Wednesday, August 31, 2005
A conversation with . . .
Simone Paterson and Eric Standley discuss their
upcoming exhibition in Blacksburg, "Undertow"
Eric Standley (left) and Simone
Does art have to furrow your brow? Not according to Virginia Tech art professors Simone Paterson and Eric Standley, who have collaborated on a new exhibition called "Undertow" opening Friday at Blacksburg's Armory Art Gallery. Here the duo takes a moment to talk about their first-time partnership and their long-time passion for making art in a postmodern universe.
Can you start by telling me how the show came together?
Eric Standley: We started teaching here at the same time, and we got to know each other and became pretty good friends. We're both leaning toward the postmodern. I wouldn't say leaning; we're neck deep in it. So we always have a lot to talk about. I enjoy her artwork quite a bit. So it was bound to happen.
What does postmodern translate to here?
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Simone Paterson: I would say that it's influenced by a lot of cultural theory: Derrida, Foucault. In my particular case, French feminist theory has really been an influence...I don't think art should be something where you come out of an art gallery with a furrowed brow. I'd much prefer people coming out of a gallery with a smile on their face.
In the realm of academic art it's very easy to cross that line where you become too heady and lose the emotional impact of the work. What do you think of that balance in trying to evoke the intellect and the emotions?
SP: I don't think art should be an illustration of theory, but maybe theory as a way to access the deeper levels of the work.
ES: Which is exactly the danger of a lot of postmodern theory. You can just walk around anywhere and appreciate things on multiple levels and be humored on a very simple level. So when I make work I'm very much entertaining myself to begin with.
SP: It's got to be. It's just so hard to keep on making art anyway...So there's gotta be something else that keeps you going.
What is it about making art that's so compelling?
ES: I don't think it's a choice. I think it's a path to walk and I'm enjoying the scenery...It's a kind of communication. I communicate with it--it informs me years later and I think, "Oh that's what I was saying."
SP: Through my artwork I think I'm closer to my authentic self. That's where I can be the most authentic, even though the work I make is cheeky and disrespectful.
ES: That sounds about right.
Can you tell me about the new exhibit?
SP: My work in the show is a combination of old work and new work. The new work is very pink; the old work tends to be a bit green. The old work is based on my electronic entity called "the bimbo borg," who's really a self-portrait...I was gonna kill her off but instead she's multiplied into a bimbo borg of different nationalities...It's hard with new work to decipher exactly what it is. All I know is I spent all summer making concrete high heels. I'm working on the title of that little series. Something like: "On their 30th birthday, the bunnies all got a pair of matching concrete high heels."
ES: My work in this show started probably two or three years ago. There are two main pieces. The installation is called "Alterations," and it's kind of shrine-like.
What it's about is kind of a disjunction of mythology.
Society's running without its mythology. It's a tough time, there's a big fracture. And replacing icons--we try hard, and we do it mainly by consuming products...The other piece is the slippers...doing paintings and cutting up the paintings and glueing them to the slippers...It's what I would call "maximal"--sort of a play on "minimal." I do all I can to approach a very simple and ridiculous place.
The opening reception for "Undertow" will be at the Armory Art Gallery in Blacksburg, Friday at 4 p.m.