Erin Frost | Soft Work

Interview by Adam K. Woods | Photographs by Sierra Stinson


Erin welcomes me into the peach light of her Capitol Hill apartment. It is the evening, late winter, and her home feels like a reliquary for precious objects. Heavy, sculptural drapes line the wall, blurring our current space and time. Pink suitcases nest together under a seating area in her bedroom. Jewelry hangs wherever it can; meticulous but organic. A closet door ajar allows a keyhole glimpse into her infamous collection of vintage dresses and party attire. The picture window in her apartment frames the glittering rubies of tail lights heading down I-5, creating a scintillate quality to the room.

If you make art here in Seattle, you have most-likely seen Erin Frost’s work. She is a versatile artist, creating successful pieces in numerous mediums. Meticulous embroideries clinging to intimate fabrics, blushing lipstick kisses sequenced at an arresting rate and proportion, sumptuous performances involving the use of her body and what she has chosen to activate with her presence. Erin is part of Seattle’s “empathic movement” as it is being called, and she gleans inspiration from the soft work of being human.

Most recently at the group show, Go On Take Everything, I experienced a collection of her ceramic duplications of corks. The champagne cork chosen for the replicas was the type you might clean up the morning after a celebration, maybe squeeze in your fingers remembering the party the night before. Featured in different stages of the firing process; many of the corks bared patches of rough white skin, some shone with a glossy clear glaze, others were scumbled with a solid gold coating. Over 80 corks were piled on a tray, and gallery-goers were welcome to handle the corks and purchase them. The piece was called “Is That All There Is?

Adam K. Woods : Talk with me about using your home as a studio space.

Erin Frost : It makes sense for me. I’ve never done it any other way, and it adds a certain amount of intimacy to my work. Working at home lends itself to a fluid state, where you can start making in the space between waking and sleeping. It allows for a more intuitive process. This is my art practice, this is my space, with no separation.

AW : I can see that inseparability. You’re living and you’re creating art and they are happening simultaneously.

EF : Sometimes I struggle with that; when is it art, when is it my life? I used to know that separation more, like, “Oh I’m working on a show, and it’s photography, so I’m shooting, then I’m processing the film, now I’m printing. This is the act of working on art.” At times I miss that clarity, but where I’m at right now is just constantly trying things, and in some ways bridging that divide between life and practice. Allowing myself room to be uninhibited in experimenting.

AW : Let’s talk about your connection to craft, in regards to your work like your “Golden Light” series, and also your embroidery & mending pieces. Do you feel a connection to American craft, and ‘traditional’ gender roles?

EF : I feel there’s this domesticity that arose from necessity. When I was recovering from a pretty serious back injury that was all I could do- I could sit and alter photographs I had already made.  And out of that mending eventually came the Golden Light series once I was recovered. That series reads as joyful; a celebration of relationships that were helping me heal. That original set-back opened up that exploration.

AW : There is similar iconography in those pieces as in your piece “Shift“, from Vignette’s Collection, but your medium changed to watercolor. What was happening?

EF : Shift was the first piece that happened after a breakup, and I was really thinking about the way you can alter your perspective and move through things – move through grief with grace, hopefully. Still working geometrically, but doing something that was new and unknown; creating organically. That piece is really important to me.

AW : Your home has a lot of warmth, and is meticulously decorated with vintage objects. How do you take care of your home and collect the things in your life?

EF : The majority of what I own I’ve collected over the years second hand. Because I’ve found it in this way, and seen the beauty in what’s been discarded, and elevated it in this surrounding, it gives me a wonderful pleasure. Things are just things, but I believe objects carry weight of what is projected onto them. I collect objects that are precious to me; beautiful things that become sacred, treasures from those I love. As a kid I always secretly loved cleaning my room because I’d have to go through everything on my dresser, all my ephemera, and touch everything. I can still get lost in that really easily, there’s memories attached to everything.

AW : Your home feels like a body; both your physical body and your body of work.

EF : That’s beautiful, I really like that. I’m easily influenced by my surroundings, so it’s important to have a sort of sanctuary. I do feel intentional about my space, and since i create here, it is an extension of my physical presence. It’s intimate space.

AW : If you don’t mind me asking, how have you responded to the grief and loss in your life in the last year (Erin lost a dear friend and her first love within a short period of time).

EF : It’s been a major part of my work. The most obvious being the video I created for Out of Sight 2015 (That Which Has Been Your Delight, 2015). That piece is about making space for pleasure. Something I’ve learned from loss is that you can only experience as much pleasure as the pain you’ve experienced. And pain is transformative. I took that to heart and tried to create from that space. I sat with that pain and in turn felt my own physical presence that much more. It made me bigger, more capable.

AW : It’s a very encompassing piece. I can see a lot of different elements of other works in there. There is also a connection to “beauty” as a concept. I would say you are a very beautiful person, and I would say that sometimes you project a timeless, vintage beauty too, and in your work this beauty exists, but also an escaping from this beauty. A documentation, but also a leaving. Talk with me about this.

EF : I use myself for my work because it’s the most intimate way I can create. It’s true in that I’m documenting myself in this space and time, so it’s a form of testimony. But at the same time, I’m creating altered realities that are in part about heightened beauty, sensuality, looking into my own mysteries. I’m generous with what I reveal, but at the same time creating protection for myself. So this work I make is simultaneously true and false. These elements seem at odds with each other and I don’t think there’s a tidy explanation for any of it. I know what I make is mostly done out of creative compulsion and that I want to add more beauty to the world, but I feel that in waves alongside the weight of impermanence. And I think that’s the thing about transforming, you get to, in some sense, choose your reality, even if only briefly.

AW : This reminds me very much of an interview with Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius) I was reading recently where Mike talks about how he was finally able to create a character that allowed him to leave what had happened to him- his vulnerability, his drug abuse, etc. He was able to put it away for a second and put on this outfit that allowed him to create. Do you resonate with that?


EF : Yes, and I think many of us do create characters in some form or another to strike a balance between self-preservation and self-expression. As someone who’s been enormously shy most of my life, the personas I adopt bear witness to many facets that need an outlet. I’m quiet and private, but I’m also an exhibitionist who wants to perform all the parts of myself. The curious thing about being a creator is then sharing that bold intimacy into the public realm, bridging the gap between private and public. I also think that allowing ourselves to creatively enact fantasy is both healing and can act as a form of exorcism.


AW : Your outfits are not just an extension of your artwork, they really are pieces of art. You put your artist’s eye on what you wear, and it’s amazing. A lot of people don’t do that here in Seattle as much as they do in other cities like San Francisco or New York or LA. When you go into your closet, talk with me about what you see and do.

EF : Oh, the magic closet! I feel parties and possibilities in there. While I tend to wear a sort of daily uniform, these other garments are a different vehicle. I never outgrew playing dress up, and when I walk into my closet it feels like I’m looking for not only what will make me comfortable in my own skin, but that slight magic that, again, allows for transformation. Costuming is key for transformation, it’s own form of communication. Late night parties at my house sometimes end up in the closet, everyone squeezed into that little room, emerging in a different outfit. It’s one of my favorite things.

AW : I feel like you are an “insider-outsider” artist in that you are less concerned with world-wide art trends or what’s happening in Seattle’s gallery scene, but you are inside this tight-knit group of creators, what is being called the “lyricists” or “empathic movement” here in this city.

EF : I feel like an outsider artist. It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on, but it’s hard enough to create without the roadblocks of wondering whether or not something has been done before. My work is not trying to be anything other that what I need it to be for me, what I need to be creating in the moment. The empathic movement of people making tender work allows us all to find our true voice. It could totally fail or it could be the best thing I’ve ever made, but I’m going to try it and see how it feels. It’s been feeling pretty good.

AW : You created “That Which Has Been Your Delight” on an Iphone 4, which is amazing. I feel like we are living in a time when everyone is so capable, has so many tools, that it can be overwhelming to create.

EF : Yeah, if you think about the intimacy of your phone, it’s almost an extension of yourself; it’s on your body, you’re rarely without it. I think that made it less scary to test the waters of video art. I agree that having access to so much can be overwhelming, but I think in this instance, because it was an intimate tool, it wasn’t daunting. If I would’ve thought about it and felt the need to use fancy equipment, that project probably would never have happened. But using something that was familiar and available made it feel like more of a sketch. It gave me both permission and a restriction to work with, which is something that I’m realizing I need in my work. I have to get creative within the limitations i have.

AW : Do you consider yourself a Seattle artist?

EF : I feel like an outsider in a lot of ways in this city, in the art world at large. But I am a Seattle artist in that I’ve lived here for over a decade, even if I don’t really know quite where I fit. Vignettes has helped changed how I think about my work and my place in this city. As a space that gives a platform to so many heartfelt creators, it’s given me courage to experiment and carve out more space for myself.

AW : Do you feel like your work is feminist?

EF : I don’t think of my work as necessarily a feminist statement. But as a feminist maker, I certainly do consider my work feminist. My work is about claiming my body- my physical and emotional space in the world. It’s about how and what I want to reveal. It also touches on domestic space, declaring that and giving that weight and validity. And I think anytime women reclaim the gaze for themselves, it’s empowering, and that is something I’m very interested in.

AW : We’ve talked a lot about death in previous conversations. What are you trying to do before you die?

EF : I thought I had it figured out at one point, like when I was doing my photography, I was on this clear trajectory with what I wanted to accomplish. This idea that when I died I would leave this encapsulated body of work. And that work I was making felt good for a long time, it felt strong and complete. I did that for so long, and then my Dad died, and everything changed. I stopped making work for a long time. And now, I don’t know. It’s so much less about the work and more about the experience. I have a fair amount of existential crisis, and I’m also more aware of the beauty in my life. I hope, if anything, that I would impact people in a loving and gentle way.

But really the answer to your question is, I want to experience as much love as I can.

Erin most recently took over the Vignette’s Weekender on instagram to create and pilot new ideas for work. Follow Vignettes here (#erinfrostvignettes) and catch up on the intimate pieces she created.


Essay by Gretchen Bennett | Photographs by Sierra Stinson


Life is Beautiful

Joey Veltkamp is exhibiting a new quilted work, Life Is Beautiful, at the Tacoma Art Museum. The quilt, constructed of stitched batting and fabric and around 11 feet square, is his largest to date, collecting 12 different song lyric fragments under the banner of Sufjan Stevens’ lyric, We’re All Gonna Die. Titled Life Is Beautiful, the work was created for the TAM for its exhibition, NW Art Now, running May 13 to September 4, 2016. Joey’s TAM entry, while acknowledging our mortality, is also hiding hopeful song lyrics, embedded pink on pink in the body of the quilt, asking us to hold on. This quilt could be lifesaving.

Joey describes his quilted work “as existing on the edge between hopeful and bleak, candy colored sadness. One side is comforting,” an expanse of pink; “and one side is real,” appliquéd with We Are All Gonna Die. The comfort is also real.

Maybe the making of the work brings clarity to the artist, as he uses soft materials to face harder realities. The avoidance of this labor would be understandable, but Joey has said that making the work is compulsory for him and it gives him relief.

An example of the two-sided nature of his work is Old Sun New Day, a quilt made in 2015 to commemorate a friend’s death. White text is stitched onto bright sunrise—and sunset—colors. An archived Arts West website entry describes Joey’s fabric work as having “themes of comfort, social and political affirmation; dealing in Northwest mythologies, feminism, gender identity, quilt history (The Gee’s Bend Quilt Makers), (art quilt history: Faith Ringgold), The Carpenters, and queer politics. Aphorisms like “A day without lesbians is like a day without sunshine” are meant to replace worry with comfort.”

Sun in your heart,

                     la vie en rose.

                                      Thinkin’ ‘bout forever.

This speaks to the cycle of work and rest involved in the making of the work. “My quilts contain my love and my worry,” Joey says. He begins work in the studio each day around 7 a.m., after having breakfast with his partner, Ben, also an artist. “I love quilting – it’s meditation. I make art every day.” Joey explains that a few years ago he began both a meditation and quilting practice and that one or both of these helped him in a dark time. He became a donor daddy (“Papa Bear!”) for dear friends who had a beautiful baby boy. He began meditating. He cut and sewed quilts. He met Ben. He had another baby with his friends. His at-home studio practice, like his process, blends creative outlet and homemaking to become incomprehensible and familiar together.

American singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens describes his 2015 album, Carrie & Lowell as being inspired by the 2012 death of his mother, Carrie, and the family trips they took to Oregon during Stevens’ childhood. Recording the album helped Stevens process her death. In an interview on the music blog Pitchfork, Stevens says “with this record, I needed to extract myself out of this environment of make-believe. It’s something that was necessary for me to do in the wake of my mother’s death—to pursue a sense of peace and serenity in spite of suffering. It’s not really trying to say anything new, or prove anything, or innovate. It feels artless, which is a good thing. This is not my art project; this is my life.”

On Wikipedia, Stevens says about producer Thomas Bartlett, “Thomas took all

these sketches and made sense of it all.” A patchwork. “I was recording songs as a means of grieving, making sense of it. But the writing and recording wasn’t the salve I expected. I fell deeper and deeper into doubt and misery. It was a year of real darkness. In the past my work had a real reciprocity of resources – I would put something in and get something from it. But not this time.”

“I think a common thread in my work is the idea of not trying to create new exciting things,” says Joey, but rather to create works that slow us down for everyday life moments, so that we can work through them. “That means invoking previously existing things (such as song lyrics) and putting disparate things together to create new and nuanced relationships.”

I feel better

                  floating in space.

                                    Shine Bright.


For a 2014 quilt, Stardust / Helpless, Joey was inspired by Martin Scorsese’s 1978 film, The Last Waltz. In the film, The Band and Neil Young sing a version of Helpless, with recording artist Joni Mitchell chiming in: ‘I feel so helpless; I can hear you now.’

In an email, Joey writes, “I have to reposition myself mentally to not cry when I hear her sing ‘I can hear you now.’ Mitchell wrote the song Woodstock, about the festival she missed due to her manager’s advice to play Dick Cavett. The lyrics reference the poetic idea that we are made of stardust, which helps give comfort to the idea of death. In a recent (sewn fabric) flag, I made the A-side: We are Stardust and for part of the text, I used a kitten fabric. The kitten referenced a quilt I made for my friend Michelle, who was dying, and I used the remaining kitten fabric to make Lark (Joey’s daughter) one of her first dresses.” Joey bring this fabric back into life.

Crosby, Stills and Nash, who did attend Woodstock, covered Mitchell’s song, replaying their first-hand experience through her channeling of that experience. Mitchell’s understanding of Woodstock is like a dream, repeated.


         We are stardust

                           Billion-year-old carbon    We are golden  

         Caught in the devil’s bargain   And we’ve got to get ourselves    

                           back to the garden

In her essay, On Beauty and Being Just, Elaine Scarry makes a case for how beauty saves us, by saving itself. She tells us that beauty brings copies of itself into being, as we repeat what we find beautiful. I easily apply this to the fabric fragments and song lyrics in Joey’s work. A song, for example, the generative object, the thing thought to be beautiful, through its donation of stray lyrics, continues to be present in the newly begotten object, the quilt. Someone, “who gave rise” to the song’s creation remains “present in the newborn object.”

“Beauty always takes place in the particular,” writes Scarry, “and if there are no particulars, the chances of seeing it go down. Proust, for example, says we make a mistake when we talk disparagingly or discouragingly about ‘life’ because by using this general term, ‘life,’ we have already excluded before the fact all beauty and happiness, which take place only in the particular: we believed we were taking happiness and beauty into account, whereas in fact we left them out and replaced them by syntheses in which there is not a single atom of either.”

For Life Is a Beautiful, Joey used whatever pink fabric he could find, while remembering and looking for another particular pink. His work forms around certain bedsheets, a shirt, the chorus of a popular song, combining these, while not totally absorbing them.


I will always love you.

                  Life imitates art:

                                    We are your friends.


Comedian Louis CK warns that “everything that makes you happy is going to end at some point, and nothing ends well.” Introducing a puppy into the family, for example, is just “a countdown to sorrow.” The puppy won’t last forever. Joey has restructured his life around his family. “I have spent my life keeping people at a distance, as a safety mechanism, so I learned that you either build a wall so you won’t be hurt, which means you can’t fully participate in relationships, or you leave when the stakes get high. I can’t leave any of these people now and that creates anxiety. The fact that something could happen to any of us, that idea is present in a lot of my quilts.” At the same time, this fabric of family, as Stevens sings, may be the “only thing keeping me from driving this car, highlife, jack knife, into the canyon at night.”

Joey’s children like to have songs in their heads. His daughter will sing ‘row, row, row your boat’ for an hour. She likes loose fabric, pockets, small spaces. Elliptical lyrics form a space, where you can be for minutes at a time. She is singing ‘ gently down the stream,’ repeating the artist’s intention that his works create a transitional state, sleeping, “drifting towards or away from terra firma.”

Lark is complete, while her face presents a small version of Joey’s face. The object which resembles another object is still not that object; it remains apart. Joey, without precedent, remains “present in the newborn object,” Lark, also without precedent.

Scarry writes that when you encounter something, which seems to be entirely new to you, then it presents the world as new, presents a filter for seeing or understanding something newly. “It is the very way the beautiful thing fills the mind and breaks all frames that gives the ‘never before in the history of the world’ feeling.” Beauty saves.

“First, beauty is sacred.” “Second, beauty is unprecedented.” One believes that the loved or desired object has no precedent, and then they remember another like object that is reflective of the second beautiful thing, only to recall the first beautiful object also has no precedent.

“The first and second attributes of beauty are very close to one another, for to say that something is “sacred” is also to say either “it has no precedent” or “it has as its only precedent that which is itself unprecedented. But there is also a third feature: beauty is lifesaving, a plank amid the waves of the sea.”

Joey’s soft works re-create “the structure of a perception that occurs whenever one sees something beautiful; it is as though one has suddenly been washed up onto a merciful beach: all unease, aggression, indifference suddenly drop back behind one, like a surf that has for a moment lost its capacity to harm. Beauty.” Take a rest in stolen lyrics, reconfigured into this “hymn to beauty.”

The hymn of Lark may be “called a palinode to the beauty of” her father. Just as Joey’s sewn works work their borrowed fragments away from but are still part of the larger pieces they are cut from.

What is it to be in error, to fail to see the worth and beauty of the object presented? You can change your mind, and that’s beautiful. You find yourself falling; you are on the plank and suddenly caught. For now, you have made it back to the garden.


don’t you look up to me,

                  be even better than me


The quilts open up and hold. Joey says his goal is to “preload or embed,” to create a bond between this work and the viewer, and to bring to this space between the two, pleasure, an open embrace and rest. A lay-down with scraps and songs.

How To Disappear Completely 2015 is a work that draws from a Radiohead lyric, “which felt like they were referencing suicide,” Joey says, “I started humming the song and then realized that I was depressed. I didn’t always realize it before, but it kind of crystallized, and I became aware that I have an ongoing internal soundtrack that matches my emotional state. And I didn’t know I was so sad until that song popped into my head. And then it stayed with me until I made the flag and released it.”

He first began drawing quilts. “I was obsessed” with making these drawings, “as soon as I recognized it was a release.” He tells me that maybe “the act of creation is traumatic. And that all beauty is connected to pain.” Maybe the pain he refers to is what labors. And the beauty is the transfiguration of the commonplace, the ordinary thing, a blanket, into art.

Parts of Life Is Beautiful are given a special power of narration, like a story being told by different people (different songs), from different points of view. In his essay, Rembrandt and the Body, English writer John Berger writing about Rembrandt’s paintings, says that “these points of view can only exist in a corporeal space which is incompatible with territorial or architectural space. Corporeal space is continually changing its measures by waves, not meters. Hence, its necessary dislocation of ‘real space.’”

Rembrandt’s self-portraits, says Berger, hint at the fact that “he grew old in a climate of economic fanaticism and indifference–not dissimilar to the climate of the period we are living through. The human was no longer self-evident; it had to be found in the darkness. Painting–particularly in the second half of his life–was a search for an exit from the darkness.”

Rembrandt does not readily hold out his search for the body for us, he gives it to us in pieces. “Baroque art, (which Rembrandt profited from), loved foreshortenings and improbable juxtapositions.” Patched quilt bodies collapse experience, information and popular cultural glimpses. They are “furtive.”

It may happen with each viewer who stands in front of Life Is Beautiful, to keep borrowing from Berger, that “before his art, the spectator’s body remembers its own inner experience.” This soft work is outstretched arms, occupying a “supreme and central position.” In the “fusion between two bodies not only desire can pass but also pardon or faith.” The quilting shows itself to be a process of dissecting the body to realign it with another body, ultimately.


Bigger than religion:

                  I slay all day.

                                    Let the sun shine in.


At first, the particular truth of Life Is Beautiful can be missed. Large and pink and placed in the common space of the art gallery help us to see it, while masking the truth of the embrace it provides. Old clothes and new words continue to proliferate in fragments, as evidence of daily life, finding their way onto Joey’s sewn works, each one a raft of rescued scraps with the promise of rest, life.

Thoughts of comfort, self-care, the consideration of others, and unprecedented pink fabric culture are the artist’s points of contemplation for making remedies to isolation and despair. Don’t forget, the pink calls, what Arthur Danto refers to as “the world as everyone lives in it, the world of dailiness, the world of common experience, the dear, predictable world anyone longs for.” This everyday saves, as we cobble together our undercover sleep, our songs, our pockets of darkness.

Looking up the published lyrics for Stevens’ song, Fourth of July reveals that the end line is transcribed as we’re all gonna die (X7). Life Is Beautiful presents private moments and small matters sewn up for larger public view, including family sheets and friends’ T-shirts. Rest here and, yes, rehearse. “I practice a form of pre-grieving when I address death in the work. This is a kind of preparation.” This can be read as empathy, which the blanket at TAM gives shape to, as it also gives shape to a myriad of individual unparsed feelings begetting more feelings (X7).


I’m no longer afraid to die     Cause that is all that I have left       Yes! Yes!
And I’m no longer afraid to dance tonight     Cause that is all that I have left     Yes! Yes!

Rumi Koshino | Red and Blue

Essay by Colter Jacobsen | Photographs by Maggie Carson Romano

Drawing and painting can be a very intimate thing. I found myself thinking this at a recent music show where the artist Rumi Koshino was projecting a collaborative video accompanying live music. A video camera had been set up to record in real-time Rumi’s  watercolor composition while she painted slowly and deliberately. The live-feed was projected behind the musicians onto an accordion-like backdrop reminiscent of a Japanese screen.

There was something absolutely hypnotic about watching one color run into another. A red brush stroke slides across the paper, meeting a blue brush stroke. The two rivers  collide in cataclysmic purple. It’s a gesture made by an artist but nature takes over in the wake. The surface of paper becomes a floodplain where the edges of least resistance burst into expanding rivulets.

I noticed that Rumi seemed unconcerned with the final outcome of the image: she used liberal amounts of water. Her marks felt close to music, a present-tense gesture/mark of the moment. I read into the two colliding colors as human relationships. I fell in love with a brush mark that was suddenly obliterated by a grey pool…jolted by the fleeting moment of it.

How quickly we, as viewers, read into the marks and movement. Every mark is a decision, every nuance is connected to a brain synapse. And it’s this exchange, from the artist’s synapse onto a picture-plain to our receiving synapse, which is so mysterious. What is it about our human nature that projects narrative and emotions from simple colors, shapes and lines? I am reminded of the poet Philip Whalen describing his own poetry as “a picture or a graph of a mind moving, which is a world body being here and now which is history…and you.” The dual projections of sending forth and receiving go back even earlier than shadows bouncing on Plato’s cave.

The word project comes from the Latin, projectum from the Latin verb proicere “before an action” while projection (mid 16th century) has the same Latin root as project, yet it’s meaning is to “throw forth.”

I think of the tapa cloth drawings by women of the Maisin tribe of Papua New Guinea. They don’t have a word for art, per se. The closest word they have is Saraman, meaning “think & do.”

Rumi recently completed a project that consisted of making one drawing per day for 100 consecutive days. In a Facebook post, she stated, “I started my first 100-day (sculpture) project on this day, February 18th, 2015, prompted by Debra Baxter. Somehow, it feels perfect to finish my second 100-day (drawing) project on the same day, a year later, completing a circle.”

From such an approach, certain qualities tend to come to the forefront: looseness, lightness, quickness (see the first essay in Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for a Next Millennium). A daily practice also keeps your chops up.

Rumi has lived in San Francisco for about two years. She moved from having a large live-work space all to herself in Seattle to a flat in San Francisco with three roommates. She has a small room and one closet. All this to say that she has substantially downsized. There is a new economy to her drawings. The word economy comes from the Greek, meaning “household management.” Can this system of daily drawing be a way to keep order in her household, and for her general mental stability? Even with such a small amount of space, her room still feels sparse. Only a few of her 100 drawings are displayed at one time. All of her “sculptures,” most of which were collapsible and made of paper, are tucked away somewhere.

Through the 20-something years that I’ve know Rumi, I’ve seen her work morph into all kinds of different sizes, shapes and themes. But even small, the scale can feel gigantic.

I remember the earliest works I saw of Rumi’s depicted very basic things: toes of a foot, a light switch, a house or I should say a home. Dwelling on the theme of home certainly made a lot of sense seeing that she had just left Japan to study in the U.S.

One particular painting I recall was a line of various colors in the shape of a rectangle that ran along the border of a rectangular white canvas. She said the line represented a road trip she had taken and each color represented a part of the trip. This road trip still lingers in my mind as a wonderful alternative to mapping time and space. I see it again in several of her 100 drawings.

Later came ladders and then bridges, many bridges, broken bridges, bridges that led from nowhere to nowhere, emerging out of an ocean, taking the viewer from one area of water to another area of water. The bridges of two cultures seemed the obvious metaphor though the more she built them, the more I think they actually were about the bridges of relationships, the bridges between any two people, no matter their culture, trying to communicate with each other.

The bridges eventually disappeared as if completely consumed by the ocean. And only the marks of water remained, vast oceans of marks. For her final show in Seattle she invited friends over to cut out envelopes from a very large-scale drawing of an ocean surface. The envelope, as an abstract bridge of distance, from a here to a there, is also a gesture of giving that, in turn, implies a return.

She can effortlessly alternate between abstraction and representation, the two often in dialogue with each other. This can also be said of her 2-dimensional work and her sculptural work. Both point back at each other. A drawing seems to play with being 3-D while a sculpture flirts with 2-Dimensions.

Since moving to the Bay, Rumi has been a little more light and playful. She tends to absorb her surroundings. Her skin membrane is porous. Patterns from her environs find their way into her drawings while strange interior, cellular-like shapes float in to disrupt the patterns. The ocean is still hanging out too, sometimes in the shape of drapes while clouds float through doors. And triangles continue to hint at envelopes, circles designate absence or eyes while pairs and symmetry are never too far off…

When I first met Rumi in a Color/Light/and Theory class, I remember looking at an art work with her. In the composition were two squares, one blue, the other red. We were casually talking about the piece when she pointed to the blue square and said “red.” It
was her first year in the States and I assumed that she was still acquiring her English skills. So I corrected her and said “blue.” She shook her head and again said “red.” About to repeat my blue, I took a look at her straight face. It finally eased into a smile and again, she said “red.” She was playing with me. Not only were her English skills advanced, but she was turning the world on its head.

Zack Bent | What the Camera Found

Essay by Willie Fitzgerald | Photographs by Eirik Johnson

Just south of Cle Elum there’s a swath of forest where hundreds of burnt pine trees dive into the sky. A fire raged there sometime in 2014, one of so many that summer. Now the area is a moonscape, a graveyard, a monument. It’s also where the multidisciplinary artist Zack Bent has been working for the past half-year or so, arranging sculptures and photographing them alongside his wife, the artist Gala Bent, and their three sons.

Doing a “studio visit” with Zack Bent is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, Bent and I talked in the space he shares with his wife (it’s in SODO, in the shadow of the iron tortoise shell of the baseball stadium; there are racks of lumber for the sculptures Bent makes, and a work table covered in Gala’s colorful, complex paintings), but Bent makes the majority of his work on location.

Like this forest fire in the Cascades. The photographs Bent has been shooting there will be part of his solo exhibition “Spires”, which opens at the Seattle Pacific Art Center Gallery on January 21st. In one photo Bent’s family stands near some bone-white wooden pyramids. In another, Bent’s son regards a black canvas strung between two burnt trees, a makeshift tent slackened into loose strata. In yet one more, taken sometime over the summer, his sons and his wife kick up a small cloud of ashen dust.

The Bents are out of place in this black and gray wasteland, but many of the photos still exude playfulness, joy, a sense of motion temporarily suspended. Some, unsurprisingly, take on a more somber mood. There’s something unavoidably apocalyptic about the juxtaposition of this towheaded child and the scorched landscape. It feels reverential and foreboding. That could be just oversimplified symbology—forest fires are also opportunities for new growth and rebirth; Bent found this site when foraging for morel mushrooms, which frequently grow the spring after a forest fire.

Even in this wild—and wildly fraught—setting, the object of Bent’s artistic investigation remains domesticity, the home and the family unit. (His children are wandering through an ashen scar in the Cascades, but they’re still his children). Bent is curious about the myriad small things that happen in a domestic space when we aren’t looking at them, the moments of stillness and silent progression: “What happens if you just stop? What happens if you’re a photograph?”

A few of his older pieces take this idea of long focus to an extreme: one jar of honey empties into another, a viscous hourglass. In another video, clear rendered fat begins to whirl as it hardens to opacity. I remember a piece that Bent made for “In The Absence of…,” a group show at the Greg Kucera Gallery curated by Klara Glosova and Sierra Stinson. Bent made a video, playing on a loop on a flatscreen TV, of a young boy alone in a forest (“Heavy Matter I”; there was also a platform made from blackened logs placed in front of the video, in retrospect an obvious prelude to his current exhibition). The video defied its own medium—nothing seemed to happen. And then I looked closer. The boy was swaying slightly, trying to hold his pose. It was this attempt—the approach toward stillness and its failure—that lured me in. From the TV I could hear rain falling, a soft static.

If the domestic space is the area of focus for Bent, what fuels his artistic process is the constant tension between arrangement and occurrence. “I have to put something in place where something will happen, so I can find something that can break my own system.”

Trained as an architect, it’s difficult for him to work without a blueprint. “When my oldest son was five, we did a thing at Vermillion with Lincoln Logs, and he just wanted to build things. I had to tell him, ‘You can’t just build something, we have to figure what we’re going to do and then build it.’”

But, at the same time: “I’ve always been mesmerized by really intuitive work where it just seems like things come together by chance—what I’d describe as ‘what the camera found’ as opposed to ‘what I made.’”

So Bent sets up environments where this sort of organic, unplanned moment might occur. This might be his sons’ heads, thanks to a trick in perspective, melding into one unit, or it might a particularly forlorn or enigmatic expression on his wife’s face.

It’s a process that, especially as his sons grow older (the oldest is not yet a teenager) and express more of their own personal and artistic agency, requires some diplomacy. “I’ve started to take on more of a directorial role”— I first misheard this as “dictatorial” before he corrected me—“and I’ve started to dangle more carrots. Cheeseburgers, milkshakes.”

With sculpture, it’s harder for Bent to buck against his inner architect. “To build something, I have to build it right. It has to be right. I can’t just tape up the corners and call it good. It’s just not my personality.” Many of Bent’s sculptures are made from ¾”x ¾” pine lumber and have a sturdy, geometric feel to them, like scaffolding for a building only he can see.

Bent has a reluctant, nearly adversarial relationship with sculpture. He started out wanting to be a painter, and he seems most animated when we talk about the image—the living moment as it is captured, preserved, and flattened into two dimensions.

Still, the craft of sculpture, and its material investment, is unavoidably attractive. For Bent, sculpture is more than the creation of an object, it is the process of “confounding [its] materials”—in other words confusing and expanding the possibilities lying dormant in oak, stone, or simple pine.

I think about an aphorism from the Italian artist Fausto Melotti: “The true artist does not love or respect his material: it is always on trial, and everything can go completely wrong.” Love, for Melotti, can sour to hate; respect is too cold and formal a distance. It is only in the confrontational, liminal space of the trial that an artist can simultaneously engage with and be free from their work. (That in turn makes me think of a Smog lyric: “We are constantly on trial/ It’s a way to be free”).

In this sense, Bent’s work is perpetually testifying against itself, the loose improvisation of his photography cross-examining the tight Euclidean architecture of his sculpture. Everything, as Melotti says, can go completely wrong. But for Bent, it’s in the going wrong—the sudden, spontaneous defiance against the ordered system—that the real piece emerges.

Gretchen Frances Bennett | To catch something moving, And make it still

Essay by Aidan Fitzgerald | Photographs by Andrew Waits

Gretchen Bennett’s drawings are dense collections of marks, pulling from all colors of a neutral palette. From far away, her drawings emit a low hum, as if she’s caught static energy on paper, the greyness of a screen with the brightness turned all the way down, low contrast, eyes half open. From up close, one realizes that the marks that make up the piece are vibrant and uniform. They are the work of someone concentrating more on the nature of mark making than on the purpose of the marks themselves. As she explained in her lecture to Evergreen College last year, “Drawing with deliberate attention given to the mark is critical to this process. Through drawing, I want to show my thinking.” She continues, “These works first appear to be photorealist colored pencil renderings, but the second read shows that they are actually interventions between daily moments and gestures, and everyday life experiences.”

Bennett works from photos and digital stills, usually from television shows, movies, or home videos. Her work asks a fundamental question of identity: how do we relate to those on the screen? How do we relate to others through time, through space, across distances?

Her body of work titled “The Killing” was inspired by stills from the television show of the same name. She saw herself reflected in the character, in the solitary exploration and investigation of the harshly beautiful Pacific Northwest landscape. Her work since then has reversed tack: “I used to take popular cultural references in order to understand the personal, and now I’ve flipped it, where now I’m taking the personal to join in a larger conversation, to understand a broader view, and since I do want it to be a conversation, that’s where I want people to resonate. I think it’s really important for me to remember that I am empathic, and I am empathic in the way that I feel experience and that’s how I place myself.” Her piece in the Vignettes collection, “Untitled (after Bruce Nauman)” is one such piece. It is a drawing from a still of a home video taken of Bennett while she was immobilized in bed after an injury. Bennett made the piece as homage to Nauman, another artist who deeply examined the body, everyday life, and physical actions in his work. And while the piece may be a nod to a conceptual artist, it is rooted in the process of drawing: the palette stretches to all colors, but the values are consistent. Each object and detail is perfectly rendered, but not so perfectly described so as to become the focus of the piece. Bennett is recording the pattern of light in the image, and not concentrating on her own image reflected back at her. She’s concentrating on relaying the information of the moment, not her own memory. She’s allowing us into her personal moment, filtered through the lens of 20th century conceptual art, the long tradition of self-portraiture, and the expectations of the female body in art.

This kind of conversation with the world through art is a strong through-line in Bennett’s recent work. She has long been an artist without a defined medium, and lately she has been incorporating her writing, found objects, and sculpture into her studio practice. In one body of work, entitled “M Diary,” she enters into a conversation with herself, following the structure and tone of Roland Barthe’s Mourning Diary and Lover’s Discourse. “I treat the drawings and the writing both as textual entries, they’re both diaristic, and that said, I think they are both abstract enough that they become a space for other people to join in. I’m not pointing specifically to things and saying ‘you specifically look at this,’ but if I can abstract it enough and make it a neutral space, meaning my drawings and my writing together, then it’s abstract enough for other people to see whatever they see.”

I kept coming back to the idea of distance in Gretchen’s work. She distances herself from her own process of drawing by compartmentalizing sections of the drawing rather than approaching the drawing as a whole. “I want to catch something moving and make it still, filter that still so that it can move elsewhere, differently, giving a slow read. We make things iconic because we want to study and get caught up by something. We’re always as viewers and makers fixating and studying in order to close distance, to cross distance. This is pleasurable but futile, but it is a kind of movement, to try to bring something closer and make it iconic.”

Gretchen and I talked for over an hour, intermittently interrupted by the boisterous rattle of a work crew on the roof. Going over the interview, I began to notice new things about her words and her work. Transcription is a strange thing for me. How we take language and approximate it on the page, abstracting and distancing it from ourselves, but also laying words bare for others to interact with, magnifying certain points while glossing over others. Body language, setting, inflection, verbal tics—these are lost in the transcription process. In their place we are left with a record of thought and communication, and also concrete evidence that these ideas have been transmitted and are continuing to be transmitted (by way of someone reading over a transcription).

I mention this because as I was transcribing our interview, it dawned on me that this transcription process—the distancing of the artifact from the event it is recording—is central to Bennett’s work. She is examining pieces of her life up close, but presenting them in a drawing with a neutral tone, as objective fact, untainted by her own bias. There is no dramatic shading, no theatrical mark making. And in this way she allows us in to her life, but also encourages us to examine our own, to see our personal histories in hers. “In drawing, I think as I’m noticing something, I’m wanting to relay it. And so therefore my work is for me, but because I have the impulse to relay it, it’s for others. It’s me showing my thinking, and showing questions. It’s almost like in the moment that I receive the information, I’m transcribing. I’m recording out what I see.”

Joe Rudko | Folding time in lines and layers

Interview by Jon Feinstein | Photos by Megumi Shauna Arai


Joe Rudko is one of the hardest working photo-based artists in show business. Since this past summer, he’s become a full time artist, buckling down in his studio full time to make some of the most painstaking and meticulous collages and found-photo interventions I’ve seen in years. His continuously evolving “Object Drawings” turn vintage photographs into multi layered drawings and three dimensional sculptures that reinterpret the experience of looking at static images, as well as the world around us. In advance of his upcoming exhibition at Roq La Rue gallery in Seattle, I caught up with Joe to learn more about his process.


Jon Feinstein: Rumor has it that you’re making work full time now. I love hearing when artists, especially young artists are able to dedicate all of their time to making work. What’s your typical day look like? 

Joe Rudko: Yeah, I quit my day job about 3 months ago. That really felt great. I don’t know if I have too typical a day, other than being in the studio for 8-10 hours, and giving attention to whatever is directly in front of me. I’m here by 11 in the morning and work on various projects until dinnertime. Over the last year I’ve really fallen in love with the time in the studio.


That’s great, and it’s really shown in how quickly your work has evolved. Before we get too deep into your practice, the music nerd in me has been dying to know — how did the Death Cab album cover come about? 

Glenn Newcomer, who I knew when I lived in Bellingham WA, works for a design firm in Seattle called Hum. They were doing the album design and packaging work, and he saw connections between the work I make and the process of Kintsugi, which the Death Cab album was titled after. Kintsugi is the Japanese word repairing an object with a precious metal, highlighting the break, and in turn honoring the past history of the object.

(Left to right) Exploded View, Big Artifact


Can you tell me a bit about your own process – start to finish?

My process seems to always be shifting. Sometimes it starts with an image, and other times I’ll be propelled by a new working method. It’s largely informed by a mixture of the photographic content, and the general language used to make and describe photographs. For example, the x shape that makes up Exploded View is reminiscent of the geyser eruption that makes up the subject of the image. The separation of the corners from the center of the image refers to an exploded view diagram that is commonly used in camera instruction manuals. If I’m lucky, the manipulations will reveal my initial attraction to the image.

The camera/ manual / photo history references come up a lot in your work….

I think there’s an interesting culture that surrounds photography, it is more widespread and approachable then other art- probably because it’s so tied to technology and everyday use. There’s something silly about pictures of cameras- it makes me think of Magritte’s paintings of paintings. The ephemera that surrounds photography provides a contextual awareness for the images. I think it makes the pictures more object-like, pulling them away from illusional space.

How did you connect with PDX Contemporary? Are they representing you exclusively? 

In 2013 I was invited by Sharon Arnold to participate in a “Recent Graduates” booth at the Affordable Art Fair in Seattle. I think that’s where Jane first saw my work. I did a group show with them, and then my first solo show in February of this year. Now they represent me in the state of Oregon, but occasionally they will take my work to fairs like Seattle Art Fair this past summer, and PULSE Miami this coming December.


Does being a “full time” artist — meaning one who survives on your art as your source of income — impact your practice?

It’s freed up a lot of my time, giving me a much more fluid schedule and ultimately reducing my level of anxiety. My goal has always been to make the work that I want to make, market or no market. At the same time, selling the work opens up a door to more freedom and experimentation. I think that I’ve always been a bit cautious about what I decide to put out into the world.


Do you think your work has changed now that more eyes are looking at it?

It’s definitely been changing. As I’ve worked more with the limitations I’ve set for myself I think the work has broadened out from being about one thing. Initially when I started making the Object Drawings, my thinking was more in line with the object-ness of the photographic image. Something that seemed very pertinent and opposite to the ubiquity of the online image experience.

Who are a few artists inspiring you right now? 

Lawrence Weschler did a book called “True to Life” compiling 30 years of conversations with David Hockney that is really good. It’s largely about Hockney’s investigations into visual perception and how we view and represent the world.


Other people I am currently stoked on: Lucas Blalock, Erin O’Keefe, John Divola, Gordon Matta-Clark, Letha Wilson, Jessica Eaton, Curtis Mann, Richard Tuttle, and Richard Aldrich.


Since I moved here in 2013, I’ve noticed that Seattle has a particularly tight-knit art/photo community. How does this influence, help, and impact your practice? 

I’ve been in Seattle for 2 years now and yeah it is pretty tight-knit. It’s natural that all the artists find each other pretty quickly. I’m really happy to know several talented and driven artists; I think it makes you step up your game. They can also be a great resource to keep learning and building on the approach to my work without the cash required for grad school.


For some reason, photographers specifically can often separate themselves from the “rest of the artists”. Maybe it’s something expressly about the medium that always seems to be on trial. I think the benefit of the smaller art community is that there’s room for you to do your own thing, and for that to cross over a variety of mediums and approaches.


I completely agree. I think that’s been a problem historically with photography – the larger art world dismissing it as “art” for much of the 20th century, and in turn, photographers putting themselves into a photo-ghetto that helped to reinforce that idea. How did you move from straight photography into collage/ “mixed media” based work?

I blame it on the Internet. During my last year of college I was having difficulty defending the photographs that I was taking, and being active on sites like Flickr and Tumblr wasn’t helping. I felt like I was adding to this massive stack of forgettable digital photographs. Making work using existing photographs was a way to comment on the conventions and contradictions within photography without adding to the pile. I was thinking about how my physical gestures were a way to recycle and retire images from the world, one by one.
This work is so much about the folding of time in how we experience viewing images/ how technology has changed that. As you get deeper into this work do you see these ideas broadening/ shifting?

Something interesting can happen when you look at an object from the past with the conventions of the present. I’m interested in that always-shifting history of the object, and how it makes the photographic information vulnerable.

Lately I have been tapping into the ways that personal association can shape interpretation. It’s sort of an internal diptych, in which the treatment and placement inform some sort of relationship. Occasionally Ansel Adams reproductions are making their way into the work. For me, he is the quintessential photographer to reference, someone whose images are so engrained in the collective psyche that they could be read as symbols of photography itself.

Why is Adams so quintessential for you?

Ansel Adams was probably the first major photographer that I was exposed to growing up. I think that I’m attracted to using his work because it’s familiar and so ubiquitous that his images can become a stand-in or prop for the medium of photography itself.

There’s also the connection that Ansel Adams has with the darkroom and photographic manipulation. His darkroom processes added intense contrasts and depth to American landscapes, provoking one of the first widespread conversations about editing and truth in photography.


You’ve mentioned your inspiration coming from being overwhelmed with the sheer number of photographs you see every day — I imagine it’s even more daunting now/ this far into the series.

Making this work in an analog fashion is some sort of escape route from the screen-heavy experience of digital photography. It makes me slow down my engagement with a photograph, and try to understand why I’m reading it the way I am. That’s where the work happens–when I’m able to shift the focus of an image to address the nature of the medium, and the potential an image has to communicate a variety of ways.


Does your process still hinge on manipulating vintage photographs with collage, drawing, and other techniques?

I’ve started to zero in more on some of the ideas, and that determines my approach on a case-by-case basis. I’ve recently been using sculptural attributes to reinforce or negate the subject matter in the images. It’s an attempt to combat the flatness in photography and painting, by adding a layer of sculptural language. Maybe it’s an attempt to condense Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs into a single object. Using photography and sculpture in tandem seems like a concrete way to bridge the abstract space between the virtual and real.


How do you go about selecting the found photographs that you later manipulate?

Lately I’ve been attracted to images that feel like they could be described in one word- like a flashcard. Or sometimes seeing one image will trigger a connection with a previous image I’ve seen, and I’ll want to put them next to each other to see if I can understand that tendency to connect new things to things we already know.

(Left to Right) Color Layer, Venn Diagram


Does digital play any role in your process?

I’ve worked a little digitally, but not too extensively. I started learning about photography at the moment when the digital/film conversation was in full-force. I’m more attuned to reading photographs in a digital context, and that has seeped into my process.


Last we spoke you were not editioning/ making prints of your work — each piece existed as a unique object. Why that decision? Is this still the case?

Editioning is a bit contradictory to the initial drive of the work, which was to reduce the huge pile of photographs that already exist. But, in my current show Broken Image at Roq La Rue, I have a pseudo-edition of pieces that all utilize the same image treatment, but come in b/w or color, and in 3 sizes. I was thinking about the decisions that a photographer has to make after the fact: How large should I print it? Should it be in b/w? etc. and how these questions are often incidental. I want to point at that absurdity and make it essential to the reading of the work.


Do you consider yourself a photographer/ artist/ does it matter? 

Sure, I’m a photographer. I’m also an artist. I don’t know if it matters what I consider myself to be, but I do like working in a space that isn’t easily defined.

Francesca Lohmann | Frozen Fluidity

Essay by David Strand | Photographs by Serrah Russell

Francesca Lohmann’s artistic process moves like a sea cucumber liquefying its body and pouring itself through the crevice of a rock, and then solidifying once more. Plaster, a recurrent material in her practice, operates in a similar fashion. She mixes plaster powder and water into a liquid soup that she pours into fabric casings that harden into solids over a matter of minutes. The result of these contained spills, shaped by gravity into lumps and coils, often evoke anthropomorphic, animal, and alien associations while simultaneously eluding them.

“It’s not something I dictate, it’s something I instigate,” Lohmann says, crouched near a pile of flour-white plaster coils in the open-air shed that serves as one-half of her art studio. The thick mass of sagging loops is intestinal and snake-like, resembling an enormous, petrified earthworm. “I set up a situation where something can happen within a set of parameters, then use the behavior of the material, gravity, and time to get at a result that is doing something compelling or unexpected.” Her works are at once familiar yet nameless, eliciting empathy through subtleties in scale and posture.

The other-half of Lohmann’s art studio, just a few steps away, is situated in a portion of her basement. If the open-air shed is dedicated to process, a lab for the messy activity of plaster casting, the basement is for presentation, a space for Lohmann to sit with her work. As we descend, ossified lumps dot each step like commas, sagging, slouching and slumping over the edge of each stair. They provoke pause, occupying a space outside of, but not divorced from language, that stirs viewers to guess the rest of the words in the sentence.

“Someone compared them to pets once,” Lohmann says about the lumps, which come in roughly two sizes: miniature, small enough to hold in one hand, or medium, large enough to need both hands. “I think it’s the relationship that we are so much bigger than they are, that they are maybe vulnerable. You want to protect them. People have very particular responses to different ones—about what their characters might be, or how they are feeling—which I find really fascinating because they are pretty simple gestures…. ”

Despite this indeterminacy, and the range of responses they provoke, the lumps like the rest of Lohmann’s works are utterly terrestrial. They are grounded by their overt physicality as expressed through their material properties.

In the center of the floor are a group of objects I immediately recognize, potatoes. However, upon closer inspection the potatoes are not quite potatoes, but iron-cast copies, with a thick seam running across their surfaces as a record of their making.

During her time in school, Lohmann ate potatoes almost daily. While she initially tried drawing portraits of them, something was lost in translation. She turned to iron casting, a process she calls “incredibly medieval in a really great way. Iron seemed appropriately heavy, earthy, and basic.” Rather than simply acting as a copy of a potato or a lump acting as the imprint of plaster poured into a sack, the works take on lives of their own; the copy is also an original, separate but related. This recognition opens up the idea of the interrelatedness of all things: as Lohmann says, “boundaries seem really obvious, but then you start to think about it and they become less obvious. You can’t completely separate anything from anything else.” She is fascinated by food for this very reason. Like plaster or a sea cucumber, food undergoes various state changes based on its interactions with its surroundings.

Leaning against a wall is a fairly large framed photograph of a lavender lump of taffy that is not quite liquid or solid, but a more sticky kind of in-between. Lohmann pulled the taffy by hand and left it on a table to congeal into a new shape as it slowly reabsorbed into itself. The paralysis of the photograph versus the glacial movements of the actual taffy evokes the dynamism of Baroque sculpture. Whereas Bernini’s frenzied and twisting sculptures of men and gods were caught in climatic moments of movement, Lohmann’s images of taffy and plaster objects are frozen in nearly imperceptible moments of flux. The excess of form and content in Baroque sculpture is edited away in favor of poetic simplicity.

This economy of means demonstrates the control Lohmann exercises in her practice while also providing space for chance and accident. “I am looking for moments of certainty; a recognition. What is the right form? It could be a million different ways but it ended up like that, which is what I like about the freezing aspect. Once something has set, I accept it or reject it; there is no fussing, no adjustments after the fact. It is the way it is. I like that. But it means that I produce a lot of waste…”

Lohmann’s work exists in a realm of productive contradiction, a state of frozen fluidity. Every sculpture or image is discrete, limited and finite, yet also always in the process of becoming, never simply being, even after the photograph has been captured and the plaster has dried. They are constantly in relation with all that surrounds them, turning subjectivity away from a single point and dispersing it across the complex web of relations that shapes the mundane in miraculous ways.

Klara Glosova | Wonderland

Essay by Gretchen Frances Bennett | Photographs by Andrew Waits

Klara Glosova uncovers new realities
and moves them sideways into the light


After I visited the studio of artist Klara Glosova, I sought out the scene from the 1980 film, Caddyshack, in which Bill Murray is at the bottom of a drained pool in a hazmat suit. He is there to locate an unknown material. This scene describes that moment when you do not know if the thing you are looking for is “shit, or if it’s candy,” says Klara. Murray locates the mystery object, bites into it and says, There it is. It’s no big deal.

Klara has this same offhand manner when describing her studio practice and the vulnerability of pursuing a body of work, before she knows where it is leading her, but not worrying too much about the outcome. “I never wanted to take it really seriously. If you get too heavy-handed, it becomes dead, and then you are no longer addressing it. Humor or lightness keeps it alive, but doesn’t make it less serious. There is art that leaves out the darkness. There is plenty of darkness in the shadows.”

At first, Klara’s studio explorations feel foreign to her. “I usually pretend no one will ever see it.” A sideways approach. Once it is no longer strange–she gets to know it–then it settles and becomes OK. As she becomes more calm and familiar with the work, it grows in intensity and becomes even sinister—the work becomes wilder.

As she describes her process, Klara seems outwardly casual about following her impulses into the unknown.

Her work reminds me of the film Alice, Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer’s stop film animation retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alices’ Adventures in Wonderland. In the Czech version, Alice falls into a cellar, where she plunges past shelves of preserves, cookies, nails, fire wood and stuffed animals.

Entering Klara’s studio is like entering a well-lit and airy cellar. And there is much to take in, on shelves, the floor, a table. And though it is crowded, it appears cataloged and presented, in the way a naturalist presents her findings. Like Alice’s cellar, it is part wonderland and part normal. The neat but full arrangement of ceramic works and paintings and furniture and kiln present an array of everyday but also quixotic household concerns.

However strange the initial thought process, Klara follows it, if it holds her interest. “It always happens, what is thought,” she says. “I think it’s the only way for me to speak about anything that matters to me. If it is not interesting to me on some deeper level of discovery, personally, then how can it be of interest to anyone else?”

As I stand in Klara’s studio space, among large-format paintings and clay works, my first read is that they seem to form a collection corresponding to the life of a swimming pool. On the floor there is a diving mask rendered in clay on found concrete with eyes; a stick propped against a wall seems to have a waterline painted on it; and in a painting of a still from Caddyshack, Bill Murray bites a small brown object. There is watery imagery of synchronized swimming men, bringing to mind Matisse and Picasso, dancers and bathers in a strange pool.

My second read is of normal daily concerns in the work, of repetitive motion labor performed in the privacy of home. There is a photo series of Klara restaging a scene at the bottom of a pool, cleaning, together with video imagery of the artist wearing a red hooded outfit and reenacting a kind of exercise video routine, which feels like housework. Klara becomes like clay in a Svankmajer hand, being arranged and re-arranged, as she does her calisthenics. The work speaks of drudgery, till repeated movements seem to turn exuberant, saying, Look, this is not dangerous, come in, the water is fine. “This may be for nothing, yet, it may be productive. You have to try. You question the value, but then you just get into a rhythm,” burning calories and unwanted toxins and becoming safer.

In the photo series and videos, her red garment gives her head to toe coverage. “Without background information, this can have catastrophic implications”, bringing to mind scenarios of contagion, solitary confinement and system breakdowns.

“In a pool, you are nearly naked, unprotected.” And maybe there is something, “you don’t want to be in touch with it, maybe it’s gross.” This garment isolates her body from the environment, keeps her separate until things stop feeling foreign. A boundary. She works in private, protected, waiting for the right time to re-sync and get out from under, but she seems to need, for a time, to be in it. To get to what is candy and what is not.

Lindsey Apodaca | A Room of One’s Own

Interview by Amanda James Parker | Photographs by Sierra Stinson

If you came of age when I did, visiting Lindsey Apodaca’s studio is like reconnecting with the ephemera of one’s formative years. The things I’ve forgotten are here: Talkboys, sax playing California Raisin, the metallic turtle pencil box where I kept letters from my childhood BFF… I put my face into the tin holding her sticker collection and inhale deeply. The smell transports me.

These carefully curated objects are essential to Apodaca’s artistic practice. They are muse, medium, and message. At first glance it feels like pop art but further examination reveals that in actuality her work is heavily autobiographical. Her lexicon of symbols is at once relatable to a broad audience and a way for her to process life experience that is too personal to share. At present she’s an artist who is coming into her own emotionally and creatively. We sat down in her studio and talked about it.

Amanda James Parker: What is your favorite part of your workspace?

Lindsey Apodaca: My favorite part is always changing but right now it’s that I’m allowing myself to have one. I used to work on my bed and in my room or just wherever, because I couldn’t afford a separate space and I really like being at home and in my safe space. We just happen to have an extra bedroom and I decided that it was worth it to me to take it over as my studio. So I was able to bring out all my of my stuff and put it up so that I can look at it all at once which helps me make those connections. So my favorite thing is that I’ve valued myself and my art enough to give myself a room of my own to have my thoughts.

AJP: That’s legit. It’s like you’re a real artist now.

LA: (laughs) Yeah! I believe in myself and trust in valuing myself enough.

AJP: It’s a nice gift to give yourself and a commitment to your art. Art is something you’ll do because you’ve made the space for it.

LA: I will call myself an artist now. I never wanted to do that because I felt like it was bragging or thinking a lot of yourself or it was just not a big deal. I don’t like labels in general and then I realized being a person who doesn’t like labels is a label. So I became ok with it.

AJP: I think it’s a hard place for a lot of artists to get to.

LA: Yeah

AJP: It was hard for me to get to the place where I could be like “I am an artist.”

LA: It’s like as soon as you own it, it takes the scariness away and you realize it’s not actually that big a deal, you were all wrong and then you’re able to be ok with it. Like you’re stronger with it.

A: What inspires you?

LA: Lately… vulnerability. I like to identify with my doom and gloom aspects—like my depression and heartbreak—stuff like that. And coming out of that, I didn’t exactly know how to make art about being a little more balanced. Vulnerability and talking about love, and loving yourself and loving other people has been inspiring. Looking at how other people do that successfully where it’s not just like cheesy, but relatable. That’s inspiring.

AJP: What themes reoccur in your work?

LA: Nostalgia.

AJP: Are you a nostalgic person?

LA: Yeah.

AJP: Your art has a great deal of nostalgia. That’s what I like about it. Being in your studio makes me feel nostalgic in a good way. It has all the good parts.

LA: When you can use nostalgia in a good way it can be a really positive thing. Because that’s how we learn- all we know is what we’ve experienced. I think that it’s easier for me to dwell on things that are maybe not so positive about nostalgia in order to work through them- like things you’ve lost, or people you’ve lost, or ideas that you’re trying to understand. I think that I’ll always be doing that. As I get older the things that I’m nostalgic about are changing and I’m attracted to the same type of things. I have these certain collections that I think that I’ll be collecting throughout my whole life. Nostalgia is a word that’s not negative or positive; it’s kind of neutral. Depending on where I’m at- it colors how that is. I feel good every time I come in here. Looking at this stuff from my childhood is uplifting.

AJP: These characters that appear in you work, like Garfield, Minnie Mouse, Bart Simpson,
what do they mean? Are they playing themselves or are they representative of other ideas? What are their personalities?

LA: It’s like trying to get to know who you really are or who you really want to be. You have this input into your life from an early age, all the time seeing this character and it becomes an archetype that you could choose to become. No person is as simple as that and yet people do identify with those things or think that they are that type of person. So it’s a way to represent an archetype and also a way to represent either myself or another person. Or like a reflection of yourself- a way to project yourself onto it because that’s easy when they’re these simple characters. And it’s also easy to not take it too seriously. It being of the esthetic of not being super refined or anything like that—it’s like I’m not taking myself too seriously. Like I don’t know all the answers, or everything I want to say, or I don’t think I have the best voice to say it. All those things that I’m trying to get across—these characters are really good at representing that. Like a juvenile attempt at trying to say “I have feelings.”

AJP: In your opinion, what’s the best thing you’ve ever made?

LA: (laughing) Vegan ranch dressing for my vegan friends.

AJP: That’s no small feat.

LA: Yeah, it was really good. But I suppose you’re talking about art.

AJP: A good vegan ranch dressing could be art.

LA: I really liked the melting ice cream that I had at my first Vignettes show. It was just a white pedestal with huge—I don’t even remember how many things of strawberry ice cream it was but it was like 10—and I just piled them into a mound and let it melt throughout the night into a puddle on the floor. It was titled “Public Meltdown”.

AJP: Wow! I had seen photos of the piece online and I assumed it was made of resin or paint. That’s great that it was actually made of strawberry ice cream. It must have had a smell.

LA: It smelled so good!

AJP: Strawberry’s a good flavor.

LA: It was cool. Because it was Vignettes, people were eating it. Because it was a house, people weren’t afraid to touch it. I’m really into people eating food art that I make. So I really liked how the crowd interaction went, not just my part, but how it was received. That was successful. That’s why it’s cool to have these new spaces.

AJP: It becomes far more permeable, that boundary between viewer and maker can be more fluid.

LA: When I went to Cornish, I made a piece in my freshman year. It was a white pedestal and I made a pyramid of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. On each side of the pyramid there was a letter that I wrote to everyone at Cornish and it said, “Dear Everyone, Take advantage of everything you can. Everything that’s free. Use it up. It’s here for you. Stop at every water fountain and drink. Salt and pepper. Free silverware. Use the restrooms. (laughs) Just take everything you can.” Nobody took sandwiches! There were people stopping and reading the letter but they just walked on past the sandwiches. They didn’t get the connection to “this for you to take”. So I was really glad to be able to do another piece in another place that had people taking their hands putting them in ice cream and eating it. That was really cool. I felt like I was able to finally make peace with that idea and there wasn’t even a letter there.

AJP: That’s really sage advice for college students. I hope that current Cornish students reading this interview take that to heart.


LA: Yeah. I don’t know.

AJP: What does the future hold for you Lindsey?

LA: My art is going to get bigger in scale and… more impact.

AJP: Nice. I approve.

LA: (laughing) Thank you!

AJP: Go big with it! You’ve got a studio now.

LA: Since I’m not limiting myself anymore it’s only going to allow it to grow. I think that it’s really important to think bigger, to allow myself to know that it’s ok to take up more space. Not just in terms of where I make my art but also my art itself can be bigger. I’ve been getting into drawing more instead of sculpture because I don’t have the money yet to have objects that big. I drew this Mustang because I don’t have the money to buy a car and alter it so I have to draw it. But if I had the money to do that it would be an amazing art piece! It would be an amazing show but maybe that’s not the best use of money these days. I have to make sure my vision is going to be beneficial, have a good impact and a good message.

Rafael Soldi | Dark Mirrors

Interview by Adam Boehmer | Photographs by Andrew Waits

We are unsure why the sun is out in late Seattle winter, pouring through Rafael’s kitchen window and onto the photo strips hanging on his refrigerator. Small moments, sequential, black and white; time spent in Capitol Hill bars with friends and lovers. The panes of his vintage windows frame everything in the room similarly in the bright light of late afternoon.

I first met the Seattle-based photographer and artist Rafael Soldi 4 years ago, soon after his rather tumultuous move from New York City. His lover had literally disappeared, walked-out on the relationship, lighting a match and watching everything burn.

The full emotional upheaval of this has been encapsulated in his celebrated series “Sentiment”, which showed in its entirety for the first time in Seattle at Greg Kucera gallery as part of the exhibit “In the absence of,” following a solo exhibition at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Boston.  In the series, moments out of sequence:  Rafael and his lover posing in shadow and light, yellow flowers shrouded in heavy lace curtains, the bravery of a self portrait in this emotional aftermath, a mass of black balloons left as a gift in a sterile apartment hallway. All of it exists as a chosen documentation of intense loss and release.


BOEHMER: How does it feel to finally have Sentiment exhibited fully?

SOLDI: This work was made a long time ago and though I’ve shown parts of it numerous times over the last five years, seeing it all together on the wall for the first time is really exciting and cathartic. It’s been such a long time since the actual events that prompted this work that I have so much perspective and I experience these images on a very different dimension than before. The installation at Greg Kucera Gallery was very satisfying because the size of the room really allowed viewers to step back and see the whole thing, and the work by fellow artists curated around it also informed the piece nicely.


We drink tea and move around his home, which currently doubles as his studio. I watch Rafael shift from gracious host to careful vessel of thought each time I inquire about his process or new work. “For the first time, I couldn’t make pictures of the things I was trying to say,” Rafael tells me, as he explains his interest in removing himself from the narrative and diving into his subconscious for symbolic clues of what to create. The diptych “All Day I Hear The Noise Of Waters” is devoid of any of the color or light or narrative of “Sentiment”. It is a pair of dark and closely-cropped photographs of water that look as though they could have been chiseled out of onyx. The sculptural ripples carry a new energy toward some unseen shore.


BOEHMER: This work stems from the events that spurred the creation of “Sentiment”, yet the finished work is entirely different. Talk with me about your conceptual shift.

SOLDI: That breakup was a life-changing moment for me, beyond heartbreak. It introduced me to adult human emotions like fear, anguish, guilt, panic, and regret. In the years that followed I began to notice an inner selfhood that I couldn’t define. Each of us has a certain resolute innerness, an abstract self that we don’t share with others because we cannot even define it. So while my earlier work was a direct narrative representation of what I was feeling right there and then, this new work is an abstract reflection on the consequences of those events. It investigates the private spaces within me that I shield not from others’ eyes, but from my own. These new works explore my growing awareness of my spiritual subconscious and my fears. For the first time I am taking a conceptual approach, rather than a narrative or representational one.


Rafael spreads some newer work out in his studio for us to peruse, specifically a series called “I Choose to Remember/Forget”. What appears to be a grid of white rectangles lifted just slightly from their backing turns out to be photographs of him and a past lover mounted backwards. They were sent to him in a box from his family, who had been holding onto some of his personal effects while he moved to Seattle. A box of memories he didn’t want to keep, but couldn’t get rid of.

“I like these because they’re orderly, beautiful, sensible…” he says. His apartment reflects this: every object, book and piece of furniture meticulously placed and ordered. The photos indeed look intentional, but also quiet. Their immediate language is limited to the slight shifts in light, texture, and color. Knowing that on the other side  of each object is an image, a memory that might not ever be seen again is jarring. “Do you remember which photograph is which?” I ask. “No,” he says. “Not anymore.”


BOEHMER: Memory is such a huge part of your past work, and now you’ve added this new futurity into the mix. How do you feel time is represented in your current work?

SOLDI:  I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about memory and the way we process our past, and how we deal with it on a daily basis. Concepts of time, in a variety of ways, show up quite a bit in my new work but usually in a somewhat abstracted way. The new works are meant to be read in more than one way, they are based on my own experiences but they are not explicit, I want viewers to get a sense or a feeling of what they are looking at but fill in the blanks with their own experiences—they are essentially screens. “I Choose To Remember/Forget” definitely deals with memory which is inherently linked to time. Another piece titled “And All of a Sudden You Were Gone” is a grid of photographs that loosely resembles the physical depiction of a timeline. Untitled (XIV) depicts the back of a man’s head looking into a black expanse, which I interpret as looking into the past.


We end our studio visit with a viewing of a concept for a new piece that is a complete departure from photography: a pair of full-scale black facsimiles of Michelangelo’s “David”. They appear to stare into each other’s eyes. Their presence is intense, and I imagine these two dark lovers or twins or brothers caught observing each other’s frozen beauty for eternity. Or maybe their gazes just miss, their only view of each other off-center, forever stuck in each other’s dark periphery.

“I see my work as this long thread that is catching all these experiences”, Rafael tells me. “There’s a soul, a privacy, and an innerness.”

It has grown darker in the apartment and we both take notice. I gather my things and we exchange farewells and part ways. Walking into the early evening, I catch the dark windows of different apartments and houses brighten with lamplight. We are all getting ready for the night.