Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elena Lavorato Gets to Know Kate Iverson

When you photograph a scene with the intention of editing it into high contrast black and white, are you looking for any composition in particular or is the Photoshopped version somewhat unexpected?

 I definitely seek out compositions that have a lot of depth and texture, things I know will transition nicely into black and white and withstand the digital enhancements that I like to do. I shot a lot of grasses, barks, reflections, etc... textural things that had a lot going on, but had enough dimension to be interesting when manipulated. I do, however, shoot whatever I think looks cool regardless, because sometimes you don't know what can happen when you pull an image into Photoshop and play around with it.

How can symmetry and repetition change a person's perspective on nature?

 I guess it's just looking at it in a different way and seeing how the most basic natural shapes are kind of miraculous when shuffled into a different format. I mean, nature is always miraculous as it is, but when you break it down and really truly analyze it, it becomes, well extremely bizarre and witchy in the most amazing of ways. When I first started the project, I didn't think I was going to see so many different things in these images once I manipulated them, but once I did, some of the almost scared me!

Do you prefer a black and white color scheme because of the complexity of your images? How would color change the effect? 


 I am someone that has always been drawn to black and white works of all types. Black and white anything and everything, actually. I like the clean feel and the candidness of it. I think black and white always leaves you guessing in a sense and it's always classic as well.
From the get-go I knew I wanted my show to be very cold and dark, despite the earth origins of the work. I love contrast and juxtaposition. I am sure the color versions would be beautiful. but when you break something that is naturally warm and colorful down into very stark imagery, you get a very raw effect that is almost UN-natural which is something that appealed to me for this concept.

How relevant is the pagan history of The Black Moon to your artistic practice?

Though I've always been curious about Pagan religions (it's the teenage goth in me, what can I say), when I set out to create this body of work it was not necessarily in the forefront. It wasn't until I started manipulating the images and seeing the intensity and strangeness of the subject matter developing that I really felt that specific mood come forward. I see so many unbelievable things in the images, especially the inverted ones-- faces upon faces upon faces. Tribal masks, grass monsters, skulls, water creatures, gargoyles... the list goes on. I even see tiny Misfits skulls in one of them and mirrored Gary Numan faces. Now that's religion!

What was your work like when you began making art? Has Photoshop always been involved?

I was mainly a photographer that dabbled in painting here and there, kind of the same as I am now, just worse, haha. I have used a lot of stenciling and taping processes in my work, which I still do, mostly because I am a terrible hand-painter and also just because I appreciate design and structure. You'll see a little bit of this sort of embellishing in the show, but it's largely photographic/ digital manipulation. I have always used Photoshop, yes. It's a major tool for me. I haven't necessarily done a ton of digital collage in this particular way though, so that's new for me. I also prefer presenting photography differently than just a high quality print, framed and matted. To put it bluntly, I beat the shit out of the original high-res image in Photoshop, then print it out on really basic paper on a super basic printer-- I like the way the image becomes even more degraded and xerox-y. When I paste it onto a panel and start working the paper further, it becomes even rougher and more textural. I want the pieces to feel a bit like a wheat-pasted poster on the street.

Any memorable stories from your residency at the Lake Tofte Center through the emerging artist's program, where the pieces for this show were photographed?

The residency was an awesome reset. The other four artists were very cool and the director of the center, Liz, was such a generous, gracious host. I went swimming in an actual lake for the first time since probably the '80s and I basically disconnected from the internet for most of the trip (which I don't think I've ever done, honestly). Tofte Lake Center is in the Boundary Waters so nature is BIG…in the sense that it's, well, everywhere. I'd go hiking and take photos each day, driving to different trails within maybe a 20 mile radius. It was actually quite terrifying to me because being in such a remote place, by yourself, with no phone service, well…you could basically fall off a cliff and no one would ever have a clue what happened to you. You'd just disappear. That feeling of really truly being alone is pretty weird. Add the hugeness of nature and it's probably the realest you'll ever get.

Can you tell me a little about your collaboration with Blake Carrington, whose sound composition will also be a part of the show?

 Blake is a composer and visual artist from Brooklyn, NY. He was also a Tofte Lake Center resident--the Jerome Foundation opens the program to both Minnesota and New York artists. Of the five artists chosen, three were from NY, two from MN. I actually picked Blake up at the airport and drove there and back with him. He went to TLC specifically to capture nature sounds with the purpose of creating a new composition, which is what will be included as a sound installation for my exhibit. It fits the mood I'm trying to convey perfectly. He and I have a pretty similar aesthetic so it worked out quite well! You should really check out his website, he's done so many cool projects. Once he sound mapped (not sure that's the right term) original blueprints from a number of old cathedrals and even did a performance with huge art projections of the blueprints mapping the sound while IN one of the cathedrals itself. Totally meta! I won't pretend to understand how he does what he does, but it's pretty badass and weird. You can hear a snippet of the new composition in this little promo video I created for the exhibit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAp1BxVgWro

You seem to be involved in so many awesome art things going on in Minneapolis, how do you find time for your own practice?  

Ha! It's pretty hard to find the time actually, but I make it. Creating art is something I need to do to feel balanced…sometimes it comes in forms other than paint or a camera though. For instance, I can find that same centeredness doing graphic design or creative direction on a client project. Writing, working with artists and even marketing strategy are all creative things to me. But there's definitely a lot to be said about actually creating something with your hands, purely out of your imagination. It's pretty damn zen.

Check out Kate Iverson's show, The Black Moon, starting on October 3rd at SooLocal (3506 Nicollet, 6-9PM. The show runs through November 8! Click HERE for more details.
For more information about the interview and Kate Iverson follow these links:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Elena Lavorato Gets to Know John Bell


Can you give me a brief description of your artistic practice?

Sure! It normally starts with an unexpected association of some kind -- like a color that glows just so or a very specific texture -- and then I build from there. As those things begin to accumulate, the piece starts to establish its own parameters and expectations. I most often go off the rails by trying to force disagreeable objects together or by imposing a depiction on a picture before it can talk back. I make and then destroy a lot of images because of this! I know I’m finished when a piece has its own self-sustaining orbit and no longer cares what I think of it. Sometimes I don’t like it, but I can’t deny it.

 Can you tell me a little about what you are showing at SooVAC in September?

It will be mostly paintings, and a handful of sculptures and drawings. My newer pieces are a little more mawkish and hair-brained than the comparatively sedate paintings I made in 2012 and 2013. I’m especially excited to exhibit a number of my new small ceramic figurines.

Looking at your work online I feel like I see the hint of a furry animal or other familiar objects painted indistinctly; can you tell me anything about this?

Yeah! I think of myself as a figurative painter who paints verbs instead of nouns, and most of the time my subjects are animals or vegetables. I spend a lot of time thinking about different types of time—glacial-time, plant-time, tortoise-time—and how a painting can capture that difference. The jittery or hesitating subject is one of my favorites, and I’ve always felt that the most immediate illustration of that is in the routines of a dog, the warble of bird song, or the pacing of territory.

Do you prefer to paint with watercolor? Why?

I do, though it’s somewhat disingenuous of me to call myself a “watercolorist.” I paint with watercolors almost as though they’re oil paints, as the watercolors on the synthetic paper have a lot of the same vibrancy as oils but are completely water-soluble and erasable. I can work through ideas quickly and take greater risks. I feel like the shorthand of “watercolorist” gives me a lot more credit than I deserve. But to whatever extent I am a part of that tradition (naturalist or otherwise) I’m honored. It’s in harmony with the kind of making and living I aspire to. 

I was interested to read on your website that you are open to trading or bartering for your work and
“entertain impassioned pleas”. Have you ever obliged any impassioned pleas?

Ha! Nobody’s attempted “the impassioned plea” as of yet. I am still open to it, though.

Do you not accept money for your work? If not, why?

I sell work. My trading page is all about setting up a more explicit alternative to that route, though, to make the idea of living with my artwork a more accessible thing. I’m lucky! I’ve got a day job I like and I don’t need to rely on my painting for income, so while selling paintings is great, the trading has been really direct and rewarding in a different way. I’ve met some interesting people and received all kinds of wonderful things -- everything from a 6-month supply of homemade bread to a set of beautiful photos of neurons.

What is your earliest art related childhood memory?

I don’t know! My family is pretty art-centric, so we were always looking at or doing something. I remember painting the finger painting that hangs over my mother’s desk when I was probably 3 or 4. I’ve been fascinated by the Audubon reproductions in my parents’ house for  my whole life. 

 The Persistent Present: New Work by John Bell, runs September 12 to October 25

For more info CLICK HERE!