21 Artists to Watch in 2021: Part 2 of 2021’s Movers and Shakers

ANTE mag is proud to shine a spotlight on the dedicated artists who are exerting an impact in the art world in 2021. From ongoing or upcoming solo exhibitions, to gaining recognition through artist talks, recognitions, awards and international residencies, these are some of the top artists we have an eye on as we move into the new year.

Below we center on the second group of artists forming our 21 artists selected for 2021. Each artist has images included with their respective coverage below, but click through to their websites linked through their name in the header to view more of their practice and familiarize yourself with your favorites!

Lead image: Medusa Green Screen, Oil and Watercolor on Canvas, 24″ x 30″, image courtesy artist Rina Goldfield.

Ayana Evans

Lives and works in New York City

Image courtesy the artist

ANTE mag. You’ve been busy participating in digital performance series (such as INVERSE) in 2020 and co-edited a book that launched last month. How do you feel your artistic practice has shifted in light of less in-person performance and more digital and editorial work happening during the pandemic?

AE. Well, I had to admit Institution is a Verb which I co edited with Elizabeth Lamb, Tsedaye Makonnen, and  Esther Neff (who was the main organizer of the project and founder of PPL – the performance space that the project largely archives), was in planning long before the pandemic hit. I was also included in We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World edited by Jasmin Hernandez, which is available Feb 2nd, but that also was planned a couple years before it came out… so to some people this looks like a pandemic shift in my practice, but in truth those projects just happen to be coming out now, at a time that is perfect for staying home and reading! Pre-pandemic I had been thinking a lot about how archiving (not just photos but written archives) can help elevate performance art, that’s why book ideas and catalogue contributions were on my to-do list.

As for how my performances shifted… maybe thats a more complex answer. I performed a lot on Instagram and Zoom throughout 2020. Early on (March/April) I decided that worrying about having an audience was not going to help me artistically. I decided that it was best to focus on what you CAN DO online in performances that you cannot do in a live performance. For example, I can’t spit into the faces of audience members or expect them to get extremely close to my eyeballs* (*right now) but that can happen on camera. I also showed every area of my tiny apartment online, usually destroying it in some way because I have a lot of pent-up anger. Vulnerability became more important as did looking into the camera. Normally when I perform I don’t look at the camera at all. It happens to be there to document the event, but I feel the important part is the feeling that is given to the audience in person… suddenly in quarantine it became about the feeling given to the audience through the camera. Not to say I felt like I was acting, but more like I used to camera to get my point I was also sick a lot and then went to a lot of protests. I think that coupled with living alone and not having a romantic partner… made my performances shift as I moved deeper into quarantine. Things definitely grew more abstract and darker in theme as the year went on. (I should say though I did go to Chicago for two and a half months to quarantine with my parents and nephew, and the performances were a lot happier then!) 

Overall I prefer IG because it is easier for everyone to access and I can control the camera view with greater ease. The one beautiful thing about the pandemic is that i feel access to art has opened up greatly. We are all now buying work, viewing artist talks, shows and performances online and they are all being advertised on social media. NOW watching something online is not the same, but there are a lot of things I get to see online now that I never would have seen before. And there are many artist talks happening now that never would have occurred before. We were so stuck on the interviewer and the artist needing to be in the same room! -plus people are a pinch more open when they are talking to you from home. I also think because we all went through a collective trauma that is hard to explain in words, many people who once thought my way of expressing myself in abstract actions as “weird” or “not for them” now look at the work and say “YES! Drink your bathwater on camera with a half pulled down ball gown on… I feel like that too. Do you.”

Top to bottom: I Just Came Here to Find a Husband (Wholefoods), 2016, 2 year series. Photo by Curtis Bryant
Closing Performance Medium Tings Gallery (Part 1), 2018, Documentation from Part 1 of the closing performance of “If Keisha Jumped Off A Bridge, Would You Do It Too?” at Medium Tings, Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Jennifer Coard
Facial Performance, 2019, closing performance for show at Cuchifritos Gallery, NYC. Photo by Bob Krasner 
all images courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. What are some recent, ongoing and/or upcoming collaborations that you want to share with us as we enter 2021?

AE. Aside from the books, I think I am most excited about a collaboration that I just did with University of Michigan. Students in Professor Rebekah Modrak’s Dressing UP and Down Class made these beautiful costumes that I designed and then students from the theater and music department performed a score that I created and wore the costumes from Modrak’s class. They even had beautiful customized masks! The performance was a celebration of Black femmes and the fight, resilience and love of Black people. It took place on one of the Michigan football fields and even some of the cheerleaders joined in to participate. And just as with my own practice there is a large part of it that was improvised in the moment by the performers even though a loose plan was laid out in advance. It’s entitled “You Better Be Good To Me.” The video hsa premiered as part of the Penny Stamps series they have annually on campus, but is now online. I’m super excited about this. It marks a new way of making work for me and feels more expansive than just working alone. online info:   https://www.instagram.com/p/CKPYxgYFkVy/

ANTE mag. Your practice has had some incredible coverage in 2020, not limited to the fantastic NYT article featuring you that was published in June 2020 in which you spoke about social and political matters. Can you expand on how your often physically punishing work embodies both a personal and universal component? Feel free to point to a specific example/performance.

AE. For me work that includes deep labor like running to my friend Lisette Morel repeatedly for 3 hours in the summer heat is as much about acting out friendship as it is about the struggle of being a woman of color, or the fact that both of us come from families that worked jobs that involved intense labor while we never had to – hence the running with parasols and matching dresses and yet doing it for hours in the heat is exhausting. Just like trying to make it in the art world… Morel is a painter whoI have known for over 18 years. If you know that about us the work’s meaning deepens. But no matter what, the personal and the political are always present. I like the work to have multiple meanings in this way. For others the act of carrying passersby or audience members at a museum gallery for hours while wearing heels “I Carry You And You Carry Me” (2016, 2017) is a political act that shifts depending on who I carry (a white male, a Black woman… a child, etc.) At the same time, I was thinking about intimacy, friendship and breaking hierarchies when I made this piece. Sometime you carry your friends and sometimes they carry you…and sometimes they drop you, lol. And once you have your legs wrapped around an artist, the typical artist-to-audience-member/collector relationship is broken. We are two people talking in each other’s ear and they are trusting I won’t drop them. No one is better than someone else or acting out “usual” roles in that scenario.  For me there is a beauty in that. I hope people take that with them and exercise it in small ways after leaving my shows. It is not social activism in the sense of telling you what to do, but rather showing you what it feels like to do it differently (meaning more freely and fairly) and what it feels like to NOT do it differently (meaning harshly tied to society rules and capitalistic ideals) – Hence the harsh acts of labor.

Lately, I have started to focus more on participatory exchanges than harsh labor so acts like demanding a group of conference participants at the College Arts Association conference to impromptu “Catch this Black body!” are starting to make having my audiences perform the labor with me just as important as my solo actions. I think they both yield similar results.

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

AE. rest…. hahah just KIDDING! Rest? Who is She?

Seriously though, I am looking forward to being more balanced in my work life and private life in 2021… People that know I spent two years with a sign on my back that said “I Just Came Here To Find A Husband” will be happy to know I have found a loving relationship, so I plan to take time to nurture that while I make work in 2021. As for the work of making art, I plan to make works that experiment with collaborative groups of people and short films. I think making and showing this work outside of institutions literally projecting it onto buildings is what’s next for me. Making my work bigger in the world is my goal.

MaryKate Maher

Lives and works in New York City

portrait of the artist

ANTE mag. I’m more familiar with your sculptural work but I’ve noticed that during 2020 you embarked on a series of two dimensional works on paper. Can you talk to us about this shift?


MKM.
During the initial Covid shutdown and chaos of those early days here in NYC, I, like many people, didn’t really leave my apartment for a long time. And I wasn’t sure how safe it was to go to my studio, let alone finding the mental capacity and physical energy to make work. Those early days were weird and I needed to figure out how I could incorporate my studio practice into this chaotic world of home schooling children and my spouse and I both working from home all at the same time. I gave myself a daily project just to jump start my brain and break out of the worry cycle. I printed out a stack of collagable papers, based on ‘images’ I was already using with my work, of gradients and orbs. I would use the cut paper and rearrange it to create a new work each day. My only rules were to use the same papers over again, and if it got too stressful to put it away and start fresh the next day. There was no commitment. It began as a sketching exercise and then I really got into the work I was creating. They were very abstract and began to focus on color and space in a way that I hadn’t necessarily dealt with in my work before, but it was an interesting tangent. Usually my work is muted in color, lots of greys and blacks with an occasional pop of something acidic, but now I found myself using these really vibrant fuschias, oranges and blues. These collages grew out of a need to let go of what I was focusing on in the studio prior to the shutdown and just work from pure, primal feelings. Maybe the work would have ended up here eventually, but something about the immediacy and unsettling energy of the pandemic pushed it there. 

As the project evolved, I began keeping the collages as finished works, gluing them down instead of reworking them the next day. There are a few that are digital prints of small editions from the earliest days, but now most of the works are uniques. I’ve begun making small sculptures that relate to the ideas of space within the collages. It’s going to take me longer though to figure out the sculptural works. 

“Portable Landscapes” Installation at West 10th St Window, image courtesy the artist


ANTE mag. Early last year you had your work on view in the West 10th Window, which read as an installation. Can you talk about your sculptures and your process in terms of responding to a solo show or a space where you have freedom to create an installation (versus being included in a group exhibit)?


MKM. It was a nice challenge to make work for the West 10th Window. I wanted to use the space in its entirety and it reads as a diorama or a small stage in that format. By thinking about it as an installation, I could experiment with flatness and spatial perception within the window. Recent works had been addressing sculpture and the correlation between flatness and depth within landscape and playing with how our eye perceives that, so I wanted to continue with that tangent. I like finding ways to make sculptures that have width but no depth, the surfaces flatten or grow as you walk around it. The Window was a place where I could experiment with this and create those layers of subtleties. And material-wise, I wanted to go between surfaces and forms that were abstracted yet familiar with materials that were referential to raw sculpting materials like plaster and clay. But then they get all mixed together, so a “rock” is just a blob of clay, and a curved piece of aluminum with wallpaper can read like a mesa or mountain-like form. It’s always exciting when you’re invited to create whatever you’d like. It’s followed briefly by a moment of panic of what that project should be, but then production mode takes over. 

I was also there installing for a few days and I got to meet a few of the residents and the super of the building as I occupied their laundry room with all of my tools and wallpapers for the week. I would pop in and out of this hole in the wall. It was one of the more fun, non traditional spaces I’ve had the chance to show with. 

ANTE. In my conversations with artists lately I’ve noticed a spirit of innovation, either in response to lens studio time due to more demanding schedules at home or even a lack of studio space. How have you seen your practice innovate in response to quarantine?


MKM. I think we’re all still in survival mode and as artists that’s making work with whatever you have around in whatever place you can. It makes me think back to being in highschool, when you had to work in your bedroom and you’re sleeping in your bed with sketch pads all around. Only now I have an even smaller apartment with an entire family. I split my time between working in my bedroom and working in the studio ( I count my blessings I still have a studio available). Since I can’t get to the studio as much as before, my bedroom floor or the kitchen table is my new workspace. I also think that if the quarantine hadn’t happened I might not have produced the work that came out of it. From those super dark days came this really colorful work that is an exciting departure. Artists persist no matter what, we’re wired for that. It’s not always easy but it seems like everyone is finding a new way to create or present in these weird times. I like hearing stories from friends who are making work in their bathtubs or creating these awesome video projects that never would have happened without quarantine and isolation.

Image courtesy the artist

ANTE. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?


MKM. I currently have an exhibition, “Echo Echo,” on view (opened Jan 16th) at Gold/Scopophilia Gallery in Montclair, NJ of work I created throughout Covid times, and another two person show with Douglass Degges at the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, PrattMWP Gallery in Utica, NY opening Feb 5th. Additionally, I’m really looking forward to purging a lot of old things that I’ve been holding onto and realize I don’t need anymore. I want to keep working on these new tangents and spend a bit of time revisiting the work I had to abandon when quarantine hit. I think going back into those pieces with fresh eyes and new directions will uncover some good things. 

I’m honestly just hoping for more time there, and feeling comfortable having people over again. 

Rina Goldfield

Lives and works in Northampton, MA

portrait of the artist

ANTE. Tell us more about your practice as an artist and the mediums/disciplines you work within (ie – painting, collage/works on paper, etc.)


RG. I make two-dimensional works. I mostly use oil paint and watercolor on canvas. I also make works using ink, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper. My work is figurative, but of imaginative subjects. I am interested in themes of mythology, loneliness, origin stories, and embodied experience. A lot of my pieces reference collage, but they are not collages. My surfaces are (almost) always a single surface that I’ve worked in a variety of ways. In addition to surface, I am interested in color.


ANTE. In your paintings you evince a methodical and meticulous approach to your process, carefully creating the Milky Way in your “Mother Earth makes the Milky Way” work, for example. How did you develop this particular attention to detail in your work?

RG. It feels important to me to find joy in my practice. I love getting lost in minutiae; my pleasure in that process is why detail shows up so much in my work. I think I’ve always worked this way. Even much earlier, more abstract fabric work included lots of tiny stitches, or painted pinpricks.I get into primordial imagery — snakes, water, stars — and I love the idea of capturing cosmic forces with tiny marks. The contrast in scale feels resonant.

Mudflap Mother Earth Makes the Milky Way, Oil and Watercolor on Canvas, 48″ x 36″ 
Image courtesy the artist.


ANTE. You sometimes adopt pop imagery in your work and references to everyday life, while contrasting these elements against nature (Worm with its Lover, Pizza, comes to mind.) How do you mine imagery in your practice to bring together disparate elements in your work?


RG. A lot of my ideas come through language first: phrases like “Worm Climbs Mountain” and “Giving Birth To Yourself Over And Over Again Through Your Head” are starting places. Imagesthen arrive through intuition or osmosis, floating against the frameworks of the phrases. Like everyone, I soak up the visual culture that surrounds me: the digital languages of memes and photocollage; religious imagery; ads; “fine art” painting. All of these sources percolate, and I try not to be too fussy about what imagery I use.Some of the juxtapositions are rooted in online visual culture, especially stock photos. Pizza is apop image, but so is the Apple screensaver galaxy. With “Worm with its Lover, Pizza,” I wanted to make a really lonely painting of a worm with its lover, comfort food, floating in a screen-inspired “galaxy.” I hope the galaxy here is a kind of simulation of a romantic destination.

Worm Contemplates a Mountain, Oil on canvas, 30” x 24”
Image courtesy the artist

ANTE. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?


RG. So much!

I’m working on several Goddess paintings. In particular, I am working on two new Medusa paintings, one of her transformation into her snake-haired form, and another of her going on vacation with her boyfriend, a stone head. I am also working on a painting based on a phrase I love from the Odyssey: the “rosy-fingered Dawn.”I’m additionally working on a series of works on paper called “Giving Birth To Yourself Over and Over Again Through Your Head.” This phrase was inspired by myths of head-births, including Athena springing from Zeus’s head and Medusa birthing Pegasus from her severed head. The works have departed significantly from this source material, though. The imagery includes fibonacci spirals, chromosomes, DNA helices, nigella seed pods, and pacman. The process of making them has a lot of components, and includes paper marbling, gouache, and watercolor. They are fun to make! I feel like this could be an infinite series for me, which aligns with the works’ themes of repetition, recursion, and infinite looping.Finally, since the pandemic began, I’ve returned to drawing as a fast, expressive practice. I’ve made hundreds of sumi ink and watercolor drawings. Most of them are really bad. But I hope to gather a selection of them into an artist book.

Dionis Ortiz

Lives and works in New York City

portrait of the artist with his work

ANTE. Your commitment to your practice is evident in your participation with Materials for the Arts (2018) The Laundromat Project’s Crate Change program fellowship (2017) and your most recent 2020 artist-in-residence position with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. It is evident your work speaks to a wide audience, can you speak about your vision for your practice and the audiences you attract with your work?

DO. I think my practice attracts a diverse audience because it speaks to the soul, it sparks thoughts of humble beginnings, especially for people of color who immigrated to the United States. I was able to experience this while in residence at Children’s Museum of Manhattan. I was able to have had conversations with children and parents from places like India, Africa, China, Russia, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Everyone had a different appreciation for my art making process like mixing acrylic paints, cutting shapes out of paper or vinyl tiles, or adding cyanotype solutions to a vinyl tile. It’s all about stimulating the mind through combinations and experimentations. 

At Materials for the Arts, I addressed the loss of my father and created a memorial through the use of their objects inside their warehouse, I made cyanotype prints using their jewelry and crocheted doilies on bedsheets, sculptures out of books and furniture legs. I juxtaposed imitation flowers bursting out of speakers, vinyl tile collages. During the Create Change program with the Laundromat Project I had children and their parents painting lightbulbs as a form of recognizing the light within themselves. It was a response to gentrification and the number of families that have had to move out due to the increase in rents. By painting a pattern and/or writing their name and the years they have been living in Harlem, marks their resilience in being able to continue to live in Harlem despite the significant increase in the cost of living, thus the “Give Me The Light” Project was born. 

The found object is sometimes the realism and I study objects to find a way into the practice, it’s similar to jumping rope. You have to pay attention to your timing of when the rope is about to touch your feet to know when you need to jump.

Reach up, 12 x 12” acrylic, silkscreen, collagraph and collage on paper. Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. You hold a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from Hunter College (CUNY). Can you speak to the professors and mentors who have influenced your practice as it developed along the way over the past 15-20 years to where you are today? 

DO. I was fortunate to have some incredible art professors throughout my time in Purchase College. I will always remember artists like Leonard Stokes, Murray Zimiles and Judith Bernstein. They encouraged me to reinvent my process of making art and push the process further, add more steps and examine the effect it has on the piece, then for the next piece take less steps out, and then look at the two and notice the differences, what does it say to you?  Or l would focus on how I am using perspective or be mindful of who I chose to include into my paintings. Instead of famous icons I would pay attention to West African rituals that I could juxtapose into my paintings. 

At Hunter, I worked with artists like Nari Ward, Juan Sanchez and Paul Ramirez. They pushed me to further develop my vision of the objects I choose to work with, to use the materials and make many things out of it to reveal the possibilities. Sometimes less is more or it needs density to get a message across to the viewer. Not everything has to count to make it a successful piece and yet sometimes it does. I develop the rules behind what and how materials can be activated. I felt as if I was working from the inside out. To be open to suggestions, yet use what you feel will help you along the way of realizing an artwork. 

ANTE mag. Can you speak about viability and representation in your work, and the vision you bring to your practice as per your artist statement noting that your work, “illustrates..the Dominican American experience, masculinity, vulnerability, the supernatural, family and spirituality”?

DO. I think the Dominican American experience recognizes the challenges of adapting who you are within the confines of the United States. You have to recognize who you are, your worth and stand by it unapologetically. I think my practice talks about deep abstract feelings that are challenging to put into words and more effectively addressed through the combinations and the treatment of the materials. I am interested in the ownership of what I make. There is freedom behind creating your own rendition of things versus honoring someone else’s. For me, there’s a limitation to working with the readymade, like the vinyl tiles. I can only produce patterns with what is there. It addresses one side of the effects of aspirations behind materialistic artificial objects that evoke monetary wealth. At times, I think about my mother’s style of working as a beautician, she wanted hair to have flare, she wanted the customer to be excited about how they looks, so she was very patient and cognizant of hair and the materials she needs to achieve a specific look and get inventive when things don’t go her way. I think there is a lot of value in recognizing your parents skills and recognizing how some of those characteristics become a part of you. The best part is that I am elevating those traits and passing it off to my son. I think that the evolutionary aspect of inheriting your parents’ skills is always interesting to see in how it manifests itself in the quality of the work. I do want my work to be aesthetically pleasing, however, I want to trigger a memory, make a connection of sorts that is relevant to you. I want to make your cells tingle with a good vibration.

This is going to last, 14 x 14”, Acrylic, collagraph, silkscreen and collage on paper. Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

DO. I am looking forward to using objects that have been affected by another person, for instance, cigarette butts, shattered glass from car windows. I am interested in finding a shining light in these objects that have a harmful effect, yet is used to keep calm or been broken to infringe on someone else’s property. 

Editor’s Note – Ortiz most recently exhibited in a solo show with Empty Set gallery in the Bronx, through Jan 7, 2021. The show, titled Heaven and Earth, is visible on the gallery’s instagram – @Empty.set.gallery

Liv Rahel Schwenk

Lives and works in New York City

Liv Rahel Schwenk

ANTE mag. Can you introduce our audience to your practice? And can you speak to whether/how your work invites and encourages collaboration?

LRS. My practice is built around the idea of doing rather than making. An activity is interesting to me, aside from its result or product. It’s not that the result is not relevant to me, but the question I ask myself is not “what do I have to do in order to get xy result?”, but rather “i wonder what the result will be if i carry out xy activity”.I began noticing or understanding this about my work when I was experimenting with sculpture in art school and started videotaping the process of building something until it became much more about the process than the sculpture itself. I started staging performances in which I gave myself the task of climbing through one of the huge rooms at the Art Academy Düsseldorf on a specific axis, for example the diagonal, or along the ceiling. It wasn’t about the acrobatic act, but about the attempt at something that the space wasn’t designed for, an autonomous relationship of the body to (architectural) space, that could also fail, and sometimes did. This was around 10 years ago, but I remain excited by the choreography or the pattern of a process or procedure. A sequence of actions or movements or markings that is the result of a certain plan or idea. This is true for both my algorithmic drawings which use a grid as a structured space for patterns to unfold, and for my performance based work which extends into video as well as into dance and choreography. 

The question about collaboration is an interesting one. Although much of my work is designed to be solitary, it is also made for collaboration. When I work on my grid-based drawings or series of drawings I experience time in a heightened way. My attention is directed at observing the visual information that is happening in the grid. This is a solitary process. I become a kind of observer of my own activity, and there is an inner monologue which comments on the sequence of “events” as if I was watching a play. Sometimes I write these comments down and sometimes they find their way into performances or artist books. 

This aspect of not being in control of aesthetic choices while in process, of letting chance, random numbers, or outside determinants shape the process is why collaboration is particularly interesting to me. It carries the appeal of the unknown. This is especially true for my choreographic work. Choreography allows me to let go of the linear path that I pursue in my drawings and thus invites collaboration. I love working with dance makers; my world expands by learning someone else’s movements or approaches to movement and space. I also think that the times we are in inspire connection and collaboration on many levels. 

bent wave field (sleep), Liv Rahel Schwenk. Acrylic on blanket, 53” x 75”, 2020

ANTE mag. Your practice seems to embrace a wide realm of influences, from theoretical physics to themes of repetition and spatial dynamics. Can you speak to some of the more potent influences on your work and how they inform what you consider when you make work?

LRS. Learning is a strong impetus for my work. I like to dive into a certain area of knowledge for a while. There was a phase in which I was very interested in meteorology. Besides learning about the evolution of the earth’s atmosphere, what fascinated me was the way that meteorologists use data to draw conclusions about the future and how, even if they understood every kind of reaction on a micro and macro level, the sheer number of factors is too large and the scale on which reactions take place too small to really lift the mystery of the weather. 

The idea of scale was the main formal principle of my first artist book in which an algorithmic system was repeated page after page but the scale of the grid went from one square being bigger than one page to one page containing a 224 by 224 square grid. When turning the pages of the book the first page and the last page resemble each other, similarly to how an image through a microscope can resemble the sight of star dust through a telescope. 

One paper that has influenced my work in different ways by stage artist and evolutionary theorist Rod Swenson is called “Autocatakinetics, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production: A Principled Foundation toward the Study of Human Ecology”. The ideas developed in this paper have influenced the way I think about my work. His paper speaks about order and chaos in thermodynamics and at the same time he applies these principles to other areas like, for example, tornados or cities. He describes them as self-organizing systems. His thoughts inspired me to think about choreography in new ways: a choreographic system which is both rules-driven but unpredictable and allows for both chaos and synchronicity, and also for individual moments. A tapestry of movement, sound, visual elements, and perhaps language in which no one inside or outside of the performance has the full picture, the score being divided between the participants who are operating on cues. 

I also draw influences from books about history. I find it extremely interesting and helpful to learn about the past and to be able to see the connections from my point in time. Understanding some aspects of the past empowers us to recognize patterns in the situation we find ourselves in and perhaps understand the roles we occupy. I often draw parallels between things I learn about, and my own work. For example I could compare a dancer’s coincidental position in a choreography to the position any one of us could be occupying in the course of events in a family, a community, a city. This is likewise true for the patterns in my drawings. But I don’t use these comparisons or metaphors as material or scripts. I just see it happen like in a complex mirror and hope that others are inspired or challenged to see something too. 

Usually when I read, there is something behind the details that communicates to me a broader idea. And I relate this idea to my work, sometimes to work that already exists. Learning, reading, and working, and also experiencing life as a complex web of relations, of causes and effects, of intersecting timelines – all these things are to me different facets of an interrelated experience.

ANTE mag. I’ve been particularly interested lately in the drawings you feature on your Instagram page that feature repetitive drawings in geometric, linear fashion. These seem easy to access in a moment in which many of us are sequestered at home and repeating our daily lives with little variation due to the pandemic. Can you talk about the genesis of this series and how it is evolving?

LRS. I have been making these kind of generative drawings for about eight years and when I first started using a grid and filling it with simple color sequences it felt like I had discovered a huge playground. It promised so many possibilities. In these drawings I impose a specific rule, using an invented alphabet of lines or shapes, and without knowing what the end result will look like, I fill the page or canvas (or sometimes a wall or a roof) in, like you say, a linear fashion. In some ways I am like a computer, working through the commands of a program or instruction set. Of course, I am a very bad computer and I make mistakes. The mistakes somehow become part of the work even though I have an urge to conceal them. This causes a friction that I find interesting. I like the idea that these drawings are relatable during these times of the pandemic. The repetitiveness of making them resonates with a life of less transit and more seclusion. While the parameters often change, I usually come back to the same rule or algorithm. It is all about repetition and slow growth. I think that that is how the series is evolving, too. I come back to the beginning, and then I go a little further. At the moment I am experimenting with integrating random numbers into the sequence in order to make the pattern less predictable and more opaque. 

ornament 3 – a piece for 16 dancers Liv Rahel Schwenk. Performance, 2016.

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

LRS. First of all I am looking forward to 2021 in my studio! For all the things that 2020 has been, it has gifted me with the kind of time and focus in my studio which I hadn’t had in a long time. I’m curious to continue experimenting with virtual performances and the layering of screens and places. I’m grateful to ANTE mag and Radiator Arts for creating a platform for virtual performance this past December! There are several projects I’m excited to work on, a residency at MH Project on the Lower East Side and a show at Simultanhalle in Cologne where I want to show a choreographic work. In general, I feel that this will be a year of connecting different parts of my work and bringing people together whose work I admire. 

Rebecca Senn

Lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island

Rebecca Senn

ANTE. – Can you tell ANTE readers more about your practice and the disciplines you work within as an artist?

RS. I am a multidisciplinary artist working in video, photography, painting/printmaking, ceramics, and poetry. Lately I have been mainly focusing on video. I recently transformed my painting studio into a film set and that has been my artistic playground. I have been developing a kind of DIY experimental filmmaking process where I basically do everything myself…the design, shooting, lighting, editing. I worked in the film industry before this so I had some experience in that realm and it’s been exciting to apply those skills to my own vision. My current video projects involve improvisation and character work exploring my alter ego. I get to the studio, put on a costume and some music, get into character, and start shooting. Sometimes I have a clear vision; sometimes I collect footage based on what I am excited about visually and piece it together later. I get really excited about specific props, like my assortment of miniature crystals or my Leonardo di Caprio pillow, and I build work around these objects. Letting myself be playful has been a big part of my process. The external covid world has been so harsh — I really needed a space where I could escape and feel safe and cushioned by warm colors and soft fabrics and my imagination.

ANTE mag. I’ve been impressed with how you’ve developed your artistic practice to acclimate to the restrictions resulting from the 2020 pandemic, including creating evocative animations and digital paintings for your Instagram page. Can you talk to us about some of the themes you worked with in 2020 and how the pandemic and surge of Black Lives Matter protests had an impact on your work?

RS. When the pandemic hit, I was kicked out of my studio at RISD and I turned to digital paintings and animations as an outlet. That was such a difficult moment and I used drawing to process everything I was feeling. I made digital paintings of isolated women sprawled on the couch watching 400 episodes of Love Island, cartoons snuggling, a sad girl making one last toast to Bernie Sanders. Some paintings are comedic and some lean directly into feelings of hopelessness, solitude, loss, transformation. The animations always occur at night with sparkling stars — it has something to do with night being a symbol of the unconscious or the underworld, a space where profound change can occur. I found lots of comfort in sharing these images on social media since I was missing connection in real life. During the surge of BLM protests across the country, I wondered what the artist’s role could be. Direct activism is much more of an urgent necessity than visual art. However, I do feel that it is important to address the situation in my artwork. I thought the burning cop car painting would be good to put out in the world as a visual representation of dismantling the oppressive racist systems that are ingrained in our society.

Still from “Ashley’s World” 
Video, 2020
image courtesy the artist

ANTE mag.Can you shed light specifically on Ashley, your performance art alter-ego and how you’ve envisioned these performances transitioning from 2020 into 2021?

RS. Ashley, my alter ego, is a spiritual woman who is desperately seeking meaning in her life through absurdist measures. This character was born directly out of my own search for meaning and purpose. Over the years, I have turned to alternative healing to get through difficult times. I would find myself chanting mantras I found on blogs, using debilitating nostril breathing exercises to connect with the divine feminine. I both genuinely enjoy these practices and recognize that it’s all getting filtered through a white millennial feminist branding that makes it full of hilarious hypocrisy. Spirituality is hot right now. I am fascinated by how it plays out in capitalist society, technology, on social media, in sexy mysticism-themed tattoos. A major theme of the Ashley project is seeking answers outside oneself and the absurdity of this impossible, never ending task. I grew up Jewish, and I think that being surrounded by religion in my youth influenced my interest in faith and an obsessive questioning of existence. Ashley is surrounded by her spirit guides, her wildest fantasies, her psychological regressions. She has an angel guide who lives in a miniature locker. She is haunted by her love for 90’s Leonardo diCaprio. As I move forward, I’ll be exploring some of Ashley’s shadow side, her weaknesses, and her flaws. This character has been an outlet to work through things that I’m going through, but in an exaggerated way. It’s cathartic.

Still from “Psyche Theater” 
4 Channel Video Installation, 2020, image courtesy the artist

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?

RS. This fall, I spent time constructing a film set in my studio which set the stage for Ashley’s world. Now that the set is constructed, I can dive more deeply into creating within that space. I have lots of work to do before my thesis show at RISD this spring. I am amassing materials in the form of video, paintings, writing, and ceramic objects that all belong in Ashley’s world. I am thinking about how I can use humor as a tool to draw people into deeper questions and ideas. I have a vision of transforming a gallery space into Ashley’s world, with purple walls, accompanying video and sound installations, and physical art objects. Overall, I am very excited to take this project as far as it can go.

Ligia Bouton

Lives and works between Amherst, MA and Santa Fe, NM

Ligia Bouton

ANTE mag. Thanks for chatting with us, Ligia! To start us off, can you explain a bit about your practice and the disciplines you work within? Do you ever combine/overlap different mediums when making artwork?

LB. My work is based in sculpture and interactive engagement.  But, I also use video, photography, textiles, a wide range of drawing methods, and installation techniques to examine found narratives in the hopes of highlighting the contrast between the ritualistic and mundane, the performative and the genuine, and to ask questions about how we, in our bodies, practices, and institutions, locate ourselves in these spaces.  Each of my projects wrestle with issues of functionality as well as narrative, relying on our inherent understanding of household objects, clothing, and tools.  My work fully embraces the overlap between mediums as I allow the story I am trying to tell dictate the overall form each piece will take.

ANTE mag. Would you walk us through what considerations and influences you take into account when making new work?

LB. My research around each narrative initially guides the project’s structure.  For the last ten years, I’ve been interested in sites that go beyond the physical characteristics of a space or architecture.  I attempt to engage with the historical, political, economic, environmental, and social stories embedded in each place.  For example, I have drawn upon narratives from classical literature, American comic books and films, fairytales, and documentation of Victorian séances.  However, I do not consider myself to be a storyteller.  Instead, after first using these found narratives to create shared understanding in my work, I then subvert this initial sense of familiarity, leaving the viewer suspended in an in-between space that highlights the roles and characters we all play in everyday life.  I use sculptural objects in multimedia performances and installations to actively engage and immerse viewers. However, the desire to “try on” different identities does not equate itself in my work with a need to become someone or something else.  Instead, by recreating these roles, I intend to push against the boundaries of the body in the hopes of enacting an understanding of exactly what makes each body separate from everything else.

We All Fall Down (Ligia Bouton) Performance, Lower East Side, NYC, July 30, 2017
fabric, nylon strapping, brass hooks and buckles, fiberfil, synthetic elk eyes
Horse: 60”h x 78”w x 72”h

ANTE mag. How has your practice evolved as a result of 2020’s lockdown during the pandemic?

LB. The pandemic has been challenging.  Initially I did not have access to my studio which is outside my home.  In many ways I feel that my own well-being is tied to my daily practice and I find myself adrift if I can’t work regularly.  In those early days, I created a space for myself in our basement and tried to work on small pieces.  However, it was hard to find meaning in those works in the face of the immense pain and suffering being experienced across the world.  Slowly, my home practice has grown and I am only now beginning to unpack the evolution of the works that I have created during this period.  Although all of these pieces have ultimately resisted any kind of resolution and remain unfinished, they are evidence of an ongoing inquiry that have given me a sense of accomplishment.

Understudy for Animal Farm (Albuquerque/NYC installations), 2012-2014
Ligia Bouton
26 hand-made pig heads, hand-painted wooden cart with mirror and racks, 6 custom sand bags
82”h x 128”w x 96”d

ANTE mag. What are you looking forward to in 2021 in your studio?


LB. In early 2020 I was awarded an Artist Research Fellowship from the Smithsonian to do research at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  I want to spend time looking at the Astronomical Photographic Plate Collection which holds hundreds of thousands of photographic images of our universe from as far back as the 1870s.  In particular, I am interested in exploring the observations of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, one of the first women “computers” who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from 1895 until her death in 1921.  I will use this fellowship to investigate the work and processes of Henrietta Swan Leavitt by tracking variable star clusters on glass plate photographs held in the collection from the 1890s to the 1970s.  I hope this will result in a sculptural multimedia installation that will use the medium of kiln-formed glass as a means of reflecting upon shifting celestial light patterns.  Harvard is currently closed to visitors until May 2021.  I am hoping that by this summer the vaccine will have been widely distributed and I will finally be able to begin working on this project.

Digging Into the Interdisciplinary Practice of Roni Sherman Ramos

“I always think that my work speaks for itself, because I’m really a traditional painter.” -Roni Sherman Ramos

It’s morning, and shafts of light are pouring in through the windows of Ramos’ Brooklyn studio. Paintings on canvas jostle for attention with nearby works on paper, while ceramic works fill the remaning space. I carefully step through the space, afraid to awaken the spirits seemingly captured in Ramos’ elevated works: nighttime scenes – or are they abstractions with flecks of bright light winding through them? – share a wall with vibrant ochre red compositions that seem to leap for joy at being created. Ramos is studious – rarely a season goes by when she’s not pursuing professional development to deepen her understanding of her artistic practice. She is also reflective and thoughtful, ruminating on the painters and other interdisciplinary artists she has taken absorbed wisdom from. We spoke in November 2019 as she was celebrating the results of a recent trip to the kiln, diving into both her paintings – where her traditional roots lie as an artist – along with her work in the expanded field.

“Reflections” Roni Sherman Ramos, 36×36″ oil on linen

Roni Sherman Ramos: Even though my work is abstract, there are always elements viewers can understand…from a representational standpoint. People are always seeking familiar things in artworks – especially if they are abstract (works). I like to give viewers the freedom to find a mountain, or a face… before recently, I wasn’t even titling my work so that it could speak for itself. I’ve come to realize my work is rooted in nature and rooted in the land, and it has elements of land-driven [representation]… so I’m now calling these paintings abstract landscapes. Now, I’m embracing this impulse toward nature: it looks like nature to me, there’s no denying it.

ANTE. Mag: That’s a big leap!

RSR: Right, I’ve always tried to disguise this impulse before. I can deny it, and put lines through it or..

AM: …cover it in markings or…

RSR: …right or cover these in markings, or disguise it. But it remains. My process is a process of destroying, and re-inventing and resurrecting, as Amy Sillman says. I work in layers – sanding, scraping, destroying and then building [the work] up again and finding things from the past that rise to the surface, then making new marks.  What I strive toward is making sure there are a variety of marks: places where the eye can rest, and places where color leads the eye…agitation is present on other areas of the canvas. Tension and relationships are built through marks across the canvas. I include impasto as well in my works.  There’s always contrast – my work includes defined shapes and diffused shapes. Textures are also very important to me.

“Earth Wind Fire” Roni Sherman Ramos, 24×18″ oil on linen

AM: Can you walk us through your process? Some of the recent works from this Fall have almost an action-painting sensibility, showing brushstrokes and emblazoned areas of texture and scratches…

RSR: Marks and mark-making are both important parts of my practice. Texture as I mentioned is very important. I also love the work of Jackie Saccoccio, I’m a fan of her paint-drip heavy style and sometimes incorporate a similar sensibility but not always.

AM: Is there a new direction you’ve embarked on lately in your work? 

RSR: Lately with my oil paints I’ve incorporated using a heat gun into my process, using the heat gun on the freshly painted coat of oil on linen and exposing a bit of the layers below. This adds areas that build that feeling of agitation, I’ve learned to be careful when I use it as it takes a light touch.

AM: Is this the first time you’ve used the heat gun in your process?

RSR: I’ve used it before to dry water-based mediums, but this is the first time I’ve used it in my oils.

AM: Tell us about the works we are seeing here (featured in this article): are these all recent works? Say from the past two years?

RSR: These are all recent works, but honestly my paintings take a long time to make. Often I think I have control over the process, but eventually I realize the process has control over me. This is just what happens organically: you don’t always know what will happen or how you’ll do something that you’ll like

AM: So is this freeing for you or is it nerve wracking?

RSR: I like the serendipity of it, to a certain degree. Sometimes it’s disappointing but that’s ok, I know I can keep on going but it can take months until I see what I like. I always have more than one work in progress at any given time.

-ANTE. Mag

 

Transcending Reality: An Interview with Artist Marion Grant

Artist Marion Grant is a lifelong creative innovator, with a career spanning fine arts, graphic art and textile design. Her work strongly aligns itself with spiritual growth, and her strong use of color and lyrical compositions follow the precedent of other spiritual artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Anselm Kiefer. For Grant, however, spiritual development and transcendence serve as key attributes in her art-making. Her focus as a fine artist distinctly embraces self-empowerment. Combining a decades-long artistic practice keenly melding color field theory and harmoniously blending distinct visual elements, Grant’s work continues to speak on a personal level to her collectors, peers and all who encounter her works.

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Grant, Marion. Blue Dragonfly (2018) 16″x 15″ alternative media on handmade transparent acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.

ANTE. You work in a very multi-disciplinary style, from digital art to fabric to mixed media. What originally encouraged you to develop your talents as an artist across different mediums? How has your practice evolved?
 
MG. I feel like all my life experiences coalesce into how I approach art-making. After studying Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, I got my dream job working for the artist Frances Butler who was a huge idol of mine. Working with her, I was responsible for silk-screening fine art textiles. Butler was truly an influential artist for me.
Eventually I returned to New York to pursue a career in the textile industry which was headquartered there. I attended classes at Parsons to learn some specific skills for the industry, eventually going on to work professionally in the textile industry for the following twenty years.
 
While I worked in the textile industry full time, I continued developing my career as a fine artist. During this time I was creating large scale multi-media paintings which involved silk-screening, chemical patinas, assemblage and painting. I sold artwork to corporations such as Pfizer and Signet Bank.  And I was also silk-screening on fabric, making award-winning, one-of-a-kind tableware.
I see my process evolving, with every stage leading forward to something new. In this way, my process acts like an open continuum. I don’t see myself as the type of artist who works exclusively in one medium: in fact, after working in the textile industry I transitioned to work as a graphic designer using contemporary technologies to create digital designs for marketing materials in the dance world. Through this evolution, I realized I’m the kind of artist who likes to explore and discover new things. I like applying an interdisciplinary approach to art-making, uniting the corporeal, metaphysical and psychological. I tend to experiment with unique elements and alternative processes, particularly if it’s something that hasn’t been done before. Once I innovate, I’m then ready to go on and explore what’s waiting to be uncovered. I just don’t like to repeat things because my impetus is to explore the unknown. My work exists at the boundaries of past tradition and new technology. 
ANTE. Your work draws from a deep, richly nuanced understanding of color combinations and color theory. How do you balance colors in your work? How do you see color as a key factor in how your artwork is experienced? 
MG. When I attended art school, color theory was rooted in a scientific approach. I recall choosing not to enroll in color theory classes because my approach to color is purely intuitive. I studied enough to understand complementary colors and the color wheel, and from there I was able to instinctively grasp color combinations.
After working in the fine arts industry, I transitioned to become a designer in the garment industry. There I developed my skill set and realized I excelled at selecting colors for fabrics. Eventually I transitioned to working in home furnishings as a colorist. I was in charge of painting several different color combinations in gouache paint to define different fabric “looks”, then going to the textile mills to oversee the printing of the selected color combinations. This was a very specific job which required a keen understanding in learning how to balance color. The colors that live with you in your home set a mood and reflect your taste, making color a key element affecting sales in this field. 
Great color combinations speak to people. They want to live with furnishings because the colors they’ve selected make them feel good and reflect their personality. I feel like color is experienced on a visceral level and can evoke certain emotions. I wonder in some sense if color evokes emotions similar to how music does, maybe on a subconscious level? It’s my hope that throughout my career in home furnishings that I helped set a tone of comfort and joy in a home.

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Grant, Marion. Primordial Space (2014) 40″x40″
image courtesy the artist.

Through my spiritual development, I have learned how colors have profound spiritual implications and can greatly effect our vibrations and how others perceive us. Each chakra is represented by a color, and it’s helpful to have some understanding of energies and the colors representing them. For example, blue indigo is affiliated with an increase in peace, tranquility, and devotion. It is symbolic of the inner mind, intuition and the vast cosmic consciousness. It is also the color of the third eye chakra. To increase clarity of thought and intuition, it helps to meditate with indigo. Interestingly enough, I see my artwork innately incorporates some of these color meanings. One example is my fine art print Primordial Space”, which is about meditating in a vast cosmic consciousness – an investigation of both inner and outer space.

Indigo Sky_1200 (1 of 1).jpeg
Grant, Marion. Indigo Sky (2017) 22″x18″
alternative media on handmade translucent acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.

ANTE. Can you walk us through how you approached your acrylic “skins” series found on your website under “Alternative Media”? When did this process enter your artistic practice, and how is it evolving over time?
MG. I began work on the acrylic skin series about six years ago. When I left the textile industry, I returned to Parsons in 1999 to take classes in new computer programs specific to design in order to build a wider skill set. Through these experiences, I began making art on the computer. My style of digital art involved combining portions of my previous artistic processes. This included painting, silk-screening and various chemical processes and patinas. After working and developing my digital art, I wanted to switch gears and to experience working with my hands again. I wanted more than just a flat surface in my artwork.
Around six years ago when this series began, I discovered two things simultaneously: first, was the book Digital Art Studio which was published in 2004 outlining how three artists combined digital art with traditional art materials. Secondly, I encountered the work of Catherine Steinmann on view at the Tibet House in New York. I saw her show “Vanishing Tibet” with artist Danny Conant. They were combining digital and traditional processes in photography to create mixed media artworks. I was very inspired when I encountered these works, which were printed on traditional handcrafted paper. I was so excited because I realized this was exactly what I wanted to do, and the spirituality present in the work also spoke to me. 
I subsequently discovered Mary Taylor’s work. Taylor was an assistant to a co-author of Digital Art Studio. I took Taylor’s class on working with digital and traditional materials and this launched me into experimenting with digital art and combining it with analog processes. This mainly resulted in using acrylic materials as I don’t like to use anything with chemicals or solvents if it can be avoided. I also happened to meet Catherine Steinmann in this class. We struck up a friendship, and I’m happy to have a peer to share this experimental approach to unusual processes and techniques with.
I started to develop my own process as a combination of digital art and handmade surface details. The process is labor-intensive, and many things can go wrong along the way, but it is exciting in its unpredictability. As a result, this process is continually changing and evolving. Putting the handmade surfaces through a printer is intimidating, as the sticky quality of the acrylic surface can ruin the extremely expensive printer I have to use in this process. These skins also possess a raw quality that in a sense makes them feel alive. They don’t have a stiffness to them, or feel overly polished: instead, they feel organic. This process is aided by layering iridescent paints and hand-embellishments with digital designs in between the different layers. 

Mother Child 6516_1200.jpg
Grant, Marion. Mother and Child (2013) 26×18″
alternative media on handmade acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.

ANTE. Admirers of your work often appreciate its spiritual and soothing effect. What subject matter and concepts are you investigating in your work? Is it meant to be spiritual, and if so, how do you see this affecting your audience?
MG. My art is intrinsically connected to my spiritual identity. I’ve devoted my life to spirituality, creativity and transformation. Making art is my life’s purpose and serves as a visual meditation for me. I mindfully strive to create works that are uplifting, transformative and healing for the viewer.  My work introduces harmony and a sense of compassion to a wider audience, and my artistic practice reflects my spiritual development and vice versa.
I’ve been drawn to and inspired by Buddhist and Hindu imagery because it is so beautiful and soothing. That has been a big source of inspiration, especially for the prints on display in the Fine Art Prints” Section of my website. I have met those who encountered statues of the Buddha, or viewed representations of supernatural deities, who reported feeling a strong, energetic presence. Through the years many people have recounted these transcendental experiences to me. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this phenomenon: once, I met a viewer of my work who described a powerful experience they had while viewing my fine art print at a Buddhist retreat. I felt overjoyed and humbled to be a part of this transformation in some small way. 
The series I’m currently working on is centered around the dragonfly, which serves as my spirit guide. I serendipitously discovered a dragonfly on the door outside of my building in Manhattan in May. This was a very unusual circumstance as Spring is not dragonfly season, and dragonflies are also not commonly found in urban spaces. The dragonfly is revered as a symbol for transformation and empowerment. It embodies creativity and light: reflecting the sun and bringing us out of illusion. Dragonflies encourage us to apply creativity and imagination to transform our lives and discover ourselves in new ways. The dragonfly appeared at a significant time in my life, and I appreciate its meaning and message for me. I hope that others can connect to uplifting messages that the dragonfly brings as well. 
While I don’t feel that people have to connect spiritually to my work, I do hope that my work positively impacts the viewer regardless of their own philosophy. I hope it enriches and uplifts others in their life’s journey.

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Grant, Marion. Thousand Petals Gray (2009) 45″x43″, image courtesy the artist.

ANTE. You often incorporate nature and fabric patterns into your work. Do you see these motifs as contrasting or complementing one another? How do you create an interaction between the two throughout your practice?
MG. Contrast is a key element in my work. As long as I can remember, I’ve always combined geometric patterns with organic ones. This balance of subject matter persists throughout my practice, from painting to  collage and throughout my digital work. I see both contrasting and complementary elements at play in my compositions. For example, in my work “Blue Dragonfly the architectural draftsmanship in the background of the work juxtaposes with the delicate anatomy of a dragonfly’s wing. 
In the series Illuminated Miniatures on my website, the contrast lies between the organic, hand-painted watercolors and the textile patterns which are then overlaid in Photoshop. That series elicits a sense of being worn away: of layers being pulled apart and deteriorating as these contrasting elements are combined. In some of my works, iridescent paints between each layer unites the different overlapping layers of natural and man-made patterns. I often incorporate minimal elements, such as flat gray lines, that then create a sense of geometric contrast with the organic elements in the composition. Dorothy Krause, co-author of Digital Art Studio, unwittingly described my work when she wrote that the best digital art “combines the humblest of materials… with the latest in technology to evoke the past and herald the future.” It is this union of opposites, ranging from old to new, from geometric to organic, that creates transformation. 

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Grant, Marion. detail image, Pink Brocade I. (2016) 10″x10″
transparent acrylic skin on wood panel, image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. You often layer objects and concepts in your work, both physically and metaphorically. What importance do you ascribe to layering in your practice as a whole? Do you see this as crucial to your creative process, why or why not?
MG. Layering is the most crucial element in my artistic practice. It acts as a key factor in my artistic expression, whether using computer programs to make artwork or creating work traditionally by hand. Layering allows me to combine different elements which may otherwise be disjointed, but when separated and re-arranged, allow a sense of complexity and depth. When finished hopefully this combination of imagery coalesces into a harmonious whole giving the work a new meaning. This is the essence of my work. 
It’s exciting to work in layers because you can’t really plan it. As a result, you’re never really sure what the end result will be. This method is perfect as it helps me discover new aspects of my process. I might plan a concept in advance, but then let the layering process lead me, allowing it to take over and guide me to unexpected results.
I am now seeing a similar pattern in my spiritual development, made evident by peeling away layers of personal development to reveal more truths underneath. Only after one layer is peeled away can the next layer underneath be worked on. It cannot be rushed. I never thought about this before, but I think it’s interesting to see how this compares to my process of making artwork.
The word “palimpsest” has been used to describe my practice, alluding to my practice of scraping and masking certain elements in an artwork in order to reveal others. By revealing traces of what is left behind, my work shows a worn quality, evoking a sense of history and alluding to mysteries of the past. 
ANTE. What new challenges are you looking forward to in your work? What new mediums are you anticipating working with and how would you like your practice to develop in new ways?
MG. Currently I have acrylic skins that I’ve made in a larger format than I’ve previously worked with. I want to print images onto them but I haven’t tried it yet. Printing onto large acrylic skins is challenging on my printer and can be risky. This is one reason why I’ve been working in a smaller scale until this point, but now I want to take on the challenge in this next phase of figuring out how to scale up. 
My work has also been developing toward working with multi-dimensional surfaces. I like the extra dimension as it brings out the reflective quality of the paints I use. As well as utilizing transparent and translucent surfaces, multiple layers in a work results in the image changing depending on how light hits the surface. This imbues the work with a sense of movement and helps to keep it from feeling static. It takes thought and experimentation to recognize how to best display my artwork, particularly when it comes to framing. The process is very different with each artwork. It can take time to find the best position and angle for artworks to hang onto the wall in order to truly capture the depth and shadows present in an artwork. It’s not the same as working with an opaque or rigid surface, because each work requires a different approach in order to enhance the work. 
With my artwork, the types of energy incorporated into each layer can change as the artwork builds. More layers mean a combination of energies can be present in each work, adding a feeling of depth and complexity.  This can almost be considered a type of alchemy in which an artwork transforms as layers are added. My hope is that this will lead me to explore new aspects of my practice I haven’t considered yet.  

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Grant, Marion. Fairy Music (2018) 11″x11″
alternative media translucent collage, image courtesy the artist.

Seriously Playful: The Hybrid Forms of Katie Hector

With a wink to contemporary aesthetics while unabashedly pushing the envelope, interdisciplinary artist Katie Hector, who lives and works in New York City, has rooted her emerging practice in painting with a focus on two main bodies of work: large-scale paintings on canvas and three-dimensional wall sculptures. In addition to her studio practice, Hector works as an independent curator and the Co-Director of Sine Gallery. She has worked to organize and fundraise a variety of projects, including an international exhibition in 2017, multiple collaborative and environmental installations, and over two dozen group shows, screenings, pop up events, and panel discussions.

Hector, who holds a BFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 2014, has lectured at Mason Gross on professional development in the arts all while gaining recognition through scholarships, residencies, and awards including the 2017 Picture Berlin International Residency, the 2016 Merit-Based Scholarship from Urban Glass, the 2014 Scott Cagenello Memorial-Prize, and the 2013 Ruth Crockett Award. We sat down with Hector to get an update on her current artistic endeavors, scope out her upcoming projects and learn about whose work inspires her own experimental practice.

Hector-Katie-8
“Tumblr Grl 2″, Katie Hector (22″ x 18”, acrylic an spray paint on shaped boards, 2017). Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE. Your practice examines, conceptually, parameters of virtual engagement across social media and the implications of modern technology on society. Can you talk us through your two series, FOMO and Interface, and how each examines these phenomena through a particular lens?

KH. I believe both series attempt to describe how new technologies and interfaces, specifically smartphones and social media have created shifts within communication and the contemporary psyche. Through large-scale painting the FOMO Series seeks to address social anxieties and how they relate to internet culture through utilizing abstract mask-like imagery. Repeating ovoid forms allude to a floating face with large staring eyes that take up most of the picture plane. For me, these mask-like forms reference selfie culture, emojis, and online personas while also signifying ancient desires to capture one’s likeness or establish a legacy.

The Interface Series meditates on the fetish object itself, that being smartphones and personal devices. To determine the scale for this series of work I utilize the dimensions of various tablets and monitors as a template. These pieces are comprised of two to three layers of geometric forms cut from various materials and collaged onto each other. I typically slather the base shape in a high gloss industrial enamel, which in effect mimics the sleek reflectiveness of a black screen. Additional layers are then affixed to this base surface and are three dimensional casting real shadows. I think of these subsequent layers as computer tabs, each containing their own set of painterly information and surface qualities. Palette as well as content unite these parallel bodies of work. Hyper-saturated prefabricated colors are sourced from commercial advertisements, anime, clickbait, and memes to create visual lures.


ANTE. You consider pop culture and the presence of the internet in society today through your work, specifying that you “anthropologically observe and document.” Can you walk us through this process and what drew you to this subject matter?

KH. I am acutely aware of the time and place I am a part of. I am a twenty something, a proper millennial, who was taught in grade school how to write a postal address and use the Dewey Decimal System in one class followed with how to type and proofread an email the next. I am a female, mixed-race American: born and raised in a capitalist democratic society. These are my personal truths and they all come into play at various points in the work, sometimes they’re subtle, but it’s all there.

There was a time I felt insecure about my subject matter, that speaking about social media was too Pop-ish and wouldn’t have any lasting impact, but time and time again I couldn’t help coming back to it. Looking back at my experience growing up it was radical to come of age during a time in which sending a handwritten letters became novelty and infinite spans of information seemingly became ubiquitously available. I am particularly fascinated with how we as a society are dealing with this incredible access to information. We essentially have free education where all of human history, the known world, any workshop, or book is downloadable, Google-able. We are living in an age where no one has to wonder anymore it’s all right there, at your fingertips, and one click away. However most people tend to use the internet for pleasure, entertainment, and communication. In American society we have subconsciously ascribed a hierarchical moral value system to how we utilize our internet time, one that is tied to puritan and capitalistic ideologies. Anything that falls outside of the parameters of smut-less, dutiful, goal-oriented work makes us feel kind‘ve undefinably bad: guilty, weird, gluttonous and indulgent. I take note of these patterns of behavior both in myself, and broadly speaking and focus my work on describing this failure to cast off the physicality of our humanity, namely our insecurities, even during our cognitive assertion into a virtual realm.

 

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“FOMO Green and Purple”, Katie Hector (22″x 22″, acrylic, latex, and spray paint on panel, 2018) Image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. Works from your FOMO series were recently on view in Brooklyn’s culture neighborhood of DUMBO, sponsored by DUMBO BID, as part of an arts + culture event. How were you hoping that visitors would interact with your works and did this transpire?

KH. The space was truly unusual and fun to navigate. Noted as, “likely the tiniest, most inconsequential gallery in NYC, maybe on the face of the Earth”, it was a 32-square foot pop up cubicle erected within the archway of the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO. The This Friday or Next Friday Space Station is a pure product of NYC, and the limited spaces available to artists. It’s a testament to the fact that anything is possible anywhere and that lack of space is not a roadblock, but rather an invitation for innovation. When I was first invited to show in this space I immediately envisioned an installation; however, in the weeks leading up to the show I was particularly obsessed with making large-scale paintings on drop cloth as the latest extension of the FOMO series. I choose five of these paintings to show and installed them on the interior of the gallery making an effort to completely cover any white wall space. I covered up the cobblestone ground as well with a colorfully speckled soft insulation material that transformed the space into a hyper saturated cubicle. Considering the tiny confines of the gallery itself set within a high traffic public space the level of public engagement with the work was any artist’s dream. It was pure joy watching kids stomping and rolling around on the carpeted ground, people taking selfies in the space, and passersby coming back to peek into the space three or four times like moths drawn to a rainbow flame.

 

ANTE. Can you walk through how your work has evolved? How did your education in the art field evolve and what mediums do you work within?

KH. In a way I am making the same paintings I always have. I was fairly skilled at rendering faces during high school, and I guess the FOMO paintings can be interpreted as a portrait of a mental state. In that regard the largest shift in the work has been one towards abstraction over the years. Instead of describing an individual the work now comments more broadly on the human condition, the psyche, and asks whether humans are bad or whether they are simply creatures of folly.

I find myself constantly chasing the work, pursuing anything this body of paintings requires. For example I needed to scale up the image to see how gestures would translate at 10’ which was not possible in my first studio, “well I guess I have to move studios and get a bigger wall then.” Each time I take that leap of faith to follow the work and make a big change I become significantly more sure of myself and my ability to make the right decision when it needs to be made. In school I used to think that I wasn’t a serious painter because I didn’t toil over layering and sanding down primed canvases, practice drafting my compositions, or fuss over mixing my paints. I learned each lesson of course, but secretly didn’t care too deeply about those particular processes. Eventually over time all those things fell to the wayside and I realized that they were someone else’s methodology and although it’s cool, and works, it had no place in my practice, so I was able to let them go. I am quite grounded in my content at this point and feel satisfied that it is focused yet will leave enough meat on the bone to sustain my curiosity later down the road. I’ve come to a wonderful point where I am confident about my process, the materials I use, and the speed at which I work. So it’s more or less full steam ahead for now.

ANTE. Work from your Interface series is on view in Burlington, Vermont as part of the “Optimist Prime” group exhibit at New City Gallery. Which works are included in this show and how do they fit the theme?

KH. “Clickbait”, “Double Tapping Moon Vibes”, and “Tumblr Grl 2”, are the three works which are included in the “Optimist Prime” exhibition. Curated by Michael Shoudt, a long time friend and talented painter, the show focuses on gesture and surface in a way that walks the line between painting and object. I’m certain that Michael would dig his heels in the ground and declare that this was  purely a painting show, but to me there is a playful testing of those boundaries and a “who says this isn’t a painting” spirit to the collection of work.

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In the studio, FOMO paintings, 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. What other exhibits are your works a part of currently and what do you have upcoming?

KH. I currently have four works (“Golden Toupee” (2015), “Filter Bubble” (2017), “Untitled” (2017), and “Versace Versace” (2018)) all from the Interface series included in an exhibition entitled “Small Paintings(ish)” at BS Projects in Houston, TX. I’m tickled that my work made it to Houston before I did.

Along with being a painter I am also an independent curator, and Co-Director of Sine Gallery. We recently teamed up with Light Year and the DUMBO bid to curate a massive public screening of six interdisciplinary artists: Damien Davis, Patricia Brace, Yali Romagoza, Dominique Duroseau, Jesus Benavente, and Joiri Minaya. The videos will be cast onto the side of the Manhattan Bridge Aug 2nd, 8-10 PM in DUMBO, with the best vantage point being from 155 Water Street. I am extremely passionate about this collection of artists and am so please to represent their work in DUMBO, a community which has time and time again embraced my alternative white cube curatorial slant. Huge thanks to 68 Jay Street and Ardele Lister and Steve West for being eternally supportive.

I am also a Curatorial Assistant for Art in Odd Places 2018: BODY and will be helping to organize various aspects of this year’s performance art festival under the vision of Katya Grokhovsky and Ed Woodham. BODY marks the first exclusively female, non-binary, and trans line-up in the festival’s 14 year history and will include the work from 45 artists from all over the world in a four day performance art festival along 14th Street Manhattan October 11th – 14th. In conjunction with the festival there will be an exhibition and public programming held at Westbeth Gallery throughout the month of October.

As far as upcoming shows go, I have a few projects in the works for the studio this Fall, stay tuned.


ANTE. Can you walk us through some of your contemporary influences? What artists are you looking to as you develop your own practice?

KH. I love Joyce Pensato, I love her imagery, process, her use of gesture. Katherine Bernhardt is another contemporary favorite. I look to her as a example of how an artist can glean new sensibilities from travel and blend them into an ongoing work. Poly Apfelbaum is a classic and I frequently look to her installation-based work, her color, and use of commermerically sourced materials. I have profound respect for the trailblazing forms of Susan Murphy, and what she introduced to painting, and can’t help but gush over the sleek graphic refinement of Tauba Auerbach. Along with these giants I have the deepest respect for the work of my peers: Amie Cunat, Denise Treizman, Katie Bell, Leah Guadagnoli, the list goes on.

 

Mediated Forms: Artist Ida Ivanka Kubler’s Layered Practice

Spanning fine art, fashion and even sericulture, artist Ida Ivanka Kubler truly earns the moniker multidisciplinary artist. Drawing particular inspiration from the natural world, Kubler creates a practice synthesizing natural materials and humanist subject matter. Placing the figure in nature, or evoking figurative elements in reclaimed organic matter, Kubler masterfully comments on our place within the wider ecosystem and our integration with natural phenomena in a visceral, poignant manner.
 
We sat down to chat with the artist about her interest in integrating natural materials in her work and how her practice combines disparate elements into a unified whole.
 

The Birth of an Idea II, Silk cocoons and acrylic on canvas, 78x39inch
Ida Ivanka Kubler, The Birth of an Idea II (silk cocoons and acrylic on canvas, 28×39″)

ANTE. Thanks for chatting with us today, Ida! Many of your artworks either draw inspiration from natural motifs, such as landscapes, or incorporate actual natural materials (such as your Birth of an Idea series). Can you explain your interest in nature and how it inspires you as an artist?
 
IIK. Art is a journey. I tried to settle in one place but life encourages me to travel: from forest to deserts, grasslands, oceans, rivers, snowy landscapes, mountains, even the ruins of older civilizations. I accept the paths this journey has brought into my life.
 
My art has become my diary: sometimes in physical form, when I use the materials I’ve gathered along the way, and sometimes in an image when I use the visual identity of a place. 
 
ANTE. You also seem to have an affinity for portraits and the human body. Do you have a preference for portrait or landscape? Do you like to combine the two, and can you explain if you treat either subject differently in terms of medium (oil, acrylic, etc)?
IIK. My professional arts training started in my teenage years with a specific study of the skull found in a book called “Anatomy For Artists”. At arts school I was taught to see the body “under the skin”.
 
From my beginning in this traditional realistic painting knowledge about muscles and bones, I then moved to the medium of landscape. If you have a passion and you wish to follow it professionally, you have to go for the challenges and also take risks. What I’ve discovered is that it is good to use oil paint to convey depth through many transparent layers in portraits and landscapes (such as in my Non-Material series) while for abstract works it’s better to use acrylics as it can be applied only in one layer in perfection. Once can then reach greater depths through examining three-dimensional aspects in their work (as with The Birth Of An Idea Series)
 
Also, once I get too comfortable with one thing I find it stimulating to switch to something else!
 
ANTE. Which artists have inspired how you make your artwork? 
 
IIK. Very consciously for my Non-Material series I was influenced by Peter Doig, especially artworks like “White Canoe”, “Orange Sunshine”, and “Rosedale.” 
 
This inspiration made me go to London to study at Chelsea College of Arts (the same university where Peter studied.) Subconsciously, for my The Birth Of An Idea series I was influenced by Mark Rothko.  I found out this much later, by the time I’ve created the 50th piece and was halfway through the series. He is more into red squares where I like blue tones and circles! But we both use simple geometric forms and color as a medium.

“Non Material II” (Oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
Ida Ivanka Kubler, Non-Material II (oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)

ANTE. Which natural settings or phenomena have inspired your artworks?
 
IIK. Sublime magical settings in the forest, waterfalls, rivers, fog, weather, natural forms, and stones inspire my Non Material Series. Silkworm cocoons have led to The Birth Of An Idea series.
 
As an example, last summer the natural rock phenomenon in Bulgaria, called stone mushrooms, greatly inspired me and I made a short art film where I painted in front of these natural structures. I painted with honey and powders: turmeric, green tea, white egg shell, cacao and fruit powder on a honey comb, and finally the film crew and I shared the artwork together – eating it as a feast!
 
ANTE. Explain your diverse background in creative, arts and fashion industries. How do they inform each other? What is your education and training, and how does it impact the artist you are today?
 
IIK. I was born an artist and my talent expresses itself fervently. When I was young, my mom couldn’t get me away from the table where I was painting the whole day. In my early twenties, I got involved in fashion and I ran a fashion company for many years as a way to make money. I wasn’t ripe enough to survive only from art. With that fashion company,  we were present at fashion shows in both Paris and New York. We had celebrities as clients. One famous actress said once that she loved my dresses as they are like artworks. And indeed I was using fabrics made out of paper, flowers or other very exclusive and rare, crème de la crème fabrics.
 
These days for some of my art shows openings I create my own outfits as a protest to today’s “uniformity”.
 
I’ve attended classes at five schools for my arts training, and one school for fashion, including the National Academy of Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria; University of Applied Arts, Bielefeld, Germany; and Chelsea College of Arts, London, UK.
 
What you learn in art about sculpting was very useful in fashion draping. There is in many ways little separation between the two. 

“Non Material III” (Oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
Ida Ivanka Kubler, Non-Material III (oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)

ANTE.  Can you explain a bit more about your Non-Material series? How do you create these works and what inspired you to begin the series? What direction are you headed with this series?
 
IIK. What I like about my Non Material series is that it combines three important aspects that excite me: traditional professional painting, in-depth technique, and community/family spirit.
 
The depth and transparency in these pieces appears through many thin layers of exclusive paint from the Old Holland palette – for me, the hallmark brand of high quality of paint. This technique is complex, with the result that it takes months to make one painting.
 
The subject “on stage” are two or more people walking next to each other in a natural setting. The scene could be from any period of time, as the clothing of the people is not important, but their close connection to each other and relation to the group as a whole is key.
 
My clients for these portraits are often families. I portray them walking together, perhaps before or after lunch. Walking together creates a special bond in families. Walking together could be a synonym for thinking together, experiencing together, and loving together. To catch the energy in this family dynamic is a very exciting task. Families who are interested in capturing this unique perspective can feel free to reach out to me, as I happily take commissions in this expanding series. 
 
ANTE. Your works are held in art collections the world over. Can you share what are some themes that your collectors admire in your work? What are some common responses that you get from those interested in your artwork, and how does your work inspire them?
 
IIK. I call the responses to my artworks ‘gifts”, as they come to me like positive surprises. My last client was from LA, and my dealer there forwarded her message to me saying, “The piece spoke to me, so I had to buy it and give it a home.”
 
Some of my works have even helped people heal through psychological stress. My works have been published by Behring Institute for Medical Research as deemed to improve individual’s health. I understand myself expressing healing messages through my artworks.
Also, some of my collectors in the past have invited me to paint in salons in their home, so I’ll stay and spend time painting in this room in the their home that serves as my dedicated studio. While I paint, it is often the children who will visited me to watch me paint several times per day. I’ve received emails like: “My little girl is asking when Ida will be back here again?” or “Why is Ida having such a long holiday away from us?” or “My boy is waiting in the morning at the window and asking for Ida”. I am happy I inspire children through my art-making.
 
ANTE. What upcoming exhibition and shows can you tell us about?
 
IIK. My next exhibition will be in LA. To subscribe to my invitation list, please feel free to email me at idaivankakubler@gmail.com