Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: artist interview

Laure Nolte’s Interdisciplinary Art Practice

Laure Nolte is an emerging artist currently working in Berlin. She studied at Camberwell College of Art in London and Canada’s NSCAD in Halifax before receiving a BFA in painting and drawing from Concordia University in Montreal. After art school, she briefly worked as a fishmonger. Born in 1986, the young artist has created art in a variety of mediums from painting and sculpture to video. Her artwork can also be found on her website.

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Paul Weiner:
How did your Fishmonger series come about?

Laure Nolte:
Fishmonger happened because I worked as a fishmonger for a year after I graduated from art school. I spent a lot of time in the cutting room processing fish and developed a fascination with the organs that were generally disposed of. I was using a vacuum sealer for the processing of fish, and I started experimenting with composition using the disembodied fish parts. The series emerged quite naturally from there.

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Paul Weiner:
The Fishmonger series strikes me as a critique of the way we treat animals we plan on eating. Was that your intent?

Laure Nolte:
Fishmonger was not intended to be a critique of how animals are treated. For me, it was an exploration of the human condition. These compositions are metaphors for the human body, for the most part a very female body, for example, Petal or Womb. Each of these pieces is a part of myself, my past self, and, inevitably, my future self.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe your process both conceptually and materially for Ritual #7.

Laure Nolte:
Ritual #7 is a chronological development of drawings over a one hundred day period. It’s based on Rule 7 from the composer John Cage’s list of rules for students and teachers from the Merce Cunningham studio in New York. I decided before I started the series that each work would be the same dimensions to maintain some sort of visual consistency and that I would draw mostly from observation. I use whatever materials I think the drawing needs, for the most part charcoal and ink, but also nail polish, ripped out pages from a book, and blood.

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Paul Weiner:
Did working on Ritual #7 help you learn anything about yourself? It seems like this kind of work would leave a lot of artists trying to psychoanalyze themselves and why they draw what they do.

Laure Nolte:
I began Ritual #7 because I wanted to find out what would happen when I worked without fail everyday. I knew that in doing this, I would be facing myself through my art practice in a way I hadn’t before because my studio practice prior to Ritual #7 was almost bulimic in nature. It was a binge and purge cycle, which actually worked well for me throughout art school, but I also ended up being afraid to work when I felt too vulnerable. I realized that I would be exposing myself in Ritual #7 , weaknesses and all, depending on whatever human thing I was dealing with or going through at the time of the drawing. Ritual #7 is maybe the most honest work I’ve attempted. I’ve learned a lot doing this series, particularly that sometimes it takes drawing through a few layers to get to something poignant. It takes patience to go deep and also knowing what battles I need to push through and let go of.

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Paul Weiner:
Did you ever find yourself wanting to give up on or restart a drawing in your Ritual #7 series?

Laure Nolte:
I have definitely wanted to give up on drawings from Ritual #7. And I have. I have allowed myself to give up on a drawing, maybe three. It was a last resort situation, but a necessary one. For the most part, if I am not satisfied with a drawing, it means I need to try again. But the drawing I am unsatisfied with still has importance in the series. It brought me to where I needed to be. I know when I need to revisit the subject matter, but I give myself some space in between. Redoing drawings has been an important part of Ritual #7 because I can literally see the evolution that has happened by going back to something and pushing it further, understanding it more.

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Paul Weiner:
Between all of the countries you’ve lived in, where did you feel like artists were most respected?

Laure Nolte:
Since I began pursuing art seriously, at eighteen, I have always been connected to institutions, art schools that have strong communities of artists. These communities thrive on mutual respect and support for one another. I feel grateful for that. I’ve studied in London, Halifax, Montreal, and I’m currently living in Berlin, but I have to say that NSCAD University in Halifax had something really incredible going on with the students and teachers when I studied there. It was magical.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist who has worked in a variety of mediums, from drawing to sculpture and video, which is your favorite?

Laure Nolte:
For me, like for many artists, each medium has its own reason and purpose. I make an intentional decision depending on whatever themes I am working with. Painting has been a great love of mine for a long time, but we’ve had a tumultuous relationship. Painting destroys me a little bit, but I let it. Stepping up to a canvas is like stepping up to an unforgiving mirror. Painting is what gives me the greatest adrenaline rush and the greatest frustration. I am fascinated with sculpture, especially mould making. There is a specific language to sculpture, as with each medium, but sculpture is very material. I’m obsessed with Louise Bourgeois. Her career is by far one of the most important ones of the 20th Century. She just knew. Sculpture is very exhilarating, mixing strange toxic chemicals, building structures, discovering new ways to use materials, found materials, producing moulds, and spray painting stuff. You have to use your whole body when you are dealing with sculpture. It’s all encompassing. It’s provocative. And you can create anything, anything in the world you want. There are no boundaries. When you figure out how to make it happen, it’s just the best feeling.

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Paul Weiner:
What have been some of the most defining times in your career as an artist?

Laura Nolte:
My defining moments always happen in the studio. The studio is where you are free to roam in and out of the underworld. When I was in art school, I always pushed myself to extremes. I would bring a bottle of red wine and work all night in the studio. I would paint until I had nothing left in me, and go outside for a cigarette, having given up completely. Then I would suddenly realize what I had to do next and go back in with a second wind and make it happen. That’s when the real breakthroughs happen. Showing work can be rewarding, too, after long periods of work. It’s always amazing to see my work installed and well lit. But the studio is where it’s at.


Please view Laure Nolte’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Vanessa Compton’s Intricate Collages

Vanessa Compton is an artist currently living in Vermont who holds a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her greatly detailed collage works deal with surrealist themes. Compton’s work can also be found online at http://www.krinshawstudios.com/.

Sailing the Salton Sea
Prayer for the Wild Things


Paul Weiner:
How would you describe your aesthetic stylistically?

Vanessa Compton:
Surrealistic landscapes have featured predominantly in my work. Time is meant to be loose with past, present, and future existing simultaneously. A major inspiration is migration. I focus on the luxation of figures and structures through landscapes of epic quality and interminable horizons. These are beautiful, dislocated worlds that live behind the gauzy film of dreams. I hope this metaphysical sense of time and place will prove an esoteric experience for the viewer.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your process for starting a new piece.

Vanessa Compton:
It is essential to my creativity to live in a rural environment, one where I border thick Northern forests and Southern borderlands and live with my feet on the earth in perpetual aesthetic contemplation. To create, I need solitude and the hum of wind and wildness. If it’s raining, snowing, or storming, that’s even better. I love being forcibly holed up in my studio, away from everything and everyone. A good album and disconnected phone is essential, too.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you decide to open up Krinshaw Studios?

Vanessa Compton:
Krinshaw Studios is the name I use to separate myself from my work. It’s the container for all of it, the collages, the illustrations, the fashion, too. Sometimes it’s a pop-up shop, sometimes a gallery, but it’s most importantly the studio in my mind, the space where my creative vision is born.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist who feels the need to separate herself from her work, do you keep specific working hours? What habits do you have that help you to keep your art and life separate?

Vanessa Compton:
I should clarify a bit. Krinshaw Studios is the name I use to separate myself from my work after it goes out into the world. There is definitely no separation between my ideas, my dreams, and myself. They are all messily mashed up inside. The only separation I feel the need to maintain is once the work goes out into this big, chaotic world of everything else. The name is part myth, part ego-check and part formal cloaking. Truthfully, in order to create I actually just feel the need to separate myself from most everyone else. That is my struggle and why I am so grateful for artist residencies.

In 2012 I went to Saskatchewan for a month-long residency at the childhood home of the writer Wallace Stegner. The kinds of collages I’ve been making take me on average a month of work for one piece. There’s a lot of visual research, prepping, and, of course, cutting that needs to happen before even starting. Being tucked away in a rural environment far from anyone I know, with every moment to work, allowed me to be my most prolific. In the Saskatchewan frontier land, my muse was strong, and I completed five large pieces during my time there. I will continue to try for these opportunities. They truly are essential to my creative process and the beautiful web of programs out in this world endlessly inspires me.

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Paul Weiner:
Where did you get your training, and how has it influenced your current work?

Vanessa Compton:
I received my BFA from CU-Boulder with an emphasis on sculptural ceramics. My professors were all fabulously talented artists in their own rights, and I am forever grateful for their patience and their push. It gave me a solid backbone to begin working from. Working in clay singularly for 5 years gave me a steely resolve and respect for the medium at hand. Transitioning to collage came out of my own transition from a normative, mostly stationary lifestyle into one more transient in nature. My grandmother was a wildly talented artist and always worked in a variety of media. Since this was my living example, it made complete sense to transition into working with a more nimble medium, one that I could travel with. I got to fall in love all over again and haven’t looked back.

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Paul Weiner:
To what extent do you know what you’ll create before you start making it? Are these surrealist pieces straight from your head or do they develop on their own as you put material down on the piece?

Vanessa Compton:
I begin a piece when I am compelled by a specific image, structure or horizon. This could be a shape like a floating planet or as specific as an image I’ve found and desperately want to use. It’ll hang there in my head, lingering on my conscience, waiting for me to build a world for it to live in. Before I begin, I know what the general scaffolding will be, the color tone, and the general feel. But the details, the magic, that comes during the making. The mind, especially the imagination, has to be wide open. My most successful works are clusters of relationships, interactions both proactive and sedate and dreamily living in an architecturally sound landscape.

Shiprock, NM, mixed media collage, 30L x 40H%22

Paul Weiner:
Do you think that your ceramic work has impacted your collage style?

Vanessa Compton:
Most definitely. With my ceramic work, I was drawn to the intersections of private, voyeuristic, and fantastical worlds. Due to the medium, these were miniature realms that I would then place in ways that forced the viewers to physically bring themselves down to a lower level. However, with collage I can achieve so much more detail-wise and work much larger than ever before. Working with clay was like working with bones. It taught me structure and three-dimensional understanding. I’ve found collage lends itself to a more atmospherical experience, both as artist and viewer. I am now able to take to the sky and help birth brave new worlds for the discarded paper forms. I create entirely disparate realities, and the weight of this artistic responsibility weighs on me with humility and wildness. These pieces celebrate lives lived in non-normative existence. These are worlds caught between shifting dimensions, full of myth and contrast.


Please view Vanessa Compton’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Exploring Erotic Photography with Gottfried

Gottfried is a photographer living in Berlin. His artwork spans a large range of work focused on or incorporating the idea of fetishism, and he has been working as an artist for over forty years. His artwork is available for view online.

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Paul Weiner:
When did you start working on art?

Gottfried:
Getting on towards forty years ago, and, in that time, I have conceived and produced works on three continents.

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Paul Weiner:
What subjects do you find most interesting in your art?

Gottfried:
As I have already written in my philosophy, as set out online, “in fact, people, their expressions, and their eyes as windows to their soul, in no matter what circumstances, are much more the meat of my metier.” A lot of my work has involved the erotic and also elements of fetish or, at least, quite a few works carry an innuendo in that direction. It is when a person is in pursuit of his or her fetish, whatever that may be, sexual or otherwise, that one sees the widest range and greatest brilliance of expression. Very often these are expressions, which are reserved for only the most private sphere, are indeed subjectively secret in nature. My style has, as is the case of all artists, developed with the years, but one can still perceive such elements, if one looks closely enough, even in some largely surreal or abstract works, such as ‘Psychedelic Mushrooms’.

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My beautiful picture

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Paul Weiner:
Do you work in digital or film?

Gottfried:
For the most part I have produced works very predominantly in negative and transparency film, but also in oil, crayon, pencil, and mixed media, encompassing various combinations of those materials and techniques. But your question was simple, and the simple answer is film, at least up until very recently, when I partially adopted digital since that has now seemingly become a fairly compelling medium. One has to admit that it greatly simplifies much of the now possible, to use movie terminology, post-production.

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My beautiful picture

Paul Weiner:
Do you find any inspiration in abstract expressionist painting?

Gottfried:
Yes. I find inspiration in abstract expressionist works or, rather, should I say, I find satisfaction in the production of an abstract expressionist work. In fact, as I remark in my online philosophy, “I value impressionism…because that can add meaning at a more subconscious level. Such added meaning, however, comes with some abstraction; and so the term abstract expressionism was coined.” I realize that your question was specifically directed at paintings, since you asked, “Do you find any inspiration in abstract expressionist painting?” However, to me, although I have produced a couple of such paintings, it is clear that an artwork of this genre can well be other than a painting. Of course, early abstract impressionists such as Mark Tobey who, to a degree, anticipated the all over look of many of Jackson Pollock’s works – very often worked in traditional media, an early example being Tobey’s 1954 “Canticle,” which was produced in casein on paper.

However, traditional media (and casein is, indeed, an ancient medium) exercises, for me, by no means any limitation on the production of abstract impressionist work. I like to think that my “Two Sisters,” for example, is in the vein of mid term artists in that scene, but still an all over style, having a simplified pictorial, color dominated element, although nonetheless it is rather more figurative than many of the works of early artists in that genre. That is, perhaps, simply my interpretation of the average of abstract impressionism.

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TheApparition

Paul Weiner:
How did you find your interest in erotic art?

Gottfried:
I began my photographic career shooting candids at large fairs and exhibitions, and this spun off the occasional newspaper and magazine submissions. Through this, I came to know a quite renowned newspaper photographer of that era. He did a lot of high fashion work, both for a major newspaper and also commercially on his own behalf. He introduced me to fashion work, and I eventually came to have quite a bit of work in that area, shooting for catalogues, magazines, ads, etc. One of the models asked me to take some glamour shots of her for a magazine campaign. Up until then, the usual, frequent enough, visual exposure to that type of work was more the saucy pin-up and the, so to speak, “page 3 girl” type of image, all of which, in my estimation, lacked expression and emotion. In short, they all lacked the “eyes as windows to their soul” element.

I was impressed by many of the nudes of Bill Brandt, but they, again, for me, lacked that direct appeal. Then, it was just at that time that I was attracted by the change in emphasis of the work of Helmut Newton, in which he now pursued overtly sexual themes. His juxtaposition of elements in his photographs was fascinating. These new photos of his were, in a way, tough but polished, aggressive and cold, and often disconcerting. But there was always a balance of eroticism and beauty. The eyes were not the windows to the soul, but the body and the juxtaposition said it all.

So, armed basically with these inspirations, and my own ideas, I took my first steps towards a representation of the erotic world. Fortunately, the product of those first, tentative steps was a success, and I began to receive further requests for such work in relatively quick succession. With that, the basis for expanding and delving further into the erotic and then fetish world had been laid out.

Nonetheless, as with all artists, things change with time. I now tend towards more mundane topics, although, even in a proportion of that work, I cannot resist the temptation, or perhaps it is purely subconscious, to hide erotic or fetish elements within the work.

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My beautiful picture

Paul Weiner:
With your work in film, do you develop your own photos?

Gottfried:
In the case of black and white, I develop my own film. I find that this is better than working with a lab because I know the circumstances in which the images were shot so I can have a better feel for the development rather than having to shoot so as to align the negative precisely to a lab procedure. By doing it myself, I can tweak the development according to my feel. As for the prints, I make my own b&w prints because, there, I can make many minor adjustments during the exposure and development process, which are simply impractical to have carried out by a lab, or, indeed, largely impossible to convey adequately to the lab operator. However, with color material, where I work almost exclusively with transparency film, I establish a working relationship with a good lab and let the lab process the film. A good lab is able to make quite a sufficient number of variations to the process if these ever should be needed, but I find, generally, that this is needed only infrequently.


Please view Gottfried’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Painting Perception and the Human Condition with Aaron Czerny

Aaron Czerny is an artist focusing on ideas within human perception related to behavioral habits. He has exhibited in various galleries throughout San Francisco, Santa Fe, Austin, New York City, Italy, and Lithuania. Czerny’s work is also available online at http://aaronczerny.com/.
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Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Aaron Czerny:
I am just coming out of a period in which I have been occupied with questions related to the human condition and juxtapositions of wildness and domesticity. I am fascinated with the ability of our species to be both brutally wild and brutally civilized, and the interchangeability of these terms depending upon the perceived point of reference.

At the moment, I am taking a break from such big ideas and questions and looking forward to doing some painting solely for the pure joy of it, the pure act and movement of it, for that particular smell of it and the feeling of it under my fingernails.

I will be going back to school this fall to finally finish my BA, and I consciously chose to take a bit of a hiatus beforehand to allow the space necessary for the upcoming new experiences and perceptions that will be stimulated from that environment.

I am also a firm believer in periods of leisure and constraint; these times allow one’s well to be replenished, while, at the same time, facilitating a type of inner expansion to occur. Creation needs ample amounts of time and space to develop. I have found over the years that my best work comes after periods of leisure. I then have an intense period of creative explosion, a personal Big Bang of sorts.

I am looking forward to such a period in the very near future!

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about your beliefs on human perception and how those beliefs relate to your abstract paintings.

Aaron Czerny:
The roots of understanding human perception are so vast, and, in my 40 years of consciousness, I feel as though I have had fleeting moments of intense awareness and clarity (most often while painting or engaged in what we call the “natural world”). Sometimes, on the rare occasion, I have experienced a more sustained level of discovery and lucidity, but never for long, extended periods of time. In some ways, I think this is part of the foundation of our unique form of human animal perception: that our modes and forms of consciousness, and unconsciousness, are always shifting, deconstructing, transforming, and changing with the multitude of dynamic environments we inhabit, and which we sometimes help create, destroy, or alter.

I believe the roots of our perceptions are directly connected to the land we come from. That it is the land (environment), which dictates the type of food that is available, the type of animals and plants that live there, and therefore create specific types of chemical reactions that occur when ingested. All of this can have an effect on and direct relationship to the type of language that is created and, in turn, the type of culture developed (i.e., the type of beliefs, religions, art, etc. that are the vehicles of our perceptions).

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Paul Weiner:
Are you satisfied with the commercial art world as it runs today?

Aaron Czerny:
In answering this question, I could choose to focus on the negative connotations associated with the word commercialism, but I would like to focus instead on the idea of Art as a viable means of commerce.

I remember certain artist friends being incredulous when I started showing and selling for the first time with an official gallery years ago. They thought it was so unfair that galleries took such a large percentage from the artists. My attitude then, and now, is that they deserve every penny when doing their job well, a job most artists neither want to do nor have the time to do. If they (gallerists, representatives, collectors etc.) let artists do their work and are helping facilitate their ability to do work, great! That is exactly what we need.

I, too, held certain proverbial “artist angst” ideals years ago in relation to commercialism. It took the form of getting upset upon seeing work I thought was crap hung in galleries and museums and being sold for so much. It is an attitude that is a waste of time and one that can get in the way of pursuing a viable and joyful career. I believe every artist is searching for his or her audience, and if someone happens to find it, no matter what one’s opinion may be in relation to the art or artist, we should be glad, for we all need an audience, especially one that can give us not only emotional support but monetary support as well. So, in the sense of the exchange of goods and services, the commercial market is important.

I do think that the market could help facilitate, sponsor and further educate the general public in developing a deeper appreciation of the arts, therefore seeing it as a necessary commodity that has social, cultural and personal importance.

I want to stress that a market, which helps provide a platform that promotes a relationship between an audience, individual and institutional collectors and the artists themselves is imperative and an aspect I am working toward being more a part of.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist working in abstraction, do you feel that purely figurative art can evoke the same type of emotional response as abstract?

Aaron Czerny:
To a certain extent.

I believe that what we term as abstraction is directly rooted in and stems from the figurative narrative. Our experience as humans is directly connected to our body’s myriad ways of sensing ourselves, others (sentient and non-sentient beings), and the environments we all inhabit. The art we create is transmitted first and foremost through the body, no matter what part it germinates and resonates within first.

That being said, I think that abstract and figurative work can evoke emotional responses in very different ways, just as different models or makes of cars can give very different driving experiences even though being driven on the same road.

Overall, I think art, no matter my opinion of it, whether it be figurative, abstract, conceptual, performance, or any other form, has the ability to touch others in deep, profound, and personal ways because it is a form of communication, a language. We all, in varying ways, search for and desire connection, understanding and a sense of the mysterious and divine.

Paul Weiner:
How do you begin a painting? Take us through your process.

Aaron Czerny:
The first thing I do is build the panels to work on. As much as I like putting my energy into all aspects of the piece, I would like to have the panels built for me in the future. I like to construct a fairly large number in different sizes to have on hand because, when I begin to paint, I need to be able to grab as many as necessary in the heat of the moment. Sometimes one is enough, but often the intensity of the energy is such that it cannot be confined to one space, but needs to spill over, across, and onto various surfaces. Having many prepared and on the walls, blank and waiting, creates a void of expectancy, a space and place for vision to be transcribed.

My preferred surface to work on is normally Baltic birch plywood. It has a really beautiful color and grain texture that I generally like to leave a portion of partially exposed in my pieces. I more often than not like the wood versus canvas, although I like painting on it as well, because I can be rough with it, use pencils and other hard drawing implements upon it without it ripping, and it has a presence of its own, a substance.

I also like the quality of line the hard smooth surface allows; that’s not to say I don’t also like rougher surfaces, such as the old fencing I used for a whole series because, when using materials one is not accustomed to, it pushes and forces the work to go in new directions. It forces artists to get out of their comfort zones, to go beyond where they may usually tread and what they may normally accomplish, and I like this.

I work foremost from feeling. Whatever I am feeling in the moment or in my life at the time and go from there: turn on some music, usually jazz, to help facilitate entering into that trancelike state of creation, pick up a color, approach the piece, most times close my eyes, and put hand and medium to material. Boom! The big bang begins; the dance is started; the traversing of worlds commences; touch and go; guide and step aside; and most importantly: TRUST; get out of my own way and allow the mystery to unfold.


Please view Aaron Czerny’s work at http://www.aaronczerny.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Cult Films and the Master Director Jeremiah Kipp

Jeremiah Kipp is a film director working primarily within the genre of horror. Holding a BFA from NYU, Kipp has worked on numerous films that have been featured in many international film festivals as well as commercial films for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Canon. His THE CHRISTMAS PARTY was met by more than fifty international film festivals including the Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand. Kipp’s work can be found online at http://www.kippfilms.com.


Paul Weiner:
How would you describe your role as a writer, director, and producer? How does your experience in each field impact the others?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I am primarily a director who puts projects together. Occasionally, I produce to help facilitate the work of another filmmaker who I believe in or write a project in order to film it. But I don’t consider myself a producer or screenwriter, rather a director who occasionally produces or writes. One project always leads into and informs the next, though, so I am sure my producing and writing has affected my directing. It is all the process of filmmaking.

Paul Weiner:
What genre of film do you prefer to work with?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I have found horror to be a flexible genre, very emotional and visceral. The roots are in fairy tales, where the heroes endure the unspeakable in the name of love or friendship, and their encounter with the witch pushes us into the realm of the uncanny. It could also be because I find the world to be an aggressive and strange place, where human beings have complex motivations. Drama can only take us so far, but horror and fantasy takes us beyond reality into something poetic.

Paul Weiner:
Do you have an ideal audience for your work or setting in which you would prefer the work to be viewed?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I know that the people who enjoyed my film DROOL tended to find CRESTFALLEN to be too mainstream for their taste; and those who loved CRESTFALLEN couldn’t make heads or tails out of DROOL.  Of course, you hope for that open-minded viewer that would be able to enjoy both films for what they are. Thinking of the audience while making the movie is critical for understanding what you’re trying to communicate to them. When I release the work, I allow the film to find its audience in its own way. They each have a life of their own.

Paul Weiner:

Describe your favorite piece you’ve worked on.

Jeremiah Kipp:
While I do not have an individual favorite piece, in the context of this interview I’d be happy to describe one movie to illustrate a point. THE CHRISTMAS PARTY is a project I made in 2003 about a little boy dropped off at a holiday party run by Christians, the kind who want everyone else in the world to be Christian too. I enjoy how the film polarized audiences. Some regarded it as a horror film, some as social realism. The French audiences took it as a satire of Norman Rockwell values, and the Christian audience viewed it as a cautionary tale. Ultimately, the film no longer belongs to me. It belongs to the spectator to interpret as he or she determines.

Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Jeremiah Kipp:
We are submitting a new movie to film festivals entitled THE DAYS GOD SLEPT, which has been described as a cinematic prayer set in a phantasmagoric strip club.

I also have a horror movie called BAGGAGE that plays out like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with a Grand Guignol twist. I was hired by horror personality Ro Dimension to direct his script. He played the tormented main character. Folks can either see the premiere screening at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ or order the movie online at http://youvebeenrobbedfilms.blogspot.com/

Beyond that, I have a new episode in the second season of the Web series IN FEAR OF, and I am in development on several new short fix and a feature, working with many of my wonderful collaborators from THE DAYS GOD SLEPT. I like to work.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about the use of gore in horror films, whether excessive or more tasteful?

Jeremiah Kipp:
If they push the gore to the most extreme and grotesque, a la Lucio Fulci, I find it commendable. It becomes an act of morbid excess, where everything is permitted. That is total freedom. I also admire the films of Val Lewton, which depend on a subtle tone of lingering menace lurking just beyond the edge of the frame. It all depends on what is appropriate for the movie, and if it is told with integrity. It’s middle-of-the-road stuff that just doesn’t fly, or if the gore is there because the filmmaker lacks imagination or is clearly going for a cheap thrill; it feels compromised or timid. The good movies know what they are and are uncompromising in that intent.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about today’s indie art scene in the context of the great commercialization that has taken place in the film industry?

Jeremiah Kipp:
Commercialization, in some ways, has stifled the possibilities of what movies can be. Some blockbuster movies these days play up as if they were two hours of watching thirty second advertisements strung together. But there is always a counterbalance. Alternative cinema provides a way to tap into other stories, and making movies has become more affordable. When the music industry as we knew it blew apart, it opened up new possibilities. I suspect the same thing will happen with movies. But it has happened before, and all art moves through cycles – all crafts, too.


Please view Jeremiah Kipp’s work at http://www.kippfilms.com/and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Berlin’s Diego Garcia Explores Gestalt Psychology and Interdisciplinary Artwork

Diego Garcia is a transmedia artist from Brazil who is currently living in Berlin. Garcia’s artwork covers a broad spectrum of artistic mediums, including music, video, and design. His work often deals with shocking and disturbing images while managing to retain conceptual integrity. In Garcia’s current series, Projekt Gestalten, he applies theories of gestalt psychology to the fine art world. Projekt Gestalten can also be found online at http://www.projektgestalten.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find your start in music and how has it translated to visual and video art?

Diego Garcia:
I started making music around 2003, mostly house music and electro. But, after a while, I got bored with it and started approaching more experimental styles such as IDM, ambient, techprono and downtempo. In the meantime, I was studying visual arts at my university. I was so scared because I thought that, at some point, I would have to choose between being a musician or a visual artist/designer. Then it hit me: “why do I have to pick one area if I can merge all of these types of art into one thing?” I think the turning point was at my final graduation project. I made a music-video, but, besides shooting, directing, and editing it, I also made the music and designed the whole visual art promotional material. Then I felt like a true multimedia artist.

Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a work of art? Is it different depending on the medium you’re using?

Diego Garcia:
Yes, it is. With music, I just go and start building up grooves that I like until I get something that I think is consistent. This process can be done in half hour or several hours. It really depends. Now, with graphic design, it’s a little bit more mechanic. If I am doing a project like a visual identity or an advertisement poster for a client, for instance, there are basic design rules in regards to visual psychology, color theory, and geometry that I need to obey. However, if it’s an artistic thing made just for the sake of art, all of these rules can be broken, of course. Now, if I am doing a video or a photographic project I usually already have an idea of what I want in my head. So, I make a little storyboard or sketches and start working from there. Sometimes it turns out the exact way that I wanted, like with the Lars von Trier project, or sometimes completely different, which also can generate very interesting results.
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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about the concept behind your Projekt Gestalten.

Diego Garcia:
Projekt Gestalten is the artistic name for my audio productions and my live act performances. The name literally means “construction project,” and I think that’s exactly what I do, regardless of the medium I use: I construct visual and sonic things. But gestalten also is related to the “gestalt psychology,” which is a concept I have learned while studying at my university. Its basic principle is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So, basically, for you to understand something, you need to see the whole picture as opposed to trying to analyze specific things at first. I think that concept also applies in order to understand my work and maybe even myself. I make a lot of different projects with a lot of different mediums, and I am just trying to put all the pieces together.

Paul Weiner:
Do you like to work with ideas that are shocking? Take, for instance, your “Reality Remix 001 (Sausage Commercial X Pig Being Killed).”

Diego Garcia:
Yes, I do like to work with shocking elements and try pushing the boundaries of standard behaviors. The “Reality Remix 001” project is actually a particularly disturbing one. What I like about this project is that there is not too much shockingly graphic content in this video. Due to the very fast editing work, you cannot actually see what is going on for sure. What it makes it so dramatically disturbing is the sound. Hearing the pig screaming and, at the same time, seeing bits and glimpses of him dying makes you mentally visualize the whole scene inside your head without even having to actually see the whole scene. The juxtaposition of the candid happy sausage commercial just adds another layer to the project. It’s not like I made it all up; this is what really happens inside these meat factories. Despite being a vegetarian, I don’t like militancy, and the goal of the video is not to try to abruptly stop people from eating meat but to create a dialogue about the subject and make them think more about the subject.

There are some videos like “Boi da Cara-Preta (Black-Face Ox),” which is my most viewed video on YouTube, that I would not consider too disturbing. But, it turns out that Boi da Cara-Preta was disturbing to other people. The video is an animation showing kids being devoured by this black-faced ox. The music is a remix that I made from a very traditional children’s lullaby with the same name. The melody is very tender and calm, which can be heard at the end of my version; however, the lyrics always have disturbed me, even since I was a kid. It goes like this: “black-face ox, take away these little children who are afraid of scary faces.”

I’ve received so much backlash for this video, and even some aggressive and hateful threats. I think it’s because most people associate this song with their childhood, and they search for it on the internet in order to relive happy moments. Instead, they end up stuck with my video. It was never my goal to shock people, just to translate the lyrics to their literal meaning.

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Paul Weiner:
Why did you choose to move to Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
It always has been a goal of mine to move to Europe at some point. Initially, I was thinking about going to London to do my Masters in arts over there. However, after spending a week in Berlin, during a backpack trip of mine, I fell in love with the city. It is such an amazing place to be. It’s so artistic, and I like how people are more open-minded around here. Plus, I can do my Masters in Berlin for a fraction of what I would pay in the UK. I also would have to admit that the music scene and the clubbing scene played a big role in my decision to move to the city. I truly feel like I am home in here, and I am already very inserted into the scene within only a few months of living in Berlin. It is funny because, in Brazil and in a lot of other places in the world, I’ve always felt like an alien because of the way I think, behave, dress, etc. But, in Berlin, it is like I have found my mothership back again!

Paul Weiner:
How would you describe the art scene in Berlin?

Diego Garcia:
The art scene in Berlin is vibrant, but, at the same time, it is also frustrating. I love the fact that there are so many art galleries around, but I also think that the market should value the professional a whole lot more. I see ads from these really big art galleries in Berlin seeking art assistants with years of experience, fluency in a lot of languages, and a college degree to work on unpaid “internships.” I mean, not everything is about money, but artists also need to eat and make money at some point. The only projects that I would work for free would be the philanthropic kind or the ones that are way too good to miss out on.

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Paul Weiner:
So, it sounds like you work with clients for graphic design. Would you ever work with clients for your video work or do you prefer to keep it purely experimental and fine art based?

Diego Garcia:
I think, if I could choose, I would always work with experimental/fine art projects, but I also have to make some money to support myself, and that’s not always possible with only making conceptual works. I actually briefly worked in a sound design agency back in Brazil specialized only on making big TV commercials; they even won the Golden Lion Award at the Cannes Festival at some point, and, honestly, I had a blast working there. Sometimes we had boring projects, but, even so, we could get more artistic by coming up with sound effects or recreating music to use in it. I remember when we had to hire a professional opera singer to come up and record a version of the song “Casta Diva” for us to use in a potato chip commercial. But, of course, if I would work with only this, without having my conceptual side projects as a cathartic output, I would go crazy. The same thing goes with video. I could do more commercial works, but I would never stop doing artistic projects in order to dedicate myself exclusively for that. Now, with music itself, I would never ever work with pop artists or with musicians that I don’t like for money.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you ever consider adding painting, printmaking, or a more traditional form of art to your repertoire?

Diego Garcia:
Yes. I would like to do that in the future. I had some classes back in college where I was taught more traditional techniques, but I still would like to learn more. I don’t like to rely on the computer to make art all the time. In the future, I would like to wok with watercolor paintings or something like that.


Please view Diego Garcia’s artwork at http://www.projektgestalten.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Jeffrey Thompson’s Patterned Abstract Paintings and the Wonder of Mathematical Systems

Jeffrey Thompson is a painter from San Francisco who relies on a mathematical, grid-based concept in order to develop abstract paintings. Recently, Thompson has exhibited his work at the University of Southern Oregon and in the SF Weekly for their “Masterminds 2013.” His art is available online at http://jtarts.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting? I’d like to hear about how you plan (or don’t plan), develop concepts, and engage in problem solving.

Jeffrey Thompson:
Ideally, each painting informs the next, so I usually begin the process by reviewing any relevant past work. At the outset, I make some general decisions about the way forward. I decide, for example, whether the new work will try to expand on any previous effort, or explore different territory. If the surface I’m planning to work on has a predominant characteristic, horizontal or vertical, I decide how to treat it in the composition. That is, I decide whether to employ it, or to somehow defeat it.

When I begin to attack the canvas, the process is largely mathematical. First, I determine the basic interval upon which the surface is based. For example, a 30″ x 30″ surface would likely use a 3″ basic unit. I then break down the composition based on those dimensions. I may then further divide the surface into smaller regions or grids. When establishing the drawing, I’m typically trying to emphasize the relationship between the painting surface and the layout.

At the point when I have the drawing in place, I make some fundamental choices about mediums, color, and content to cover everything from paint to the source materials I’ll be using in the collage. These collage elements are critical, as they determine a great deal about the overall impact of the piece. Newsprint carries a lot of populist imagery that, when broken down, becomes increasingly ambiguous. I find this desirable up to a point. Through experience, I’ve discovered that, if these materials are broken down too far, all meaning is obliterated. If not far enough, they seem to endorse more than is necessary.

I should note that I’m not after a specific message here. Rather, I’m trying to incorporate elements of the culture as a whole. Ironically, my objective is not unlike a good newspaper. I see myself as a kind of visual editor seeking an objective and balanced overview.

In contrast to newsprint, I sometimes opt for finer, clay-based papers in the collage, which typically come from fine art magazines or professional journals. These materials emphasize subtle color and advanced typography, and when using them, I focus on those elements.

I spent much of the past twenty years working with type and color as a graphics specialist and journeyman lithographer. My career in design and printing influenced my interest in graphic or text-based imagery and also financed my work in fine art.

I most often work with a combination of acrylic, oil, and enamel paints. I layer the acrylic paint first, with the solvent-based paints on top, in order to create a more or less stable paint structure. These paints are used out of the container in an unaltered state, although I do mix for color. I apply the paint directly, frequently manipulating it with pallet knives, spatulas, and other tools, rather than relying on brushes exclusively. The paint is alternately removed, sanded, or reduced and reapplied until it achieves sufficient density and form.

While the work is underway, I often photograph it in order to make decisions about direction, proportions, content, etc. When problem solving, I will use whatever tools are readily available, or most appropriate. This includes everything from mirrors to Photoshop. My only rule when using these tools is not to rely on any one of them too much. In order to see the work objectively, I will also hide it, turn it to face the wall for a period of time, or simply look at it upside down to take it out of normal context.

The final step is, of course, finishing the work. This is often the most subjective part of the process. It involves deciding that some or all of my original goals have been met, and that what has been achieved cannot be taken much further without losing what has been gained. It may also include approving any discoveries I may have made along the way. I will almost always embrace a positive random occurrence or other happy accidents.

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Paul Weiner:
Since your process relies on a mathematical process based on the surface you’re working on, how do you think it would change if you were to paint on a non-rectangular surface?

Jeffrey Thompson:
I have occasionally worked with random shapes when I come across what I call found surfaces. This has led to some interesting adjustments, but, in terms of an intentionally irregular or curved surface, I don’t think much would change. A two-dimensional grid can be applied to any non-linear shape. Even an irregular cloud like mass can be mapped and diagramed.

I will admit that type of presentation is less appealing to me. I don’t, however, think this is simply bias. I believe that the rectangular format is somehow intrinsic to the way we think about things visually. A theatre uses a linear proscenium; televisions are linear; and even books are rectangular. Some of that is a by-product of technology and tradition, but I think some of it is hard-wired in us.

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Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for displaying your artwork? Do you prefer it in a commercial gallery, museum, public space, or other art space?

Jeffrey Thompson:
The ideal environment for this work would, in my opinion, be a permanent installation that would be site-specific. I have envisioned the work, especially the horizontal abstractions, in some sort of fixed setting along the lines of a viewing chapel or chamber, where the experience could be fully integrated. These paintings seem to thrive in intimate spaces and often take on unique and personal narratives and associations within this type of space.

That being said, I have found that work from this series seems to adapt well to most environments. I have shown the work in spaces that range from intimate local galleries in San Francisco’s Mission District to large academic environments such as the one at Southern Oregon University. In each, the work takes on a unique and compelling personality. In the case of a recent commission, the work seemed to transform before my eyes after being installed. As comfortably as it fit in the studio, it seemed equally at home in its intended environment. I think because the work is essentially geometric in nature, it not only echoes the surface on which it lives, it also naturally embraces and compliments the architecture of the room in which it is hung.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you happen upon the striping and grid formats that are prevalent in your recent works?

Jeffrey Thompson:
This format evolved out of a combination of early influences from art school and my professional exposure to commercial graphic design standards. While studying lithography and etching under Kenji Nanao and Misch Kohn, respectively, at Cal State – Hayward, I became aware of the significance of the grid as an integral, albeit silent, partner in the printmaking process. Everything involved in the planning of a print, or painting for that matter, relies upon and is constrained by the essentially rectangular format of the process. This encompasses every aspect, from the paper to the press itself. The vast majority of litho stones and most etching plates echo this format, and, so, the planning involved in printmaking necessarily becomes an extension of that underlying geometry.

When my career extended itself into the commercial environment, this relationship only grew. Everything produced in a commercial print shop relies heavily on the geometry of the press and, by extension, the grid. Later on, as commercial lithography came to rely almost entirely on computer-generated graphics, the underlying grid became more and more significant. This is especially true in print design for publication, where every square inch or millimeter has a defined value, both literally and figuratively. A full page ad in the New York Times is valuable real estate, and the designs created for that environment are necessarily based on columns and margins, which are themselves based on the underlying grid.

Eventually, I took this fundamental premise and adopted it as the basis for a series of paper collages. This soon expanded to larger and larger paintings. There was something compelling and universal about the structure, and I quickly discovered that the potential for variations on this theme were numerous.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you consider your work as expressionist, purely aesthetic, conceptual, or something else?

Jeffrey Thompson:
This is probably the hardest question to answer, and I would gently resist any temptation to put a definite name on my work. I suppose it would be ideal if others cared enough about my work to decide that for themselves. Frank Stella, whose early black, linear paintings were a big inspiration to me, considered his work to be minimalist and post-painterly abstractions. I, of course, would be thrilled to have my work associated with either of these disciplines although, technically, I lean towards a more painterly approach.

However, I believe what truly defined Stella’s work was his ability to reinvent himself and his paintings throughout his career, thus defying a strict classification. My greatest desire would be to emulate that ability, to continue to grow my work and reinvent my process over time. However, if pressed, I would say that I am generally an abstract painter who leans heavily on aesthetics, conceptualism, and expression, not necessarily in that order.


Please view Jeffrey Thompson’s artwork online at http://jtarts.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Connecting 3-D Printing and Nature: Andrew Werby

Andrew Werby is a sculptor and the founder of United Artworks. Werby has worked with a host of tools throughout his career, from traditional lost-wax casting processes to cutting-edge 3D printers. Further images of his artwork and information about his business can be found at juxtamorph.com.

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Paul Weiner:
Explain your idea of a “juxtamorphic” style.

Andrew Werby:
While I love art history, particularly the artifacts of ancient and distant civilizations, I felt the need to create a form of art that derived directly from nature, without reliance on my – or any human’s – cultural background. To me, anyway, natural objects speak a language of their own, which is independent of any artistic style developed by man. People have certainly used natural forms to develop styles of ornamentation before, generally abstracting and conventionalizing them. The Greek acanthus leaf is an example – in art history, one can see it progressively degenerate through generations of copying and reuse until its original vitality is entirely dissipated.

By capturing natural forms directly and using them in combination with each other to concentrate their innate power, I’m trying to build an aesthetic system like a mathematical proof, starting from what can be considered axioms: the natural forms that have surrounded mankind since its beginning. If we have any clue about what beauty might consist of, it seems to me, it has to be based on them. By carefully considering these forms, searching for affinities, mating one with another, and building up a work of art based on respect for their formal values, I’m trying to circumvent the unfortunate human tendency to identify, classify, and dismiss all this beauty without really seeing it for what it is.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you say that this attempt to build a “system like a mathematical proof” has in any way determined your affinity for computer printing over less accurate casting methods?

Andrew Werby:
I didn’t mean to imply that making a piece of art in the Juxtamorphic style was as automatic and predetermined as going through a mathematical procedure. What I meant was that in constructing an aesthetic system from first principles, using the works of nature as “givens”, I felt I was building on a firm foundation, in the style of a theorem. The actual process of making art this way is very much a matter of trial and error.

In opting for this digital method of constructing sculpture, I’ve actually had to relax my standards of accuracy a bit. The traditional casting process will accurately reproduce everything one can capture in a rubber mold, which includes detail finer than a fingerprint. But no 3D scanner I have access to can capture detail like that; there’s always some loss in translation. And while detail is concentrated when one starts with a large object and scales it down, often I’m going in the other direction, with a consequent loss of detail. There’s also some detail lost in 3D printing itself,depending on the part’s scale and the type of printer used. I think this is justifiable in view of the flexibility afforded by a digitally-mediated process, but it’s still a sacrifice.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you explain the process you employ for a 3D printer?

Andrew Werby:
Different 3D printers require somewhat different inputs and are suitable for different purposes. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, which have to be considered when choosing one for a particular project. For instance, the color printer I use allows me to use photographs on the surface of my pieces, much like projecting them onto a blank form, except that the color on the surface is an integral part of the piece, and is built along with the rest of it. I have another one that prints in clear plastic. These prints are a lot more durable than my color prints, but the detail on the surface, which is better, is harder to see because of the clarity, although that does produce some interesting visual effects. Another printer I’ve been using prints small objects with extremely high detail in a resin that’s suitable for investment casting, so I can transform these prints into jewelry or other parts in a range of metals.

Paul Weiner:
What kind of programs do you use in order to tell the printer what to make?

Andrew Werby:
There are a few different steps to my process. The first is 3D scanning, to create a library of forms that become my primary source material. Each scanning system consists of the hardware that actually captures the scans, and the software that enables it to work. I use a variety of these, ranging from simple touch-probes that record a single point at a time to laser scanners that can capture a whole object in great detail.

Once I have some scans to work with, I use one of a series of programs to combine, mirror, duplicate, scale and distort them in various ways, and to subtract one from another. My favorite program for doing this is called Geomagic Freeform. It’s a hardware/software system that has the unique ability to convey a tactile impression of the objects one is working on by varying the resistance of an articulated arm that’s used to manipulate them, so it’s a lot like using a real tool on a physical material, and is excellent for making subtle transitions from one surface to another. I also use more traditional CAD (Computer Aided Design) software for tasks which require hard geometric forms and measured relationships between them. Often I’ll use a combination of different software programs on a single piece to deal with different aspects of its intended function and appearance.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you make the transition from bronze casting to 3D printing?

Andrew Werby:
The techniques of “lost wax” bronze casting traditionally were something that was left to foundry technicians to execute, based on a clay or plaster model that an artist would deliver, often at a much smaller scale than the large metal sculpture they’d produce. This led to a certain level of disengagement on the part of the sculptors, and to sculptures that lost something in translation. Fortunately, I was taught bronze casting by some sculptors who had revived foundry practice as a hands-on skill that artists could master themselves. One of the things we learned was mold-making. This was a revelation to me; I loved the idea that I could capture the surface information from one object and create another one in a different material, like wax or bronze, that still displayed the exact configuration of the original. I became particularly fascinated with doing this to natural objects, since they display such a mysterious richness of texture and detail. Soon I’d amassed the beginnings of what would become a formidable mold library, initially drawing on the resources of my school’s departmental collections, and had begun casting sculptures that combined all sorts of different animals, minerals, and vegetables.

I carried on with this for a long time after graduation, building a foundry of my own and expanding this basic technique into various other media. When personal computers started becoming powerful enough to combine photographic images, I delved into that a bit, but as a sculptor I was unsatisfied with making only 2D images, although I was intrigued by the ease and seamlessness of the transitions I could achieve in digital photo-collage. I started wondering if I could do the same thing in 3D and create actual sculpture from virtual models of natural forms. But everyone I spoke to about it at the time told me it was impossible, at least for an individual artist without corporate backing. I kept researching this, however, and my timing was right, because companies making CAD software and hardware peripherals were waking up to the mass market that was created with the spread of powerful personal computers, and making products available at much lower prices than before. I discovered some relatively inexpensive tools that allowed me to prove the concept, capturing a seashell in 3D, importing and manipulating it in a software environment, and then using a small CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) milling machine to carve it into a piece of wood.

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I really like the CNC process, since it allowed me to expand what I could previously only do with casting and approach carving in much the same way. One is fairly unconstrained in the materials that can be used, and the scale of a part can be as large as the machine allows, while the level of detail is largely dependent on the time one is willing to spend carving it. I could use it to create models for casting in other materials, or create a final part in a permanent material like wood. The machines that do it are relatively simple, and I was able to build some for myself that extended the size range of the parts I could make. I’d found some 3D scanning equipment that was faster and produced models with better detail, and discovered software that let my imagination loose on them. But to carve something with a CNC mill, the tool has to be able to reach every area of the part’s surface, and there are some constraints on the designs one can accomplish. I found myself constructing things I couldn’t carve, and thinking about 3D printers.

There are quite a few different varieties of 3D printers. At the low end, they are basically just CNC machines with a hot-glue gun instead of a spindle, although they use more rigid plastic as a feedstock. The layers of material they deposit are individually visible on the surface and tend to obliterate all but the strongest surface textures. And the forms they can make are not unconstrained; the hot plastic, if not completely supported, will droop to the bottom of the build platform. I couldn’t see any particular advantage to using them instead of CNC carving.

However, there are some other technologies, like powder-bed printing, where a layer of powder is consolidated selectively and another is added on top, that allow the piece to be supported by the unconsolidated powder as it’s built up layer by layer. This allows a lot more freedom in design. Another method involves shining a laser into a vat of liquid photo-reactive polymer. This requires support from the bottom of the vat, but not nearly as much as the hot extruded filament, so the supports that are used can be easily detached.

A third technique also uses photoreactive resin, but cures it using a projector from underneath, which allows it to build particularly fast, since a whole slice is exposed at a time. By making each slice very thin, it can produce very fine detail fairly quickly. This resin is suitable for “lost wax” casting, since it burns out cleanly in a mold, so I’m able to cast it in bronze, just like the wax I started out with.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you consider your work fine art sculpture, design, or somewhere between the two?

Andrew Werby:
My work can be arranged on a continuum between purely artistic sculptures and completely functional designs. I don’t make a big distinction between art and craft; my most influential teachers were among those artists of the 20th century who worked hard to obliterate that divide and I basically agree with them about the uselessness of segregating the two. I might make something that has no earthly use except as an object for contemplation; in that case there’s nothing else to call it but fine art. I also make things which can be put to some kind of use – a vessel, for instance, or a piece of jewelry. Its functional aspects may not be such as to overshadow its basically decorative nature, so it would rank somewhere in the middle. But I don’t forbid myself from acting as a designer first and an artist second, if the task warrants it, and in that case the intended function will largely dictate the form I produce to accommodate it. That would be placed on the other end of the spectrum.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you enjoy making work that functions as a tool more, less, or equally to making work purely for aesthetic pleasure?

Andrew Werby:
I like doing both things. I don’t feel any compulsion to be purely an artist or exclusively a designer. Perhaps these different things are satisfying in different ways, so I do one or the other as the mood strikes me or the need for it presents itself. It’s good to identify an unmet need and fulfill it, so for instance I’ve launched into a project of designing the ultimate electric cello, which is more or less a pure design effort, where the goal is to achieve as good a sound quality as possible while preserving the ergonomics of the acoustic instrument. In the course of making a piece I often find I need some tool or machine that doesn’t exist, so in order to do something I’ve set my mind on, I’m obliged to shift gears and go into tool-making mode.


Please view Andrew Werby’s artwork online at juxtamorph.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Stephen Mauldin’s Experimental Painting Techniques

Today’s interview is with Stephen Mauldin, a painter and instructor living in Oregon with great interest in creating new painting techniques to express content he has developed for over forty years. Mauldin holds an MFA with a concentration in painting and printmaking from the University of Idaho as well as a BA in art from Oklahoma City University. He has exhibited his work in many galleries throughout the Northwest and beyond. Read the interview, and then find more information and artwork online at http://www.mauldinart.com.

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Paul Weiner:
How has your experience as an educator affected your artwork in terms of process and aesthetic preferences, if at all?

Stephen Mauldin:
I can’t say that my teaching experience has affected my process or aesthetic preferences. Teaching basic design and color theory has certainly deepened my understanding of basic design principles and the intricacies of color, but I think what teaching does most is to keep things fresh. All the knowledge and skills one uses as an artist are eternally fresh for each new group of students. Their enthusiasm for receiving that knowledge and acquiring those skills prevents one from taking it all for granted. Plus, one continues to learn as one teaches. My knowledge of art history ,though still limited by most standards, I think, has expanded exponentially over the years due to teaching.

The deal is, I’m a single-minded guy. I think it was Matisse who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that every artist has one idea they refine for a lifetime. That’s certainly been true in my case. I’m still addressing the same issues I was nearly forty years ago when I left undergraduate school. I bring more life experience and artistic experience to bear on those issues, but the core issues are still the same. Where I live and what I do for a living has never had any immediate impact on my work as an artist. If I hadn’t taught, I think my work would have still taken a similar path.

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Paul Weiner:
As an artist who has been trained in smaller art markets like Oklahoma City and Moscow, Idaho, how do you feel about the commercial art system that clusters around major cities like New York and Los Angeles?

Stephen Mauldin:
In the digital age, it seems a little silly since most things can be done anywhere now due to the internet. However, not many people are going to buy a large, expensive painting over the internet, sight unseen, so galleries are still necessary. The key issue, though, is the “critical mass” of collectors necessary to sustain a commercial art system. That’s what New York and L.A. have that other cities don’t. That allows them to create the gallery infrastructure that draws collectors from elsewhere, as well. That’s one of the biggest complaints here in Portland, Oregon where I live. We’re known as a creative magnet and there are thousands of working artists here with more arriving every day, but there are nowhere near enough collectors to support them all (not even including the collectors who occasionally travel here to buy art). It’s a frequent complaint in Seattle, as well.

The downside of the system is that it lets a handful of people define what is the “best” art of any generation and limits the variety of art being seen by the public. There’s art being produced every day all over this country that’s as good as anything made in New York or L.A., but few people see it because of this system.

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Paul Weiner:
You mentioned the rise of the internet as having an impact on art collection. Since many patrons are unwilling to buy expensive paintings online, do you feel that the value of contemporary art is diminished when it is sold on a store like Etsy?

Stephen Mauldin:
Not necessarily. What I was suggesting is that I doubt many people are going to drop several thousand, or tens of thousands, of dollars on a piece of art they’ve only seen online. Much of what any piece of art offers is too subtle to be seen online. If the piece can be sold for a few hundred dollars, people are more likely to take a chance. On the other hand, I think serious collectors prefer to see the art “in the flesh,” as it were, since they are more discriminating by and large. That said, much of what is on sites like Etsy is what I would call “wall décor,” not to be mistaken for Art. As my basic design students learn, Art has three essential elements: subject, form, and content. Subject is what the art depicts; form is how it is organized; and content is what it communicates. Wall décor usually has the first two elements, but is often thin on or completely lacking the third. Also, whereas collectors are usually most interested in content, people who buy wall décor are usually most concerned about whether it will match the couch. There may very well be some excellent art on Etsy’s site, but I doubt if many serious collectors rely on Etsy or similar sites to add to their collections. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy work off of my site without seeing it first.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you explain your concept for your String Theory series?

Stephen Mauldin:
The String Theory series didn’t begin with a concept, per se. I experiment with paint frequently. Robert Henri noted in his book The Art Spirit that mastering a medium does not come from being taught what he calls “stock phrases.” He suggests there, quite accurately I think, that mastering a medium comes from thoroughly understanding the properties of that medium. To that end, I am constantly playing with paint in order to more fully understand what it can and cannot do.

So, one day, while paying with paint, I taped an ultra-fine straight pin to the end of a palette knife, dipped it into some paint, cocked the palette knife back, and slung a very small quantity of paint onto a piece of paper. The resulting mark was absolutely electric, playing out into lines smaller than a human hair and crisper than one could ever create with a brush. It immediately struck me as the perfect visual signifier for the “strings” of string theory, electric little knots of energy. With the paintings in the String Theory series, I took that idea and married it to those issues I mentioned earlier. The face is actually derived from a mannequin head I bought while in graduate school, which has come and gone in my work ever since and is used to signify some sort of “higher intelligence” in the universe. What I’m trying to suggest is a universe teeming with intelligence on multiple levels. By the way, a palette knife breaks in half after about two hours of slinging paint like this, so I had to devise an alternate tool.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about this alternate tool you’ve developed!

Stephen Mauldin:
I wish I could tell you that it’s something amazingly complicated that took natural engineering skills to develop, but I simply stuck the pin in the end of a Colour Shaper. They’re like paint brushes with some form of rubber shaped like bristles instead of having actual bristles. I had bought a bunch of them years ago but found that I didn’t like them. They had been laying around the studio for years, so when I was looking for a solution to the failing palette knife problem, they were there, and they worked. They wear out, too, but it takes months instead of hours. I prefer one particular type that’s hard to find, so I just bought about $150 dollars worth of them in case I can’t find them in the future or they’re discontinued.

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Paul Weiner:
How would you define your style of art?

Stephen Mauldin:
I don’t know that I really have a “style” since my work changes rather significantly every few years. The issues stay the same, but the way the paint is applied changes dramatically. In the beginning, I used brushes and applied paint directly to canvas or panel, as most painters do. Then I started shaping the canvas over objects and applying paint with an airbrush to simulate the play of light and shadow on those objects, stretching the canvas after the fact. That was continued on rip-stock nylon for a while to get finer detail. After that, I made all the marks for paintings on glass first, and then collaged them into “paint assemblages” of sorts. Next, I used a tool designed for putting stripes on picture frame molding to draw directly with paint and produce pieces infused with a dense web of spirals and arcs to suggest the patterns of sub-atomic particles. That was followed by extruding thickened paint into actual webs that were about a half-inch deep. Later, I stamped the image onto canvas using rubber stamps that I carved myself. Now I sling paint with pins.

Actually, it dawned on me recently that I have always been led by the paint. As I have played with it over the years, it has continually revealed new things to me and suggested new technical directions. Ben Shahn said, “The painter who stands before an empty canvas must think in terms of paint.” Over the years, as I’ve addressed the issues I do, that’s what I’ve done – thought in terms of paint and how I can make it convey more clearly what I’ve been trying to communicate.shadow1

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Paul Weiner:
Is there a certain type of paint you prefer? Also, would you consider your revelations about paint and its application to be equally important to the actual products you create?

Stephen Mauldin:
I’ve used NovaColor acrylics for thirty years. I started using them when I worked with an airbrush because they’re slightly less viscous than tube colors and require less thinning to be sprayed. It’s a high quality, heavily pigmented artist’s color and is much less expensive than any other brand I’ve found, so I’ve stuck with it. They’re great people to deal with, too. Producing the electric little mark that I’m so infatuated with now is all about viscosity. If the paint’s too thick or too thin, all you get is little dots or a big mess. Curiously, only the warm colors with NovaColor will do it. I think it’s the properties of the pigments, so I’ve taken to modifying the cool colors with Utrecht’s extra stiff colors. I tried gel mediums and everything else I could think of with no success until I stumbled upon the Utrecht solution almost by chance.

I don’t consider my revelations about paint to be of much importance since they would be of little use to anyone else. They’re a reflection of my temperament and have resulted in painting methods that are extremely time consuming and mind-numbingly tedious by most people’s standards. Actually, the importance, in my mind, lies not in the products or objects I create, but in the content contained therein. The paint and the objects are only means to an end.


Please view Stephen Mauldin’s artwork online at http://www.mauldinart.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Maxwell Coppola Intertwines Innocence and the Digital Age

Maxwell Coppola is an artist who explores the duality between childhood innocence and disturbing images. He recently stumbled into the world of internet-based art with a series of work reliant upon Google image searches. Check out Maxwell’s work online at http://www.maxwellcoppola.com.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you describe the process you went through in order to capture the images in your word searches series?

Maxwell Coppola:
I developed the concept for my word search pieces while looking up references for my paintings. I’m always searching the Internet for images to help formulate my paintings, and I do so much of this through Google’s image search. After doing some more experimental projects, I decided to give the word search series a shot.

To create the pieces, I search for a word or phrase, write down the time and day of the search, and take screenshots of the output. The screenshots are then pieced together to form the piece.

I like how many different concepts these pieces touch upon: pop culture, mass media, the internet, search engines, fair use, copyright, abstract vs. figurative, aesthetics, perception. I think these pieces have a lot of potential talking points.

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Paul Weiner:
This process is intriguing because it points out the extent to which Google informs our perceptions and opinions on ideas, objects, and people. How is it that you determine the compositions for these works? Do you create the compositions intuitively and aesthetically or with rigid conceptual requirements like an algorithm?

Maxwell Coppola:
An image search engine follows an algorithm to determine which images it will display. Google creates the algorithm, but the images themselves are out across the Internet. I think the search offers a sort of current aggregate perception of a word or phrase.

I’m still exploring how I want to continue this process, actually. Searching for a celebrity like Oprah Winfrey is much different than searching for, let’s say, the color blue. The one thing I will always do is write down the search time and date. How different might a search for “World Trade Center” be in 2000 versus 2002?

I try to be conceptual initially, but I certainly think about aesthetics and whether my initial concept will ultimately work as a visual piece. I like your idea of incorporating an algorithm to create the pieces. I could definitely explore that.

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Paul Weiner:
Why have you chosen to create artwork which questions your own identity in reference to child-like and disturbing imagery?

Maxwell Coppola:
I’m not sure I’m really trying to question my identity with these. There are some images within these paintings that relate to my childhood directly, but those are usually thrown in as little Easter eggs to myself.

I’m really influenced by members of my own family and my own experience working with children. My mother works with children aged 2-5; my aunt is a principal at a grade school; I have a lot of young cousins; I have my own history of working as a camp counselor for 5 years. I’m also influenced by pop surrealist artists, who seem to use a lot of children in their artwork. I think the disturbing and twisted imagery makes for good contrast against the innocence of childhood, but that could just be in my own head.

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Paul Weiner:
I’ve noticed that many of your works use stuffed animals as a symbol for childhood. Are the stuffed animals in your images directly related to you or simply made up for the paintings?

Maxwell Coppola:
I remember the characters, and they were a part of my life in some capacity, but the images used as references were taken from the Internet.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you view aestheticism as a chief concern in the creation of your images or is it secondary to the concept?

Maxwell Coppola:
The aesthetics are always a concern for me; however, they are not the first on the list. The concept is always first, but I do my best to make a professional looking piece. I’ve always had the mindset that my paintings should be beautiful from afar, but twisted when you get closer and actually see what’s going on.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe the process you use in beginning a work of art. How does this change when creating photography, conceptual art, and painting?

Maxwell Coppola:
Whether creating photography, conceptual art, or paintings, I start the same way. I’m always trying to generate ideas that are weird, ironic, controversial, funny, unexpected, gross, beautiful, and some mix of all of that. The main test an idea has to pass in my own mind is:

1. Is it interesting?

2. Is this me?

One interesting part about number 2 is that I probably would not have started my word search series if I hadn’t let myself experiment with my mixed media pieces. I started as a painter, and I was planning on working strictly within that medium. I think by allowing myself to explore different media and ideas, it helped me become more open minded about my artwork and who I wanted to be as an artist.

Paul Weiner:
Your Word Search series seems to move away from the theme of childhood. Is that a direction you’re planning on heading in for future work?

Maxwell Coppola:
That’s a good question. I think that I will continue to paint as I am. However, I love exploring new concepts and ideas and working with different materials. Also, you never know what might catch on in the art world.


Please view Maxwell Coppola’s artwork online at http://www.maxwellcoppola.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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