Studio Visit: Julie Alpert

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Julie Alpert is an artist living and working in Seattle. Her work can be seen in PLEAT's May 2018 exhibition as well as juliealpert.com.

Please describe your work. 
I make temporary immersive installations that address nostalgia, disappointment, and teenage doodling in the margins of notebooks. I use a combination of everyday craft materials, hardware store supplies and traditional art supplies. Over the last few years I’ve been digging into memories of the spaces I grew up in, those of my grandparents and my own family home outside Washington, DC, in the 1980s. Through an improvised stream-of-consciousness process, I subconsciously attempt to recreate or translate the decorative atmosphere of these places. Once my work comes down, I typically recycle most elements, hanging on to one or two small parts that weave their way into the next installation.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices? 
I’ve just mentioned some of the internal factors, but the external factors that motivate my choices are strongly tied to place. Each of my installations is made specifically for and in response to the space it will be hung in. I think compositionally about the best arrangement for the architecture of the space and what the space is typically used for. Scale and relationship of parts to one another within the room are very important to me. I also like to think about how viewers will move through the space, giving them moments of visual chaos balanced with moments of rest.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them? 
I am drawn to artists of all disciplines who know how to create mood and psychological tension from the everyday, who are accessible yet complex, and who are specific and at the same time leave space for me to create my own imaginary worlds. Some people who come to mind are writers Alice Munro and Elena Ferrante, artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, choreographer Pina Bausch, and filmmakers Werner Herzog and Ingmar Bergman. 

How has social media affected your studio practice? 
I love how Instagram has broadened my sense of the contemporary art world by connecting me with artists and galleries around the globe (including PLEAT!). I’m based in Seattle, but I’ve been away for a year at Roswell Artist in Residence Program, so it’s been a great way to stay connected to Seattle artists back home. One of the interesting effects of social media is that because it can be used as a promotional tool, I wonder how much of what artists make (myself included) is preceded by concerns for how it will fit into a square and make us more popular. I mean, we all need external reinforcement, right? :) This is not a judgement, just an observation that will play out over time. Overall, though, I think it’s a good thing and I can’t see how I’d otherwise be exposed to so many great and diverse artists. Having all these new images in my eyeballs certainly influences what I make.

Studio Visit: Michael Marrella

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Michael Marrella is an artist living and working in New Jersey. His work can be seen in PLEAT's April 2018 exhibition as well as michaelmarrella.com.

Please describe your work. 
My process functions off momentary inclinations and spontaneity. I try to approach each session with a clear head, which isn’t always possible, so the act of painting itself helps clear restrictions and old mental materials from my mind. Ideally I start and finish a painting in one session. Conceptually that makes the most sense. But it doesn’t always work out that way so in returning to a piece I often cover up, scrape off, or destroy what was there. This makes room for current ideas to demonstrate themselves and take over the surface. 

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices? 
Most of my decisions are determined by momentary inspirations - relationships between colors and textures; or re-discovering old interactions of materials after pulling, scraping or sanding them from a surface. I collect a lot of studio debris. Paint cans, scrapings, old pallets. Sometimes I recycle these things into my paintings. Even though these materials were man-made, they seem to reflect processes in nature, and that’s also where I draw a lot of inspiration. I like to think the micro-details of my paintings resemble the details, variations and micro-complexities you might see in things in nature.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
Joe Bradley’s oil paintings, Mark Grotjahn’s faces and masks, and Jennifer Guidi. What I’ve learned from them is quality of lines and marks. Repetition and ritual with Jennifer Guidi. Directedness and physicality with Joe Bradley. And intensity in Mark Grotjahn’s abstract portraits. All of their painting develops through persistent work. It is very physical, very raw. It seems very real in the way that it brings hidden feelings and associations to the surface.

How has social media affected your studio practice? 
Social media has made everything very accessible. After graduating college, I felt pretty isolated in terms of my studio practice. Instagram has been integral in allowing me to make my studio and work visible and accessible, where I may not have otherwise had that opportunity. It’s allowed me to connect with a lot of great artists and see their work change and develop over time. Most of my influences now are artists that I’ve found on Instagram, and most of them are not very well known. There are so many great artists out there and Instagram fosters a sense of community.