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
nycARTscene Interview: Tara de la Garza
Fall 2014 Editor’s Pick
Opens Thurs, Sept 11, 6-8p:
Do Ho Suh
Lehmann Maupin, 40 W26th St., NYC
Lehmann Maupin, 201 Chrystie St., NYC
an exhibition of new works by renowned Korean artist Do Ho Suh. On display at both 540 West 26th Street and 201 Chrystie Street, the exhibition will highlight the significant role and varied forms drawing plays in Suh’s oeuvre. This two-part show will feature the range of his works on paper, including drawings using pencil, pen, ink, and watercolor, his unique “thread” drawings, as well as his large-scale rubbings. Primarily known for his room-scale installations made of transparent fabric that recreate spaces in which he has lived, the artist has consistently utilized drawing throughout his career to explore and develop relationships between common themes of his practice including notions of home, physical space, displacement, identity, and memory. A focus of this exhibition, and Suh’s most elaborate use of drawing to date, is his Rubbing/Loving Project. Here Suh painstakingly covered the flat walls and three-dimensional fixtures of the interior and exterior of architectural spaces that hold great personal, cultural, or historic significance to him with vellum and rubbed each surface with colored pencil or graphite.
Last Days, closing Aug 17:
American Folk Art Museum, 2 Lincoln Square, NYC (at 66th St)
At the turn of the twentieth century, the field of American folk art was being defined by collectors, professional artists, critics, dealers, and curators whose search for an authentic American art seemed to be finally answered in works that presented a multivalent picture of national identity, faith, progress, ingenuity, community, and individuality. As the field matured under the umbrella of “folk art,” it was also expanded to include a wider variety of expressions and artists working in the present. For the last twenty years, the term “self-taught” has more regularly come to address artistic inspiration emerging from unsuspected paths and unconventional places, giving voice to individuals situated outside the social consensus. This exhibition proposes a reframing of the conversation to consider the continuum of American folk art through the concept of “self-taught genius” as an elastic and enduring notion whose meaning has evolved over time.
pictured: Archangel Gabriel Inn Sign & Phrenological Head (Asa Ames)
“All this happened, more or less”
P.P.O.W Gallery, 535 W22nd St., NYC (3rd Fl)
Glaessner combines familiar objects with misunderstood and idiosyncratic portraits, often laden with humor that counterpoint her macabre imagery. An exploration of memory, personal history and ritual, Glaessner’s work questions the way in which we relate to and envision our past. Her most recent paintings depict a highly detailed mythology of post-human existence on earth that features anthropomorphic, gelatinous figures in familiar, yet toxic, landscapes. These organic creatures appear as if born from natural forms, like tree trunks and rock formations, in attempt to reconstruct lost histories through the detritus left behind. - thru Aug 15