In the Studio – Creating a Place for Home

Duplex: How did you come together and how did you settle on the theme?
Shiloh Gastello: Christina Kemp and I co-curated the exhibition proposal and theme. Our group is familiar with each other’s work, and based on the theme of the exhibition, we broadly placed everyone’s art into a framework where they all fit together to form a new and cohesive conceptual whole.
Sarah Eaton: Working so closely together as a cohort, we have found many threads that link our work together over the past two years. Place and home are two themes that have had an influence on multiple people’s work, so it was not a surprise when the group decided on this theme.

CPH Group-004D: Can each of you give a quick introduction to your work and your selected media for the show?
Christina Kemp: I work in both digital and darkroom photography. Within the last year and a half of graduate school, digital work has been my primary focus. I am especially interested in pushing and pulling the viewer through a constructed image created through the lens of a silent storyteller.
Erin Martinez: My thesis inquiry investigates my relationship to my hometown of Tehachapi, California and how that ambivalence influences my identity. Teenagers in Parking Lots specifically addresses my inquiry by subverting the expectations of a mundane object, and inserting my own narrative and experience into something that reads as banal.
Julia March Crocetto: The particular piece featured in the exhibition is about some of the emotional aspects of place and memory, acknowledging the fallibility of memory.
SG: My work is materially focused in ceramics. Ceramics are found in the home, whether mass-produced or hand-made. But by purposely warping and fracturing my ceramics in the kiln, I seek to increase the emotionally gestural nature of my work to reflect aspects of the character of the viewer. I hope to incite the viewer to think about how everyday objects relate to their bodies, while also evoking a sense of narrative ambiguity. I seek to leave space for the viewer to contemplate on how seemingly mundane objects function by emphasizing their imperfections and flaws that skew their typical utilitarian context.
SE: I have been focusing my research on the perceptions and the gazes of the artist and viewer. I am specifically interested in eliciting a space for an active viewer that does not passively look at the work, but takes a quiet moment to internalize what they are seeing. In a fast paced tech world, I find that slowing down for a moment to really see something is very valuable. I utilize transparency, layering and non-traditional construction and material methods to encourage this curiosity from the viewer.

Courtesy of Shiloh Gastello
Courtesy of Shiloh Gastello

D: Are your pieces in the show a departure from your usual medium?
SG: Not on a material basis. However, the work featured in this exhibition reflects a departure in my conceptual and material process. I typically make purely functional wares for everyday or ceremonial use, such as mugs, Japanese tea bowls, or teapots. However, I recently have been seeking to push the perception of why some people use cherished objects that are broken or compromised in a society where imperfect things are usually thrown away. This exploration has greatly affected the way that I conceptualize my work and my intent with how it directly connects to the viewer.
EM: This piece is a departure because it moved my work from a traditional print on the wall to a more nuanced object-based piece. I think that using objects in addition to more historical print media allows for stronger access points for my audience. We all have some experience with grocery bags or cigarette butts or small towns or teenage angst. To combine those elements into something that subverts expectations while telling my personal history has felt like a powerful move in a different direction.
JMC: I am returning to fibers after exploring other media, such as vinyl, which I was using in a similar manner. I work in a variety of media depending on the concept but cloth usually wins out. There are particular actions that I need the media to respond to, and cloth is incredibly versatile.
SE: My piece exemplifies my break away from using paint to create a painting. I have utilized my long history of painting, art history, and composition to create fiber paintings that exemplify the body (home) and landscape (place). Utilizing the stretcher bar as a signifier of a traditional painting format, I am pushing the boundaries of what a painting is, allowing it to become more of an object that an image.

Courtesy of Christina Kemp
Courtesy of Christina Kemp

D: Did you work together as artists often before this show?
SG: Sarah and I curated an exhibition featuring OCAC BFA Students and local artists at Ash Street Project Studios and Gallery last year, which helped us to better understand each other’s aesthetics. It is a vital part of our practice to visit each other’s studios almost everyday to discuss the way that our work is growing.

D: What is your personal relationship to the theme of the show? What efforts do you make to feel at home in your practice?
EM: Oh, I’m all about trying to understand home! I’ve been tiptoeing around my relationship to my home for years in my work, but felt a lot of fear about addressing it out right. I’m from a really small town; my family has been there for five generations. I’m the first person to move out of state, and when I was seventeen, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I have a really close relationship with my family and have been so curious about why they love to live there while I couldn’t wait to leave. I believe that place is tied to how we identify with ourselves. What does it mean to have a love/hate relationship with where you’re from? And how do we find ourselves in new places?
JMC: I’ve been pretty nomadic most of my adult life, with the Western United States and Alaska as the main backdrop. I’ve come to adopt this whole region as my backyard and have become a bit protective of it, especially wild places. Connections with place and moments – experiences – have become more important than where I hang my hat. I’m trying to tune in to the cognitive dissonance I experience when I consider the effects of colonialism and the challenges we have as humans in trying to live harmoniously and sustainably with the land and each other.
SG: I am thankful to have been able to attend several residencies while in Graduate School, traveling to the Midwest and East Coast for research opportunities in furtherance of my artistic development. I feel that regardless of where you travel, the concept of home expands to include more than just a place, but also like-minded people with similar goals. In this sense, you are never alone and always home. Home is a mindset and is perception based.
CK: My work deals directly with the psychological recreation of home through the photographic medium. I act as a storyteller and anthropologist studying and documenting another’s space. The viewer perfects the trifecta by creating their own story or associations with the images. To feel at home in my practice I will often clean my studio.
SE: I think of this theme in a very psychological manner. I feel that the only true home that we have is the mind and internal body, and that place is where the self is at any given time. According to Jungian worldly symbolism, the home is the self, and you can tell a lot about someone’s current psychological state by the space that they live in. Currently in my practice, I have been attempting to create a visual interpretation of what thoughts and emotions may look like in congruence with a physical interpretation of the energy contained within our bodies. Allowing myself to create abstract interpretations of thoughts, energy, and psychological states of mind most certainly makes me feel at home in my practice, and I strive for them to be universal rather than solely personal.

Courtesy of Christina Kemp
Courtesy of Christina Kemp

D: You each have distinct visual styles, however the work reflects the theme tightly. There must be a lot of communication throughout the art making process. Do you work closely start to finish?
CK: Our processes started as individuals making work around personal conceptual ideas. In preparation for the show, we carefully considered themes that might work well as a broader idea. Home, came to the forefront as the strongest link, between the audience and ourselves.
JMC: It seems the reverse happened: because we had this theme common among us, we decided to work together on an exhibition. We produced our work independently, with a formal critique process amongst all of our peers. We know each other’s work pretty well now and can talk pretty freely about how things function together.
SE: I feel that we are a tight knit group and that we bounce ideas off of each other quite often but we all have a strong individual work ethic. There is an intriguing amount of subconscious aesthetic and conceptual influence that we have all had on each other while working so closely with one another over the past two years.

D: What process do you go through when deciding if a work is complete?
SG: I often will make a ceramic vessel clean and undamaged initially. I will then alter it and warp it, first by hand, and next in the kiln during firing at the crux of the clay’s capacity maintain its form (over 2,345 degrees Fahrenheit). If the pot warps in an evocatively gestural way, or if I feel that the gesture is becoming forced, I stop working on it and move on to the next one.
CK: I ask myself several questions before deciding a work is complete: Does the work feel complete? Does it feel overworked or underworked? Does it need to be completed to be finished? How do I define completion? What is the difference between complete and finished? Is completion a state of resolve?
EM: Oh that’s tricky! As a printmaker, I tend to approach making with a pretty clear sense of what I want finished to look like (of course there are things that interrupt that.) With Teenagers in Parking Lots, I didn’t realize it was done until I added the pile of cigarette butts. Including them felt like a risk to me because most people have an adverse reaction to smoking in general, and the remnants of it even more particular. But I feel like the butts are important because it represents tangible time, and references the habits and compulsions around smoking.
SE: I have been thinking a lot about self editing and allowing my work to not become too complex, or if it is, for the complexities to remain isolated in certain small pockets of my compositions. This comes from the painterly advice of allowing space for the viewer to breath, or the eyes to rest. With this in mind, I usually work on a piece until i find that it intuitively feels complete, being careful not to overwork it, so that the simplicity and compositional and material poetics of a piece may shine.
JMC: Much of this is based on formal decisions, but there is a gut feeling I have to listen to. I’ve been learning to let go of fussy details, challenging my own ideas about standards and conformity, to privilege the idea. It’s important to install the work in a space outside of the studio to see what it’s doing, to let it start taking on a life of its own.

Courtesy of Christina Kemp
Courtesy of Christina Kemp

D: What attracts you to the works of your fellow show mates?
JMC: I’m most attracted to the authenticity and relentless inquiry behind their work.
EM: This question is hard for me to answer without gushing. I respect the work and thinking and implementation of my show mates for so many reasons. At the risk of sounding cheesy, they are some of the most hard working, encouraging, and intelligent people I have had the pleasure of knowing. I admire the way they approach craft, as a concerted and repetitive understanding of material; that each next step is better and in responsive and more in tune with the last.
SE: I love that each of us has such different relationships with the ideas of domesticity, home, and place. I have adored watching each of my peers grow and shift through our time in this program together and I can’t wait to see the work they continue to create after our graduation and thesis show in May.

Courtesy of Christina Kemp
Courtesy of Christina Kemp

D: What memorable responses have you had while making the work? Any new discoveries?
SG: Hearing colleagues and collectors who visit my studio refer to my compromised wares as resembling people or being bodily is very gratifying. These responses inform me that my work is functioning in the way that I had intended. Through the process of altering my work and enhancing its imperfections, I have learned how to better intuitively respond to form. I have a more innately acute sense of what the work needs in order to convey its message.
JMC: Yes, memorable responses and new discoveries have been a regular part of grad school! When people come into my studio, they tend to respond to the way I’m manipulating the materials and the resulting surfaces or textures, wanting to touch it. Recently, I had a discovery when I installed a work outside of my studio for the first time; I had installed it in the evening, but when it was viewed in the light of day, there was a relationship to things outside the window in that room that added to the conversation. It was a missed opportunity; if I had installed during daylight hours, I could have altered the arrangement to open that conversation. I vowed to give things more time in that phase of evaluating completeness, even though I felt like I was already allowing sufficient time, and to keep broadening the scope of my “big picture.” There is always something to learn.
SE: I think the biggest discovery has been that I have a deep interest in work that encompasses a hybridity between dimensions, finding the space between object and image, sculptural and experiential … almost performative for the viewer or audience.
CK: I am discovering through critiques and the evolution of the work that part of its language is about subtle humor. The little things that make life funny.
EM: That I can make whatever the fuck I want to, and I can assign meaning to whatever I want, that I can try things and risk things. I learned that the trying is what counts. Who cares if it fails? Just try again.

One Comment

  1. Maggie Eaton

    I am very impressed with the deep reflection and insight of this group of emerging artists. I am sure it will be an impressive show to be enjoyed by many.