In our Information Age, it feels like nothing is tangible anymore. We’ve ditched our hard copies for digital subscriptions, abandoned our record stores for Spotify, and recoil at the idea of buying something in person.
As a new group show presented by & Associates, enter three artists: Maia Ruth Lee, Meryl Smith, and Jen Shear, whose work departs from the digital status quo and realizes the beauty of the handmade. While the three artists—yes—got their first tastes of recognition via the Internet, their works are ones to be viewed first hand.
And while the artists are unified in an appreciation for the craft of handmade art, their works have distinctly different styles, ranging from magazine clippings pasted onto mattresses, to intricately created collages of fantastical creatures, to paintings on thermal blankets.
The artist’s new works will be exhibited in a group show called “Wildworld”, opening tonight at & Associates Gallery in downtown's Culturefix. We asked them a few questions about their connection to the online world, and found out more about the show.
How do you see the Internet interacting with the art world these days, and how has it related to your own development as an artist?
Maia Ruth Lee: I think more people are seeing art through Instagram or Tumblr, instead of in the physical gallery space, so it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the Internet and art are quite inseparable. Shameless self-promotion can sometimes work to your advantage I guess?
Meryl Smith: I have conflicting feelings about the impact of the Internet on the art world. It's great to be able to reach such a large audience with the click of a button, but for artists like myself, whose art is highly detail oriented or 3D, viewing a piece of art on a small, flat screen drastically takes away from the work. I think viewing art should be a more intimate experience.
Jen Shear: Our aesthetics in culture, language, art, economy, fashion, food, everything is informed online and passed around, circulated, re-appropriated, and regurgitated. We are all engaged with one another. It's beautiful. My process is about collecting, editing, organizing, and free-associating images. It's the same platform on which Tumblr and Instagram and all those other networks work. We are all cyber crusaders within an Internet void.
What are your thoughts on handcrafted art, specifically in the face of today’s largely digitally created media?
Maia: I like it, and I also don't like it. I am a crafty type person and like to make things with my hands, but I feel like sometimes you take away the mojo from the material you're working with if you touch it too much. It's hard for me to know when to stop.
Jen: Balance is everything. The computer is an efficient tool, but there is something really nice about staying in touch with the tangible. I have such a huge love and respect for artists who follow through on their projects from start to finish within their limits. For me, I want to get my hands in everything. I want to weld and cut wood, mold clay... power tools turn me on.
"We are all cyber crusaders within an Internet void."
How do you see your pieces working alongside the other artists’ in the exhibit?
Maia: Because we all make such different kinds of art, it allows all of us to stand out while remaining visually connected through with other qualities such as color.
Jen: It's a really fun and interesting dialogue, our work is all so different. I love everything Maia is putting out there right now; everything she does is a one-liner, a knock out. Her work is so poetic, really clever and so so beautiful. Meryl is doing something really interesting too. It's very apparent that she invests a lot of time and care into each piece, which I really appreciate.
In what way are the pieces in this exhibit influenced by your own real life experiences?
Maia: I would say most of my work is affected by my upbringing in Nepal.
Meryl: My love for animals and nature has always been such an intrinsic part of my life. Also, I've always had very obsessive tendencies. Those things combined are what drive these pieces.
What else inspires your artwork?
Maya: Science, religion, friends, and my husband Peter Sutherland.
Jen: Nature's holy sanctum and all my freaky friends and lovers.