Apr 292014


When I first met artist Marion Lane a few years ago, her clothes and hands were covered in paint. I meet my share of painters but I’m usually disappointed because I want to see the obsessive nature of their work under their fingernails, and often they’re so scrubbed up you feel a separation there. I relate more to a lack of separation, so seeing Lane’s paint splattered pants and hands is always reassuring. She works in her home studio, and spending time with her there involves walking around inside her work somehow, navigating her process. I’ve also seen her cleaned up at several of her shows, the latest of which was Adventures in Suntan Alley at Launch Gallery in LA. Launch’s website said of Lane’s work that it’s “an outlet for her immense curiosity about the human eye and its systems for organizing color and form,” and though her paintings tend to be stationary, they feel alive with movement and mutation, “something like hybrids between amoeba DNA and corner-shop candies.” With a recent project, she explored the idea of setting that movement down the street on wheels…

What are you working on right now?

I am painting a skate board for artist Craig Deines.

Is this project teaching or showing you something new you hadn’t seen or known before?

Yes many things, I procrastinated for almost a year I think because technically I wasn’t sure how to proceed and the adjustments for working on a bull nosed curved form seemed tedious and also somehow uninteresting although its not really a big deal. I hired a young artist to actually do the work for me, we came up with some ideas and I asked her to implement them and the whole thing pretty much didn’t work out, she did manage to cut a nice curved line but she didn’t glue it down well so I had to rip the thing up , re-glue and pretty much re-cut the curved line by hand with a razor blade, it didn’t come out that well but I just kept at it for several days and in the end it looks like a very well tended badly cut line so it is forgiven.

For the other side of the board  I asked my friend and fellow artist Rochelle Botello to help me come up with some ideas and this has turned into what is probably the first successful collaboration I have had regarding my paintings in  many years (in that we actually did finish it), possibly because there is only one skateboard so there was no switching back and forth from one painting to another, we just had to soldier on.

What did it look like when you first started it?

It looked like a brand new pristine fancy inlaid wood skateboard with no wheels.


What do you think about while you work?

Maybe nothing, it’s pretty hard for me to stay focused on anything for more than 2 or 3 minutes so I’m usually trying to remember to stay focused and not wander off. Sometimes I count and try to get to 100 before I stop, I often can’t get to 10.

Actually I did spend an entire day trying to re-cut the curved line and it felt so good, I really loved that. I want to do that more often.

You’ve talked about the collage element of your work, and you’ve mentioned that you look at all kinds of things, all the time, that influence or inspire you. What were the last three or four things you looked at that made you think about collage in some way?

That’s a good question. My most recent paintings are 100% collage, and so is the skateboard. I realize they are collage in that they are glued down but  I don’t or haven’t yet actually started thinking of them as anything other than paintings. Maybe one day soon. The last things that I looked at that inspired me:  the sky this morning after the rain, the movie Gravity which I’ve seen twice, once in 3D ( the story isn’t that great but who cares), the skateboard collaboration that I did with Rochelle, tons and tons of paintings, including my own.

 Posted by on April 29, 2014
Apr 172014
dolly 2
The other day, I visited Lauren Kennedy at her place for the first time, where we talked for a while at her dining room table (bright yellow Formica, with colored dishes set out like a trippy still life), and smelled perfume (She was all Hmmm this and Hmmm that – like most of my friends, a hard nut to crack when it comes to fragrance preferences). We must have talked and smelled for a few hours before she said, Come back here, I want to show you something that means as much to me as perfume does to you. And I thought, Oh God, the bedroom. You know, flattering myself. We get in there and I’m looking at the bed trying to remember the prepared speech I never get to use but always imagine will come in handy, but she was facing the opposite direction, so I turned, and there was this…wall of Dolly Parton.

I knew, sort of, that Lauren is very interested in Dolly, which is to say maybe obsessed. And I love obsessions, as long as they don’t involve mail made of letters clipped out of magazines and people waiting outside in the bushes. Sometimes, even then. But I especially like an obsession you live with, right there in your room. Right by the bed. The kind you wake up and see first things first. The kind you start your day off with and address before you go to bed. It’s right up there with an entire closet devoted to nothing but the object of one’s devotion.

I asked Lauren if she’d answer some questions about Dolly and her shrine and she obliged:


What would Dolly be the patron saint of, in your estimation?

Dolly Parton, patron saint of Steel Magnolias and Rhinestone Cowboys.

Why Dolly Parton?

Because she is the kindest, gentlest, most nonjudgmental, most beautiful, loving soul that has probably ever walked the planet. I love her for her humble roots and for never forgetting them, for making all that money and going back to build an economy in a poor part of Tennessee (I also just love whenever someone makes a destination out of a place that isn’t New York, LA, Chicago etc…). I love her for looking the way she does and being 100% unapologetic about it. Sparkle on, baby love. I love that I feel like if I ever did get to meet her (which would be probably the greatest thing that could happen in my life), that she would very kindly listen to me tell her how important she is to me and appreciate it. And love me back. And she embodies so much of what I love most about the South: the attitude, the expressions, the warmth… and she makes damn good music. She appeals to my favorite aesthetic sensibilities (over the top, ridiculous, sparkly) and the warmest parts of my heart where my family and the south live. She is the ultimate real deal no bullshit southern woman boss babe.

How long has this been going on?

Unclear. I’m pretty sure I’ve always loved her, but this slightly obsessive, collecting and very public love has been going on at least for 5 or 6 years.

dolly 1

What are some of your favorite Dolly Parton moments and why?

Probably my favorite moment has to be one from Steel Magnolias… when she talks about liking the idea of hiring somebody with a past (when she hires Annelle) it makes me feel like she’d want to hear all about all of it and just forgive me for anything – curiosity free from judgment is the best thing you can find in a friend. And “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” And when Spud takes her to the new location for Truvvy’s and she says “I’m a chain!” I’ve always dreamed about opening a business with 2 locations so I can say that. And when she yodels in Mule Skinner Blues. Because it’s amazing. And, “Nobody cries alone in my presence.”

If you had lunch with Dolly what would you want to talk about?

I would just want to listen to anything she had to say. I don’t even know. I’d probably just be on the verge of tears the whole time. It would be fun to hear about when she first started making music, Porter Wagoner and the like. I’d want to hear about all of her love affairs.

If the lunch was only five minutes, what would you want to make sure she knew?

How much I love her and that she and my Nanny are my favorite women of all time.

Can you tell me the provenance of some or all of the objects in the shrine?

The big poster was a gift from dear friends Julie and Bruce Webb after working with them at the Dallas Art Fair (Julie is as big a Dolly fan as I am and has an even more impressive shrine). The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas head shot with Burt Reynolds was a Christmas gift from my baby sister two years ago (the best gift she’s ever given me. Second is a very pretty brown quartz ring). The Dolly with the flowers is a gem I found on Etsy. The magazine was a gift from my friend Jenny. The Barbie doll was a birthday gift from one of my best girls, Lindsay in LA. and the book I bought because I needed it. I have the Playboy with her on the cover too that needs to get up there.


Lauren Kennedy runs a gallery space called South Fork, which you can check out here, here, and here.

(Pictured above: Lauren’s shrine and the table she set for our visit)

– Brian Pera

 Posted by on April 17, 2014
Apr 152014


I am an animator who works with collages as the central element of my art practice and scissors are my primary tool. Naturally, I use scissors to cut. I cut apart copies of old 19th century engravings and illustrations and then I cut figures out of old film frames and I put them together and glue them down. After more than a decade of cutting stuff in this way, it’s an action almost as natural to me as walking.

Once I have enough of them, and it takes thousands to complete a film, I photograph them in sequence on an old Oxberry animation stand with 35mm film and then when the film comes back I cut that together too, so it flows the way I want it to. And then I cut together a sound track that adds another level of meaning to the film.

No matter how you think about it, CUT is a big part of everything I do.

(Above: “Cut”, collage 2013, Stacey Steers)


Stacey Steers makes labor-intensive films composed of thousands of individual, handmade works on paper. Her animations have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, New Directors New Films in NYC and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., along with numerous other screenings worldwide, winning national and international awards. Recently she has begun expanding her work to include installations that reflect on and bring focus to the films by placing production elements and/or film loops in a new context. Her work has been installed at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Denver Art Museum, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany among others. Steers is a recipient of major grants from Creative Capital and the American Film Institute. She has been an artist fellow at Harvard University , the MacDowell Colony, the Sacatar Foundation, Ucross Foundation, the Liguria Study Center and Yaddo. Recently she received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She lives and works in Boulder, Colorado.

 Posted by on April 15, 2014
Apr 102014


Elisa Gabbert is one of my favorite writers. I carried her latest book, The Self Unstable, around with me for weeks, reading a page a day the way some people read their morning affirmations. Each of the book’s 90-something pages contains a single paragraph, and each of these concise paragraphs presided over my thoughts on its assigned day, informing my outlook and interactions with its strange, circuitous logic. When you search for the book on Amazon, White Girls, by Hilton Als, shows up right underneath it, which makes a lot of sense; both writers have a uniquely poetic way of viewing the world, making it clear just how much you’ve been missing. It makes you wonder where a person sits to write this kind of material, and what her own days look like…

1. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new manuscript of poetry based on a character I recently played, Judy from The Designated Mourner by Wallace Shawn. In the play, she’s quite cold and reserved, and her main function is to report the story “as it happened”; Shawn has said she’s the voice of truth in the play. You don’t see much of her inner life or emotions, whereas you get a lot of that from Jack, her husband. After spending so much time with this character, learning her lines and trying to figure out how to make her real, I found myself wanting to stay with her longer, and go deeper. So this project is an attempt to give Judy a new monologue. Incidentally, it’s tentatively titled L’Heure Bleue.

2. What kind of decisions do you find yourself making with it?

I’m basically using Judy as a filter or channel for my own experiences and emotions. So I’m choosing which thoughts/ideas/feelings that come into my head feel like they could be part of Judy’s experience, and then I have to ask the further question of how she would feel them and express them. I make a joke out of everything, but Judy’s very dry, so I can’t resort to humor. Her character is driven by heartbreak, so I have to find ways to funnel my little daily heartbreaks into one singular heartbreak and make them part of her story.

3. What have you learned from previous projects that are helping you out on this one? Conversely, what haven’t you learned that this is teaching you?

My last book is written in little blocks of prose which are, in a sense, pretty formulaic. I conceived the form in such a way that I could make progress even if I didn’t feel like writing; I could write just one sentence and save it and then eventually I’d have enough sentences to build into a little block. The Judy poems aren’t so formulaic, but I’m trying to make steady, piecemeal progress in the same way – if I only have a fifth or a third or half of a poem in me one night, I write it, then build more onto it when I can. But this manuscript is written in verse, so I’m having to relearn the line and figure out how I want lines to work here. I want the page to look something like a play, with those wide margins and lots of white space, so that’s informing how I write the lines. (Ha: I just noticed that “lines” can refer to poetic verse or theatrical dialogue.) These poems are also much more emotional than The Self Unstable, which was very philosophical and aphoristic. And they take place in an actual setting, not some abstract idea-space, so I’m writing more images. It’s a return to the kind of poems I was writing in my first book (The French Exit), but my approach is quite different.

4. Where do you work and how do you work?

I carry a little notebook in my bag and make notes for drafts when lines (or “scenes”) come to me. Lately, these poems often start when I’m at a poetry reading. I also get a lot of ideas when I go out for a walk or a run. I recently wrote one in a waiting room at a hospital, etc. But a poem never feels done until I see how it looks typed up as a document, so I try to minimize the time between initial notes in a physical paper notebook and getting them into a file on my laptop. It feels floaty and impermanent until I have it saved on my computer. So most of that finalizing happens in this big brown armchair in the corner of our living room. The chair was a gift, years ago, to my husband from my father-in-law, but the chair is really too small for him (he’s 10 inches taller than me), so it’s become my chair.

5. When do you think you’ll be done?

If my last book is any indication, somewhere between one and three years.

 Posted by on April 10, 2014
Apr 092014

A waterstrider traverses the surface of a goldmine pool in the High Sierra, March 2014. Photograph © Quintan Ana Wikswo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerridae


Perhaps between is the closest we can come to being, or perhaps it’s the closest that I can come. When we create, we must live between the frictions of the already and the not-yet. It’s a place both slippery and abrasive. It does not allow full union. We are navigating obstacles, in the midst of merge and lane change, we have been diverted from the known by the unknown. Ancient, we move between the pole stars. Between the mountain ranges. Between the legs. Between a rock and a hard place, between the valley and the shadow of death. Between the worlds of the living and the dead. We are Sojourner Truth and Moses, in between the unsustainable, the impossible, and the tenuously imaginable.

As an artist, I find myself migrant, emigrant, and immigrant, concurrently exiled and escaped. Making a run for it in the cracks between what is and was and is yet to be. Making maps of lacunae. Learning to make a map of what’s missing. The borderlands between unknown and known.

Sleepless nights in an Algerian border town brothel, and finding a strand of a stranger’s long hennaed hair on my pillow. These fragments snag in transit. In between, we are snagged and tangled in departures and arrivals.

Migration between mysteries is learning how to enter and leave the pools of light and dark on a street whose origin and destination are indeterminate. In these transit points of the between, our guides are unlikely interlocutors: the woman in Guadalajara in the mud-crusted dress prophesying ghost stories from her cardboard box compendium of dreams – who stops to listen? Who walks away? These are the stories of history and erasure. Tall tales of the living and the murdered. The exile lands of the disbelieved. To go down, or to rise up, but into what? For what purpose? And with what result? The between will only whisper in our ear, in a mostly silent language.


I suspect artists are those who have a period of stamina and tenacity for extended in-between-ness. For the extended gestation that never begins in tangible conception nor ever ends in a terminating birth.

Between is a site of lost and found. Time is always between. The work I do is with ghosts, however we define those entities. I scramble down a High Sierra ravine to a riverbed ravaged by miners with a high fever for gold. Their fever has quelled and their hallucinations have evaporated, because they have died. Yet between my hands is an opium tin – oxidized, half disintegrated, a thin aluminum membrane that speaks of solace and addiction – left there by a Chinese slave laborer when he was between his old world and his new, and this opiate was necessary for that cut-raw and jagged traversal. On the highway above, techwipes and glassholes speed their Teslas to their own fevered ravines, jacked on their own data opiates.

Between these times lies this space.

For four years I inhabited the rape brothel at Dachau during the SONDERBAUTEN project, and I knew when its inconsiderately beautiful flowers were blooming, and when visitors were taking selfies in the crematorium. I was between my 21st century studio in Los Angeles, in Brooklyn, in Berlin and some other unidentifiable appendage of me was in a 1930s Bavarian beer garden, an Agfa camera factory, a crime against humanity. And I shuttled around like a spider, between the interstices, between the vast chasms of empty space through which I could sometimes lay my web.


When we the spiders of the in-between are in between the anchor points of our projects, we pace along an iron filament, a tensile membrane of gut and sinew strung from a deep-inhabited site in our guts where we spiders lived and loved, feared and suffered, filled with union and communion. Across the vast void is the other site.

We propel ourselves through empty space towards a site that is only yet enigma wrapped in miasma of the future.

Its ghosts may not have names.

Some coming-into-being place that we enter, inexorably and inextractibly.

We are going somewhere, and nowhere, in time and space. It takes a cobweb.


I often wonder how the artist of the in-between wants or fears the union of a whole. Do we even have the capacity to be one? What is the allure of the multitude of self, the fractals of perspective required to create an artwork that speaks to many, to most, to none, to all.

It is an extended seduction that cannot be detailed or buzzfed.

So much of our lives are led in between the legs of ourselves and those we love or want, or want to love, or want to be loved by. And yet that region – enigmatic, disobedient, awkward, and incorrigibly messy – is only a portal between two other sites. The site of the body, but also of the psyche, a site of entrances and exits, arrivals and departures.

We make love to what does not exist outside our own imagination. We conjure it into the tangibility of being.

A love affair between the disincarnate and incarnate.

These sensations tear at the tensile fissures in the body, strain the muscles of the heart – parts of us simultaneously joined and separated, adjacent but parted, with the blood flow contained in long and winding transmission, tunnels and tubes that are tenacious but easily broken.

There are long expanses of time and space within bodies – human and planetary – and we know so little of how to travel them. Of what can be found between the ears, the fingers and the feet, ribs and mountain ranges, and the worlds upon worlds within the membranes in between them.


In December, the fieldwork for my new project OUT HERE DEATH IS NO BIG DEAL took me to an ultimate between: a mountain between the United States and Mexico.

At the top of the mountain is the Apache Point Deep Space Observatory at which telescopes look out across timespace to observe the galaxies at the edges of the known universe, recording light from millions of years in the past.

At the bottom of the mountain are Ciudad Juarez, and the femicide mass graves of thousands of murdered women: graves that at this moment are constantly being filled and emptied and re-filled.

Across the mountain are the ranges of the wars of colonialism: the Spanish, the new Americans, the Apache and the Navajo and the searing brutalities of space trapped in time, and the point we cannot traverse to retrieve the dead.

I have no explanation for this kind of nexus. It reminds us that we are small and large at the same time. That discrepancy makes me dizzy.

The existential vertigo of in-between.


Once upon a time, a small and unimportant tree grew in a small and unimportant spot of land. The seasons came and went, and the angles of the sun separated cold from hot, snow from sun, and amidst it all the small and insignificant tree grew leaves and lost them, and grew them again only for them to fall and then sprout anew. Eventually this ignominious tree fell to earth and a small fissure in its trunk allowed in a woodworm. In between the desiccating space of bark and flesh, the worm nibbled and gnawed, tunneling through to create a lacy network of passageways.

Last week, I was walking with a friend through a forest and we found this piece of tree, a small broken branch of its body. We picked it up and admired the raw filigree etched into its surface. As someone once explained to me, I explained the story of the tree and the worm and its passages through the bark.

Oh, said my friend. The worm must feel such pressure and such comfort, moving between the flesh and the bark. 

Yes, said I, I think it does.


(QUINTAN ANA WIKSWO is recognized for adventurous trans-disciplinary projects that integrate her original literature, visual art, performance, and video. Her thirty-seven major projects are exhibited, published, and performed at prominent institutions through Europe and the Americas. Wikswo’s works – created using salvaged military cameras and communications equipment – navigate the borderlands between known, unknown, and mythic worlds, where crimes against humanity have taken place. Wikswo’s artistic and intellectual practice explores the volatile borderlands and lacunae between intimate internal worlds and external geopolitical upheaval, especially those surrounding gender, sexuality, warfare, science and shamanism.

Her book THE HOPE OF FLOATING HAS CARRIED US THIS FAR is forthcoming on Coffee House Press (Spring 2015) and other literary and text works appear regularly in anthologies, exhibition catalogues, and artist books as well as magazines such as Tin House, Gulf Coast, Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, New American Writing, Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, and more. Other publications include four DVD collections of her performance-text-video installations.

Her work has appeared in solo museum shows in New York City and Berlin, and include theBerlin Jewish Museum, the Jewish Museum Munich, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the MOMA/Ceret, the Smithsonian-affiliated Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History (NYC), (France), the Lyon Musée des Moulages, Schloss Pluschow, and others.

She performs regularly in New York City and Los Angeles at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, (Le) Poisson Rouge, Incubator Arts, Dixon Place, Beyond Baroque, Cornelia Street Café and many others. Her collaborative performance works have premiered at the University of Southern California, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado, the Pew Foundation/New Spaces New Formats, California State University at Fullerton, MicroFest, The Composer’s Project, Theatre de le Main d’Or, and more.

She has been honored with fellowships from Creative Capital, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Theo Westenberger Estate, ARC/Durfee, Yaddo, Djerassi, the Puffin Foundation, Ucross, the Millay Colony, Montalvo Center for the Arts, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and more.)

 Posted by on April 9, 2014