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.)

I\W: How do you incorporate faux-finishing into your work?

Paul Erschen: Some of my work, because it has been sitting around for so long, has dust on it anyways—which I really wish I could figure out how to recreate. There are faux-finishing kits to get rust to happen, which allow me to use real rust, but it has more of the feel of painting when I create it. Through experimentation I have figured out tricks to make weird things happen by not using the faux-finishing kits according to the instructions, or throwing in an unexpected substance. I have used caulk which is originally white, but by putting some ammonia on it, it turns blue. A lot of times I save this step to closer when I am going to show the work because the stress or phrenetic energy of getting this stuff done lets things happen more easily. I don’t think they are completely convincing as far as the faux-finishing. I think if you really spend time looking at them you will realize that they are cast objects, and that there is some trickery going on. I am not interested in taking it to that level where it fools the eye. I want it to be just convincing enough that you are unsure about it being an original form or a casting, asking yourself what is the actual authenticity of the object.

(Paul’s studio is filled with the remains of years of sifting through the city for discarded objects, pieces dually considered memory-laden and easily forgotten. Stacked high in blue tubs, the findings are organized as neatly as the many molds for his castings, delicate drawings grace the side of each to distinguish which casting is their match. Through collections Paul has explored the throwaways of Chicago’s inhabitants, creating narrative exhibitions he purposefully leaves incomplete.)

I\W: How do you incorporate your personal objects within your sculptures to preserve them?

Kate Ruggeri: “Hero" has a backpack of mine that I actually kind of miss now. Even when I was young I was interested in found objects and material and journaling—a way of preserving things of mine. It is cool to incorporate objects into the sculptures because it is a suction for all of the stuff I don’t necessarily want to get rid of. The items can be transformed into something else. A lot of fabric also goes into the sculptures, items from when I will go thrifting and get all of these amazing things, but realize they are totally ill-fitting. I have a real fascination with fabric and material and I love getting to paint that and see a texture or cool print show through.

(Kate’s studio is large and open, objects and paintings clinging to the walls and floor in an array of completion. Often requested to make larger sculptural objects for shows, Kate places her own items inside, giving personal objects a newly enshrined existence.)

I\W: How do your paintings address American fear and paranoia?

Adam Scott: When I am making a painting and am in a state of being anxious or scared or alienated or nervous about the subject matter that I am using, I hope those nerve endings are present in the work. I think a way to open up the viewer’s retinal floodgates to accept that stuff is to have a kind of seduction and betrayal idea. There is the visual data that draws you in or seduces you retinally, and then once you are brought in, what I serve up to you with the other hand is something that I feel to be odious or not very savory. Sometimes it is very subtle, and sometimes it is very overt. I am not afraid to use American visual cliches, but then at the same time I warp and twist them.

(Adam’s studio takes up the majority of his rehabbed Wicker Park home’s basement, stacks of paintings and carefully curated collages scattering the bright space. Addressing American paranoia through thickly poured paint, Adam warps imagery that dually seduces and repulses his audience.)

I\W: Do you feel like your objects are performing, even without a body inside?

Claire Ashley: Right. That’s what I love about the static ones, the non-dancing ones. There is so much less pressure on them, and they don’t rip as easily. I don’t have to organize people. I am in much more control of them, and I do like the breath of them, or the pressure that people can put against them. A lot of people engage with the work because of the color and the playfulness. I love when people are engaged in a way that they want to touch and get up close and personal unlike most contemporary artwork where you do not touch. I am intellectual in some ways, but I totally appreciate that immediacy that people to respond to the work as well. It becomes an important part of how the work is existing.

(Claire’s studio is located behind her Oak Park home, a space often too small for her large, inflatable creations that tend to spill out into her backyard between plots of tulips. Like the flowers speckling her yard—vibrant yellows, pinks and blues splatter her amorphous objects inciting the innate desire for touch and play.)

I\W: Is it possible to examine GIFs through a serious lens?
Eric Fleischauer: Definitely. I think GIFs have a really interesting place in the history and the trajectory of moving image. I think they are super serious because everyone can use them. I am really into the idea of democratizing the art production mode, so that is one of the reasons that I really got into looking at them, observing them and viewing them critically. I wanted to know what these people who don’t normally have exhibitions are saying. A lot of GIFs are remediated content from other places, like Youtube or whatever, but that is interesting to me because it is a cultural signpost. It tells you what is happening. With my background I just can’t help but think about it seriously, it is so prominent.

(Eric places his work in two realms—moving and still images accessed both online and in person. Intrigued by dying and dead media, he plays with the non-literal use of past media objects and meshes old forms of media production with the new.)

I\W: Is it possible to examine GIFs through a serious lens?

Eric Fleischauer: Definitely. I think GIFs have a really interesting place in the history and the trajectory of moving image. I think they are super serious because everyone can use them. I am really into the idea of democratizing the art production mode, so that is one of the reasons that I really got into looking at them, observing them and viewing them critically. I wanted to know what these people who don’t normally have exhibitions are saying. A lot of GIFs are remediated content from other places, like Youtube or whatever, but that is interesting to me because it is a cultural signpost. It tells you what is happening. With my background I just can’t help but think about it seriously, it is so prominent.

(Eric places his work in two realms—moving and still images accessed both online and in person. Intrigued by dying and dead media, he plays with the non-literal use of past media objects and meshes old forms of media production with the new.)

I\W: What qualities to you have in common with a director?

Kirsten Leenaars: I guess more and more I am shifting to a director role, but I never work with a script or a storyboard. I work now with two cameramen that have worked with me for the last three video projects. It has been really amazing and they know intuitively what I want. I leave it up to them, they have much more knowledge than I do—I trust them completely. Sometimes I will give them some direction. I usually call the actors ‘participants’, but they are always real people. It is more like I am giving them instructions. I never tell them exactly what to do. I accept whatever they come up with. I guess I like that surprise, or I am curious how someone will interpret what I give them and what they will come up with. It is always very different from what I had imagined.

(Kirsten is a Dutch artist whose minimal and open studio is found within her home on the north end of Humboldt Park. Crafting childlike sets, Kirsten creates spaces where her participants often play themselves in collaborative narratives.)

I\W: How did you find inspiration in your boredom when you first moved to Chicago?
Assaf Evron: Somehow I found it very productive. You have to always keep entertaining yourself. When it is harder to do so and you make that effort, I think interesting things come out of it. It gave me a space to dive into ideas and books and images, to experiment more, move from 2D to 3D and open up a practice. It is in and out of myself. A lot of the things I do have to do with the actual environment. There are things that are present at hand always. Chicago has these alternative exhibition possibilities that kind of push you to find solutions and work for that.

(Assaf is an Israeli artist and former photojournalist who traded his motorcycle for an art practice. Assaf’s studio is located in the Hyde Park Art Center, a large second floor studio packed with sculptures layered from door to window, a byproduct of his recent move from 2D to 3D.)

I\W: How did you find inspiration in your boredom when you first moved to Chicago?

Assaf Evron: Somehow I found it very productive. You have to always keep entertaining yourself. When it is harder to do so and you make that effort, I think interesting things come out of it. It gave me a space to dive into ideas and books and images, to experiment more, move from 2D to 3D and open up a practice. It is in and out of myself. A lot of the things I do have to do with the actual environment. There are things that are present at hand always. Chicago has these alternative exhibition possibilities that kind of push you to find solutions and work for that.

(Assaf is an Israeli artist and former photojournalist who traded his motorcycle for an art practice. Assaf’s studio is located in the Hyde Park Art Center, a large second floor studio packed with sculptures layered from door to window, a byproduct of his recent move from 2D to 3D.)