Recently, Columbia College journalism student Michael Pedraza interviewed me for a classroom assignment. While the article will not be published, I wanted to include his questions with my responses here, as I feel like what transpired helps contextualize what went into the making of my recent collection, "control." Please excuse my lack of editing...seriously.
MP: Where did the idea come from for this show? What was your inspiration?
Well, honestly…it’s been a tough couple of months. …For everyone, really. I think this collection of work was developed more out of sheer necessity than by something I was inspired by. This past fall I found myself really succumbing to the panic, fear, uncertainty, despair, etc. that was beating us about the brow via the economic crisis, non-stop political punditry, war, corporate greed, mother nature’s wrath, etc. In addition to all the external negativity and global suffering, I was personally wrestling with my own internal strife. Joblessness, self-doubt, depression, apathy. In December I turned 30 and all of a sudden I found myself completely lost. Questioning all the decisions I’d made that have led me to where I’m at currently, i.e. professionally, artistically, personally. Where was I headed? What was I doing? …Ya know, the big life altering stuff. I felt like I was at a crossroads.
I had all these loose concepts & metaphors floating around in my head, but couldn’t formulate them into something I felt was cohesive or that wouldn’t come off sounding trite. For me, my art is all about the process. It’s like my meditation, my Zen. I turned to this body of work to relieve my anxieties and to help me get my head straight. Not unlike therapy. I just started “doing” and the theme emerged unexpectedly. My work is primarily about the internal discovery/journey and the exploration of the dualities of life and Self. It wasn’t until I re-read a journal entry from 3 years ago that I realized I’m still tripping over my own feet. I still have all these control issues I thought were resolved. It was insane to realize that here I was again, learning to just let go of the things I cannot control, and take the reins on the stuff I can. You gotta pick and choose your battles, ya know.
MP: Why do most of the pieces have only black, white, and red designs? Why not other colors?
Well, most of my work is primarily b&w. I just like the aesthetic…the simplicity and minimalist quality. Perhaps it’s the ultimate duality? My previous solo show was all b&w as well, but with accents of serene green. Examples. This collection is more aggressive and raw. I was no longer in a tranquil state of mind. It was like literally tearing into myself.
MP: Why are there mostly harsh strokes/patterns?
It was my way of giving into control. Letting out my anger and stress. Something satisfying about throwing ink on paper and letting it splatter and run. Shaking the paper violently to get these streaks to go here and there. These things never occurred to me before. My previous work has been so exact and meticulous… not until recently did I realized it seems a little inhuman, like a computer made it. This time around I just let it go. Let go of the control. Funny enough, someone recently told me I was just too nice. Mess it up a little. Let it out. I suppose I was angry about that comment. I channeled it. It was my punching bag.
MP: Were these patterns made with calculations and measurements or were they made at random? Could you explain why you made them the way you did?
Nothing was planned out ahead of time. I just went for it. I suppose I touched on that in the last question. Though, the outlines were deliberate; that's where I took back control. Working my way around the splatters and drips. That’s the balance. I’m constantly striving for balance…my center.
MP: You had two large pieces and many small ones. Why are most of them small and what were you trying to accomplish with the big two?
The two big ones were late additions. They’re actually just scaled versions of two originals. I was feeling inspired by the last show the Chicago Art Department put on with new resident artist Abraham Velazquez and his Tripa Colectivo crew. They all worked on this huge graffiti mural inside the space and since my work is so small and intimate, I just wanted to try and work large scale for a change. It was a nice change of pace. They kinda became billboards of sorts. Looks good in the window from afar.
MP: Everyone feels different things when they look at art but what emotions were you expressing in this work?
Fear & Hope. Uncertainty & Freedom. Lightness & Weight.
MP: The average person might only see what's in front of them. What do you want them to see?
I want them to see their own story in the work. I want them to come to some realization or “Aha” moment when some connection to their own truth is made.
MP: What do you call the art you made?
Hmm… Maybe, The Rosenthal Effect? It blew my mind when I stumbled upon this discovery a few years ago. It may only make sense to me, or perhaps I’m assigning more to it than coincidence, but there is such an effect, which basically translates into the basis of self-fulfilling prophecies…AND I obsess over self-fulfilling prophecies. …And my dad’s name was Robert Rosenthal (though he was not the aforementioned psychologist.) …And none of this really matters, I know. I digress.
MP: Some of the pieces have layers. Why did you make these and what steps did you take to make them? How long did it take to make a layered piece and a non-layer piece?
In this collection, the layers are a way to hide & reveal certain “details.” For example, there are several pieces that have small cutouts and underneath lay the circle motif from my previous collection, “returning”. I’m giving the viewer a peek at something from my past, while continuing to move forward with my work. It’s a reminder in a way to never forget where I’ve been. Also, I enjoy pulling the viewer into the work. I’m hoping to entice people to look within…look a little deeper.
The time it took to make the layered pieces varied. For example, "control. #77" a piece that has a huge “rip” that’s hand stitched diagonally took much more time than the piece with small cutouts and no stitching. It’s hard to assign an actual amount of time to a lot of the pieces, as they were all essentially started at once, then fine-tuned little by little. I was constantly working and reworking, adding and subtracting almost every piece up until the show.
MP: All of the pieces might look the same to certain people. What did you do to give each one a unique feel?
I think the unique feel came from the sense of letting the ink flow where it wanted. Given that process, it was almost guaranteed to not end up with the same look twice. I also tried to not have a “formula” that said, “ok, now you have the splatter…there must be this many lines that follow in only this certain area, etc.” I tried to just give in to the process. Try a little bit of everything.
MP: How were you able to present at the Chicago Art Department?
I’ve been involved with the Chicago Art Department for 4 years. I began as a “student” and just never left. I’m currently a resident artist and director of development. CAD is a non-profit and my labor of love. No one makes money off of CAD…the 8 resident artists all financially support the gallery and all it’s programming out of their own pockets. Besides being a part of a massively vibrant art community, one of the biggest perks is that you get one 2nd Friday show a year that you can do what you will with, be it a solo show, curating, etc.
MP: When can people see your work at the Chicago Art Department?
Every 2nd Friday of each month in our permanent resident artists’ gallery upstairs in the back loft.
MP: What's your next goal/project?
I’ve spent 4 wonderful years experimenting, dabbling in different mediums, and exhibiting at the Chicago Art Department. CAD has given me the freedom to develop my voice as an artist and garner a solid audience who have gotten to know me and my work. My next goal is to start exhibiting in other galleries around town and in other cities. I’m also trying to meld my skills and knowledge as an arts facilitator into my professional life.
MP: I overheard you say you're not good with artist statements. Why is that?
Oh man. I don’t know? They’re just agonizing to me. Everyone says you have to have one…you know you have to have one…they are important, but I just struggle with it. I just think there are some things that cannot be summed up in 2 or 3 paragraphs…like, who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish with your art, and what does it all mean. It’s such a loaded question. …And, have you ever read an artists’ statement? Ugh, blah blah blah.
MP: Do you have any other jobs? Are you in school? What do you do in your free time?
I’m currently working as a freelance graphic artist and videographer (though times is tough and I’m unsuccessfully searching for a steady gig.)
I am a student of the world, aka…not in school.
In my free time I like to read, sleep, work on my stand-up comedy routine, and am most looking forward to getting my garden growing again! I love diggin’ in the dirt.