nyc art scene

a carefully curated calendar & cumulative catalog of new york city's most interesting art exhibitions and events. hand picked by Arthur Seen & Team

nycARTscene Interview: Tara de la Garza

Arthur Seen recently interviewed artist Tara de la Garza. Her exhibition, Embracing Failure, opens Thursday, August 28th at The Lodge Gallery and runs through August 31st.

1/ Your new show is called Embracing Failure, do you think of yourself as a failure?

I think every artist has an inner critic and it depends on what day as to where you see yourself on the success spectrum. Creating art has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I think most people have this image of an artist in a field with a watercolor palette, happily humming away, creating. In reality, to create something meaningful, that will hopefully forward the dialogue of art, is a struggle. By embracing failure I am open to seeing where an artwork evolves before I discount it. I am revisiting, (uncrumpling!) trashed work and editing, much like a writer or a musician would do. Creating art is a beautiful thing because if allows you time to wander, but that time can also be filled with self doubt. Especially making marks on paper, you can’t hide. You rush in and then backtrack to make it up. It’s the human bloody condition on paper!

2/ The works on paper you are referring to are the LES series which incorporate multiple mediums and themes, can you tell us about them?

Originally I created these for a large scale mural project in the Lower East Side that wasn’t completed (the first failure) but I didn’t want to abandon them, I thought I could rework them and see what happened. I grabbed a big brush and some white paint and liberated them. Each piece is a journey, they are hard to take in all at once, you go down avenues and I think the change in medium helps facilitate that.

I have included lots of vignettes of New York in this work, they are full of stories of the Lower East Side where I lived and had a studio and fell in love. They also include my influences and fellow artists works, for example ABC NO Rio 2 depicts, in part, a street art piece by painter Tom Sanford, who I thought so generous to toil for many days on a transitory work, I wanted to recognize that… I was also tempted to steal one!

3/ How does being Australian inform your work?

What, because I mentioned stealing! One thing I realized about Australians is that it is ingrained in our culture to break rules, we encourage the larrakin, a term that is synonymous with being mischievous. This manifests in my work in numerous ways, one example is in the use of materials such as watercolor. Purists of the medium frown on the use of white paint. So I ‘cheat’ and paint over mistakes, then I regret it and try and make it up. That’s my process, intrigue and deception!. And paper is great, you can’t lie, you see every mark and that is the joy of making and owning art, seeing the hand and shaky heart of the artist.

Also part of the rule breaking is a dialogue I have been having for awhile now with Sol LeWitt. I was in a show at MOCA Massachusetts curated by Regina Basha with a piece called Messing with Sol where I distorted some of his work. I admire artists who have a clear framework, but I also want to tear frameworks down. I came back to his guidelines for this series to help gain some cohesion in the work, or in some ways legitimize it, back to that inner critic!

4/ If not humor, per se, there seems to be a lot of tongue in cheek in your work. Massaging a dead chicken for example…

The funny thing about that piece is that it was picked up by comedy central’s Tosh.0, they made fun of it without somehow realizing that is what I was doing, but hey, it made me ‘internet famous’! I like the idea that subtle change and humor can be more affective than grand gestures. That piece was talking about the practice of selling live chickens in Harlem in a place next door to the space that Chashama made available for the show. Working in a public space is great as you can really have a dialogue with a neighborhood, I confused a lot of people by displaying a chicken being massaged in the window right next door. It was playing with opposites, the antithesis of the life of those chickens, but also ridiculous because it was already dead. It wasn’t a political statement about the plight of the live chickens. None of my work is overtly political, it feels inauthentic to me if I attempt it. I think growing up poor informs you in a different way, I don’t have the guilt of privilege that can lead some artists down a righteous path. I am happy to observe my life and talk about it (even make fun of it) without needing a purpose, that seems very Seinfeld somehow…  

I think what is really impactful is changing the way people view things. Technology has done that. It doesn’t dwell on the sociopolitical spectrum. I want to be more like a technologist a or an engineer, not an activist. All I have to contribute are my own thoughts and ideas which aren’t anything controversial or even interesting but there is a curiosity in the mundane, the slightly off kilter, the in-between that fascinates.

5/ Your Projection Paintings use a technique I have never seen before, can you tell us about it?

It’s strange that this technique wasn’t being used in Lumiere’s day, it is actually quite low tech. A movie is projected onto a canvas and the paused movie scene is painted on the canvas. When exhibiting the movie plays and matches up with the canvas, it causes a strange relationship with space, it activates the painting, in a way that a static painting cannot. For the implosion movie this was particularly dramatic when the movie meets the falling building.

6/ Most of the works have some kind of reference materials, images that you cut and paste together to form a narrative. How important is that process and the technology you use?

My first profession was as a graphic designer and the tools available through photoshop are powerful to sketch ideas that would have been difficult to visualize in any other way. Even photographing the work and viewing it from that critical viewpoint is helpful to gain perspective. Working with a facsimile can also be liberating in a way. You can move far away from the original and yet keep coming back to it when you get lost, it acts as a security. Just starting with a blank canvas is terrifying.

Tara de la Garza: taradelagarza.com

The Lodge Gallery: thelodgegallery.com 131 Chrystie St., NYC

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