Sunday, October 07, 2007

Q&A with Sierra Brown

Sierra Brown, a Cal State Long Beach student, swam 11 miles through the ports to her campus as part of an art project. Brown thought up the "Port To Class Supercommute" as a way of encouraging people to get out of their cars and take alternative forms of transportation.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a 28-year old MFA student at CSULB and I live in San Pedro, Ca. I was raised in Flagstaff, AZ and Albuquerque, NM but fell in love with surfing at 16 when I moved to Perth Australia. Since then I’ve lived and travelled around the world. For the last 4 years I have supported myself as a graduate student by working 6 months per year as a wildland firefighter on the El Cariso Hotshots along with intermittent work on sport fishing and dive boats. Last year I obtained my 100-ton captain’s license, quit working for the forest service, and I continue to work on boats. I prefer water over fire.

Describe your recent artwork.
Most of my recent work revolves around concerns related to global consumerism and the transportation not only of goods, but of ourselves. I’ve been working on a video series called Import that includes numerous 3 to 5 minute clips of cargo ships, cruise ships, and oil tankers moving through the Ports of LA and Tokyo. The Port-to-Class Supercommute is a sort of reaction to Import, where starting from San Pedro I will navigate through the Ports of LA and Long Beach in 8 different human powered methods as I commute to my Monday night class at CSULB. I had an intimate encounter with the busiest port in the western hemisphere on October 1st when I crossed its 11 mile span by swimming for 6 hours and 37 minutes.

What type of planning and preparation do you engage in before starting on a new project?
In the case of the Port-to-Class Supercommute it took me about 6 months of brain storming and research to come up with the design of the project. There were many small, but important details than I needed to cover, such as the legalities of swimming through the port. I had to prepare by researching long distance swimming and then doing the right kinds of training swims to feel confident in the project. It seems like I’ve been on the phone for the last two month just trying to plan out the logistics for Port-to-Class.

What steps do you take to minimize the risks involved in a project?
Take vitamins, and notify the port police. I forgot to do the latter last time.

What are you currently reading?
Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox. It’s been a refreshing break from academia, and she makes me feel like a wimp! She swam across the Bering Strait in 1987, easing cold war tensions in an area where borders were closed, and swam across the Ohio River in Cincinnati when water quality standards were going to be decreased. I discovered Cox and her book after I came up with the idea of swimming through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and it may have been the determining factor in my finish. I never knew the act of swimming could have such social and political power.

Favorite short story or poem:
The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Tell us a little about your website.
My friend, Rick Logan, helped me tremendously with my website. I wanted a nebula, outer-space kind of theme to go with the concept of long-distance endurance travel in the Port-to-Class Supercommute project. The website also contains a blog where I’ll be posting the aftermath of each week’s commute from San Pedro to CSULB, as well as a survey of videos and art from undergrad and graduate school.

To read or listen to 89.3 KPCC's interview with Sierra Brown: link

Sierra's website

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Q&A with The Other Woman, an Art Collective

About The Other Woman:

The Other Woman is an art collective formed by four female artists, Aubrie Costello, Laura Graham, Darla Jackson, and Laura McKinley, in order to cultivate opportunities for group critiques, discussion forums and exhibitions.

Revealing the beauty and the sadness of the everyday is one of the unifying thematic elements of the collective. Their personal experiences combine with elements drawn from the outside world to shape each individual's vision. The collective provides an environment where each woman can approach making art in her own way that is unique, yet cohesive with the work of the group as a whole.

Tell us a little about your websites.

Darla Jackson: Well at the moment we operate between two sites. The website for our collective ( ) is a place for us to share what is going on with the group in a more formal way. We have a portfolio for each artist, a press and reviews section, information on the group and upcoming shows. The other is our Myspace page (, which acts as a more informal way for us to connect with people and tell them about our shows and other events. And I must say, Myspace helped us get together quite a crowd for our panty raffle!

Laura McKinley : Our website is just a little baby right now, but she will one day grow up to be a beautiful lady, befitting of her name. For a while we worried about having a "professional" website but then Darla had the great idea to stick to the basics for a while, and our site was born -- functional, informative, with a simple elegance. One of the best things about our site is that Darla is obsessed with updating it, so you can visit regularly and always find new images or information about upcoming shows and other fun stuff.

Aubrie Costello: The Other Woman's Website..It's clean and organized..two things I am not...and it was designed by the superhuman Darla Jackson, a fabulous person so organized she should get medals, a lot of them, for it.

DJ: Awwwww shucks…..

Tell us about your recent artwork.

AC: My recent work is a continuation of a mission, so to speak, for clarity. I'm trying to get to an aesthetic place with my work where its elegance strikes a cord with the viewer, one that encourages a moment of reflection, an emotional response to the state of the world, the state of a mind. My latest work talks about a deep rooted confusion, naivety, exploitation. My biggest influence is the bombardment of excess I experience as a young American female conscious of the elephant in the room day in and day out.

Laura Graham: Hmmm... my recent work. Well, I feel like for a long time I really struggled with how I wanted to portray my ideas. It wasn't until the past year or so that I feel like things have really started to come together for me artistically and gain momentum. I've always felt more satisfied by doing things the hard way. I didn't want to just stumble across things in the street and take photos with a digital camera- not that there is something wrong with that, if done well that can be very difficult too. But I really love the idea of being deeply connected to every aspect of a piece. I lovingly place every object where it needs to go. I
build the walls and make the interior, develop the characters and make the masks. I think there is a lot of disconnection going on in the world today and this is how I have started to resolve that for myself. Plus it's a way for me to experiment with things I wouldn't normally get to do. Like faux finish a room or build a cradle.

DJ: The body of work that I have in progress now is a series of animal sculptures based on 16th and 17th century vanitas and game paintings. Each piece uses symbolism to convey ideas of what is and is not important in life. Kind of calling attention to the superficial things that people want, pursue or worry about. The way I am approaching this, and all my work really, is trying to pour my emotion into it and hope that the viewer responds to that. I feel like if you're true to yourself and that your work is honest, people can't help but to relate to it on some level.

LM: I have recently been working on some life-size self portraits that depict me in the various roles I play in my life at this time, specifically a wife/homemaker, a legal secretary, and a martial artist. By separating these persona's and using similar poses, I am drawing attention to the contradictions present in my life, which I believe are present in the lives of many young women.

What are the positives and negatives of exhibiting together, as a group?

LG: A definite positive is we can help support each other. We all have different sets of skills that are strong and combine to the benefit of the group as a whole. It's nice to have three lovely ladies as a major source of encouragement as well!

LM: Exhibiting with the three founding members of The Other Woman is full of positives! I think that our work shares common thematic elements that tie the art together, but we each focus on different media so the overall look of our shows is diverse, but conceptually cohesive. We also serve as a wonderful support group of sorts, and are continually motivating and helping each other to grow and develop as artists. I know that I am achieving much more since joining forces with these amazing women and am so thankful to be part of this collective.

AC: Positives with working with these three women...a drive I haven't had in so long. Confidence and strength to talk about real shit and experiment. They are such amazing minds...I just sit there and listen. I think we know as a group that it is important to keep are individual voices, though times they do intertwine.

DJ: The positive is the support system we have in place. Any help that one of us needs, from aesthetic opinions and decisions to physically moving and installing artwork, there are three other people there, ready to help. Laura Graham's macaroons are also a very positive aspect of exhibiting as a group, since they usually make an appearance at the openings. The negative is scheduling...It's hard to get us all in the same place at the same time sometimes but if that's our biggest problem, I think we'll be ok...

Describe the environment and atmosphere in which you work.

Do you generally work alone or with people?

AC: I like the input and advice of the amazing artists which are my friends. With that said, I really work alone. It's very stressful and emotional for me but it has magic moments.

LG: I work in a lot of different environments depending on the photo I'm working on at the moment. I like to embellish strange, forgotten little corners or design completely new strange, forgotten little corners. I tend to like to work alone or with the minimum number of people needed to pull off the final product. I feel bad inflicting my focus mode on people. I kind of go into my world when I'm making things.

LM: I currently have a small studio in my house that I use for painting, sewing, and all things art-related. I usually work alone, but my cats offer their help frequently and insistently. They are especially handy with brushes, pencils, and knitting needles, but I do not always agree with their artistic choices.

DJ: Right now I'm actually sculpting in the kitchen, since my studio is under construction. But primarily what I look for in a working space is good light, a clean surface and enough room to get back from my work to see what's going on in each piece. I generally work alone now but have never minded working in a space with someone else. Having someone there to see what you can't when you've been staring at a piece all day is really helpful.

Is it quiet or do you play music?

LG: I usually start out playing music to get myself in the mood but realize hours later that the music has stopped and I didn't notice. Again, the focus mode.

DJ: It depends on how I'm feeling. I need either total silence or a constant stream of Eminem and Immortal Technique, both very intense musicians. Sometimes fancy ladies need hard core, revolutionary hip hop in their lives.

LM: I like to play music, but honestly, when things are going smoothly, I barely notice whether it is on or off.

Tell us a little about yourselves.

AC: I recently graduated from school. I live alone in a New Jersey suburb and work construction with my dad.

LG: I love making things from scratch. I think that in itself is a forgotten art. It's completely nuts to me that they actually sell pre-made, pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the grocery store. Nuts. I'm a crazy dog lady. If I didn't live in a little apartment in Brooklyn I would probably have about 8 dogs. I also love to travel. I think it's the best way to jump start your brain and remember to see things in a different way. If I'm only exposed to
the same things day in day out, I have trouble being creative.

DJ: I'm a sculptor living and working in Philadelphia. I'm a part of the Center for Emerging Visual Artists Career Development Program, which is great. I am obsessive compulsive about the administrative end of art. I frequently bite off more than I can chew but still manage to get it all done somehow. And I love a good tea party.

LM: I am an artist, a legal secretary, and a black belt. I like Woody Allen movies, Outback Steakhouse, and mustaches. I dislike talking birds, touching butter, and legal secretary-ing.

What interests do you have other than art?

AC: Music. Recently I've been fantasizing about playing the violin. I write little things here and there. Antique stores. I have always felt a connection to the past, to others' lived in things.

LG: Ooooh, all kinds of things. I imagine it's hard to be an artist without lots of other interests to draw from. I love trying anything new. I love fashion, I love to cook, travel, pretend I can play instruments, look up strange maladies and medical disorders, play with my dogs, have tea parties, and of course, hang out with my ladies, The Other Woman.

DJ: Exciting things such as f ixing up my house into a state which it is livable, c urating shows for artists I like, drinking tea , macaroons, b aking pies, b runches, seeing art that makes me want to fight people to own it , birds, g etting mail, p in up and light lunches, step teams, h olding birds, f lea markets, when the good guy wins, and playing chess , but I only like it when I win..

LM: I really enjoy karate, yoga, baking, hiking, and reading, and spending time with fabulous ladies, eating crepes and looking fancy. I also like discussing with my husband the many imagined adventures our cats have during the day while we're at work.

What are you currently reading?

AC: Katherine Mansfield, Stories

LG: Naked by David Sedaris. He is hilarious.

DJ: My email. Does that count? No actually I am currently reading a book called Make your own luck.

LM: A book about time management. Nuff said.

Favorite short story or poem:

AC: Recent favorite: Ursula Rucker's poems featured on The Roots' "Do You Want More" album.

LG: The recipe for French macarons. Well, I think it's pretty poetic.

Favorite lyrics to a song:
AC:I have so many that have really affected my art but I'll just share some recent lines on The bird and the bee album:

"Are you prepared for the atom bomb? Are you prepared for my aching arms? Are you prepared? Are you prepared? Are you prepared for serenity? Are you prepared to disagree?
Are you prepared? Are you prepared for me?
Do you know who I am? I'm alive, you understand? Alive Alive Alive"

LG: Jasseron, by Emily Loizeau. This guy is singing to his lady that he has a fabulous anniversary gift for her. She guesses what it could be- candies maybe? A watch? As it turns out, the gift is side by side plots with a view in the lovely little cemetery of Jasseron. I think it's quite romantic.

DJ: "Look, I've never had a dream in my life
Because a dream is what you wanna do, but still haven't pursued
I knew what I wanted and did it till it was done
So I've been the dream that I wanted to be since day one!"
Aesop Rock, No regrets

LM: Stuck in my head right now is Brand New Key... "don't go too fast, but I go pretty far."

What's next for you as a group:
DJ: In November we are having a show curated by Steven Earl Weber (co-director of the 201 Gallery), that will be split between 2 venues, the Coral Street Arts House and the 201 Gallery. It runs from November 8th through December 6th and the openings will be held simultaneously on Thursday, November 8th from 6-9pm. Laura Graham and Laura McKinley will be showing at the Coral Street Arts House and Aubrie and I will be showing at 201 Gallery. We're offering free prints to the first 100 people that visit both venues. Hope you can join us!

The Other Woman at 201 Gallery and the Coral Street Arts House

201 Gallery
1400 N. American Street, Suite 201
Philadelphia, PA 19122

Coral Street Arts House
2446 Coral Street
Philadelphia, PA 19125