For toomer labzda’s year one exhibition. ◊◊
What do you use most often in your studio?
Photoshop. Yeah. I think that’s what I spend the most time using. In the studio it’s different. I mean in the studio it’s just a place where things all come together. But I spend the most time working with Photoshop and other editing software. It’s definitely the lengthiest part of the production, aside from framing and mounting, which someone else is doing.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
I have two favorite parts—one is when the idea comes to me. Ideas come to me really distinctly in my mind. Lately, a lot of the ideas take an actual, visual form. It’s kind of synesthetic in that way. The object calls to mind an image that then calls to mind sort of a mood, and an idea will sort of coalesce around that.
I would say that the other is when I try to actualize it and all kinds of unexpected things happen in the physicality of it. The first sight of the print looks inevitably always a bit different just because of the scale and the physicality, or when the thing is framed and I see it in that context. Each part brings a new element of inspiration, starting from when the first reveal happens.
What is your earliest memory of art?
I guess my earliest art interactions were through my parents. They always had these—I don’t want to call them weird—these were prints of master painters that were framed around the house. So I guess my earliest interactions with art were about not understanding authenticity, or value, because of these strange affordable reproductions. So I had a very weird relation to what then an actual art object was, and what a perceived art object was.
My parents were both in the medical profession and I think they maybe felt a little disenfranchised with purchasing actual art. I think a lot of people do. How do you even know what you like and what’s of value? And they defaulted to these decorative items. I wouldn’t say that my parents aren’t aesthetic people, it just wasn’t an institutionally fortified kind of art appreciation.
So in that way I guess I’m not from any art appreciation pedigree, but I think coming from a certain level of disenfranchisement and obscurity in terms of art appreciation has definitely informed my aesthetic.
How did you start working in your current medium?
I was just working with Photoshop all day, and we—the retouchers and I—would send funny, fucked up, weird pictures back and forth. And then I sort of made some on my own, working with my own photographs. In 2010 I made a book, coinciding with my dad getting sick and thinking that I needed to get serious. I was just fucking around. I felt passionately about all these things, but I was not doing anything seriously or committing to a studio practice.
Before 2008 I didn’t have a serious studio practice—at all. You know, actively pursuing shows, actively trying to participate in the current dialogue. For me there was a mental shift from “doing it for my own amusement,” to “i think this has a place in contemporary photographic/artistic/cultural dialogue.” It’s a self-valuing.
So I worked with some of my own images and shooting around my family’s home in pennsylvania, applying the same tools to those very mundane images. I was thinking about home, about family, about my first experience of art in the course of my life. And I published that book in 2010, called the Strangeness of this Idea with Hassla Books. And that’s really what started the current trajectory in the work, or a serious studio trajectory, for me.
What was the last exhibition you saw?
It was a really good one last night, actually. Barbara Kasten at Bortolami, in a two-person show. I just ran in there, because a friend of mine my friend knows her, so I made a quick introduction. But I didn’t really spend enough time. I wish I could have spent an hour in there. It was wonderful. She’s been making work since like the ’70s and ’80s, and this is her first big show in New York in a while.
Barbara Kasten works with still lifes in a spatial way—sort of strange configurations of glass and plexiglass and objects with reflections. The photographic output being really the focus of a discourse about space and surreality and the strangeness of the photographic print. They’re all straight, not Photoshopped, and the whites are cyan. They’re just gorgeous and strange and wonderfully flawed.
Now it would be so hard to let that stuff stay, given most everybody’s comfort with photoshop and editing. So these [photographs] re-enter the conversation even though they were made in the ’80s. Her work is really relevant right now, in light of a lot of conversations about digital versus analog, perspectival problematics and all of that. She’s a master of composition. It’s outrageous. The physicality is very surprising in her work.
Is there an artist you’ve always wanted to grab drinks with?
Probably not Barbara Kasten. [laughs] I’m just kidding. I don’t know, I was intimidated.
I’d like to have drinks with the artists that did the cave paintings in Lascaux. Yeah. I’d like to have drinks with early man. [laughs] No truly, because I think that’d be a very interesting insight. I’m very interested in the primal desire to make a mark of any kind. So I’d like to have non-verbal drinks with those people that made the cave paintings. Just to sit and watch and drink with them.
If money was no object, what artwork would you acquire?
It changes a lot from minute to minute, based on what I’m seeing, but right now those Barbara Kastens are just blowing my mind. I would buy that whole show of Barbara Kasten’s work if money was no object. I’m obsessed with them.
Is there one thing you wish you could do?
This is such a weird question. That’s hard. That’s really hard for me to answer for some reason. I really don’t know.
It’s not that there’s one thing. I wish I could do anything. Without physical harm. Or even with physical harm and just survive. Like I wish I could drive a car off the Brooklyn Bridge. I want to know what those things are like. I want to know what it’s like to die in a plane crash, but then un-die. [laughs]
I have a big problem with the fact that certain things will kill me. I want to run marathons, I also want to smoke. I want to drink as much as I like and not wake up with a hangover. I want to smash cars, I want to jump off buildings, I want to feel all of those things, but then continue on for a little longer. And not even a thousand-year lifespan. Maybe just two hundred years. Two hundred with a few get-out-of-jail-free passes.