Thursday, December 3, 2009
Because our latest featured artist, Susan Silton, is also among the group of artists in our most recently featured exhibition, "I Feel Different" at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, we at I Make Picture thought we'd kill two birds with one stone to create an assignment that relates to both trademarks of Susan's work as well as the broad theme of the LACE show.
As you likely read in the earlier post, "I Feel Different" centers on the concept of feeling removed from society in some way. Appropriately, included artist Silton creates work focused on overwhelming concerns of modern society and frequently does so by playing with the public's perception. Merging the ideas of isolation and perception, Susan and I decided on a fitting assignment.
Assignment #9: Through the Looking Glass
Focusing on a personal trait (internal or external, physical or emotional) that makes you feel "different," create a unique self-portrait using any medium.
Since she has done a similar self-portrait project using digital manipulation (all circa 1995), Susan lent us these images as an example of an answer to this assignment.
I, too, tried my hand at the assignment. Using this amazing self-timer with my Polaroid SX-70 camera, I aimed to focus on physical characteristics that have caused me much insecurity and feelings of isolation, particularly by other women. My body (specifically its more childlike than womanly nature) has won equal negative attention and curiosity and has at times been a source of guilt and anger. Only recently have I come to accept the things I once viewed as flaws, but these images were taken to capture a voyeristic view of the image I have projected to others before this time of acceptance.
As always, you all are encouraged to try this assignment with individual interpretation. That is, you can't do it "wrong." The goal of I Make Picture is to provide a loose framework or guideline within which you can explore themes you might not otherwise have considered. Use video, use crayons, draw on a napkin, take a picture, it really doesn't matter. The important thing is to offer others inspiration and new ideas. I can't wait to see you all make picture. :)
Upon meeting Los Angeles' Susan Silton, I was unaware of her life as a well-praised contemporary artist. When it inevitably came up, I asked her, "What medium do you work in?" If only I had known what an impossible question this was for the multifaceted artist to answer (though she did, diplomatically). Over the course of her impressive career, which includes solo exhibitions at SolwayJones (where she is represented), Angles Gallery and the National History Museum in Los Angeles, and Feigen Contemporary in New York, as well as inclusion in group shows at San Francisco's MOMA and the California Museum of Photography, Silton's body of work has merged and tangled media to fully explore the breadth of art's physical boundaries yet always stayed true to a general central theme: our current sociopolitical climate.
The recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA, Silton presents culturally relevant issues using various methods of trickery. A motto of her work could be that "things aren't always as they appear." The artist taunts our sensory perceptions, making us question our instincts and inclinations. For example, her 2006/2007 series "The Day, The Earth" was comprised of giant compositions which at first glance were more reminiscent of Op-Art paintings by Bridget Riley or Minimalist works by Frank Stella, but were actually re-photographed stills of apocalypse-themed movies from the 1960s in which each vertical strip has been individually tinted to abstract the overall images into boldly colorful, stripey surfaces. In these photographs, the figures are discovered secondarily, becoming almost hauntingly inconspicuous. The series speaks to our current fear of world-ending disaster that looms below the surface of everyday life.
Under the same umbrella, Silton created a companion exihibition at the Pasadena Museum of Contemporary Art in which she covered the building in brightly-colored striped tarps, inspired by fumigation tents. Inside she coated the interior of the project room with manufactured items that used a similar pattern. The would-be happy, joyful palette and pattern was in marked contrast to the darker issues they represented. Susan also used photography and video in her "Twister" series, some of which is displayed in the current "I Feel Different" exhibition at LACE (see feature in previous post). In this series she explored themes of oppressed sexuality and the subsequent confusion and curiosity about the subject.
Silton is also currently working on an interactive project via the social networking site, Facebook. Commenting on the scripted nature she sees in such a forum, she created speaking avatars (Michael Richards, Trent Lott, Chris Brown) each apologizing for their various public mistakes. Learn more about the ongoing project, "BY THE CROWD THEY HAVE BEEN BROKEN; BY THE CROWD THEY SHALL BE HEALED" here.
Below are Susan's devilishly clever and brilliant responses to our "12 Questions" series. See if you can decipher the common thread to her answers. Thanks to Susan for her involvement in I Make Picture, and for once again discovering a new way to look at old things.
12 Questions with Susan Silton
Q: At what moment did you first feel like an artist?
A: I led a red nude by a day bed under a deli
Q: What has been your biggest art faux pas?
A: Tell a man I gave damn unatoned art as a trade, not an unmade vagina mallet
Q: Whose style do you most admire?
A: Bar crab
Q: If your work had a soundtrack, what would it be?
A: Crass orgasm regret: fast, sullen, it nests in an onanist sentinel, lusts
Q: What is your trademark?
A: Never odd or even
Q: Name your dream collaborative team.
A: Senile felines
Q: How does where you live affect the art you make?
A: L.A., Ed, is ideal
Q: If you could travel back to any era for its art and lifestyle, what time would you visit?
A: Are we not drawn onward to new era?
Q: Sum up your aesthetic in 3 adjectives.
A: Warming is a sign I'm raw
Q: What is your must-have when you're at work in your studio?
A: A nut for a jar of tuna
Q: If money was no object, what major project might you take on?
A: I roam as a Maori
Q: What work of art that you've personally seen has most moved you?
A: Do geese see God?
*Images appear courtesy of SolwayJones Gallery and X-TRA Magazine.