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.