Saturday, February 14, 2009

Studio Visit with Christine Buckton Tillman

Interviewed by Rachel Sitkin

Christine Buckton Tillman is a local artist. She teaches at The Park School in Baltimore. She exhibits her work frequently in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond, including exhibitions at Transformer in Washington DC, Current Gallery in Baltimore, Redux in Charleston SC. She has work currently at Goucher College as part of RESPOND and is preparing for an upcoming solo show, General Merriment, at Material in Memphis, TN.

RS: So where are you from?
CBT: The Northern Chicago Suburbs, that’s pretty much where I grew up.

RS: And where did you go to school?
CBT: I went to the University of Iowa for graduate school.

RS: And for Undergrad?

CBT: Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

RS: What are you working on right now?

CBT: I have a solo show coming up at Material Art Space in Memphis and an artist's talk at Rhodes College in Memphis too. So for the show I’ve been making this mylar weaving that will lie on a wood grained table. I’ve been making these individual weavings and I’ll attach them so there will be a gradient from mostly red to mostly silver.

RS: Like a quilt?
CBT: Well they’re held together with tape, not really quilted but patchwork so yeah “like a quilt” but it will be more like a tablecloth.

And then I’ll be showing this group of drawings arranged in a grid on the wall. It will become more sculptural. I like how the drawings become bigger than they are individually when they are shown together. Illustrative of the bigger idea.

I’ve also made this banner out of model airplane wood that says “high five” in the style of those happy birthday banners people hang.

I’ve been working with these banners a lot lately. The real banners have these pieces that make up the spaces in between each letter, and I was thinking, “what if the whole thing was made out of those spaces?” I’m working on one piece that is comprised of a chain of bows, each cut out from “failed” drawings. But if there are nice drawing moments that I want to save I can cut them out and incorporate them into this decorative banner. I’m not really sure where it’s going but it will probably get a lot bigger (currently about a 5ft. long chain of 4 inch silhouette bows).
Artificial nature is one part of the work and the other part is the party stuff-the banners and streamers and bunting that people bring out to celebrate.

RS: So are you interested in describing objects with contrasting materials?

CBT: Yeah, totally. This woven mylar that I’ve been working on- the mylar used to be flowy and active and by weaving it, it becomes static. For a previous project I made these slip-cast porcelain party banners. Because, you know, those things would probably survive a hurricane, the plastic is so durable but people think of porcelain as being super fragile and delicate.

RS: You seem to be a very busy person. What is your studio practice like?
CBT: 90% of my work can be done in 15 minutes chunks while I’m on the phone. That’s the nice thing about having a studio at home, you know. I don’t have to commit my whole Saturday. I can work for an hour before dinner or draw while Robert (my husband) and I watch TV. But I do draw a lot, considering that I work like a 50 hour a week job, I also make 10-15 drawings a week. I am a maker of things, and sometimes those things are stupid, but mostly they keep me active, keep me working. They are never pre-planned and I always have a bunch of drawings that I work on at once.

RS: Do you draw to get the ideas out, see how things are relating?
CBT: Yeah. The constellation shape that I work with originated in a drawing, then it became (embroidery on felt) sculpture then reappeared in the drawings. And the plaid patterns came out of knitting.

I used to knit but had to stop because I’d gotten tendonitis. The grid was an attempt to replicate that pattern via drawing. Things like the speech bubble came out of a formal need for a black shape, not really out of some content driven thing.

RS: I saw on your Flickr site that you had a “draw everyday” project going on last year. What sparked that project and what did you learn/ how does it affect your work?
CBT: The sketchbooks were a way to keep myself working while I work on some of the other labor-intensive long-term projects. The books made drawing a long-term project too. It’s given me the freedom to make a lot more mistakes.

When I hear professors talk about how their students influence their projects, I generally think it’s pretty lame- something they say because they think that's what they’re supposed to say. But this project was really that for me. I make all my students keep sketchbooks to kind of solidify a relationship with their practice.

But I’ve been not only keeping these sketchbooks, which is documentation of life, but also documenting the books too since 2006, going on 4 years now, which is kind of insane.
The internet has made visible this part of art making that's really good and really democratic. Exposing the process and the product. I really like Art 21 for that reason. Anyone can relate to the act of human making. Like I am obsessed with Martha Stewart magazine because it’s about making and doing instead of buying. I know some of it can be unrealistic but if I want to make venison risotto, I can.
You know… I’ve been wrestling with my artist statement right now, because it’s a lot headier than my experience. My experience is really just FUN. My relationship to my work is more enthusiastic than those things are supposed to be. It’s really nice to just make stuff without having to prop it up.

RS: Tell me about the last great/inspiring exhibition you've seen?
CBT: This is hard for me because its more like individual pieces that I find amazing- rather than shows. Right now I can't get Christine Gray's paintings out of my head from when I saw them at Towson this fall they're really whimsical and focused at the same time. I just love that the Felix Gonzelez Torres water piece is finally up again at the BMA and The Cia Guo-Qiang show this spring at the Guggenheim was a show-stopper.

RS: If you could visit the studio of any living artist, who would it be?
CBT: Can I have three? Oh, I kind of have a lot. I’m a very very big fan of Thomas Demand. He’s a photographer. He recreates these photographs, mostly news photos. I saw him give a talk at the BMA a few years ago and it was probably the best artist’s talk I’ve been too. I’d also like to go to the studio of Polly Apfelbaum. Her work is very fun and delightful. Seeing her work has given me the permission in my mind to be as light hearted as I want to be. I think she’d be awesome to hangout with. And her work seems much younger than she is. I don’t know exactly how old she is but I think she’d be surrogate mom style. I think I’ll actually leave it at those two so the list doesn’t get to long.
But I want to visit Morandi’s studio too.

RS: I went to the Morandi Museum in Bologna, Italy during college and they have a room set up like his room. You can’t walk around but you can look in and see all of his stuff, all of those jars and vases that he painted.
CBT: Yeah, I guess I just need to go there. And I want to go back to Disneyland really soon. Does that count? I forgot how influential “It’s a Small World After All” was for me as a child. It’s amazing! I think I want to go there!

RS: Final question. If you were me, which local artist would you interview next for this blog?
CBT: Oh good one. Hmm… I’d interview Matthew McConville. He teaches at Goucher College. I think he’s the funniest figurative painter I know, and artistically he’s very opposite from me. Robert and I went to his house last year for dinner and he showed me his new paintings on his computer and they were like the best thing I’d seen all year.

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