Critique Collective

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Ivan Jenson Blends Painting and Poetry

Ivan Jenson is a pop art painter and contemporary poet whose artwork was featured in Art in America, Art News, and Interview Magazine while selling at auction at Christie’s. Jenson was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to make a painting titled “Absolut Jenson” for the brand’s national ad campaign, and his “Marlboro Man” was collected by the Philip Morris corporate collection. Jenson was commissioned to paint the final portrait of the late Malcolm Forbes before his death. He also wrote two novels, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah, both of which illustrate the creative and often dramatic lives of artists. Jenson turned to poetry as an outlet for artistic expression, and he is now a prolific writer who is widely published in a variety of literary media. Jenson’s poems were recently published by Hen House Press in a book titled Media Child and Other Poems, which can be acquired on Amazon.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your history as an artist, writer, and poet. What are some of your greatest accomplishments?

Ivan Jenson:
I came from an artistic family in Los Angeles, and we were encouraged to be creative from an early age. I became obsessed with Michelangelo and Renaissance art at around nine years old. I used to check out sixteen millimeter films from the library about Michelangelo and screen them for myself for hours on end. I made a sculpture at age nine in Costa Rica that was used as a poster for a national exhibit. I then discovered Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, and Dylan Thomas at thirteen and began to write. I wrote movie reviews for the Valley News and Green Sheet at that age.

Then we moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where I gave some of my early poems to an English teacher in Junior High School, and he read them over the weekend. On Monday, he made a speech to the class and said, “Ivan Jenson is not only a better writer than me or any other teacher in this school, he is also better than any student here because he has something which cannot be taught. He has the gift of a poet.” My early poems where published in magazines in Indiana. I also wrote my first novel at thirteen after a vivid experience of a summer spent studying art in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was a coming of age story called Walking Wounded, and Delacorte Press wrote me that they thought it was “Catcher in the Rye times five.” Other editors said it was, “raw and brutal.” My father gave a few chapters to Ray Bradbury to read, and he sent me a letter which said I wrote better than he did until he was 30.

My family moved to New York city, where I briefly studied at the Art Students League where I was told that the artist’s life is a lonely one. I consider myself self-taught in both art and writing. My big break came when I hung my paintings on paper with paper clips in Times Square and became an overnight success. Everything I made sold instantly and I was able to quit my job as a caterer for weddings and move into Manhattan at age 20. It was perfect timing because I was catching, and riding the crest of, an art wave hitting downtown New York City in the mid 80s.

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My early career was far from lonely. Though I painted for hours alone, as soon as I was done with the paintings, they were trucked off to East Village galleries and all the top night clubs in the City including the famous Palladium, where my art was seen during a Whitney centennial exhibit featuring East Village Artists. Every single painting I have made has sold. Soon after, I was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to create my own Absolut Jenson painting, which was featured full page in Art News, Art in America, Interview, and other top international magazines. I now shared the same ad campaign gig as Andy Warhol. Later, I sold my most expensive painting. It was of the Marlboro Man, and I sold it to Philip Morris. I befriended Malcolm Forbes, and I was invited aboard the famed Forbes Highlander Yacht to draw my trademark pop art portraits of the “Who’s Who” of the corporate world. I painted the last commissioned portrait of Malcolm Forbes.

Fast forward through the nineties. I continued to make my living as an artist, but little did I know I was gathering material for an unexpected literary career that was brewing inside me. I left New York in 2004 after personal and career burnout and found myself feeling lost in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But then, after a year of culture shock from the change to a much slower pace, I joined a writer’s group. At first, I brought in some unfinished fiction, and after receiving great feedback, I quickly made up for lost time and furiously wrote a series of novels as well as poetry. A girlfriend of mine at the time told me my poetry was as good as anything out there, and so, on a whim, I submitted to three magazines. Well, I forgot all about it, thinking it would lead nowhere, until a few weeks later all three poems were accepted for publication with glowing letters from the editors of the magazines. So I submitted more and got accepted again. Within three months, I was already published by some of the top ten online literary magazines in the country. I became addicted to writing poetry and seeing them published. Now, I have two novels published, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah both published by Hen House Press, New York, close to five hundred poems published, and a book of poems called Media Child and Other Poems soon to be published also by Hen House Press.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you see your poetry and painting as being intertwined?

Ivan Jenson:
For me, they are very different. My paintings are all about a mix of classical and contemporary aesthetics, bold line, color, and structural balance. Other more painterly works are all about the romance of painting and its texture. But I can say that my adventures and misadventures as an artist living and working and loving in the trenches of downtown New York City for twenty years has given me an endless gold mine of material for my novels and my poetry. I am including my line drawings in my new book of poems.

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Paul Weiner:
As someone who has experienced the New York art world, do you feel as if New York City is a conducive place for artists to make new work?

Ivan Jenson:
For me, it was. My whole career was born when I first sold my art in Times Square, The Upper West Side, Soho, and Union Square. I got to meet, first hand, all my collectors. The streets were my living, breathing internet, and from all that networking, I met the important lawyers, gallery owners, club owners, and VIP collectors. I think that people still love to purchase a painting from a genuine New York City artist. But now New York is so expensive, I don’t see how an artist starting out could afford the overhead unless that artist had half a dozen roommates. My only roommates were the women who lived with me.

Now, for me, living in Grand Rapids, the internet is my new version of New York. I would say that the internet is now a virtual New York City. Thanks to e-mail, I can submit my poems with ease, and they instantaneously zip over to the literary sites. Then, when my poetry is shared on Twitter and Facebook, it is exposed to thousands of readers. I may not live in New York anymore, but New York lives in me. I still walk fast, and I maintain that driven inner pace, and, when I am working, I write often to the beat of Electronica music. And yet, living away from New York City has given me perspective on that seductively fast lifestyle, and coming from New York City has given me perspective on the wonderful subtleties of the Midwest. My novels, Seeing Soriah and Dead Artist, both take place in a fictional city called Gold Haven, Michigan, and key scenes take place in New York City.

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Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that a lot of your material comes from your time as an artist in New York City. What are some other common themes that show up in your poetry throughout Media Child and Other Poems?

Ivan Jenson:
My debut poetry book is a comprehensive collection of my poems written over the last four and a half years when this whole magical renewal of my creative life began. It was all so new and exciting, yet the words and the images fell right into place with immediacy and ease. Nothing was forced; it all just flowed. Every day was a new discovery of what was possible for me in poetry. I dedicated myself to writing at least a poem a day and then reading them aloud to my writer’s group and then unabashedly sending them off. It was a formula that worked famously and which I enjoyed immensely. Some of the poems in my book are autobiographical flashbacks to my East Village days. Through my poetry, I was to find form and meaning behind my former fast-paced lifestyle. It was not long into my newfound poetry career that wordplay appeared in my poems.

Now, I am a quick study, and once I realized I was onto something unexpected and wonderful, I grew in leaps and bounds. There was a phenomena going on both inside and outside of me. Here I was, drawing from my experience, my neurosis, my heartache, my highs and lows, and yet I was treating them with a lightness of touch and never forgot to add wit and universal punch lines to the mix. As I read aloud my poems at my writer’s group I learned that there was power in my knack for humor. Then I began to spin on common phrases, colloquialisms, clichés, and I soon drew from the media as well. Next came a cast of characters including celebrities or brand names, TV shows from Gilligan’s Island to Star Trek, and public figures from Jung to Joan Rivers and Chaplin. They just all showed up unannounced in my stanzas like a profound parade of self-styled product placement. I went as far as to title one of my most popular poems “Name Dropping.”

My poems are designed to work on the page as well as live, and I treated my writer’s group as a training ground for how to act out and really sell my poems in performance. And, soon enough, I was invited to perform them at theaters, bookstore poetry readings, or at the fancy homes of the “Who’s Who” of Grand Rapids. I was always pleased to get laughter right on cue where I wanted it, as if I were a stand up comic. And yet, through the laughter, I knew that the deeper meanings were still coming through. Not only do I make sure my poems open up with a hook, but then I take the reader or listener on a visceral ride and a public display of my deepest fears, phobias, and foibles in a metaphorical mash up with movie stars, literary icons, historic figures, and late night talk show hosts. Then I keep juggling on those phrases we have heard all our lives, and yet I give them new and sometimes twisted twists.

I never knew I had this treasure trove of verbal Americana stowed up inside of me. And yet it all channels through me, with a detailed structure, polyrhythm, sometimes multiple inner rhymes. Some poems are like monologues spoken by characters in a play or a scene from Film Noir. Others are snapshot memories, and others are like short films. My poems have been turned into short films by a talented filmmaker named Cassidy Bisher. He is currently adapting a poem I wrote especially for his production company. Its theme is nostalgia and the passage of time. The film will feature time lapse photography set against the spoken words of my poem. Obviously, this is a dream come true to see my poetry become cinema.

Note To Self a poem by Ivan Jenson

The Way It Should Be a poem by Ivan Jenson

Midwest Juliet a poem by Ivan Jenson

Paul Weiner:
Has your painting style changed at all since you made the move to Michigan?

Ivan Jenson:
Since I moved to Michigan, my paintings have become so much more complex. When I depict van Gogh, as I often do, the paintings have become mosaics, puzzles of color where each color contrasts or has to answer to the color next to it. I am in as good form as ever here in Michigan as I was in my studio in New York City. I turn on urban R and B music, and I fall into cadence with my colors. My Michigan studio is quite big, and I can make a nine foot by nine foot paintings and feel myself engulfed in the vastness of the canvas. When I take a break and turn the music off, I hear the crickets and the birds at night, and then I carry my bucket of brushes through the backyard in the night with the moon shining, and I feel like the expatriate artist, like Gauguin who has found a slice of paradise far from the chiseled edges and the blazingly bright video advertisements of Times Square.

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Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of the internet being a virtual New York City. What are a few of your favorite web sites that have helped you use the internet to make your work public?

Ivan Jenson:
I have to be frank with you here and say that each morning, when I approach my computer screen with a cup of Starbucks in hand and just the right music playing on iTunes, I am truly reaching through the screen and grasping digital opportunities by the dozen. Google is my tool, and my hard drive is the fire of my inner drive which has never burned out. I am not at liberty to give out my self-styled, highly secretive, and self-developed tricks of the internet trade. But I will be candid and say that my transformation into a writer did not happen by accident.

I do not follow the usual format of submission. If there are standard systems or rules out there on How to Become a Published Author or Poet, well, then I have broken them all. Some of my poems have even been published in multiple publications. But I have never heard of a poet being put to jail for that free-verse transgression. I learned early that I must not only be a fountain of creativity, but that I have to also be a viral, guerrilla marketing maven as well. Usually, getting hyped up on caffeine and diet Coke makes me so ambitious that the pupils of my eyes dilate behind my glasses and I simply will it all to happen.

I admit I am addicted to getting e-mails of acceptance letters from publishers, literary magazines, filmmakers, ect, but to get that I must cast my net on the internet. My confidence comes from knowing that my angst and my ecstasy of words is loved and appreciated by the public and by the always wonderful embrace of literary circles. I am eternally grateful to the editors of online and print magazines and anthologies who have been so generous and receptive of my works from day one. For a creative person, knowing that you have something special is not enough; you must show the world your poems, your novels, your paintings, your sculptures, your quips, your funny asides, your best tragic mask, your pointed dress shoes and observations, your new pair of New Balance shoes, your trendy five o’clock stubble, your smile. And then you must wait, and if you are lucky, the world will answer back with an astounding, “Yes!”

“Name Dropping”

I am trying to be Gandhi about this
But sometimes you make me so Mussolini
You think you are so very Jesus
But really you are much more Britney
Than Mother Teresa
Sure you Isadora Duncan into a room
With your Betty Davis lies
And you expect me to
Cyrano De Bergerac
You on the phone
Or Shakespeare up my e-mails
But I’m just John Doe
I’m no James Dean or Citizen Kane
The point is I want to be
Romeo to your Juliet
I want us to John and Yoko till the end
I want our children to
Be Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple
In the afternoons
I want them to be Dorothy and Toto
Near a rainbow
I want to be Mr. Brady
and you to be mother Maude
And though I’m no Tiger or Agassi
I still want my boys to be
little Eli Mannings
and the girls will be so Serena or Venus
Look I’ll never be a Bill Gates provider
and you’re no Keira Knightley in our quick-snaps
But still, when I see you I want to
Larry King you with questions
and Oprah you with compassion
We used to be so Brad and Angelina
But now we’ve become so Limbaugh and Obama
Guess it will be this way
until we are old and Castro gray

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Paul Weiner:
Is Vincent van Gogh an inspiration for you? Which artists and poets have influenced your work the most over the years?

Ivan Jenson:
Van Gogh is both an inspiration and a concern of mine. I first discovered van Gogh in a calendar in an elementary school classroom, and his vivid yellows and oranges, his use of thick paint seemed to be beckoning to only me. The childlike naiveté and the intensity of his works spoke to me. Van Gogh is a contemporary character along with Picasso in my novel, Dead Artist. In the novel, the artist protagonist, Milo Sonas, sees dead artists. He gets supernatual visitations from these two artists. Each artist represents a different spectrum of artistic recognition. Here we have Picasso, millionaire, South of France mansion owner, and a life filled with societal accolades and many younger wives and sensual mistresses, and then we have the troubled legend of van Gogh, loner, misunderstood, mad, loveless and an artist who never sold a single painting. In my novel, Dead Artist, I even the score and Van Gogh gets a second chance in the modern world when a young college coed sets van Gogh up with her best friend, a girl who is a van Gogh fanatic, who becomes the love of Vincent’s afterlife. In my novel, van Gogh finds love, and he gets to watch from another dimension as his paintings sell for astronomical figures. This is my artistic and poetic justice.

My foremost influence has always been Picasso. I was fascinated by him as a teen, and it was a thrill to know in the 70s that he was living and painting in sandals, shorts and fedora hats in the South of France. Here was a man who could have traveled or lived a life of luxurious leisure, but, instead, he chose to burn the midnight oil of his talent by painting all night long. He chose to spend a lion’s share of his ferocious ability exploring the safari of his artistic abilities alone in his studio. From an early age, I acquired this sort of prolific work ethic. On Mondays in New York City, I would always ritualistically begin a new series of paintings. As for poetry, I have loved Richard Brautigan for his whimsy. I loved Dylan Thoma’s rich Welch delivery of his poetry. And I loved how Walt Whitman stole from the Bible the many wonders of using the word “and”. I am not too proud to proclaim that I was infatuated with the melancholic and sometimes sentimental spell that Rod Mckuen had over the publishing world in the 70s. I let that dream go when I became an artist, but, as fate would have it, I was to become a poet after all.

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Paul Weiner:
Visual artists are always trying to find innovative ways of working. Today, many new media artists have taken to the web as an opportunity to program web sites that function as artwork. As someone who avidly uses the internet as a powerful marketing tool, do you think the internet is also a potential medium for the creation of visual art?

Ivan Jenson:
People today fall in love because of dating web sites; friends who have lost touch are virtual friends again because of Facebook, and so on. I hear all the time of artists using programs to paint. As a messy artist who lived in an apartment that was splattered with Jackson Pollock drips of color wherever you looked, I will be the first in line to work with virtual art supplies that don’t make a mess. And, of course electronic brushes that don’t have to be washed would be wonderful. Yet, as an artist with one foot in the 20th and the other in the 21st Century, I will always pour out my paint on plates and paint on canvas, if only to keep my spiritual connection with Vincent and Pablo alive. Who knows, maybe one day I will paint on my Mac and e-mail the file to multiple galleries in Paris, London and New York who will then display my art on sleekly framed canvas simulating monitors. And I will appear at the opening night of my international solo exhibits as a hologram of an artist with a glass of Chardonnay in his hand.


Please view Ivan Jenson’s work on his website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Evoking Suburbia: Corey Dunlap

Corey Dunlap is an artist working in mediums of installation and sculpture. He received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through Tufts University in 2013 and attended the New York Arts Practicum in 2013. Many of his recent works involve the arranging of objects from suburban settings. Many of Dunlap’s recent works are also made in collaboration with his partner, Bradley Tsalyuk. Additional images of his artwork may be found on his website.

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The Hot Stones Are Never Rough; massage table, silicon rubber, plastic, hot stones, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk.


Paul Weiner:
What are some of the most common themes in your recent work and how do you evoke them?

Corey Dunlap:
My primary focus is the mutability of the body, and I often employ a variety of techniques in order to facilitate that investigation. My research is intuitively structured, and it combines a collage of subjects including self-help culture, domestic identity, Flow Theory, virtual object hood, and multi-stable awareness. Currently, my work engages with corporeal objects which diversely confront both an optimistic and deprecating sense of self. These suburban objects derive from a culture whose desire is to better the self through the body, fluctuating on a scale between exertion and relaxation. I am interested in presenting these objects within a virtual-like setting. In this way, the viewer is allowed to engage with the physical structure of the object through a projected avatar body. I find the absent body to be a poetically rich subject.

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Cognitive Decline; commercial chaise lounge, play sand, casters, wood, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Many of your recent works are in collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk. How does working with a partner impact your work?

Corey Dunlap:
Bradley and I have been partners for three years and have worked collaboratively for about a year. Our collaboration developed organically by finding overlaps in interests and expanding those interests through dialogue. We have worked in close proximity to one another for so long, and, therefore, it is often difficult to determine where an idea or technique originated. Because we also have a personal relationship, we are able to more easily challenge and push each other in an honest and direct way. Working collaboratively allows for multiple perspectives, and I feel that our independent work has strengthened through this intimate exchange.

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The Hot Stones Are Never Rough; massage table, silicon rubber, plastic, hot stones, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk.

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your process for creating The Hot Stones Are Never Rough. Why did you choose to use the materials you used?

Corey Dunlap:
The Hot Stones Are Never Rough started while we were working with a flesh-like silicon rubber called Dragon Skin. It is a fantastic material. We had been playing with it independently and testing what forms could be created. Bradley had wanted to make a work that drew from spa culture, specifically hot stone massages. We were both attracted the sculptural gesture of this activity, which allows the body to be layered between the table and the stones by way of gravity. We were interested in taking the humor of this arrangement and skewing it into a surrealist replication, which ultimately produces a type of horror. We wanted the body to be represented through an economy of forms in order to highlight what we found to be so interesting and absurd about the activity.

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Weslo Pursuit E 25; custom printed banner, elliptical bike, electric motor, Corian tile samples, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk. An electric motor is attached to a Weslo Pursuit E 25 eliptical bike allowing it to continuously run.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned your use of suburban objects. Suburban life certainly seems like a major motif in contemporary life. What do you think makes an object suburban?

Corey Dunlap:
I think most people are drawn to the idea of suburban life. It’s romantic and utopian. Most first world countries have some type of suburban area, but none to the extent of America. Like many people, I grew up in this type of community. I have always been attracted to the inherent messiness that underpins this otherwise pleasant environment. For a long time, my practice has abstractly employed a method in which the ideal or innocent is somehow contaminated through various means. Often, the objects I employ come from suburban spaces and are then acted upon to produce this type of multi-stable meaning.

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Weslo Pursuit E 25; custom printed banner, elliptical bike, electric motor, Corian tile samples, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk. An electric motor is attached to a Weslo Pursuit E 25 eliptical bike allowing it to continuously run.

Paul Weiner:
As a young artist, do you feel that there is much energy in the art scene today?

Corey Dunlap:
The internet has provided an unending stream of artists accessible through one’s fingertips. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how much work, good and bad, is being produced. These days, it is expected that an artist has a website with documentation of their work, statement, resume, etc. The accessibility of it all provides an enormous amount of energy. In addition, I think a lot of people are grappling with technology and the internet as sources of content, and they are producing very intriguing works. There seems to be a lot of energy in this community, though I have my own apprehensions about it being used simply as a novel medium.

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Vision Board; metal, leather, polymer clay, magnets, printed image, 2013.

Paul Weiner:
What are you working on right now?

Corey Dunlap:
Right now, Bradley and I are working on a collaborative sculpture and photographic series. We have constructed a large half circle arch made of plastic tubing that is covered in sheer orange fabric. It closely resembles a sunset or sunrise. We plan to take this form to various outdoor locations and construct a simple illusion in which the sculpture sits directly on the horizon line. Lately, I have been thinking about minimalist sculptors like John McCracken and Craig Kauffman and their ability to transcend the body’s physical form. Independently, I am working on some flat, wall-mounted sculptures which are constructed from cotton padding and fauve leather. These forms draw from soft-play designs and gymnastic equipment and will be used to construct a space in which other objects exist.

Paul Weiner:
With taking your collaborative sculpture outdoors, you’re bringing art outside of the gallery setting. Do you ever find the dominance of white gallery walls to limit your artistic experience?

Corey Dunlap:
For us, taking these sculptures outdoors is dictated by both the limitations of the space available to us and what we deem appropriate for the project. The typical white wall gallery space often serves as a blank, non-specific space where artwork can exist independent of any specific context. In this way, the gallery setting can enhance the work. I think about it as a type of virtual space where anything can be called into existence. It is likely these outdoor sculptures will be photographed and subsequently exhibited in a gallery. Though these sculptures will exist in a natural setting during their making, this is just another element which informs the overall work.

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Fuck Me, Silly. fluorescent light, stuffed toy rabbit, wood, marble contact paper, 2012.

Paul Weiner:
Do you usually use found objects in your work or are these objects created or bought specifically for your sculpture?

Corey Dunlap:
All of the above. My process doesn’t necessarily start with an idea and then move into the physical. Sense can come after. The main elements of the works are usually created or bought specifically for an idea in mind, but sometimes I will find something that strikes a chord with my intuition and build out from there. I find it helps to collect an object first and live with it for a while before I dissect it. It’s like a puzzle in that way.


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

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

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.

The Cutting Room 7


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.

The Cutting Room 8

The Cutting Room 10

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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The Cutting Room 2

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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George Zimmerman’s Art Sells for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

Another wild story about George Zimmerman is surfacing. Back in July, Zimmerman was acquitted on a charge of second-degree murder and manslaughter for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. So, what could be the new controversy surrounding Zimmerman: another speeding ticket or domestic violence charge? Not exactly. Apparently Zimmerman has been trying his hand at painting, and he’s listed one of his works on Ebay. In doing so, he’s revealed the nature of the art world’s odd affinity for gossip and controversy.

With four days to to go, Zimmerman’s heavily textured, monochromatic blue painting with “GOD ONE NATION with LIBERTY and JUSTICE FOR ALL” printed onto it has bids up to $100,000 and growing rapidly. While President George W. Bush paints dogs and golf courses, Zimmerman creates an image that plays into the spectacle of his situation and relies upon politics to propel him.

Curiously, Zimmerman seems to be tapping into the public as his own marketing system in a way that would certainly inspire jealousy for most contemporary artists. Admittedly, Zimmerman has primarily evoked contemptuous responses, but all publicity is good publicity when Zimmerman’s first painting is projected to sell for multiple thousands of dollars, and all he had to do was put it on Ebay without any marketing. As Ebay bids tend to explode rapidly toward the end of auctions, Zimmerman’s price is likely to multiply.

While artists certainly shouldn’t follow Zimmerman’s model to selling artwork for extravagant prices, it is important to note how he’s exploited the nature of art collection today. The interest is less in imagery and more in the discussion surrounding the work. Zimmerman has no professional training, nor has he worked his way through the art system with residencies, collectors, and journalists. Rather, he’s coming out of nowhere by abusing his odd, controversial position in American culture in order to make a wave. Indeed, visual art today is more about the spectacle than it is about theory or ideas. Critical theorists and psychoanalysts may define this spectacle as jouissance, the Lacanian notion of orgasm in art. Jouissance is that moment when you see something, it clicks in your mind, and an odd state of pleasure and confusion ensues. Contemporary art brings this jouissance out of the image and into the discussion. That is, because the public hears juicy gossip about George Zimmerman all over Twitter, they value the artwork for it’s ironically controversial attraction rather than its imagery.

What does Zimmerman have to say? He claims that his artwork is therapeutic: “First hand painted artwork by me, George Zimmerman. Everyone has been asking what I have been doing with myself. I found a creative, way to express myself, my emotions and the symbols that represent my experiences. My art work allows me to reflect, providing a therapeutic outlet and allows me to remain indoors 🙂 I hope you enjoy owning this piece as much as I enjoyed creating it. Your friend, George Zimmerman.” Feel free to make your own judgment, but the work is certainly selling.

Bottom line: George Zimmerman’s artwork is valued significantly higher than the majority of trained and respected artists because he creates a whole lot of political hoopla. While many see him as a racist or murderer, he’s poised to make a pretty penny on a mediocre painting because of the odd dynamic of valuing gossip in our contemporary society.

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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.

When She Comes Away We Go, mixed media collage, 50L x 35H%22

How the West was Won

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.

The Hatching, mixed media collage, 30W x 40H%22

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.

Intersections, mixed media collage, 40L x 30H%22

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.

The Neighborhood DETAIL

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.

The Neighborhood #2, stoneware, 15 x 15 x 5%22

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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Contemporary Painting and Video Mapping with Justin Wood

Justin Wood is an artist living in New York City working in the space between the physical space of painting and the digital space of video and photography. Wood has studied at the School of Visual arts, from which he graduated in 2004. His work has been exhibited in man exhibitions, including those at the MoMA in NYC, MOCA Washington, DC, the New Art Center, Orchard Windows, the Lex Leonard Gallery, Blank Space Gallery, and the Thomas Werner Gallery. His artwork is also available online at http://www.justinwood.us.



Paul Weiner:
Take us through the process you’ve been using with video mapping.

Justin Wood:
When the painting is done, I photograph it. Then I run the photo through Resolume to do the mapping and effects and project it on top of the painting. I experiment by layering other videos on top of it. This allows me to be able to see how the video looks on the piece as soon as I am done with it, and it allows me to improvise with the video in an agile way. Then I go into After Effects, create the final video collage, and really spend time focusing on how the video ties in with the painting. For the LCD screen works, the process is the same. The video is made from the photo and is mapped, or aligned, behind the collage.

Paul Weiner:
Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Justin Wood:
I have been following a certain path in terms of process and materials that leads me to make a certain kind of image or style that is very much coming out of the canon of modernist abstraction. I just try and infuse my life into the work. I was performing visuals for bands and DJs, and through learning the technology that went along with live visuals, I got into projection mapping and eventually turned the projector on my paintings. The materials I use come from my first job out of college in a print shop, where I was able to experiment with Inkjet ink and printing substrates. So, the process of living and engaging the world finds its way into the work.

I sort of came of age as an artist at the same time I was seeing a lot of psychedelic electronic rock concerts, so the concert aesthetic is something that inspires me – the dark room, high contrast screens, beaming lights, lasers. I am also inspired by my friends. We spend a lot of time talking about new technologies that we are working with or that we heard about, and we talk about our ideas and try and push each other.

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Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal space for your work to be seen in? Do you like the gallery setting?

Justin Wood:
I suppose the ideal space would be a gallery setting where I was able to spend a lot of time and money in transforming the space, somewhere in the mix of Turrell, Flavin, and a Psy-Trance party. I like the idea of separation between the works, so you only see one at a time, so some kind of multi-room, psychedelic techno immersion installation with lasers.

Paul Weiner:
Explain the concept behind your Cube Projection installation.

Justin Wood:
The cube is a DJ Booth I made, sort of a proof of concept for making a cheap and simple stage set for mapped visuals. So there wasn’t much of a concept behind it. My friend set up a DJ show, and he called it The Cube, so I figured I would try and make a simple DJ booth for the show.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned your work with DJs. To what extent do you feel that sound is important in your own work?

Justin Wood:
Sound is important, but I haven’t fully explored that area yet. At the Pool Art Fair in 2013, I made my projection painting interactive through a custom Ipad interface, and the user was able to control the video effects, which were connected to sound effects. The audio and video would change at the same time. That is the furthest I have gone with integrating sound. It will continue to evolve, but I foresee more of an overall soundscape that will accompany an entire show rather than soundtracks to each and every piece.

Paul Weiner:
What are some new technologies you’d love to get your hands on?

Justin Wood:
There are 3d immersion rooms that are being created that I would love to mess with. The Spiderman ride at Universal Orlando blew my mind. I talk about it a lot. It combines physical sets with gigantic, high-def 3D video with the 4D effects coming from your car. So, you’ve got incredible wind effects, motion, and heat combined with the mindfuck of the 3D video mixing in with the detailed physical sets. There is definitely something to be explored with that kind of 4D thing. Obviously, this is incredible expensive, and Ride Art is something that I think is just starting, but in a dream world I would love to have the access to that technology and those technicians to make some kind of 4d immersion art ride, something along the lines of Wonka’s boat ride. People would be able to buy pictures of themselves at the end.


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

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Provoking the Patriarchy: Elle Kennedy

Elle Kennedy is a 23 year old artist from the United Kingdom who lives in a state of flux between London, Brighton, and Bath. Having studied design and fashion history at Brighton University, Kennedy’s work deals with the contemporary discourse on fetishization through the lens of a transgender woman.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you begin a new work of art? Take us through your material process.

Elle Kennedy:
My everyday life, the experiences of my friends and family, and the transgender experience internationally are the sources of my inspiration. I usually take a good few weeks to develop an idea for a piece, as I like my final work to have a coherent and strong concept behind it. Most of my ideas come about during bouts of insomnia where I find myself analyzing my life and the lives around me.

When creating pieces which deal with the transgender experience internationally, I take extra care to honor the message about trans women in grim situations, with sensitivity and authenticity. Once I have decided upon my idea, I then decide upon a suitable color palette, which has to compliment the black and white backdrop.I consider the colors of what I am wearing in the image, the colors of additional materials which I may layer onto the piece, and the tone of the photographs which I alter through basic copying and scanning techniques, whether I want a ‘bluey’ moody tone or a bright, flushed tone. I then chuck all my props into my rucksack and use local photo booths to take the pictures. This is an essential aspect of my work.

I’m interested in the ideas of trans women being perceived as violating the heteronormative sphere through using what is essentially such a public, open, generic, and common space to create deeply personal trans-related art that, to me, seems like something of a statement of defiance but also self empowerment. I like the idea that the tiny curtains found in photo booths are shielding me from the criticisms and scrutiny of others whilst I chaotically, and often messily, create my images.

I’m also interested in ideas around on-the-go or fast art, as this fits my lifestyle and mindset. Photo booths facilitate this. Once I have created my images, over a few days, I reproduce the images, often altering them, savagely gluing, layering the images over one another, and changing the order of the images to suit my concept. I use thick, cheap tyre markers, permanent pens, and sometimes paint to complete my aesthetic. I consciously use almost ran-out and old tools to communicate austerity and thrift. I hastily scrawl the slogans and messages onto my work in a way which suggests the pieces are worthless scraps and disposable. I consider this to be branding or labeling my work. The titles of my work are consciously confusing, literal banal, or tacky much like the titles of a porn film, a b movie, or a gaudy flop pop song.

I like to think that my work would look suitable in a gallery, a bin, or a telephone box like a prostitute’s calling card, as if my pieces are cheap pieces of trash easily disposed of. This very much relates to the perception of women, including trans women, being disposable objects to be visually enjoyed then forgotten, disposed of, or even killed. Hence, the last square on my pieces is often black or cut out to symbolize this.

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Paul Weiner:
Have you found it hard to find your place in the art world given your position as a transgender woman?

Elle Kennedy:
I’ve been making art for years, but it’s only recently that I’ve felt confident enough to go public, share, and expose it for opinion criticism and hopefully success. The reason why I’ve taken so long to share my art is some of the pieces intimate nature. Transitioning is an incredibly public ordeal, be it coming out to friends and family, taking those initial baby steps, dabbling with one’s style, voice, etc. whilst facing ridicule, scrutiny, criticism, and possibly violence. I really struggled with the public nature of transition and therefore enjoyed being able to keep my art private, to myself and a few very close friends.

My art is something of a diary. I only feel confident enough now to share that diary with the world. My art directly addresses the public nature of transition – the voyeurism of the critical stranger in the street, the fantasies of the “trannychaser” – a heterosexual male who fetishizes trans women. But, mostly, my pieces help me articulate within my own mind the realities of my identity. I suppose the art world has always been a refuge for those who may be classed as the “other” within society. Despite being a regular gal in most ways, I’m constantly made aware of my “other” status, and I communicate this status within my work. Jean Michel Basquiat, my biggest influence and favorite artist addressed his “other” status within his work. His dignified yet confrontational methods of doing this have been a huge influence upon me.

My work addresses a broad range of topics such as the socioeconomic positioning of women within society and questions about the contemporary female experience. I would hope that this quality of my work resonates with all women, transgender or not.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your interests conceptually.

Elle Kennedy:
I’m very much interested in the ideas of the public sphere, the private sphere, and the blurring of the two. Social networking has enabled this blurring of the two spheres. I’m fascinated by how much people are willing to share about themselves. I personally share very little of myself though social networking, but I choose to metaphorically whore myself out through my art to tell stories of the modern female experience.

Since first stumbling across them as a child, the calling cards of sex workers have fascinated me. Who are these women and men hiding behind false names, dated photos, and cheeky slogans enticing punters? The poses, slogans, and fake name I use in some of my pieces reference the calling cards and the lives lived by these people. I refer to death in many of my pieces to communicate the fate that many sex workers face. The murder rate of sex workers is incredibly high, especially that of trans women. The voyeurism faced by sex workers, assisted by calling cards, may ultimately lead to their death.

I like my works to appear shallow, sordid, and vein, as this is what sex worker calling cards may appear to be. Yet, in reality, we are all guilty of such acts through our own social networking habits or our relentless self promotion, be it on a dating websites, within the employment market, entering into education, or indulging in new lingerie to please a lover. Ultimately, we all end up on our knees. It’s just that some of us are more open than others.

In some of my pieces, I explore the shallow and often cruel world of pornography. Again, behind the façade of glamour, lurks something of a dark world which is rarely discussed yet commonly acknowledged as existing. Through over-the-top depictions of hyper-femininity, my work seeks to remind the viewer of the façade. Being a trans woman endures a degree of fetishization. My work plays up to the male gaze, warping the fantasies of “trannychasers” and mocking the fickle nature of male sexual desire.

Paul Weiner:
Would you say that transgender women and women suffer from the effects of the patriarchy in the same ways (e.g. fetishization, masculine gaze, “othering”) as women born with female physical characteristics, or is the effect different or more pronounced? Do you think race, religion, or mental state can play a similar part in terms of being viewed as an “othered” person within the masculine power system?

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Elle Kennedy:
I think it’s blindingly obvious and rather sad that we still live in a society which remains primarily dominated by privileged white men. I don’t feel I have the right to discuss the “other” status of other minority groups; however, it remains super obvious who comes under that status due to race, class orientation, etc. When creating pieces which explore the transgender experience internationally, I’m keen to acknowledge my relative privilege of living within the UK, having had access to an education, and having medical and emotional support around me.

In pieces such as “Athens is Burning,” I’m utilizing my privilege to communicate messages about trans women who may not be able to get their voice heard, yet suffer greatly. In such pieces, the work becomes almost entirely not about myself- I just happen to be using myself as a medium to channel information and messages about such topics without pitying or patronizing such women. I think there is great progress being made whereby minority groups become slightly less “othered” within society. For example, 20 years ago, gay men in particular were very much considered the “other.” Yet, as a group, they have made great strides and have become less defined by their “other” status.

I see this happening for the trans community very, very slowly. Again, I can only really speak from my own experience, but I think the way that trans women are fetishized is very much down to their passing ability – whether or not people know their trans status, their pre or post op surgical status, who knows this, and how they choose to navigate the worlds of dating and sex. Crudely, it would seem that so much of a trans woman’s life is defined by her appearance and what is between her legs. If a trans woman “passes” and attracts the attention of, say, a wolf-whistling builder or attracts the flirtation of a stranger in a busy bar, this is an experience that may be familiar to both trans and biological women, these are examples of the male gaze being actively exercised and acted upon in the public sphere.

If a trans woman does not pass, she may still come under the curious male maze. However, the voyeur may be less inclined to show sexual interest and may become abusive instead. So I would argue that passing trans women are fetishized in the public sphere along with biological women, yet most trans women, including those who do not pass, are fetishized within the private sphere, for example, within the fantasies of “trannychasers,” curious strangers, and within trans pornography. And, of course, when individuals fall in love, one’s surgical status may become irrelevant, not reviled or fetishized.

In my experience, there are endless conundrums faced by trans women when it comes to romance and sex. For example, do I want to be fetishized? Does this stranger know that I am trans? Such questions pose about the inner and outer self alongside ideas around the public and private sphere. Such questions may resonate with biological women. “Does he only like me because I’m blonde? Am I comfortable being fetishized due to being Asian? Will he be comfortable knowing that I am twice divorced?” All women and, of course, men navigate the struggle of how much of oneself should be kept private, who has the right to know one’s history, and what is the appropriate way to navigate social and personal issues in one’s life. By decoding the images that I have created, the viewer is invited to explore my public and private identity whilst considering and questioning their own.

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Paul Weiner:
This idea of bringing about public activism in a heteronormative public sphere is intriguing. Would you ever consider making public performance art?

Elle Kennedy:
I’ve considered moving into performance art and can see how it may end up being something of a natural progression for me artistically. However, I’m focusing on my current format at the moment, which I suppose incorporates elements of performance when creating such works. I would be interested in performance art, which explores voyeurism and pornography within the next few years. I just need to look into ways of financing and facilitating such art.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you think that your work in any way attempts to disrupt the masculine gaze or simply explain its impact?

Elle Kennedy:
I would say that my work seeks to highlight the masculine gaze in the most literal way through the performing of female sexuality that indulges the masculine gaze. However, through the work’s grubby aesthetic and my trans identity, I seek to challenge, warp, and sordidify male fantasies. I’m not demonizing male sexuality or even the masculine gaze. Through my own style, I may subliminally seek to indulge it. However, I use my work to highlight what happens when the voyeurism and sexual desire of a minority of men gets out of control – violence and even murder.

Naturally, sex workers are more likely to encounter this by having few legal protections and coming into contact with all sorts of clientele. By having reoccurring imagery in my work such as messy hair and black eyes, whilst dabbling with sexualized gestures and aesthetics, my work actively confronts the issues faced by sex workers, trans women, women, and those whom may have “other” status. I stare directly at the voyeur, inviting them to question him or herself and invite them to contemplate their own gaze. In a sense, I gaze back at them. In pieces, such as “Real Girls Take It,” I have purposely communicated a non-passive female sexuality, which may disrupt and confuse the male gaze. That piece is probably one of my most complicated, with various meanings. But, despite being rather crude, I like to think that it contains positive messages about women owning and indulging their own sexualities.

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Paul Weiner:
I know academics and artists such as Jacques Lacan, Toril Moi, Hélène Cixous, and Mary Kelly have dealt with similar concepts in the past. Are there any particular philosophers or artists who have impacted your work?

Elle Kennedy:
To be honest, I’m fascinated by pop and what may be considered “trash” culture. Therefore, I find myself looking for logic and inspiration in the lyrics of sickly Britney Spears songs, in the slurred words of Anna Nicole Smith, or in the dialogue of bad teen films. Photographers such as David Lachappelle, who I admire greatly, choose to portray such culture in a kitsch, camp, and over-the-top style. However, I choose to communicate ideas about such a culture by creating a more stripped-back, barren aesthetic.

I have found the writings of Ariel Levey and Lauren Greenfield incredibly eye-opening when it comes to discussion about such topics, and, of course, Naomi Wolf’s writings remain relevant. I literally think every teenager should have to read The Beauty Myth. Some of the performative elements of my work dabble with Judith Butler’s ideas around gender and identity. There seems to be an abundance of confident and creative-minded young trans writers at the moment, notably the likes of Juliana Huxtable and Paris Lees, who I was lucky enough to meet.

It’s great that the contemporary trans experience is being documented in such a wide variety of ways via visual art, academic writing, blogs, film, etc. I greatly admire the way in which artists and photographers of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Keith Haring and Oliviero Toscani, conveyed social awareness messages though bold and distinctive aesthetics. I also find German expressionist painting incredibly beautiful, for example, the work of Kirchner. The repression and persecution that the artists faced now seems unfathomable and tragic, making such works even the more poignant. I particularly admire the way in which Kirchner coherently told stories about his time through his beautiful abstract style.


Please “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective. Elle Kennedy can be contacted directly at torinaughtylondon@outlook.com.

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Ronald Lukas Brings Together Abstraction and Figurative Art

Ronald Lukas is a painter residing in Southern California who holds a BAE from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has pursued an MAE through the University of Chicago. Lukas has held a wide variety of art-related jobs, including his time as a teacher. His artwork is also available online at http://www.ronaldlukas.com.

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Paul Weiner:
How have your experiences as an educator affected your practices as an artist?

Ronald Lukas:
Ever since my elementary school days, I wanted to be an art teacher. Basically, I was into the visual arts at an early age. For me, as a visual artist, teaching art was a line of work that paid my bills and, most importantly, kept me focused on art. The rewards of my earning a degree in art education and teaching art were not only an income but also obtaining a general art, commercial art, and fine art perspective, appreciation, and understanding.

Teaching is an excellent working environment for a practicing artist if he or she can deal with working/teaching in a classroom environment. Teaching art can help elucidate an artist’s path. It did so for me. It nailed down what area in the arts that I wanted to be eventually involved with, and I worked out how to accomplish the goal. I am now, after performing as an art teacher, advertising artist, liturgical artist, photographer, and an art consultant, a full-time painter.

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Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Ronald Lukas:
I’m a direct painter, paint on canvas. Right now, I’m involved with expanding my painting process with different base paints.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting? Take us through your process of finding a subject conceptually.

Ronald Lukas:
I let the process of painting do the work. Then at some point I take over. Someone once said, “I’d rather see a bad painting with an idea than a good painting without an idea.” I subscribe to that! All my artwork is subject and composition oriented. It’s the result of my whole life and many different environments. My painting and subject matter are triggered by the moment. It’s very spontaneous, nothing is planned. It becomes planned when I become involved with the exact painting itself.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you have a preference for a certain type of paint or surface?

Ronald Lukas:
Yes. Artist’s oil paint. The colors are rich, alive, and sensual. I’ll combine it with oil-based enamel and sometimes with an artist’s acrylic paint. The ground is stretched gesso cotton or linen canvas.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you balance dueling interests in abstraction and physical form?

Ronald Lukas:
For me, the main difference between abstraction and realism is that realism, since the invention of the camera, is boring to paint. But I will admit that it’s a people pleaser. I’ll also admit that, when I’m in a wussy state of mind, I will occasionally flaunt my technical realistic painting skills to justify my credibility. All my abstract figurative painting starts off with a quick, fairly realistic image, and takes off from there. If I’m working from a human model, the approach is the same.

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Paul Weiner:
Some artists think that figurative painting abilities are prerequisites for working in abstraction. Do you agree with that idea?

Ronald Lukas:
Nope! It’s a false assumption. Abstractionism is about subjective emotions, not objective reality. The old expression way back when was: “If you can draw the human figure, you can draw anything.” Most well-known modern and contemporary abstractionists never had the skill. Today more than ever, realists project a photographic image on their canvas and trace it. Aside from concept, what’s most important is the artist’s ability to master the dry and wet medium. Generally, realists have a problem. They can’t get past it!


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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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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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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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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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