s 1950’s suburban developments dating back to the Levittown in New York.

4. What concepts inspired your titles: Anomalous Traces and In Transition?

American tract homes and my childhood memory about New Village houses in South Korea that are from the 1960s’ economic development lead by a former president Park, Jung Hee.

5. Through Anomalous Traces’ felt material and In Transition’s draping position, both works allude to clothing garments. How does materiality engage with meaning in your works? 

The ideal home is a lure. The physical and tactile presence of felt cuts are opposite to a painter’s vocabulary of pictorial illusion in my digital prints. While the ideal home is not a tangible reality, the felt cuts are the subject of the prints indicating hollowness of house forms and shadow effect.

 

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6. Similarly, both pieces utilize vibrant colors that contrast the drab consistency of suburban homes. Is this use of color intentionally ironic or revealingly symbolic? 

The original color palette came from my artist coping system living in less saturated landscapes, such as semi-arid earthy toned Lubbock, Texas and rainy grayish Northern Ireland. As I developed the palette further, I was able to make a Korean Saekdong pattern colors used in children’s garment. The color combination is traditionally believed to combat evil spirits and brings health and long life.

7. Through your work, you question the existence of an ideal home. Even if you know it is an illusion, do you have a mental image of your ideal home?

No matter what design it is or what kind of people live in, it would be a place where my heart is. In their work, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari describe nomadic space. In this model, one navigates the vast space through relationships between elements within the space. However, being somewhere is not restricted to being in a single place. Our body is always moving on. We are potentially at any place within the region. Everywhere becomes the place.

8. Based on your travels, how do you contend that local communities give insight to the state of the global community as a whole? 

Similar to the notion of home, the perception can come from individual experiences. Without having a direct connection to the relevant parts of the world through a conversation and experience, the understanding would be limited. Although my work has a sense of dry humor, I hope to encourage a good connection though my work. 

9. How do you think Anomalous Traces and In Transition react in conversation with the other installations in (Sub)Urban? More generally, how does the context of an exhibition inform the message of your art? 

I think the exhibition showcases different facets of (Sub)urban life. The 19th century philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach said, “Man is what he eats.” This phrase is not necessarily about the consumerism, but indicates where we stand. I think Nicholas Satinover and Amze Emmons work relate my work in terms of their use of the built environment as my work deals with residential architecture.

10. Has your art always been focused on everyday subtleties and ordinary markers of home? Where do you see your art taking you regarding future projects or endeavors?  

No not always. My current work focuses on botanical elements from American public gardens. My work not deal with the man-made environment, but also the connection to colonial botany and dazzle camouflage used in WWI.

11. What do you hope that (Sub)Urban visitors take away from your work?

I am such a Modernist. I would first love the viewers immerse themselves in the installed space to enjoy the patterns, cast shadows and optical illusion. The current U.S. political climate tends to encourage us to be more territorial, creating conflicts between peoples of different racial, national and cultural backgrounds. I would like share with viewers some common visual aesthetics in my work and carefully reflect on their choices in everyday living.

Yoo’s work is included in (Sub)Urban at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from October 30-December 16, 2017


Interview with “(Sub)Urban” Artist Benjamin Rogers

This is the second installment of the (Sub)Urban interview series.

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Benjamin Rogers | Artist | (Sub)Urban from October 30 through December 16, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Cristy Ho

 Let’s begin with some background information about you. Where are you from and how did you get into creating the type of art you are making now?

I am originally from Kentucky, I lived there for the vast majority of my life but I’ve lived in Colorado for the last 2+ years with my wife and son (who is now 3.5).  It’s a long road to get to how to making the type of work I’m making now.  When I started studying painting I was really only interested in abstraction and non objectivity.  But none of my friends really believed that I knew how to paint, so I made a realistic self-portrait and got a lot of great feedback which felt really good, but I was also challenged in a different manner than I had been working abstractly.  For a number of years, I tried different ways of combining representation and non objectivity, with a variety of results.  Working this way made me interested in the contrast between dimensionality and flatness which is a theme that has really stuck with me.

In terms of imagery I was heavily influenced by David Hockney’s figurative work, although I have to admit that this influence was almost entirely subconscious, I had made several paintings before I realized how much I had borrowed from him.

Your current work is comprised of paintings of people and everyday objects that inhabit particular spaces. What do you hope to represent in your work by choosing to paint these subjects?

Each painting is in some way trying to manufacture a narrative, I have a specific narrative in mind when creating the piece but I like to create a somewhat ambiguous painting which invites the viewer to complete the narrative. The objects around the figure(s) are meant to be like attributes in a painting of a Saint, they inform the character and the narrative of that individual or group of individuals.  So in some paintings the narrative is fairly prosaic in others it is much more heroic.

More on your artistic style, I’m drawn to how the proportions of the people and objects in your work are realistic yet the bold colors you use also break your subjects into geometric forms. Is there a specific reason why you choose to intensify the saturation of each object in your paintings as opposed to using a more muted palette?

This mixture of naturalism with an almost cartoonish color palette is directly related to what I was saying earlier about the contrast between flatness and dimensionality.  I am trying to push the imagery to be somewhere in an almost non-real place.  I really like realism, but ultimately find it somewhat boring.  So by pushing the saturation of the colors I’m and creating a work of art that is somewhere in between realism and flat graphic imagery and hopefully making a more unique contribution to the visual landscape.

Your work also appears to be very structural composition-wise and perspective-wise. On your website, you mention that you work from photographs. Do you rearrange objects in the room before taking a picture or do you rely more on shifting perspective to create the ideal composition you want for each painting?

When I work from photographs I do so in a few different ways, every once in awhile the original photograph is sort of perfect how it is, which was the case with “What did I know of Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices” and a few other painting.  Most of the time I have to make slight alterations to fit better into the composition.  Before I draw my imagery I always put down a grid that measures the ratios of the format of the canvas, so then I will move objects and figures around to ensure that they align with those compositional elements in the most effective way.  Along with this method I also invent a large portion of the objects in the room and other visual elements during the painting process, this allows me to see the canvas as an abstract picture plane and place things in the painting based on their color relationship and their conceptual connection to the figure.  This is how “The perfect romance of self reliance” was made.  The last way that I work with photographs is really based in photoshop and actually cutting things out and putting them in different places and really creating a photo collage out of several photographs and them pushing them together during the painting process to make everything seem coherent.

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What Did I know of Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices by Benjamin Rogers

Now on to your piece ‘What Did I know of Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices’, a watercolor painting based on a photograph of you and your wife weeks before your son was born as mentioned in your blog. The viewer of this piece feels a sense of being on the ground and looking up at this scene as if they were a child. Can you talk more about your emotions on entering parenthood and how it ties into the Robert Hayden poem that inspired the title of this work of yours?

I think that the best description of that time would be ambivalence.  I was really excited to be a father, but I realized it would mean that a lot of things were going to change dramatically.  My wife and I had not really even known each other at that point.  We met and started dating long distance (she lived in Minneapolis), then got engaged 5 months later and started living in the same city (Cincinnati), we were only engaged for 3 months before we got married, we moved back to Minneapolis for a teaching job I got, and my son was born 10 months after we were married.  So we really didn’t have any settling in time as a couple, and everything was really up in the air (at this time I knew my job was going to end in a couple of months and had no idea what we were going to do).  So all of that stress was mixed with being a father, which is my biological imperative that I knew would come to shape my life for the next 50 years or so.  The poem just made me think of the kind of thankless job that is being a father, providing and quietly doing things for a family that aren’t necessarily noticed or appreciated, that that is love.  It is pretty strange, because the photo was taken at this time, but it wasn’t painted until well after we left Minneapolis to move back to Cincinnati to live with my parents while I tried to find a job and then moved out to Colorado where we are now.  So my son was probably two by the time I actually painted this piece. Also, I’m not sure if I had said in my blog post or not, but this was actually taken on my 30th birthday, so there’s a little of that flavor in there as well.

I remember reading Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden as a child and how deeply the first few lines resonated with me.
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold
 
Blueblack is somehow the perfect color to describe a father’s austere love. I really want to say that I love how you captured the shadows in this piece. You mention that you initially painted all the shadows on your body blue but covered most of it in the final image except for the shadows around your neck. Is there any other instance where you have utilized color to express the mood in this piece?
I have not ever really been interested in expressing mood through color, I guess it always seemed like a cheap trick, or a gimmick in a way, so the blueness of the male figure (me) isn’t really there to communicate an emotion or mood, but more because it seemed appropriate in the context of the colors.  This painting was really my first attempt at making watercolor painting, NOT the first time I’d used watercolors, but they’d always been used as more of a study, or a medium that I would play around with.  In fact, I had taught three semester of watercolor classes before I made this piece.  I had used it to experiment with watercolor underpainting, and really establish a cool temperature under the figure from the outset of the painting.  My thinking is that the shift in temperatures from shadow to light is what really transform a painting to be highly dynamic, so I was trying to emphasize the shadows from the beginning and see how much of that cold underpainting would show through even after layers of warmer colors were applied to make it look more “realistic”.
The wooden frame also complements this watercolor painting well. This material matches the cabinets depicted and creates a homey atmosphere. Is this your intention and how significant is having this kind of frame for your painting?
The frame was created as a way of presenting the watercolor with a glass or plexi barrier.  I have been struggling with how to present my works on paper, and I made another frame like that one for a drawing, and was really happy with it.  What is interesting is that I got into a national watercolor show and before the show opened I was informed that I needed to reframe the painting if I wanted to include my piece in the show.  The establishment for watercolor painters is very hoity toity and want things done only in particular ways, so it’s cool to get that feedback.  I was really just trying to create something neutral where the painting was floating, but it happens to match the cabinets with the elder wood.
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The Perfect Romance of Self Reliance by Benjamin Rogers

Moving on to your oil painting titled ‘The Perfect Romance of Self Reliance’, there is a packed room with various tools scattered on the floor and tools clutched in the hands of a woman who appears to be your wife. Would you say that this painting is like a snapshot of an event or more so a portrait of this person? 
This painting was kind of a collaboration between my wife (then girlfriend) and I.  She is a photographer and had moved to Minneapolis just because she always wanted to.  There was something that I really admired about this, because I would be far too worried about making enough money, not having any friends, being lonely etc.  So it was kind of meant to be an ode to her self reliance, and really display her as a hero a al Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”.   The objects on the ground are meant to be a collection of tools that she will use to conquer any obstacles that may cross her path.  So she took a bunch of images and sent them to me, many were beautiful but didn’t quite fit my aesthetic but I thought that one was great.
What do you like about painting with oil and what do you like about painting with watercolor? Is there a medium in which you find it easier to convey your message and mood?
  Painting with oil is my favorite medium, I didn’t do it very much until I moved to Arizona for grad school.  Before that I worked almost entirely in acrylic, which was cool, but in retrospect it was very limiting.  In the humid climates of the Ohio River Valley and Louisiana, acrylic paint was really easy to work with, but in the Arid climate of Arizona it was basically impossible.  So that was really why I got into painting in oil, but when I did I really jumped in whole hog.  Almost immediately I fell in love with oil painting, and felt like I could paint whatever I wanted and was no longer restricted by the physical attributes of the medium.  That’s been my favorite ever since.  Watercolor is a different kind of challenge and makes a very different type of mark, I really like the layering process that comes with using watercolor on cold pressed paper, and how you can really build up the surface with pigment, but the physical surface is still very flat.  With oil paint you get a physical change to the topography of the painting’s surface.  Generally before I start a painting I have a personal formal challenge of some kind, and it is generally specific to the imagery that I’m working with, and that will inform the medium that I use.  For example I have a drawing titled “addressing the fourth wall” I wanted to make a piece that was nearly completely black, which lead me to make my first major charcoal drawing.  I am working on a color pencil piece right now, and I will be making a pastel piece after I finish that.  So the imagery generally provides me with a technical challenge that makes it more advantageous to use one media instead of another.  This usually works out great, but I have a piece called “Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw” That I’ve done as a graphite drawing and a watercolor and neither really feel right for the image, so I’m going to keep working with it until I get it right.
Lastly, what inspires you the most and what is your motivation for creating art?
I’m influenced and inspired by a lot of things, mostly I draw upon other art, like music, poetry, books, films, and I also draw a lot of influence from other artists and art history.  I usually try to have my compositions relate to art historical references, but in a lot of ways they are more inspired by Wes Anderson, Tarintino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and other cinematic references. In terms of how I conceive of a work of art, my ideas come from many places, often they are formal in nature.  Like, I will want to do a painting with a particular color harmony, prominent color, or a particular theme which references art history.  Sometimes I will have a title which will inspire a piece, sometimes I’ve finished a piece well before I have a title for it.  Most of the time I start with a particular idea, then it evolves with my concept and then evolves after the photograph has been taken.

Check out (Sub)Urban in The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, happening October 30 through December 16, 2017.

For more information on (Sub)Urban visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery.

 


Interview with ‘(Sub)Urban’ Curator Matthew McLaughlin

This is the first installment of the (Sub)Urban interview series. (Sub)Urban features work by Amze Emmons, Yoonmi Nam, Benjamin Rogers, Nick Satinover, Christine Buckton Tillman, and Sang-Mi Yoo.

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Installation view of (Sub)Urban at the Stamp Gallery. On right: Nick Satinover’s A Pink Slip Fashioned Flag (for College Park). Woodblock prints. 2017.

Matthew McLaughlin | Artist, Professor | Curator of (Sub)Urban from October 30 through December 16, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Grace DeWitt

Let’s start with some history. I understand that you’re a professor here, at the University of Maryland, College Park. Where did you grow up, where have you studied, and what brought you to this campus?

I grew up in Greenbelt, MD, just down the road from College Park and the University of Maryland. I received my BFA in Fine Art from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL and my MFA in Printmaking from Arizona State University. I became connected with UMD after meeting Professor Justin Strom at an opening and his inviting me to the campus to meet with Professor Richardson, the Chair of the Art Department. A few months later, I was contacted about my interest in teaching foundations courses for the department.

Could you talk a little bit about the curatorial process behind (Sub)Urban? Is this your first curated show? How did the exhibiting artists come to your awareness?

(Sub)Urban is my curatorial debut and I’m quite happy with its reception by the local community. My curatorial process has a strong connection with my personal interests and areas of research for my own artistic practice. My own work focuses on the human relationship to its environment, mainly focusing on suburban and urban spaces and our alterations. So for this exhibition, I was interested in bringing together artists I admire for their practice and their conceptual exploration of similar subjects to my own.

Some of these artists are friends I have gained since graduate school, like Benjamin Rogers, who went to ASU with me, and Amze Emmons, who I met through printmaking conference events. The others have been on my radar through the suggestion of fellow artists, conference exhibitions, and Instagram.

How do you feel your word choice in the show title connects to ideas about suburban and urban spaces?

I think my show title reflects on the connection that urban and suburban spaces have, even though many try to deny it. Whether the connection is through the white flight of the 1960s or the overlapping cultural connections of television, music, etc, these two spaces that try to be separate have a strong relationship, and I wanted the title to reflect that.

It seems that you provided the (Sub)Urban artists with a certain level of exhibitory freedom while curating this show. Did the decision to work in this way create any challenges for you?

The only challenge that came from this freedom was the challenge of bringing all the work together in a comprehensive exhibition, once I knew exactly what I was going to receive. When I contacted each artist, I had some specific ideas in mind, but knew there would need to be some flexibility because of availability. I have run into this issue with my own work and having it in multiple exhibitions close together, so I understood the hassle of giving them very specific requests versus generalities. Yes, there may have been a print or piece that I would have preferred, but if it was designated for another exhibition first, I was happy to get another from the same series.

You’ve mentioned in person that your practice exists in the same conceptual conversation as many of the works in (Sub)Urban. To what extent did your artistic practice play a role in the curatorial process of this show?

My personal practice and conceptual interests had a massive role in the curatorial process for the exhibition. As I mentioned earlier, all the artists in the exhibition are people I admire and have followed, in one way or another, for some time. Just as researchers in other fields read articles by colleagues at other institutions, artists pay attention to those creating art in similar conceptual and visual avenues to know what is being explored already and how it might inform their own work.

This show covers a variety of media, often within individual artists’ practices. Was it important to you to display, say, sculpture from self-described printmakers, or prints from self-described sculptors? Or did this element to the show come about organically?

This element of the exhibition came about organically as a whole, but was more specific for each artist. My intention in requesting some of Yoonmi’s Generally Meant to be Discarded sculptures was not to specifically present sculptures created by an artist traditionally trained in printmaking, but to show work that I found compelling and interesting for its conceptual and material ideas. That the exhibition has installation and sculptural works by artists with MFAs in printmaking and drawing, alongside their more traditional works, came about when I brought all the works together and realized what I had done.

Were there any subtler themes, phrases, or concepts not marketed with the show that you either intended to visualize in (Sub)Urban, or found yourself revisiting as you compiled the show?

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Yoonmi Nam’s Take Out (Thank You Thank You Thank You), from the Generally Meant to be Discarded series. Lithograph on gampi paper and cast glass. 2016.

Nothing that I intended or found before hand, but upon installation, I made some connections between some of the work that I hadn’t previously. There was a subtle theme that questioned the reality of urban and suburban spaces through the reality of Yoonmi, Christine, and Amze’s sculptural pieces. Each of these artists made work that re-created elements of urban and suburban spaces and life, but with materials that alter the audience’s interaction with them. Specifically considering Yoonmi’s Generally Meant to be Discarded sculptural series, the two in the exhibition have such a life-like quality people easily think the artist is displaying actual takeout bags and containers, but once they approach the work, the reality of the material nature of the sculptures immediately alters their relationship with it. This subtle switch brings in larger questions for the audience about their relationship with their own environments.

In your own words, what happens in terms of the viewing experience when elements of the suburbs are taken out of context, like in Amze’s Street Life Flat Pack series?

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Amze Emmons’ Street Life Flat Pack (detail) in the Stamp Gallery. UV coroplast shapes. 2016.

To me, when elements of urban and suburban spaces are taken out of context there is a sense of importance that is typically glossed over when seen on the street, but also the viewer is exposed to the item and forced to interact with and consider it from a perspective they had not considered before. Especially when this is taken to the next level, by an artist re-presenting the known item in a new material context, as with Amze’s Street Life Flat Pack and Yoonmi’s Generally Meant to be Discarded series.

It feels like Christine’s Clay Paper Chain comes from a different corner of the suburban experience. Could you touch on your intent in including her work in (Sub)Urban, or the area you feel that her work covers in a show that covers so much about the suburbia as we know it?

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Christine Buckton Tillman’s Clay Paper Chain (detail), ceramic, 2017; and Self Portrait, wood stain on model airplane, 2016 in the Stamp Gallery.

I chose to invite Christine because I felt her work touched on a more interior connection with the suburban experience, similarly to Benjamin and Nick’s works. Christine is a mom and a school teacher; I felt both works spoke to that experience and its personal nature, while also relating to Yoonmi and Amze’s works through the material nature of each and allowing the viewer to question both the reality of the artwork, but also question the idea it’s presenting.

Would you consider (Sub)Urban to be a critique of suburban or urban spaces and/or their social purpose?

No, I consider (Sub)Urban to be more of a survey of urban and suburban spaces, the concepts that we apply to them, and how we relate to each environment. I look at the exhibition as a tool to expose the audience to new ideas and perspectives of spaces they know, maybe rather well, and try to engage the viewers in re-thinking their own relationship with these environments.

This show is one of few in recent history at the Stamp Gallery that features multiple artists who collectively, and vastly, span across the U.S., and even includes some who work from international backgrounds and influences. What was your intention in curating a show here that comes from so many regions?

I wanted to expose the student body to a larger idea of the art being created in the country, and I wanted a greater representation of the work being created around the concept of the exhibition. The suburban and urban experience may be considered more universally understood, but there are subtle differences from regionally specific traits that affect the culture of suburbs and urban spaces around the country. I felt an exhibition of artists that spanned a larger swatch of the country would give a better overall interpretation of the suburban/urban experience to the audience.

I also prefer to see exhibitions that bring a more varied group of artists when considering their location and background. An exhibition of local artists on a specific concept or theme can have repetitive elements that make it only relatable to that region, while an exhibition like this can connect to a large contingency of the population.

A connection within (Sub)Urban that has fascinated me is the many ways that the suburban experience is outwardly homogenized, and yet remains internally idiosyncratic. Has this show, and seeing these artists’ work all together, expanded your perspective of suburban and urban experiences in any way?

Not really, as my own work has been examining and reconsidering the nature of these spaces through those idiosyncratic characteristics that many others gloss over. But it has expanded my perspective on how these ideas can be explored, and thus it is beginning to form new ideas on approaching my own artistic practice.

The exhibition vinyl in the Stamp Gallery contains two quotes: “This world is but a canvas to our imagination” (Henry David Thoreau), and “For to Thoreau the significant relationship is not that between [hu]man and [hu]man; it is the relationship between [hu]mans and [their] environment” (JB Jackson). Could you share some insight about your inclusion of these quotes in the show?

The JB Jackson quote was the main one I wanted to use for the wall text, but I felt it would be a little hard to understand without a little context about Thoreau. So I searched for a Thoreau quote that would give the best general insight into his thinking that could be expanded upon by the JB Jackson quote.

JB Jackson is a writer who, from the 1950s forward, focused on writing about the American landscape and the development of urban and suburban spaces. He greatly influenced the development of contemporary cultural landscape studies.

IMG_6416

Left: Sang-Mi Yoo’s In Transition, pigment inkjet print, 2016; and Anomalous Traces, laser cut wool felt, 2015. Right: Benjamin Roger’s The Perfect Romance of Self-Reliance (detail), oil on canvas, 2014 in the Stamp Gallery.

When someone walks into (Sub)Urban, what do you hope a person will grasp from the show?

I hope they find the humor in the work, the intrigue in the material use of some pieces, but overall, gain a fresh perspective on suburban and urban spaces.

What is one thing you have learned from curating this show?

Solid respect for curators and gallerists who do this for a living. To come up with one exhibition theme, coordinate artists and the shipping of their work and then lay it all out is one thing, but to do it over and over again. Wow.

To close, is there anything else you’d like to promote here? Any current or upcoming shows you’re participating in, either as artist or curator?

I have a few new ideas for other curatorial exhibitions, but currently, I’m focusing on a residency to get a lot of work completed.

 

McLaughlin is the curator of (Sub)Urban in The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from October 30 through December 16, 2017.

For more information on Matthew McLaughlin, visit http://www.matthewtmclaughlin.com/.

For more information on (Sub)Urban visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery.


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 

 


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)