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Catching Up With Caroline Wright

August 30th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Caroline Wright may be best known for her series, Migration, (below) which I featured back in February. These amorphous, dripped paintings are full of chaotic energy and, in my view, illustrate life’s unpredictability. Wright is now back with new work that shows a fascinating transition from her previous work.

It turns out that Caroline experienced a period of artistic ‘stuckness’ but managed to breakthrough this summer with an exciting new series, Desmoiselles. Her new paintings (below) represent some of the same ideas as her previous work but are very different stylistically. This shift signals an exciting new time for the artist, and lucky for us, Caroline agreed to chat with us about her new series, maintaining artistic integrity and advice for emerging artists.

Tell us a bit about your new series and how it came about.

I was feeling a bit stuck earlier this summer, as if every piece of work I was making was an imitation of what I’d done before. It’s easy to get distracted by what people respond to, but ultimately it’s really important to have periods where I block that out and let things get really messy. I was in this process when I discovered some early paintings by Joan Snyder, from the 1970s. The contrast of colorful drips in ordered space and the ugly/beautiful emotive quality of these works was thrilling to me, and I used her painting Demoiselles, which was done with a nod to Picasso’s break-through Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, as a starting place. Once I started painting in this way, I opened up all these old spaces, calling up my previous interest in textile and fashion design, all the way back to the drawings I made as a child. It’s been oddly therapeutic, and very fun.

Hard Sweetness (1971) by Joan Snyder

You “encourage viewers to trust their own reactions, and allow the visual experience to slow down the running mind.” Can you expand on this point of view?

I think a lot of artists and art world people have insecurities about spending all their time on something that could be seen as superfluous or superficial and end up coating that in a veneer of inaccessibility. This is really irritating, because what’s beautiful and utterly necessary about art is its ability to remind us of our infinite potential, our smallness, and our connection to each other. Looking at painting is a visual experience, and people should not feel intimidated to engage with the art and have opinions about it. The other aspect of that statement is that I’m always looking for ways to slow down, to feel fully absorbed in a moment without the nag of impatience and worry. Looking at something that engages you, that is harmonious and rhythmical enough to keep your eyes moving around the surface, allows the mind to sit for a bit.

Your work has been on display all around Austin including City Hall and the Austonian. What advice do you have for other young artists who wish to get their art out there?

I think one of the best things you can have as an emerging artist is a good website. Organized, frequently updated, and with high quality images. This is how most people find my work. It’s also important to engage in your local art community by going to openings, lectures, and other events. Making real-life connections with the people who run galleries, organize events, and place art in larger venues is extremely helpful for getting you art up.

How have you made the creative life (painting, music, fashion) work for you?

I’ve been really lucky to grow up believing it’s possible to have a life in the arts. My dad is a writer who never had a “steady” job while I was growing up, and grew his career by patching together free-lance work while becoming a published author. Both my parents have fervently supported my career path but also tethered me to the reality that it has to work financially. I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial sense (as a child I decorated envelopes with marker scrawl and sold them door to door), and I don’t mind the book-keeping and publicity sides of the job. I’m also glad that there is an audience for the kind of work I want to make.

What would you like to be doing in 3 years time?

I hope to continue spending my time in the studio, as well as attending art residencies and having conversations with other artists. I’d like to do more collaborations with musicians, dancers and filmmakers, and to bring the art into larger spaces, exposing my work to a greater audience.

Prints of Wright’s work are available on artmuse.

Talking With My Crush, Esther Ramirez

August 9th, 2010 · 4 Comments

As far as artist crushes go, my crush on Esther Ramirez is closer to an obsession. Everything this lady does takes my breath away! And the genius of her work is how simple and humble it is at its core- using tissue paper, tape, string, her own walls and sometimes herself, Esther creates stunning beauty in the midst of everyday life. Color and form are woven throughout Esther’s entire body of work, which includes hand-made stationary and paper earrings.

It could be said that paper is your primary medium. How did this come about?

Being stimulated by lights, color and paper as a young girl, I was raised in a most colorful area in the Midwest. Connecting paper and color with my past to present- it’s remained the same.
Color is supreme in my work; it is the only constant. Other than that, I like to work outside of a given format. My pieces, no matter the medium, should tell a simple story through color and pattern–they cannot be explained outside of these elements, because who can explicate, without being boring or pretentious, color or pattern?
(If you’re obsessed with this wall color like I am, it’s Silver Dollar by Behr.)

.Installation and photography (and blogging) are important elements of your work. Sometimes you are even part of your own installations! Do you aspire to expand viewers’ perceptions of what art can be?

If my ESSIMAR expands people’s perception of what art can be, then I feel that is a great compliment. I am not trying to expand perceptions, I am just trying to tell stories through color and pattern. I place myself in these improvised installations simply to show the scale of the space, and I blog as a communication and documentation tool.
Unfortunately, I think artists who intentionally try to expand viewers perception of art intentionally make confrontational, controversial, explicit and provocative pieces. Their efforts are so typical, textbook, obvious, and lacking true personality and flavor.
One of my favorite themes in your work is the use of bits of hot pink tape. Instead of hiding the the tape, you highlight it. What inspired this?

Thank you, I’m glad you like my pink tape! Obviously I like pink, and it helps tell my story. It’s nothing special really, I’ve noticed that the pink tape enhances the cutouts on the wall. The tape is a great way to easily install and dismantle my installations, and just so happens to be a great accent to my process.
Just out of curiosity, did you attend art school?

Yes, gratefully I did- I have a BFA in interior design including two years of pottery specializing in porcelain, one semester of photography, and courses on printing, book-making arts, children’s book illustrations and sculptures. I’m now preparing for graduate school in sculptures and visual design.
Traditionalists might look at your prints and small paper goods and argue that they are not (high) art. What’s your reaction to this viewpoint? Is it at all relevant?

Traditionalists are just that, traditional. I respect critics and their observations, but as of now I will stay focused on my work of simple materials. Perhaps one day critics will recognize a story of simple beauty during a struggling economy.

What do you think the art market will be like in five years?

Maybe more instant, Tweeted pop-up traveling art installations that last only a few hours…or maybe gardening.

Talking with Mixed-Media Artist Dolan Geiman

August 5th, 2010 · No Comments

Dolan Geiman is pretty hard to pin down… but in a good way. The Virginia-born, Chicago-based artist creates a staggering array of art that combines found materials, drawing, painting, collage and screenprinting. As a result much of his work is 3-D even if it’s meant to hang on the wall. I asked Geiman about his Southern roots and his perspective on the art world…

Could you explain your motto “contemporary art with a southern accent?”

Yes indeed!  I was born in the hills of Ol’ Virginny or the Old Dominion as it’s known. Virginia has always been my first love and when I moved to Chicago, I was afraid of losing my southern accent.  But it looks like I can still say y’all with the best of ‘em! Aside from the literal ‘accent’, my work is tinged with a southern, folk-inspired vernacular with a contemporary edge that makes it appealing to both Yankees and Rebels alike.

How do you balance design work and your personal art?

I’m a Libra, so balance comes naturally to me.

What’s your dream project (commissioned or personal)?

I’m very fortunate to be working on my dream project as we speak with the watch and accessories giant, FOSSIL. I’ve always wanted to collaborate with a larger entity, be it corporate or otherwise, to be able to share my creativity with a larger audience. It’s finally come true. For more information, check out updates on my blog and Fossil. My window displays for Fossil’s Dallas NorthPark Center and Fifth Avenue stores will be on display for the next two weeks.

What do you mean when you say that your goal is to “expand the notion of ‘fine art'”?

Many people have told me that they think of fine art as something that is stuffy and comes in a golden frame from a gallery, but to me, fine art is more about the personality of the creator and the dedication to his or her art that elevates it beyond the scope of ordinary into the realm of ‘fine.’

How do you see the art world changing?

There are more artists in the world now than ever before and with the rise of things like Etsy, I think more artists can share their work.  This has a great impact on the world of art because you really have to have your act together to make it these days. There is more competition and people are more capricious about what they like.  So it’s very challenging.


Artist Interview: Cathy McMurray

July 14th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Cathy McMurray is an artist, photographer, art lover and blogger (Habit of Art) from Portland, Oregon. At one point she had a fabulous art and design shop called Olio and also worked in arts education for a number of years. You may remember her from the Brooklyn Meets Portland series in which Cathy and I interviewed well-known artists from our respective cities.

Cathy and I became blog buddies through a shared love of Portland artist, Jill Bliss. Over the last year since the inception of both Art Hound and Habit of Art, Cathy and I have stayed in touch and encouraged each other’s endeavors.

What’s been really fascinating for me has been watching Cathy pick her art back up in a serious way. There are many consistent themes in Cathy’s work such as the natural elements and her graphic but organic visual language, but her work has progressed as she has honed her voice and found ways to incorporate her art with her crafting interests… So I asked Cathy to share some thoughts on her journey so far.

.Tell us about your journey getting back into art?

I have always wanted to work full-time on my art, and when my store closed last fall, I thought it was the right time to go for it. The past year has definitely been a journey of self-discovery.  At first, I felt very “rusty,” and I knew that it would take some time to grow into my style.  There were many days that I would sit at my desk with artist’s block.  Drawing in my sketchbook always helps. Sometimes I take a break altogether and work on other projects, whether it’s photography, sewing, or working on my blog.

Eureka, available on etsy

You’ve recently started translating some of your drawings and paintings into embroidery. Why embroidery?

In the last fifteen years, I’ve actually spent more time learning traditional crafts like hand quilting and crocheting than drawing and painting.  I enjoy working in different mediums and have only recently begun to combine various disciplines in my work.  I first started using embroidery after I figured out how to print my drawings on fabric.  I like how it adds another layer of interest to the designs.

How has your art progressed in the year since you took it back up?

The first part of the year was spent experimenting with different materials and creating a lot of new compositions. Lately, I’ve been spending more time building upon ideas.  I’m now ready to start focusing on a series rather than individual pieces. I’m hoping that the embroidered drawings will become my first series. I’m currently in the process of creating new designs.

What has it been like to make art and blog about it?
As an artist who works from home, I can be easily distracted from working on my art. The blog is an accountability tool for me.  When I started the blog, I said that I would post new work every week, and so far, I’ve kept that promise.  And, I love the fact that I can get an immediate response from readers to my work!  I’ve actually changed direction on a piece because of feedback that I’ve received on my blog.

(Fill in the blank) In three years I’d like to be…

…published in an art book.  Honestly, I haven’t put much thought into this; I just think it would be fun to see my work in a book.  One day, I’d like to work on a children’s book, but that’s more than three years out!

I’d also like to have a studio space separate from my home.  I actually love working at home, but I’d like more space to sprawl out, especially when working on large sewing projects. My dream is to build a zero-carbon art studio in our backyard.

Thanks, Cathy! By the way, I’m digging your clear frames!

Interview with up-and-coming designer, Eric Nyffeler of Doe Eyed

April 12th, 2010 · 2 Comments

I interviewed the talented Eric Nyffeler of Doe Eyed, a one-man graphic design shop based out of Lincoln, NE. Eric designs and makes screenprints for cool indie bands like The Decemberists and Andrew Bird. He started designing concert posters 10 years ago for his own band and still dreams of one day making it big as a musician.

Tell us a bit about what you do.

During the daytime hours I work for the marketing department of a large corporation, but in the dead of nite, under cover of darkness, I sneak into my studio to do some of my own work. This is Doe Eyed time. Doe Eyed is currently a one man team, so all the thinking, concepting, drawing, painting, pencil sharpening, scanning, collage-ing, inking, emailing, business-ing, network-ing, shipping, and billing are up to me. I mainly work with bands but am open to working with any similar, like minded businesses or people. I like making simple little things that people actually want to touch and hold and own; posters, albums, shirts, books, snowboards, potted plants, and/or plastic trinkets in the shape of famous landmarks.

Who are some of your clients?

In the last year or so, I’ve been luck enough to work with The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, Yeasayer, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Magnolia Electric Co, East of the Wall, 1988 Gallery, 1% Productions, Gold Robot Records, and Arts & Crafts Records. I’ve been extremely fortunate that literally EVERYONE I’ve worked with so far has been fantastic and fun to work with. I’ve been dreading the day when some goofball rap-metal band approaches me about some work, but so far it’s been nothing but amazing talent.


What’s special about screen-printing?

It’s simply fun to work with! I love the mess, the process, and the mistakes. I love watching prints come together, color by color by color. The restraints of the medium force you to think in new ways, pushing you to be more creative. When you get done printing a poster and hold the final piece, so much more of yourself went into the creation than if you had simply printed it offset or digitally. The colors POP more than any offset, commercial printing ever could.

There seems to be a resurgence of serious screen printing artists like yourself. why do you think that is?

I’m pretty new to the scene myself, so I don’t know if I have the best answer. I think it’s mostly a combination of poster artists influencing each other and continuing to step up their game and innovate the medium as well as more and more bands seeing the financial benefits of commissioning posters for their show. Personally, I got drawn into the gigposter community by designing posters for my own bands. I was shocked by how amazing and colorful and conceptual gigposters could be. I found myself booking more and more shows for my bands, JUST so I could do more posters.

….. Artist: Doublenaut

What are some resources for readers looking to purchase posters and screen prints (besides your website of course)?

Gigposters is doubtlessly the Heaven/Mecca/Valhalla/McDonald’s for posters and screen prints. The sheer amazing amount of artists on that site is staggering and intimidating. I can’t overstate its importance to the poster community. OMGposters is also one of the best/only(?) blogs devoted to news and happening in the world of art posters. Their webmaster, Mitch Putnam, knows almost all there is to know about posters and curates some of the best gigposter series today. Insound also has an amazing collection of posters by almost every poster artist active today. I’d also like to throw out some big ups to some of my friends whose amazing work inspires me everyday. There’s no time to be lazy when you have friends like these. Be sure to check out Doublenaut, The Silent Giants, and Young Monster Nick.

Media Mash-up: Manfred Naescher’s Film-inspired Watercolors

February 24th, 2010 · 3 Comments

I’m thrilled to present the work and interview of Berlin designer, Manfred Naescher. Manfred is originally from Liechtenstein and attended art school at Emily Carr and RISD before settling in Berlin. He has a host of amazing personal projects, including the zines below: The Endless Summer, Fighting and Conte de Printemps, inspired by the eponymous films. What I admire most about Manfred’s work is that his watercolors are peppered with modern themes such as ambiguity, ugliness, rage and joy, all while depicted in such a traditional medium. Naescher’s zines are available here. Contact the artist for inquiries about originals.

How did you get into art? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist/illustrator?

I started art school at the ripe age of 29. Before that I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life because I had a serious interest in many things, like music, writing, linguistics, literature, comics… So I took a lot of time to acquire an odd variety of skills and knowlegde, without mastering anything really, except how not to enter a traditional career path. I was a radio and TV show host in Liechtenstein, worked at a newspaper, played in bands…

I did draw a lot as a child, and I never really stopped drawing, so in that respect I got into art in a somewhat conventional way. I made multi-page comics and wrote stories as a preteen in the 80s that I stapled together (zines, really, but I didn’t know that then). I made posters, flyers and other kinds of design for punk bands as a teenager and in my twenties. I later was a university newspaper cartoonist, and, to make a long story short, that job lead me to the Emily Carr Institue of Art and Design (now Emily Carr University), from which I graduated as a designer. I also did an exchange semester at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Your zines are inspired by movie stills. Why movies? Are you a film buff?

I’m interested in film as a visual language and as a vehicle for storytelling, and some filmmakers have simply created evocative imagery that I’m drawn to, or situations or moments that speak to me. If I’d be forced to decide on a favorite art form, it would probably have to be film. My film knowledge is pretty fragmented, so I’m certainly not a well-rounded film buff, if I’m one at all.

I do have some favorite directors, periods and genres, but preferences are always shifting, and I don’t want to fetishize films, I just want to be engaged and inspired by them. Having said that, current favorites would be early French New Wave films (especially Truffaut), Film Noir, Hitchcock, Lang, Jacques Tourneur, Vittorio de Seta (not to be confused with Vittorio de Sica, who’s also great!), Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Eric Rohmer, just kind of the regular cinephile canon, mostly films from around 1920 to around 1960. As for new films, I totally enjoy big popcorn movies like “2012” on their own terms, or films by Gus van Sant or the Coen Brothers, and I thought “My Winnipeg” by Guy Maddin was one of the best films of the past few years. I’ve recently discovered the work of Owen Land, and particularly his film “Dialogues” (2007-9) made an impression on me. I also like the social aspect of watching movies together. I’ve run film clubs in the past, and right now I run a private bi-weekly film club that only shows french noirs, mostly from the 50s. (more…)