Southlight Gallery presents the inventive work of three young artists on the rise
In the past decade, the local arts community has certainly participated in the greater global trend of artists blurring the lines between various media. While a term like “interdisciplinary” can sound clinical or even militaristic, the fact of the matter is that younger artists are increasingly surrendering to several styles, materials and techniques to create singular works of art. It is a trend that is probably based on inevitably more than fashion, honoring the very personal and even ephemeral nature of what we consider to be visual arts.
Southlight Gallery is documenting this phenomenon at the local level with their current exhibit “Mixed Messages: Selected Photographic Works and Prints by EV Krebs, Austin Moule, and Eileen Walsh.” The show is curated by acclaimed photographer Paul Karabinis, who is currently the Associate Professor of Photography at the University of North Florida.
The show is on display at the gallery’s UNF ArtSpace through the month. Southlight Gallery is located at 6 East Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville and is open Tuesday – Friday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 438-4358.
Starehouse contacted Karabinis and the featured artists via e-mail. Below is a transcription of the assembled interviews.
Starehouse: What were your criteria in choosing these three particular artists?
Paul Karabinis: The UNF ArtSpace at Southlight is a project designed to showcase the work of UNF art majors. We have a full-time faculty of well over twenty and around 15 adjuncts. We have around 400 declared majors and approximately 150 art minors. Krebs, Moule and Walsh exemplify the art spirit that we try to develop in our program. All are recent BFA graduates who have consistently produced bodies of work of high technical and aesthetic quality.
S: Could you briefly describe qualities you like about each of these artists?
P.K.: I think it is the broad-based approach that distinguishes these artists. Krebs’ hybrid creations hover between photography, printmaking, and drawing. Working with historical photographic processes, she meticulously applies ink and other media to the surface of her hand-made prints. Walsh works digitally but broadens her layered collages through the introduction of text that opens up new territory for reflection. Moule is a printmaker who works from photographs enhanced by his drawing. His serigraphs of everyday objects and environments, while paying homage to pop art, reveal the significance of personal passions and everyday experiences.
S: Do you feel that these three artists are also almost indicative of how the UNF arts program has grown to help encourage such naturally “organic” multidisciplinary, young artists?
P.K.: The traditional boundaries between media (painting, printmaking, photography, 3-D, etc.) are getting less and less clear. All BFA candidates take courses outside of their specific discipline and in many cases develop work practices and aesthetic sensibilities that are not defined by a singular medium or approach. I believe the strength of our program is that we encourage broad-based thinking about applied art practice. Faculty frequently collaborates between media and we try to create an environment where students are encouraged to explore and experiment. I’ve been at UNF for over thirty years and our program in the arts has never been more vital and active than at this time. Our faculty exhibits nationally and internationally, participates in national conferences, and works individually with students to support and enhance their artistic pursuits.
Starehouse: How old are you, where were you born and how long have you been in Northeast Florida? Where do you currently reside?
EV Krebs: I am 22 years old and I was born in a small beach town in south Florida called, Hobe Sound. I have been in Northeast Florida for a little over 4 years and I currently live in Riverside.
S: How many pieces are featured in the “Series: Human Studies” series and what are their dimensions?
E.K.: There are 4 pieces in the Mixed Messages show from the Human Studies series, each with an image size of approximately 6”x6” and a frame size of 16×16.
S: On your site, you explain that the “Human Studies” series was seemingly inspired by skeletal imagery, a “’clean’ death of a life I used to know” and a “study, similar to an autopsy, of what went wrong.” Could you please elaborate on how those concepts (and any I might have missed) are translated through this work? I am particularly interested in the “clean death” of the life you “used to know.”
E.K.: When I began the Human Studies series I chose the biological imagery for its simplicity because the series started as a study of the most effective way to apply the stippling element. I worked with these images almost nonstop for two months, experimenting with processes, ink colors, and stippling designs. I was completely connected with them. A little while before I began working on this series I made the very hard to decision to end a 4-year relationship. There was a lot of hurt and frustration. I began working on the series, connecting with it, and at some point I asked myself, “Why did I choose skeletal imagery?” There is an obvious association between bones and death, but these were very straight forward, very “clean” images of the skeletal form. I dug deeper, I worked on the images more and I kept performing the “study.” I started to find this connection between a clinical study, an autopsy or the spread of a disease, and how I was handling my personal issues. In my mind it all just seemed to click and I kept on creating. As to whether or not this is translated through the work, I feel that the viewer attaches his or her own meaning and that my connection is certainly going to be much different than theirs. The concept that I do feel translates is the idea that this is a study of the human, whether that is human nature, health, or interaction.
S: What compels you to work in what your statement describes as “historical photographic processes”? Could you briefly describe or explain your favorites of these processes?
E.K.: With historical photographic processes you will never pull two prints that are exactly alike. Everything from your paper choice, to the brush you apply the chemical with, to the amount of UV light it receives, will affect your print in a different way. To me it seems that the possibilities are just endless for creating. Beyond that, I like the process. I like the feel of different papers, concentrating on my brushstroke, mixing chemicals, everything.
My favorite is the Matte Albumen Process. In short, it is similar to the albumen process, raw egg whites and silver nitrate, except that instead of floating (carefully placing the front of paper in a tray filled with the egg whites while avoiding getting any on the back) the paper in the aged egg whites, you apply fresh egg whites to the surface of the paper with a foam brush and then squeegee it off. The sensitizer can be brushed on as well. The result is a richness in the browns that you can receive with the Albumen Process, without having to age your egg whites for months and then painstakingly float the egg white solution and then the sensitizer on the paper. What you lose in the Matte Albumen Process is the glossy surface found on Albumen prints. I don’t mind that though.
S: Do you ever use any contemporary technology in your work or do you try to use more “pure” or classic methodology?
E.K.: I edit and create all my negatives in Photoshop and I print them using an inkjet printer and transparency film. I use a digital camera sometimes, but the way my imagery is captured or created really depends on what I want to convey. As much as I respect the artists who stick to the “pure” methods, it is just a bit impractical for me.
S.: You also seem to utilize the technique of stippling in your work, which at times seems to create an almost optical effect of weight, depth and even movement. How involved can that experience be? It seems like that could be a rather delicate and mindful process.
E.K.: Stippling is a process that is completely involved. You have to shut out whatever thoughts are in your head and focus on the application of the dots. For me, it is a form of meditation; it helps me connect with my work and allows me to be more aware of the application and the design. There are times where I sit down and spend hours stippling, and then sometimes I need to break it up over the day or the week. It can be draining, but it the best possible way.
S.: In the same regard, you describe how the “intricacy of dots is a visual display of the time invested” in your work. In the same way that you use these (for lack of a better word) “constrictive” or at least finite and maybe even “unforgiving” printing methods, do you find a kind of comfort in the sheer amount of “time invested” in each piece? Is that sense of time spent creating one piece as important to your experience as an artist as the ideas or content?
E.K.: The time it takes to create these handmade prints is exactly why I keep creating more. I like having to slow down, it helps me connect with each piece and it allows me to work through any problems that may arise in process or design. Consciously forcing yourself to just slow down and focus on each part of the process, one at a time, can be quite rewarding. I am just as attached to the path that leads me to a finished print, as I am the concept.
S.: Your statement also explains that the images in this series “evoke a sense of an alternate reality, something that is beautiful but cannot quite be explained.” What is this alternate reality? Is it a specific place or state of consciousness that you would to take the viewer, or is it a more open and even arbitrary thing?
E.K.: I think that the idea of the alternate reality is specific to the viewer. It is where you allow the piece to bring you. That could be a specific place, or feeling or even a state of consciousness.
S.: This series and your series “Limbs: Yours, Mine and Ours” both seem to address ideas like change, “letting go,” and even grief or loss. Do you feel that this is a true observation? If so, what compels you to work with these types of themes?
E.K.: I believe that is a true observation, but they are also a lot about healing and evolving in the wake of “letting go.” Since I have such a deep connection to my work through process, I find that the themes I usually work with are often rooted in my own personal life.
S.: What are your plans for upcoming projects?
E.K.: I have been thinking a lot about using wax as another medium. I have a tool used for making the intricate designs on Ukrainian Easter eggs. Basically it’s a pen with different size bibs, except that the bibs are a little well that holds a bit of wax. I am going to experiment with stippling on my prints with the wax. I am not sure if it will be as effective as stippling with ink, but I am excited to find out.
Starehouse: How old are you, where were you born and how long have you been in Northeast Florida? Where do you currently reside?
Austin Moule: I am 23, born in Charleston, SC, moved to Florida in 1994 and I currently reside on Riverside Ave.
S: How many pieces are you exhibiting in “Mixed Messages”? Is the “CMYoK: Still Life with Faucet” series a total of three pieces?
A.M.: It’s a series of six.
S.: Could you describe the intent of these pieces currently on display at Southlight?
A.M.: I guess you could say the CMYoK series exists as a set of invitations to the viewer. The photos are of personal significance (shot with the camera on my phone), but with the addition of abstract elements they become de-personalized and accessible to the viewers purely as compositions, and in that way enable the viewer to take ownership of the image (if they choose to do so) and create their own hierarchy of importance, or relevance.
S.: What do you find so compelling about working with things like mixed media and silkscreen printing?
A.M.: I enjoy how direct the processes are. Being able to put down entire statements in a relatively few amount of passes allows me to move through my work in a more fluid and efficient manner without getting hung up in the process of rendering.
S.: Can you recall seeing any particular works or artists that worked in collage and mixed media inspired you to pursue a similar path?
A.M.: Most definitely. I was very enamored with Picasso and Braque’s early collage work the first time I saw it. I also am aware of the work of artists like Warhol, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Christo, Picabia, Duchamp, etc., who worked in similar manners.
S.: Do you ever feel like you are working in an almost anachronistic way (using methods like printmaking and collage) since you are a young artist in the 21st century with access to an array of technologies that weren’t available even a decade ago?
A.M.: I don’t think so. I like to entertain the notion that my work is another manifestation of the basic principles of painting, which I wouldn’t think you would consider anachronistic. I wouldn’t say I’m a complete Neanderthal though either. In printmaking I employ digital processes and devices to construct my negatives and facilitate the imagery. I am also conscious of the fact that most all of the material I collage with has been produced through some sort of digital mechanization. So in those ways, modern technology does play a role in my practices as an artist. The final product, however, is reminiscent of more traditional methods of image making.
S.: Looking at your work, I am wondering if you use or appropriate certain materials as these kinds of “markers” for memories in your life. This seems most apparent in your “Turkey” series, which features what appear to be things like product wrappers and receipts. Would you agree with that comment? Regardless, could you explain the criteria behind why you select certain images, specific materials or even textural items for your pieces?
A.M.: I would agree. Some of the materials I use are from very personal sources and in that way have relevance to my life. On a basic level though, it is the aesthetic quality of the individual components that dictates their use. Each piece of material, whether it is bright, dull, bland, or dense is the equivalent of an individual brushstroke in a painting. I guess I just use fewer strokes as a result.
S.: In your statement, you describe how your work essentially creates a “pretense of narrative function.” Are you even concerned with conveying a narrative or story in your work, or are you more interested in delivering an image and allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks?
A.M.: This may seem funny, but the pieces seem to almost make sense in the beginning, but by the end they generally don’t. Storytelling isn’t my main concern. I try to create a mood or feeling in each composition with color, line, and form in order to facilitate the reception of the work by the viewer. In rare cases it actually works and I see individuals other than myself form a genuine connection with a piece, though it’s often for reasons that are difficult to articulate.
S.: Also in your statement, you explain that you see the word “composition” as something that defines not only an arrangement of items or imagery, but actually a concept that encapsulates “a system which gives order to ourselves; which entails the outward appearance, the decision making process, and the overall values we accumulate and shape into our being.” I am curious about how you feel that those very same “overall values” have been affected by your journey as an artist?
A.M.: The idea of being or becoming an artist is a relatively new concept for me. It has definitely influenced the way I see and what I regard as important. I can say I have developed a higher regard for the individual and those who actively seek for themselves. Personal pursuits, in my opinion, not only enhance the life of the individual, but also enhance the quality and richness of a community or society in general.
S.: What are your plans for upcoming projects?
A.M.: I am currently messing around with my cheap scanner at home, prepping negatives for a new series of silkscreens. I intend to use CMYK process to render some of the actual materials I use in my Mixed Media works and then to work further into the pieces with a more traditional style of mark making through silkscreen. What I am seeking is a more clear/overt dialogue between my two bodies of work.
Starehouse: How old are you, where were you born and how long have you been in
Northeast Florida? Where do you currently reside?
Eileen Rae: I actually turn the ripe age of 23 this Wednesday, January 16th. I was born in Rapid City, South Dakota of all places…growing up, my father was in the Air Force so we moved quite a bit. I have been in the area since 2008 when I entered college at UNF…venturing from the panhandle where I went to High School. I currently live in the quaint little area of Murray Hill here in Jacksonville, close to the Dreamette and Moon River Pizza, both a blessing and a curse, for those of you that have had the pleasure of munching on the goods.
S: How many pieces are in the “Dreaming” series featured at Southlight? How would you describe the series?
E.R.: Six out of eleven dreams are found on the walls of that gallery. ‘D R E A M I N G’ functions as a segue into the realm of dreams collected. It is a process-oriented, medium-challenging, visual language-developing body of work that marks a four month period of creating for me.
S.: You have studied artistic disciplines including printmaking and sculpture, painting and drawing, yet seemingly concentrate on photography. What appeals to you about that particular medium?
E.R.: Photography has become something really different for me. The camera is a means of collecting the palette I use when working on a digital canvas. Sometimes I’d be out shooting for a particular dream and I’d know that it was going to have this color scheme… I’d see a wall or a plant that had just the right blue, and I’d capture it a few times, already seeing the layers talking to each other in the building stage. It has always been the medium I’ve used to capture. This idea of fabricating or building has always been a part of my work… If I was shooting portraits in the studio I was wrapping my models up in poultry netting. I used to have a studio full of windows, and one day I had a friend of mine stretch out across a table and I planted flowers on her. The entire process of a photograph intrigues me… the shutter click isn’t even the most satisfying part. Sometimes it is walking around Lowes finding the material that is going to inspire me next. But that camera capture enables me to show someone what I was thinking. It brings my ideas to life. It documents them.
S.: Has being knowledgeable in those differing methods ever overlapped or “blurred” in a way that has been beneficial i.e. how has printmaking helped your endeavors as a photographer? If so, could you possibly give a specific example of how it has affected your current “Dreaming” series?
E.R.: Yes yes yes yes. When it comes to making art, you’ve got to pick the right tool for the job. That could mean, for a print-maker, choosing between a lithography and relief, it could mean, for a sculptor, choosing between found objects, iron, etc. … but what is great about taking classes in an interdisciplinary program is that you can collect all of these techniques and begin selectively combining them & using them when figuring out your own visual language. (Process!!!) A lot of the layers in the dream series come from this combining … Sometimes when recording a dream, I’d be lucidly listening while beginning to sketch, or even paint in my book parts of what the dreamer was describing. These parts would find their way into the pictures…through scanning in or photographing and bringing in digitally. In several of the dreams, there is a layer of some wax collograph experiments I was doing. I’m pretty sure some of the students hanging around on campus thought I was performing some sort of séance or something on Monday mornings, lighting candles outside and pouring wax on pieces of cardboard. The very bottom layer of ‘Crucifixion of my Deepest Desires’ is a lithograph I did using tusche, painting on to the plate. Each layer is carefully and purposely added…a lot of the linear layers come from the study of what the brain does during different cycles of sleep, charting activity. You get the idea.
S.: What compelled you to make dreams the focus of this current series? Do you feel inspired, guided or even haunted by your own nightly dreams? Do you journal or document your dreams each morning when you awake?
E.R.: I’ve always had incredibly surreal and strange dreams. I think it comes with having a creative thought process, the daily digest is shifted for an artist…the way we see things is somewhat haunting anyway. We can’t read something or brush up against a texture without having some kind of visual stimulation, and it seeps into dark parts of our brain at night…causing all kinds of ruckus. When I began visually interpreting dreams in my art, I started keeping note of any I had… I carried a tape recorder around, slept with it on the night stand, and had paper nailed to the wall for those really erratic 3AM ‘I CAN’T FOR GET THIS’ scribbles. The idea somewhat began sitting in a booth at a bar with some friends.
I had just had coffee with another pal of mine earlier in the day who was telling me about these insanely vivid dreams he’d been having. He woke up from one so abruptly that he hit his head on the corner of the window, gashing open his forehead. Later on sitting at Birdies (you know the place), another friend was telling me about this crazy dream he had including a train in the sky, standing on top of a parking garage downtown (later turning into Sky Rail… one of the images in the series.) After a few more hours of drinks and dream exchanging, I started scribbling madly on pages of my sketchbook, utterly inspired.
S.: Your site states that “Dreaming,” in part, is a “retelling, an interpretation of gathered moments rendered during the sleep of friends, family, and strangers.” How did you cull together those stories? Did you interview specific people in your life? If so, how candid and revealing were your
interview subjects? Did you notice any recurring motifs or ideas in the collective dreams?
E.R.: As I mentioned earlier, I carried that tape recorder around, and dreams started spilling out of people like mad. My mom even told me a few she remembered from years ago … random dreams appeared in my inbox from readers on a small blog I have. Sometimes I’d just bring it up in casual conversation and sometimes I’d openly ask friends or strangers if I could record them sharing a dream. It helps to be an easy person to talk to, and also to have a few drinks on the table most of the time. People love talking about their dreams, it’s crazy. One thing I had to remember was that because dreams exist outside of reality, in this very surreal, complex state…where a floating person makes sense, and isn’t questioned with in that state … & so when those dreams are ‘retold’ in reality, there is always going to be a bit of a skew. A dream will never be perfectly retold, even by the dreamer himself. That aspect for me was actually even cooler … I was interpreting an interpretation…I was catching a side of these people no one else saw, getting to know them in a unique way. Oh, and everyone dreams about wolves. Kidding (but really …)
S.: Each piece features an accompanying text of brief quotes. I am wondering if these were specific quotes from the dreamers or were your own interpretations.
E.R.: They weren’t specific quotes, they were my own words … drawn from the notes of the interviews and recorded dreams. I created them to act as a poetic portal or window, pulling a viewer into each individual dream.
S.: Throughout the series, there is a recurring figure in the form of a young red-haired woman. Why is she a deliberately reappear in the work?
E.R.: My red haired lady is a mystery of her own … a good friend of mine, and someone that captures a particular vibe of the roots and the veins that run through dreams. She is a whisper, a connecting point… she is comforting … she is beautiful. I liked having some kind of figurative connection throughout the pieces, whether her or another figure, because each one is so different … I didn’t want the viewer to feel lost, I wanted them to be there with her.
S.: Your apparent goal with “Dreaming” was to “create an image that captured a moment, feeling, story or narrative described by a dreamer, each with its own visual language.” Do you feel like you succeeded fully with this plan? Was there any dream interpretation that you feel (for lack of a better word) might have “failed”?
E.R.: Oh god, if I were to hand over my hard drive you’d find an entire folder under ‘Dreams’ titled ‘Rejects.’ Making the dreams … the actual process of building them … is very much like a trance … I hit this point where all of my thoughts begin speaking to each other, converge and spill onto the canvas. That point – that moment – does not exist every day. Sometimes the daily grind builds up a junk layer around my ability to visualize these dreams.
On top of that, each dream has so many layers… I would save each one at different stages of working, one: for security, as so much time goes into each one, god forbid I lose any work I’ve done … and two: To ensure I hadn’t gone down a rabbit hole and added too much, taken away too little. I’d work on different stages of a dream, save it, come back to it, tweak it, until this “Ah ha!” moment hit, and I knew it was done. But with each dream is a series of stages … and there are some dreams that just didn’t work out.
The eleven dreams seen on my site & the accompanying text I’m happy with. I love the language of dreams I’ve created here, the way of working. Another thing I have to consider, though, is that the dreams aren’t mine. I mean, the images are, the process of building them is, but at the end of it all, I’m interpreting something someone else dreamed. I’m delving into what they saw … so there are some I like better than others, there are a few I’m attached to in personal ways … one of them is even mine. I’ll never tell, though.
S.: What are your plans for upcoming projects?
E.R.: Between ‘B L O T T I N G’ and ‘D R E A M I N G,’ I’ve started to really set into my own visual language, getting into the true root of the way that I work. I can’t wait to get back to it… I finally just finished applying to graduate school, and I’ve got a couple ideas in the meantime. One involves something equally as familiar and unfamiliar as dreams can be, in a way… The future. As much as I can pre-visualize an image or idea, I have a hard time visualizing the future. Like, will I ever have a dog? Okay, it is a lot deeper than that … So I’m kind of conceptualizing fears, thoughts, hopes, etc… of the future … & building in a similar way as of late to depict these unwritten … possible realities.
Can you tell I’m having post-graduation syndrome? I also have decided to try my hand at other things, like filling developing trays with random liquids & seeing what happens… or painting really large. All that stuff I wanted to try just for the hell of it during school, but didn’t have the time. I also haven’t had the chance to write, I mean really write, in a while. I used to keep up with it a lot more. I’m currently trying Kerouac’s “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose”… but I just keep relating it to making pictures. All in all, keep making art.
Daniel A. Brown