In the Studio: Elise Thompson

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.

I was born in Cincinnati, OH and grew up just across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky. I joke that I was a “prolific” child artist, meaning I made too many drawings; often the same drawing over, and over, and over again. That’s right; I would make one IMG_3139-1drawing, and then I would repeat that same drawing with slight changes endlessly. The subject matter was usually animals ranging from ducks, dogs, lions, horses, dinosaurs, etc. One of the more hilarious serial drawings I made was of a lion in the middle, roaring, with a terrified zebra and giraffe on either side looking shocked that a lion would do this; all on the same picture plane. Just grass, as if they were hanging out in someone’s backyard in suburbia. With each iteration, the giraffe’s neck shortened until it looked more like a hippo than the originally intended creature. My mom commented on this, and I’m pretty sure that was the first “critique” of my work ever. I took it pretty hard.

From ages 9-17, I was a competitive figure skater, training full time by homeschooling my 8th and half of my 9th grade year. For five of those years, I was also a competitive dancer in jazz/ballet/tap for cross training. Acting, singing, and improv were thrown in for good measure, and I honestly thought theatre was going to be the way to go! Dance was also, ironically, less hard on my body when compared to figure skating. I got my first stress fracture in my lower back when I was 12, and my second at 14, effectively putting me in a corset back brace almost full time paired with years of physical therapy. I had many awkward growth spurts during these years, which didn’t help! When I quit figure skating for good at 17, I grew another two inches. I think my body was waiting for me to give it up already! Athletics didn’t just put me through the paces physically, it taught me self-discipline and perseverance psychologically. I’m still learning my threshold, and while skating and dance really did a number on me, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. Except that maybe I would try swimming instead next time haha. Seems way more low impact, I’m just sayin’.

It wasn’t really until my last year of high school, and when I started attending undergrad at Northern Kentucky University, that I began to pursue visual art seriously. I did a foundations class in theatre my first semester, and after surmising that, “Yeah, I don’t think this is for me..” I took my foundations courses in fine art. I vividly remember having a one-on-one with one of my professors during Foundations I and them saying, “I can see you majoring in fine art and going onto grad school.” Seed planted. That’s all it takes sometimes! Just a mere suggestion. I had been looking for a direction, so maybe I was waiting to hear that someone believed that I COULD finally commit to visual art. 

I officially received my BFA in painting in 2010, took a few years to intern at the Cincinnati Art Museum, worked as an art handler at the Contemporary Arts Center, and as a Teaching Artist and mural painter with ArtWorks Cincinnati before attending Florida State University for my MFA in studio art. I stayed in Tallahassee, FL to teach for a few years, co-directed a non-profit gallery with my art partner in crime Haley Lauw, and managed a warehouse studio where I worked and subleased to local artist friends. I attended artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center (summer 2016), The Wassaic Project (summer 2017), and The Maple Terrace Artist Residency Program (winter 2017). By mid to late 2018, things were already beginning to change drastically in my personal life, but I knew I needed to push even more. I decided to finally move to New York City after a few years of friends attempting to convince me to do it and me endlessly talking around the idea. Things just really lined up last year, and I’m really thankful for my family and all the friends, new and old, who continue to make this transition as smooth and painless as possible (if possible!). I’ve been in Brooklyn in a live/work space since March, and I’m still finding my footing, but I know this was the right decision. It’s been really challenging, but rewarding too, and while this city demands so much, it really does give back. Friends have said, “You probably won’t feel all that comfortable until about year..5.” So, great. Here we go!


2. What does your work aim to say? What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

Whether it’s subconscious or not, my work is definitely a reflection of my inner desires and neuroses. Perhaps it’s a cliche to say that the things you make are an extension of yourself, but I am often surprised and pleased by how my painting and sculpting processes coalesce or run parallel with my personality, my (seemingly) involuntary inclinations, and my contradictory need for dominance over the medium/image versus intuitive flow of the materials and outside variables. I’ve joked that my type A and B personalities are constantly at odds, but this friction seems to produce cohesive work. Even when I’m battling restraint over this maximalist urge to rein in 10 paintings into one, formally and conceptually, the things I make seem to work together, especially in groups. I’m using translucent surfaces such as clear vinyls and chiffon as substrates, and the way that I treat what is below the surface, between layers, and above speaks to this psychological notion of keeping secrets/veiling truths and cutting away obstructed layers to divulge what is really underneath. I think of the gestures as metaphors for language and communication. We can use semantics to somewhat skew what we really mean, remain ambiguous in our intentions, soften clarity. We can also use our words to be powerfully clear and succinct. I’m physically frosted and blurring surfaces, layering up the material while also trying to keep various parts of the surface untouched or cleared away as this push and pull idea regarding self-disclosure. There are elegant moments of judiciousness and satisfying occurrences of indulgence, but not without points where these two concepts clash. I’ve referred to this “clashing point” before as a “wrench” in the image that can make a viewer stop short. Within all these luscious and sumptuous moments in the painting material, there are usually moves I’ve made that are not conventionally beautiful and can be downright uncomfortable to look at whether it’s the way the colors are meshing or that the textures allude to something else. I keep those parts in the work as a visual example of a consequence or as a reminder that things are not endlessly “smooth sailing”. The good can have an underbelly.


3. You stated “Through gestures of concealing, revealing, and the suggestion of the familiar, these works allude to vulnerability, desire, and the competing inclination to either remain private, or explicitly share.” Do you feel your work is about control in any way?

Most definitely! I even say “Control, however, is always present.” That’s a characteristic I’m battling all the time, in life and the studio; control vs. going with the flow. On the surface, I can present a very “chill” and “even keel” demeanor, but underneath the surface is a whole mess of anxieties. What else is new? The urge for control is where I’m trying to reel in the things that I think are making me anxious in an effort to exact power over them. Control them so they don’t control you. This isn’t always the healthiest solution, and too much pressure can have some adverse effects; many more obvious than others. Some of the more interesting moves I’ve made with paintings have been because I’ve forced myself to give up being so overbearing with the material. I will also drive myself insane by trying to corral every poured surface and every piped line. I’ve incorporated working around or living with “the accidents” that occur when making work. The first hole I ever cut in a painting was an accident. I want to say I had every intention in cutting a void in Give Me Sugar, but that wouldn’t be completely honest. I was trying to cut a clean line where I had masked off an area knowing that when I pulled up the tape, it would pull up jagged and messy. The blade when through the surface too far, and I was convinced I had ruined this thing that I had put so much time and care into starting. I decided that in my practice, I need to be more flexible when it comes to these unintentional occurrences by responding with intentional solutions. I’ll either cover it up or go with it; whichever move is best. Thankfully, this mode has been working for me! It’s almost impossible to hit the “undo button” with vinyl and chiffon. It shows everything and it forgets very little. Learning how to mind the material is important, but learning how to work with your mistakes is another.


4. What does the word “successful” mean to you as an artist?

FullSizeRender-2This is a really hard question to answer because I’m still trying to figure that out. Regarding flexibility, it’s important for this definition to evolve as you grow. Right now, for me, “successful as an artist” means to continue making work and putting myself out there. Continue making whether what I think I’m producing is good, bad, small, large, anything at all, and taking other artists seriously when they want to do studio visits to stay engaged. That likely seems like I’m setting the bar low, but honestly, working day jobs, affording a place to live, making time to be social, carving out time to be alone, and finding time to get away are all consuming. If I can fit in a full-time studio practice with other full-time responsibilities that will allow me to continue on, then GOOD. That’s my goal right now. And the more people you meet and the more studio visits you accept, the more opportunities come your way. Perseverance is a success to me, even if there isn’t always concrete show for it yet.


5. What advice have you been given that has influenced you the most?

You can’t make work that is going to appeal to everyone, and you shouldn’t make work that you think will do so. Follow your inclinations and your gut, even if the idea seems totally weird. Above all, if you can afford to, try making the things you’ve been thinking about to see them. You can talk yourself out of doing anything, but you can’t know if it’s a good or bad idea until you try. One time in grad school, I painted every chip from an entire tube of Pringles, meaning I put paint ON the chips. I didn’t paint a still life of chips, I PAINTED the chips. Get it? Paint chips? Was that a good idea? No. Was it a good idea to try? Yes, because I got it out of the way, and I don’t have to think about it anymore. Plus, it’s a story my mentor from graduate school loves telling other students now. I’m good with that!


6. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about? Or perhaps what’s next for you?

Right now, I’m settling into my new studio situation, and I’m trying to continue the “Voids and Gaps” body of work I started last year as well as works that hide additional paintings under frosted surfaces. There’s a lot more to mine there. I currently have two works at the Wassaic Summer Exhibition titled Ad Astra Per Aspera at the Wassaic Project until September 21st if you find yourself in upstate NY! I’m also conceptualizing a two-person show San Antonio-based artist Brittany Ham at Mantle Art Space for January 2020. It seems far away, but it really isn’t! We’re in the early stages right now, but I’m excited about what we’ll be making in the coming months.

In the Studio: Arielle Rebek

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.

In pinhole camera selfI grew up in the Chicago area in a family of artists. As a young teenager, I would spend full days sitting on the green carpet of my great aunt’s home looking through boxes filled with photos of relatives and strangers. I studied these photos again and again, never growing tired, and developed a deep fascination for personal histories through photography. These experiences would later influence me to investigate photography, memory, and place in my work.

I attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and earned my BA in Studio Art.  Upon graduating, I worked for the art department which allowed for valuable studio time and teaching opportunities. I worked closely with my mentor and photography professor to develop an experimental photography course, and in doing so, started working in a physical and intuitive way in the darkroom. In 2013, I moved to southern California to teach elementary school art and ended up learning about my relationship to place and affinity for the mountains.

After a couple years of struggling to balance full time work and my studio practice, I decided to attend the MFA program in Art Studio at UC Davis. The most rewarding aspects of grad school were the relationships with my cohort, critical input from faculty/peers, and the time to flail a bit.  After school, I moved to Oakland, became a studio resident at the SF arts non-profit, Root Division, and worked on Programs at Minnesota Street Project. I spent the last year teaching photography courses at Carleton College and will now be starting a three month artist residency at The Image Flow in the North Bay.

2. How has working in the education field influenced your art and artistic practice?

Teaching forces me to engage with photography in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise in my studio practice.  I am always searching for new material, artists, or techniques that I can bring to the classroom which often find their way into my work. My students bring ideas and topics to class that teach me just as much as I teach them, if not more. Of course, it’s challenging at times. Teaching requires so much energy and passion that I am sometimes left with little to give my artwork. Ultimately, I find the rewards of teaching and working with students to be important for my life and art practice.


3. What is your creative process like?

Light is such a material for me that my process often begins with either noticing the behavior of light or wanting to experiment with light in some way. Whether I am on a hike, walking to the store, or in the darkroom, I am thinking about how this light, this material, is linked to place, memory or experience. Photography can represent truth and yet also create such illusion and deception.

Experimentation and working towards an unknown is critical to my process. I want to be surprised by my work. Traditional B&W darkroom printing is about precision, working slowly and printing carefully, but I am more interested in what happens when I’m not careful or precise. Whether I am working in the darkroom or outdoors, I am fast, intuitive and respond to the materiality of my medium.


4. How do you make your location decisions? And how does the location play a role in deciding which photographic technique would be best for capturing it?

I’m interested in how photography translates experience. Our world is so saturated with images and social media that I feel an urgency to reflect on the origins of photography, what we choose to capture, and how that changes our relationship to subject or experience. I am also often reflecting on my particular relationship to place, and my impulse to photograph or not to photograph. What warrants a record? In my series of cyanotype self portraits, I was thinking about how a meditation in everyday surroundings (my backyard, my studio, etc.) could be depicted through photography. I took large pieces of cyanotype fabric and swaddled myself in them. I would then sit still for about 20 minutes while being simultaneously “exposed” and protected. The final prints act as the residue of a particular moment, while reflecting the specifics of my body position and lighting conditions. Cyanotype allows me to work outdoors, on a larger scale, and retain evidence of the environment.


instudio self 2

5. How has social media affected your studio practice?

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship to social media. Of course it’s a great tool for sharing work and ideas with pretty low stakes, but it also facilitates constant consumption and comparison. It’s fascinating to me that I will take a photo, and while taking it, I will think “oh yeah, I’ll post this on instagram”. And I know I’m not the only one in that. While I’m not blatantly questioning social media in my work, it certainly influences the way I think about my relationship to photography.


6. What advice have you been given that has influenced you the most?

Early on in grad school I had a conversation with a faculty member about the importance of routine and making time for your studio practice daily. I was also once told to give myself assignments when feeling stuck, like take a photo of the same object once every day for two weeks or write for ten minutes every morning. I find that these little tasks help build routine, restore my energy in the studio, and often lead to other ideas.


7. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about? Or perhaps what’s next for you?

During my residency this summer, I will be working on a new body of work that investigates distance and scale and how these are humanly felt. This work will employ various processes, including pinhole photography, photograms, and digital scans. Stay tuned!

In the Studio: Kristin Hough in collaboration with colleagues

Note: Much of my practice includes pulling source material from the public. The paintings shown in this exhibition originate as screen-captures of nature based reality tv programs and include transcriptions of dialog from contestants. So, as part of a larger interest in crowd sourced content and collective authorship, I’ve asked fellow artists to answer these questions for / as me.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
Life is getting things done. I set arbitrary untimed mental time-limits for myself to get things done — one of which is this: two minutes to complete the answer to this question. This has gotten me to where I am today. -OP
2. Can you speak to your creative process for “Microcosmic gods” – featured in this exhibition?
Microcosmic Gods is an exploration of the imagery, emotion and aesthetic of reality TV through paintings of stills from various survivor shows.  When creating art I am continually interested in intertwining the real and the fake and blending these ideas to show that they are often one in the same.  My process centered around taking time to watch and snapshot scenes that further the idea that a reality show is itself a microcosm of life – saturated with drama, emotion, and intensity, though still contrived and altered. -SH
3. What is the role of the artist in society?
What are any of our “roles”, really? I think that an artist in society has the opportunity to connect or bring awareness to the gaps between perception and reality. That said, everyone has this potential, although artists tend to have more urgency with demonstrating the gap. 
or….for a gruff alternative:
“opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one” lol -AB
4. Where do you feel art is going?

A lot of times when you face adversity, and you feel that you’re at your weakest point, the best thing you can do is bond together and strengthen as a unit. We can’t afford for people not to get along. Hope factors in a huge amount for your existence here. Mentally you need to feel comfortable where you are. Symbolically, [art] is just showing that there’s another level of our relationship with each other.

Every now and then you get a glimpse of closure, and you get a glimpse of the impact, and you get a glimpse of how significant it is that we’ve gotten this far. You can’t help but think about what’s around the corner. Let’s, you know, start something new. We are now addicted. It’s so good. We wake up in the morning, we make [art]. After we eat breakfast, in the afternoon, we make [art]. At night, we make [art]. It makes you feel as if the world doesn’t really stop without you–it keeps going. That’s what’s good about [art]: you never know what’s going to happen. And at first I didn’t get the big picture, but when you stop and think about it for a while you realize that you’ve been given a lot.

Strategies are starting to develop more and go in different directions, and the more we learn about each other the more you start to second guess what you’ve done. Definitely [art] is changing, and maybe for the better. Maybe for the worse. I don’t know. I certainly don’t think this answers everything. We’ve still got to catch the fish. -NR

5. How has your work been influenced by your fellow exhibiting artists, if at all?
The way that my fellow exhibitors work has influenced me is that it helped me realize that I explore landscape with color and texture. -SB
6. What advice have you been given that has influenced you the most?
Once when I was a little girl I biked to the pond to feed the geese with Aunt Zeeta. Zeeta had recently pawned off those God-awful velvet socks she had the audacity to wear any time she supposed her orthodontist pen-pal was “braiding the tulips,” as they say…anyways, it was clear she was flush with breadcrumbs. Zeeta’s charity for those brats was unabashed; we all knew the Nivea Street geese were spoiled rotten, and by whom.  

We circled the water, slowly, careful not to trip over the scatterings of Chuck-E-Cheese tokens and quantum charcuterie, no doubt the aftermath of a Nivea Street Weasels meeting grown rowdy.
I caught the attention of the friend mostly covered in dark feathers—“Soot,” as my aunt called him—and flashed my baggie of sourdough particles. He inched my way, and the sight of his midmorning snack began to register. 
Soot—never before one to cause a riot—flapped out of the pond like a maniac, seized by a divine vision. Like an amuse-bouche from a irritable pair of hedge clippers, this goose pecked my forehead, its full weight heaving into my body. I went toppling backwards into the grass. Zeeta was no use, absorbed in her Walkman, entranced by an errant horsefly. 
Soot waddled over to me, solemn, and I swear to Jeremy that goose looked me straight in the eye. “Kristin, honey” he said, “You ever find yourself running outta gas on that stretch of interstate in Arizona with no stations for a hundred miles? Well, you should turn off the AC in your car, roll the windows up and slow down to fifty-five miles per hour. That’s right, fifty-five miles per hour gets you optimal gas milage. Sure, people are passing you right and left, but you gotta resist the temptation to speed up. Fifty-five is that golden number. Any faster and you’re burning too hot.”
I’ll never forget that bird. -LL
7. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about? Or perhaps what’s next for you?
I am working on a series of paintings of scenes from the 2001 Fox series Temptation Island. The paintings will reflect the deep-seated urges that are evoked when humans are returned to a primal setting. -KI
View more of Kristin’s work here.

In The Studio: Faith Sponsler

also gallery is excited to bring you three separate interviews featuring the artists of our current exhibition, “Placed.”

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.IMG_1412

I grew up in a small mountain town in northern California. The experience of growing up in a wild place, at the base of an active volcano, intensely linked my emotional memory with my sense of place. Throughout my schooling, I had always been interested in both art and science, ultimately choosing art with the hope that my interest in the sciences could have a place there too.

I studied painting in my undergraduate program, and haven’t traditionally painted since. Immediately afterward, I attended graduate school at UC Davis which gave me the space and time I needed to cultivate my practice. Honestly, the most invaluable thing it gave me was all of my peers, some of whom I am still in close contact with. They are all incredible, diverse artists and people that I learned more from than any seminar.

After teaching a little, I attended a year-long residency program at the Headlands Center for the Arts located in the coastal hills of the Marin Headlands. The program was filled with incredible artists from all over, with work just as diverse. The time spent within the landscape and buildings of Headlands, with their tangible history, helped to refine my practice and reshape the way I thought about my work.

Currently, I am working on making a new studio space for myself and in the planning stages for a new body work.


  1. What does being an “interdisciplinary artist” mean to you and your practice?

Through experience, I have found that I need different modes of working and seeing in my practice. In undergrad, I chose the concentration of painting, only because it was what I was more familiar with. The programs within the art department were very separate and I was left feeling wholly unsatisfied in the work I was making, so I made a point to find a graduate program that was open to interdisciplinary work. It was only there that I was allowed to explore different ways of making in any real way.

In my most recent body of work, which was made for the Headlands Center for the Arts Graduate Fellows show, I included sculpture, monotypes, site-specific window painting, and a zine. It was the first time I felt like the different ways of making were actually working together in a space. The zine was of particular importance for a couple reasons: It was something affordable that could travel beyond that show and gallery space, and it was made as a collaboration with a friend and fellow artist.


  1. What is the biggest challenge in being an artist today?

I can only speak personally, but surviving alone is difficult as an artist. Myself and most of my friends have multiple jobs and/or side hustles and its difficult to make the time and space in order to make work.


  1. Can you speak to your own relationship to risk and sacrifice, and what risks have you taken.

IMG_5287 2I suppose prioritizing art in one’s life could be seen as a sacrifice, although I don’t really think of it that way.

Risk-taking has its place in my practice, but I think that there’s a certain level of risk in anyone’s studio. But those risks are made within the world you create for them. There usually aren’t life or death consequences for decisions made in the studio.

Some risks I have taken have to do with pushback against museum/gallery limitations on material. Some of the materials I have used can be quite volatile and/or have a live component that can be tricky for insurance reasons. Pushing back on these restrictions is always a risk, but a risk worth taking when its important to the work.


  1. Why did you feel it was important for your work to be a part of this exhibition?

I both love and respect the work of the other two artists in this exhibition. The work is very different, but speaks to one another in an unexpected ways. I was also very excited to be a part of an alternative gallery space that supports women and minority artists.


  1. What advice have you been given that has influenced you the most?

There are a few short and sweet gems that have always stuck with me. The two that come to mind are, “Don’t judge while you’re making,” which is a great mantra for the anxious mind. The other is “Showing up is the hardest part,” which is specifically about showing up and making time/space for the studio. Even if you just write for twenty minutes, or stare at the wall.


  1. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

I’m currently in the planning stages of a new body of work. I don’t have much else to tell, other than the fact that it will include sculpture, monoprints, and a zine!
View more of Faith’s work here.

In the Studio: Susanna Harris

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.

I am a printmaking artist from Columbus Ohio. I received by BA in studio art from Otterbein University in 2018. Afterwards I went on to become Otterbein University’s printmaking resident artist, as well as an intern for Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative from 2018 to 2019. This fall I will begin my MFA candidacy at Kent State University.

Once I decided that I wanted to pursue my art career I switched my major from journalism to studio art and I’ve been working my tail off ever since. I’ve spent countless hours in the studio both day and night. I’ve found that it can be very rewarding some days when things are working out, but also equally as frustrating when things aren’t going the way I want them to. Whatever kind of day it is though I love being in the studio, and am always enthusiastic, and excited about creating art.

2. Many of your pieces seem to incorporate both natural and man-made elements. Would you speak to this experimental process and the role it plays in creating a final piece?

I am a very paint-oriented printmaker. I prefer to make prints that are one of a kind, regularly. Experimentation and research are the most important processes in how I currently create my prints. I can’t create what I envision until I have a thorough understanding of what I am working with.

I use organic matter, hand dyed chine-collé papers or fibers, handmade paper, and curated waste to create prints, collages, assemblages, and books. For example when I have time in the studio, and am working with a new plate I’ll try printing on different papers to get the right fit. There’s a reason for this; one paper dissolves when it gets wet, and one won’t peel off of my printmaking plate, but one will hold the ink just right and will be exactly what I was seeking.

3. Since a lot of your work is based in the human relationship to the natural environment, how has the political climate over the past few years affected your work?

I would say the that the current political climate has fueled my passion and want to create more environmental based work. I am heavily influenced by my thoughts and feelings toward how people, as well as myself, contribute to environmental destruction. Seeing attempts at decreasing regulations, and an overall denial attitude, push me to portray that in my art and fight it by voting, and by living an eco friendly lifestyle.

As an environmentalist it is important that I use my work as an outlet for my research, interests, and frustrations. I want to create art that shows the human hand will always leave some sort of impact on nature. If not as individuals then from the impact humankind will leave on the Earth overall. I hope that my work will inspire change and promote knowledge of our environmental impact.

4. I understand you are currently (or just finishing as) an artist in residence at Otterbein University would you talk about the importance this experience has played on your creative process and the development of your work.

Otterbein University was the first residency that I ever had and it was a very important stepping stone for me to understand how I create work outside of a structured environment. I didn’t have professors giving me prompts or projects. It was just completely up to me from concept to the finished piece. I have a greater sense of who I am as an artist, what I want to make, and why I want to create it.

5. Can you speak to your own relationship to risk and sacrifice?

I would say that for myself it has definitely been a risk to pursue a career in art. There is an uncertainty that goes along with it. I often wonder if I will get to a point where my art career is sustainable. For me that means if I really want that I need to put in a lot of time, and effort. I have had to sacrifice a lot of time to my studio practice. I willingly made that sacrifice while knowing that a lot of my family and friends wanted some of that time.

6. What is the role of the artist in society?

I would say an artist’s role is to question things. Everyone sees things differently and that is no exception for artists. We need everyone to create a functioning, vibrant community. I truly believe art is not how you make things but how you see things. I believe artists should make art is to express their concept of how they see the world.

7. How has social media affected your studio practice?

Coming from a journalism, and media communication background I see social media as an important way for me to make my work accessible. It has even helped me sell some of my pieces. I definitely feel like it helps get me warmed up when I arrive to the studio. I will take hands-free videos of pulling prints, or inking plates to post on my Instagram story. It also helps me hold myself accountable. I get very excited about new ideas, and can move on from a project too quickly. With social media I can easily be reminded of what I was working on, and start right where I left off.

8. Where do you feel art is going?

I feel art is becoming an important everyday object. People want to be surrounded by art they love in their own walls, tables, and mantels. It isn’t just living in museums any more and I only see that trend continuing.

9. What advice have you been given that has influenced you the most?

“Just keep moving.” (or something like that) said by my one of my mentors Marilyn McPheron. As an artist I experience a lot of “no.” I learned that after hearing no, and experiencing the metaphorical door being closed in my face I can either turn around and leave or climb out of a metaphorical window. I just made it a habit to keep climbing out of those metaphorical windows and finding another way.

10. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about? Or perhaps what’s next for you?

I recently set up my exhibition for the conclusion of my residency and was able to debut a project I am working on that explores my chine-collé work moving toward a larger scale. The current pieces are 32″ x 32″, but I would like to start making even larger pieces. I am only able to make pieces so large on a press bed so I plan to make larger pieces by creating multiple panels.

In The Studio: Lauren Munns

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.IMG_4721

I grew up always having a little bit of a creative side, whether it was creative writing, photography or drawing.  In elementary school, I decided that it was my life’s mission to save the manatees from extinction and would paint sea life scenes on boards that I had broken in Tae Kwon Do (the one sport that I wanted to stick to as a kid) and donate the proceeds to the local zoo’s rehabilitation facility.  I went to Florida State University, where I studied Fine Art and graduated with a BFA with a focus in ceramics, and still had a love of drawing. From there, I moved to New York. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of the city and that’s really where I was able to get back to drawing and really experiment with collage, which is where my work has gravitated to since.

  1. What is your creative process like?

My process is incredibly intuitive, and with series like Extensions, Links or some of my inkblot collages, it’s nearly impossible to plan out.  For me, a messy desk is where I see collage elements fall perfectly… a stack of arms knotted together seamlessly, piles of celebrity updos that take on the forms of swirling masses.  It entails a lot of walking away, returning, adding a piece, walking away, returning and rearranging. The finale of creating these pieces is almost stumbled-upon, that eureka moment when all of the small pieces that I’ve been seeing as shapes and colors come together as a whole.  Recently, there has been more experimentation with scale, seeing how the different shapes interact with larger surface area to cover.

  1. Has there been a shift or change in your life or work that has led to what you’re making now? Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?

When I moved to New York, my hands ached for clay after studying ceramics in school and working on some personal work post-grad.  I decided to go back to drawing and experiment with collage. Making work was what was the most important to me… I just had to create, no matter the amount of space I had.  Now, after moving back to Florida, collage has stuck and is the primary realm of my practice, but I can’t wait to switch on a kiln soon. Although I never intend for my work to be primarily autobiographical, I do notice that color, styling, even the ease of cutting collage bits reflects what is going on in my own life.

  1. Since your work has some basis in what is considered traditionally feminine, has social media and the bombardment of images had an affect your work?

The term “feminine” has definitely evolved over time and elicits something so different in 2019.  I worked for a fashion company while in New York (hello, never-ending supply of collage supplies).  Trends come and go, movements are started everyday. Social media, the news, fashion trends, and all of the imagery available in a single click certainly influence the meaning behind my work.

  1. I like the term “unexpected” for describing your work, there are so many layers to unpack when viewing each piece. What is it you hope a viewer will take away from your work?

I love the transformative nature that some of my work can take on.  For years, I’ve isolated parts of the human body – the detail of a fold behind a knee, the curve of an arm in an embrace, a cowlick – and they become something completely new when placed on the paper.  I feel that my work doesn’t ooze a certain political stance or emit a well-known style of art. So all that I can hope for is that the viewer takes the time to look at every inch of the piece and the parts of the whole that are the focus and heart of my practice, walks away, and is left wondering if they missed something… if maybe a second look could change their entire perspective of the piece.

  1.  Where do you feel art is going?

I feel that many of the artists that I’m following are going back to traditional practices and techniques in that cyclical way that the world works, but at the same time, there are so many resources available to create techniques and work that we couldn’t even imagine was possible ten years ago.  Art is going somewhere VERY exciting, that’s all I can say.

  1. Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

I’m trying to work larger! And experimenting with combining painting and collage.  I love paintings with heavily textured surfaces, and I’ve done a few small works where these thick surfaces over collage add to the mystery of abstract work.  I also keep a note in my phone of ideas I come up with in the middle of the night, so hopefully one day I’ll remember what “corsets” and “playing cards” mean. Stay tuned!

  1. What advice has influenced you the most?

Never get attached.  It was a rule that so many of my professors taught me in school.  I had these braid drawings my junior year that I dreamed would expand into hundreds of small drawings covering a gallery wall.  They wanted me to cut them up, mark all over them, and I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. I watched my ceramics professor completely smash platters that didn’t glaze the way she would have wished in a completely unpredictable soda kiln fire.  I would have never thought then that these days I could work for hours on a collage and then completely cover it in paint to see if it maybe worked.  But I feel that this lesson so important to keep in the back of your mind.  You could make something great if you just work something good just a little more, even if that means completely destroying and reworking it to the point of no return.  By the way, those braid drawings are now completely cut up and incorporated into some old paintings or drawn all over as ideas for future works.

  1. What are you listening to at the moment?

I’m switching between Art for Your Ear by the Jealous Curator and My Favorite Murder in terms of podcasts, I just finished listening to Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng for a book club and Ariana Grande’s new CD is on repeat.   I’m all over the place.

  1.  What is the silliest piece of knowledge that you have?

I know a ridiculous amount of animal facts, like that manatees can move 30 miles per hour.

In the Studio: Amira F. Pualwan

Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? (A little bit about yourself)

I grew up in Vermont, just outside of Burlington, which was a magical place to become a person.  I studied studio art at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where I fell in love with printmaking (especially intaglio processes).  After graduating in 2013 I moved to Minneapolis to pursue a relationship and a studio internship at Highpoint Center for Printmaking.  I spent three years at Highpoint in various capacities: as an intern, as a co-op member, and as a resident artist.  I was really like a sponge just trying to absorb as much information as possible while figuring out my art outside of an academic environment. In 2016, my partner and I moved to Worcester, MA for a couple of years so that he could pursue a ceramics residency.  Without access to a press, I used this time to focus on drawing and collage (the work that is featured now).  After his residency we decided to move to Philadelphia, and that is where I am today!  I am currently working at Second State Press in their Fob Holder program, and am about to start the apprenticeship program at the Fabric Workshop and Museum.


What is your creative process like?

I try to make sketching a habit, and it can be helpful, but mostly I just stew.  I’m a classic over-thinker, and if I’m not 100% on an idea or composition I sit with it for a while.  Eventually I’ll see something or hear something that gives inspiration to pull it all together – for some reason this usually happens when I’m in a car.  It’s a process that has given me a lot of doubts in the past, but I’ve slowly learned to trust it.


I understand that your “Fantasy Island” series will eventually contain 100 unique pieces, is that number significant? 

This collage series was started in 2016 during the heat of the election cycle.  I was coming down off of a high of traveling abroad for a couple months and adjusting to living in a new city.  I really just wanted to escape.  I started making these small collage compositions really as a distraction, and thought of them as little islands.  I started documenting them on Instagram and it became a fun experience. As I got closer to 100, it felt like a good stopping point (I’m actually at 94 right now, so it’s not finished yet).  Also I think 100 is a historically revered number of perfection, so it fits with the sentiment of the project being motivated by idealism and escapism.

Would you talk more about your experience at the Highpoint center for Printmaking and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the role residencies have played on your professional art practice. 

Residencies have been really helpful to allow for the time to experiment with ideas and processes that I wouldn’t otherwise try.  Both the Highpoint and the MCBA residencies I participated in were funded by the Jerome Foundation and came with a monetary stipend, which was another huge factor (turns out, being paid to do something you love feels really good).  Both of those communities are very supportive and generous with their time and knowledge, and have radically different studio atmospheres, which was also really interesting to observe.


What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

As an only child to divorced parents, introspection is my bread and butter.  I think there is always a war within me that yearns to travel and explore and also to stay in one place and nest – both are a luxury.  The idea of place is a constant in my work, and I think I am always drawing on my past and current emotional experiences with different spaces.


What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?

The time and energy to continuously produce work while balancing a part-time job can be a struggle.  Maybe one day I can make the switch to only making art for money but that is a scary and difficult bridge to cross.  Relaxing without feeling guilty for not working on your art is hard to do.


How has social media influenced your practice?

Social media – specifically Instagram – has been extremely helpful for building community with the larger printmaking community.  I find posting finished and in-progress work can be really motivating and encouraging (as shallow as it sounds, the instant gratification of “likes” can feel really good sometimes) and it is way faster/easier to keep updated than a website.  At the same time, the comparison trap is real.  It can be really hard to not look at other artists you admire and feel like you aren’t doing enough.


What is the role of the artist in society?

I think artists can and should occupy many roles in society (and be paid well for those roles).


What advice were you given early in that has influenced you the most?

Growing up I had a lot of fear of rejection in my personal and professional life, and it is an anxiety I still struggle with.  One day my dad told me not to decide for other people before they’ve had the chance to say yes or no, and it really stuck with me.


What’s the most ridiculous, off the wall fact you know?

I’m really into baking and have recently learned how to temper chocolate.  It’s probably not the most ridiculous fact I know, but seems like a really indulgent little random nugget of knowledge.