Featured Artist: Vladislav Yeliseyev

Vladislav Yeliseyev is very passionate to share his tremendous expertise with the community and to raise the skills of the young and amateur artists to the professional level in order to build their confidence and higher level of self-expression.

Vladislav Yeliseyev in Studio
Vladislav Yeliseyev in Studio
Vladislav Yeliseyev, founder of Renaissance School of Art, is a vivid art educator, artist and architectural illustrator. Mr. Yeliseyev received his formal art education in 1977 and later earned his Master’s Degree at The Moscow Institute of Architecture. He is very passionate to share his tremendous expertise with the community and to raise the skills of the young and amateur artists to the professional level in order to build their confidence and higher level of self-expression. He adopted academic approach of teaching classical drawing techniques in his classrooms.

Architectural Watercolor Illustration. 14"x 8.25" Project: Village at University of South California (USC), Los Angeles  by Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc.
Architectural Watercolor Illustration. 14″x 8.25″
Project: Village at University of South California (USC), Los Angeles
by Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc.

Can you please inform us what influences you to be an artist?

Actually, the creative process itself it the most interesting influence. If the final result is a success, it is an added bonus which inspires and persuades me to make further progress until I complete the subject. Then another artistic subject arises and the process repeats itself.

I understand you’re educated from the Moscow School of Arts as well as the Moscow School of Architecture. What brought you here, and what keeps you in this area?

I emigrated from Soviet Union to the United States in 1989 for political reasons. At the same time I realized how such a great, vibrant and free American society can be for creative and individual with a good quality education. I earned my Master Degree in Fine Art and Architecture and I was fortunate to then merge my skills in the architectural illustration business which I started in 1992 in New York. Now 20 years later, my wife Marina and I founded Renaissance School of Art in Sarasota. The purpose of the school is to share my knowledge and tremendous experience with the community, and to raise the skills of the young and amateur artists to the professional level.

Sunset on Siesta Key. Acrylic on canvas. 24"x24" Displayed at Stakenborg Fine Art Gallery,  1545 Main St., Sarasota, FL phone (941) 487 - 8001
Sunset on Siesta Key. Acrylic on canvas. 24″x24″
Displayed at Stakenborg Fine Art Gallery,
1545 Main St., Sarasota, FL phone (941) 487 – 8001

Has living in this part of the world impacted your current work?

It is hard to say what really influences my work because we are being shaped by many factors. One thing I know for sure is that I try to resist the urge to commercialize my fine art work. The urge to sell or please the public jeopardizes artist creativity tremendously.

Would you please give us a brief summary of your process of your architectural paintings?

I work with architects and architectural companies across the country on a wide range of projects. For the last 20 years I have painted thousands of watercolor illustrations for various commercial, residential and government projects such as Red Cross, Universities, Hospitals, etc. I start with architectural plans and elevations. Basically I trace the model on watercolor paper, add people, cars, trees, etc. and start painting it as if it was an artwork. Architects provide me with the samples of exterior materials and I imagine the rest. The ultimate goal is to bring “dead” digital images produced by architects to life. Recently I found that working with 3-D computer generated models saves a lot of time in this process.

Summer Day. Acrylic on canvas. 30"x30" Yeliseyev Art Studio,  (941) 330-6865 4600 Pine Harrier Dr., Sarasota, FL
Summer Day. Acrylic on canvas. 30″x30″
Yeliseyev Art Studio,
(941) 330-6865
4600 Pine Harrier Dr., Sarasota, FL

Does your process vary between your architectural paintings and your fine art paintings?

Architectural illustration has many restrictions in order to simultaneously show the necessary architectural details while capturing the surrounding atmosphere of the new project. In addition to that, the mood should be light and optimistic. Despite these roadblocks, I paint my illustrations in a relaxed techniqu. Obviously, there are no issues like that in fine art. Color palette and mood comes naturally when dealing with fine art.

Can you explain why you choose to work in watercolors for your architectural work, and acrylic for your fine art, as opposed to other mediums?

Actually, it is not my choosing. Architectural illustrations have historically used watercolors. The reason is the luminosity of rendered watercolor images and archiving easiness for architects. Imagine having 2-5 stretched acrylic canvasses in addition to the albums of architectural documentation necessary for a typical architectural project.

View on St. Paul Cathedral, London. Watercolor. 9.6”x13.7” Displayed at Stakenborg Fine Art Gallery,  1545 Main St., Sarasota, FL  phone (941) 487 - 8001
View on St. Paul Cathedral, London. Watercolor. 9.6”x13.7”
Displayed at Stakenborg Fine Art Gallery,
1545 Main St., Sarasota, FL phone (941) 487 – 8001

What are your thoughts on contemporary art?

Well, where do I start?….
We really have a lot of contemporary, but can you show me the art? I think that the most of contemporary art will not survive the test of time. The vast majority of it is either fashion trends or just exploitation of WOW factor.

When did you decide you wanted to teach? Can you tell us about your school?

Imagine the reader without knowledge of alphabet, the musician without knowledge of notes. Can somebody explain to me how you draw a portrait or nude model without knowledge of three things: composition, proportion and perspective? I would like to stress that nobody needs talent to learn these things as nobody needs a talent to learn alphabet and music notes. While this area has an abundance of art societies, colleges and clubs, I don’t see any fundamental art education programs.

Learning how to draw is a process that never ends. We are offering classes in drawing for beginners, intermediate and advanced students. We would like to build and grow our school community to have our student’s progress to their highest level of drawing and painting so that they can freely express their creative ideas without stumbling to the question how to do it.

Day in Orvietto.  Watercolor. 9”x12.6”  Yeliseyev Art Studio, phone (941) 330-6865 4600 Pine Harrier Dr., Sarasota, FL
Day in Orvietto. Watercolor. 9”x12.6”
Yeliseyev Art Studio, phone (941) 330-6865
4600 Pine Harrier Dr., Sarasota, FL

Our approach is to focus on the traditional classical method of drawing. With the academic approach, we analyze the form and break any shape into forms — cones, cylinders, prisms etc. We teach how to build the form from inside out. In this case it is really easy to draw anything without resorting to tricks.

This year will be the first year for our art school. Our mission is to help the next generation of artists build strong foundations in classical drawings. We also endeavor to provide high school students with strong technical and artistic skills needed for admission to the top art schools. Despite that we live in a digital world, drawing skills is still the necessity to make great digital art! Digital art should start with a piece of paper, and then be moved into the computer for manipulating.

Has your school, and being a teacher, influenced your fine art work?

I feel a responsibility when teaching a group of students, which leads me to revisit technical literature for the preparation of each class. Surprisingly I find that reviewing many of these technical aspects useful for my own art. In other words it gives me inspiration and further knowledge which I can apply to my art.

Longboat Key House. Acrylic on canvas. 30"x30" Giclee on canvas at Collectors Gallery & Framery. 114 South Nokomis Ave., Venice, FL phone (941) 488-3029
Longboat Key House. Acrylic on canvas. 30″x30″
Giclee on canvas at Collectors Gallery & Framery.
114 South Nokomis Ave., Venice, FL phone (941) 488-3029

What would you like the future of your school to be?

I would like it to be responsible for artistic success of our students. For any teacher the student success is a huge reward. We would like to grow and mature together with our students and become a part of Sarasota’s vibrant art community. We are adding new programs and workshops constantly and planning on getting accreditation from NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design).

What do you wish for your current and future students?

I wish they will gain confidence in drawing and painting and enjoy the creative process. They need to learn how to be patient and develop their skills in the right direction which will make their life in art more productive.

Still life with basket. Watercolor. 22.5"x17" Yeliseyev Art Studio, phone (941) 330-6865 4600 Pine Harrier Dr., Sarasota, FL
Still life with basket. Watercolor. 22.5″x17″
Yeliseyev Art Studio, phone (941) 330-6865
4600 Pine Harrier Dr., Sarasota, FL

Renaissance School of Art
www.yeliseyevstudio.com

Behind the Lens, An Interview with Virginia Hoffman

In her upcoming exhibition, Hoffman showcases her images of the unusual, the ordinary, ignored and rejected unintentional still lives she has collected from her expeditions on the region’s back roads far away from her studio.

Most likely you already know who she is, and if not well now is your chance to meet Virginia Hoffman. From public sculpture, to advocating, to writing, to exhibitions, if it’s related to the visual arts in Sarasota, there is a really good chance Virginia Hoffman has been involved in some form or fashion.
As resident of Sarasota for over 40 years, Hoffman, has been a first hand witness to the ever-changing visual landscape of this community and Florida. In her upcoming exhibition, Florida in Context, opening March 1st, Hoffman showcases her images of the unusual, the ordinary, ignored and rejected unintentional still lives she has collected from her expeditions on the region’s back roads far away from her 6th Street Studio. Below, Tim Jaeger interviews Hoffman about her subject matter, digital imaging, and her advice.

"Citrus Growers House" featured image for exhibition, a remnant of the citrus industry of the past, possibly a home to the workers who toiled there.
“Citrus Growers House” featured image for exhibition, a remnant of the citrus industry of the past, possibly a home to the workers who toiled there.

sVA: What is it about the subject matter of this exhibition that you find appealing?

VH: Having grown up in Florida with a natural urge to explore I’ve always found the unbeaten paths of this state alluring.

From hiking deep into the jungle of the Fakahatchee Strand, old abandon factories (which I call indigenous polluters) to abandon cracker houses intact with the possessions of the last occupants.

All has its own special narrative but to read that one must ponder what you see by getting up close.

sVA: What do you want your audience to walk away with?

VH: An appreciation for the Old Florida and how it exists in our current time with all its rustic charm and decaying beauty.

sVA: How long did it take to collect these images?

VH: Been capturing these sorts of images since I was a teen-ager but this exhibition consists of a collection of images taken within the last two years and within a days drive from Sarasota.

sVA: When did you realize that you wanted old Florida to be your subject matter?

VH: Last year, I spent a week in the Big Cypress Swamp with my husband. During this trip I captured many environmental landscapes, but after returning from a long trip into the swamp I came upon a failed development in the midst of all that beauty, the irony of failing economy I assumed. Before me sat a man made lake, an old dilapidated construction trailer, with barren land that had been scraped to sandy dirt as far as the eye could see. A rainstorm was coming on so I snapped some quick images of an abandon dragline and crushed galvanize culvert pipes. When I got these images into my computer and started to process them I realized before me were two iconic images representing the destructive character of urban sprawl. I call these sort of images “Boom and Bust Relics” This is when I realized there subtle message of presenting images in a fine art context would be a subtle message in support of historical preservation, smart growth and awareness of a disappearing old Florida heritage. Subtle but profound, there are two pieces in the exhibition called “Dead Elephants” and “Boom and Bust Relic” were shot at this Everglades epiphany.

"Dead Elephants" Relics of the boom & bust development evident all over Florida they start, the stop they leave barren land and relics behind. This image was taken on the edge of the  Fakahatchee Strand .
“Dead Elephants” Relics of the boom & bust development evident all over Florida they start, the stop they leave barren land and relics behind. This image was taken on the edge of the Fakahatchee Strand .

sVA: When you look through the viewfinder, what are you looking for?

VH: I never look for my subjects through the viewfinder. I see what is before me, taking it all in and then I decide what view intrigues me. I always work a shot; examine all of its potential. I never am really sure what I have until I look more closely later on. The best images are generally a surprise, a discovery.

sVA: How do you feel about the incorporation of digital imaging into photography? How has it changed your take on the art of photography?

VH: Digital photography is its own universe with many doors and paths towards creative expression. A person can be very superficial and capture random accidental images, which have a special allure, which I liken to outsider art. Then you can go all the way to the masters who capture amazing images technological unavailable to analog photographers.

I’ve done both and love both, but digital is now my obsession with it’s an endless universe of possibilities.

sVA: Of the many places you’ve photographed, what makes Florida so special to you?

VH: Florida is a secretive subject, it only tells you what you want to hear, but if you look beneath its surface beyond the interstate you can find a diverse terrain unique in north American and a renegade heritage that threads its way to the here and the now.

sVA: What advantages (if any) do you see in working with black and white photography?

VH: As an artist who creates sculpture I look at photography in that way. I am not really capturing my subject par say, I am capturing the light. The way I choose to look at the light in my minds eye is simply sculpting with light. I try to emulate this in my photography and black and white and all the new methods for expresses this classic genera this is my favorite challenge. I believe to fully understand your subject you must view it in monochrome.

sVA: Have you missed any images and kicked yourself for it?

VH: Happens every dusk and dawn when I am not out to shoot the glory.

sVA: What mistakes do you believe are made by newcomers to photography? What advice would you give?

VH: Take your camera off of automatic, turn off your flash, and take the time to learn how to work your camera. Even the simplest camera is capable of great work, explore the plethora of free and readily available information on the Internet and in no time your ability to capture memories in a more profound manner will evolve.

"Willow Bridge"  Abandon railroad trestle bridges left to decay, sits today with the natural patina of time, unmarred by graffiti and beer cans due to its remote location.
“Willow Bridge” Abandon railroad trestle bridges left to decay, sits today with the natural patina of time, unmarred by graffiti and beer cans due to its remote location.

Presented by The Sarasota County History Center, Florida in Context, a photography exhibition by Sarasota-based artist Virginia Hoffman, is March 1-31, at Sarasota County Visitor Information Center and History Center Museum, 701 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. An opening reception with the artist is Friday, March 1, 5:30-7:30 p.m. A portion of sales will be donated to the Friends of Sarasota County History Center. For more information, call 941-400-5217.

Sarasota County Visitor Information Center and History Center Museum
701 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

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Playing Around: Interview with kinetic sculptor, Steven Strenk

Sarasota Visual Art talks with professional Sarasota artist and educator, Steve Strenk, about his relationship with his creations, and process.

It’s not everyday that we associate fine art with toys. Often the first image that comes to mind when think of art is a painting- something formal perhaps. However it’s more common than you think. The notion that artists can use materials creatively to express whimsy and a sense of play in objects is one that has been around for quite some time. From Alexander Calder’s Circus consisting of pulls, strings, cranks, and noises to the Simpson-like work of New York based contemporary artist and designer, Kaws, the playful and inventive works are here to stay.

Sarasota Visual Art talks with professional Sarasota artist and educator, Steve Strenk, about his relationship with his creations, and process.

sVA: It’s almost every kid’s dream to make his or her own toys. What started your fascination with combining function, utility, and toys into your art?

My kids!! During graduate school, I was painting subject matter that was very isolated; because of my circumstances I was inspired by the landscape around me. I then realized looking in and around my studio that my children were and will always be a significant part of my art making. They had their toys everywhere, I believe that it started when I picked up one of their toy trucks and made a painting of it.

sVA: How would you define the art of toy design? Do you have a routine process?

I would have to say it begins with a sense of play, figuring out how things work, and what their purpose might include.

I think knowing your process is important. I begin with a drawing, like many others do, however I then spend most of the time developing a prototype. It’s through the prototyping process that I make decisions of function. Where is it located, what is it doing, and how is the viewer suppose to interact with it?

sVA: You are participating in the 38th Toys Designed by Artists Exhibition opening November 21 at the Arkansas Arts Center. What does this mean to you?

This is a great step in the right direction for my work. My goal is to get the work out, try to find the “right” audience; who are they, where are they, those kinds of things. I would like to start exploring other areas of the country to find a place for my work. Someone somewhere needs to start collecting my work!

Perfect Flower © Steven Strenk

sVA: Your work is a wildly inventive combination of something handmade, playful, elaborate, colorful, but also full of personal expression. Are your sculptures for yourself?

I would like to share. Of course I make work hoping others would appreciate it, but it’s not my sole motivation. I just find things fascinating, and find a need to deconstruct objects and materials, re-inventing the purpose of them. Thinking up ideas gets very exciting: what can I make, where can I use it, is it functional, or what do I do next.

sVA: While most toys are massed produced, your work is one-of-a-kind, and meticulously crafted from found objects. Can you describe your process of collecting?

Everyday I’m around “stuff”. Whether it be a matchbox car, or some cool Lego construction my son is in the middle of building. Possibilities are everywhere. When I come across a new material, it could be as simple as a new sheet of paper, or it could be as complex as hacking an electronic to make something light up. This always gets me energized, and I think, “What could I do with this?”

Enlightenment (a study of) © Steven Strenk

sVA: You always seem to have new projects. What lies in your future?

Well….I’m thinking about lighting things up! Lighting plexi-glass could be fun. I have all these great colors. It could be an interesting turn to transform the work into some sort of kitsch. The wonder of what they would look like as a “night light”? I don’t know …so many things to do…maybe a mini theater with a moving disc of images? We’ll see.

sVA: Lastly, what do you think makes toys so special?

It depends on how you define “toy”. A car for a middle-aged person could be their toy, a new Lego set for my 9-year-old that puts a smile on his face is a toy. For me I think a “toy” is designed to bring a sense of amusement, wonder, and a smile to the participant.

To view more of Stenk’s work, visit: http://sstrenk.wordpress.com

Interview with Andrea Dasha Reich by Pamela Beck

Reich was born in the Czech Republic in 1946 to a progressive and creative family. Intellectually at odds with prevailing Communist ideologies, the family emigrated to Israel in 1960 where Reich studied at the Bezelel Academy in Jerusalem before moving to NYC in 1966. Her early success and travels as a corporate executive and designer in the fashion/textile business, exposed Reich to unusual hand crafts, exotic objects and a variety of colors and textures that later appeared in her art work.

Pamela Beck

Pamela Beck

There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.


Andrea Dasha Reich Artist Statement:
“I’m as affected by the frog I saw yesterday, sitting on the lit globe of my outside light as I am by the distant memories of a gray hut I once saw in China or a blue mosaic tile I saw 30 years ago when I lived in Israel. My biggest influences come from the many cultures I’ve deeply experienced, from nature and from the legacy of art and invention passed through the DNA in the women of my family to me. These join together and feel like an invisible hand guiding me in my work, where it’s as if colors take over my whole being.” – Andrea Dasha Reich

Most recent Commission – Andrea Dasha Reich, “Tess’s Paradise” 2012 – 4′ x 10′ (with the artist)

Bio:
Reich was born in the Czech Republic in 1946 to a progressive and creative family. Intellectually at odds with prevailing Communist ideologies, the family emigrated to Israel in 1960 where Reich studied at the Bezelel Academy in Jerusalem before moving to NYC in 1966. Her early success and travels as a corporate executive and designer in the fashion/textile business, exposed Reich to unusual hand crafts, exotic objects and a variety of colors and textures that later appeared in her art work.

Reich has shown in solo exhibitions in Miami, Aspen, New York City, Boston and Denver and many group shows including MASS MoCa, North Adams, MA; Zimmer Museum, Los Angeles; and State of the Arts Gallery in Sarasota that represents Reich locally. Reich is represented by Etra Gallery in Miami and Pismo Gallery in Aspen and Denver. Studio Director, Anastasia Maracle, runs Reich’s large Sarasota studio, allowing Reich to concentrate on her creating her art. Reich will be showing at Artexpo & Solo in Miami, Dec. 5-9, 2012.

Andrea Dasha Reich, “Sarasota” 2012 -48″ x 54″

1. Your work is many layered and looks 3D. Please explain how you create this effect:

It’s impossible to see the layers of my work in a photograph because it’s multi dimensional. If you think of a BLT sandwich, it’s a similar idea- one thing placed on top of another. I have the image of the final work in my mind before I begin. It can be up to 5 layers of epoxy resin that I work on one layer at a time. I start with the first layer of epoxy resin into which I put shapes, acrylic textures, metals, painting with inks and dyes and clays. Then I do another layer on top of the last. Between each layer are many materials. I continue this layering and filling in between the layers until I think the work is done. The result is an artwork that resembles glass both visually and tactically, but unlike glass, it’s virtually indestructible.

2. Both your personal style and your art are bright, colorful, bold and whimsical- are these traits that you think describe you?

Although I can be quite serious, I prefer to laugh about life and enjoy humor in others. When I work, it’s truly a pleasure for me to be in my studio. I love working. I know other artists who find it painful to make their art. But why would I want to do something that hurts me? I’m not a masochist.

3. Why do you think people are often afraid to live with bright colors?

Color affects a person emotionally. It’s easier to live in a white or cream-colored room. Colors cause bold reactions and it might be difficult for some people to have such strong feelings. It can scare them. I think certain colors can connect you with emotions you didn’t know you had. Many people don’t know what to do with those emotions once they surface.

4. What does the process of working on one of your pieces feel like to you?

I converse with my paintings all the time. I feel like a conductor. I have to keep those colors in line or encourage them: this one may be too strong, that one too shy. It’s difficult to work with color. I have to keep them all in constant balance.

Andrea Dasha Reich, “Gray Tess” 2012 -36″ x 54″

5. You lived in NYC for 33 years, mainly in TriBeCa. What’s the difference working there versus Sarasota?

There’s a big difference. It’s obviously brighter here. This led me to choosing brighter colors. Also, I incorporated nature more fully into my work and exchanged house images for flowers.

6. You often work on commission. People ask you for a particular size, feeling or color palette. Please explain how this worked in your most recent commission:

My last commission was the largest I’ve ever done: 10 feet x 4 feet. That’s the size the client asked me to do. She saw my work in a Miami exhibition and fell in love with two of the pieces. She asked if I could combine the colors of one with the images of the other. Of course, it’s not a science, but I tried to respect the essence of what she wanted and render that in this last piece. She just received the work and is very happy, which makes me feel the same as well. It’s very satisfying for me to make someone else happy. If I can do that with my art, that’s the best.

7. What would be your fantasy commission?

I would like to design a piece for a huge airport lobby. People have so much time while they’re waiting there. I would enjoy knowing that people were looking at my work without rushing. Because my work is so complex and intricate, it takes many viewings to see all that is going on. People always tell me that they see things they’ve never seen before each time they look at the same work.

8. What do you see as the role of the artist today in society?

I can’t generalize as every artist does what he or she wants. Some like to express anger, ugliness or other social inadequacies that ail us. I paint for beauty in the world and for myself most of all. I like people to be happy and touched by my art- for it to evoke emotions they may not even understand. People see different things in my work, like religious letters or special messages. I always agree, as it’s great that they see something they find important. If I would attach a specific meaning to my work, I would be taking away their imagination.

Andrea Dasha Reich, “Miami Red” 2011 – 70″ x 50″

9. What is one thing that disturbs you about the art world?

I don’t doubt the importance of museums, curators, critics, artists and dealers challenging people’s minds to understand art. What I don’t like and am impatient about is the change in art criticism. Historically, the “value” of art was the gold standard in art. Today the question of “value” has been replaced by “what does it mean?”. This opens a Pandora’s Box of endless chatter by those who have no way of knowing what an artist is thinking. (Often even the artist him/herself doesn’t know.)

10. Who are people you would enjoy spending time with and why?

Georges Sand, because she was an independent, creative woman and lived her life as she wished. Yoko Ono and Antonia Fraser for the same reasons. And Woody Allen because he shows us how to laugh at ourselves.

Andrea Dasha Reich website: http://www.andreadashareich.com/


To read more about Pamela, view these links:
http://srxq.blogspot.com/
http://whatdogsreallythink.blogspot.com/

WHAT IS NOT SEEN: An Interview with Chris Jordan

Seattle based artist, Chris Jordan, shows us an arresting view of what Western culture looks like. Best known for his large scale works depicting mass consumption and waste, particularly garbage, he has been called “the ‘it’ artist of the green movement.” His supersized images picture some almost unimaginable statistics — like the astonishing number of paper cups we use every single day.

Chris Jordan
Caps Seurat, 2011 60x90" in one panel, and 88x132" in 3 panels Depicts 400,000 plastic bottle caps, equal to the average number of plastic bottles consumed in the United States every minute.

Seattle based artist, Chris Jordan, shows us an arresting view of what Western culture looks like. Best known for his large scale works depicting mass consumption and waste, particularly garbage, he has been called “the ‘it’ artist of the green movement.” His supersized images picture some almost unimaginable statistics — like the astonishing number of paper cups we use every single day.

Art Center Sarasota will be exhibiting Jordan’s works in Gallery 1 May 24-July 21, 2012. The photographic exhibition, Chris Jordan – Running the Numbers: Portraits of Mass Consumption deals with over 1,000 nesting Laysun Albatross chicks who die every year after ingesting plastic they mistake for food, is profoundly disturbing while deeply significant. From the series, Midway: Message From the Gyre, 2009-Current, Jordon photographs the dead albatross chicks “almost like a crime scene…with a motley assortment of plastic articles in their carcasses, juxtaposing the decomposing corpses of the dead chicks filled with the sturdy bottle caps, printer cartridges, toys & other petroleum-based products that somehow ended up in the stomachs of seabirds on a Pacific atoll some 2,000 miles from the nearest continent.”

“My work is about the behaviors that we all engage in unconsciously on a collective level. And what I mean by that the behaviors that we are in denial about and the ones that operate below the surface of our daily awareness.” “ When 300 million people then it can add up to a catastrophic consequence that nobody want and nobody intended, and that is what I look at with my photographic work.”Chris Jordan, Ted Talk 2008

sVA: As a whole, standing back and looking at your work, there seems to be a minimal appearance. Are you influenced by minimalism and/or non objective art?

CJ: I would say so. I feel like I am influenced by the lots of different genres of art including the color field, minimalism, and various forms of photography as well. But really, what I am trying to do with all of those things actually is to use them as a tool for making a point, and so in that way although I feel like I am influenced by those genres I feel like to turn them on their head a little bit- at least that is what I am trying to do.

sVA: You take photographs of small quantities of waste and then make digital composites that add up to the actual amount of things we consume, whose message comes into play in closer examination. How does your audience respond to this effect in exhibitions?

CJ: It’s always a fulfilling and a rewarding experience for me to see people because if the way the prints are supposed to work, and the way that they actually end up working, you should be able to stand back at a distance and see something that is quite attractive or at least it is none threating. So you see what looks like a big ocean or you see something like 6 giant orange rectangles that will appear like a piece of minimalist modern art. So people walk up close to them, and it’s funny when you get up really close that you see all of the fine details that the work is actually made up of, and at that point people usually show a spark of interest- you can see their eyes get really big and that is when they call their friend over and say “Hey you have got to come look at this!” In that process they are comprehending the number of the things that they are seeing without really knowing what is going on and then only in the end when they go over and read the panel on the wall do they get the shock of what the piece actually represents.

Chris Jordan
Venus, 2011 60x103" in one panel, and 8x13 feet in three panels Depicts 240,000 plastic bags, equal to the estimated number of plastic bags consumed around the world every ten seconds.

sVA: How do you implement your projects? They must be incredibly time-consuming and challenging from a practical point of view.

CJ: Most of the pieces in the Running With Number Series I did the entire process myself and it is really time consuming and I realized as I got to the end of the body of work that I was doing a lot of really tedious work that I really did not need to do. There is not a lot of artistic input in the process. For example, walking down a commercial street in Seattle and collecting 600 plastic bags and then photographing every single one of them and then in 10 different positions and then cutting all of those bags out from their different backgrounds and then comparing them to be built into a giant image of hundreds of thousands of plastic bags. So lately, I have been working with an assistant to help me do the really tedious stuff, but most of the images that will be in the Art Center Exhibition were made just by me.

sVA: How important is it for the viewer to feel the personal connection in art today?

CJ: That’s really the challenge- to feel a personal connection to the world. That is really what the whole body of work is aimed at. It’s the question of “Do I matter?” because everyone of use is 1 in 7 billion are number that is so tiny it seems incomprehensible. It’s really hard for anyone to feel like anything we do makes a difference in the world, and I think that is the big question facing humanity right now. How do we act in a way that is empowering and empowered and how do we begin collectively acting as if we all matter? Each one of us has a persuasive argument going inside of their heads and I don’t matter, my vote does not count and whatever tiny little thing I do on behalf of our world is going to be wiped out by the notorious behavior of entire continents.

sVA: Is that part of the reason why you started using photomosiacs to put everything into perspective?

CJ: Yes, I am trying to raise the question – the enormous scale. When you face the enormous scale of what is going on in the world, whether gigatons of carbon we are emitting or the millions of cellphones that we are discarding you start facing the scale of our world and you’re overwhelmingly faced with the tininess of each one of us. It’s a paradox because on one hand each one of us doesn’t matter, and on the other hand the reason why we got into this disaster we are into now is because of the actions of hundreds of million of individual people behaving like they don’t matter.

sVA: Would you consider yourself more of an anthropologist, or photo journalist, exposing the ills of society, rather than an artist?

CJ: That is a really interesting question. I find it interesting to categorize the process of my work because it really doesn’t fall into a category. I think it is funny and kind of annoying that people label me as an Environmental Artist because almost none of it has anything to do with the environment. I like to think of myself as a cultural activist. Am I an artist or an activist? I almost don’t think of myself as either one. When I think of activist- a traditional activist, it is kind of finger wagging and itchy and kind of one-dimensional. Activists particularly fail to see the irony in what they are saying, like a whole bunch of green movement people all drive their SUV’s to a rally against petroleum. So I try not to be an activist like that, but then I also think of artists are living in their own world. The art world is this kind of thing that is detached from the rest of the world. A lot of artists have the tendency to (especially now days with the Modernist Movement) stand back and laugh at the world in this ironic and really detached way and I don’t want to be like that either. I believe very deeply in an urgent need right now for engagement. On behalf of everybody, whether our teachers, our filmmakers, our artists, or whoever, I try to walk the line in-between those things.

Midway: Message from the Gyre (2009 - Current)

sVA: Why do you utilize iconic images instead of non objective forms in your work?

CJ: The challenge, the underlying goal that I have is to draw the viewer in. I want the viewer to walk up close and get hit over the head with a sledgehammer, and so I am always trying to figure out how to draw the viewer in and how to build as many layers of Meta message in each image. So for example with the La Grande Jatte image (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte- 1884 by Georges Seurat), that is a painting that was done just at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution that is essentially a snapshot of what it looked like for people to take a leisurely stroll in the park back before there were giant parking lots of SUVs and plastic coolers filled with plastic knives and plastic forks and spoons, and Frisbees and Nike shoes and all the stuff that goes into a Sunday at the park now. It was also one of the first pieces that I did in that series and it is sort of a pawn on Pointillism. With the Venus picture, the one I did with the number of plastic bags used around the world in 10 seconds, it’s the iconic painting of the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. I used that image because Venus is the goddess of love and in that story in that painting she was birthed from the ocean and so the ocean is her mother and so she in a way represents our love for Mother Earth or our earthly love. There is also a general interest, a beauty, and a recognition aspect in those iconic paintings that helps bring the viewer to the conversation.

sVA: Do you work with any medium other than photography?

CJ: Right now, I am switching mediums actually and directing a film that is just about the most difficult and scary thing I have ever done but it is really exciting as well.

sVA: Can you tell us what you are currently working on, or what subject is currently inspiring you?

CJ: Right now I am really emerged in my Midway project. I have been going out to Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for a couple of years now, I just made my sixth trip out there and photographing dead baby Albatross bodies that are filled with plastic. This project is ongoing and all of the pictures you will see in the ACS exhibition came from the very first trip there and I have gone back numerous times since then and have been presented with the horror of tens of thousands of dead baby birds but also this ecstatic beauty of being in an environment surrounded by a million of these magnificent birds who have no fear of humans.