Interview with Stephanie Wickizer




We are very pleased to announce the opening of We Are Sectioned Creatures: New work by Stephanie Wickizer. Stephanie recently completed her MFA at the California College for the Arts in Oakland, CA. Join us for her opening reception Friday, September 6,  6pm-9pm.


by Amy Reed

August 20, 2013

Can you tell me about how you began working with with fabric and string and when your work began to take on such elegance and scale?

Previously, I’d incorporated sparing amounts of string, sewn through these obsessive, acrylic compositions on canvas… also, painting and screening biomorphic patterns on cuts of truly ostentatious, dead-stock polyester, but the shift really happened around the half-point of grad school. I lost three family members over the course of a year.

Mourning rituals, death masks, victorian hair jewelry. Processing through repetitive actions… My grandmother left me with stacks of bedsheets and fabric, folded crisply and hardly worn despite their age. I was broke, couldn’t afford canvas, so I stretched the sheets and attacked them with scissors, like a high school band shirt. Deconstruction of painting, reconstruction through meditative repair. I got off on tying everything back together. According to my own logic.

Then, you know… once you’re comfortable with a process or material, it doesn’t matter how you started, it just morphs. The problems become different. I mostly think of them as membranes now. The thrill is in the entry points, the points of puncture. Points of tension and release. I’m continually intrigued by the discord of the string and substrate. Composite forces, straining against each other, to create a whole.


Can you talk about working between painting and sculpture, and what that means to you?

It allows me to engage my body. I spent ten years using size 0 brushes and just the sight makes my wrists ache. I prefer drills, chop saws, screens, palette knives, even knotting the string is a more kinetic, malleable enactment of a line. Repurposing wood to construct my own stretchers… there was this young, lovely moment in the garage where I realized I’d just vertically integrated. Just stood there and felt like some sort of material overlord with the creative agency to mess with whatever aspect ratio I’d like. I revisit that feeling whenever I determine a new way to punch a hole in something. On a power tool trip.

I was reading a lot of 80s Lakoff and Johnson, Thomas Kuhn’s “incommensurable” in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions… perceiving my work through this lens of embodied cognition, phenomenological positioning, situadeness, searching for any fallible human system or attempt to categorize. Logicizing descriptors of incommunicable phenomena. All these things seemed to fit alongside my material explorations. I liked that I could never resolve my physical relationship to these objects I was making. I love a disintegrating rectangle.

 I can see how sound comes in when looking at your work. Please tell me a bit about your exploration with sound.

Rhythm is the most direct connection. My only musical capability is percussion, so that’s where I’m most comfortable. Thinking about pattern, repetition. I’ll intake certain songs compulsively, and it’s during these periods that I often start new work. Certain pieces are inextricable from mixes I’ve overplayed. Sort of like audible origin stories. Plus, when you zone in, you count beats and stitches in a similar way. Weaving and drumming fulfill the same urge.

I’ve also been animating during the last two years, rotoscoping by hand on xerox cels, and have wasted hours just plugging in different tracks to finished shorts. I’m entranced by the way sound shifts your visual attention to various elements of the clips. It is uncommonly satisfying to tweak the mood or atmosphere of a project that abruptly. Plus I’ve had the opportunity to work with friends making things that are more communal. It’s a nice change from my hermitage of knot tying.


Do you have any advice to give young artists who are interested in graduate programs?

The one thing I would hazard is, know your program. Make sure you have specific reasons for being at that particular institution (resources, professors, funding, etc.) Develop relationships with advisors and faculty before you enroll. Know what you can offer the school or community and vice versa.




And where are you off to next?

I’m off to enjoy life :)

Join us for the reception Friday, September 6th 6-9pm. RSVP here

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