In the Studio – Becoming What Was

MarisaLee4“How one walks through the world, the endless small adjustments of balance, is affected by the shifting weights of beautiful things.” – Elaine Scarry

We come across moments that wear us thin and test our control. It is what comes out of these trying times and the tension of longing that creates this collective. This show is about the strain of desire. It is about the beautiful and unexpected that comes from loss. It is about the resilience that creation stems from. Within this work presented, we show beauty in spaces where it has run dry. Using the space within Duplex, walls become activated into opportunities to weave in and out of longing. Photographs, scans and drawings offer viewers the ability to move between loss and gain, presenting times of what was and what is to become. Meanwhile video installation in the front window welcomes passersby to engage in the denial of recognition, furthering desire and asking for clarity from the rest of the exhibition’s pieces.

Alongside the notion of the search for beauty, we aim to start a conversation. Within each of our lives there comes a point where these experiences overlap. This show is designed to create camaraderie—to create a collective hope in finding more than what the eye can see.

Duplex: How did you come together and settle on the theme?
Kelly McGovern: I think all of our work strives to find beauty in that which isn’t commonly perceived as beautiful; whether that is found through the body or the mundane, violence or every day things.
Candace Jahn: I think that going into it all of our mediums are very different, and our approaches too, but we knew there was this underlying thread that wove all our work together, whether it be our motive beyond making or our process, there was a distinct commonality even it is not evident aesthetically.
Micah Schmelzer: I think its important to note that all of our work comes from a similar place, especially geographically, and so our relationship to where we come from and how we make is very much so tied to those places. That’s why I think it has made it easier to settle on a concept we can all relate to.

MicahSchmelzer1D: Can each of you give a quick introduction to your work and your selected media for the show?
CJ: The work that I have been recently engaged in comes from a realization I made of looking at past work.  I began to see a pattern I was seeing without looking. I was creating images without engaging a viewfinder.  My approach to photography has always been very diverse, I don’t tend to stick with one way of capturing an image. I utilize scanners and other modes of capturing, and I think that idea towards embracing disruption and devastation becomes apparent to my mode of making.  Although my process may change, this concept has been a motivating force beyond my most recent works which manifested naturally for that work which is in Becoming What Was.
MS: I am particularly concerned with the role of technology and how it functions in our perception of what we see and how we relate to the world around us. In regards to this show specifically I am interested in making a piece that addresses the denial of understanding and representation through outdated technology and a lack of readability. I wanted to talk about how as individuals we use technology on a daily basis to stay connected but it also puts distance between us. I wanted to make a physical barrier to understanding and elicit emotion through the denial.
KM: My work for this show specifically deals with finding beauty in nothingness. The photographs I have chosen to present are images captured from the train I took across the country this winter. Nearly everything outside was frozen and empty. These images have been folded to represent the trifold of a letter one would receive in the mail, in order to suggest the giving or receiving of a glimmer of life in an otherwise dead landscape.
Marisa Lee: My art for this show is fairly new. It is an investigation into representation of control and loss of control through painting and drawing processes. Using these processes to reveal and hide things that I personally may or may not want people to see, so I want to represent that through my particular process. Moving forward the medium I am using for this show is similar to my usual process, but this current work is more sculptural and dirty [laughs].  The themes behind Becoming What Was has pushed me to question and contend with the clean aesthetic of my previous work.

CandaceJahn3KellyMcGovern1 D: Is your piece in the show a departure from your usual medium?
CJ: I think that collectively we all have stuck to the mediums that we are comfortable with, we do stray back and forth at times. Micah creates sculpture and video installation. Kelly does photography, hand drawn elements, performance so its not out of the ordinary for her to show 2-D work. Marisa works with drawing and painting while integrating experimental mediums, and myself work mainly in photography. So I think it was important for the four of us to not make work out of our comfort zone or out of our element for this show. We wanted our individual mediums to come together, although very different, to come together collectively. We didn’t want to try and mend our processes to mirror each other. I think they do that organically on their own. It was important for us to make work that was dictated by a theme and have the conversation come together on its own.

D: Did you work together as artists often before this show?
KM: Being as we are all in the same MFA in VS program at PNCA, we were immediately drawn to each others aesthetics when me met. We have been together- working, living, and learning in close proximity since we moved to the Portland. It was natural for us to start a collective together.
CJ: So it made sense. It was a great opportunity for us to propose a show based on a theme that we came up with which holds meaning to us. One that didn’t hold limitations and just let us put work out there.

CandaceJahn1D: The theme of the show is dark yet hopeful, much like Feburary in Portland! What is your personal relationship to the theme of the show? Is there a personal loss that was a catalyst for your piece?
KM: A great deal of my work is fueled by loss. This piece, specifically with the visual reference to letter writing, becomes a battle against attrition. I think this idea of sending or receiving creates a hope for communication and connection.
ML: My personal relationship with the theme of show is my personal desire to be in control, whether in my art practice or personal daily life. I am constantly thinking about how to be in control. I dont know if there was a specific personal loss that was a catalyst for the piece. I think that if there were a loss there is also a lot gained through the group’s work as a whole. Our camaraderie is evidence of taking a loss and helping each other to gain from it.
CJ: I think that a lot of the art that we create both collectively and individually comes from a personal relationship to experiences we have had.  For me my personal loss has come from a more tangible material loss. This fall I had a hard drive crash and lost a large portion of work which left me with artist prints. This forced me to take these one of a kind prints and make new work from these images. So I began collaging them on scanner beds and recontextualizing them to make new work. Playing with the idea that maybe a large loss doesn’t need to be tragic and new things can come from it. I am heavily influenced by music, books, films and I think thats a conversation that we all have often. These bring us to a place  where we can all relate. Going back to where we grew up geographically, not knowing each other until we moved to Portland, it became comforting to gain these relationships and find common threads both personally and creatively.
MS: For me my art has always been concerned with finding ways to relate to other people about situations that could be very specific to my individual experience. I have definitely been involved a lot of loss in my life and it has reverberations. Recognizing this has helped me to find strength and also be skeptical of certain “truths” in society. My artistic practice now is very much engaged in deciphering so called “truths”. I  specifically use technology which is quickly providing us with information that could be considered less than truthful. I see art as a means of bringing people together, and I try to use art to start conversations with others. The losses we experience can make us stronger, and our experiences when shared make us more enlightened. My relationship to the theme is that when looking back into your past you see the error of your ways, the person you were, and how certain things were more important than others. You can never go back, in that sense it is futile to aspire for the past. My piece is a pillar to the defunct and abandoned. It will never hold the value and functionality it once did.

MarisaLee1D: You each have distinct visual styles, however the work reflects the theme tightly and seamlessly. There must be a lot of communication throughout the art making process. Is this true? Do you work closely start to finish?
KM: We absolutely work closely from start to finish. Not only by proximity, but also through constantly bouncing ideas back and forth and showing work in progress. In that way it creates a really strong community that allows us to make work that feels seamless and builds on a title or theme.

D: What attracts you to the works of your fellow show mates?
ML: I think all of us are attracted to each others work aesthetically and conceptually. Since we are all in critique together we get the most in depth look at what each other are thinking about and how we go about tackling the concepts we are concerned with.

All images courtesy of Candace Jahn

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