A few weeks ago, I hopped over to the Geolofts for the second iteration of the MDW Fair. Organized collaboratively by the Public Media Institute, Roots & Culture, and threewalls, the Fall Showcase coincided with the Hand in Glove Conference for innovative visual arts facilitators. As I poke around, I interviewed a number of participants to get a sense of what was going on in their little art islands and to find out what people were excited about. Here we have Katie Waddell of itsa_pony projects, Vincent Uribe of LVL3, and Becca Brown of ACRE Residency sharing some of their time to loop us into their worlds.
itsa_pony - Katie Waddell
Gan Uyeda: Who are we seeing?
Katie Waddell: Talina Sanders, who is an artist who was based out of Brooklyn but she recently moved to Durham, North Carolina. Now she is doing a master’s program at Duke where they have a new kind of program called Experimental Documentary Studies or something like that. I can’t remember if that’s the exact title, but that’s basically the gist of it. I chose her because she’s a friend of mine (laughs), which is supposedly the reason you’re not supposed to choose artists but that’s a total lie because everybody picks their friends anyway, or they pick people and become friends. I’m really interested in bringing the human dimension back into the intellectual activity of making art.
GU: So you assembled this space?
KW: Yes. We met at Elsewhere Collaborative and they are represented in the Hand-In-Glove conference. It’s a really eclectic space with a lot of thrift items. That’s where we met and at first I was thinking of doing something that was a little more literal–setting up a thrift-store-like scene with items that reminded me of her. That would have been a massive undertaking and I think too literal to recreate that space. I went with something that was evocative.
GU: Evoking Elsewhere or evoking her? In what ways are you evoking them?
KW: Evoking her, and the Elsewhere context. I went to Unique Thrift and bought those sheets, I wanted to block it off and make it a quiet space where people could come and look at the photographs.
GU: So here in your space we have a little pillow pit, a little carpet, some flashlights look at the photographs with…
KW: One of the things I was thinking about doing was making a little pillow fort. I like to work with nostalgia and that kind of evokes that feeling. You know, in a pillow fort there’s no light so you have to bring in your flashlight. And using the flashlight forces you to get close to the pictures. I was interested in making it an Elsewhere-sleep-over-your-best-friend’s-basement-band-practice-space mashup. And I wonder if this would even be intelligible to people who are older, because to me it’s the things I think of as nostalgic. Some of these are my actual pillows.
GU: Can you describe her photographs a little?
KW: I think the best term I’ve ever heard her use is “everyday magic.” I think that’s totally what she does. She likes things that are unpretentious and unassuming. She takes photographs of things that strike her, whether that’s everyday life or in her travels. She travels quite a bit, which I think is interesting because things that we think of as exorcize– she went to Guatemala because there’s a distinct culture there that has to do with dress. They all learn to weave this very specific pattern. To us that’s very exotic but that’s their everyday. So she is taking pictures of the everyday, just not our everyday. She’s really into cultural ephemera and things like that. She was recently trying to get a grant to go take pictures of places in America that evoke foreign lands.
It has to do with American insularity. We don’t have to go anywhere else to experience them – we can just make mini versions of them. I think there is a connection between me and her because I’m also interested in things that are everyday and unpretentious and we were both born and raised in Kentucky and I think that has a lot to do with it. Just being exposed to this culture (picks up a photograph). I’m holding up a picture of a large truck with huge tires.
GU: It’s funny because for me, this becomes exotic.
KW: Yeah and it’s funny because she’s taking these everyday photographs of all these places – it’s somebody’s exotic and somebody’s everyday.
ACRE Residency – Becca Brown
Gan Uyeda: So here we are at the ACRE booth and I see you’re making some pockets.
Becca Brown: Yeah we have some pizza pockets going on. We also have ham and cheese. There’s a pocket that’s a pizza pocket and a pocket that’s a ham and cheese pocket.
GU: What’s going on with the ACRE booth? Can you tell me about the group?
BB: We’re basically trying to recreate the environment that we have out there in Wisconsin. It’s a social atmosphere. It’s a community. We’re doing the same thing by providing food that we do out there. We try to really consciously source locally and provide sustainable foods, all homemade. We’ve got our radio station going here, which is just like the one we set up out at the residency. We’re in the middle of Wisconsin so we don’t have a cell phone signal so instead we use the radio station for communication and we also put on our own programming while we’re out there and invite residents and visiting artists to do the same.
GU: Are these photographs on the wall everyone involved in ACRE?
BB: Yeah, this first group here is everyone that was involved the first summer of the residency, and you can see there are a couple of extra pictures in the group to the right, which is the most recent residency last summer. Our program did expand, so this represents all of the residents as well as all the staff and our visiting artists as well.
We’re just trying to make it a hangout zone for people to come and be.
GU: What is it like being there?
BB: Yeah. It’s…I feel privileged. There are ideas floating around in the air. It’s palpable. Everyone there is so talented and so hard-working and motivated. It’s just really inspirational. It’s only the second year. I wasn’t out there the first summer, I was interning, and then this was my first summer acting as the kitchen manager. I just felt so privileged to be out there. Really an incredible environment.
GU: And what is this ‘tattoos for free”?
BB: Yeah we’re offering…well, the first summer a lot of people ended up getting stick-and-poke tattoos just from a couple people who knew how to do it. Stick-and-poke tattoos are just with needle and ink and thread. The thread is wrapped around so that it gets the ink on there and then you poke it into the skin. They’re actually pretty great, I got mine this summer from Ben Driggs. He’s getting really great and he’s really fast at it, so we have a couple people doing that. A lot of people have the three dots here [on the forearm] for ACRE. There’s a number of interpretations for what that means.
LVL3 – Vincent Uribe
Gan Uyeda: Who are we seeing?
Vincent Uribe: We are seeing Letha Wilson, a New York-based photographer who works with objects in her sculptures and Sol Hashemi, a Seattle-based photographer-object maker.
GU: How did these two come together?
VU: They were both artists that we found online. We kind of test out some artists by doing an interview with them and had them on our radar for a while. We showed Letha’s work before in the gallery and when this fair came up, we wanted to show two people for it, so we paired them together ourselves.
GU: Is that how you typically come across most artists, through the internet?
VU: Most of them it’s through websites and referring from other websites. It’s trying to get people to work with other people they don’t necessarily know. So Letha and Sol haven’t actually met yet, but now they know each other through their collaboration with the work.
GU: So for you, how are these artists jiving together? And the different mediums?
VU: We’ve never worked with Sol and his work before, besides just the interview, but we’ve seen his work online and had a friend who actually collaborated with him before. We had some of Letha’s work and she sent over some new stuff and we let Sol know who we were working with. We pointed out some things that we were interested in showing and he threw in some surprises in the work we got. So it was a good pairing in the end.
GU: I like the different levels of insertions and removals that are going on, digitally and with the actual objects.
VU: Yeah, I think it’s nice having a physical aspect to a lot of the work, but you could be engaged in different levels of it as well.
GU: How has your experience been so far at MDW?
VU: It’s great. This is our second year– our second time doing it. I haven’t been down to Hand-In-Glove yet to check it out, but the turn out seems to be pretty good. Last night was a pretty good crowded, lots of excitement.
GU: Have you gotten to check around much?
VU: I haven’t gotten to walk around much, yet. I have to today or tomorrow. I’ve heard good things, so I’m excited for it. I know The Hills is doing some haunted black light room over there and I think later on Ben Driggs over at Acre is doing tattoos, so I think I might go get a ‘stick n poke’.