Miranda Brandon by Altered Esthetics

Miranda Brandon is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Bad Neighbor, on view at the Southern Theater through March 11, 2018. With millions of dollars and years of preparation funneled into this one weekend, this group exhibition highlights community responses to the production of Super Bowl LII.

Miranda Brandon is an animal enthusiast and advocate. Her multimedia work challenges how we perceive the physical and psychological constructs of the world around us and strives to promote a greater understanding and appreciation for the interconnectivity between human and non-human animals. Originally from Oklahoma, Brandon moved to Minneapolis to obtain her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and later completed her MFA at the University of Minnesota in 2014. Since then, Brandon has received a Jerome Emerging Artist Fellowship, has exhibited work as a Showcase Artist at the Bell Museum of Natural History, and has been featured by Audubon magazine, while also teaching photography and participating in various volunteer activities in Minnesota. Currently, Brandon is creating new work as a Tulsa Artist Fellow, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Miranda Brandon, Impact (Nashville Warbler), Composite digital photograph/ Archival pigment print, 31" x 44"  

Miranda Brandon, Impact (Nashville Warbler), Composite digital photograph/ Archival pigment print, 31" x 44"

 

Miranda, thanks for exhibiting with Ae! We are showing two works from your Impact series. Can you give us some information on the background of this project including your work with Audubon Minnesota?

I had previously volunteered at the Wildlife Rehab Center, in Roseville, and found out through them that Audubon MN was looking for volunteers for Project BirdSafe, which monitors for birds that have collided with built structures in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. I started volunteering with them and my Impact project grew out of that experience.

Below: A Palm Warbler that I found stunned, in downtown St. Paul, after having flown into a window. I removed him from the sidewalk, where he sat disoriented and vulnerable, moving him past the confusing downtown space and in the direction he was migrating. When I opened up his “carrier”, a very fancy brown, paper bag with some rolled up paper towel for perching on, he was still relatively disoriented so we hung out together for another 15 minutes until he was able to collect himself and fly away.

This bird was found during one of my monitoring walks for Audubon MN.

Miranda with a Palm Warbler

Miranda with a Palm Warbler

Can you tell us more about your interest in animals and animal advocacy? Why are these subjects important to your work as an artist?

I’ve always had a general interest in animals and grew up around dogs, rabbits, cats, and, at one point, a horse. But more specifically, this interest began with a conversation I was having with a friend, in 2008, in which he was telling me about the seabirds that were being found dead with stomachs full of plastic debris that they were scooping out of the water, mistaken for food. This propelled me to find a way to help at a local level. This lead to volunteering in the avian nursery at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, then later for Audubon, then later still, at the Raptor Center. My volunteer experiences have been instrumental in thinking about how we affect and connect with other species. I feel, in our culture, that there is frequently a palpable disconnect with the natural world which creates conditions for abuse. So, for the last several years I’ve been exploring ways to create connection opportunities, raising awareness for whom space is co-occupied with and creating ways for humans to create new joint narratives across species.

While your work is clearly informed by animals and nature, your pieces more specifically address the interaction between humans and the rest of the natural environment. Could you speak more to this relationship that you explore in your work?

Cohabitation is something we need to be much more conscientious of and flexible towards. As human population, and settlements, continue to expand tolerance for wildlife diminishes. In my work I’m trying to generate the circumstances for greater awareness and empathy for who we live with. Text is coming into my work more and more as I’m exploring how language primes us to perceive and behave in specific ways. For example, labeling an animal a pest gives us permission to manage the bodies and overall population of that species and justifies whatever means necessary to do so. But how do we determine who is a pest? The highly adaptable and intelligent coyote is considered a pest. While coyotes may present as a nuisance, disturbing our trash cans, pets, and livestock, where should they go when we continually encroach on their habitat? They keep adapting and filling niches that were left open by the wolves we eradicated, while we fail to adapt to their presence. We have decided to call them pests though, suggesting they have no value - a conditional worth we are continually learning (the hard way) is impossible to assign with our extremely limited understanding of how everything is connected. Another way coyotes are described, by biologists, is “cosmopolitan”. This is a term applied to species that are especially adaptive and flexible regarding the habitats where they can live. Humans are very cosmopolitan too. Does this, therefore mean, that another way to think of humans is as “pests”?

Do you see your art as a form of advocacy? What do you hope audiences take away from your work?

Yes, I do see my work as a form of advocacy. I’m asking viewers and participants to become more aware of who they live with, to consider the labels they use and how that drives their attitudes, and to embrace the idea of a shared, interconnected, narrative. This is a way to publicly ask others to be more invested in the diversity of their physical surroundings and to encourage kindness towards those that we don’t understand and can never fully understand.

Miranda Bandon, DIY Animal Populator, 2014

Miranda Bandon, DIY Animal Populator, 2014

Miranda Bandon, DIY Animal Populator (alternate view), 2014

Miranda Bandon, DIY Animal Populator (alternate view), 2014

Why does photography appeal to you as a medium? What other mediums do you work with in your practice?

The appeal, of photography, has changed across projects and I try to work in whatever medium I feel best serves the idea, to the point where I’m not working, strictly, within photography at the moment. Impact, two images of which you all are currently displaying, and DIY Animal Populator, both use photography but in different ways.

In Impact, photography created an immediacy to the images, despite the birds being photographed in my studio, as if I was staked out near a window just waiting for a bird to fly into it. The appearance of capturing the bird, or birds, at the moment, or just after, fatal contact is made with an illusive, silently reflective surface offers an unsettling presence and urgency to the images. It’s like photojournalism, in a way, in that it intends to bring the viewer into that space and time, in ways that other mediums are less capable of doing because the hand of the maker is too apparent, whereas the hand of the photographer is always there, choosing angle, distance, lighting, focus, and framing, but those choices don’t register as strongly, or at all, when we look at photographs.

In DIY Animal Populator, photography is particularly useful in that I’m photographing these two-dimensional paper cut-outs of animals. You have to get it at just the right angle for it too look right. As an installation this project, visually, works very differently. I’m also interested in the accessibility of photography though, or the ability to make a photo. Today, most people have the power to make a photo sitting in their pockets, inside their smartphones! So this project was also interested in opening up the act of making a photo and sharing a photo. Using an individual’s photo library or a shared image on social media as a way to artificially bolster our experience and interaction with certain animals, creating memories of positive engagement and excitement as well as creating a greater visual presence for some animals that could offset a condition known as the “shifting baseline syndrome.” This syndrome describes when we gradually accept fewer and fewer individuals to constitute a specific population based on a lack of awareness of previous population levels, allowing for continual losses.

Currently, I’m developing a body of work called Object State in which photography plays but a very small role. The work is still growing but currently it is based on ways the natural world is marketed to us. Objects have great agency in this work, using digital drawing and pattern design and thinking about homemaking through home accessories and interior decorating. Other types of retail-like objects have made their way into this work as well, like sculptures from discarded (waste) fur displayed in a West Elm-chic manner.

Miranda Brandon, When Violence Becomes Aesthetic, Discarded/waste fur, plastic, thread, wire, glue, wooden shelves, and digital drawings on handmade pillows, 2017-18

Miranda Brandon, When Violence Becomes Aesthetic, Discarded/waste fur, plastic, thread, wire, glue, wooden shelves, and digital drawings on handmade pillows, 2017-18

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

I have a couple things in the works and scheduled for this year. As a Tulsa Artist Fellow, I currently have work up in a group show at the Philbrook Museum of Art, in their downtown space in Tulsa, OK, until March 4, 2018. I’ll be out in Wyoming during March, at the Teton Artlab, and will be giving a presentation on my work, as well as opening up my studio there, sometime during the third full week of March. I’ll be back in Tulsa, OK working with Philbrook again, at their main campus, to stage an interactive, outdoor, pop-up installation from my DIY Animal Populator project, on May 12th. I’ll also have a solo show at VisArts, in Maryland, that will be up from June 1st - July 1st.

Where can we find and follow you online?

I just recently updated my website and it can be found at: www.mirandabrandon.com.

I’m also on Instagram @ordinarylastname, which is my primary account, but also have a seperate Instagram @diyanimalpopulator, for my DIY Animal Populator project.

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written by Sarah Kass and Ella Kampelman, edited by Sarah Kass.

Ashley Adams by Altered Esthetics

Meet artist, Ashley Adams. A deep passion for capturing their subjects' inner beauty is what drives Adams to create these powerful large scale photo-realistic portraits. You do not want to miss a chance to experience the warmth and strength of Adams's meticulously detailed work.

This video was shot on location at the artist's studio at Avivo Artworks

Exhibition Dates: January 5 - February 2, 2018

Reception: January 17, 5:00 - 7:30 pm, RSVP on Facebook

Location: The Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave South, Minneapolis, MN 55454

Erik Farseth by Altered Esthetics

Erik Farseth is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Disquiet, on view at the Southern Theater through November 5, 2017. This group exhibition addresses feelings of unease, anxiety, paranoia, phobias, or what lurks beneath the surface as we move through daily life. Twelve artists explore these themes through sculpture, painting, photography, collage, and video.

Erik Farseth is a printmaker, zine publisher, and collage artist. A native of the Twin Cities, Erik studied Art, Culture, and Politics at St. Olaf College, and received his MA in Journalism from the University of Iowa.

Erik Farseth, Dogs of the Soviet Space Program, Cut paper collage

Erik Farseth, Dogs of the Soviet Space Program, Cut paper collage

Hi Erik. Thank you for exhibiting with Altered Esthetics! Could you tell us about your background as an artist? Do you primarily work in collage?

I studied sculpture in college, but for the past 20 years, I have devoted most of my energy to collage art and printmaking (relief prints), or some combination of the two (screen printed posters).

Making a woodcut is not so different from making a collage. All it takes is a steady hand and some cutting tools.  

“Dogs of the Soviet Space Program” is inspired by Cold-War era ad campaigns and an “artistic response to events of the past 12 months, a tumultuous era in American life marked by police shootings, political extremism, and the sudden resurgence of atavistic nationalisms as a force throughout the world.” How did you come to connect these two political climates in your work?

Politics is cyclical. As a society, we seem to be moving backwards instead of forwards.

Being a collage artist, I end up pouring over hundreds of old photographs. Since I am working with a lot of images that date back to the 1950s, it isn’t hard to draw comparisons between political extremism then, and political extremism now.

This piece is part of a larger series--"Opposition-Defiant-Disorder." Could you tell us more about this larger body of work?

“Opposition-Defiant-Disorder” is an artistic response to the nightmare scenario that has been unfolding over the past 12 months.

American nativism and white nationalism have been festering for decades, but the election of Donald Trump seems to have brought these ideas to the surface. In Europe, far-right movements and anti-immigrant parties have made unprecedented gains, and the EU is coming apart at the seams. That is the backdrop for works such as “Year Zero,” in which a petulant child gazes out from a blackened landscape while the world is (literally) melting in the background.  

Printmaking, collage, and zines are all mediums that have strong ties to political and cultural critique. Has your work always been informed by politics? Or has the last year shifted the direction of your work?

My first zine was an anti-war zine, and the prefigurative politics of the DIY punk scene have always informed my work (what you might call a “nonviolent propaganda of the deed”).

Zines and collage art go hand-in-hand, and many artists have used collage as a means to address social and political concerns. You don’t need a lot of supplies (or expensive equipment) to make a collage, and no formal training is required. It is a very grassroots, affordable form of art.

Likewise, printmaking has always been a democratic medium.

As a printmaker and zine publisher, the ability to generate multiple copies of an image is at the root of my artistic practice. These are not precious art objects, to be displayed under glass. Zines are interactive: they are meant to be handled (and traded); to be read on the bus; or folded-up and carried around in your back pocket. The same holds true for printmaking, regardless of whether the images are printed on paper or fabric.

The British anarcho-punk band CRASS used to print the words "Pay no more than £2.00" on their album covers -so as to prevent record stores from charging more than what the band considered to be a "fair price" for the record.

I have tried to do the same thing with my zines and my screen prints.

I am less interested in the concept of “limited editions” than I am in the idea of printmaking (and zine-making) as an art form that appeals to people who might never set a foot in a gallery (and who could never afford to own a painting).

Even when my artwork isn’t overtly political in its content, it is political in its process.

So, yes, creating a block print of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is "political" in the sense that I lampooning a member of the Trump administration.  But so is my refusal to number --or "edition"-- my prints.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

I have an upcoming exhibition at ditch gallery in the Wyman Building, which is tentatively slated to open in July of 2018.

Where can we find and follow you online?

My website is located at: http://erikfarseth.com.

 

Image courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Ella Kampelman

Jenn Angell by Altered Esthetics

Jenn Angell is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Disquiet, on view at the Southern Theater through November 5, 2017. I This group exhibition addresses feelings of unease, anxiety, paranoia, phobias, or what lurks beneath the surface as we move through daily life. Twelve artists explore these themes through sculpture, painting, photography, collage, and video.

Jenn Angell is a visual artist currently based in River Falls, WI. She received a BFA in ceramics from University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May 2017. She has attended workshops at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado.

Works by Jenn Angell

Works by Jenn Angell

Jenn, thanks for exhibiting with Ae! Can you tell us about your background as an artist and how you came to work with ceramics? Why does clay appeal to you as a medium?

I started working with clay when I was in high school and came back to it a few years later when I was in college. At first, I was just taking ceramics because I liked it and was sort of familiar with it. I kept taking it and finding it more and more fascinating and eventually decided to get my degree in ceramics.

I really enjoy the process of working with clay, and how it has so many parallels to the human experience. A professor of mine would often talk about how clay has a memory, and that always stuck with me. Every little touch or push or pull is recorded in the clay whether you can see it or not. It begins as a soft, malleable material and grows and transforms into something mature and strong and along the way it responds to the environment. The process also forces you to stay present, and work with the material through the different stages, it’s not like a painting where you can leave it alone for a month and come back to it- clay will be dry and unworkable. It forces you to move on even if you’re not ready and keeps you engaged and in the moment. There’s also a spirituality about working with clay that’s special to me. Clay has such a long and rich history, people have been making things with it for literally tens of thousands of years, and it is so rooted in tradition. I feel connected to something bigger than myself because of ceramics, and that’s pretty cool to me.

I’m curious to hear about other artistic mediums you may use. Do you work in any materials aside from clay? Do you make traditional, functional ceramics? How do other processes inform each other in your practice.

In college I also studied painting and photography, and I do make functional pots. When I was first introduced to ceramics, it was through functional pottery and I think that has informed how I make sculpture.

I think different ideas sometimes need different mediums, and in my experience, I’ve had to work through certain ideas and concepts in other mediums before I could successfully bring them into clay.

Jenn Angell, Fear, Porcelain, Insulating foam, and glass, 8.5" x 5.5 " x 5.5"

Jenn Angell, Fear, Porcelain, Insulating foam, and glass, 8.5" x 5.5 " x 5.5"

Your works in Disquiet are physical representations of negative emotions. Why do you work with this subject matter? How do you translate the intangible into your sculpture?

Making art is very therapeutic and cathartic for me. I had been experiencing a lot of negative things and I’m the type of person to bottle them up and try to ignore them. This is my way of addressing those emotions and working through them.

These pieces started out with me thinking about what different emotions might look like if they were physical things, like what would your anxiety look like if it formed growths or cysts in your chest? What does defeat look like? Anger? Shame? I think a lot about these things and then give them a form. The glaze surfaces and textures of the objects are also important to me. If something is smooth and shiny, it’s going to elicit a different response than if it’s bubbly or dry or crusty. Even though the viewer isn’t physically touching these pieces, you can imagine what they feel like, and how that might be connected to the emotion.

Your ceramics are housed within glass jars and containers. Can you talk more about this display method and how it relates to the content of your work?

I wanted the pieces to be reminiscent of scientific specimens, hence the jars. With this work, I was thinking a lot about how we tend to contain our emotions and experiences, particularly the ones we don’t want to feel. I was in a psychology class at the time I started making this work, and we were discussing Freud’s theory of the unconscious, specifically the concept of repression. I was thinking of that part of the mind that is out of our conscious awareness, and it being a sort of cabinet of curiosities that houses all of the experiences that we’ve repressed or chose to not fully feel. I view the contents of the jars as the physical manifestations of these emotions and experiences that have been extracted or dissected from the body, and then stored away for later examination.

Jenn Angell, Anger, Porcelain and glass, 10" x 6" x 6"

Jenn Angell, Anger, Porcelain and glass, 10" x 6" x 6"

You included a wonderful Louise Bourgeois quote in your submission to Disquiet:

“My sculpture allows me to re-experience the fear, to give it a physicality so I am able to hack away at it. Fear becomes a manageable reality. Sculpture allows me to re-experience the past in its objective, realistic proportion.”

How does looking to other artists shape your own work? What other artists are you influenced by?

I get stuck on ideas and concepts a lot and looking at how other artists have solved similar problems or presented similar ideas helps me figure out what I’m doing. I don’t want to say I copy other artists, but often times I’ll see a form and think, “wow I want to make forms like that,” and try to make a form reminiscent of that, which often sparks new ideas for me during the making process.

Louise Bourgeois has been a huge inspiration for me. Lauren Gallaspy and Jason Briggs are both ceramic artists that I look to a lot. I also look at a lot of medical illustration, something about it is really fascinating to me.

How do you hope viewers interact with your work? What do you want them to take away from it?

I hope people approach the work initially with a sense of curiosity. I want people to examine the contents of the jars and maybe even reflect on their own experiences with the emotions. These pieces did come from very personal exploration, but the topics/emotions are universal enough that I hope people can relate in some way.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

I have a show at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, WI that will be opening in January 2018.

Where can we find and follow you online?

Instagram: @jennxangell

Facebook: Jenn Angell Art

I also have an etsy shop for my pots: etsy.com/shop/JennAngellStudio

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass.

John Ilg by Altered Esthetics

John Ilg is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, The Art of Change, on view at the Southern Theater from July 9, 2017 - July 30, 2017. In this exhibit, six artists explore collaborations between artists and viewers to create interactive experiences and changed works of art.

John Ilg is a multimedia artist based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He holds a BFA and MFA from the University of Minnesota.  John has also been the recipient of several grants and awards from the U of M, Jerome Foundation, Minnesota Artists Association and others. His work has been shown nationwide and has received acclaimed reviews and awards.

John Ilg, Job Search, Archival digital prints on Rubix’s Cube, 2.25” cube, 2012

John Ilg, Job Search, Archival digital prints on Rubix’s Cube, 2.25” cube, 2012

John, thanks for exhibiting with Ae! The Art of Change challenges viewers to go beyond looking and interact with works of art. What do you feel are the biggest benefits and challenges in creating interactive art?

I’m not certain I set out to create “interactive art” per se, but the initial piece I created in this series, HONESTY surely inspired people to interact with it. They seemed to know what to do. My original concept for the piece was to challenge a person's moral fiber when presented with a moral hazard. I presented 316 dollar bills rolled and inserted into hardware mesh with nothing but friction and viewers’ ability to resist temptation being the only forces holding them in place. At its debut showing at the 2008 Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition (where 200,000+ people would be passing by), I expected such a number of bills would be taken so the word "HONESTY" would dissolve into illegibility—wouldn’t take many missing to have this happen—and eventually ALL would be gone. But Minnesotans = hyper-honest! In fact, people could not keep their hands off the money but not as expected. To my surprise and financial good fortune, people inserted nearly $150.00 additional dollars into the piece! Although people altered the letters somewhat, (especially adding to the “Y’) they didn’t remove or replace any bills as I had originally inserted them. Watching people “work on” this piece was a delight for the staff and I heard many funny stories.

HONESTY after being exhibitied at the Minnesota State Fair, 2008

HONESTY after being exhibitied at the Minnesota State Fair, 2008

There is another HONESTY (in a series of 6) permanently installed in a conference room at the Radisson Blu, MOA where guests are slowly taking money from it. It is now quite distorted but still legible. The Radisson staff members were replacing bills but told me they couldn’t keep up.

The version I initially exhibited at the State Fair was eventually stolen from a gallery at a local community college. The story was covered by all the local news outlets and eventually was picked up by UPI and traveled around the world. Amazingly (and quite “interactively”) people were mailing me dollar bills to help cover the loss! During a following art Crawl, I placed a blank grid on the wall and a sign asking people to “help recreate HONESTY” which they did.  Donated about $120.00 in all. It was interesting to see how people weren’t so concerned about the dollar itself but where to place it.  It had to be on a significant letter or an important place on the letter. I guy came back and actually moved his bill to a different spot. This level of concern was all a wonder to me.

HONESTY after several years at the Radisson Blu, MOA

HONESTY after several years at the Radisson Blu, MOA

HONESTY provides viewers with the temptation to take a piece of your art with them, in this case dollar bills. Do you feel this work has given you some insight into the minds of your audience? Do you think HONESTY would have a different outcome in a large city? In a smaller one?

“Honesty” turned out to be an unexpectedly interactive piece that got under people’s psychological skin. It is about both the force at the center of our moral/ethical self and resistance to temptation.  The piece calls on the psychological space between trust and integrity, desire and restraint, impulse and regret.

This piece has been shown in all kinds of situations from little or no security to very intensely controlled and monitored spaces and in cities large and small.  I’m not sure the outcome would be as positive if there were larger bills inserted ($5’s, $10’s, $20’s, etc.).  All things considered, I don’t think people would sell their souls for $1 but maybe for $20(?!).

Rebuild Honesty Project in the artist's studio during the St. Paul Art Crawl

Rebuild Honesty Project in the artist's studio during the St. Paul Art Crawl

Two of your pieces featured in this exhibition, HONESTY and Job Search, use American currency. What drew you to this imagery?

Aside from the psychological weather created by HONESTY,the use of US currency has made its way into other pieces of mine.  Not Getting BetterBrokeRecession Blues, Bitter Pills and others.  My sculptures use the spiritual aspects of mundane, vernacular objects to make tangible broadly understood realities while also allowing for a wide range of personal interpretation. These repetitive patterns of mass-produced objects, combined in a fashion at odds with their traditional function, become an anxious and somewhat wry carrier of the message. My goal is to start with an abstract social/political/economic reality and create from it a beautifully constructed, profoundly ambiguous “object”–both clear and vague, confrontational yet accessible. The broader purpose being: the activation of the psychological space between the viewer and the piece itself.  Which in some cases inspires actual physical interaction with the artwork--a unique and exciting feature of these sculptures.  The most familiar, powerful and readily available “unique object” that triggers all of the above is money.

John Ilg, Narcissist, Silver and gold mirrors, 17" x 18.5", 2016

John Ilg, Narcissist, Silver and gold mirrors, 17" x 18.5", 2016

Other works in this exhibition, Narcissist and Mirror, mirror, both use mirrors. Can you tell us about the process involved when working with this material?

The mirror idea makes the viewer part of the visual dynamic of the piece– not simply a detached viewer of the artwork but an image IN the artwork. The most notable result is watching how people look in from the side or below the work to AVOID seeing their own reflection– a curious sociological aspect.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

I will be having a large exhibition of about 20 of my recent sculptural works at The Artistry, Inez Greenberg Gallery opening in January 2018.  Look on their site this fall for specific dates pertaining to this event http://www.artistrymn.org.

Where can we find and follow you online?

There are about 75 of my works online at http://www.mnartists.org/johnilg. You can also find me on Facebook.

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written by Maggie Schuster, edited by Sarah Kass.

Miles Phillips by Altered Esthetics

Miles Phillips is a featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Earth Works, on view at the Southern Theater from June 9, 2017 - July 2, 2017. In this exhibit, sixteen artists explore the implicit presence of land and earth in our everyday lives. All are invited to the Public Reception on June 23 (RSVP on Facebook).

Miles Phillips is a photographer based in Minneapolis. He is currently pursuing a BFA in Photography from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and will graduate in 2019.

Miles Phillips, Anthropocene 7, Inkjet print, 24" x 36"

Miles Phillips, Anthropocene 7, Inkjet print, 24" x 36"

Miles, thanks for exhibiting with Ae! Your work featured in the show, Anthropocene 7, is part of a series documenting the contrast between man-made and natural features of the Earth. Can you tell us more about what inspired this series and how it was made?

Over the course of the past five years, my interests as a photographer have gone from capturing skateboarding and architecture, to capturing nature and the passage of time, as well as capturing geometric abstractions within the frame of the lens. After experimenting with all of these forms of subject matter, I've found that by capturing the contrast between manmade and natural features is the best way for me to include all of my interests into one image. I've made considerations of changing my main areas of study to environmental studies/cultural studies/music before, but I've found that working these subjects into my artwork satisfies my need for conceptual depth.

I’d love to learn more about your approach to photography. Can you tell us about the equipment you use, your editing process, and how you choose to display your photos?

Each project is a little bit different, though they each have some sort of blend between old and new technology. I find the aesthetic appearance of film to be much more pleasing than digital photographs even though I understand the benefits and advantages of using digital technology. I use medium or large format negatives usually, because I can scan them at a very high resolution into a digital file that can be printed at billboard size if I want. I edit these files like normal digital files, altering warmth, contrast, white balance and things like that to make it have as few mistakes as possible. I like my final products to be prints, as they are best viewed that way in my opinion.

Image from Cross Pollination project, 2017

Image from Cross Pollination project, 2017

I’ve noticed your photography has a strong sense of place. How do you go about capturing a specific location in an image? What do you hope viewers take away from these works?

I think location is vital when judging the importance of all images and art in general. I try to capture locations that hint at certain themes conceptually, without being instantly recognizable as a specific location that everyone knows. Many photographers like to make work at places that have already been made famous by those before them, and that's never really been an interest of mine. There's something really satisfying about finding a spot nobody else has been to on your own. It makes me feel like I'm moving the art of exploration and photography forward.

You are currently studying at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). How has your time there impacted your work?

I think MCAD has really influenced me positively on the technical side of making work. I've gotten into this rhythm of practicing technical skills during the school year and putting them to the test when I travel on breaks. I can see steady improvement in the physical quality of images I'm making as I venture to new places each year. Being a student at a place with so many other forms of talented artists really is a blessing too. I've found new influences through friendships that I see lasting for a lifetime.

Photo from Miles' recent trip to Nepal

Photo from Miles' recent trip to Nepal

You recently traveled to Nepal. Why did you choose to travel there and what has been your experience photographing abroad?

I was looking for internships and jobs that involve travel and one of the opportunities that came up was a volunteer project to help with earthquake relief in Nepal with an organization called All Hands Volunteers. I saw this as an opportunity to do some good in the world as well as make a new series of images. I spent a few weeks with them and spent the rest of my month there traveling to the mountains and rain forests, learning the native language, and making friends. Living there is definitely a challenge but I really grew to love the people and land that they live in. Nepali culture is very genuine and accepting. In fact, I wish I could stay longer than I did. I plan to go back for a longer Southeast Asia trip in the future, and now I have friends to visit and  a pretty good sense of how to live a sustainable lifestyle in that type of environment.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

My next project, “Nepal” will be displayed in a gallery setting in MCAD and possibly other locations in the Twin Cities/US/Nepal. Since I've just returned from my trip, it's hard to say exactly what it's going to look like and when it will be open for public view. However, I can promise that it will be my best work to date once I've finished sorting everything. I've never had a more life changing and mind opening experience than this.

Where can we find and follow you online?

Instagram: @milesphillipsphoto

Website: www.milesphillipsphoto.com

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass.

Katie Hargrave by Altered Esthetics

Katie Hargrave is featured artist in Altered Esthetic’s exhibition, Earth Works, on view at The Southern Theater from June 9, 2017 - July 2, 2017. In this exhibit, sixteen artists explore the implicit presence of land and earth in our everyday lives. Earth Works will be on view during Northern Spark 2017 (June 10), the Public Reception will be held on June 23 (RSVP on Facebook).

Katie Hargrave is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chattanooga, TN. She received her MFA in Intermedia Art from the University of Iowa, MA from Brandeis University, and BFA from the University of Illinois. In addition to working with the collaborative groups, “The Think Tank that has yet to be named” and “Like Riding a Bicycle,” she also teaches at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

Katie Hargrave, Don't Tread on Me: Flags for Plants, Tyvek printed flag, 24" x 36"

Katie Hargrave, Don't Tread on Me: Flags for Plants, Tyvek printed flag, 24" x 36"

Katie, thanks for exhibiting with Ae!  Your work, Don't Tread on Me: Flags for Plants, gives voice to endangered plants. Can you tell us more about this project and why you chose to speak from the plants’ point of view?

My art practice deals with how American history can impact our current reality or how American history can be deployed in a critical way. Conservatives in this country are really good at this, and I hope to become more tactical for myself as a progressive/liberal artist. I like to think about symbols (flags in this instance) and how their official nature can be manipulated. In these pieces, I began thinking about the phase of the Gadsden flag (the original “Don’t tread on me” flag with the snake) and thinking about other things that phrase could mean. These flags are for endangered plants that are impacted by trampling (usually by the expansion of human development or by grazing animals like cows). What if the plants could speak for themselves? What if they had the agency that humans had to make and deploy official symbols like flags?

How does your work respond to its surroundings including natural and manmade environments?

I am very interested in the idea of what “natural” is. The United States is known for its wild spaces, and these spaces are a part of American identity (as the colonizer, as the cowboy, as the transcendentalist, and so on). What’s fascinating to me is that these ideas of what “natural” means are constructions. All of this land was impacted by human development long before this land was colonized by euro-Americans. This preface is important to me because we all (everyone living in the US) have to deal with the spaces we (euro-Americans) occupy, while what it means to “deal” might change in different contexts. I try to do that conceptually within my work, but I also think about this when I work within a gallery setting. Most of my work is responsive to the location of the gallery in which it will be shown, for instance this piece features plants that are from the Great Lakes region.

Using wall space to plan out a project

Using wall space to plan out a project

Your work is rooted in research and history. You also say you like to take things apart and put them back together. What does your creative process look like?

My work often starts with a narrative (something I read in the newspaper or a book) and then I start to delve in deeper. I love archives and history books, and I try to get a grasp on the historical antecedents for whatever current event I am interested in. Sometimes the work pulls from collage, taking two disconnected ideas and putting them into context. Other times the work is participatory and I use historical and current information as a framework for participants to work within. My studio is always a mess; I work on many projects at the same time (partially because I collaborate with lots of different groups).

I am also interested in metaphorically taking apart systems. For instance, right now, I am unpacking the history of public land in the United States, looking at the history of the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and reading novels about range wars, reading about barbed wire, looking at the creation of native reservations, manifest destiny, and the history of the design manuals for US government offices. Once I know that history, I can mix it together and put things into context in stranger ways. Those stories are becoming installations, books, and embroidered patches right now.

Many of your projects include collaborators or audience participants. Why are these connections important to your work?

So many reasons! I consider myself to be a socially engaged artist, which means working with people throughout the process is important to me. Not every project is participatory, but it is an important tool in my toolbox. Working with participants, I hope to move the audience from a viewer that analyzes the work to an engaged co-creator in the work. I hope to do this throughout my process (sometimes in the research phase and sometimes in the final works) in order to open up space and allow the audience to see their own power. I am an educator, and I am not interested in hierarchies within my work, so I seek to dismantle the idea that the artist is the genius through making work that relies on other people.

Collaboration allows me to work on different bodies of work at the same time. I can work on projects about cycling, skill shares, and neighborhood engagement as a part of “Like Riding a Bicycle” and I can make work that unpacks mental health systems, support structures, and gentrification as a member of “the Think Tank that has yet to be named.” The people I work with are super smart and have different areas of interest than me, and we enrich each others’ practices by working together. Within my own work, I don’t have to worry about being a total history nerd; I can just go there.

A sewing project in-process

A sewing project in-process

Do you consider your art to be political? What do you hope viewers take away from your work?

My work is absolutely political, but I engage in a quiet politics. While I am protesting or working with local community organizers outside of my art practice, I hope to think about a quiet or a slow activism within my work. How can small changes to our sense of self alter the way we move through the world? We all know how important the symbolic is, but if we are able to point to the absurdity of the way those symbols are created, can we make new, more meaningful symbols? I think being in the world is a political act; there is no way not to be political. Making something lovely, being thoughtful, moving through the world with your eyes open, these are all important. Perhaps it is easier to see how my work is political, which deals with the construction of the identity of a nation state, than the work of artists that are perceptual painters, for instance, but I would argue both are about paying attention. That’s political.

I hope viewers begin to see themselves and their own power. I hope they identify with or against a story I am telling. I hope they share their own story. I hope they’re present and excited enough to become engaged, if only for a moment.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should know about?

My work is in a show called Needlework: Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance that opens June 9 at Prøve Gallery in Duluth. I am also getting ready for a couple of exhibitions this fall. I’ll be in solo shows at Michigan Technical University in Houghton, Michigan and Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida this September. I’m also excited to be included in a group show, Imagination Unbound, at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. That show explores how preparatory sketches for artworks can be shown alongside finished work. It’ll be a busy season.

Where can we find and follow you online?

http://katiehargrave.us

@katie_hargrave_ on Twitter and Instagram

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written and edited by Sarah Kass.

Hend Al-Mansour by Altered Esthetics

Born and raised in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia, Hend Al-Mansour currently resides in the Twin Cities and is a featured in Altered Esthetics’ new exhibition, Turbulent Identities, on view at The Southern Theater from 3/3 - 4/2/2017. All are invited to the Opening Reception on Friday, 3/3, from 5:00-7:00 pm. RSVP on Facebook.

Hend Al-Mansour, Facebook-I, 2013,  Screen printing on paper, 40" x 46"

Hend Al-Mansour, Facebook-I, 2013,  Screen printing on paper, 40" x 46"

Hend, you have referred to yourself as a “Minnesotan Transplant”. As an Arabic woman that has migrated to Minnesota, a predominantly White state, have you felt as if it has been difficult for your narrative to fit within the constructs of this state? What has living in Minnesota taught you?

I suffered from alienation and marginalization in my home country and that is why I sought another home in Minnesota. I am enjoying freedom of expression here. I also can address issues that are important to me: Gender justice and sexual independence. My artistic language however has been difficult to translate to my new audiences. I found myself often unexpectedly explaining images that Arab audience will take if for granted. I am still learning how to make art that can speak to both audiences. Living in Minnesota had expanded me personally and artistically.

Women are consistently featured in your works. What do they represent to you? What do you hope viewers will take away from your work?

My work seeks to restore social gender balance. I do this through telling stories about women who are sacred or iconic in the Arabic culture. Or by depicting the holy mosque in Mecca as a feminine goddess. I use the spiritual sphere as a forum because it is often from there that maleness are made superior.

Hend Al-Mansour, detail from Haneen, 2016, installation at Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College

Hend Al-Mansour, detail from Haneen, 2016, installation at Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College

Cultural appropriation is the central theme to Turbulent Identities. What is cultural appropriation to you?

I like it when my culture can inspire others. I don’t like it when that goes without credit. Sometimes the term is applied to any borrowing of other cultures even if it is done respectfully. I rather like cultural interactions and exchanging knowledge and ways of life. Cultures and individuals always do better when they grow outside of their traditional limits. And where do they get inspirations? From others around them of course. Sometimes, however, there is a tendency of the appropriator to annihilate her source. But in general that does not succeed or only succeed for a short while.

Do you believe it is possible to appreciate a culture without appropriating it? What advice would you give to humans unsure of how they can appreciate a friend, colleague or partner’s culture without appropriating?

Just acknowledge your inspiration. For example, the great Islamic Art is inspired by Byzantine and Roman art and all other local arts that the early Muslims settled in but the result was an incredible aesthetic vocabulary and priceless treasures that has its own character. This had worked on individual levels as well.

You have a degree in Art History. How has this study impacted your work? 

It made me pay more attention to the artmaking process. Where my art is coming from and how can I optimally present it. It also made me aware of the responsibility that I accept by becoming an artist. Not only responsibility of education and presenting visual knowledge but also of honest expression. An artist is her community’s spokesperson whose work represent others’ thoughts and feelings.

Hend working on an original pattern inspired by Islamic design

Hend working on an original pattern inspired by Islamic design

Who are some of your favorite authors, artists or directors that address these complex ideas of identity and cultural exchange?

Artist Shazia Sikandar. Artist Kehinde Wiley. Artist Hayv Kahraman. Artist Mona Hatoum. Poet Mahmoud Darwish. Edward Said’s Orientalism.

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions and/or projects we should know about?

I have an exhibit that opens and runs at exactly the same dates as TI. That is why I am not here. It is at Eisemann Center in Richardson, TX. Closer to home I will be in a three women’s show at the Phipps Art Center in Hudson, WI in October this year.

Where can we find and follow you online?

www.hendalmansour.com

 

All images courtesy of the artist.

Interview written by Shivani Vyas, edited by Sarah Kass.