I\W: What is your attraction to scanner distortions?

Alex Chitty: I started thinking about the scanner because it builds information additively. It doesn’t capture a moment, it captures time. For me it was this huge crossover between performance, in that it is the record of an act. I would hide in the library under a coat in the winter to do this. I had my laptop and a portable scanner, but I had to get it dark enough so I had the coat over my head. They are photographs that I use for the distortions, but they are found photographs. They are also like painting because I can take a photo and paint with that rather than paint with a pigment and achieve the same thing potentially. I love the mistranslation between analogue to digital. I can hold a scanner up to you and it won’t record you. It will invent a lot of information. Someone that knows you can look at it and know it is you. We don’t need all the information. I want to know how much of something can be revealed or left out and your brain will do the rest of the work. My scanner pieces are meant to be light and quick, and feel easy.

(Alex’s studio space is a culmination base camp, a bright studio where her many materials finally merge together. Although previously focused on scanner distortions, Alex has incorporated shelving-based installations through a similar method of additive information. Transitioning back and forth between the design of both the shelves and the objects they hold, Alex forms cohesive arrangements that distort the viewer’s observations of personal narrative.)

I\W: What are the common themes that you incorporate in both your graphic design and fine art?

Cody Hudson: It all starts as shape-based. It is shape-based in the visual aspect, but in my head those shapes are telling a story to each other. I am utilizing these very simple, clean shapes to tell a story even if I can’t necessarily translate that to someone. I used to try and avoid as many similarities as possible between my personal and design work. For many years I thought they were completely different. In my most recent series of paintings I have been more comfortable letting them merge. Stuff would cross over visually before, but now my metal sculptures are starting as cut paper collages, and those are the things that feel just as at home in my design work. The collages get edited on the computer, where before all my paintings started with a blank canvas. I felt that it was important to be a painter that just painted. Now I have been doing studies ahead of time, and working on my pieces more like graphic projects.

(Once obsessed with limiting the connections between his paintings and graphic design, Cody has recently migrated to an acceptance of their related imagery, allowing his painting to become more planned. Cody continues to produce graphic design work for his company Struggle Inc., while also focusing further into the overlapping influence of cut paper collages within his large metal sculptures and paintings.)

I\W: Why are you drawn to put yourself so obviously into your titles?

Geoffrey Todd Smith: Because of how obsessive I am with making them. They are abstractions, and there are also references from other things. They are visual experiences from all of these different moments in my life—moments in our life in general. Some of it is shared stuff. It’s about making a connection with people. Sometimes I will make references that are puns, and sometimes they feel familiar because they are romantic—we have all had experiences with those feelings. A lot of them are quick titles, but maybe a bit dirty. I have one with black flowers on the bottom of the painting that is just called “Black Bottom”. There is something very obviously true about that, but it is also a little sleazy too. I make the titles very similarly to how I make the decisions in the paintings. It’s working back and forth with this pendulum so if I make a mistake or create a tension in the corner, I do that with words too. I will use words that have a certain kind of repetition or vibration to them, or words that rhyme. The titles don’t illustrate the paintings, but they do give some sense into my mindset.

(Geoffrey creates paintings based on a grid, forcing the eye to twirl and race off the edge of his pieces through cyclical marks based in bright, eye-pounding shades. Spending almost as much time on the title as the actual piece, Geoffrey creates controversial text dripping in sleaze and wit which encourages the audience to penetrate his mind during the paintings’ elongated conception.)

I\W: Can you explain your project Di Mo Da (Digital Museum of Digital Art)?
Alfredo Salazar-Caro: It is an online, 3D-navigated space. I have been getting really into architecture through building this project. For the museum we will have portals to enter different galleries within the museum which will each host a curated show, or solo exhibition. Instead of navigating to a gallery, you will enter each through a portal. We wanted to take full advantage of the platform and virtual reality. There are a lot of online galleries that just emulate a real gallery, and I think that’s kind of cool, but that is not taking advantage of what computers can do for you. We are also developing the project for the Oculus Rift. I am doing all the modeling and architecture and my friend William Robertson is doing all of the coding. The architecture for the museum is Mayan and Greek because it is a combination of both a classical canon and my own culture. I have been really obsessed with this idea of Mayan new media that came up back in 2011.

(Alfredo’s virtual reality constructions delve into the exploration of both digital portraiture and architecture, creating online spaces for our society’s structures and those who inhabit them. Producing digital models of the exhibitions he participates in, Alfredo ensures the shows live forever, outrunning the restrictions of fixed physical spaces.)

I\W: Can you explain your project Di Mo Da (Digital Museum of Digital Art)?

Alfredo Salazar-Caro: It is an online, 3D-navigated space. I have been getting really into architecture through building this project. For the museum we will have portals to enter different galleries within the museum which will each host a curated show, or solo exhibition. Instead of navigating to a gallery, you will enter each through a portal. We wanted to take full advantage of the platform and virtual reality. There are a lot of online galleries that just emulate a real gallery, and I think that’s kind of cool, but that is not taking advantage of what computers can do for you. We are also developing the project for the Oculus Rift. I am doing all the modeling and architecture and my friend William Robertson is doing all of the coding. The architecture for the museum is Mayan and Greek because it is a combination of both a classical canon and my own culture. I have been really obsessed with this idea of Mayan new media that came up back in 2011.

(Alfredo’s virtual reality constructions delve into the exploration of both digital portraiture and architecture, creating online spaces for our society’s structures and those who inhabit them. Producing digital models of the exhibitions he participates in, Alfredo ensures the shows live forever, outrunning the restrictions of fixed physical spaces.)

I\W: How much of your stories involve fact, and how much are pure fiction?

Deb Sokolow: Everything is based on some level of truth. I can’t make up a story, I wouldn’t know how. It always has to be based on something. I get confused the further I go with where the line is—it is all gray zone to me. I did this project about the Denver International Airport where there is a whole conspiracy about it being the headquarters for the New World Order. In a short span of time it has become a really mainstream conspiracy theory, and there definitely is some truth to it. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I am intrigued by conspiracies— mostly by the ones that are funny. You have to step out of conspiracies, have some self-awareness, and not get so wrapped up in everything. With the Denver Airport theory I was more interested in how other people were evolving this into side theories in such a short span of time.

(Deb works with the mysteries weaved into her own life, the bizarre misalignments that others might overlook. Fact informs fiction, mixing the two elements into a strange connection that cannot be untangled. Deb’s sunny studio in the far West Loop provides a perfect location for her endless people-gazing, large windows providing the vantage point for the train tracks and travelers who traverse on them below.)

I\W: What is your obsession with loops?

Tony Balko: There are loops in almost everything that I have done in the last few years. I had originally started out as a kid making comedy videos and recreations of Cops. It was very manageable, you get to have good guys, bad guys, whatever. I always had this traditional relationship to time in movies in that way, but then also had this love of hip hop and sampling and minimal psychedelic krautrock—German psychedelic music that has repetitious beats. All of the music I seem to like has a lot of repetitive elements, so I think the thing that resonated with me was this groove you could catch if the loop was good enough. I have always approached it where the starting point was wanting to find my own groove to focus on, and then use that as a building block to construct a narrative or tell some other idea. The other thing I like about loops is the ability to pull time. I don’t really like to slow things down, but I like to make things last longer than they should.

(Tony’s work flashes, pulsates, and confuses, whether in person at one of his performances, or while watching a video of his on screen. Influenced by music like krautrock, Tony creates looping videos that seem to stretch time, placing you inside a moment for far longer than you feel comfortable. With a studio located both inside and on the back porch of his Pilsen home, Tony has space to edit his psychedelic video creations as well as build his recent triangular, cubed, and circular disco balls.)

I\W: How does queer culture influence your work and inform your sculptures?

Betsy Odom: There is this term ‘queering’ that is a little bit weird to me. It’s like you have a magic wand and you can tap it on things and queer them. It is sort of a provocative way to take your identity and turn it into a verb. I don’t know if I am fully enacting some level of queerness. Maybe I am in terms of craft—I feel like I am definitely interested in the way that gender plays into craft or making things. I guess it depends on your lens, but in that queer lens the kind of very typical butch things are what I try to do in my studio. Without that lens there I still think there is something important about a woman trying to master, or at the very least take pride, in her craft.

(Betsy’s studio is located in Andersonville, a space filled with materials from giant chunks of cork to freshly sewn leather. Betsy’s practice spins masculine materials into feminized works, decorating hides with floral patterns and placing the practice of sport into objects that seduce the viewer into the desire to touch, hold, and feel.)

I\W: How does your job as a museum replicator inform your personal practice?

Max Garett: Lately I have had to make two of every object, which is unique because I was making duplicates of a show. It was interesting to make two identical objects by hand, and I am currently channeling that into a twin sculpture. The biggest thing at the museum is creating objects that are convincing. That is the main thing that has informed my practice. I like making things that appear much heavier than they actually are, or creating things that look like they have been naturally weathered by earth. That is something I have to do a lot at work that I really enjoy. It makes it seem like my practice is almost making found objects.

(Max shares a studio with several other artists, his own space located directly within the center. His sculptures stand erect around his workspace, a small army protecting his casting process inside. As a replicator for the Field Museum, Max allows his job to largely influence the materials and processes he uses within his private practice.)

I\W: How have you grown to accept the instability of the work you produce? Have you always been able to accept the pieces of your work that will inevitably die?

Heidi Norton: It took me awhile to embrace the instability of my work, or even get how it elevated my work conceptually. I am illustrating these cycles of life and death— and trying to highlight that death can be beautiful. It is challenging to make a work with an element that will probably die, especially when you think about art as being collectible or placed on a pedestal. I didn’t know or understand how significant these cycles were in the beginning. I started off with tropical plants and painting them completely white or black, and then later used a lot of cacti because I could control their death. They die from the inside out. I have ones from 2012 that look the exact same from when I displayed them (actually better). Artistically, I grew out of the painting the plants and using only cacti or succulents, using other plant species was important. And after awhile I just couldn’t control their life or death anymore.  I couldn’t get to the studio and water the plants as much as they needed. Every time I put a plant in a piece of artwork I would stress out thinking that it was going to die, so all my time became consumed with how to build irrigation systems, or how to put enough soil in the wax to maintain its life. Now I embrace it. I think about the colors and textures of life and death. Why can’t brown or dry be seen as aesthetically engaging?

(Heidi uses glass, wax and resin to encase plants, often giving her pieces the appearance of microscopic slides or photographic wet plates. Once worried about the inevitable death that would consume her plant-driven pieces, Heidi has since let go of her grasp on the plants’ continuous existence. The darkening of leaves and decay of root systems is now an accepted force, gradually altering the aesthetic appeal of her nature-based work through its own sculptural life cycle.)

I\W: Are any of your maneuvers spontaneous? Or are they all calculated folds relating back to the image you created digitally?

Robert Burnier: There is definitely a spontaneity. There are things that I will do, but it still retains that limitation. The things that are there express themselves no matter what. I don’t think the actions are ever fully spontaneous, they are always complicated somehow. Sometimes there really is no other choice than a specific fold, but sometimes things are going a particular direction and I can completely flip it around and go a different way. I have taken the same structure and done it more than once, and it is completely different each time. There is one that I did that came out really rectilinear and the second time I did it, it was this playful splayed-out figure. If I make just one choice differently, even with the same exact pattern, the piece ends up having a different life.

(Robert creates work that forces him through a journey of material, physically recreating images originally formed on the computer with aluminum. Working with and against the strict form, Robert creates objects with emphasis on the fold, a sculptural map of his physical process.)