Posted: January 23rd, 2011 | Author: Lance Hewison | Filed under: Drawing, Installation, Mixed-Media, Painting, Photography, Printmaking | Tags: Anne Truit, Brutalist Architecture, Caitlin Masley, James Rouse, Janine Antoni, Manhattan Graphics Center, Metabolist Movement, Sara Morris, Tara Donavan, Triangle Arts Association, Yona Friedman | No Comments »
Yesterday, NYC-based artist Caitlin Masley took time out of her impressive exhibition whirlwind to sit down and share her thoughts with me. Here is a transcript of our conversation:
“Taking it personally is one the hardest issues for many artists to overcome.”
Congratulations on your current residencies and exhibitions. Could you tell me more about these residencies and how they’ve helped further your career, as well as what you’ve gotten out of them personally?
I started the Triangle Arts Residency
in December and will be starting the Manhattan Graphics Center
in February (both will last until June). First, I’d like to say how much I like residencies. Not only do you get access to a free studio, but you get to meet a variety of artists you otherwise may have never met. You also get supported in many ways. Here at Triangle Arts, there are interns that are extremely helpful if you need them, there is an open studio weekend, and they have visiting curators/gallerists. At Manhattan Graphics Center, I have the opportunity to take a variety of printmaking classes, full use of the studio, and a small materials stipend (which I will use toward a woodblock class and a new series of works).
I know many artists, myself included, who dream about opportunities like this. I suppose it’s just a matter of really putting yourself and your work out there?
There are a couple of different ways of thinking about residencies. One is that a fair amount of artist don’t like the idea of picking up their entire studio and moving into a new one for 3 to 6 months, or sometimes as long as a year. Artists tend to become very rooted in their space. Not all residencies are for everyone. But how an artist gets a residency is also an art business question. You really have to have strong images of a consistent body of work, a solid artist’s statement, and a proposal idea. After that, it simply comes down to apply, apply apply! There are some that I’ve been applying to for years that I haven’t got, but the jurors are always different and you can’t take it personally. Taking it personally is one the hardest issues for many artists to overcome.
I want to touch on something you said earlier about woodblock printmaking. This sounds very exciting, and I’m curious how your aesthetic might be expressed through this medium. Could you tell me more about this, and how you became interested in printmaking?
My grandfather was an artist who was known for his woodblocks. Even though I never knew him well, I grew up surrounded with his work in my family’s house. I’ve yet to create a series of woodblock prints and right now it seems like a huge challenge for me. That said, I’m looking forward to the minimalist nature of the process in relationship to my work.
“Huge challenge” should be on the forefront of all artist’s minds during creation. Kudos for taking it on! I find when artists have a history of art in their family, specifically with your grandfather making woodblocks, it’s like this wonderful, inspiring ghost hand guiding one’s own. Do you feel this way?
When I graduated from undergrad, my mom gave me a framed series of photos of me when I was only 3 years old. In the photos, I was busy making crazy drawings on the floor of my grandfather’s art studio. I’ve felt I would become an artist as long as I can remember.
In your artist statement, you mention that you use modern architectural materials to create your work. Could you elaborate a little bit on this?
Modern architectural materials incorporate a wide range of things at this point, depending on one’s definition of modern. I have been using a lot of foamcore in my sculptures, and recently moved into using found plate glass with wire. I work with the basics. Most buildings begin with a drawing and later become a model. For a long time, this was done in foamcore. Now, one sees more modeling executed in wood and plastic. I will be starting a series of small scale sculptures in plastic soon.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research on abandoned cities and developments–the failed monuments to man. When we leave a place we mark it.”
I want to talk with you a little about the myth of the Labyrinth
as it relates to your work. There are these recurring obsessions with labyrinths throughout human civilization, and your work takes on a labyrinthine quality at times. Perhaps it’s because architecture in general gives this impression, and your work comments on urban sprawl in a complex, albeit abstracted way.
Yes, Laybrinths are very old statements based upon landscapes that really fascinate me. The mega-cities that are being erected are our civilization’s new labyrinths. Columbia, which is where I happened to have grown up, was concieved in the late 60′s by James Rouse
. He was a bit of a visionary, and decided the surburban plight had to be addressed and formed into a sort of cultural utopia. He secretly bought land between Baltimore and Washington DC, and built towns upon this land in rings–not around each other like most suburbs, but in a circular pattern connected like a chain of daisies.
What was his intention building them this way?
Well every little daisy starts with a village center. The heart of the village center is then surrounded by houses, which in turn is surrounded by a downtown area.
So this way everyone is able to partake equally of the various centers of community activity, rather than being isolated from one another?
Yes. It was all about getting to know one’s neighbors too. My parents still live there. When a place can exist harmoniously in this way as part of the landscape, it creates a positive effect on the individual. Poor planning can have the reverse effect. I’ve been doing a lot of research on abandoned cities and developments–the failed monuments to man. When we leave a place we mark it.
The titles of your work, such as “Tel Aviv”, “Nightvision”, and “Silver Neo-Futures” intrigue me. I notice you often reference actual places in addition to the less specific titles. Have you traveled to many of the cities you reference in your work to understand them more?
Traveling to places is a crucial part of my practice. Walking the streets and getting to know the terrian of a place really helps me understand the mentallity of the people there and the history of a city or town. Right now I’m very interested in the Middle East, and all the satalite images we see of it on TV. There’s also the allure of the desert and open space. How does one leave traces in that kind of environment? The brutalist architecture
of Russia and Georgia also fascinate me. Fortunately, one can never run out of crazy architecture to explore in this world.
What are some of the more interesting responses people have had to your work?
Oh, let me think. Well, there was this one woman who said to her 13 year old son that my hanging sculpture looked like a Transformer. I took it as a compliment.
The sharp focus you have in regards to your architectural/urban inspired work is impressive. As a visual artist myself, I often find that I am drawn again and again to the same subject. How would you describe your own sense of attachment to your particular visual vocabulary? Is it ever tempting to stray completely from this vocabulary of images and explore something very different?
Oh yeah, to be consistently working on a few close issues can get to be a bit much. I made a video a couple years ago which made me really interested in video work. Not long after, I realized I missed making drawings and building. I often am pulled back. Over the years I switched from photography back to large drawings and sculpture for that same reason. I needed to know what I was seeing with fresh eyes, and there is nothing more immediate for me than drawing.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
There are quite a number of amazing artists out there: Anne Truit, Sara Morris, Janine Antoni and Tara Donavan. They’ve done so much and should be admired for all their work as artists and mothers.
Your series of drawings entitled “Copperland” bring to mind the ancient Etruscans for me, through your use of a restrained, earthy color scheme along with architectural / skeletal-like shapes. These works have a fascinating notion of excavation and discovery about them.
Thanks! They are very new. My intentions were that they really speak symbolically of topographic landscapes. Funny enough they are based on imagery from Yona Friedman’s
future Berlin newspaper project with Han Ulrich Obrist. I adore Yona Friedman.
You are throwing around a lot of names I’m not familiar with. I have lots of googling to do after the interview is over!
Here’s one for the road: Metabolist Movement
Here’s a random one for you: If you could travel back in time and join any epoch past or present, which would you choose? Or would you choose ours, and why?
Forward, I’d go forward!
Please visit Caitlin’s website for more information and images of her work.