Studio Visit: Joseph A.W. Quintela

Joseph A.W. Quintela's work can be seen in PLEAT's May 2015 exhibition. Photo Credit: Aliza Tucker (Closer Looks and Studio Candids on Instagram).

Could you talk about the significance of the materials you use? 
The material photographed in this series is a production of my own artifice, a sculpture born of salt, adhesive, and custom-built strands of LED lights. I ranged over tiny squares of the finished sculpture with a photographic lens, traversing the terrain of my creation like an explorer. The moment of the photograph most often corresponds to a flash of memory evoked by a shape or pattern suddenly framed by the camera. In this way, memory becomes my material as much as the sculpture, itself, is my material.
 
How does "location" inspire your work?
I am always working towards worlds of the interior, worlds of the fantastical, or a world of words inspired by the fantastical nature of our interior mind. My work began in the literary arts. So the practice of imagining worlds was part of my first artistic training, and truthfully, was natural to me even before I set pen to the page. My brother and I were brought up in Minnesota. We shared a large back lot with four other households, but we were the only children on this lot. So our play occurred mainly in our imagination. Our father would pile up the entire lot's snow into a single corner with his snow blower. It was a mountain to us. We would tunnel through it for hours and hours and then create entire worlds within those tunnels. In many ways, I do the same thing now.
 
What is the best/worst artistic advice you have ever received?
When I was in my second-to-last year at Sarah Lawrence college, I was studying mostly literature and creative writing. The curriculum was very free there, I could pretty much study anything I wanted. I'd been in a writing workshop with Suzanne Gardinier, perhaps the most inspiring poet that I've had the privilege of working with. It was a difficult semester for me. I had been working on erasure texts with very mixed results. Part of the problem was that my work was taking a turn towards more aesthetic concerns but I hadn't come into a full understanding of how to reconcile my new visual impulses with my training as a writer. At the end of the semester, Suzanne drew me aside and told me something that made my heart skip. She told me to stop taking writing classes. I think I started crying. "No, no," she said, "I don't mean stop writing, I mean stop studying it, you know what you need to know about writing, now study other things to feed it". To this day, I don't know if she actually was trying to steer me away from writing or simply lead me to new insights that might fuel my work. But I enrolled in only art theory and studio art classes during my last year at Sarah Lawrence. Today, I still write. Writing is the beginning of almost all my visual work. But the finished form of my work has become almost exclusively visual and Suzanne's advice was the beginning of that divergence. Good advice? Bad advice? Who knows? But it was advice that came at an important juncture and it came from someone who I loved and who I trusted with my work. I think that's the most important thing.