Sunday, June 17, 2012

Interview with the Artist, Karen Guancione -- "A Portable Constant Obsession"

Introduction
Over the years, I've had my share of fun and interesting side projects, but this year's project -- documenting a small portion of the work and life of a living artist -- could top the list. The artist Karen Guancione's work is wide ranging, from pocket-sized artists' books to gigantic installations of sewn plastic bags hanging in panels (and loads of other forms in between). The woman Karen Guancione is intelligent, energetic, focused, engaging, humorous, and inspiring. She fights for workers' rights and human rights at an international level, and takes an avid interest in her students' work.

Karen also is very generous with her time and committed to documenting her life's work, so when she said she'd like to open up the cases in the "A Portable Constant Obsession" exhibit at Rutgers, take out her art, and talk with me at length about the pieces and her life as an artist, I jumped at the opportunity. 

In previous posts, I've spotlighted some of Karen's local installations. For instance, I was incredibly moved by her "Found Journal" exhibit at the Printmaking Council of New Jersey in 2010. More recently, exhibit curator Michael Joseph gave me a tour of the "A Portable Constant Obsession" exhibit. 

Now, interspersed with beautiful photographs by Bruce Riccitelli (and a few by yours truly), here is the first in a series of my interviews of Karen Guancione. Note: In some cases, the description above an image applies to other images of the same piece. Those other images will immediately follow the one with the description above it. Additionally, some of the videos are a bit dark, and for that I apologize. 

Begin at the Beginning
We began our interview in the upstairs gallery, across from the entrance of Rutgers' Alexander Library. One of the pieces in the exhibit was Karen's first journal. Even at 7 years old, she documented the world around her.



The two photographs below show the pages Karen read in the video:

Untitled 
First travel journal created at age seven on family cross-country road trip.  Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

The Cacophony of Life
During the 1970s through the 1990s, Karen continued keeping diaries, which evolved into art journals, complete with collages of ephemera, drawings, paintings, and text. 

In the video below, she talks about the journals in a display case in the "A Portable Obsession" exhibit.




Aquiloni
Within the entire installation are smaller displays, often hung with Karen's "Aquiloni." In the video below, she explains just what the works are and the amazing effect they have on children.



Below are a series of photographs showing materials Karen referenced in the video above. Additionally, I've included the "Catalog Card Aquiloni" she created specifically for the exhibit, hung in the downstairs Special Collections gallery.

Aquiloni 
Letterpress (edition of 40), Hahnemuhle and handmade paper, acrylic paint, thread, w: 5-1/4 x h: 7 3/4 x 43 inches when open, printed and published by Edizioni Pulcinelefante in 2004. The text, "Quando sono stanco di camminare, VOLO" ("When I'm tired of walking, I FLY"), was written specifically for this book and the artist’s installations by the Italian poet Roberto Dossi. The book accompanies a large-scale installation of the same name. Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

Aquiloni, Scuola dell’ Infanzia Ex-Lucca

Mixed media, with drawings of the artist’s Aquiloni installation made by 3 to 5 year old preschool children from Scuola dell’ Infanzia Ex-Lucca in Fiorenzuola d’ Arda, Piacenza, Italy. Translation of page shown: thank you from the children and teachers. Mixed media: handmade paper (wool, cotton and mixed papers), acrylic paint, small sewn photographs of students in the installation Aquiloni, linen thread, children’s original drawings and written descriptions, closed: h: 15 3/4 x w: 12 x d: 1 inch, 2005. Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

Card Catalogue Aquiloni
Mixed media installation: old catalogue cards from Alexander Library, small pieces of handmade and hand painted paper, shipping tags, labels, coin wrappers, torn prints and other found materials hand sewn and suspended throughout the 2 galleries, size variable, 2012. 
Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Debra Schiff. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

In the following video Karen talks about how she was able to obtain all those catalog cards, especially when the library no longer uses them. She also talks briefly about her work, "La Jupe" and the installation.

La Jupe (The Skirt)
Found skirt, acrylic paint, created in Nice, France in August 2008, w: 15 x h: 36 1/2 inches ©Karen Guancione.



The photo below shows one of the letterpress books inserted into the case.

Gli Occhi di Santa Lucia (The Eyes of Santa Lucia)
Letterpress (edition of 43), wood engraving, Hahnemuhle paper, gold leaf, grommets, ribbon, metallic pigment, shipping tag, holy card and medal, w: 5-1/4 x h: 7 3/4 inches, printed and published by Edizioni Pulcinoelefante, Osnago, Lecco, Italy, 2007. Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

Artists' Books
In the next video, Karen talks with me about the collaborative art project "Art Trash." Immediately following the video is a photograph of the letterpress cover.




TRASH ART/ ART TRASH
Letterpress (edition of 66), mixed media, Hahnemuhle paper, w: 5-1/4 x h: 7 3/4 inches, with Carmen Cheung, Asha Ganpat, Lisa Hasselbrook, Suzanne Reiman, Carolyn Salinas, Susan Valenza and Sally Willowbee, printed and published by Edizioni Pulcinelefante, Osnago, Lecco, Italy, 2004. Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.

From Karen Guancione Art

Moving to the Special Collections gallery, in the next video, Karen and I talk about what might be her most famous work, "Guide de la Correspondance Amoreuse."



Guide de la Correspondance Amoureuse 
Mixed media, found materials, red bra and underwear, scraps from antique books and actual love letters, contains collage, drawings, paintings, closed: w: 13 1/2 x h: 12 x d: 6 3/4 inches, created in Nice, France in the winter of 2004-05, (view one: front cover, view two: back cover showing closure with bra). Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art


From Karen Guancione Art

Guide de la Correspondance Amoureuse 
Mixed media, found materials, red bra and underwear, scraps from antique books and actual love letters, contains collage, drawings, paintings, closed: w: 13 1/2 x h: 12 x d: 6 3/4 inches, created in Nice, France in the winter of 2004-05. Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.



From Karen Guancione Art

In the next video, Karen shows me one of her most recent works, "Nice 1."

Nice 1 (2011)
Mixed media, handmade paper, found materials, 100 pages of collage, drawing, painting, cover: found tile shards, stones and glass, acrylic paint, w: 13 x h: 10 1/2 x d: 3 1/4 inches, with painted zippered bag, fabric, acrylic paint, w: 16 3/4 x h: 13 inches, July - August 2011.


Next, Karen talked with me about her serendipitous experience finding a different kind of medium to use in an artists' book.


This image shows a close up of the book's cover.

P√°tzcuaro (number 3)
Mixed media, handmade paper, collage, painted communion hosts, found materials, 12 plastic baby and ceramic baby Jesus figurines on cover, 100 pages, w: 9 3/8 x h: 6 1/2 x d: 4 1/2 inches, December 2009 – January 2010. 
Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Debra Schiff. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

The following two photographs are © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art
From Karen Guancione Art

In the following short video, she talks about using her body as a printing press to produce "Foufune."



During the interview, I asked Karen about her training. I was delighted to hear about her punk foundation. In the video below, she tells me about that exciting time in London, as well as her piece, "No Rest."



No Rest
Mixed media: wood chair, handmade paper, encyclopedia paper, recycled papers from artist's daily life, gold leaf, mirror, gold leafed cups, 40 x 17 x 18 inches, 1998. Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

Finally, Karen warns me about touching "No Rest," and talks with me about her "Garbage Books."



Spiral Bound Garbage Books
Found materials and over 400 spiral bound books made from decades of accumulated recycled trash, packaging and paper scraps from around the world, individual scraps are dated and each book numbered, ongoing project, 2007- present.  Artwork © Karen Guancione. Photograph © Bruce Riccitelli. All rights reserved.
From Karen Guancione Art

These videos represent most of the footage I collected during my interview of Karen on May 5, 2012. If you want to see more, please visit the YouTube playlist at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB889D867E48C3884&feature=plcp. Additionally, more photographs by Bruce (and me) are available on my Picasa Web Album for Karen's art here: https://picasaweb.google.com/debra.schiff/KarenGuancioneArt.

Coming soon, my next interview with Karen at her "Bolsas de Mandado" exhibit in Loveladies, New Jersey.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Documenting an Artist's Work

Recently, I had the great pleasure and honor of interviewing a living artist, Karen Guancione. The purpose of my time with Karen was to document her work currently on display at Rutgers University's Alexander Library and ask her about her experience as an artist. Earlier on this blog, I featured Michael Joseph, the curator of the exhibit (and Rare Books Librarian) talking about Karen's work. However, having the artist herself describe in detail the nature of her works in the context of her life opens up an entirely different window into the art on display.

I'd like to share with you these enlightening, revelatory, and amusing videos I recorded last month. The playlist is available on YouTube at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB889D867E48C3884&feature=plcp. Photos of the individual works will be forthcoming.