Armita Raafat on the WoArt Blog.Read More
I have been a fan of Sui's work for many years, watching her work develop and grow. The first pieces I'd ever seen were singular, in a group show context where they stood out amongst the crowd, but it is when she gets to expand and do a large installation that I lose myself in the work. These life-like cellular forms that seem alive, growing from the earth or floating in the air that change the way you see the environment around you. I got the chance to work with her this last winter and she is as fantastic a person as she is an artist. Please enjoy getting to know her and her work!
It’s obvious that nature is a huge influence in your work, is there a natural setting that you find particularly inspirational? Is there a location or type of place that you’ve never been or experienced that you’d be interested in experimenting with an installation that you haven’t done already?
Nature is so wonderful that she is almost untouchable. But, there are some that I want to mimic and try to reinterpret to add my sentiments and thoughts. I sometimes travel to the national parks to get inspirations. I hope I get a chance to visit Death Valley and Joshua tree National Parks this time. I didn’t get a chance to visit there and I think the names of the parks are just intriguing.
For those that maybe haven’t yet realized it, your work is made from weaving zip-ties together, which is really fun to watch that discovery happen as people look at your work. Has there been a favorite or memorable response from someone as they figured our your medium? What’s the most common question you get when people figure out your material? And how do you like to respond?
The most common question that I receive is “What are they made out of?” The audience is surprised to hear that the material is cable tie. And, always look again to find out that it is indeed made of cable ties. I also think my audience finds interesting that my artworks are solely handmade without any tools.
In your most recent work, you’ve been incorporating color much more than I’ve seen you do in the past. Was there a particular inspiration for that work? Can you tell us a little about that series?
I think there are some features that can be better represented with colors. I came across an idea that my work might be fun in visualizing taste, and the way we observe taste is not only via our palates, but also through its presentation and colors. I thought including more colors would bring more menus to the table.
I know that you had studied architecture and environmental design in school, which in itself I think provides a lot of insight to your work from your ability to see space so wonderfully to perhaps being drawn to a functional item like a zip-tie and making that into Art. I’d love to hear about your viewpoint on your path to your artistic career.
I worked as an interior designer while working on my fiber artwork. I actually have an MFA in Fiber Arts before continuing a design study in Interior Architecture and Environmental Design. I think a design study helps me better understand how my work can be a better fit in a given environment. I find myself more of an art person than design person.
Do you have any favorite female artists?
Jennifer Ling Datchuk and Jayoung Yoon make beautiful and meticulous artwork. I think their works are very effective in visualizing and creating sensitive narrative. Yes, they both use hair. No, I’m not a hair maniac. ;-) But, I do know that working with hair is very difficult.
Do you have any events or shows coming up that you’d like to share?
I am going to show my new project “Palate” series and some of my works at the Yard in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY coming up in May 2018. I am very excited to be able to introduce my new color work there. Please drop by when you have a chance!
To see more of Sui's work, please visit her website here: http://www.suipark.com/
I first became aware of Camille's work when we both did a group show together back in 2011 and have been loving seeing her work continue to evolve and grow through the years. This latest series I had the pleasure of seeing exhibited at Odetta in Brooklyn not too long ago, and it is very powerful. When you get to be up close and personal with it, it's hard to take your eyes off the work. They are exquisitely made, and the choice of presentation perfect. There is something about the balance between traditional identifiable shapes and forms with the unexpected surfaces and imagery that I just can't get enough of. I hope you enjoy getting to know more about her process and ideas as much as I have!
I admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for mix media works, especially when they incorporate the mixture of traditional applications and new mediums in unexpected ways. Some of your more recent work, particularly The Fez as Storyteller Series uses digital imagery. You’ve done it wonderfully, where it’s this surprise as you closely inspect the work. It’s a fantastic way to bring traditional imagery into a more current aesthetic. Can you tell us a little about how you began doing this in your work?
Actually, this had it's beginnings when I decided to create an artwork for a show on the cultural history and fate of synagogues around the world, a curated show titled Silent Witness sponsored by the Jewish Art Salon. All my work had to do with psychological and social repercussions stemming from family dynamics and learned cultural traditions, especially with regard to females. The theme refocused my take on these ideas.
As Iraqi Jews who emigrated to Bombay, India, in the late 1800's, my ancestors were part of a thriving tight-knit group who experienced a melding of influences. Against the backdrop of one of the Bombay synagogues that had very badly deteriorated due to disuse over many decades (ultimately restored by an American), I began to examine social conventions and inherent inequity that defined religious and Old World cultural doctrine. From that, my first piece of the series, Red Fez: Boy, Woman was created.
Your childhood and cultural upbringing has clearly had an influence on your work, but it seems to go much beyond that. There’s a deep rooted ancestral connection and yet also this cosmic mystical connection that vibrates in your work. From the literal icons and symbolism to the astral atmospheres that you create, can you describe your connection to this type of imagery? How is it symbolic to your personal narrative?
Thank you for seeing the mystical, which in one sense is part of the traditions I am exploring. Throughout our lives there was constant reference to our roots and forbears, an almost tribal connection to those that were and are, thus making a spiritual link to those we never met but who loom large in our psyches (perhaps owing to the concept of memory, "to remember" replete in Judaism). The icons serve to provide a grounding for the references but I think the emotional "vibrations" are what ultimately matters.
Rebirth is also a theme that comes up in most of your work. As well as a deep connection to the female experience. Can you talk a little about what this means to you specifically, and how you feel this theme has grown and changed over the course of your career? Do you ever look back on older work and see a rebirth of its own?
True, this is a consistent theme in my work. I have experienced a lot of turmoil, crisis, inconsistency, and loss throughout my life, so the drive to be relinquished, to be restored, becomes a natural yet surging theme in my work.
In terms of a female connection, the experience of being all female in my immediate family but for my dominant father fostered a critical vulnerability, but also the necessity to endure the intermittent raging outbursts and abuse to which we were subject. In families from Old World traditions having a male child is celebratory. The lingering sense was that a female was generally seen as a dependent, faintly a disappointment, but also, contradictorily, someone to hang onto, shield, and protect. Without a voice that was truly heard, she was legitimized when a male came along, who took a kind of "ownership" of her.
That said, nothing in my family experience was one way but rather mixed, often to extremes. I used the word "lingering" above. In a larger sense the experience was more of a straddling between the vestiges of the antiquated attitudes and a synthesizing of a modern, contemporary world, for all the players concerned. One of many a mixed message.
Interestingly, I am not sure the theme of rebirth has changed so much but that there are different ways of my expressing it throughout my career. I often use foliage or florals to represent irrepressibility. In a later series there is a return to the cosmos, or beginning. In terms of a rebirth when looking back at older pieces I see a rekindling or continuum of some of the ideas, symbols or images used, as had occurred with prior artworks. I think that viewers will interpret the art through their own relationship with the content, but since there is a timelessness in the work I am not sure their response is significantly different with time--perhaps a deeper understanding and receptivity because the public is more aware in general.
One can’t see your work and not see you in it. It’s highly personally reflective and narrative to your unique story, but at the same time it can read as having a larger political and social message as well. You’ve also had the opportunity to show your work in multiple parts of the world. Do you find that your work is received and interpreted differently depending on where it is shown? Is there a place that you’ve always wanted to show your work that you haven’t gotten to yet?
The personal often becomes the political. It is important as a witness to reflect and emphasize the meaning of my experience in broader terms for others to consider, construe and contemplate, to enlighten or interface with the viewer--and less about merely personal aspects. But I find that in discussing the work, the specifics are hard to get away from.
I have not yet concretely found that my work is interpreted differently by locale but perhaps by the individual (though it may be less understood in certain areas due to a homogenization of the population). Some may find the concepts and presentation "foreign" in a variety of ways. Conversely, I recently gave a talk on the Fez as Storyteller series to accompany my current show at Lockhart Gallery in SUNY Geneseo. A young female student born in Bangladesh remarked how she could glean pieces from the work to make a mosaic of meaning for her. It varies, as with most experiences with art.
In regard to exhibiting, there are lots of places where I would like to show. In a sense my art has the air of "museum" work. Ideally, I see the Fez series, for example, in large vitrines to underscore the quality of the artifact. They bear a historic aspect but yet are contemporary in nature-so a host of museums, art spaces and gallery venues would be viable. The Jewish Museum in NY, and contemporary art museums and spaces. My interest lies in what is human, so worldwide the essence could be appreciated.
You use a plethora of materials, fiber elements to mannequins to traditional oil sticks…are these happy random findings or do you have to go out searching for them specifically? Have you ever tried working with a found material that just gave you trouble? Or is there any medium that you haven’t tried yet that you’ve always wanted to? Or a technique/skill that you’ve always been fascinated by and wanted to learn?
I tend to be lucky with finding material things, but in my work nothing is random--it all has to make sense for me. Though the art has an emotional thrust, I am rather analytical and have an intellectual approach. I can't say I remember having a found object give me trouble--I tend to do many tests to see what is best to use media-wise. A happy story entails my needing to weather some wood to build an intentionally worn-out frame as a metaphor for the center-piece drawing. I was out on my way to the hardware store to buy the weathering product and lo and behold! someone had thrown out their weathered, beaten, rusty nail-ridden trellis!! Just what I needed! I loaded up my arms and made a couple of trips back home with the treasure.
There are so many enticing mediums yielding so many ideas. Right now, I would love to learn digital embroidery, and more about pattern-making and draping for my current work.
As an artist that works in sculpture to painting, when approaching new work, how do you typically begin? How do you choose the best medium to pursue the ideas and concepts with?
I generally tend to "see" the piece in my mind in a somewhat completed state, a kind of visualization, so the medium and technique I use is part of that vision. My job it to assess the best methods and steps to make it material. The question for me is largely "How am I going to do that?", and as I mentioned prior, I do a lot of tests. I also haunt consignment shops, thrift, antique, craft and hardware stores, my studio, my closet, or just about anywhere what I need could be attained. The Fez as Storyteller series, especially, requires all types of designing and construction skills since so many disparate elements are combined.
Do you have any favorite female artists?
I have many, but to top the list is Louise Bourgeois (I have a good story regarding her). It is hard to pick after her so I have added a few Frida Kahlo, Joan Mitchell, Eva Hesse, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Kiki Smith, Cindy Sherman.
Do you have any upcoming shows or events that you’d like to share?
Currently I have a one-person show at the Lockhart Gallery at SUNY Geneseo featuring The Fez as Storyteller series. I have been invited to show in an exhibition at the Hudson River Museum of Art, NY, titled The Neo-Victorians: Contemporary Artists Revive Gilded Age Glamour which opens early 2018. More immediately, I will be in an group show titled Me, My Selfie, and I at the Hudson Guild in Chelsea, NYC opening on October 5th 2017. There may be another in the offing as well.
If you'd like to see more of Camille's work, please visit her website at http://camilleeskell.com/
Lina Puerta, "Alto", 23" H. x 22" W. x 6" D, 2012-13Read More