the new studio

senior interview series

 

Allex Valauri

What have you been working on most recently?

Most recently I’ve been working on a custom game called “Xing-Over” in LVL Design. It was a
new experience for me since I’ve never worked with any game development software before and
it was really interesting learning how games are built and designed by creating my own.

How has your work or working process been affected by the pandemic?

I feel the pandemic stifled my process a little because I was learning something new and far out
of my comfort zone and felt at times hands-on feedback was necessary when it came to technical
errors. However, I felt our class’s dialogues were fulfilling and helpful especially when trying to
figure out creative changes to make to our games. It was also inspiring to play eachother’s game
to experience the different concepts and designs and give interactive and visual feedback.

What influences your thinking and making?

There’s a laundry list of things that influence or inspire my creative thinking, but nature and
mysteries are the first two that come to mind. Nature for sure influences my creative process
because I’ve always been fascinated by certain insects or plants (like carnivorous plants) and
have always thought about how amazing their existence is. I’m also interested in different
mythologies and theories for how things came to be. It gives a perspective how people perceived
certain aspects of life or nature and inspired so much dialogue and creativity.

 

Claire Bronchick

 

Michaela Prell

How has your work or working process been affected by the pandemic?
The class I was in this semester was meant to focus on oil painting in the latter half of the semester. Oil is my favorite medium, it’s how I started off painting. I didn’t have the materials or setup to paint with oil once I was off campus. Instead I started using collage. It’s always been a medium I admired but never knew how to get into. It was a good push to have to be resourceful with how I made art.


How do you know when something is done?
I used to have a strong sense of when something was done. I just felt a balance in the work, or, with projects I abandoned, I’d reach a pint of no return. But now with collage I always feel like I can keep changing things, so nothing ever feels done. Instead I just take pictures of the process and rarely glue things down.


How has your experience at Sarah Lawrence shaped you as an artist? 
I never thought of myself as an artist before SLC, before my sophomore year actually. I took Beginning Painting after being bumped from a literature class. I have taken a visual art class every semester since then.

 

Kat Benson

How do you know when something is done?
I rarely feel that a piece is finished since I have little to no attention span and move between works randomly, sometimes abandoning them completely for years...but if something was done, I think it would be when nothing more can be added and nothing should be taken away from a piece. If that makes sense.


Does your art have an objective?
I struggle a lot with feeling like the art I’m making is meaningless, and if I’m not creating something that’s mind blowing or world-changing that I might as well not make anything at all, but I remember that not all art that’s ever been created has necessarily done that. I think I’m trying to find the objective as I move along through things.


Do you like calling yourself an artist?
I’d like to say that everyone is an artist since I think that anything can be a form of art, so I suppose that YES, I like calling myself an artist.

 

Will Keat

What have you been working on most recently?

Recently I’ve been dividing my time between continuing some long term photo projects,
working on refining my bookmaking skills, and doing economics research to inform my artistic
ventures in a more materially relevant way. This is generally how my practice flows and how my
attention is divided. Most recently I completed construction of This, That and Those:
Environmental Justice in Allegheny County, a multimedia book testing the correlation between
low-income and minority communities and the locations of facilities emitting toxic chemicals.

Are there any particularly influential artists that you've seen recently?

This doesn’t quite answer the question, but I’ve been heavily interested in and influenced by
Allan Sekula, particularly his magnus opus Fish Story, for quite some time now. My interest is
much less vested in his visual style than in the ways in which his art practice operates, based on
accurately performed long-term scientific and economic analyses that seek not to vaguely hint at
ideas but to accurately portray and describe them both in writing and visual art. Some more
recent influences though are Nathalie Djurberg and Jem Southam.

Does your art have an objective?

My art does have an objective and that objective has very little to do with the art and much more
to do with the ideas I choose to investigate through art. I’d like to think of my art as acting as
propaganda (propaganda having no connotations negative or positive), pushing forward leftist
counter-narratives removed from our sphere of simplistic, moralized and reductive political and
economic debate. On a larger scale I’m interested in thinking of ways to remove art from the
confines of the market and to ultimately decomoditize it. Achieving this, on a personal level at

least, means providing easy access to free versions of all of my work and making sure that my
work is presented to those who it matters to, not to those who will simply derive entertainment
from it.

Do you like calling yourself an artist?

I don’t think I’ve ever earnestly referred to myself as an artist. Labeling myself as an artist might
give people the wrong impression of my work, relegating it to ego in the pursuit of the illusive
‘cool’ or trivializing it to the point of irrelevance. I try to work on much more than art and to
affect things far outside of the influence of art. Art is merely a convenient vessel to publish ideas
on a wider scale, whereas if I tried to get these ideas across via publishing academic papers I
would be automatically condemning them to an existence steeped in inaccessibility and
privilege. Certainly the art world is no stranger to inaccessibility and privilege, but there is much
more room for working around these issues.

How have you adapted to working away from campus?

Thankfully my primary photo practice was already pretty solitary and self-perpetuating. I’ve still
been going out to shoot. Losing access to developing and scanning equipment has been the
biggest blow, because scanning particularly is expensive to have done by a send-away lab.
Needless to say, my turnaround time for film has slowed. Book construction is definitely more of
a challenge now without access to printmaking facilities and the necessary utensils for
construction, but thanks to Nicole’s help I’ve retrofitted my process for DIY purposes with
surprising success. Little has changed as far as the subjects I cover in my work. There is certainly
enough good work about COVID-19 already being made and I don’t think my class position
offers me any pressing insight into it, so I haven’t felt the need to pivot my focus other than for
some personal work that I’m making of family and friends for fun and for the sake of
experimentation.

What are you looking at, reading or listening to?

I’ve been listening to a lot of DJ Screw, City Morgue, and K-Pop (thanks Isiah) lately, but
there’s always a healthy dose of Black Star, Young Thug and iLoveMakonnen mixed in to name
a few of my favorites. In terms of television, I’ve been making my way through all of the Art21
episodes and am finally getting close to finishing. I also spend a prohibitive amount of time
watching historical and informational videos on YouTube, encompassing everything from Juche
communism to Reddit AMAs. I only really read non-fiction anymore, and most recently that has
been Karl Marx’s Capital, which has nothing to do with Marxism and everything to do with the
world in which we already live.

 

Yannie Gu

What have you been working on most recently?
Since the beginning of quarantine, I have been working on some small-size drawings and paintings on my sketchbook. I did charcoal drawings based on photos of that I took in the past, as well as still life paintings of the objects in my room.

 
How has your work or working process been affected by the pandemic?
As the idea we explore in the class this semester is primarily about 'space', the notion of space to me, personally, has definitely been changed from the days before COVID-19 to the unprecedented time that we are experiencing now. With everything all being up in the air, I'm interested in expressing our longing for human connection, things that are familiar, stable, positive, through my creative process. I revisited the photographs that I took of my friends, combining the figures and the space that I am isolating in into one drawing. A sketchbook, some charcoal and acrylic paints are the only art supplies I have at home, so I'm also learning how to make the most out of the limited materials.


Are there any particularly influential artists that you've seen recently?
I was looking at the paintings by Edward Hopper - I find a sense of isolation, loneliness and inner peace at the same time in some of the scenes he portrayed. I've also been indulging in the films by French director Eric Rohmer. The cinematic art in his films is very beautiful and visually satisfying.


Can you explain your process?
My paintings and drawings are stylistically realistic and sometimes representational, which means I need to have specific references at hand while making the artworks. I usually sketch the outlines and decide the color palette or the overall color tone first if it's a painting. 


What is your background in visual arts?
I've taken a variety of studio art courses at Sarah Lawrence. The mediums that I work with the most are drawing, painting and photography. For me, they are serving as creative inspirations for each other. I took a photography course with Professor Justine Kurland, drawing & painting classes with Professor John O'Connor and Vera Iliatova. I also studied studio photography in Toronto last year.

 

Haley Johnson

Can you explain your process?

While my process varies from project to project, my work typically starts out with an intimate idea, thought, or concept that I then abstract through a system or code. More often than not, the code is unbreakable and arbitrary, existing only to conceal the original content of the work. The paradox of my work lies in the fact that the text or symbolism involved are things I want to say or share, but are ultimately hindered by shyness or uncertainty.

 

Does your art have an objective?

For me, my art is all about communication. I’ve always struggled with being clear and concise, especially in front of an audience. I don’t think my work solves that issue, it’s pretty convoluted, but I think it’s a way for me to work through the difficulties I have with intimacy and relaying information in a way that makes sense to me.

 

What is your background in visual arts?

In high school, I took art as my elective courses, however I never thought that I would pursue art professionally. As a young person, I was taught that art isn’t a practical career route and choosing to pursue it would result in perpetual instability, financially and otherwise. Going into college with this notion, I choose chemistry as my FYS, but registered for Vera Iliatova’s Beginning Painting to stay sane. I knew after that class I wanted to include art in my life going forward, so I shifted my career goals from forensic psychologist to art therapist. I took another painting class after that, though it wasn’t until I took Experimental Drawing with John O’Connor that I felt like I was making art that was representative of who I am. From that semester on (Spring 2018), I knew that art, specifically drawing, was my sole passion. I want to pursue art making/teaching without psychology, however I think the ideas from my high school goals still make their way into the work. I continued on to take Painting with Words, Problems in Photography, Relief Printmaking, and Advanced Studio in effort to expand my practice.

 

What are you looking at, reading or listening to?

I’m currently reading The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-Breaking by Simon Singh and Bossypants by Tina Fey. Listening to a lot of country and folk, namely the Dixie Chicks and Mark Kozelek.

 

Philo Cohen

What have you been working on most recently?
My mind has been racing, from one corner of my small Brooklyn studio apartment to another. Not able to work on large scale work or anything that requires patience and slow-process. Drawings have been flying out of my brain, onto the page, more than usual. It is interesting to see how the confined mind unleashes one’s imagination in new ways. I have also been using the web as a sea to swim in. I am spending a lot of time digging through archives and gathering images. My most recent project that I finished a week or so ago was a dictionary of confinement, made entirely from appropriated images from various online archives. 


How do you evaluate your work?
I don’t. I just make it. The most time I spend thinking about it without making it, the more thoughts on the lack of feedback and personal judgment will pollute my mind. If I make it it exists, and it feels physical. No matter what ends up happening to it after then.
How has your work or working process been affected by the pandemic?
It has been slow. I look at a lot of works. I make when I feel like it and if I don’t I look at more work. I focus in drifts. I can’t finish films or read more than twenty pages at a time. I write a couple pages a day, recording process has been important. I also have started a few chains with other artists friends where we share visual discoveries, audio and literary references. It has been sweet, but lonely. 

 

Are there any particularly influential artists that you've seen recently?
Yes. The surrealists have been inspiring me. Leonora Carrington in both her paintings and writings. I have been revisiting the work of Moyra Davey who explores the daily and the banal a lot. Artists who make work out of the overlooked have been important for me. Some Joseph Beuys performances, Nandita Raman’s cinema photographs. Deserted spaces have been sooting to look at. I also have been watching a lot of home movies, including Derek Jarman’s and Jonas Mekas’. Chantal Akerman is constantly on my mind as well. 

 

What influences your thinking and making?

The work I see. The work that my friends make. Literature is always an important resource, fiction, especially right now helps my mind evades to new places, as well as philosophy and memoirs which ground me back in the real of making. They help me get out of my own head and think about others, letting my ideas interweave with other imaginations. I also am a big collector of online images. Old photographs, freak collections, vernacular images inspire my making a lot.

 

What are you looking at, reading or listening to?
I am reading Kafka, Janet Frame’s non-fiction and David Wojnarowicz’s journals. I am looking at a lot of comics published on Desert Island’s feed. Japanese anime have also been great for me throughout this pandemic. I am listening to soothing podcast and the Paris Review poetry on couches episodes. Music has not been working for me as much. I will dance a bit sometimes, and have radios when I am washing dishes but I have been making work mostly in silence. 

 

How has your experience at Sarah Lawrence shaped you as an artist? 
To have weekly assignments and the rigor of time based pieces has been helpful. Professors have such a widely different state of mind in the faculty that it has been a wonderful journey to go from one workshop to another, always pushed to explore new parts of my work I sometimes did not know existed. To have free material was also a luxury. And we always had a lot of space to experiment. I will miss the precious feedback from critiques greatly, and the stimulating environment of people working side by side in studios. Being in school brought rigor, and constant movement to my work.

 

Ashton O'Brien

What have you been working on most recently?
My mind has been racing, from one corner of my small Brooklyn studio apartment to another. Not able to work on large scale work or anything that requires patience and slow-process. Drawings have been flying out of my brain, onto the page, more than usual. It is interesting to see how the confined mind unleashes one’s imagination in new ways. I have also been using the web as a sea to swim in. I am spending a lot of time digging through archives and gathering images. My most recent project that I finished a week or so ago was a dictionary of confinement, made entirely from appropriated images from various online archives. 


How do you evaluate your work?
I don’t. I just make it. The most time I spend thinking about it without making it, the more thoughts on the lack of feedback and personal judgment will pollute my mind. If I make it it exists, and it feels physical. No matter what ends up happening to it after then.
How has your work or working process been affected by the pandemic?
It has been slow. I look at a lot of works. I make when I feel like it and if I don’t I look at more work. I focus in drifts. I can’t finish films or read more than twenty pages at a time. I write a couple pages a day, recording process has been important. I also have started a few chains with other artists friends where we share visual discoveries, audio and literary references. It has been sweet, but lonely. 

 

Are there any particularly influential artists that you've seen recently?
Yes. The surrealists have been inspiring me. Leonora Carrington in both her paintings and writings. I have been revisiting the work of Moyra Davey who explores the daily and the banal a lot. Artists who make work out of the overlooked have been important for me. Some Joseph Beuys performances, Nandita Raman’s cinema photographs. Deserted spaces have been sooting to look at. I also have been watching a lot of home movies, including Derek Jarman’s and Jonas Mekas’. Chantal Akerman is constantly on my mind as well. 

 

What influences your thinking and making?

The work I see. The work that my friends make. Literature is always an important resource, fiction, especially right now helps my mind evades to new places, as well as philosophy and memoirs which ground me back in the real of making. They help me get out of my own head and think about others, letting my ideas interweave with other imaginations. I also am a big collector of online images. Old photographs, freak collections, vernacular images inspire my making a lot.

 

What are you looking at, reading or listening to?
I am reading Kafka, Janet Frame’s non-fiction and David Wojnarowicz’s journals. I am looking at a lot of comics published on Desert Island’s feed. Japanese anime have also been great for me throughout this pandemic. I am listening to soothing podcast and the Paris Review poetry on couches episodes. Music has not been working for me as much. I will dance a bit sometimes, and have radios when I am washing dishes but I have been making work mostly in silence. 

 

How has your experience at Sarah Lawrence shaped you as an artist? 
To have weekly assignments and the rigor of time based pieces has been helpful. Professors have such a widely different state of mind in the faculty that it has been a wonderful journey to go from one workshop to another, always pushed to explore new parts of my work I sometimes did not know existed. To have free material was also a luxury. And we always had a lot of space to experiment. I will miss the precious feedback from critiques greatly, and the stimulating environment of people working side by side in studios. Being in school brought rigor, and constant movement to my work.

 

Kathleen Qaintance

How has your work or working process been affected by the pandemic?
Because I mostly work in the print shop and the wood shop, the loss of those spaces has been a big adjustment for me. I have a lot of pictures of myself from the past year wearing gloves and a mask to mix silkscreen emulsion, which is funny because it was a novelty to don those things then and now it’s the new normal. All of my furniture is still in the art building and of course no one knows what the future looks like, but I am excited to put the finishing touches on those when I can, take pictures of them, and give them to new homes. Thankfully, woodcut is a more portable medium that can be done at home, so I have been doing plenty of that and the carving is very relaxing.  A new exciting update is that I am freely and joyfully painting! I previously shied away from painting in the past because of its ‘solidness’ as a medium- painters are painters and they know other painters and there are ‘rules’ and distinct styles - I felt like I daren’t break into it. But now I am working with cheapo acrylic paint on mixed media paper and the inside of cereal boxes and enjoying it. Ignoring how things are supposed to fit in to a teleology of painting and painting like a child has been really liberating. I’m actually really excited about the prospect of making art outside of the New York ecosystem, using my grandpa’s garage tools and house paint. 

 

Does your art have an objective?
Most of my art could fit under the umbrella of “useful,” obviously the 3D stuff like furniture and bowls are useful, but I find that even the 2D stuff like illustrations, paintings, and prints that are intended to be put on someone’s wall have the utilitarian purpose of brightening or enriching someone’s space. what you put on your wall is crucial to making your home a home and is thus  useful. Everything I make can go in someone’s home, I don’t think I’ve made anything yet that has to live in a gallery space and I don’t want to.


What are you looking at, reading or listening to?
Recently I have been looking at a lot of folk art environments. In quarantine when we are bound to our homes it seems like the perfect time to begin one and keep adding to it if you’re settled in a place. I don’t have a space for one, but if you have a back or front yard I definitely suggest you look it up. spacesarchives.org has a great collection of pictures. When I’m writing, I need wordless music so I have been listening to a lot of techno and industrial music. When I am drawing, painting, or printing at home, I like music with words. Seeing as I’m graduating soon, I’m going to finally get to read what I choose to, and I’m gonna start by reading all the theory I didn’t get to - I survived four years of Sarah Lawrence without having to read an entire Nietzsche book! I’m also reading Lynda Barry’s books which are amazing for illustrators, comic artists, and writers. I really suggest them! 

 

How has your experience at Sarah Lawrence shaped you as an artist? 
Working with the printmaking tech Amy Gartrell has been amazing, she has taught me so much about printmaking and art in general. Asking Francis (the sculpture tech) for advice has always proved to be so helpful, and i feel like I’ve really grown in my technical skills this year because of his suggestions. When I first came to college, I had close to no “official” art experience. The first-ever “legit” art class I took was a silkscreen workshop with Amy and I was instantly obsessed, and I got the confidence to start making work when previously I was positive that I wasn’t talented enough to do college-level studio art. My art history background is of course been extremely important. The art history department at Sarah Lawrence is really amazing and I am so grateful to have Joe Forte as a don. He has been really supportive of my art making and would often come visit my studio downstairs. And Kris Phillips was my first art professor at Sarah Lawrence, and I am so incredibly grateful that I got to study with her before she retired. She was so helpful and would go above and beyond to support her passionate students.

 

Tess Cronin

How do you know when something is done?
For me, my art never feels complete - I always just have to force myself to step away to
avoid driving myself crazy. In fact, one of the things I've submitted here, the
acrylic painting of the prison meal scene from Goodfellas is completely unfinished, as you
can see from the lack of background and pencil marks.

 

Do you like calling yourself an artist?
When people ask me if I am an artist I typically answer 'Yes, a bad one'.

 

What have you been looking at, reading, or listening to?
I recently watched Midnight Gospel (on Netflix) and absolutely loved it. It is so beautifully
animated and so moving and thought provoking and I would recommend it to everyone.
A song that's been on repeat for me recently is "Mr.Sun" by Greentea Peng.

 

Lauren Day

What have you been working on most recently?
Most recently, I have been working on drawings of interior spaces of my home.  I have been
looking for more ways to work with abstraction within a familiar, domestic space and having
this time at home has made me focus much more on my environment.  Doing these more
observational drawings has also been a great way to break up usual habits of making, since in
the past I have focused primarily on abstraction.
 
How have you adapted to working away from campus? 

In the past when I’ve gone home for break, I mostly focus on drawing, because that’s the most
accessible medium for me and it feels like a great way to explore different ideas you may have
and make new discoveries.  So during this time, I’ve definitely gone back to that practice of
drawing and it’s been a really helpful thing to bring myself into different thought patterns.
 
What is the best art related experience you had this year?

I started doing a lot of collaborations with my friend and it’s been such an amazing way to make things I wouldn’t have been able to make by myself and learn more about other people’s
processes as well as my own.

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