Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I grew up in California, in the Bay Area. I moved to Portland in 2005, and it just stuck -- I love it here.
What's the Portland, Oregon art scene like these days?
Portland has a great community of artists and designers, and it feels like everyone is very interconnected. Yale Union always has something good going on, and I was totally entranced by Brenna Murphy’s show at the (very) new Upfor Gallery last month. I run into people I know at literally every event I attend - there’s a very friendly, cozy feeling here.
Tell us a bit about this series.
There is a video I saw a while ago on the internet of a couple of tigers approaching a large mirror in a jungle. Before they enter the frame, the video is this fantastic confusing image of lush trees, bordered by an image of slightly different lush trees. The mirror creates this odd moment, and fools the eye. To create this body of work, I began by making images with a variety of printmaking media (primarily silkscreen monotype), then I cut shapes out of the pieces, and rearranged them. This upsets the stability of the initial image, in a certain way. When I first began working with this process I was immediately reminded of the video, and I love this reference to the magic of seeing -- the way that reality sometimes fools the eye more than the invented. This body of work is also very much about the language we use to talk about time, and the way that this language can be easily understandable even if not literal. These images are, in a sense, each a moment in time: a collection of all of the many things that could be noticed.
What is silkscreening exactly? How many steps are there in creating one of these mixed-media pieces?
Silkscreening is a printmaking process that uses a squeegee to press ink (paint) through a woven screen in a specific (sort of stencilled) shape onto paper. What is different about the silkscreen monotype process that I practice is that there is no image or stencil, so I paint directly onto the screen, manipulate the image on the screen/matrix, then choose the moment when it is finished to print it onto the paper, cementing the image. Until it is printed, it is infinitely malleable. After printing the silkscreens, I use my turn-of-the-century letterpress to print phrases onto other paper, and collage this with the silkscreened image. I will also sometimes use images that have been produced through the copperplate etching technique of aquatint. The end result is a layered collection of many techniques, which I think adds a richness to the work. Although there are many processes involved, the final phase is very fluid and intuitive. A particularly beautiful piece of sandpaper even made it’s way into one of the pieces for this show. I am most excited by the way that this process allows me to disrupt the visual field, speaking to the layered nature of space in both our virtual and tactile environments.
The artist's studio press.
You often incorporate text in your work. Have you always been drawn to language?
I love a good phrase. Before I made work that directly involved text, I was most excited about working on titles. It was a natural progression to begin incorporating text more directly into the work. This body of work has been a departure for me, before I began it I was working on several bodies of work that are entirely text-based: a letterpress project involving tracking my wasted time, and a silkscreen monotype project where I manipulating letterforms and played with legibility and phrasing. This new body of work has been very exciting for me, as it is a way to incorporate some of these same ideas in very different ways.
Your work is beautiful, stark and, I believe, dials into our anxieties about time and meaning. Do you see you work as dark?
I suppose my work is inevitably dark insofar as it deals with time, which is given meaning through death. Although, without being too prescriptive, I find it almost impossibly light to be reminded that we will move through time regardless of anything else, that everything will eventually change and there is just nothing to be done - and that our attention to the moment is the only thing keeping us rooted in place, at all.
A Long Afternoon (detail)