Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Artist of the week

Scott Wolniak

It may be an obvious statement but art transcends medium. Art is more about the idea or message and less about painting vs photograph vs drawing vs video installation. For an artist who works in several mediums the challenge lies in finding the most appropriate outlet for their creativity. In which format can they cleanly and substantially convey their thoughts and visions. For Chicago artist Scott Wolniak this is often video, but he also works in other mediums. Through video he is able to rely his point in a more fully realized way and with a refreshing amount levity. One of my favorite videos is called "The Buddy Cycles" and it looks at all that can go wrong in friendship. Scott utilizes videos to discover and uncover the various patterns of life, and it is through these discoveries he has found a substantial amount of reality and clarity in the absurd.

Recently, Scott was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): I've really enjoy your video work. Do you find it more limiting or more
freeing than drawing or painting?
Scott Wolniak (SW): Originally I found it liberating because it was new to me and I didn’t have all of the rules and habits that I had with painting and drawing. It has gotten quite focused since then, but I still I feel like I can more directly confront ideas with video because of the multitude of structural possibilities. Time-based media allows for progressive structures, which I like…you know, build up, crescendo, resolution, etc.

OA: Have you thought thought about doing a longer project, maybe feature
length film or a collection of films?
SW: A collection of related short works, yes definitely, but not feature length. At least at this point I wouldn’t want to get into anything that all-consuming. Most of my videos are short bursts, geared for the casual glance of a gallery viewer. I still think like a painter and try to cram lots of material into compact spaces. I have become more interested lately though in duration as a powerful element and am thinking about making some cinematically oriented work.

OA: You work in several different mediums, how do you deliver the same message or create that "visceral experience" in the various mediums?
SW: I try to just let the idea dictate the medium. One of my main concerns is embodiment, like how can I most clearly flesh out a concept without neutering it. Drawing is the foundation of my practice and I use it to develop all of my work. My work exists on many different scales, from very quiet and intimate drawings to big dumb comedic videos. In any case I strive for complex craft and a hand-made quality. I feel a bit schizophrenic sometimes because I genuinely love lots of different kinds of art and feel inspired by many disparate things.

OA: You have a show coming up in 2009 at the Chicago Cultural Center. How long does it take you to prepare for a show, and what can we except to see in 2009?
SW: It takes me a log time to prepare for shows but deadlines are very helpful and motivating. Some of my work is quite labor intensive and requires many months to make, especially the animated videos. But conceptual development is the probably the most tedious part because my ideas never stay put. I am highly prone to tangents and free associative developments. This can be good for fluidity, but also problematic if a gallery is expecting something specific. The new project for the Cultural Center is finally crystalizing. The fun part is making the work once the concepts have stopped shifting around. This new project is about creating a modernist-inspired color-therapy space to sooth sad wintertime Chicagoans and art-lovers alike. It is a bit ironic and subtly humorous, but I also very seriously. I want the form to envelop and hypnotize. I’m collaborating with Relaxation Record (aka Jim Dorling) for the soundtrack on the new video.

OA: You have lectured at both SAIC and University of Chicago, what might you lecture on, and what is like to actually share your experience with the up and coming artists?
SW: I have taught video production, drawing, a couple of studio-seminars and some grad advising. Teaching is fun because it is social and I get to talk about good stuff. I also learn a lot from the students, who are often smarter than me. We generally have excellent conversations. I just feel grateful to have a job. I do my best to introduce challenging material and the students do the rest. It’s always exciting to see quality work being produced on my watch.

OA: What's next for Scott Wolniak?
SW: I’m finishing the new show, which opens on Jan. 9 at the Cultural Center. Besides that I am just trying to eat right and stay warm. I'm thinking about an idea for a performance piece involving a spray-tan.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Chicago?
SW: If I’m downtown I like Intelligentsia, or in my neighborhood I frequent CafĂ© Ballou on Western Ave.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
SW: I saw Deerhunter at the Metro last weekend… it was completely mind-blowing, sonically dense, beautiful, I would go so far as to say breathtaking. Their new record kills, Bradford Cox is definitely a force for good in the universe. Bonnie Prince Billy is a constant. I’ve also been liking the new Department of Eagles record, and Windy and Carl.

For more information on Scott Wolniak please visit his website.

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