Studio Visit: Susan Carr

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Susan Carr is an artist living and working in Massachusetts.  Her work can be seen in PLEAT's September 2017 exhibition as well as instagram.com/susancarr88

Please describe your work. 
My work is about the hunt for understanding.  One of my favorite songs is by Bjork "Hunter" and it speaks to me very deeply. I am actually hunting myself, I imagine smelling the images that I can barely see or understand that are about me, that complete me and my life will be about this and only this really when I get down to the bone of it.  My children are always with me their spirits are always with me.  I had a son who died a year and a half ago and this need for hunting has become very strong. When I work I am with him in a strange way and I am a child as well.  It is elusive because when you think you know exactly what you are doing your practice slips away and the sheer physicality of it comes back the need to hunt, to draw, to sculpt, to speak to the other that is within ones one soul.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices? 
My choices are determined by what I have around sometimes.  I never thought I would use spray paint.  I never thought I would use clay and I am making clay figures now.  I was a photographer at one point using a medium format Zenza Bronica in a wet dark room.  I use my iPhone now.  I am making sculptures using a jig saw. These are all hunting expeditions. I will use anything to make art and I like the idea of pushing myself farther out into deep waters.  Into the unknown is a place I like because for me it is full of possibility. 

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them? 
My influences?  First off the women that raised me were full of determination even if I did not get the care I needed at times I can say the women in my home lived their own lives.  I was so surprised at how some girls lived because I was raised so differently. There was never an overt you can do anything even though you are a girl but it was in the air.  I look at thousands of painters sculptors installation artists photographers film makers everyone so great.  Who made me the person I am though?  I guess Louise Bourgeous, Phillip Guston, Mike Kelly, Ana Mendieta they are all so important to me for different reasons I just resonate with their work and think about them a lot. 

How has social media affected your studio practice?
Social Media has really changed the game for artists.  I remember sending slides in to calls.  Going weekly to galleries in Boston I liked so they could see my face and remember it.  Honestly it was such a drag.  I enjoy looking at other people’s work, I can see what is happening in Norway in the ceramic community or Irelands young new painters or England It feels really freeing.  I can imagine myself being there someday.  I have friends on FB and IG that I really appreciate.  I know their work have seen them change over time it is really wonderful.  Social media has its you know bad stuff but I really like the idea of putting something out there and seeing what people think.  I love looking at the work in my feed.  Constant studio visits bring them on!  As artists we need visibility and we need each other.  I am so grateful to the friends I have made because of social media. 

Studio Visit: Nicole Czapinski

Photo credit: Tom Condon

Photo credit: Tom Condon

Nicole Czapinski is an artist living and working in Vermont.  Her work can be seen in PLEAT's August 2017 exhibition as well as nicoleczapinski.com.

Please describe your work.
For this particular series, the materials I use are pretty common: thread, sheer polyester chiffon, house paint, soft pine. I build wooden frames and stretch both the front and the back of the frames with a sheer fabric. Using a long needle and thread to draw and sculpt within the structured space of the frame, I work intuitively as each line of thread informs the next until a shape emerges. The pieces are hung on a wall and so they initially read as paintings. But when you get closer to the work there is depth and a space that breathes just beneath the surface and then the surface blurs and while they start out as paintings, they begin to read as drawings in space and finally as sculptural forms. There is a transformation from something that is flat on a 2-dimensional plane, to a thing that has a volume within a 3-dimensional space. The work explores perception, consciousness, and is inspired by the invisible unknown.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?
Below are a few excerpts from a document I update regularly with (mostly) questions. A place with very few answers:

What does a thought look like? I can’t see the edges of a thought. If thinking is a series of thoughts strung together, then what does a single thought look like? Can you have just one thought? What was my first thought? How do you arrive at a conclusion? I can reconstruct my childhood home or the dinner table from last night, but in my memory, the edges of those spaces blur and details are lost. Connections are made and then dissolve.

I’ve been learning more about the brain and how it functions and have found the writings and recordings of Oliver Sacks to be easily accessible and inspiring. It’s fascinating to think about opening up a brain, slicing into the membrane and finding nothing of a lived experience. I know there are electrical currents and billions of connections, synapses firing away all working to construct the reality that I see, but really where does it all exist?

The edges of a thought are blurry and seem infinite like the expanding universe. Space is infinitely expanding. What is infinite space? I can imagine the idea of “infinity” but I don’t understand it. What does it mean that the universe is expanding? What does it look like to expand into yourself?

I do not understand time. What happened to yesterday? Why are we all not freaking out about this? Where did yesterday go?!

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
Agnes Martin. Last summer I went to Dia: Beacon and saw her work for the first time in person and I cried. You walk through that big important museum full of large physically commanding work by male art stars and then in the belly of the museum there you find Agnes’ work. I read this amazing biography by Nancy Princenthal and have been a fan of her work, but to witness the paintings in person was incredible. You’re in front of them and you become acutely aware of seeing and feeling. You kind of release into their presence and it’s in that space that you start to experience her work. It’s something I strive for in my own work.

I currently live and work as a staff-artist at the Vermont Studio Center and I’ve learned so much from the residents that have come through VSC over the past year and a half. I wish I had done a residency right after undergrad, seeing all of the ways of making and thinking about art from different generations of people from all over the world has dissolved many myths I had been carrying around about what I thought it meant to be an artist.

How has social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc) affected your studio practice?
Last month I took a bit of a break from Instagram and felt a peripheral shift. Instead of looking downwards towards my phone I felt myself looking up and out. I think my posture even changed! I was more present when people spoke to me and I was left alone with my thoughts. I realized how I kind of go into zombie mode when there is a lull or a moment alone. Pull out my phone, no texts? check Instagram, no updates, open Facebook, no notifs, check my email, etc. When I was on this break, I limited myself to only checking the weather. This got super boring fast and because I wasn’t receiving those little bits of affirmations I didn’t feel the need to refresh and reopen the weather app. That said I do love Instagram! I’ve found so many artists, and it’s so easy to post simple videos and studio updates. I particularly love Instagram stories and the freedom in sharing an image that will expire. Since taking the break I haven’t felt the same anxiety around my phone as I used to so there’s that...everything in moderation I suppose.