Interview (between Carey Wallace/ Writer + Anna-Sophia Vukovich)
I understand some of your work in this show was made What was that like?
This summer, I went back to Alberta, the province where I was born, for a self-directed residency on a friend’s horse farm 10 minutes outside of Turner Valley. There was a perfect little shack on the property, and with some drywalling, I managed to convert it into a studio space that turned out to be very productive. The ranch is situated in the foothills of Western Canada, where the sky and land are enormous, and you can see for 100 kilometers to the mountains. You basically have a 360 degree view. It’s also ranching land. I saw lots of deer, cows and horses, a moose, bears, and heard coyotes howling from my studio at night. I was there for the last two and half months, immersing myself in this landscape, a place that has always affected my work.
How do you feel like this landscape in particular affected the work in this show?
For me this geography is very powerful. I grew up going almost every weekend to the mountains. In the winters I used to cross country ski competitively as a teenager, and then in the summers I would go hiking and canoeing with my family and friends. The landscape imprinted itself on me. I can’t say exactly how going back “home” after being gone for so long influenced these works, but there’s a charged aspect, something of an emotional attachment that I’ve been trying to bring into my work, as opposed to coming at it from an intellectual or cerebral point. Everything expanded. The marks became looser, and bigger, and the surface area of the pieces increased. So now the paintings are more of an immersion, as opposed to acting as symbols.
What are you interested in as an artist?
I’m interested in the joy and also the difficulties of life, and think a lot about how to navigate these experiences in a body: emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. What happens when you move inward versus outward, and how far can those expanses go? How does one find hope? How can one expand moments of time, and how does attention play into this? There are always things on the peripheries of our attention, which are actually very important and are clues to other pathways and developments. So I think it matters what you give your attention to. I feel like a lot of the richness in life is not what our culture pays attention to.
How did you choose the title of this show, “Soft Signs?”
I’ve been working a lot with signage and everyday symbols like arrows, dashes, and other types of marks. Instead of using them as pointers to something very practical, like a “Turn right” signal, I’ve been working with how those symbols can be used to speak to this inner navigation that I am interested in. The “soft” comes from the fact that these inner conversations are never direct. They’re quiet and they’re subtle, and for myself, it’s about trying to pay attention to
subtleties, and having a conversation with things that are not as obvious. It’s in a gentle, quiet space where I have found solace, a space that contains possibilities.
What inspired these works?
I was deeply inspired last year by a show I saw at the ICA (Institute for Contemporary Art) in Philadelphia by Ree Morton. She combined drawing and sculpture in a way that seemed to come from a place of exploration and joy, not overthinking. She also has an ability to move freely between mediums, which encouraged my exploration of moving between mediums.
Going back home to where I was born also inspired me, as there was this reunion with the past. I went hiking every weekend in Kananaskis and Banff, and immersed myself in this landscape that I have missed for a very long time. The quality of the air, the smell of the woods, the softness of the ground, the clarity of the rivers, and the power of the mountains are elements that don’t exist in large cities. These also cannot be so easily quantified and are often overlooked in terms of their importance. However, having lived in New York and Toronto for the last 11 years, I can say that this landscape is extremely valuable and I hope we take note of this for future generations. Being there I felt free to try things out and to push myself in a different direction.
What do you hope people will experience when they visit your show at the gallery?
I hope people will have an experience of space, an experience of themselves in a larger context, and hopefully a sense of expansion.