Artist Interview: Mike Lee

Mike Lee, UMOCA’s most recent A-I-R Space artist, spent his childhood in both rural Japan and Utah, splitting his national identity into a cultural and spiritual dichotomy. This split led Lee to attempt to reconcile this dichotomy, drawing inspiration from amassing information, both visual and non-visual, through obsessive internet searches. In 2015, he graduated with his BFA from Brigham Young University. His exhibition at UMOCA, Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness, explored Lee’s interest in artificial intelligence, Japanese culture, and the inevitable battle that will decide the fate of consciousness—will it be a unified digital world in the future? Perhaps it will become Google Earth? Lee examines how the digital world reflects our physical world and how it allows us to see ourselves digitally as well as we can see physically. Using elements of pop-culture, proto-renaissance Christian images, Japanese mythology, and videogame aesthetics, Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness asks its viewers to examine the way they view themselves and the world around them.

Lee used the fundamental mythology of Shintoism in his exhibition, with the mirror—Yata-no-Kagami—as the central focus of his work. In Japanese mythology, Amaterasu-ōmikami—the goddess of the sun—hides in a cave after her brother destroys her loom and kills one of her attendants. The other sympathetic gods realize they need her sunlight and devise a plan to coax her from the cave. “Yata-no-Kagami is basically a divine mirror that was used to show Amaterasu-omikami her own beauty to lure her out of hiding and spread light to the world,” says Lee. “I’ve been quite caught up in this story, which is one of the oldest known in Japan.” For Lee, the mirror can refer to front facing cameras, digital reflections on social media, or even the reflection of an old computer screen.

Although the internet is one way of spreading knowledge, or light, to the world—for instance, Lee mentions how Facebook is currently planning on bringing internet to places where internet is unavailable—artificial intelligence is something much more mysterious. “Artificial intelligence might already be in existence,” says Lee. “The social consciousness that used to be a vague zeitgeist is now taking form through the internet. There is concrete, albeit mostly digital, evidence of this consciousness—most recently proven by fake news spreading across Facebook during the elections.” Lee’s work ponders the questions of digital consciousness—are these trending videos and memes simply thoughts passing through a mass digital consciousness? “Tweets become synapses firing,” says Lee.

When it comes to developing his work, Lee emphasizes the need for thorough research. “[There are] periods of almost no production filled with research, writing, think-tanking,” he says, “followed by periods of production focused solely on creating work.” Lee compares his productivity to that of two sine waves: one wave being innovation and the other production. “Usually the sweet spot is where the two sine waves intersect, but it’s impossible to stay in that zone forever,” he says. “Whenever I am feeling like I’m getting down on one or the other, I just shift my focus.” The relationship between himself and Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness is no less strained. Lee describes it as “an elaborately designed dinner where I don’t meet most of the guests or receive feedback about the food. Instead, it’s carefully preserved, like the fruitcake under glass on my altar piece, Pachinko Lottery.”

As a UMOCA Artist-In-Residence, Lee had the ability to work in a studio space, participate in workshops with national artists and art professionals, and showcase his work at the museum in the A-I-R Space. Lee says of his experience at UMOCA, “The studio spaces are great. The visiting artists are great. The opportunities I have had through the A-I-R program have been great. Honestly, it helped me a lot during the year I had after I graduated with my BFA. At times, it felt like the A-I-R program was the only thing keeping my artistic credibility viable—and that includes my artwork.” Lee says he would recommend the A-I-R program “to more established artists who find value in having a space and are seeking to show in a museum setting.” Lee also has advice for future artists: “Study, study, study,” he says. “Academia has been getting a lot of bad rep recently, especially in the art world. That doesn’t mean that study is not important.” Lee emphasizes that the opportunity to study with peers and professionals in your field is priceless, and worth far more than the actual degree. “Be smart, make art,” he says.

Working as an artist can be difficult—but also rewarding. Lee hopes that, during his exhibition, his viewers took the time to Google the David Bowie quote placed on the wall of his exhibition or watched Bowie’s interview on BBC. “Seeing the potential the internet has to radically altar social and individual consciousness will hopefully lead to more unification through diversification,” says Lee. “With the interconnectivity of the internet, the capital-driven companies will eventually be overtaken by those with more of a social/democratic cause.” Lee has a goal to change how we collectively view ourselves, the world around us, and the objects we create—including the internet and artificial intelligence. His ambition will only continue to grow as he ventures further into academia. He plans on studying in an MFA program and will begin applying this year to various schools around N.Y.C. and L.A. “If those don’t work out this time around,” he says, “I’ll be heading toward more residencies and establishing my studio practice.”

You can view Lee’s work at mm-lee.com or learn more here.

Artist Interview: Alyce Carrier

I realize that nothing is ever how you imagine. A hand on your shoulder from someone you love is different than a stranger’s, but it’s not worth explaining because what we are really after is the feeling, not a story.
-Alyce Carrier

Alyce Carrier is a Salt Lake City–based artist with a background in sculpture and ceramics. In her time spent at the University of Utah, Carrier began experimenting with printmaking and stop-motion animation. Her collection at UMOCA, properly titled Old Work, is a collection of three years’ worth of her intricate creations. Her work is a sparse and delicate treatment of the mundanity of routine, reading like an intimate social encounter and lending insight to a sense of self without abusing sincerity. Her exhibition at UMOCA is available to view until Jan. 14 in the Projects Gallery.

Carrier’s love for ceramics began in college. “I went to school for sculpture, but then I took a ceramics class and fell in love with the medium,” she says. “I spent the rest of my career focusing on ceramics, basically making sculptures out of clay.” Once she graduated from the University, however, ceramics revealed itself to be a difficult medium for an artist without a kiln. “I didn’t have any immediate recourse to continue doing ceramic work,” says Carrier. “All of those other art forms I do—printmaking, animation, murals—all came from not being able to do ceramics, but still wanting to develop the imagery and language of the characters.” Determined to create her art, she set out to experiment with many mediums. But in every art form she’s tried, the characters stay similar and cohesive. The characters depicted in her work come from a long line of artists in Carrier’s family. “My family draws cartoons and my aunt is an animator,” says Carrier. “So I draw similarly to them. I think it’s because that’s what I saw when I was a kid. They’re kind of cartoonish, surreal characters that have turned into how I see myself in my head. These characters–they’re not gender specific, but they represent me interacting with all these different things.”

In many ways, Carrier’s work truly is an accurate representation of who she is and what surrounds her. For instance, she created the hair of her stop-motion puppets with the hair of her dogs. “I have some bits of other dogs, too, and some human hair,” she says. Carrier is nothing short of an innovator, even in her decision to create puppets as opposed to drawings for her stop-motion animation film. “My final piece for my sculpture [in school] was 20 seconds of somebody walking and they bent down—and that was it,” she says. “I was frustrated with how long it took, so wanting to experiment with animation again, I realized I could just make puppets with hinges and move them.” Her art is also inspired by her day to day routines, depicting small, intimate gestures with others—intentional or not. “These day to day activities,” she says, “when you’re at the library or checking out at the grocery store, and all of a sudden there’s this imagery of someone touching you, your eye, these weird interactions that come from routine life—I get a lot of ideas from these interactions. And also by imagining how people care about each other.”

Carrier says of the UMOCA show that it drove her to take responsibility of her work and what ideas she was giving to her viewers. “I knew I needed to stand by those ideas and feel confident about what I was putting out there,” she says. “The UMOCA show forced me to hone in on the ideas and intentions of what I wanted to say. Of all the shows I’ve done, this one is the most cohesive. It has a calm energy to it. You walk in and it feels complete.” One viewer favorite of Carrier’s collection is the fact that the screen prints on the wall were available to rip off and take home, an idea she discovered when visiting an Ann Hamilton exhibition in Seattle. “During the show, you were able to take things off of the wall,” says Carrier. “There was one room covered in beautifully photographed animals: monkeys, birds, etc. They were printed with such care and intimate moments.” The security guard told Carrier and other viewers they were allowed to take one home—any photo they like. “I looked through everything because I wanted to pick the ‘right one’ and have it for myself,” she says. “How special that, is, to be able to go up and tear it. That was a total gamechanger for me. I continually think about that—how tangible it was.” Carrier incorporated this idea into her own work, and its popularity was striking—she printed over 2,300 prints throughout the entire show, and people are still taking some home. “To have that many people have my work is super cool and really amazing,” she says. “This, overall, has been a great experience for my practice and my career.”

Carrier’s hope is to change the way people interact with artwork, especially in museums. “I feel really turned off by the atmosphere of galleries, or at least galleries in museums,” she says. “They shut off so many people and the general public just because they have a door and call it a ‘gallery.’ I lot of people won’t go in. And when you walk into a museum or gallery, for a good reason, you’re not supposed to touch the work. But having that mindset, you immediately build a wall between the viewer and the artwork.” Carrier wants to eliminate the idea that viewers must understand the artwork in order to view it or enter a gallery space. “I think it’s so important that people experience things.” She often thinks about interactions with musicians—artists in a different medium—and how she wishes artists in ceramics and painting and so on would be seen in the same light. “Obviously, you’re not going to touch the musicians,” she says, “but you can still experience the music. If you don’t know the lyrics, you can still enjoy the music or beat. You can dance or not. There’s not a curated way to enjoy that experience. I constantly try to keep that in mind when I work and try to let people experience the work I’m making in a similar way.”

For future or up-and-coming artists, Carrier has some great advice. “I’m a firm believer that you need to show up every single day,” she says. “If you have a studio space, or even if your studio space is in your apartment in a tiny corner, you have to mentally and physically show up to that space every day, even if you’re not having creative thoughts.” Carrier also feels lucky that as a kid, she grew up in an artistic-empowered family—but she realizes that not everyone has this experience. “It can be difficult for young people who want to be artists, because there’s not that outlet or immediate acceptance that being an artist is a normal and great thing to do,” she says. She mentions that you must figure out a way to encourage yourself to move forward and understand how you work without a constant support system. “The biggest thing for me is believing in the drive and the ideas that I have,” she says. “So often people think they need approval from someone else. You don’t need approval from anybody—just do it. Don’t as permission.”

Carrier hopes to take her art “on tour,” much like her musician friends, and she’s determined to figure out what that will look like. “I think that the most tangible thing would be murals,” she says, “so I’d go on a mural tour across the country.” She also hopes to work on small zines and other illustrated publications, all the while improving the way how people interact with artwork. “I think the greatest part about art is that it’s not limited,” she says. “It’s about constantly problem solving. If you can’t do one thing, try something else. Be flexible and fluid.”

You can view Alyce Carrier’s work at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art until Jan. 14 in the Projects Gallery, or visit alycecarrier.com.

The Cardinal Rule: Please Do Not Touch the Art

So you want to touch the art… I understand—art is alluring, especially when it’s constructed with materials that shine, move, swirl, jiggle, or have a thrilling texture. But touching the art causes more damage than most people realize. It is our duty as museum staff to preserve and keep safe the artworks that are displayed in our galleries. And it is our duty as members of the art community to respect local, national, and global artists who take the time to visit the museum and trust all of us with the future of their creations. Below is a short list of the many reasons why we need to honor the cardinal rule.

  1. Human skin is dirty.

Our hands and fingers are covered in layers of soil, skin cells, dirt, and grease that we normally take for granted—hence why it’s recommended that you Lysol doorknobs when your family is sick. That grease and grime are not only visually unattractive because they make the art look dirty—they actually can cause physical and chemical damage to each unique work of art. So before you think about leaving your greasy fingerprint as a momentum of your museum visit, remember: Touching the art will adversely affect how future museum-goers view the artwork.

Rona Pondick’s sculptures are shiny and reflective—making fingerprints on their surfaces much more visible. | Rona Pondick | “Prairie Dog” | Photo courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Sonnabend Gallery, Zevitas/Marcus Gallery, and the artist.

  1. Our touch melts away the magic.

Physically touching a piece of art will melt away the magic—quite literally, in fact. The heat from our hands can easily melt oil paint, charcoal sketches, the gilding on frames, and even the texture of certain pieces of art. For instance, one of our recent A-I-R Space artists was Cara Krebs, whose work was constructed out of molded Jell-O. Imagine if someone had placed their palm on top of the art or stuck their finger into the side of it—the mold would have been destroyed. The fate of delicate works of art may truly lay in the palms of our hands.

Cara Krebs’ whimsical sculptures lure viewers in, but are easily breakable to the touch. | Cara Krebs | Sehnsunct | Photo courtesy of the artist

  1. It’s dangerous!

Sometimes, when visiting a museum, we are not fully aware of what materials were used to construct a work of art. Imagine how unfortunate it would be if you saw a fluffy teddy bear as part of an installation, touched it, and discovered that it was actually a bear comprised of sharp glass and needles. Don’t take a trip to the hospital because curiosity killed the cat—spend your visit to the museum, surrounded by artworks at a safe distance.

Jennifer Seely’s wall of nails is definitely meant to be seen and not touched. | Jennifer Seely | Supporting Elements

  1. If your kid breaks something, it’s still your fault.

Children can be squirrely, especially when they are around objects that make them excited—and art is very exciting! Art museums welcome all ages, and that includes your kiddos. But be aware of how your kids are behaving. Remind them that they cannot touch the art or run around. If a child accidentally knocks something over, the broken artwork is ultimately now the parents’ responsibility. Keep your kids close, teach them to respect art, and allow them to expand their creative minds.

Mike Lee’s A-I-R Space exhibition had many artworks around the floor, requiring a more diligent use of space when viewing the exhibition. | Mike Lee | Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness

  1. It’s irreplaceable—so don’t break it.

There have been countless accidents caused by reckless or careless behavior in the world of art and history. Remember the ex-Boy Scout leaders that pushed over an ancient boulder in Southern Utah? Or the time when a tourist in Florence broke the finger off of a 600-year-old statue at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo? These objects are irreplaceable and priceless. If you break a work of art, there is no chance of getting it back to the way the artist originally created it. Artists dedicate countless hours, days, sometimes months of time on their work, and to have that work destroyed in mere seconds due to reckless curiosity would be devastating. This leads me to my last and possibly most important point…

Each of Alyce Carrier’s ceramics are one-of-a-kind; if this vase had broken, there would never be another one exactly like it. Alyce Carrier | Untitled | Ceramic

  1. It’s just plain rude.

Imagine that you’re a doctor and there happens to be a child running through each room in the hospital, poking the faces of each of your patients. Or imagine that you are a construction worker and people continually stop by your work site to pick up your power tools, lean on unsteady building structures, or to try and take the crane for a ride. Or imagine that you are a cake decorator, and with every cake you finish, a customer sticks their finger into it just to see what it tastes like. No one would think that these behaviors are rational or acceptable; all of these behaviors are annoying, dangerous, destructive, or a combination of all of the above. Being an artist is an occupation like any other, and their work deserves to be respected just like anyone else’s.

 

Touching the art might make you feel pleased as punch for a few seconds, but the aftermath is nothing to feel proud of at all. When you touch a work of art and damage it in any way, you ruin the viewing quality for every future museum-goer. It also decreases the value of the artwork, negatively affecting the artist and their ability to take the work to a new gallery or forcing them to spend more time on fixing (or laying to rest) a once-perfect piece.

 

But there is good news for everyone out there who finds themselves allured by the prospect of touching a work of art: you can be a hero, just like all of the heroes before you who respected the cardinal rule. These individuals have allowed you to see the works of art in their original form. They are the reason contemporary artists can travel from city to city, displaying their work as though it is the first time. They help ensure that our art communities, local and otherwise, become closer by connecting through art exhibitions, and expanding the wide range of audiences that visit the museum each day. So, be a hero by honoring the cardinal rule: Do not touch the art.

#preserveart #donttouchtheartwork

Devin McPolin exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects Gallery.

Contemporary Reactions: Art is Not Always Pretty

Alyce Carrier’s Old Work, a recent exhibit at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, has caught the attention and curiosity of visitors. One local, Devin McPolin, heard of the museum’s existence and came to see what it held inside. He states that he rarely goes to art museums, but he was interested due to his significant other’s recommendation of UMOCA. McPolin, a college student, wandered around and came upon Carrier’s exhibit. “It can turn you away or grab your attention,” he says.

The artist’s style drew him in because it is “odd” and “not pretty.” McPolin explains that the exhibition’s art doesn’t fit the standard mold of other art styles. The people drawn in Carrier’s Old Work are shaped abnormally and portrayed in blacks, whites and browns. “The people drawn here aren’t normal people,” McPolin says.

“They are odd-shaped; it looks like a young kid’s drawing—like someone’s first drawing—but you know it’s not. It’s purposely done that way to depict these odd shapes. Even though you know it’s a human figure, it’s not depicted as a normal human being would be drawn.”

He talked about his fascination with non-traditional art style—or, as he likes to describe it, odd. McPolin is intrigued by Carrier’s wall art and her other artwork, such as her ceramics. Amused by the asymmetrical pottery, he describes how imperfect the pottery is, especially if it were sliced in half. Everything intrigued him, from the divots to the unique crookedness of it all. McPolin understood the exhibit through reading the artist’s description as well as understanding daily life. The emotion he felt was a strangeness due to the differences in each artwork, yet he related with them on an empathic level. “Like the artist said: ‘A hand on the shoulder depicts a different feeling if it’s from someone you love or a stranger,’” he says.

Alyce Carrier | VideoThe video, in particular, held his interest. He describes the characters in the video as acting out mundane daily tasks, but they portray these tasks from a different view—almost a little disgusting. The video invokes the emotions McPolin experienced in the exhibit, and he related the video to the mural on the wall. In the mural, the person drawn in black simply walks in without checking what the tiny circles are and panics at the last minute when they are waist deep in circles, whereas the person drawn in white investigates the tiny circles and wonders what they are before walking in. McPolin compares this dynamic to how people are when it comes to our daily routines. Some simply continue their lives without paying attention to what’s around them;  others are always curious, always looking, and notice what’s around them. “It’s strange—like the stranger’s hand on your shoulder—but not enough to make you freak out and run away,” he says. “It’s odd enough to make you ponder and wonder what’s going on and take a closer look.”

View Alyce Carrier’s Old Work in UMOCA’s Projects Gallery until January 14. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2fJvKX4. –Krystal Linares

Jodi exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects Gallery

Contemporary Reactions: Mundane Intimacy

Alyce Carrier’s exhibit, Old Work, in the Projects Gallery has received an array of reactions, but the majority of patrons’ comments reflect on how clever and profound her work can be. By incorporating 3-D sculptures, prints, and a stop-animation film, Carrier is able to speak to viewers on many different levels.

Jodi exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects GalleryJodi, a visitor to Salt Lake City from Albuquerque, shared her insight on Carrier’s work, specifically her feelings and thoughts regarding the stop-animation film. Her initial reactions to the film were that it is charming and invites you to watch the story unfold.

“There are things that the characters are doing—things you [might] be doing—without expecting to have an observer,” says Jodi. “It’s intimate.”

Carrier’s work, although illuminating mundane activities, has the ability to connect with the viewer at a deeper and, as Jodi mentioned, a more intimate level. It shows all of us, at the root, are human and we have emotions that are displayed in various manners.  We do daily tasks that are mundane, but they are part of life’s existence.

Alyce Carrier’s Old Work is nicely juxtaposed with the other exhibits at UMOCA. Her work is charming, humbling, and—for many—a warming experience. Carrier does a fine job of displaying human nature through her craft. View Alyce Carrier’s work in UMOCA’s Projects Gallery until January 14. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2fJvKX4. –Alexa Rawl

Photo: James Walton

Artist Interview: Leeza Meksin

Working with fabrics such as spandex, latex and toole, artist Leeza Meksin transforms buildings into bodies, structures into architectural drag, and fabric into stark statements about the falseness of binaries. Meksin demonstrates the fragility of the gender binary—the Western idea that there are only two genders in this world: man and woman—by challenging the ways in which people view social and physical structures around them, and by confusing the lines between male and female. Meksin’s Tip Cozy covers the glass structure on top of UMOCA’s building, and in the Main Gallery, Meksin’s work is hard to miss: a giant, grainy picture of the LDS Temple, surrounded by layers of colorful ropes, mesh and toole. Entry and Tip Cozy are two pieces of UMOCA’s Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art exhibit.

“I was already working with spandex and fabric [in grad school],” says Meksin. “I was getting feedback from my professors—surprisingly from the female professors—saying, ‘Be careful as a queer woman using fabric. It might be career suicide.’ I was concerned and stunned that a woman working with fabric in ’05, ’06, and ’07 would get that kind of feedback.” Rather than attempting to work with another material, Meksin challenged the idea of gender binaries in art and wondered what she could do with fabric that would allow her to comment on women’s work in a unique frame. “I thought about buildings,” she says. “All the adjectives I thought of when I thought ‘architecture’ were very, stereotypically male: They’re quintessentially hard and respectable. Not to mention that architecture, as a field, has long been dominated by men.” Meksin began daydreaming about ways in which she could use fabrics to dress up buildings and create a dichotomy between soft and hard, dressed and naked—the ways in which society views men and women.

“Humans, in relationship to the dwellings we build, are female,” she says. “They’re soft, vulnerable, and flexible—whereas buildings are hard, durable, and typically stay the same.”

Meksin delights in creating false binaries. Her work criticizes the ways in which society uses and trusts in binary systems—even though these systems always fail us. “We create divisions between people and put ideas into categories,” she says. “By creating this playful, dress-up situation where a building puts on a costume and transforms through clothing hints at the idea that categories are malleable and meant to be played with. Nothing is so set in stone.” The idea of making ideologies malleable reminded Meksin about the fundamental foundations of drag—a form of performance that debunks gender on a heightened and playful level. “Drag is free and smart and is given to you in this package of glitter and fabulousness,” says Meksin. “I wanted to take that attitude and bring it to this very serious domain of architecture.” Meksin’s ideas about gender began with reading adventure novels as a child—which are dominated by masculine and male lead characters—as well as using art to reclaim spaces of imagination and possibility. “As a female-bodied person, it’s really hard for me to get across my masculine qualities,” she says.

“It’s restrictive and destructive when people expect a certain kind of behavior from me. I’m seen as a ‘woman.’ I think a lot of my work stems from wanting to be viewed as a human.”

During her initial site visit to Salt Lake City for UMOCA’s exhibition, Meksin was struck by the the LDS Temple. “I felt invited everywhere in Temple Square: You could take tours, visit the Tabernacle or the Conference Center,” she says, “but the Temple is this closed body. Because I think of temples as bodies, I was thinking, ‘Oh—this is really sexual.’ I can’t enter this building unless I sign a formal document, a formal allegiance saying that I’m Mormon and seriously commit to that to gain entry. That immediately reminded me of a marriage contract and religion, where you can only have access to someone’s body if you legally bind yourself to them and inform the world through a legal document that you’re committed to being with that person.” Meksin was also interested in temple’s gothic, fairytale-like illusion regarding its architecture. “It has a theme-park quality that is both fairytale and fake,” she says. “There’s a lot of faux finishes: fake wood, fake gold, fake marble. The theatricality of it made me think about drag.”

The connection between the LDS Church, the Temple and drag performance led Meksin to having serious discourses with the community, especially young artists in SLC, about the Church’s views of the LGBTQIA community. “They don’t even know how queer they are,” says Meksin. “If they processed that, maybe it wouldn’t be such a leap to accept these people for who they are instead of punishing them and making them choose between family, their calling as artists, and their sexual orientation.” The paradox between the architecture and the ideas behind it led Meksin to creating Entry and Tip Cozy, two artworks that incorporate playfulness into an uncomfortable discourse. “I never feel in a position to lecture anyone and I’m not interested in didactic work that tells you what you should be or do,” says Meksin.

“Playfulness has a bigger potential than any kind of lecturing or finger-pointing to actually change people’s minds. As soon as you start thinking playfully about something, things open up.”

The experience of creating Entry involved a lot of changing and sitting on ideas. Meksin expected the picture of the temple to look more “degraded” than it ended up being. “I was hoping this image would look kind of crappy: I took it through a window, on a rainy day, and I’m not a photographer,” she says. “But when I put it up and really liked the picture, I was stunned. I changed my idea.” Initially, the veil was supposed to be less transparent and highlight images in the photograph that were other than the Temple—such as the buildings behind it. Instead, Meksin decided to make the fabric more transparent by using toole. “Spandex is a performance material for acrobats, athletes, and Dolly Parton,” she says. “Changing to toole makes it more princess-like and wedding-like and takes it out of this performance level.” Meksin also appreciates the help she received from UMOCA staff in making Entry a possibility. “I had the amazing help from John [Burdick] and Jared [Steffensen]. They were so helpful and great to work with. If I had a crew like this every time, I could imagine even more ambitious projects.”

Meksin is notorious for taking on big projects that seem impossible or too ambitious, and she loves the idea of a challenge. For her next great project, she wants to take on one of the greatest symbols of America: “I’ve been thinking about making a spandex burka for the Statue of Liberty,” she says. Fearless and bold, Meksin’s projects reveal her passion for pushing boundaries and creating conversations with the community. “I feel like there’s a social and communal aspect to the work,” she says. “I love how expansive ideas become when you start a discourse about it. I never limit my work to mean something specific. It’s always open to everyone’s interpretation.” It wasn’t until Meksin was twenty-five that she admitted to herself that she wanted to make her living and life’s work through art. “When I finally said I really want this to be my life and didn’t want to separate it into a little thing on the side, I felt so liberated,” she said. “Every time something bad happens, I think back to that glee I felt when I told myself, ‘I have the right to be an artist and I am the person who gets to decide that.’” Viewing art as a way to reinvent yourself and your life, Meksin is a positive figure for anyone who is thinking about taking up art as their career.

“Don’t ever give up,” Meksin says. “No one can tell you that you are not talented or that you’re not good enough to be an artist. Being an artist is something that you can choose and as long as you stick with it, you will get there.”

View Leeza Meksin’s works, Entry and Tip Cozy in UMOCA’s Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art until December 17th. For more information, visit utahmoca.org/portfolio/objected/


More About the Artist

A New York based interdisciplinary artist, Meksin makes paintings, installations, public art and multiples. After immigrating to the U.S. with her family in 1989, she received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. in art and has exhibit her work various galleries across the nation. In 2015, Meksin was appointed to the faculty at Columbia University School of Art—but even in between her courses and in-studio works, Meksin has not stopped creating powerful, on-site installations that have reshaped and challenged people’s ideologies. View more of her work here.

Artist Interview: Tove Storch

Tove Storch | Interview (Draft)

Tove Storch is one of six artists currently displayed in UMOCA’s exhibit, Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art, which explores how visual artists use three-dimensionality as a language to reframe and expand notions of objecthood. Storch, who lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark, creates conceptually-based sculptural works that often involve visual conundrums. She transforms two-dimensional ideas into three-dimensional sculptures. Her Object[ed] sculpture, Untitled, is a layering of thin steel rails and sheets of paper, which are covered in two-dimensional drawings. Storch conflates the lines on the paper with rigid metal rods, suggesting a curious process of “thinking in images.”

Storch has been working with sculptures for over 10 years, starting with painting in art school. “I was quite interested in the physical aspects of the paintings: glossy, mat, things glued onto the surface, the painting lying on the floor,” she says. “That slowly developed into a sculptural practice. What inspires me, now, is gravity, mistakes, feelings, and attempts.” Through processes of trial and error—and believing it is possible to navigate through any subject matter with art—Storch explores possibilities in materials while creating her artwork. “I’m interested in how working with materials and physical conditions take these explorations to strange places,” she says.

One of Storch’s goals in her pieces is to convey her ideas in a specific and precise ways, thinking on this even at the start of her projects. “I pace around, trying to focus and forget at the same time,” she says. “Then, I suddenly know the direction things have to take. The rest is trying to figure out how it’s practically possible.” This preciseness has led Untitled to being one of the most curious pieces in UMOCA’s Object[ed] exhibit, leading museum-goers to desire to probe between the railings to gaze at the two-dimensional drawings on each page. “[Untitled] allowed me to make beautiful, intense, random, and spontaneous marks on paper as part of my practice and as a way to exercise my brain,” says Storch. “Going through this process of figuring stuff out made me very aware of shyness and privacy. I thought this was an interesting subject, and the drawings I was making found a purpose as building material for this introverted work.”

Storch anticipated the curiosity of her viewers and combatted the power of their gaze by decidedly placing steel-railings above and below each drawing. “The surfaces become worlds with space and volume in them,” she says. “It is as if imagination is being squashed by heavy steel when they are stacked like this. I really like emphasizing this by looking at the papers as they divide the sculpture, just enough to make the metal not touch itself—a barely voluminous piece of material.” Her sculpture lends just enough information to capture museum-goers’ attention, but ultimately it is their imagination that is needed to complete the work. Cleverly, Storch molds her viewers into a part of the artwork—three-dimensional figures surrounded by and filled with space. “You have to finish the work using your own imagination,” she says. “You make space in your head.”

Each of Untitled’s drawings are not necessarily connected or understandable; instead, the drawings are sporadic, a culmination of Storch’s thoughts turned 3D. “I ended up making peace with having shifting opinions and stored the pile of drawings like a boiling pot of unresolved matter,” she says. Ultimately, storing these visual thoughts has paid off. Her sculpture now sits in the middle of UMOCA’s Main Gallery, a part of the Object[ed] exhibit which explores how visual artists use three-dimensionality as a language to reframe and expand notions of objecthood. Storch mentions that her time at UMOCA has been a positive one. “The team at UMOCA has been extremely helpful,” she says. “It was a really great experience to work with them all the way through the process.”

Storch also has some great advice for future artists: “It is an important thing to trust oneself, to trust what you are interested in, and your feelings about things,” she says.  After all, it was trust in oneself that led Storch to creating Untitled, a vulnerable yet bold and captivating sculpture. In the future, Storch hopes to gain access to a workshop where she can weld metal and have access to materials in order to create spontaneous experiments and future gallery projects.

You can view Tove Storch’s work in UMOCA’s Main Gallery until December 17th. For more information, visit http://www.utahmoca.org/portfolio/objected/.

Artist Interview: Lizze Määttälä

Lizze Määttälä’s practice reflects the abstract flexibility of unexpected materials. She explores forms and patterns based on the fleeting fluidity of memory. As a natural rummager of salvages, junkyards and flea markets, Määttälä turns unexpected materials into stunning structures and mixed media compositions. Uphill/Both Ways, currently on display in UMOCA’s Object[ed] exhibit, is about fragments that have been left behind and the affinity Määttälä has for these intricate, interesting, thrown-aside materials.

“My strength has always been in material sensibilities and editing,” says Määttälä. “I’m drawn to materials that are not overworked and have enough potential on their own without the need to manipulate them into something else. I’m inspired by possibilities of materials beyond their traditional uses and the practice of play that is needed to reach those unexpected potentials.” Määttälä collects her materials from salvage yards, NPS, dumpsters and from people who give her objects they think she might use—but she never knows what these materials will turn into until they suddenly click together. “I know when things are working when I start to get giddy,” she says.

Määttälä began working with sculptures similar to Uphill/Both Ways about two years ago. “After graduation, I decided to completely start over,” she says. “I didn’t feel the need to tell a story. I wanted the work to be work. Art to be art.” Starting from scratch led her to using scraps, rubber, broken objects and various components to create innovative and stunning contemporary art. “I found rubber and it makes me so happy,” she says. “It’s weird and repellant, but kind of sexual and silly. I have a material driven practice, and it’s playful.” Määttälä’s relationship with her work is as challenging as it is playful: she describes it as “constantly evolving. Sometimes it’s hearts and rainbows—other times, I want a divorce.”

Although some may view her work as a representation of modern materialism, Määttälä doesn’t have a specific thematic concept in mind while creating her pieces. “I don’t feel my work is conceptually representative of anything. I am more interested in patterns, relationships between materials, and the engagement they can create with one another.” Määttälä does, however, hope that museum-goers can appreciate her and her fellow artists’ artwork. “Artists defend themselves and what they do constantly,” she says. “It can be a romanticized career path, but it’s not. I hope viewers can respect artists and anyone who is bold enough to share part of themselves and what, in my mind, is beautiful.”

Määttälä’s unending respect for other artists is one of her many admirable traits. She thanks the artists who have helped and challenged her along the way to get her to where she is now. “Three years ago, I did an eight-week show in Philly,” she says. “It was challenging because you had to work fast. That was the best thing for me. I met some amazing artists whose work was different than mine, but they were the sweetest and most encouraging people who influenced me by remaining authentic and dedicated to their work.” Among the artists she thanks are Olga Balema (another Object[ed] artist), Alyce Carrier—whose show, Old Work, is now on exhibit at UMOCA—and UMOCA’s curator, Jared Steffensen.

As a professional artist, Määttälä has some words of wisdom for future artists, including making sure you have a studio space. “I can daydream and be hit with inspiration anywhere and quite consistently,” she says, “but those are thoughts. An accessible place to put those thoughts into action is essential.” She also advises artists to not try to please anyone. Instead: “It’s good to find people who have your back but can tell you when something isn’t working. It’s invaluable.” And finally, “Try to get your hands on as many materials as possible.”

Along with Uphill/Both Ways, UMOCA’s Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art exhibit showcases the work of six sculptors who explore how three-dimensionality can be a language that reframes and expands notions of objecthood. “It is a huge honor and awesome experience to be a part of Object[ed],” says Määttälä. “It’s a strong group of women and I’m proud of the show and how the space is utilized. It’s like navigating through a city which may or may not have been intentional, but it works—and works well. I benefit from showing work anywhere, but [UMOCA’s] Main Gallery and the company I share it with has been phenomenal and humbling.”

Määttälä’s next show is at Nox Contemporary, curated by John Sproul, in November. But her other plans involve getting out more. “I have a handful of personal projects planned and I’ll be hiking with my dogs as much as possible,” she says. “If I’m not outside, nothing gets done.” Her last words of advice to Utah audiences? “Utah finally has the potential to be a swing state,” she says. “Get out and vote!”

View Lizze Määttälä’s work, Uphill/Both Ways, along with the rest of the Object[ed] exhibit, in UMOCA’s Main Gallery until December 17th. For more information, go to utahmoca.org/portfolio/lizze-maattala/. You can also purchase her art book, Sample Sale, for only $15 at UMOCA’s Art Shop. –Alex Vermillion

A "whereABOUTS" map from an Art Truck visit, created by James W.

UEA Convention

This Thursday and Friday, Oct 20-21, join UMOCA in the KUED Kids Exploration Corner at the UEA Convention! Explore STEAM and Literacy themes based on UMOCA’s current exhibitions while hanging out with your favorite PBS Kids characters and other fabulous community organizations. Participate in a hands-on mapping activity from our “whereABOUTS” Art Truck project. Families and K-12 educators can take home UMOCA lesson plans and resources that correspond with our project. The UEA Convention takes place at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy. from UMOCA’s booth will be open Thursday 11 am to 5 pm and Friday 11 am to 3 pm. Use the attached link below for a free entry ticket: 

eticket-2016final

Artist Interview: Cara Krebs

Sehnsuct: “the inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what”; a yearning for a far, familiar, non-earthly land one can identify as one’s home.

Cara Krebs is our current A-I-R Space Artist from our Artist in Residence Program. Sehnsuct is an exhibit of installations, sculptures, and materials that toy with displacement, perception, desire, and visceral reactions. This is a gallery of paradoxical worlds that hover over thresholds and create spaces of potential, the alien, and the familiar.


Cara Krebs’ background consists of painting and drawing—but also, perhaps more importantly, her curiosity and desire to combine and experiment with materials. “My aesthetic changed instantly when I decided to stop agonizing over figuring out why I should use a material or subject in my art before I included it,” says Krebs. Giving herself the freedom to “cram” everything she found interesting into her art, Krebs was able to truly begin creating spaces of illusion and representation that also invest in the viewer of her work. “The paintings were ‘worlds’ where I embedded the trinkets I found,” she says. “My hope is to bring audiences into liminal spaces, or in-between worlds. I’m interested in emotions that come from displacement, beauty, curiosity, and yearning. I hope they feel some sort of desire in response to some of the pieces, whether it be the desire to touch, be in a place, or pick up and have something they see.”

blob_front-lowrez Krebs credits a great deal of inspiration to trinkets and small objects that either no longer serve a purpose or don’t have an obvious purpose—such one of her favorite toys: an inflatable frog from an aquarium gift shop. “It was beautiful,” says Krebs. “Clear, filled with bright green soap. I wanted something that felt curious and beautiful like that. It needed to be something a person might like to possess, but also not indicate clearly why someone would want to possess it.” Other inspirations include computer desktop wallpaper, which make up the imagery inside each of her squishy paintings. “The colors are over-saturated, the locations are unapologetically gorgeous, and the photographers enhanced them to make them as beautiful as possible,” says Krebs. “I’m using these beautiful wallpapers to explore the juncture of beauty, desire, tackiness, and what’s not quite appropriate.”

In this particular show, Krebs has shown her ability to innovate as well as experiment with materials. On two sides of the exhibition are squishy, three-dimensional wall art filled with images from desktops. On the other side is a tall row of empty honey-bear jars. In front of that are plates and plates of colorful, wiggling, vibrating Jell-O sculptures. And in the other room is a water-and-light installation focused on a small inflatable with a mini desktop image. “The art in this show came either from long processes of experimentation or little things I noticed in everyday life that brought me joy. I searched for years for a material that was squishy, completely transparent, and relatively stable, like the material of sticky toy hands.” In her search for the perfect material, Krebs experimented with materials including, but not limited to, gelatin, silicone, melted gummy worms, “Craft Water,” and glycerin soap until, finally, she found what she had been looking for: synthetic ballistic gelatin.

By using this gelatin and many other materials, Krebs brings life to objects that would have otherwise been neglected or thrown away. The idea of giving life and a home to objects and materials, however, is no new revelation for Krebs. “I’ve always felt a strong empathy for inanimate objects,” she says. “When I was growing up, it seemed like objects would be emotionally hurt if I didn’t treat them well. Even though I understood they weren’t alive, they seemed to have a consciousness of what I was doing.” Krebs work brings objects to life in ways that are surprising and attractive. “Most people are curious. It’s easy to want to take a closer look at a weird jigging material as long as the attraction overcomes the fear or disgust.”

krebs-small-image-01For Krebs, fantasy goes beyond its typical definition. It has no end. “It’s everything because it can be anything,” she says. “If we can conceive of it, it exists somewhere, somehow.” For instance, she mentions that even a real location can be turned from the mundane to the fantasy—that it is possible to have nostalgia for a place you’ve never physically visited because you’ve already been there in your mind. Krebs thinks of Ecuador in this way, a place where her mother used to teach and tell stories about. “I felt nostalgia for a time period, location, and events that I never experienced in a place that I had never visited,” she says. “That type of longing is textbook sehnsuct.” Just as there is no limit to fantasy, Krebs argues that there is no limit to art. “Creating isn’t magicking something into existence from nothing,” she says. “It’s combining existing materials in new ways. There are infinite ways to combine the stuff around us and reexamine the world.”

What’s especially unique about Krebs’ work is that there aren’t many artists out there who have used the materials that she has quite in the same way. Krebs has, of course, been inspired by many artists such as David Altmejd’s installation The Fluxand the Puddle, Anish Kapoor’s petroleum jelly and red pigment train, Svayambh, and Jasper Johns’ Painting Bitten by a Man, but the majority of the time, Krebs’ inspiration comes from her daily experiences and art experiments. “I feel like a mad scientist half of the time,” she says. “My studio practice can feel like endless trial and mostly error. I’ve had to learn not just how to be a painter or sculptor, but a chemist, an engineer, an electrician, a chef, and an emergy response team from time to time, without any real training. It’s a blast to make my art!”

Krebs has been able to experiment at UMOCA as an artist in residence. “Having a studio right inside such an amazing museum has been very healthful for my work,” she says. “I felt like people were interested to see what I would make and invested in helping that happen. It was a different feeling than going to a studio I rented by myself with no one to care about anything I did.” Along the way, Krebs had the opportunity to meet visiting artists who sparked ideas here and there—and she could take those ideas and put them to use at UMOCA. “I loved the freedom to experiment that the residency offered me,” she says. “To see ideas that had been on the backburner for so long come together in a museum exhibition meant so much to me.”

Krebs also is our feature artist this month for Family Art Saturday. As an artist who creates pieces that are squishy and soft—and admired by so many children—I asked if she might share any thoughts or advice for future artists. “Never give up,” she says. “The difference between artists actively exhibiting their work and the ones who had to switch careers is that [the successful ones] pressed on when they failed. Everybody fails. The successful ones are just willing to never stop failing.” Krebs is taking her own advice by following her passions and listing clear goals for herself and her future. “Next I want to experiment with different ways to create ballistic gel paintings,” she says. “I’ve wanted to create a massive immersive installation for a while. It would be a dream to have a space, an empty building maybe, in which I could install something elaborate over a long period of time.”

Don’t miss Cara Krebs’ Sehnsuct in the A-I-R Space, closing on Oct 14.

What Our Interns Have To Say

UMOCA prides itself on providing members of our community with interests in museums and the arts with door-opening opportunities. Our internship programs offer a variety of temporary work placements in numerous departments of the museum, from Front Desk and Marketing to Curatorial and Graphic Design, our interns get real-life, hands-on experience in their future fields. And who better to tell you about it than the interns themselves? We asked some of our summer interns to write about their experience with UMOCA and share their stories.

 

Visitor Services Intern, Emina Tatarevic discusses her overall experience interning at UMOCA. 

I am often asked by peers how I came to learn about the internship opportunities at The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. The short answer is always something along the lines of, “I just looked on their website and applied” but, in actuality, UMOCA has been somewhat of a constant in my life since the early days of elementary school.  As a child I attended an after school program that often collaborated with local organizations to create meaningful activities for students, one of these organizations happened to be UMOCA (then known as the Salt Lake City Art Center). I was invited, along with a group of fellow students, to work with the education coordinator at the time as part of a student-run exhibition. This opportunity allowed me to experience a behind-the-scenes perspective and sparked a life-long interest in art museum work.

Edit copyAs a Visitor Services intern, I had the opportunity to participate in some of UMOCA’s most acclaimed summer 2016 events including: Ririe Woodbury Dance Company’s in-house performance Interstice, Fluid Art, and the Annual Gala. Not only was I invited to attend each of these important events, but I also played a key role in assuring that these evenings were executed as successfully as possible. Due to UMOCA’s small and intimate staff size, I was able to work with each member of their team during these times. While the glamorous events have a tendency to stand out as memorable moments of my internship, the time I spent at the front desk was just as rewarding. Every weekend I spent a portion of my day greeting visitors, answering questions, and chatting with our patrons about their thoughts and experiences. Additionally, I was encouraged to write blog posts about these conversations, marking some of my most engaging interactions. UMOCA has an impressive presence that impacts visitors, both nationally and internationally, witnessing this influence was an unexpected but invaluable addition to the knowledge I gained while at the museum. As my internship comes to a close, I know that this opportunity to work with professionals in my field of interest will be beneficial in my future, and I am beyond grateful for the chance to learn from UMOCA’s staff, artists, contributors, and patrons.

 

Visitor Services Intern, Haylee Canonico interviews development and gala coordinator Michelle Sully  

During my internship at UMOCA, I was able get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into putting on the museum’s event of the year, UMOCA’s Annual Gala. I saw how the Salt Lake City community can come together to support local and international artists, find friendship and generosity in each other, and encourage exploration of what it means to exist in today’s world. This year UMOCA’s theme, 1931, inspired us to look into the past and remind us of where we started, but also recognize how far we have come as a museum, a community, and as a society. To get the inside scoop on the Gala I interviewed Michelle Sully, our Development Coordinator. Michelle not only writes grants, but is our gala coordinator so she knows all things gala. I asked Michelle to answer a few questions that would help readers understand what goes into Annual Gala from start to finish. The gala is our biggest event of the year and your continued support is the key to UMOCA’s success.

Gala_29

How far in advance do you start planning the gala?

“We start planning for the gala in August. That is when we come up with a theme and title. We try to get together about once or twice a month from August – January and then two to four times a month starting in February.”

What goes into planning?

“There’s a ton of little things that goes into the planning. Things that have to be done are also affected by the venue we choose; if it is held at UMOCA we have to get a liquor permit, have the landscaping tidied up, and get a noise waiver.

Recruiting committee members as soon after the gala as possible is the first step. Once we have a committee, we decide the theme. We meet with the curatorial department to start getting a list of artists we would like to ask to participate in the auction and start working on a logo for the event, sponsorship documents and website information.

From there we work on catering, mood boards for décor, and mailing lists for Save the Date’s and Invitations. In February, we find and secure a venue and start getting items for the silent auction. In March, invitations are sent out and in April we secure an auctioneer and emcee for the night and draft a list of duties for volunteers. Art works are also due the end of April for the May exhibition.”

What’s your favorite thing about the gala?

I don’t really have one favorite thing. I love it when the art works come in. It’s exciting to see work by new artists and what local artists are creating. I also enjoy the first look at the decorated venue just before guests start arriving. When you’re working on something, you tend to overlook the beauty of it.

How does the theme, 1931, relate to the Fallout?

The Fallout had the raw, contemporary feeling to it that we wanted, though, in contrast, the things that made it feel that way also made it feel like a speakeasy. It is pretty nondescript from the front; you don’t really pay special attention to it if you drive by. Inside, it was a little dark with exposed brick and industrial elements, much like the basements of buildings where speakeasies were found.

What happens to the money donated at the UMOCA gala?

The money made at the gala goes back into our exhibitions and educational programs. These programs benefit people of all ages and demographics. UMOCA hosts school tours, Family Art Saturday, Out Loud, artist lectures, and a number of other programs.

 How can guests benefit from donating?

At the gala, guests can benefit by purchasing auction items, including original art works, experience packages from other non-profits, and art-filled trips. Many guests don’t purchase anything, they simply donate money. Those guests get the benefit of knowing they donated to a cause that is vital to our community.

Can people continue to donate?

Not for the gala, but they can donate directly to UMOCA year-round.

How? They can donate by visiting: www.utahmoca.org. Under the support tab, click “Give”. They can also donate directly at the museum, send in a check, or contact me at michelle.sulley@utahmoca.org.

 

Far from just a glamorous night out, UMOCA’s internship programs leave our interns with memories, knowledge, experience, and skills to last them a lifetime as they navigate their way through the professional world. If you, or someone you know is interested in contemporary arts, do not hesitate to look into our next round of internships. You may find that we have something just right for you too.