Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Artist of the Week


As I walked through the isles of this years DIY Trunk Show here in Chicago there were so many discoveries to be made. From jewelery to plushies to prints to shirts, but one of my favorites was a collection of shadow boxes filled with tiny collections of discarded items by VoodooToaster. From old cassettes (still functioning) to stamps to seashells and bells, these mirco-collections are a salute to the forgotten and rejected. Each box is unique, and as I talked with Anna Gregoline and Jesse Thomas (who is also a local musician) about the boxes they could not have been nicer.

It became clear that these boxes had purpose and that Anna and Jesse were passionate about giving meaning back to the forgotten. What fascinated me was the detail and nostalgia of it all. It felt like each collection had been hand selected and placed in a specific way. These were not mass produced, these were honest representations of what Anna and Jesse felt needed to be gathered together.

Recently, Anna from VoodooToaster was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Where did the name VoodooToaster come from?
Anna Gregoline (AG): I've always been intruiged by toasters - they are the only common kitchen appliance that has one function - to magically change bread into toast! Such a slight and yet important change. One day I started thinking about this transformation and how it changes bread into something else that is almost the same - the undead bread! The name VoodooToaster was born out of that somehow.

OA: I am fascinated by your shadow boxes. Where do you find the items that go into the boxes?
AG: Everywhere! We get our shadowbox items from all over the place - we've collected scrap metal from other artists, found broken eyeglasses on the street, received boxes of broken jewelry from friends and sometimes purchased weird miniature toys in junk shops. Once you let people know you're in the "cast-off junk" collecting business, it's not hard to get a collection of things ripe for gluing to other things.

OA: How long does it take to complete a box and when do you know it is finished?
AG: It ranges - sometimes a box is completed in a flurry, over one day or a weekend, but much more often we work on one for a while and then hang it on the wall. It usually stays on the wall for a few weeks, coming down every now and then for additions, and then returning to the wall. Once one feels done, it is, and we name it and label it. Even after that, sometimes we find the perfect addition and have to alter it further.

OA: With stamps, cassettes, and pocket watches, it seems like you both are rebelling against progress while making beautiful art. Is this a fair assessment?
AG: Yes. We are children of the end of the 20th century, and beholden to such wonderfully obscure ephemera as instant photos, cassette tapes, and snail mail… and we think perhaps people at times long for these ancient technologies, for the limited range of choices they entail. It’s important that all the cassettes still function too, so the shadowboxes can be experienced on an aural as well as visual level. Tape decks not included.

OA: How did you get involved with Sacred Art and what has your experience been like with them?
AG: We met Sara, the owner, at the DIY Craft Show a few years ago, and she expressed interest in having our work at her gallery. Our relationship has been nothing short of a blessing. Sarah has not only given us a venue for our ideas but, because we are always trying to generate something new ostensibly ‘for the gallery’, has had the remarkable side-effect of advancing our work, mutating it at an accelerated speed. We love Sarah and hope to continue working with Sacred Art for as long as possible.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes where can you find the best cup in your area?
AG: Jesse works at Kopi Café at 5317 North Clark, and the coffee is excellent.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy, and who are a few of your favorites?
AG: We both enjoy DC Dischord rock and roll, electronic music, and howlingly intense noise rock. We sometimes dance in our kitchen to the Slits Cut. If you just happened to drop in on us, there’s a good chance we’d be listening to Talking Heads The Name Of The Band Is Talking Heads. But a lot of our music listening time is spent actually making music. We have our own live music act called Feedbacula which is improvisational electronic free-form love jazz…and Jesse is the leading man in a power trio called Genius School, like a 21st century Grand Funk Railroad…he is also the guitarist for local legends ONO who do things like slam sheet metal around and such.

For more information on the work of VoodooToaster please visit their website.


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