with Deborah Caroll Anzinger
Interview by Michela Osbourne
Photo Credit: Deborah Caroll Anzinger and Sargent’s Daughters
In August 2015, Michela Osbourne, an art student in Italy with Jamaican roots, interned with three local artists. In that time the conversations about their work were recorded as notes to help us understand more about their art practices.
Can you talk to me about you work. What does your artistic practice entail, what do you want to explore?
It definitely starts from a particular ideology that I often question. I believe it but I don’t necessarily think that it’s the whole truth. It may not be the whole truth but it’s something that I feel is worth looking into. And that ideology is that in order to change value that has been ascribed to things through social constructs, that in order for that to shift in anyway, that there has to be some level of transgression that occurs.
So where boundaries are crossed. Or at least there’s an openness to those boundaries being crossed. So in the work there are definitely transgressions between the environment, the viewer, the actual physical environment and the human presence. So with that I will often have imagery of plants or actual plants that take the form of glass or mirrors that take the form of plants, in front of these palm ferns for examples, their image is in the shape of a palm plant. …in another form while still retaining some of the original essence of that person. There is also a transgression between the viewer and the actual work of art, and again it’s a particular ideology, where the degree of difference between two things is actually a construct. For example, there will be fragments of mirrors embedded in the actual paintings. I started off having these fragments being really abstract. There wasn’t any symbology within the fragments, there were just fragments collaged into the paintings of mirrors. But then I started really thinking about how I could deeper acknowledge what I was talking about in terms of value and how we ascribe value to one thing as opposed to another, and these kinds of dynamics.
I wanted to go into that more deeply and more literally, in terms of these kind of transgressions and commenting on value systems. So that was when I started using mirrors in the forms of ‘lesser than’ and ‘greater than’ signs and I would just place them seemingly randomly. They’re following more of composition preferences that I have, but are in seemingly random location. Whether the ‘lesser than’ mirrors is going to be pointing to, say, an aloe Vera which is lesser than some imagery that I have in a painting or vice versa. Whether the Aloe Vera is greater than, the image of somebody else who is being reflected in another mirror fragments. So it seems to be kind of random and I want to play with that idea of a sort of randomness to whether something is considered to be a preferred aesthetic or not.
Would you say that there is a type of ambiguity in this approach? You’re not giving the viewer – or are you giving the viewer a direct meaning. Or is it left open to interpretation?
I’m leaving it up to interpretation because I really don’t want the work to be dogmatic. I would prefer for it to create experiences and opportunities for some reflection and for some questioning. That is what I would like the work to do and so, when the viewer becomes part of the artwork they also have to confront that. They don’t get to see their whole image, so they are negotiating between focusing on a fragment of themselves in the mirror or focusing on the art that was there before they got there. And as part of this whole negotiation process, what your actually going to put more attention into a consequently what you are going to value more. So can you do both?
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