When Andy isn’t working as a tattoo apprentice at Black Hills Tattoo, she’s making room in her home to create artwork anywhere she can find the space. Andy’s paintings of laundry and daily chores disrupt the repetitive and ritualistic nature of maintaining household comforts by glorifying the often over-looked and ignored. They elevate the mundane by translating the physical & emotional labor of domestic life into fine art. Andy received her B.A. in Art from Black Hills State University.
On a hot summer day, The Local Artist had a chance to sit down with painter, Geneva Costa, on her front porch. After touring her in-home studio, we chatted about her thoughts on painting, her love for art history, and her passion for feminism. Geneva’s hyperrealist paintings with obscured faces have piqued not only our curiosity in her painting technique, but also in the stories her subjects depict. Costa received her MFA in Visual Arts from California State University, Northridge in 2016.
TLA: Can you tell us a little about how you make these paintings? Is there a certain painting technique you subscribe to?
GC: I’m a big fan of learning how to do everything the correct way and then throwing the rules out the window. When I’m teaching I definitely don’t teach my students to paint how I paint. I want them to learn correct techniques first, and then figure out on their own what rules they want to break according to their own creative impulses.
TLA: How do you plan or compose an image? Is there a solid process?
GC: Lately, I’ve found friends or other artists to model for me. Everyone in these paintings are friends or artists that agree to do a photo shoot. Prior to the shoot I’ll sketch out the poses that I’m looking for in my sketchbook so it goes faster. After the shoot, I go through the photos to figure out what’s going to work with the content I’m trying to portray. I reference these photos and then draw everything out technically. It’s easier to paint that way because I know exactly where everything is going to go. When mixing colors, I won’t necessarily color match from that photo print. I’ll look at other artists like Jenny Seville, and different paintings that I like, and then I will decide what I’m going for in the painting. I’ll mix my paint for an hour or two before I even start. Then, I paint without using a wash or following any of the rules I was taught. I use my own method and choose opaque paint straight onto the primed canvas.
TLA: Is there any digital manipulation involved in your image making?
GC: In this series I’m working with obfuscation of the face and identifying factors of women, so some are just straight photos, and some are reference photos that I’ve manipulated in Photoshop. Occasionally, I’ll finish painting in photo-realism and then distort the image with a brush for instance, to give it a blurry effect. Some are made up of two different photos overlaid. It all depends on what I’m going for or what the story is behind it.
TLA: Is it important to you that the portrait of the individual shows through the painting?
GC: I honestly don’t consider my work portraiture, even though they’re basically bust portraits. The content behind them is so heavy. I do consider all of my works to be some sort of self-portrait because they’re coming from personal experiences and things that I have questioned. I don’t know that I have ever commented on something that doesn’t really personally affect me. I would say that pretty much anything that I comment on in my work is from an autobiographical point of view.
TLA: So, how has the human form become central to your visual language?
GC: I’ve always been drawn to figurative painting. I’m not quite sure why. I think that humans in general are interesting. Painting nudes is such a staple in art history. It's an established way of not only studying human anatomy, but also connecting with the viewer by portraying subject matter we all relate to. It is important to note that painting of female nudes by white, European, heterosexual male artists throughout art history is a long-standing practice. It can be argued that this art was an excuse to objectify women. I believe this plays an important role not only in the subject matter I choose to paint, but in the ways my models are posed, where her gaze lands, the choice to use oil as opposed to acrylic, as well as my chosen painting technique. Each choice I make as an artist is deliberate, and I do hope the viewer can recognize these choices. I don’t choose to paint nudes because it is revolutionary; it's quite the opposite. It has been and always will be an established part of art academia and art history.
TLA: In your artist statement you had mentioned allegorical narratives. Can you talk about how that feeds into your work?
GC: A lot of times when I’m painting I will have been researching different stories in Greek Mythology and the Christian religion that I was brought up on. There’s a lot of different things that I consider when I’m making paintings, but I don’t necessarily feel that I have to tell my audience everything. I like them to arrive to that on their own.
TLA: So there’s a deliberate message you are trying to convey. Would you say that most of your artwork is political?
GC: That’s all my artwork is! [laughter] It’s feminist art. When I was in grad school, I started to focus on feminist work. It was pretty overt and controversial, which can make people feel uncomfortable, hitting you over the head with what I was trying to say. Then I decided to go in an opposite direction where I try to paint in an ambiguous manner so I’m not offending half of my entire audience. I don’t know if I’m really painting for that half of the audience anyway. In the current political climate it’s really hard for me not to go back to the overt imagery. I think that having aesthetically pleasing paintings is not a bad thing. It’s also kind of subversive to paint things like flowers, but some people are still offended by my work just by having breasts exposed in a painting. Censorship of art really gets to me.
TLA: You’ve found yourself in the position of being censored?
GC: Yes. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem in LA, but I had experienced censorship in one exhibition there. The things that I paint about, I don’t want the viewer to necessarily see unless they’re really looking hard and they think about what a flower represents. Anybody that has studied symbolism can obviously see that it’s referencing female genitalia. To me, it’s the reproductive organ, so I’m talking about reproductive rights. I still make it aesthetically pleasing so it’s approachable, but some might not quite get the content behind the piece. I like that people can see the same painting differently by imposing their own experiences onto it, and maybe it does something different for them than it does for me, which is great.
TLA: Tell us a little about how these ideas are coming through in your current series?
GC: This recent series of obfuscating female faces and nudes includes the identifying features of women, like breasts, but their faces are obscured. We all have identities and we’re all intellectual, but American politics says “Okay, this is what you are, but we don’t trust you to make your own decisions about you body with your doctor”? Really? Come on! I once did a cyanotype of a back alley abortion to show what could happen if abortion gets banned. It won’t go away, it’s just going to become more dangerous for women to get an abortion. I think that [the right to choose] should be something that’s fought for. I did an entire show called “Why You Are The Way You Are,” and the works were purely text. I got rid of the image completely and only included hurtful words that have been said to me throughout my lifetime to show that yes, sexism exists. For example, I was told by someone close to me, that when I wanted to get my ears double pierced when I was twelve, “only sluts have their ears double pierced.” The exhibition included numerous sentences spoken to me throughout my life that demonstrate the existence of sexism.
TLA: That’s brutal. Were there any other instances in your life that have gone on to inform your work or set you on this path?
GC: Definitely, a lot of different things fuel the concepts behind my work. For instance, going to church and being told things like childbirth hurts so much for women as a punishment because Eve took a bite from the apple, and so that is something women are supposed to experience. We’re often taught things when we’re young and then expected to accept as truth and not ask questions. I started questioning things pretty young. I think it’s very important to ask questions, and I find it to be even more true as this year in particular goes on, regarding the current political climate in the U.S.
TLA: Questions have never been more important in a sense. You’ve lived in different places with different political climates from New York to Montana, and LA. What do you think of being a feminist artist in South Dakota?
GC: I think that my work is being better received now just because maybe the art scene is growing in Sioux Falls, and people are reaching out more. Maybe it’s because I stopped caring about being censored that I am alright with just continuing to do what I’m doing. I do feel that feminism is still “the bad F word” here and in other parts of the country I’ve lived. I have very strong political leanings and I definitely don’t want people that don’t have those same political leanings to not like my work and not want to look at it. I do want to make my work so everybody can enjoy it, but I like painting in a manner so some may pause, actually look at my work, and get to the content of it. I don’t want to alienate people. But if you look at the political climate that we’re currently in, we’re split 50/50 in elections all the time. Anybody that’s going to an art gallery, they don’t necessarily have the same political views as me. They don’t necessarily subscribe to feminism, which is sad because everyone should want men and women to be equal.
TLA: When you think about the role of the artist in a local and global sense, what are your hopes for your artistic contributions in the larger society?
GC: I think that different people find different venues to go ahead and voice their opinions regarding certain matters. As an artist it’s hard to know if I’m making a difference, but I feel like I’m at least speaking my mind visually through my art. If somebody can look at something and maybe their mind gets going on a subject that they maybe don’t necessarily think about because it’s not part of their everyday life but it opens up a conversation about things that maybe they hadn’t thought about before and they get more interested in caring who they vote for because this is happening and people are concerned about this. I also think that art is whatever you want it to be. I don’t think that all art has to have a purpose of making a difference or making a political statement. There’s plenty of art that’s not political. It just so happens that my art happens to be political. And that’s my two cents.
Geneva currently has work on display at Lois Lambert Gallery in Los Angeles. Be on the lookout for her next solo show at Exposure Gallery in Sioux Falls this spring, and an upcoming show at the University of Sioux Falls.
With a healthy disregard for a final product, Rachel began wrapping baling wire around concrete masses to develop sculptures. Fascinating in their own right, these wires appear as lines… twisting, turning, and tangling to create a massive figure that is both transparent and heavy. The included drawings use charcoal lines just like baling wire, building a figure or a collection of parts that feel tense and unfamiliar. She seeks those same feelings when she makes a drawing… maybe with her left hand, maybe with her right.
Cory Knedler uses aesthetics and composition as a dialogue with fellow artists: Shannon Sargent, John Bowitz, and Young Ae Kim. Using various materials from fabric to remnants of text, he and his collaborators assemble whimsical narratives that serve as a dialogue on themes of education, history & politics. He works with no finished product in mind, only reacting to the previous artist’s marks, ideas, or additions. Cory has his MFA in printmaking from the University of South Dakota.
Angie’s paintings are made surrounded by the memories of making crafts and painting as a child in the basement of her childhood home. Thirty years later, Angie was able to purchase that home and now paints in the very same space where she first fell in love with art making. After receiving her training from Minneapolis College of Art & Design, she is still fueled by the spirit of play and experimentation. These undulating, encaustic landscape paintings place the viewer firsthand in her world. You can find her work at Rehfeld’s Art and Framing in Sioux Falls, SD and Summer Wind Gallery in Okoboji, IA.
Part of her long oeuvre of work about agriculture, these works might’ve found their roots in Amber’s years in the rural Midwest. Using imagery from farms, ranches, and industrial food facilities, Amber confronts systems of food production and the interactions with rural living. The discordance between imprecise and mature line work could parallel the naiveté of the consumer and the truth behind the production processes. Amber has recently returned to South Dakota to teach at USD in Vermillion.
Susan grew up near Freeman and moved around the country for years before recently returning to South Dakota. Her connection to our area is physical and real. She builds her landscape paintings upon the broad views, loud colors, and billowing clouds. These meandering colors and lines express the way the landscapes are felt, not the way they are seen. Focusing on the beauty of the landscape helps her to return to what she loves about her home state. Susan is a Registered Art Therapist at Avera in Sioux Falls.
Photographs literally weaved together like the fabric of time and space. Mike’s pushes photography beyond the medium into something tactile and sculptural. Being present in the moment, he listens for a universal consciousness. The aim of his process is to get the most out of life while gaining a deeper understanding of who we are as a connected group of people. Mike has his BA in communications and is currently pursuing his MFA in photography from the University of South Dakota.
The Local Artist: Where do you create most of your work?
Amanda Boerger: The desk/floor/eisle in my living room or my kitchen table -- formerly the desk in my bedroom. Occasionally, the parking lot at my apartment complex.
My art-making practice has veritably taken over my living space. It’s ridiculous.
TLA: With what media do you mostly work?
AB: The majority of my best-received and finished works exist as collage on paper and oil painting on canvas and panel.
I am, however, moving steadily into the 3-D and am presently collecting clear plastic recyclables and plexiglass. I consider my experimentation in plastic to include collage and painterly methods as learned from my more traditional work aforementioned.
TLA: Where did you attend school, and for what?
AB: I double-majored in Studio Arts and French Studies at South Dakota State University from Spring 2011-Spring 2015. I also received two respective certificates in Printmaking and Modern & Contemporary Art History.
AB: I don’t really think that much about spending money on art supplies anymore. I’ve done it for years. I consider it a necessity like groceries.
TLA: What is this body of work about? (Re: Work submitted to The Local Artist)
AB: I have a few main explorations but they all pertain to ephemerality and symbols. I’m hugely inspired by existential, post-structuralist, and Buddhist thought. My work aims to imbue meaningless objects with meaning.
My collage work is composed of printed ephemera and advertisements, and works as a criticism on consumerist culture. I’m attracted to the repeated images in magazines, the marketing ploys that are used to create symbols that shape the way people think and, consequently the way they buy.
I’ve been chewing on the sentence, “Language is the house man lives in,” which I was first exposed to via Jean-Luc Goddard’s “2 or 3 Things I know About Her” (1967). In the same vein as my considerations in the printed ephemera, I consider the role language and universal symbols have had in building society, the house man lives in. You’ll see me toying with language (either literal or in the form of image) with architectural structures often.
While my collages come from a more cerebral place, my portraits are born from a place of emotion and meditation. I love grabbing sketches of loved ones. I love zooming in on a person who I’ve looked at a hundred times with more care and attention. I love learning the nuances to the lines that build their form and the shades that compile their complexion. I’m also interested in how their physical existence works as an envelope to a their actual self.
TLA: What do you think about while making artwork?
AB: In the beginning phase, I like to clear my mind and allow myself to find the composition and color intuitively. When it’s time to focus on fabrication, I’ll often listen to music and relish in every cut, pencil mark, paint stroke, et cetera. Other times, I won’t want to work on my projects at all but I do want to see them finished. In these cases, I’ll pop on a podcast or an audiobook (I love books narrated by British people) and crank it out.
TLA: What activities in everyday life connect to your art process?
AB: I’m a lifetime learner. I love accruing information either by book, film, or conversation. I’m also a fairly regimented person and I consistently allot a few hours a day to making art.
TLA: What does your “making schedule” look like?
AB: I work as a food server primarily right now. My favorite days are when I can wake up at 7AM or 8AM, have a whole french press of coffee with many pieces of toast while painting or cutting up/juxtaposing paper. When I look at the clock I’ll often find I’ve burned through a quick 3 or 4 hours. I’ll often take pictures of my works in progress and begrudgingly make my way to my job and look at these photos all shift long and consider my next steps.
I must admit, I’m going through a phase of total obsession with my making right now. Making art is the one time that I feel totally present. It’s an addictive feeling.
TLA: What type of people do you think are most interested in your work?
AB:I don’t know. For the longest time I made things fueled by inner emotional turmoil, the angst of my early 20’s. They were often poorly executed, incomplete, and/or violent. No one liked them, I didn’t even like them. I’d cut them up. Sometimes I’d burn drawings and flush them in the toilet.
I’ve noticed that people like my collages. I think they’re accessible because of the abundance of familiar imagery ad also their inherent humor. I’m happy that they make people happy.
However, I feel the pieces I’m most proud of never gain the same esteem from viewers. It doesn’t bother me though. I’m moving into a period where I’m making things I want to see exist in the world. Most days, my belief in my work is more gratifying than affirmation from others. But when I am itching for an praise for a piece I feel really proud of, I send picture texts to my mom, sister, and brother.
Dana recently moved from the east coast, and found herself in a small town with different people, different scenery, and different reasons for making art. In the featured series of photographs, the figure peers through a hazy depth, obscured by reflections, gesturing delicately to suggest a passing of time, or even captivity. These works, like many others she’s made, intimately show small moments or evidence of internal struggles that gently change a person. Dana’s work has been published in the Briar Cliff Review magazine, and countless exhibits nation-wide.