Saturday, December 12, 2015

TAG Interviews Cynthia Alexander

ATTITUDE is Cynthia Alexander's current show at TAG on view through December 19th.
Cynthia Alexander, Attitude Adjustment, Mixed media on paper, 36.25 x 28.25"
We asked her a few questions.

Have you always lived in Southern California?
No - I didn’t come to Southern CA until I married an Angeleno in 1988.

Where did you grow up? Do you feel that your early environment had an influence on your artistic development?
I grew up in Connecticut, in a New York suburb. From an early age, I was exposed to the great art institutions in New York City - one of my earliest memories is of a visit to the Egyptian wing of the Met. I was enthralled by the quiet mystery of it all, and continued to be drawn to the art of the Middle East and Asia. Later on, travel in those parts of the world deepened that interest and appreciation.

When did you first realize you were an artist (or have the courage to identify yourself as an artist)?
Two different questions! I think I first realized I was an artist in my teens; the courage to identify myself as an artist came much, much later, in the last 10 years or so.

Have any of your travels influenced the direction your art work has taken? If so, in what way?
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively in Asia, including places such as Iran and Afghanistan which are no longer easily accessible to travelers. These experiences - and in particular, exposure to the art and architecture of Islamic cultures - have affected me deeply as an artist. Unlike the Western artistic traditions, where there is a great emphasis on realism, the Islamic and Eastern traditions emphasize form and color first and foremost. This inspires me.

What were the unique challenges for you in undertaking this series?
I am first and foremost a figurative artist, with a fascination with the human body - as landscape, as abstract form, as conveyer of emotion. In this series, I challenged myself to be less literal and more abstract, more playful and personal. Early on, I decide to call the series ATTITUDE, as a constant reminder to myself of what I was going for.
Cynthia Alexander, Diva, Mixed media on paper, 34.75 x 50.25"
Do you work from life, or some other point of reference?
I typically work with models or from photographs. In this show, I worked with one model exclusively over a period of months, which was a great experience. Besides having an extremely long thin body, she is smart and feisty and has a great sense of humor - a killer combination for producing this series!

Have you learned any new techniques this year? 
In working on this series, I wanted to avoid the urge to over-explain myself on the page and keep things loose. To support that process, I used collage as a jumping off point for each image, “repurposing” old work as a ground for the new pieces. The serendipity of this technique challenged me to work outside the box and embrace the unexpected. Plus it was fun!
Cynthia Alexander, Changed My Mind, Mixed media on paper, 36.25 x 28.25"
How do you know when a work is finished?
One of the great, enduring questions in art-making! In this series, I worked on multiple pieces simultaneously, and kept them all visible to me as a I worked. I went back to most over and over again, sometimes just for minor tweaks and sometimes for major transformations, up to the last day I could take them to the framer. I’m not sure that any piece is ever really finished; at a certain point, though, I’m satisfied that I’ve done all I can do.

How do you like people to view your work—from across the room, or close up?
For this series, definitely close up. I want the viewer to engage with my process - see the torn paper, the layering, the erasures, the gesso white-outs. I want to invite the viewer to discover something unexpected with a closer look.

What would you like your viewers to take away from their encounter with your artwork?
I hope that each viewer takes away something different - that I have left enough ambiguity in each piece for the viewer to engage personally and find something new. This doesn’t have to be something big - just something they didn’t know before they walked into the gallery. I intended the women in this show to be strong, sassy and unapologetic; I hope that viewers get that too.

What is it like getting ready for an exhibition - are there any special considerations that you have to deal with?
Perhaps because I also have literary background, titling my shows and the pieces in them is always important to me. I had a great time coming up with titles for this show. Titles like “Are You Kidding Me?” and “Are You Finished Yet?” allowed me to access the inner bratty teenager that lurks inside us all.
Cynthia Alexander, Are You Kidding Me?, Mixed media on paper, 36.25 x 28.25"
What is the biggest challenge that you face as an artist?
Keeping it loose. Taking myself seriously.

Where do you see your journey as an artist going from here?
Doing this show was really a watershed moment for me - a significant move off the path of my past work, and the beginning of a larger exploration of new techniques and materials, subject matter, and my own habits and attitudes as a woman and an artist. I’m looking forward to getting back to work.

Cynthia will be joining Linda Sue Price and Elsie Dye Sims in an Artists' Talk moderated by gallery director Rakeem Cunningham today, 1pm at TAG.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Art Story: It's Not All About You

Linda Sue Price, It's Not All About You, Neon, 20 x 20 x 10"
Linda Sue Price’s current exhibit at TAG features phrases as in ‘Change is the Only Constant.’ The inspiration for the show came from a memorial celebrating the life of a fellow neon artist—Kunio Ohashi. One of the attendees shared a story about their friend and neighbor. Kunio was soft spoken with a wry sense of humor. They had dogs and were neglectful about picking up after their dogs. One day Kunio knocks on their front door. When they answered he handed them a piece of origami. When it was opened, the message inside said, ’Too much shit.’ Everyone in the audience laughed. It was so Kunio. Price thought about doing a piece in his honor with the saying, Kunio says Too Much Shit but decided it would take too much to explain but it did lead her to explore other words of wisdom.

See this and other works by Linda at TAG through December 19th.

Artists' Reception: Saturday, December 5, 5-8pm
Artist Talk: Saturday, December 12th, 1 p.m.

Read an interview with Linda on We Choose Art