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.

In the Studio: Laura Sellers Harrison

Laura Sellers Bio Image in front of Felipe Pantone NYC 2017Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to creating the work you are today.

My name is Laura Sellers, and I live in Asheville, N.C. I’ve been a painter all my life, and I’ve always been extremely inspired by our environment.


What does your work aim to say?

Some of my more minimalist and geometric pieces don’t say much; they are more like color experiments and tests. However, the abstract highwayscape series tries to illustrate how constant movement in automobiles is causing the warming of our environment.


Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?

Currently I am inspired by mural artists like Felipe Pantone and Okuda San Miguel. I believe they are fracturing the picture plane, and they are creating murals that are for the greater public rather than just gallery or museum audience. I’m also in love with Yayoi Kusama and her infinity rooms. Her experimentations with light and fully wrapped rooms of polka dots are fascinating.


What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

External factors would probably include my commute to work and having a visitation with my divorced parents who lived in different states my entire life. I’ve always been on the road, so that inspired the road paintings. Internally I sometimes paint colors that correspond with the temperature outside or my mood.


Laura Sellers Bio Image Western Carolina University Studio NC 2015

How do you know when a work is finished?

The highwayscapes are finished when the wood panel has been filled with shapes of color all the way to the horizon line, but then I push this a little further by adding bridges and the drips that fracture the strict geometry in the painting.


I understand that you are teaching at the college level while trying to keep your own studio practice going. What are some of the biggest challenges in being a working artist? What parts are the most rewarding?

When I’m teaching, I have to put my own studio practice aside to make sure that I’m doing my job by making lesson plans, answering emails, etc. I also find teaching to be very inspiring however, and I like being constantly surrounded by students and educators interested in the arts. I also feel like passing on the tradition of painting is extremely important to keep it alive. I try to make work in the morning, then I drive an hour and 15 minutes to school, I teach at WCU at night, and drive back. It’s definitely a struggle, but summer and winter break help.


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

Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum is about to have their Faculty Biennial exhibition, and I’ve been invited to participate. I’m not sure which paintings are going in yet, but I get pretty excited about any exhibitions in museums. When I show in galleries, there is an expectation to sell some of the work, but museum exhibitions take the stress and commodification out of it for me, since museum exhibitions only show the work.


What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

I had a critique right before my graduate school defense with an artist named Jamie Adams. He told me that I didn’t need to be worried, because my work was strong, and that I should be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I feel like it’s very hard to value yourself sometimes as an artist, and his pep talk led me in to my defense with my head held high. And I passed! I’ve tried to take that same sentiment and apply for things that I don’t think I’m good enough or ready for.


What is the role of the artist in society?

When I was younger, I thought it was enough to make art that was beautiful. Now I know there is power in art, and it should be used to help people and the environment.


Where do you feel art is going?

I believe art is becoming highly political, and I think that female artists are finally getting some time in the spot light. Art is also becoming outrageously over priced in the world art market, and there’s a strong division between the social status of the artist and the social status of the collector. It’s definitely an interesting time to be an artist, and I feel something big is going to happen with the art world in the future.


If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?

Michelangelo from the ninja turtles. He lives in the sewer, does ninja stuff, and eats pizza. He also has a famous painters name. What more could you want?





In the Studio: Kieran Riley Abbott

IMG-09381. 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 Minneapolis, MN, and lived there through college. Since then I’ve been hopping around the east coast, living in the Hudson Valley (at Women’s Studio Workshop), Vermont (where I was a staff-artist at Vermont Studio Center), and Cape Cod. I just moved to Philadelphia and I’m hoping to stick around here for a while.


2. Please describe your work and tell us a little bit about your creative process.

In my recent work I’m interested in the flexibility and fallibility of geometric forms and linear perspective. I explore this through printmaking, drawing, photography, sculpture – and recently, these optical tools which very directly warp our field of vision in surprising ways. My process involves experimentation with materials, and a balance between control and chance. For inspiration I spend a lot of time in libraries and on the internet researching scientific diagrams, vernacular architecture, maps, puzzles, and optical illusions.


3. I understand you recently started a new apprenticeship with the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia. What are your ultimate goals for your time at this influential, dynamic space?

The apprenticeship has been amazing so far. I’m considering pattern and scale within my work in ways I hadn’t before. Creating a repeat pattern is creating a puzzle – the pieces have to lock together perfectly to produce a successful illusion of continuity. The idea of repetition and multiples is something I’ve had to consider a lot previously in relation to printmaking – creating editions of a print, for example – but it’s different when the multiples are all being seen at once on a big piece of fabric. When drawing the pattern, you have to remember that any mark, gesture, image is repeated dozens of times, and how does this change how the mark, gesture, image is read? For me it’s an exercise in seeing the parts and the whole simultaneously. Technically speaking, the process of printing repeat patterns onto fabric is fascinating as well, and it’s highly collaborative – just to pull the squeegee across the silkscreen requires at least two people! We apprentices rely on each other to complete our work.


4. How has social media influenced your practice?

In more ways than I’d like to admit! Instagram has been an extremely useful tool for discovering new artists and keeping up with people I’ve met in school and at residencies. I have made good friends, received exhibition opportunities, interviews, and artwork sales all as a direct result of Instagram. While I am grateful for these connections and opportunities, I also acknowledge the downsides of social media, such as the priority on aesthetics over content, the reliance on likes for validation, and the superficiality of seeing everyone’s successes and not the failures and struggles that got them to that success. I’m learning to not get caught up in the fantasy of social media and keep a healthy balance of real life and virtual life.


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

I think it can be difficult to feel valued as an artist, especially monetarily but also culturally. Making sure you are receiving enough time, energy, space, and money to function as an artist is so important, and you have to be very intentional in making these things happen. The first step (and a big hurdle for me personally) is internal – respecting yourself, being nice to yourself, valuing yourself as an artist.


6. Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?

In November I’ll have work in a retrospective of Bohemian Press, the printmaking club at the University of Minnesota. I was super active in BoPress during college and it provided a real sense of community and friendship while I was figuring out what it even meant to be an artist (not that I have that entirely figured out now!!).


7. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific piece of advice right now, but I recently read Your Art Can Save Your Life by Beth Pickens and it was very affirming and motivational.


8. Ok, the most important question: Is a hot dog a taco or a sandwich? & why?

This question is breaking my brain, so for my sanity I abstain from picking a side. Get back to me in six months after I have properly mulled this over.


In the studio: Georgina Campbell

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-01 at 9.29.22 PM(1)1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? 

I started out planning to be a film maker and realized I prefer working alone rather than waiting around for others to get their part of the job done. I had to do still photography as part of my course at university and realized I enjoyed it more because you can just get on with it. I am from Australia and I am answering your questions in Iceland about work I did in Russia. I have always taken photographs and I consider being an artist to be my main job but I have always had to have a real job at the same time. I eventually trained as a teacher, partly so I could travel – I moved to London (where lots of Aussies are teachers) so I could try to see more of Europe and work on my art in a more stimulating environment.


2. Please describe your work and your creative process.

Because teaching really takes up so much mental space and time I ended up not getting much photographic work done on a daily basis. I am constantly thinking about ideas and ways of working but at this point in time, I aim to travel to places with the intention of photographing the places. I do this mostly in the form of artist residencies. The work you see here is the result of an artist residency in St Petersburg, Russia earlier this year. I was there for a month and I really had no ideas about what I would do there or what would inspire me. I just wandered around and shot lots of different things. It was very new for me to be in a city but free to shoot. I live in London, an amazing city, but I don’t feel free there as much because I am always on my way to work or elsewhere. I know that seems crazy but I just feel different when I am in daily life mode versus artist mode.


3.Majority of your work seems to be related to travel and “daily life/routine.” How you capture life as a local but as a visitor?

When I am traveling or doing an artist residency somewhere my job becomes to do nothing but take photos or create in some capacity. I often end up just documenting daily life or scenes of an ordinary nature because as a visitor its all new to me. A street sign or building may seem very uninteresting to a local person who sees it everyday, but to me, everything is new and different and a lot of photographers in particular feel this way. Most places are captured or documented in the most compelling way through the eyes of a foreigner – the things we notice about a place are often the most mundane for the local but prove most fascinating to outsiders. While I was in Russia there were many examples of that – things looking very much like any other European city but also like a parallel universe at the same time. Things being slightly magical such as snow (which is still magical to me being from Australia) really appeals to me. Like seeing snow flakes so large and perfect you could see their detail with the naked eye, architectural details and just the way nature makes itself present even in the urban landscape – bird footprints in the snow, big winter clouds competing for space with the industrial smoke clouds on the horizon and most fascinating to me, the ancient glass windows in many of the buildings create these magical polarizing effects through the camera lens creating a view you can truly only see through photography.


4. What internal and external factors affect your choices on what to capture?

I do just photograph whatever catches my eye most of the time. I do always hope to find something with that element of magic by which I mean things that can only be really seen through the camera lens – lighting and effects that are a result of reality and the camera working together. On a more practical level, however, time and weather of course affect my choices. I have done a lot of work in Iceland in both winter and summer. I find in summer, ironically, I don’t get enough of the right kind of light and in winter it can be painfully cold to be outside for long stretches. In Russia I found it very cold but if I’m really getting inspired I just keep going until I cant feel my toes or fingers!


5. What do you want your work to say or do?

I think my work is ultimately biographical, it shows where I am physically and some might argue there is a hint of my inner psyche laid out in my images too. All images are viewed through the filter of the viewer’s own experiences, for better or worse, so people can read the images however they want. I have always said I am simply pointing out things that take my fancy and photographing them is a way of saying “look at that!”


6. How has technology changed your photographic work process in a way you did not expect?

I was strictly old school analogue for ages. I use a lot of Holgas, Lomo cameras and home-made cameras but I switched to digital practical purposes when i started traveling more often. Digital is easier when you don’t have access to darkrooms and film processing equipment. I miss the darkroom but digital allows you to do everything easily on the go and experiment without breaking the bank. I also do use a lot of other technologies in my work. I’ve gone back to film making in a small way now that digital cameras are so high quality. You don’t need a team of people anymore to make video works so I have been able to experiment without pressure and material costs. I do a lot of coding and computer related stuff too so technology has allowed me to try other things and in a funny way, get back to the things I was first interested in which was the photograph as object, building cameras – almost as functional sculptures and making moving images in the form of video works and gifs.


7. Which current art world trends are you following?

I try to avoid trends in art – if it’s a trend then it’s probably not good art! I don’t even use filters on Instagram! I think about this kind of thing a lot though, I often find myself inspired by new materials or ways of presenting work but I try to ensure that my work and the way I present it has some kind of link – I don’t think its useful to use a new printing process or presentation medium just because its available and the latest thing.


9. What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?

Actually getting work done! There is never enough time or money. Like most artists, I have to have a “real” job and it takes up way too much time and energy on a regular basis. Doing genuinely good work that I am happy with also is a challenge and then getting that work seen by the right people. I wish I knew how to make that happen but I’m working on it.


10. Where do you feel art is going?

Art isn’t going anywhere! Its here to stay!


11. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

A well known photographic artist I knew said once that if random viewers told her that they really liked her work then she knew it wasn’t good enough. She meant that if too many people liked the work enough then it wasn’t really breaking new ground, it was not challenging enough. We both agreed that we didn’t want to make art that matches the couch!


12. If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?

I really don’t know! A time traveller – just a generic behind the scenes one!


View more of Georgina’s work here.

In the Studio: Xiaofu Wang


1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? 

I was born in Wuhan, China and lived there with my parents for 18 years. Wuhan is a big city located in middle eastern China. The humidity in the air is always high, so the weather is sweltering in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. I didn’t speak my hometown dialect nor did I live in the downtown, so most of the time, I felt I was an outsider.

Then I got accepted by the Central Academy of Fine Art, and moved to Beijing. That was the most crucial time of my life. I studied photography at that time, but I didn’t connect to this media very well. However, I met my best friends who are artists, designers, directors, and models. Together, we had the experience of being strongly impacted by art. With their encouragement, I started to paint after I graduated. Two years later I got accepted by the Le. Roy Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

I moved to Baltimore in the summer of 2015 with two suitcases and started my life in the U.S. I met many talented people there, learned about painting, art, America and myself. After graduation, I moved to Brooklyn, New York. This time I had two 20 feet long Uhaul trucks of belongings. One was filled by my paintings.. I rented a small room as well as a studio space. At the busiest time, I was an assistant for two artists and I also interned for a gallery in the Lower East Side.

It’s been a year since I moved to New York. I’m still trying to make new friends and figure things out. However, the farther away I am from my hometown, the more I feel at home.


2. Please describe your work.

In my painting, I try to create a place where one layer allows another to escape its origin. This idea came to me while I was listening to a piano album, but I immediately realized its application to the visual arts. I am attracted to art that makes you doubt – to which your response and your feeling is never certain. In which sense need not follow the obligations of representation or of the subject, but rather improvises: adapting and extending personal history (the range of experience, value) as compelled by one’s proximity to art. For as it is with the way of the world, you are never certain of life’s meaning, but you have the freedom to form opinions from self-knowledge.

So I invite uncertainties, lacunae, discordances—contradictions, even—into my paintings. They form an open system. Their exuberant abstractions restore an invisible and immaterial perception of the world to appearance, unfolding the inevitable ambiguities of the contour of existence. These ambiguities sometimes adhere, and sometimes fracture. This exciting uncertainty is the heart of my painting, emerging dynamically in its layers, their structure of interplay and exclusion. These spatial relations are encountered as kinesthetic haunting, as a mixture of restraint, excessive, airy openness and almost claustrophobic compression—landscapes of suggestion.


3. How did you start making art & why do you make it?

Since I was four years old, I have been drawing. There wasn’t a turning point when I suddenly decided to make art. Instead, it has been a long process. The idea of art unfolded in my mind gradually. During this ongoing process, I have never stopped making images. My interpretation of what art is has constantly shifted, as well as what I need from art. It’s a process of building my categories and vocabulary which, in turn, shaped the world around me through my perception.

At the beginning, making drawings and paintings was just a spontaneous thing to do: recording memories, mixing colors, expressing myself. Then it became a way of thinking — What are surfaces? What are materials? What is perspective? What is art? And what do all of these have to do with the rest of the world? It gives me access to myself and to the world, moments in which my thoughts have their new body.


4. Would you please talk a little bit about your experiences as a Chinese artist living in the states? Why is it important for you and your work to be in the US?

I feel the distance is inescapably contingent. As a nomadic Chinese, shifting from country to country, observing the transition of behaviors, of opinions, and feedback of all sorts, I feel myself suspended. Suspended between cultures and forced to suspend judgment. Forced to become the outsider—indeed in China too, as always with my unpretty darker skin, and ever more, the more I Westernize—I must wait to conclude, watching instead, hanging in political suspense. But this waiting is Chinese too, for we have written the world’s longest history (which remains unended) in the emotional poetry of our beautiful language. This is a legacy from which I can never be truly free.

It is important because it doesn’t matter where the artist is coming from, what matters is where he or she is going. This is the freedom of being human. I am a female Chinese artist painting in America. So I am human. I am part of the human. And I do not know the destiny of the human. Still—what I paint is human being.


5. What is your creative process like?

Painting is a mind game. It’s not just an action of making images, it’s more about how my mind reacts with my instinct. It’s a negotiation between my knowledge and the unknown.

When I make the very first few marks on a white surface, I’m digging a hole, opening a window, building a wall inside a space. Then I make bridges to connect the holes, windows, and walls. However, they are not holes, windows or walls, they just have shared functions. It’s a game played by the shadows and lights. They are also a metaphor or a suggestion. It’s a moment right before their action.

Then I have this space, and the structure and the system. They are paused as images, but the action can be extended by the viewers’ imagination.

And this will be an open system.


6. Which current art world trends are you following?

I don’t follow a specific art trend. I follow whatever interests me, and art is all over the place.


7. What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

The dilemmas.

The dilemmas were born when I started to measure the distance between the world and myself. Because there is a question: what world? And what distance? The world is a technology of divergence, it is material and spirit, it is the diversity of apprehension. It is good and bad: a toxic joy. It overwhelms, dominates—unless we retreat outside, to view its beautiful traps.


8. What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?

The most challenging part is also the most exciting part for me. When I make paintings I see my limitations and by continuing to paint, I extend the boundaries. Since moving to New York, I now make smaller scale paintings (from 77”x 96” to 36”x 48”). When the scale changes, the capability of how much information the surface can contain changes too. I currently am trying to find the balance between my intensity and the smaller scale surfaces.


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

I’m working on a group of colored pencil drawings, trying to read one book a week (currently Wittgenstein’s Mistress) and write something everyday (to practice English). I have been following the news a lot, thinking about what I can do, what images can do. Thinking about the structure of history and the world. I’ve also been listening to Olafur Eliasson’s and Timothy Morton’s lectures, and studying Bonnard (color) and Kandinsky (form).


10. What are you most proud of?

I’m proud that I’m still alive and able to create.


11. Where do you feel art is going?

Before answering this question, I think I need to figure out what’s the meaning of human beings living on the earth.

Art is a human activity which represents, reflects, and reveals the world. Where art is going depends on the position that humans locate themselves, their relationship with their mentality, politics, the environment, technology and so on.


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

Tarkovsky said one time in his interview “Artist would not exist if the world were perfect.” However, human beings tend to aim for perfection, and society holds the illusion that “tomorrow will be better.” I think the artist plays the role of negotiator between reality and appearance, both physically and spiritually.


13. What advice has influenced you?

“to express what one feels exactly as it is felt — clearly, if it is clear; obscurely, if obscure; confusedly, if confused.” ——- The Book of Disquiet , Fernando Pessoa, Penguin Classics, p.81

“The problem is not to make political films, but to make films politically.”

—Jean-Luc Godard


14. What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?

All the news about China since Thanksgiving 2017.


View more of Xiaofu Wang’s work here.