An Open Invitation e-mail project is a collaboration inspired by Miranda July‘s We Think Alone and mail art. AOI e-mail collaboration began September 2013 and was completed January 31st, 2014. Using text, image, video, sound, or a mixture of two or more, 17 participants — both local and nationally based — responded to an e-mail they received that was created by the previous participant. Below, each participant is organized into numerical order — indicating the order in which they participated and who created what piece, along with their bio.
1. Kasey Lou Lindley
‘Transferring A Line From Your Back To The Wall’ Kasey Lou Lindley was born in San Francisco, California and raised in Utah. She studied at the New York Studio Program, received her BFA from the Ringling College of Art & Design, and her MFA from the University of Connecticut. Kasey currently lives and works in Sarasota, FL.
2. Egan Victoria Franks
‘Where Would You Like Me to Put This Window’
Egan Victoria Franks is originally from Detroit and recently completed her BFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a focus in painting.
3. Holly Jarvis
Weber State University ’12 BFA
Lives and works in Ogden, Utah
4. Shauna Lee Lange
Shauna Lee Lange is solely self-taught with no formal arts education (as a visual artist). She now has ten solo shows scheduled through 2015 for Charlotte County’s Public Art Program, featuring her Microcircles Series. Lange is a Rhode Island native, raised in Massachusetts.
5. Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller graduated from Ringling College in 2003 and currently resides in Sarasota, Florida. Professionally Daniel is a Creative Director for an international ecommerce company. Daniel also makes video art and realist oil paintings.
6. Reuben Kern
‘Two Sketches for the Sound Seagulls Make in Slow Motion’
Reuben Kern received his BFA from Ringling College of Art and Design, and he lives in Bradenton Florida.
7. Regan Stacey
Regan Stacey holds an M.F.A in Visual Art from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in Boston, MA, a B.S. in Biology from The Pennsylvania State University, and a Grand Diploma in Pastry Arts from the French Culinary Institute in NYC. She retired as a world ranked open water marathon swimmer in 2001 with a solo swim across the English Channel. Additionally, she ran a custom cake business for ten years before committing fully to the arts. This diverse background continues to inform her art and visual language. Stacey is an award-winning photographer whose photograms have exhibited across the US and in Europe. Her most recent work has shifted from the photographic to the sculptural, allowing her a more direct approach to materials. Entropy is a common theme in Stacey’s work as it relates to a functioning breakdown of order and form, communication and perception. Her latest project addresses the conceptual relationship between the naming of colors and miscommunication.
8. Lani Asuncion
Lani received her MFA from the University of Connecticut in Interdisciplinary Studies. She has a working studio at Erector Square in New Haven, CT; and teaches Video in the Film, Video, and Interactive Media Dept. at Quinnipiac University. She creates abstract narratives that reference local stories and histories that indirectly reference her own multicultural background.
12. Nicole Shiflet
Nicole Shiflet is a tactile painter and a technological art geek, constantly searching for ways to balance both aspects in her work. She was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Georgia, and currently resides in Baltimore. She received her BFA from the University of Georgia in Drawing and Painting and her MFA from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Imaging and Digital Art.
13. Sarah Viviana Valdez
Sarah Viviana Valdez is a Kansas born artist who lives and works in Tampa, Florida. Valdez graduated with class of 2010 from Ringling School of Art and Design Fine Art department, and participated in the New York Studio Residency Program, Spring of 2009.
14. Jorge Valenzuela
Jorge Valenzuela received his BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Jorge currently lives in Bradenton, FL.
15. Natalya Swanson
Natalya Swanson is a Senior at the University of South Florida working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. After she graduates, Natalya hopes to continue with her education, pursuing a Masters degree in Art Conservation. Although Natalya spends much of her time in Tampa at school and at the Centre Gallery where she is an Art Director, she currently resides in Sarasota, where she enjoys exploring new art mediums.
16. Trish Riley
Trish Riley received her BFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts & Tufts University. Trish currently lives and works in Bradenton, FL.
17. Ben Piwowar
Ben Piwowar Received his MFA from the University of Connecticut in 2011. He lives and works in Baltimore.
To participate in future AOI events and projects, you can contact Kasey Lou Lindley at: email@example.com
I’ve been engaged in this ongoing dialogue about support for local contemporary art for quite some time now. Ever since I moved to Sarasota, FL I have experienced a vast amount of creative energy that feels underground, for the most part. Contemporary art collectives and gallery spaces crop up every now and then, which is great because creatives can see Sarasota’s vast potential — the only problem is that they don’t seem to stick for very long. So I wonder; how do we get to a point where new collectives and galleries can become established, and when these new collectives and galleries do become established they, in turn, become a catalyst for new spaces and groups until a domino effect is created? We have a good number of resources, but I think we still need to consider more support from current established institutions, so that artists (young and old) have more of an incentive to stay and help strengthen our art community. For example, when I was recently living in Utah, I loved going to the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and CUAC because, not only could I view the work of artists living in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Berlin, etc., but I could also view contemporary art that was created by Utah artists! UMOCA even has a “locals only gallery” with a stipend included to help fund each exhibition within that space — AND the work that I saw continually blew my mind because I was viewing powerful, compelling artwork that was created outside of a major art center perspective — it was all new and fresh. I was viewing contemporary art about subjects that were specifically related to the location I was in and that added a whole other dimension to my experience as a viewer. It was also quite clear that these artists were very aware of the contemporary art world, were referencing aspects of it, but not necessarily mimicking it per se — they were adding their own perspective to what I consider an ongoing creative discussion, and it was coming from a Utah perspective. So that makes me think; how amazing would it be to go anywhere in the world and be able to view contemporary art that is representative of that location and its artists’ perspectives, while also being able to view artwork created by emerging and established, national and international, artists in the same space? To me, that would be highly fascinating! Fortunately for Sarasota, I’ve found that Art Center Sarasota is doing just that, and making quite an exciting impression in the process. I recently contacted Art Center Sarasota’s Exhibitions Coordinator, Emma Thurgood, to discuss the Art Center’s 2013-2014 season of exhibitions.
KLL: What is, and has been, your vision for Art Center Sarasota since you started your current position?
ET: My vision for the Art Center’s Exhibitions Program is to grow it to be a leader in Sarasota’s contemporary arts scene. For me, that means showing a variety of art year round that is visually interesting, thought provoking, and creates a memorable experience that they can’t get anywhere else in the area. I’ve been at the Art Center for a year and a half now, and I feel like we are on a great path with those ideas. For the last few exhibitions, visitors have been telling me, “This is the best show I’ve ever been to in Sarasota.” They said that about “Florida Flavor”, they said that about “African Nouveau” and “Leaf | Textile | Purpose” and I think the trend will continue on through the Incredible Journey Season.
KLL: Art Center Sarasota’s 2013-2014 season of exhibitions is titled Incredible Journey; why was that title selected and what should viewers expect to experience during the Incredible Journey season?
ET: Last season was called Southern Exposure for a reason: 20 of the 22 exhibitions we produced were exclusively Florida artists. It was a huge success in highlighting the amazing talents of Florida artists. Now, with Incredible Journey, we’re taking viewers on explorations of different art forms and concepts in art, as well as drawing artists from further afield than we normally do. In the past, it was very rare that our curated shows included artists that were outside of the Florida region. This season, we are presenting artists from across America and we have started the eight-year international exhibition program, “Confluence.” This program is an initiative I started where we will be showcasing artists from the countries in which Sarasota has a sister city. This year it’s Israel, 2015 is Russia.
I think this season is going to take some viewers’ way outside of their comfort zone. There are a lot of shows on the docket that present works that many people aren’t accustomed to seeing in Sarasota. For me, this is all part of creating a dialogue about what art is and can mean that will break down some barriers that have been put up.
KLL: We’ve talked a lot about fostering more support for local artists and creating an incentive for recent graduates to continue to live and work as artists in Sarasota; how is Art Center Sarasota contributing to this goal?
ET: Our main contribution towards encouraging students to stay in Sarasota is through Black Box Projects. It is specifically for students and recent graduates to produce an ambitious project. The Art Center provides an exhibition space and time, as well as some financial resources to see the vision of a student come to life. This contributes to their understanding of real world skills because they have to write a professional proposal to be considered and they have to produce the show. Because we schedule so far out in advance, a candidate could be a student when they apply for the Project, but already graduated when the Project finally comes on display in the gallery. Secondly, we have juried shows year round, and students and young artists who have been submitting have been winning awards and selling their work regularly over the past six months. Sarasota in general is a great place for that kind of success, too. In my research of other centers like Art Center Sarasota across the country, very few regions are like ours in that they offer so many exhibition opportunities year round across multiple venues. The rate for being selected to hang in a juried exhibit is very high, as well. In other shows across the country, you are competing with hundreds, sometimes thousands of people and only a small handful will be selected. In the Art Center’s juried shows, we receive around 300 submissions from about 200 artists and hang approximately 140-160 pieces. In the current juried show, “miniatures,” we have 244 pieces on display from a submission pool of 345. Those are some great odds for artists.
KLL: In your opinion, why should there be support for local contemporary art in Sarasota?
ET: A city is only as old as its youngest member. If the art scene continues to alienate the younger artists and audiences as it has in years past, they’ll find somewhere else to go where they feel like they belong. It’s a difficult challenge to deal with, especially as a non-profit, because the young people are not always the financial supporters of an organization. But organizations need to cultivate the next round of supporters because, as with all things, times and people change.
Art Center Sarasota does a pretty good job walking this tightrope, I think. I try to make sure that there is something on display for everyone. I have at any given time over 300 artworks on display in the building and they’re all different. No person should be leaving the center saying that there was not a single piece they liked. It’s impossible.
KLL: What advice would you give to recent graduates about establishing an art practice/career in Sarasota and/or its neighboring communities?
ET: Get involved! It’s hard for students, between classes and jobs, but seriously, there’s still enough down time in their life for them to carve out even twenty minutes a week to go and look at what’s on display in a gallery. The more involved they can become in the arts scene, the better off they’ll be. They’ll have a better idea of who the players are, they’ll be able to meet and speak with many of them at receptions, and it will give them a better idea of how they fit into the art landscape. One of the things I can’t stand is when a young artist comes to me to ask me to put on a show of their work and they have no idea who I am or what I do or even anything about my organization. I teach a professional practices class at the center with Elizabeth Hillmann, our Education Coordinator, and one of the things we talk about is gallery etiquette. I live by a simple rule when it comes to that: date your gallery. Be informed about who they are and what they do before you approach them, be respectful of their time, and if they pick you for representation, treat them with the absolute utmost respect and maintain a good relationship.
KLL: What other services does the center provide that the community can get involved with?
ET: Art Center Sarasota has a wide variety of events and public programs throughout the year. I have a great lecture season coming up with Kevin Costello and Baila Miller starting on November 21. We also have a killer education program with tons of classes in painting, sculpture, collage, jewelry and other fun stuff. The full listing of classes and workshops can be found at www.artsarasota.org/education. I’m really looking forward to Paper Arts Week November 18 – 22. Then, in March we have tons of programming to accompany our “Confluence: Israel” exhibit and of course, iconcept on March 28, 2014 where art walks the runway!
KLL: I am thrilled by the variety of art mediums and artists that are, and will be, exhibiting this season. Can you touch upon the importance of a diverse exhibition space that incorporates the work of local, national, and international artists?
ET: The best thing about the space at the Art Center is that we have four different galleries. So I generally show four different shows at any one time. Our largest gallery is always a juried exhibit of predominantly local artists. Some of them come from further afield in Florida, and every now and then we get someone from out of state. The other three galleries are dedicated to curated shows of local artists, community groups and nationally recognized artists.
I think some artists would prefer if we only showed local artists all the time, but as a community center, we are not just here for the local artists, we’re here for the viewers too. That’s a difficult balance to manage sometimes. Showing the work of local artists is great, and I do it as often as I can, but showing that work doesn’t mean anything if no one is coming to look at it. What makes a viewer come to look at the local art that we are displaying as opposed to any of the other venues in town doing the same thing? That’s what our curated show of more recognized artists are for- they get the people in the door to come and see something they can’t anywhere else in town. I couldn’t tell you how many times someone has come in to see one of our shows in the front gallery and then bought something from a local artist out of the juried show. It’s also a benefit for the artists showing that they can say they’ve exhibited at a place that has also exhibited such notables as John Chamberlain, Syd Solomon and many others. It offers up some shared prestige.
KLL: Can you tell us a little bit about CUBEMUSIC, Sun Boxes, and Pulp Culture?
ET: CUBEMUSIC and Sun Boxes, from Craig Colorusso, are the big blockbusters for the opening of our season. I feel like they really kick off the journey. Sound art is so underrepresented in Sarasota. The only other exhibit I’m aware of is the one at the Ringling in late 2011. But, for that you had to pay to go see it or wait for free Monday, and generally the people that need free Monday have to work on Mondays. What’s a viewer to do? Art Center Sarasota is always free and open to the public during our business hours, Mon-Sat 10a-4p. CUBEMUSIC will be transforming the space of Gallery 1 for the next eight weeks. Its cast light and shadows coupled with the soothing deep resonance of sound creates a truly altering experience of the space.
For viewers who still aren’t able to come and see the art, the art is coming to you! We are so excited to take Craig’s other installation Sun Boxes on the road around Sarasota. We’re stopping at parks and beaches to bring sound art to the masses. Whereas CUBEMUSIC is somewhat dark and ominous in its sound, Sun Boxes is positively ethereal. You can’t help but feel happy when you see them and hear them. The full schedule of the Sun Boxes tour for November and January can be found at www.artsarasota.org/sunboxes.
Pulp Culture is another show opening November 7 that I curated. I wanted to do a fun show about paper because I have such a love for it. I daresay it’s a dangerous addiction. I tried to not be too serious about it and just show fun creative art that would make people smile while educating them about the way that paper can be used for art other than drawing or painting. So far it seems I’ve accomplished my goal because of the feedback I’ve already gotten while I was installing the show.
You can view more information about Art Center Sarasota, Sun Boxes, CUBEMUSIC, Pulp Culture, and Emma Thurgood at:
Sarah Viviana Valdez is an artist living and working in Tampa, FL whom I met through mutual friends, and as a fellow Ringling College of Art & Design and New York Studio Residency Program alum. I’m intrigued by Sarah’s art practice, her evolution as an artist, and the direction her projects are headed. Recently Sarah had her first solo show at Gallery 621 in Tallahassee, FL, of which incorporated painting, sculpture, interactive ‘stations’, and googly eyes. With all the projects Sarah is currently involved in, I felt it absolutely necessary to contact her for an interview as her creative energy and dedication is refreshing and inspiring.
KLL: You have a very multifaceted art practice; how did you come to that process?
SVV: Peers have always had a huge impact on me. During undergrad school at Ringling I was heavily influenced by my classmates exploring a variety of methods, materials, and conceptual ideas. While there I applied topics such as educational systems, institutional aesthetics, traditions within portraiture, and interactive environments. In school it seemed more about processes and failures involving ideas. Everyone was feeding off of each other; it was a very fruitful environment amongst the small Fine Art majors. Naturally everyone needed to expose themselves to every medium since they seemed so enticing; it was a time to start being playful and we all learned a lot from that. I moved to Tampa post graduation, first living with my parents with little to no income. During this time, I had a six month break from school peers. Supplemental income allowed me to play with tools in a way that set aside the embedded history and its contemporaries. That transition helped manifest a language with myself, and understand where the work was coming from outside of the institution. After meeting a group of creative freaks in Tampa, I started to blend into the guerilla noise scene, and explore within a multifaceted DIY culture. My art practice is a result of my curiosity and desire for constant productivity, leisure, and play within order. It wasn’t until the institutional context was gone that I allowed the process of producing with a structural multifaceted framework, due to the nature of my new environment.
KLL: Recently, you had your first solo exhibition in Tallahassee, FL. Please describe the exhibition space, how you coordinated the show, and why you chose the name Where Current Can Flow for the exhibition title.
SVV: I found Gallery 621 online because they posted an open call for solo exhibitions a year ago, which I was diligently searching for at the time. I was unaware of the art scene in Tallahassee, so I researched Railroad Art Square which made the space intriguing — I would get exposure with family participants, according to the director who said Friday openings get at least 3,000 foot traffic, including families and students from FSU. The family aspect sold it to me; I wanted to plan a simple interaction with groups of people I’m barely exposed to with my artwork — Gallery621 was able to provide that interaction.
Planning an entire solo show is a challenge, especially when I never visited the site before the show. The gallery director, Cynthia, who is wonderful and extremely open-minded, responded to my email requesting information in regards to the layout and measurements of the space. Cynthia sent a detailed map and encouraged the proposal.
The proposal was a response to my current situation — an artist working a cubicle job and feeling very restricted by it. My experience with routine at work is absurd, where self identity is hardly encouraged and motivation is prescribed. The design of the office environment has an effect on its workers, putting them in a routine trance — the objective within the interior design is so specific to the potential each individual is allowed to have –this really interested me. What if I flipped that around and experimented with different arrangements to encourage the opposite effect?Where Current Can Flow intended to create play within order in an unconventional layout, allowing freedom and privacy in an inhibiting space. In this case, the gallery was the inhibiting space for a month. The floor space was divided in three stations, workspace, leisure-space and recreation-space. Arranging the three stations let me investigate the way adults and kids work, how information travels, and the way they encounter an ambiguous station encouraging interaction. For this show I started with primitive materials such as tape and scraps of paper, a labyrinth, and carrots to-go. The intention with the title, Where Current Can Flow, was to manifest an enigmatic energy between the space and the participant, initiating a creative circuit. Since the show, I hope to continue experimenting with and investigating the design of spaces for a positive energy that enhances self quality per participant.
KLL: I’m particularly intrigued by the “stations” in the exhibition; please describe each in detail.
SVV: The entrance area started with cartoon hands, pointing to the left and right sections of the room. The hands divided the space in half, offering two choices, the work-space to the left and the leisure-space to the right. Since there were no additional wall surfaces hiding what both sections included, it created an open environment. The left side was the work-space — a floor furniture piece shaped like three circles including tiny wooden sticks, tape, and scraps of construction paper in a trashcan. These items suggested a simple interaction, with one objective, to decorate the rug collaboratively rather than replace these items each day, the resulting constructions/collages were left for participants to dismantle or add to over the course of the installation. The right side was the leisure-space, signified by a large rounded rectangle as another floor furniture piece. In the center of this rectangle was an assortment of edible carrots and beets stored in a container with damp sand. Produce was used to invite the viewer to leisurely indulge in eating a fresh healthy snack, or to take back home, whichever notion pleased them. The front center was the recreation-space — a large square labyrinth floor piece with the maze laid out from tape. Participants could walk on top of the piece to find a way in and out of the maze, embodying a mental exercise. All the stations allowed me and the participants to reflect on three different topics; work, leisure, and recreation coexisting in the same space with no dividends.
KLL: Your work is predominantly vibrant and playful. I’d love to know more about the play element.
SVV: It’s second nature for me to be very playful. I’m constantly striving to take each experience nӓively like a child would. Of course my reflections on such experiences are different than a child’s. There is something about the immediacy approach, using new mediums to translate observations into images with no order or rules. It’s a constant reminder for me after being influenced by children. I have a younger brother, we are 15 years apart and he is now 10, Fernando is such an inspiration to this concept. It’s something I feel we shouldn’t lose as adults. I want to have that balance between child and adult when taking in new experiences, so I can make connections with our everyday life with play in mind. Our observations and conclusions shouldn’t have to be so structured. There is an energy that keeps allowing new connections to have an impact on us. With vibrant color and play it allows that to exist for me within the work.
KLL: What is it like living and working as an artist in Tampa, FL?
SVV: Tampa is a city where the general public doesn’t support the arts very much, having little knowledge about the underground local performance/art scene. Any rural, metro, or suburban city can have an ‘art culture’ exist; it takes a group of people with similar interests to make something happen. We just start spitting out ideas till something hits and actually interests all of us, but if no one ever produces them the results will be unknown. A group of people have to be okay with being intuitive with each other in order for the scene to progress locally. Breaking away from specific manifestos is important too. Such group decisions allow growth within the community. It’s a series of experiments: what else could be added, where else can we do it, who else can be involved? Working in Tampa is like any other place; to me it’s what you make it to be. Deserted spaces are useful pathways to transform into a happening. Such a space provides privacy, freedom, and choice of interaction. Tampa is filled with foreclosure homes for movie sets, bridges that hover the Hillsborough River that shelter performances, Curtis Hixon park with a power outlet and lights on till midnight, friends living in cheap housing in Ybor with no noise rules that allow events to get dirty and loud, storage units where mechanics test vehicles and the youth blow up speakers at the same time, Stoney’s a dive bar that get’s serenaded by loud bands bringing something back that was lost due to the pollution from nearby ports, and the list can go on…
KLL: How do you divide your time between your job and your art practice?
SVV: I work a full-time network support job that is unrelated to my degree and passion. It’s difficult to accept what needs to be compromised since a lot of my time is spent working 40 hours a week just to pay off my education loans. It’s like having two jobs — office job and studio practice job. It can feel discouraging at times, especially with Tampa not having a well grounded art community awareness. Awareness is not promoted well through the museums and galleries. USF Contemporary Art Museum has some of the better shows, but none include local art in Tampa. There is so much that is archived and has happened here and still not many people are aware of it. A lot of that is to blame within the scene too, due to rejection it’s natural to be enclosed with the smallness of the community, or allowing other scenes to diverge. We can make any place conducive to make art happenings. When there is less going on, it’s the boredom that brings similar people together to fill in that gap.
It has taken about two years to figure out my routine and balance my job, personal life, my dog Enzo, leisure, and art projects. I’ve had to sacrifice events, materials, and a certain lifestyle in order to keep making work. Continuing the work and being part of a community is all that matters to me. Nothing else makes sense in order to get through the day. When I get home there is so much to release after thinking in my dark cubicle cell. At my cubicle there is a stack of empty post-its that a co-worker gifted me. I use those constantly, writing ideas and lists of things to get done. When the shift is over they get stuck to my wallet or the back of my smart phone. My desk at home is filled with post-its. The notes are relative to review later on, a simple documentation of my processes unfolding. I also use my smart phone a lot for note taking, the camera captures weird occurrences encountered that later inspire certain pieces. The applications on my phone have been great in that sense, documenting immediate responses to my surroundings. That material has grown since acquiring the device, a lot more to reflect on though. I’d probably go insane not releasing my thoughts.
KLL: I love how you’re also interested in music and fashion; please describe your recent projects.
SVV: I did a fashion show called Gilded Rag with Katie Magruder, who performs as Fishwife, and Erin Hart, owner of Nail Pop LLC. It was our first time coordinating a fashion show and I really wanted to bring together our community in Tampa, and experience a happening through fashion. It was hosted at Cottage Sleaze, a true lair of Ybor housing used as a performance space. My friend Jasmine Huneycutt owns the place and performs asDiamond Hymen. A few friends have a name for their houses and use them as performance spaces; these spaces have changed the dependency with outdoor guerilla locations recently — It has changed the way sound occupies the space. Before, it was with limited equipment on the cement with a generator, now it’s a more controlled environment. The backyard, I think, used to be for milking cows — that’s where we did the fashion show — there is a raw cement opened building with a brick pathway leading to it, naturally ready for the runway. Jasmine also has a great amount of plants that added the Florida tropic into the scenery … oh, and there are even Roosters flocking around, showing off their red comb. The reason we did the fashion show was because there is a lot of Tampa music, but little of everything else. There are Ybor clubs and venues hosting mainstream pop culture, including Hip-hop and indie-rock — also the hair salons have formal fashion shows with an amazing influx of talent — there are the drag shows because Ybor has an upcoming gay pride scene, and then a few galleries that have opening receptions. Also, there is the DIY underground scene that includes noise, heavy metal, and punk.
I wanted to offer something different, aside from all the semi segregated scenes, and include something that had sculpture, performance, sound, and installation. The Gilded Rag show fit all of those points, and it still included music by using a tablet program that was very simple for my models to perform while wearing the clothing pieces. I also wanted to include more females performing that typically wouldn’t within our group, of course some of them already do. I selected a variety of girls, and was able to use two males, and put them in a position to perform and learn to be comfortable with their bodies and expressions. All the clothing was made out of plastic from shower curtains, LED lights, spray paint, free dumpster fabric — basically anything that we could get without spending our own dough, because we had a very tight budget to dress-up 12 models.
The music scene has been around my artistic career in Sarasota as well. I knew about the Tampa noise scene because they played shows at New College when I was in school at Ringling. Plus, in Sarasota, Matt Pierra, who has Roofless Records, coordinated Cinema Sounds — blending live cinema scoring with south-west noise music. I worked with Matt at Burns Court, and he was my introduction to DIY music in Florida. When I moved to Tampa, it was instinctive to become part of it due to my performance background. It was different of course — It’s like learning another language. Once I became confident writing and performing, the aesthetics and sculptures for i_like_dog_facesets started to mirror my art. Jimmy Sanchez and Daniel Kipp Whittaker, the guys from Skeleton Warrior, had this house off Branch Ave called the Branch Ranch Pervert Pit — they were the first to encourage me to start performing. I have Jimmy and Daniel to originally thank. Up until this year Cyborg City, a hidden secret amongst East Ybor, provided a space for my first sculptural performance involving a plastic inflatable Cyclops face — It is filled up with air from an industrial fan and I performed inside of it. Afterwards, I had a better idea for dog_face’s aesthetic, and it’s been interesting experimenting with outfits and environments recently. The same guys who run Cyborg City curate NO RAVE once a month this summer, at The Social Club in Ybor . There is a basement, it’s dark, and when it strikes midnight there is live electronic/industrial music from the noise scene.
I have released two digital downloads Cubicle Spell and Keep Rising From the Screen — both include digital sample sounds that have a creepy voice reciting words with a combination of panning bass — It first started with, “How do I deal with having a cubicle job?”. From there I created sounds for aggregate routers bouncing, clamping, encrypting, anything that included my job functions but giving it a soundtrack.
There are also a few festivals that happen once a year, getting everyone together to cram an ambitious amount of bands that perform over the course of 2-3 nights. The most notable one I got to perform for this year was International Noise Conference. Rat Bastard runs the event in Miami, FL at Churchhills Bar, and this year was the 10th anniversary. That guy has so much energy and loves everything about weird/noise music and gear. The event is held in February. This year Diamond Hymen attached a toy shotgun to her microphone, tossed one feather pillow into the air, and passed three cow hearts to three female performers included in the set — it looked like a slumber party occult ritual; it was fantastic. At the end of the night, everyone consumed feathers and where gagging them during their sleep.
I got asked to playfor the third Savage Weekendfestival hosted in Chapel Hill, NC, put together by Ryan Martin. It brought more Northern performers from Philadelphia, New York, and Providence, RI. It was the first time I’ve seen Humanbeast perform, and my jaw dropped amazed by Maralie Armstrong’s voice. The festivals have been inspiring just by experiencing the family vibe everyone has with each other, supporting the scene — its high-encouraging. I’m still new to performing within the scene, and this year has been the first time it has been exposed outside of Tampa. Cephia’s Treat Recordings released my first 15 minute tape Twisting Signals of Lightright before Savage Weekend. The cover is screen-printed with glow-in-the-dark ink on construction paper — trademark of the local connoisseur and archivist of the Tampa noise scene, Todd Lynn (Haves & Thirds). The tape can be ordered through his website.
Tampa has its own slice in the pie as well which is Blood Fest — you never know where it will be or what’s going to happen. The sets are short, at different locations, sound tracking the urban landscape of Tampa. There are no limitations with locations to perform when it comes to a generator. It’s really hot and drippy; everyone has their own disaster of ‘blood’ that is poured on them before the set. This year was my first time performing for it. Also, artist Rosemarie Romero did another Porn Nails performance in conjunction with Nail Pop LLC and Action Research, at the Venture Compound in St.Petersburg, FL. The installation was great and the space is huge, surrounded by other industrial warehouses. There were music performances alongside the mobile nail salon concept, invading public spaces. So my ideas have translated in many different ways in Tampa. I’m having the constant desire to play and have fun with like minded freaks.
KLL: Where does your work exist in relation to the Digital Age, and how do you see this age evolving –our culture evolving and adapting to, or from, the Digital Age–?
SVV: I work a very technical job that changes everyday due to the progression of technology. It’s benefited me to understand how internet outages and other digital communication devices have an impact on individuals. Consumers expect it to work 24/7, with no flaws, without understanding what makes it function. We rely on the timing and advice of technology, to run and tell how life should be lived. The Digital Age has many affects on our culture, especially the way information is distributed and how products are marketed. The whole ‘You’ as the image for marketing is very strange, our own image/avatar is used to promote the use of these website companies, and it seems to have become easily adaptable in everyone’s lives. My work has gotten small exposure to strangers that know someone who knows another person, because it’s floating out there. I don’t really think people are ever unnoticed anymore, as much as we still like to think. Sure there are different degrees to being recognized but we are not alone. Also the Digital Age has expanded the way tools are perceived; the idea of editing has become more complex and its part of our everyday lives, with us not even noticing it. Because of all these programs, the amount of expression that is posted in the web has increased. Everyone is generating ‘something’. We are evolving as artists, because our filters are changing constantly with the rate of technology. There is also the politics of sharing in the Digital Age, the open source culture is having an impact on the way DIY is expanded in technology; people are sharing for free for others to amplify on their ideas with the intention to learn from each other. I think we are adapting slowly to technology, because the rate of technology is progressing at a fast rate, but our culture is not parallel yet. That’s where we need to be focusing, and it starts with understanding how our devices work because it’s now part of our daily lives.
KLL: Where do you see your projects going from here?
SVV: Right now I’m everywhere and in need to calm down. The next few months I want to focus on my sound performances with i_like_dog_face, and have better quality recordings. Ryan Martin (Secret Boyfriend) from Carrboro, NC owns Hot Releases records and he will be releasing a vinyl of dog_face. I have a lot to consider: The image on the cover, the content in the sound, how it’s recorded, what kind of atmosphere I’m willing to invade with the concept, etc. It’s an object that is distributed and the only control I have is the image and sound; the rest is involved with a basic frame that is pretty universal. It’s very exciting and all very new to me; Ryan is great and such a supportive person for the entire ‘noise/weird’ music scene. Also, recently many of my friends want to produce films, and a few have written stories for them and started filming already. One that comes to mind is Carlos Gonzales, a prolific performer for Russian Tsarlag,comics Slime Freak, and filmmaking. He resides in Providence, RI but is a true local from Tampa. He was in town over the weekend and we filmed one movie involving a Magician and another involving a Cowboy dentist. Carlos is a method actor and has a real immediate raw style with filming and editing. Sets include green tones and scraps of shiny trash melting off the wall surfaces. He uses a mini DV camera with built-in ‘cheap’ effects and edits with a VCR… Really excited to see the by product. I’ve been pushing myself so much to coordinate projects, such as dog_face performances, Gilded Rag fashion, and my solo show that now it would be nice to be used and directed. I feel like my performance and fashion will translate well when acting for films. Last of all, I’m moving into a cheaper housing situation which means extra cash flow and potential for a studio space, finally. Getting such a space has a lot of potential for the community in Tampa, not just for me. I’m already encouraging a lot of friends to get a space in the same location that was found on Craigslist — that’s if it’s legit. It’s good to have that break period and experiment with another form of art, for me at least it’s manifested a conversation within the community of friends, because not everyone is sticking to one thing anymore. Let’s keep the ball rolling, eh?
Sarah Viviana Valdez is a Kansas born artist who lives and works in Tampa, Florida. Valdez graduated with class of 2010 from Ringling School of Art and Design Fine Art department, and participated in the New York Studio Residency Program, Spring of 2009. You can view more of Valdez’s work at www.svaldez-es.org
So, I moved back to Sarasota a short while ago. I was originally going to write about the fluctuating art scene in Sarasota, and why the youth feel compelled to move… but I’m over that now. I’m pretty nomadic myself, so I get it. AND, the Harvey Milk Festival happened, which was great, so thank you for that!
I’ve decided that what I would like to focus on is fostering and building up the alternative art community within, and close to, Sarasota. I’ve come to terms with its “ebb and flow” and I’ve decided I’d like to embrace it, and learn from it as well. Soooo, I’d like to propose an experiment of sorts. I’ve participated in several collectives, and I’d like to get another one going here. This “collective” wouldn’t really be about making money or specifically for visual arts either – it would mainly be for a learning experience, experimentation, and fun. Kind of like the Gutai Group, but different. I ‘m interested in bringing multiple aspects of the community together to create a contemporary Think Tank of sorts – this would entail art shows, open studios, group discussions, critiques, music, poetry; you name it. I envision this as an open group that is non-discriminatory. Are you currently a student or graduate? Great! Never been to art school? That’s great too! We can all learn from each other. I’m also interested in reaching out to writers, musicians, intellectuals, and folks outside of Sarasota as well (St. Pete? Tampa?). If you’re interested in this experiment, please feel free to contact me at Kaseylou20@gmail.com. Don’t be shy. I intend to be contacted by folks from all walks of life, which could make for something extremely interesting (and hopefully ambitious). I plan to be here for awhile!