To experience Saya Woolfalk's work is to become immersed in a scientific folklore where biology and anthropology inform fables of utopia. In Greek, "utopia" translates literally as "no" (ou) and "place" (topos), and in a collaborative series with anthropologist Rachel Lears, entitled No Place, Woolfalk posits ways in which "no placeians" can more readily become a part of a utopian society. In her most recent development upon this theme, Woolfalk has incorporated a new element -- that of dual consciousness and foreign beings, via the narrative of a fictional species called Empathics. Through the use of psychedelically-colored exhibits, scientific slide shows, dance performances, and a very multi-disciplinary artistic practice, Woolfalk is learning how to use art shows to create utopian worlds in and of themselves.

 

February 14th is known to many -- whether they are coupled or single, in love or without it -- as a day for amorous celebration, through intimate experiences and the exchange of roses, chocolates, and kisses. But beyond the major consumer holiday of Valentine's Day lies a global activist movement of a similar name, called V-Day. Violence against women and girls can take many forms, and V-Day draws special attention to rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery through a worldwide network of regionally-supported performances, documentaries, plays, rallies, and a variety of other events.
To call attention to this cause in our own way, we have decided to use the delicate work of Romanian and United Kingdom photographer Dana Popa as a foundational point. After learning of the horrible realities of the sex trafficking trade, Popa set about to unveil the stories of its former victims, all of whom were around seventeen years of age and in various stages of recovery when Popa met them. The result of Popa's genuine quest was a piercing series called not Natasha, “Natasha" being the generic name given to Eastern European sex slaves. Many series about sensitive topics shock one into sympathy. Not so with not Natasha; its images are often profound in the most mundane of ways, focusing not only on the women themselves but on the things that they leave behind -- while, in Popa's own words, capturing "a glimpse of their souls". It is beyond the photos themselves where the heart-breaking tales often lie, in the form of deception and betrayal from former lovers, neighbors, and friends, and of societies that allow women to be sacrificed to patterns of abuse and pain. In the full Q&A interview to follow, Popa recounts incredible stories -- some of which are difficult to believe -- while motivating us with powerful imagery. For more details on how you can be involved in V-Day events, please visit their website, or see more of Popa's work on her website.
(17 IMAGES TOTAL)
"This work is dedicated to Dalia and all the girls who allowed me to have a glimpse of their souls and dig up a hidden, painful past. I hope I did it in the most delicate way."

 

What circumstances led you to the not Natasha project? What triggered my work was purely finding out what sex trafficking really means. At the time, there was not much visual coverage of the illegal trade. Sex trafficking is the most profitable illegal business since the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union; it's a form of violence against women from my society. Little do people realise what this illegal trade is and how big and profitable it has become. So I decided to try and get a closer look at sex trafficking and record what it means for the women to survive sexual slavery. I chose to have a glimpse of their souls -- which at the time seemed very difficult to do, but that is what I was most interested in. After having heard their stories, I wanted to look at their traces -- at what women who had disappeared for years and who are believed to be trafficked and sexually enslaved leave behind. This became essential angle and part of the narrative. After being involved with this project I realised that its beginnings might have been triggered by my interest and knowledge of the woman's position in societies like the one I was born in. I acknowledge this story as a way of standing up against the societies that know what happens to their women and hide it without even doing anything about it.

 

San Francisco artist Alexis Arnold loves to explore unpredictable three-dimensional sculptures. With previous works centered around everything from training bra nets to faux-lawn upholstered decorations, her more recent Past Of Our Future and The Crystallized Book Series sees Arnold mixing scientific experimentation with everyday objects. Combining Borax crystals with things near and dear to human hearts, like vintage furniture and weathered books, Arnold grows wonderfully organic forms out of objects both malleable and solid, invoking nostalgia all along the way. As Arnold says herself in the following interview, "Time (and its physical/visual presence) is an ever-present concept in my work, as well as a large factor in crystal growth" -- and it is this idea that adds even more importance to the past in her sculptures, as it contrasts with the present.
"Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway." -- J.D. Salinger - Catcher In The Rye

 

Seattle artist Bette Burgoyne creates intricate colored pencil drawings that flow like the mechanizations of the universe. Inspired by geometry and pattern-based forms as well as nature, science, mathematics, and music, Burgoyne places heavy reliance on how perspectives and viewpoints shift and unfold over time. As she states simply in her personal statement, "My intention is to reveal a spectacle of wood, water, light and atmosphere; to share my enthusiasm for these processes and patterns that overlay, harmonize and echo one another." In the Q&A below, Burgoyne expands on this intention by describing her approach, factors that led her to her current body of work, and how music plays a significant role on her process.

 

Before Seattle artists Shaun Kardinal and Erin Frost met one another, art and creation were relatively solitary activities. Now, as romantic partners, they find in one another both artistic confidante and critic, and another with whom to share space and explore overlapping interests in geometry, collage, embroidery, and reuse. In this joint interview, both artists discuss their personal works as well as the collaborations which tie them together, both figuratively and literally.

 

Erin Frost

Alteration No 12 "Alteration No 12 was my very first piece of this nature. It was intimidating and exhilarating to "destroy" something i had made. It's a strong signifier of recent change, play, and exploration. Its balance and pattern are one of my favorites, visually. It wasn't mapped, but sewn free hand, each point leading to the next, and because of that it, it maintains a loose and taught path. It flows yet is contained." - Erin Frost Alterotations "Alterotations was made for a mobile gallery project curated by Sierra Stinson in New York in 2011. For this piece, I started with a more defined pattern (the circle) and plotted growing triangles within. I wanted to play with the radiating visual, to complement the original idea of the piece. At the time, I shot the original photograph (Black Lace), I was really trying to capture the sensation of love/lust/elation where it seems you can feel your heart expand, like it exists outside of you." - Erin Frost

Shaun Kardinal

Connotation no. 8 "This was one of the earlier pieces made for Connotations. It has a few cut-up postcards and features the shaped-collage-behind-thread I had envisioned when first starting the series. While very satisfying when it worked, the technique proved very tricky, since each piece of imagery was first cut and then spray-mounted into place for embroidering. The outwardly radiating points that touch the white paper were placed there in attempt to make the thing look like it was held together solely with thread. It worked here, but I found it distracting in other pieces and eventually left that element behind..." - Shaun Kardinal

 

Connotation no. 15 "This was my favorite of the series which incorporated a single, full-frame image. The design of the three orbs came to me while riding the bus one afternoon, and I was fortunate to have my Moleskine and some pens with me at the time. like most of the work in this series, the image came from a LIFE magazine published in the mid-'50s." - Shaun Kardinal

 

Stacey Page takes found photographs and adorns their subjects with elaborate thread headdresses and masks. Delving into notions of ego and avatar, Page creates a seamless melding of antiquated strangers and vague, archetypical monsters that stare out at the viewer with some understated promise of wisdom and secrecy. Page recently took the time to answer some questions for us about her work.

 

I discovered the work of Belgian artist Arn Gyssels years ago, thanks to Flickr. At that point, he seemed like he was just beginning to hone in on a tripped out collage style full of decay, glitches, and geometries, and I was instantly captivated. Now, on May 25th, 2012, Gyssels has a solo show in Antwerp, at the H.O.T.F.O.X gallery. Binary Fluidity will showcase "a series of contrasting fluidic forms that are believed to represent, within our own streams of consciousness, certain aspects of reality. It is exactly this content of experience and discovery in all its simplicity that will give the observer a visual tour on the border of an ectoplasmic experience." Gyssels has come a long way in defining his style, and in working his worldview more and more into his visual style. Below is a short Q&A -- just an introductory preview of the artist before a more in-depth collaborative feature with Gyssels and his girlfriend, Line Oshin.

 

(R) "This is one of the creatures that came out of putting black and white acrylic paint on a paper, scanning it in, and mirroring it from one side. You can see some form of underwater intelligent entity."

 

"Love and light. Everything should be treated with the utmost respect and understanding."

 

Portland artist Ian Michael Anderson's latest collection of gouache paintings contrast earth tones and light pink hues with symbolic imagery, to powerful and striking visual effect. In Anderson's own words, his paintings aim to address chaos and conflicts in life as well as order, to help him gain insight into their distinct natures. He explains by saying, "... Dualistic narratives take shape [and] opposing forces are typically revealed: Life and death, good and evil, man and beast, predator and prey, war and peace. These dreamlike and often nightmarish fables reflect an outward and subconscious view of man and his destructive role in this world. Through this lens, my own place in these mostly impossible scenarios can be triangulated, and I am on my way to resolving the confrontation and understanding the need for such destruction." You can see these pieces in person on First Thursday, May 3rd, at Backspace Gallery and Cafe (115 NW 5th Ave) in Portland, and read a brief Q&A with Anderson below.

 

Seattle artist Joey Bates has spent the last handful of years adhering to a breakneck schedule of shows, and he's ready to slow down.I caught up with Joey during a self-imposed hiatus; he has decided to take a break from showing and spend more time exploring new directions in his work. "I'm actually feeling really lost with what I'm doing art wise," he happily admits, "and there's something invigorating about that." For all his professed uncertainty, Bates does not come across as someone who is feeling creatively lost, and the works in progress that adorn the walls of his workspace in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood are testaments to his steady productivity.
Seeing Bates' home studio is like opening a brand new pack of colored pencils: everything is satisfyingly uniform and perfectly laid out by color, and his drafting table seems too meticulously organized to be in actual use. But Bates in person is as precise as his paintings, and he keeps his studio organized to an extent that, like the photo shoot of a sparsely furnished modernist home, elicits a twinge of envy for a level of immaculate attention to detail that most of us will never be able to sustain. Bates works in graphite and gouache to segment the planes of the face and figure into a series of nestled curves, creating portraits that read almost as topographic maps. He reduces the arcs of the human form into shapes that draw the eye into a constant sense of movement, and the meticulous detail of his linework is so thoroughly exacted that it gives the deceptive impression of being effortless. His first pieces concentrated almost entirely on faces, and by honing his focus in on the minutia of his models' features, he shifted the emphasis away from his subjects as individuals and instead created psychological studies of specific expressions. Bates originally began observing the human face because of an interest in capturing variations in non-verbal communication, and his compositions are meditations on the myriad small parts that comprise the whole. His interest in expression arose from observing the ways that people communicate. "There's something universal in expressions," Bates tells me, "but there's something very much not universal in how we read them, in the way we empathize and connect with each other."
There's something universal in expressions, but there's something very much not universal in how we read them, in the way we empathize and connect with each other." -- Joey Bates
(L) Jillian, in collaboration with Shaun Kardinal; Helga, in collaboration with Amanda Fiebing

 

 

Chicago-based illustrator and artist Jacob Van Loon has recently taken inspiration from the films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Two of Van Loon's latest pieces, The Moguls (Stalker) and Let Alone A Planet (Solaris) -- named after two Tarkovsky films of the same name -- are chaotic and multi-layered mixed media works inspired by the content, moods, and color palettes of those films. "I can't think of a director who has done more with film as a medium," says Van Loon of Tarkovsky. "I was dealing with the assignment of dense conceptual material during the painting process. I found it easier to speculate on the latent aspects of both films; the psychological confrontations posed by the pace, sound, and color." Though Van Loon readily admits that both films felt initially inaccessible to him, the Q&A below will show how repeat viewings led to the gelling of his artistic style with philosophical and psychological interpretations of Tarkovsky's themes.

(TOP) The Moguls (Stalker) Diptych 24"x40"; (BOTTOM) The Moguls (Stalker) Detail - Watercolor, graphite View entire Stalker Series On Jacob Van Loon's Website