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.


How Art Captures Time

Art has the intriguing ability of capturing certain moments in time. For instance, you may recall certain memories while watching a film, looking at a work of art, or listening to a song. This may happen to an artist when they look at their own work, which may function a bit like a time capsule. A lot of artists are compelled to create art when encountered with intense feelings or experiences. In this way, art may serve as a reminder to the artist of how things were in the past. Art tends to capture the experience of the artist through a subjective lens more so than an objective reality. Strong feelings have the tendency to distort and cloud memories, and creating art is a way for artists to navigate their emotions and make sense of the past.

Creating art can be a way to document important events. It can be similar to writing in a diary but without the confining nature of words. Consequently, art may serve as an ideal coping mechanism. An artist may choose to focus their art on their current hardships or choose to focus on occurrences that haunt their past. Artists may pour their emotions into an artwork to put their past to rest.

Artworks affect the artist who make them as well as those that view them and can relate to them, whether sympathetically or empathetically. Perhaps viewing the “I’m Fine” exhibition may stir up emotions and memories of a distant time, and cause you to reflect on your own growth.

 

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“Endless Impermanence” by Brandon Chambers

 

Written by Cristy Ho


Interview with “I’m Fine” Artist Dana Hollister

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

Dana Hollister || 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 Kat Mullineaux

Before we discuss your contributions to I’M FINE specifically, let’s get some background information about you. Where are you from, what did you study as an undergrad at UMCP, and how long have you been making art?

I’m originally from Silver Spring Maryland, so not too far from College Park. I was a studio art major with a concentration in wood sculpting as well as an honors student for the last year of my bachelors and I have been making art since I was in 8th grade. I was in an intensive art program throughout high school and continued on when I got to college.

When looking at your artwork in this show, I can’t help but notice your dynamic choice of materials throughout your pieces. Personally,  the use of re-purposed wood in combination with light, in your piece ‘I’m Fine’ struck me. The sculpture seems to be an interesting combination of welcoming and aggressive, like saying “I’m Fine”, both making me want to get closer and warning me to stay away. Was that intentional?

Yes, it was definitely intentional. When I was creating the work I was thinking about how people with PTSD and cognitive difficulties interact with others. From personal experience when someone asked me if I was okay, my heart wanted a hug and my brain  wanted to shove them away as fast as I could. I tried to embody that as much a possible in this piece.

The prints in ‘Living with ADHD’ play with a dynamic kind of controlled chaos, combining words, images and moments of blue among black and white. How does living with ADHD affect or influence your artistic process?

To be honest ADHD is probably the reason I am an artist. Most of the work I do comes from random thoughts that I have during conversations, or readings that I have to finish. ADHD is quite frustrating, don’t get me wrong, but I have found a way to channel it into my art that helps me cope with how intense it can be.

How does your piece ‘Resilience’ comment on the road to acceptance for those who face stigmatization and struggles with mental illness/disorder?  In your opinion, how important is art in the battle against stigmatization?

Well the piece itself shows the uphill struggle that everyone with a mental disorder or illness deals with. The road to acceptance is the most challenging part because there is this thought that we must be “normal”. And “normal” people are never depressed or bipolar or have any issues that may cause relapses. No matter how untrue this is, humans will always perceive their issues in a negative light. “Resilience” represents the shaky and difficult road to acceptance but the smooth and easier  slide down to accepting yourself for who you are, rather than fighting it.

I’m my mind art is super important for fighting stigmatization because when someone looks at your art they don’t think or know that the artist is going through difficult times. The artist is just another person walking on the earth as they are. Art allows those with cognitive differences to express themselves and show their talent without being out into a category.

In ‘Living with ADHD’, ‘Resilience’, and ‘I’m Fine’ you play with unique materials including re-purposed wood, screen printing, plywood, and metal. What is your favorite medium to explore in your art? Do you find yourself drawn to unconventional materials?

My favorite material to use would have to be wood. The smell of the wood is just so natural and intoxicating that any other material just seems wrong in my hands. I grew up in a nature loving family so I try to be as environmentally conscious as possible. That means that I am drawn to unconventional materials. Being able to use throw away or discard material makes me feel like I am doing my part to re-purpose materials so they don’t find their ways into our environment.

Does your art tend to focus on your personal and internal life or do you look at the world around you and the experiences of others when creating it? Is it a combination of the two?

My art is definitely a reflection of my personal life. Most of my work revolves around how I deal with my out mental illnesses and how I cope with them in hopes that it may shed light on what people with my issues go through or help other seeking for coping mechanisms.

Is there anything or anyone that you feel particularly inspired by or influenced by? Are there any movements politically or in art history that you feel drawn towards?

The sculptors Foon Sham and Debra Butterfield are probably two of the artists that influences my current body of work the most. They taught me that I can make art about what I love and feel rather than making it just for the sake of make it.

Can you tell me something about what you are currently working on?

Currently my work revolves around my particular coping mechanism for my depression, ADHD, and whatever else I may have and not know about. My material consist of found objects from the horse farms I work for, for example horse hair that the horses  rip out themselves on the walls or water buckets.

Now that you have graduated from UMCP do you think that you will pursue any further education? In art perhaps?

I am considering getting a masters in sculpting.

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

Just that the show turned out really well and all the artists work were as amazing as I expected them to be!

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


What is the Color of Loneliness?

It is a strange question to ask, but after being exposed to Nicole Osborne’s piece So We Color, I find myself often thinking about that question and how others would answer it.

This question first came up when a group of children came in to visit. Many of the kids paid little attention to the works around them and a few of them even refused to believe that what we were showing was art. While a majority just stole glances of the art or took turns listening to Tam-anh’s film Are you better off alone?, there was boy sitting by himself, deeply involved in the coloring of Nicole’s piece. A small conversation between another docent and the boy followed:

“Why is he in a locker?” the boy asked.

“Why do you think he’s in a locker?”

“…Maybe… he’s lonely”

“What color do you think loneliness is?”

The boy didn’t respond, but instead he paused with a thoughtful look in his eyes and then silently chose a color began coloring again.

I never knew what color he chose and he left suddenly after that, taking the page with him, but this scene has left me with a deeper understanding of Nicole’s piece than when I sat in that small wooden desk and colored a picture myself. I took a shallow stab when I colored my first piece and I thought that others wouldn’t involve themselves as deeply as well. A few weeks have passed since then and now I see that many of the participants have been brave enough to share their secrets and insecurities through Nicole’s art.

I have seen and experienced art generating conversations and eliciting strong emotions, but this was the first time that I have seen art persuade its viewers to share their own personal struggles. If you come by the gallery and color a piece, perhaps you’ll learn something about yourself and discover what color loneliness is to you.

 

                              Nicole Osborne’s “So We Color” ・ Viewer Submissions

Written by Karisha Rodrigo


Personal Discoveries in the Works of Others

The bodies we use to walk through the world are fraught with challenges – one of which is our very own mind. Whatever we struggle with, whatever we conquer, our minds are their own little complications. On the other hand, our minds can be our access point to creation, to emotional connection, and to a wide array of healing experiences.

The show of the moment at the Stamp Gallery is entitled “I’m Fine” – now we’ve all said or heard that before, fully understanding its cover-up abilities. The artists featured in the Stamp Gallery have explored what it is to cope and grow from tragedy, life, and larger societal realities through art and the process of creation. Our minds can create art and art can in turn bring about some sort of peace or understanding into the absolutely wonderful chaos that is our everyday.

Even the space itself, Stamp Gallery, is a spot for pause and for reflection. Watching over the art as patrons wander in to glance at or maybe even interact with the pieces, in a way, provides a feeling of balance. They experience the power of the artist’s mind in the artist’s creations. The mind of the creator in a brief moment interacts with the mind of the patron whether or not either party knows it. From watching a video of an artist pealing and scraping plaster off of her skin to listening to a woman discuss the burning down of her home with her mother while swaying peacefully in a rocking chair, observing art creates an entry point into a different life- a different world even.

The opportunity that places like Stamp Gallery provide to learn something about you through another person’s journey is something to be reveled in. With respect to some universal narratives, it is important that we each spend time examining the uniqueness of our existences and our own processes with which we cope and grow.

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Photo Series “Better” by Susannah Ward

Written by Kat Mullineaux


Too Busy for Art?

If you’ve ever been on the DC Metro or any other sort of public transit system, you recognize the peddlers at the entrances trying to whatever they have in stock—food, newspapers, flowers, etc. Their business strategy is understandable: “be in the place with the most traffic and you’re bound to sell something”; yet despite the massive flows of people coming and going, you hardly see people clamoring to buy. Why have you never stopped to buy food or flowers or newspapers? Maybe you really don’t need those things, or maybe you’re in a rush and down have time to slow down.

A similar phenomenon occurs right here in the Stamp Gallery. Although this space is located in the hub of campus life—the Stamp Student Union—our steady flow of visitors pales in comparison to the sheer volume of people who pass through this building. Understandably, not everyone who visits Stamp is looking for a gallery experience, and in fact many passersby are so absorbed in their own goals to take a look inside this space. However, experiencing art is not necessarily pursued, but discovered.

Our glass walls allow passersby to catch glances of the work hung in the gallery, and over the past few years I’ve seen people stop in their tracks, becoming engrossed in the exhibition from afar. This reaction is particularly visible in our current show, as people stop and stare at Brandon Chambers’ video piece, Reviling of Pleasing Corruptions from beyond the glass. Some of enter the space, others move on, but despite the physical barrier between themselves and the work, they all participate in the experience. For those who say they aren’t interested in art or don’t have enough time, let the artwork catch your eye the next time you walk by the Stamp Gallery; even that fleeting moment of confusion, revulsion, or awe is enough.

Written by Christopher Bugtong.


Starting Conversations with “I’m Fine”

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Dana Hollister’s “Living with ADHD”

For me, my problems are like secrets: I only disclose them to my closest friends, and only when I am at my most vulnerable. If I want to complain about the struggles of adulthood or if I need to vent about my day, the ones with who I am most comfortable will be the ones to hear it. Despite having an amazing group of people supporting me, so much is still left unsaid, and it’s often easier to simply say “I’m fine” instead of discussing the depths of my worries.

 

Talking through these problems can be a difficult and overwhelming process. An initial barrier to these conversations is the complexity and uncertainty of these emotions that surround our problems: the root of our emotions is difficult to define and even more difficult to verbalize. Words can be inadequate in expressing feelings that are both ever-present yet intangible. It’s easy to say that my problems feel bad, but it’s more difficult to say why they make me feel bad. The use of language enforces a certain logic that may simply not apply to an emotive state, and thus having a real discussion about these problems can feel futile.

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Rachel Carruthers’ “Cold Comfort” and “Dirty Laundry”

The struggle to express ourselves underlies the beauty of our current exhibition, I’m Fine. Each of the seven featured artists navigates the introspective process through their own media: print, sculpture, video, etc. Each work is impressed upon with a vision of the moment, not necessarily elaborating upon the worry and concerns of the artist but rather depicting it. In this way, the inadequacy of words becomes a non-issue, and the language of emotions is more appropriately represented. The artist not only make sense of their personal thoughts, but also make those thoughts public and digestible to a viewing audience.

 

Though the themes of this show’s works may differ from the viewer’s day-to-day struggles, they commonly embody a cathartic process in which emotions may be explored. Not everyone has to be an artist to participate in self-care, but I’m Fine offers an alternative that hopefully starts the conversation.

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Sussannah Ward’s “Better” series

Written by Christopher Bugtong.