Sunday, June 20, 2010

e-terview with Candace Briceño

Candace Briceño is a Texas-based artist whose works beautifully juxtapose detail-oriented hand-stitching with emotive-biographic expressions through nature-inspired subject matter. Briceño has exhibited her work extensively in solo and group exhibitions in Texas and throughout the United States. She is currently working on a group show at the Mexi-Arte Museum and a solo exhibition at the Mexican American Cultural Center Museum in Austin, TX. Briceño's work is also being highlighted at a virtual art exhibition at the CUE Art Foundation.

1- When did you begin using cloth/felt constructions and elements on your work? When did you begin making organic/natural forms? What led you to both choices?

I started to using organic forms from the very beginning as an undergraduate student at The University of Texas but, at that time I was not clear on why I was choosing that type of imagery. For some reason I started to think it was my vehicle or my excuse to make art, where the ornate imagery was a subject but, not much more. However, this period of not knowing my own voice allowed me the opportunity to really explore materials and master my paint techniques. When I got into graduate school at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) many of these unresolved questions about my subject matter started to confront me again in studio. Why I used the organic forms, why nature, why painting? The first semester was really challenging. I understood that I missed Texas landscapes and right before X-mas I packed up all my design books dealing with patterns and references to ornamental designs and put them away in boxes. I started to think of the reasons I was using another person's source material. If I was really looking at the Texas landscape then I needed to go back to Texas and do some serious drawings and sketches to use back in my studio. That was my light bulb moment, when I spent the next few weeks on my parent's ranch and saw my love for landscape and abstraction unite in my sketches. When I arrived back in Chicago I was clear what my subject matter was and why. I started to address the second concern of stepping out of my own painting department and into the unfamiliar fiber world and had to come to terms of releasing my title of strictly a "painter"; I understood that my training was in painting, but my voice was also with other materials.

I took a great class with Linda Dolack at SAIC in the fiber department in the spring of 2000. She led me into the fiber world but also allowed and encouraged me to use my painterly ways when exploring fiber. In that course I made my first fiber piece titled 500 plus. Those early fiber pieces were initially small sculpture models for drawings and paintings. Eventually they just evolved into a thing into and of themselves; every piece since then has been a collision of drawing, painting and fiber approaches. Not one medium is more important than the next; even if one (medium) is not visually present it is present in subtle ways within my work. Many of the work relies on materials that are being challenged to do something that is usually not present in that material's arena. For example, I use thread on canvas to "draw" parts of my composition in loose sketch format and use hand dyed felt to act as paint on my surfaces.

2- You have referred to some of your felt pieces as paintings, though some resemble more relief sculpture. could you expand a bit on that? Do you find helpful defining your work in terms of art genres (painting, sculpture, installation, etc) for your creative process, or is it more helpful to others looking at your work?

I refer to most of my work as drawings or paintings and it always seems to be clear to me what they are. Some of my work is punctured paper that has no pencil use at all. I still call that a "drawing" because it is derived from my strong drawing background and its been executed as I would draw with a pencil but, I use a needle to make the marks. Some of those marks have pressure points that make the holes larger which gives more light and some holes smaller that gives shadows so, it reads very much like a pencil line which makes me comfortable enough to work with a needle. In my series, "Invisible" I use only a single needle to puncture thousands of holes on the front and back of the paper to make up the finish piece. This technique both refers to my usual drawing methods but, also is very relatable to my sewing sculptures but, is lacking thread. The process is commenting on a lack of presence thus the title Invisible.

The "fiber work" is still being made from a painter's aesthetic and at times lacks the complete knowledge of a person who was trained solely in the fiber realm. I know I bend a lot of their rules and, with those challenges, address them in a more fun, child-like way, which gives a lot of energy to my work. The idea of not being trained strictly in the fiber world made me depend on my drawing and painting background and problem solve as I went along with each piece. I was not officially trained on how to use protein based dyes so I , again, relied on my painting background to add layers to a fabric to patina a material and give them some natural variations that I was aiming for in my dying process. As for having playful tones to my work I really try to challenge myself in each work and create problems that usually make the work go in a direction at times surprises myself and how I need to listen to what the work is trying to direct me in. I find this conversation that I have with myself in studio something that is essential to my work. Some of the grass island pieces I call sculpture, and only refer to their materials through the description of the piece in gallery/ catalogue labeling.

3- A sense of place (specially Texas) is important for your work. How did your work change when you moved to Chicago from Austin, and later from Chicago back to Austin?

When I left for graduate school I did not have the idea that Texas really informed my work and I naively assumed I could use Chicago landscape as a substitute. My dad, as a young child, picked cotton and various other crop products with his family as day labors. As I grew up more of his stories would unravel; I began to understood his respect for the land and the importance of what it can provide, and how hard that type of labor was in the Texas summers. Finally, 11 years ago he and my mom bought their dream ranch, started to raise milk goats and have their own gardens to tend. Going back to their house always made me feel a sense of pride and affection that they both had for their land. How one can go into the city - or art school - and see the fast-paced life, how life passed you by each semester faster than the next; at times how one pushed the maximum of your body with stress, deadlines and lack of sleep. When I would return home things seemed slower. Watching the beauty of the sun shifting, grass changing colors within days, the soil in different counties changing drastically from red clay content to black tar, trees frying out in the sun and finally withering away, were all things that inspired my work.

Today I draw a lot of information and inspiration out of visiting counties in Texas and driving around with my camera and sketchbook, then bringing those back into studio. For some reason I think because of the history that my family has to Texas I feel a connection to the land here. It is through this exploration that I am able to understand my parents' and grandparents' ties here. When I moved to Chicago I was not clear that Texas landscape was so specific to me and my work and I finally understood that it was specific but, not specific enough for other people outside of Texas not to get the work.

4- This relationship to place, does it continue on the location you present your work? Do you consciously consider the space when creating works, or select work that best fits a space?

I mostly create work in studio and imagine a gallery or museum in my head where it might be seen but, it is never very specific. Some of the installation pieces have found a different life of their own in different locations and that is always interesting.

One of my installation pieces called Nothing was originally thought to be sprinkled on a large single wall to represent a random flowers that might appear in a wallpaper. This piece was originally shown at a now defunct gallery space in Austin, Texas called Volitant Gallery.

Later the work was shown at El Centro Community College's gallery and the piece started to climb up a narrow column and this redirected the flow of the work which made the work rethink itself.

5- One other element I find evident in your work is repetition; that, compounded with labor and obsession creates an interesting tension with the overall quietness of your work. How do the terms repetition, labor, and obsession conceptually fit with what you aim to achieve? Are they even a consideration?

I think my work has always dealt with intimate details and for some reason the repetition and labor that is put into the work is like a long conversation that I have with each piece. I enjoy the time I spend with each work even though its physically demanding. The more I say the more the piece seems to communicate back to me.
The moments when the labor becomes so overwhelming, with my fingers becoming raw from sewing and it reaches a physical level that becomes a challenge. Somewhere in between the uncomfortable and the end of each piece is where more challenges are thrown in the pot with "mini melt downs" as if I was running a marathon where its mentally and physically challenging beyond a comfortable stage. But, its in these uncomfortable moments that I see something else that I want to address in future work so, it always seems to give back to me in a rewarding way. I enjoy that time of problem-solving and changes that the work demands.

click here to visit Candace's site

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