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In the Garden: An Interview with Aimée Beaubien BY KAYL PARKER

PELICAN BOMB | MARCH 16, 2018

As part of our “Queer Tropics” editorial series, Kayl Parker talks to artist Aimée Beaubien about her foliage-filled installations made from cut-and-collaged photographs.

EDITOR'S NOTE

Aimée Beaubien is an artist living and working in Chicago, Illinois. Beaubien is Assistant Professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I studied under her in the photography department. She utilizes photography and sculpture to blur the lines between media, while challenging the characteristics artists often automatically assign to each. Beaubien creates large-scale, immersive installations made from cut photographs and other objects. These pieces are often woven together and hung to overwhelm the room as well as the viewer.

In the last year, Beaubien has shown work at Riverside Arts Center, Riverside, Illinois; Gallery UNO Projektraum, Berlin; and Platform, Evanston, Illinois. She recently released Cuttings, a limited-edition artist book in collaboration with Jennifer Keats and the Donut Shop in Chicago.

Last fall, we sat down to talk about her work.

—Kayl Parker

Kayl Parker: I’d like to begin by talking about the source imagery for your large constructions. Where does it originate, or how do you generate it? Where does that process start?

Aimée Beaubien: Primarily, I’m using my own photographs. I also have a huge archive of photographs from my great-grandmother constantly circulating in my consciousness. I’m always thinking about them, looking at them, and sometimes incorporating them into my work. But it is really 99 percent my own photographs.

The work that opened up this new way of working started when I had the opportunity to be an artist in residence at the Roger Brown Study Collection in Chicago a few years ago. I was photographing in the collection for over a year, and I was really attracted to the idea of learning about this artist through the things he chose to surround himself with in his home space, his domestic space, and his studio space. And his home on Halsted Street, have you ever been there?

KP: Yes, a few times.

AB: It’s a two-flat, sort of like what I have set up here with the studio on the first floor, living areas primarily on the second floor. Things from his domestic space infiltrate the studio space, so there’s this migration of really interesting materials traveling upstairs and downstairs. And what I love about his collecting style is that it was so democratic, low culture with high culture, works by his friends, advertisements, vernacular things. It was a really exciting experience to fantasize about who I thought he was and how his collection affected him.

I was also thinking about my great-grandmother, because she was a collector too. She survived the Depression so she was constantly recycling materials, and we were constantly collaging things together. I think she is my primary influence. In 2016, I had the opportunity to do an installation at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) in Chicago for an exhibition celebrating their collection. I started thinking about the different types of histories and personal and institutional collections.

I also had the opportunity to go to Brown’s home in Michigan. There’s a whole bunch of biographical information available to read while you’re staying there. He had 50 different types of roses on that property at one time. Even the garden was an extension of his collection. The collecting was compulsive and it happened in every aspect of his life.

I have all these photographs from my great-grandmother. She was constantly photographing her garden throughout the seasons, so I’ve always casually photographed my mom’s garden. In 2013, I just switched gears (snaps) and thought this could be my primary material. I could expand the idea of the garden as a collection.

I love the idea of going to someone’s garden and trying to get a sense of who they are through the way they tend it. My mom’s really hard to get to know, so I feel like I can know her better through the way she manages and cultivates this natural-looking space.

KP: So the garden is a personal history?

AB: Totally! It’s funny, my husband and I got married in our backyard garden in Wicker Park, and when we moved later we transplanted a whole bunch of those plants. They’re a reflection of ourselves, I think.

KP: I’ve never thought about the garden as an extension of the human that owns it, but it makes sense.

AB: The other thing I’m always paying attention to is how these life cycles are very similar to photography. I think about my great-grandmother and her impulse to capture something ephemeral, like a bloom or blossom. She wanted to hold on to it. Having cut flowers in her house isn’t enough, she has to preserve it in a photograph.

KP: It’s often hard to pinpoint a medium with your work. The final pieces sort of dance around the line of photography and sculpture. Is this ambiguity important?

AB: It’s a complication that has been persistently looming over me. Where am I in this art world? So many people assume with collage work that the artist is primarily working with appropriated material, so when I was a young artist I had to assure people that not all collage is found material. I didn’t feel so much pressure to determine what kind of artist I was outside of school, but being a professor in a photography department, I felt then like I always had to reassure people that I know how to use a camera and work in a dark room. That’s my background and training. I’m interested in pushing photography outside of these predetermined forms and seeing how flexible it is, because I think photography is very malleable.

When I was documenting my collage work, I would get super frustrated, because it would look so flat. You couldn’t really see the ways I was joining two radically different pictures together, it just seemed like a photoshop trick. So I thought, how can I photograph this so it looks more dimensional? Which led to, why don’t I just make the works themselves more dimensional? At first I just had things in a little bit of a relief off the wall, and then I just really needed to get into space. I’m not a sculptor, so I was teaching myself all these things, giving myself simple problems, or a simple question that was actually a much more complex problem, like how do I make a photograph stand up on itself? (laughs)

In the process of doing that, I was naturally pulling things from my domestic space to prop them up while I was making. I think it helped having spent so much time with the Roger Brown stuff; I began thinking these things could become an integral part of the sculpture. They make sense. So a lot of this stuff is pulled from my garden into my studio space. I let things dry, or they die. I used to be a monochromatic artist, and in my very first sculptural installation, I embraced color, and my color just went wild. I put a whole bunch of dried lemons in it, because I love the idea of these super sweet photographs with this sour presence of the dead lemon.

KP: People tend to speak very differently about photography than they speak about painting or sculpture, as if it’s a lowbrow art form, somehow less masterful—which circles back to your need to convince people that you were personally generating the photos you used. They weren’t all found; they were yours, original. In a way, we have to consistently validate photography as a fine art form.

AB: I joined a critique group that was all photographers, as a kind of test. Can I convince very conservative photographers that what I’m doing has meaning and value in the photo world?

KP: It’s a challenge. I think about all the critiques I had in the photo department at SAIC, and there are always people who are purists.

AB: And I value that. I teach that. I feel like it’s so much easier now that there are many artists working with photography in bizarre ways. It’s helped me in that I don’t feel alone.

KP: So many of your installations create spaces with loose narratives. Do you have a final form in mind before you start, or is the process more fluid than that?

AB: These are all new muscles I’m trying to build, so I’ve started out with very specific ideas in mind. What I consider my very first installation element was in a show at Johalla Projects where I built this vine-like structure climbing up a wall. I was basically imitating the way this wild rogue vine has crawled around our house, covering the side of our house from two doors down. I love seeing how plants travel through the neighborhood. I wanted to replicate the feeling of those movements and gestures.

I had also been reading J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, which imagines this post-apocalyptic world that has been completely flooded. London is underwater and vegetation is crazy out of control, jungles growing over architecture. For an installation at Demo Project, which was in an actual house, I imagined building this platform of furniture oddly stacked up, and then a beanstalk just growing all over it. Again, that was coming primarily from the book, but also this vine.

And then the next big installation was at the MoCP. I felt the pressure to respond to what has been an anchor in igniting my imagination about the history of photography, specifically William Henry Fox Talbot’s work photographing his collections. He has one [photograph] with shelves and articles from China, so what I tried to conceptualize was creating a china cabinet or cabinet of wonders in this architectural niche [at the museum]. I cut vessel forms into all the photographs I’d taken in the Roger Brown house of his objects. I liked the idea that a photograph is a vessel. I was creating a weird china cabinet in that space. I knew that this would be the primary element, I had that all visualized before I did it.

Because I really want to stay sensitive and responsive to the actual space. I can’t control my response. I can’t create that in the studio, I can just approximate it.

KP: By creating the pseudo-landscapes or jungles in your installations, how do you hope the viewer relates to or inhabits the space of the work?

AB: Ideally, I would love people to feel like they are inside of it. Some exhibition spaces can’t accommodate that, but I’m hoping that people feel they can walk inside. I know from having studio visits that a lot of people have the impulse to touch things, which I’m totally okay with. This is all material that I handle without gloves, so as long as they’re not pulling, tugging, bending, it’s fine. I keep thinking about working with stronger material.

KP: I judge artwork on the initial visceral reaction I have to it, like a first impression. So if I feel the urge to touch it, I almost feel like it’s more successful as a piece.

AB: I love when people come in here and just sort of gasp, and say “Whoa, this is amazing.” That’s what I’m going for.

KP: The first reaction I had to these hanging pieces is to point out all the visual parts I’m drawn to, which might not be constructive. But it’s almost as if you have to experience this initial awe, because it is aggressive. That visceral reaction can force you to zoom in and question what you’re looking at.

AB: That’s what I actually love, the idea of watching people encountering the work for the first time, and they don’t know what they’re looking at. They don’t come with any preconceived ideas that they’ll be seeing photographs today. What am I looking at? What is this? I think there is enough material information available that you can figure it out.

KP: Do you want people to see your hand in the artwork? Do you hope some of that personal history is showing?

AB: That’s an interesting question. I do value that I am making all these cuts by hand. I could probably have this all laser cut, but I want to make my cuts in direct response to the photographs. I thought about having all the vinyl pieces cut with the laser cutter, but it just didn’t make much sense to me when I’m so much more adept with an X-Acto. I can really be in the moment making decisions, on the print instead of a file. All the mark-making, knowing that it’s me or my hand behind it makes it more meaningful to me. I’m not sure if it comes across to the viewer.

KP: I think it reads as organic. I think if you did everything through a computer, it would be noticeable. You can see your hand cutting out something more organically than with a digital selection tool.

AB: It’s funny. I did an installation in Houston, and a friend of mine took the installation down for me. He saw me put it up, but he said he really didn’t understand it until he took it apart. He said, “I kind of feel like I’m inside your brain.” Which I think is cool, but why did it have to wait until he was actually de-installing? I guess the way that I approach work is I firstly take it all in, but then I try to figure out how it was all made. That’s just part of my viewing process.

KP: That might be an artist thing, because we all want to know. And it’s not always incredibly important to consuming the work, but it does inform the experience.

AB: Definitely. And honestly, this is so snarky of me, but a lot of people are cutting paper now, and I can always tell when it’s laser cut. I shouldn’t be so prejudiced. (laughs)

KP: I do the same thing, I really do. I think artists all do it to a certain extent, and maybe not even consciously all the time. I do it now when I watch movies even.

AB: Oh yeah! We can’t suspend our disbelief.

KP: It’s the plight of the maker, right?

AB: I’ve been pulling these long days in the studio, and I’ve been having these really intense dreams. I always have very intense, vivid dreams when I’m stressed out, especially. I had these vines, the vines again, they’re coming across my body and weaving together. I could feel tendons and muscles weaving together, and it was crazy. I would move, and then I would think, “that wasn’t the right move,” and readjust in response to the way these things were weaving through my body.

KP: So your work is you, your work is fused literally to you.

AB: At the moment it is! I’m totally obsessed with this weaving thing, and I’m not sure where it’s going to go. That’s part of why I’m excited by it.

Twist Affix opening at the Riverside Arts Center's Freeark Gallery October 29th

twist affix

“Leaning, shooting, bedded, staked, staying. Drooping, reclining, pitched, and placed. Sloping, jutting, braced. Holding, heaped. Planted and spread. My recent collage-based installations map networks of meaning and association between the garden, the ephemeral, and the photographic. Qualities of the garden run parallel to the nature of photography: they are spaces defined by interactions of the scientific, the accidental, and the temporal." -- Aimée Beaubien

Teetering between cultivation and wildness, Aimée Beaubien's solo exhibition Twist Affix at the Riverside Arts Center's Freeark Gallery takes the form of verdant mesh curtains made of interwoven strips of color photographs, taken in her own backyard garden in Chicago and her mother's garden in Florida.  One curtain bisects the front gallery and is lit and shadowed to dazzling effect with intensely colorful hothouse grow lights.  

Beaubien says of her unique, recombinatory approach to photography and sculptural process: "my collage practice is driven by the translational space between image and material, and by generative and cumulative strategies of making. I embrace the documentary capacity of the camera, recording what I encounter. My images become printed photographs, then sculptural forms. Cutting and reassembling, I draw with scissors. Within the visual and temporal entanglements of my installations, perception slips between recognition and abstraction: from a sky, a topography, or a textile, into fields of color and pattern and back again."

Beaubien sees the garden as a type of collection, noting that gardens "are the products of migration, accumulation, curation, and caprice. Culled from the orderliness of scientific taxonomies, we assemble our gardens for aesthetic pleasures, and for contact with wildness." Beaubien's hanging gardens at RAC thus extend and expand upon her longstanding interest in idiosyncratic collections and collecting practices, from the objects held in specialty museums like the Roger Brown Study Collection--which inspired Beaubien's project "Collecting Within," shown at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in 2016 --to the quirky displays of personal artifacts found in ordinary people's homes, including her own. 

For press inquiries and high-res images contact Freeark Gallery Director Claudine Isé:  cise[at]riversideartscenter[dot]com.

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The Riverside Arts Center Freeark Gallery + Sculpture Garden
32 East Quincy Street, Riverside, IL 60546
708-442-6400
www.riversideartscenter.com

Gallery Hours: Tue - Sat 1-5pm. Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays.
All of our exhibitions are free and open to the public.

20min interview about 'Cuttings' with Lisa Degliantoni for The Lisa D Show

The Lisa D Show

Aimée Beaubien's art installation at Platform in Evanston, "Cuttings", is an incredibly unique and interesting way to recreate a garden. The installation features floor to ceiling photos of garden and plant cut up and woven into shapes and formations, hung with rope, attached to dried lemons and other organic matter. Walking through the installation gives one the feeling of being a tiny lost creature in a magical and fantastical garden.

The public is invited this Saturday, June 3, to meet Aimée at Platform on 904 Sherman Ave., 12-7:30 p.m. Aimée is one of more than 200 visual artists participating the kick off weekend of Evanston Made, a monthlong visual arts celebration in June that turns the city of Evanston into a art gallery. Learn more at evanstonmade.com

Show notes: this interview includes background on Aimée's great grandmother's experience living through the Great Depression, insight into Rugby culture and songs about dog-butt sniffing, the evils of vines and finding your soulmate after 40.

Chicago-based artist Aimée Beaubien constructs optically perplexing arrangements from fragments of her own photographs. See more of her work at aimeebeaubien.com

Platform is a foundation for the unconstrained creative vision of Justine Bianco and Maggie Meiners. It is our studio with a store front project space to exhibit BIG ideas. We are not a conventional gallery looking to make a buck, we are an exhibition space in which artists have creative license to get adventurous. Learn more atplatform904.com

"The Lisa D Show" is a podcast celebrating creatives, featuring 20-minute, unedited conversations that mimic the live-radio vibe, very low tech on purpose.

Cuttings: Aimée Beaubien --- Platform, 904 Sherman, Evanston, IL 60202 --- May 22-July 7, 2017 --- Opening Reception: Saturday, June 3 5-7:30 pm

  Cuttings   : Aimée Beaubien    May 22-July 7, 2017, Opening Reception: Saturday, June 3 5-7:30 pm   Platform,  904 Sherman, Evanston, IL 60202  Gallery Hours:  by appointment; 773.383.9197, platform904.com  Platform is pleased to present a solo exhibition featuring the work titled Cuttings. Beaubien’s sculptural, photo based collages explore collapses in time, space, and place, while playfully engaging the complexities of visual perception.    In  Cuttings , botanical life is drawn in the illusory space of photographic representation, or drawn with scissors. Bold leaf shapes and twisting ribbons of color entwine, dangle, cluster and creep. Beaubien’s photographs are cut into colorful shapes that interweave, encircle, and hang; trail in ribbon-like shreds; and become wild ornamental outgrowths.  Beaubien’s  Cuttings  are representational of gardens. This makeshift garden is constructed through processes of translation, revision, cutting and reassembling, reflecting the temporal complexity of the garden, and of the photographic encounter.   AIMÉE BEAUBIEN      is an artist living and working in Chicago.. Solo exhibitions include shows at DEMO Projects, Springfield; Johalla Projects, Chicago; TWIN KITTENS, Atlanta, GA; Gallery Uno, Chicago; Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago; Marvelli Gallery, NY, BOX 13 Artspace, Houston, TX. Two-person and group exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; Ukranian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago; The Pitch Project, Milwaukee, WI; Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL; Temple Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; galerie obqo, Berlin, Germany; UCRC Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA; Art Exhibition Link, Bremen, Germany, and Castello di S. Severa, Italy; Carl Hammer Gallery and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago. Her work has been reviewed in publications such as Art in America, Art on Paper, and Art Papers. Beaubien is Assistant Professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.     Platform, Evanston, IL:  Platform is a foundation for the unconstrained creative vision of Justine Bianco and Maggie Meiners.  It is a shared studio with a small project space to exhibit BIG ideas. Platform is not a conventional gallery, but rather, an exhibition space in which artists have creative license to get adventurous. Platform encourages collectors, enthusiasts and all others to assemble, see art, talk about art, and share their thoughts generously.

Cuttings: Aimée Beaubien

May 22-July 7, 2017, Opening Reception: Saturday, June 3 5-7:30 pm

Platform, 904 Sherman, Evanston, IL 60202

Gallery Hours:  by appointment; 773.383.9197, platform904.com

Platform is pleased to present a solo exhibition featuring the work titled Cuttings. Beaubien’s sculptural, photo based collages explore collapses in time, space, and place, while playfully engaging the complexities of visual perception.  In Cuttings, botanical life is drawn in the illusory space of photographic representation, or drawn with scissors. Bold leaf shapes and twisting ribbons of color entwine, dangle, cluster and creep. Beaubien’s photographs are cut into colorful shapes that interweave, encircle, and hang; trail in ribbon-like shreds; and become wild ornamental outgrowths.

Beaubien’s Cuttings are representational of gardens. This makeshift garden is constructed through processes of translation, revision, cutting and reassembling, reflecting the temporal complexity of the garden, and of the photographic encounter.

AIMÉE BEAUBIEN is an artist living and working in Chicago.. Solo exhibitions include shows at DEMO Projects, Springfield; Johalla Projects, Chicago; TWIN KITTENS, Atlanta, GA; Gallery Uno, Chicago; Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago; Marvelli Gallery, NY, BOX 13 Artspace, Houston, TX. Two-person and group exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; Ukranian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago; The Pitch Project, Milwaukee, WI; Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL; Temple Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; galerie obqo, Berlin, Germany; UCRC Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA; Art Exhibition Link, Bremen, Germany, and Castello di S. Severa, Italy; Carl Hammer Gallery and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago. Her work has been reviewed in publications such as Art in America, Art on Paper, and Art Papers. Beaubien is Assistant Professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Platform, Evanston, IL: Platform is a foundation for the unconstrained creative vision of Justine Bianco and Maggie Meiners.  It is a shared studio with a small project space to exhibit BIG ideas. Platform is not a conventional gallery, but rather, an exhibition space in which artists have creative license to get adventurous. Platform encourages collectors, enthusiasts and all others to assemble, see art, talk about art, and share their thoughts generously.

FLOORR MAGAZINE - Interview

beaubien_floorr_magazine

AIMEE BEAUBIEN

"VISUAL OSCILLATIONS BETWEEN FORM AND IMAGE REFLECT ON THE SENSORY SHIFTS BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPHIC DEPICTION AND PHYSICAL ENCOUNTER."

https://www.floorrmagazine.com/issue-9/aimee-beaubien

Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?

I live and work in Chicago, IL.  This city is brimming with talent driven to create improvised opportunities to share work. I received my BFA (1989), and MFA (1993) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography. While I began exhibiting my work during grad school, I believe I really learned how to work every day in an art studio when I was a teenager.

My family was highly mobile and continued to move throughout my childhood. Moves mid-school year were the worst. Finally, I landed in a boarding school with a focus on the arts for my last two years of high school and my first two consecutive years in one location. Our campus was on a lake in the woods with no distractions. We worked in our studios after mornings spent in academic classes. We returned after dinner to continue making until bedtime. I was so preoccupied with learning through making that it never even occurred to me to do anything else.

These vibrant paper sculptures are very delicate, detailed and bizarre. Could you talk about your work and what your process is?

Delicate, detailed and bizarre sounds great to me! I have been cutting up photographs since the mid-1980s. My earliest impulses came of a desire to draw attention to how pictures are constructed. I actively investigated different collage strategies to experiment with visibly assembling photographic information in order to build picture relationships that might simultaneously blend, overlap, and intersect. Whenever I documented my intricate collages the results were disappointing; important seams disappeared, visible layers were flattened and erased through reproduction. I began raising my cutouts into reliefs that hovered just off the surface of the wall, emphasizing layers of revision and rebuilding.

Concentrated material experimentation guide the development of my practice, which has shifted from wall pieces to sculpture, and then to large-scale installations. I began to create woven works after becoming fascinated by intricate handmade baskets I saw in a gallery. I reassembled ribbons of cut photographs into tapestries and flexible interlocking structures. I continue to use each exhibition as an opportunity to creatively push the boundaries of my practice.

I spent a year photographing in Roger Brown Study Collection, the archive and historic home of the celebrated Chicago Imagist painter. I used the camera to capture my own impressions of the objects surrounding Brown during his lifetime, as I reflected on the connections between an artist’s work, their life and the things they collect. I continue to think about many different types of collections: the historically significant objects curated and presented by museums, as well as the idiosyncratic ways individuals collect and arrange personal items in their homes.

This research took form as Collecting Within: a multi-level installation of suspended ceramic jugs, woven photographic material, party lights, and large vessel-shaped photographs suspended with brightly hued cords. The work focuses on Roger Brown’s collection, while incorporating selected vernacular and photo-historical images. The piece nods to one of Henry Fox Talbot’s images in particular, Articles of China (c.1844). A pioneer of the medium, Talbot left behind an unusual record of his domestic life and collections. Many of his pictures show fine china, dishes, and other careful arrangements from his home and daily life. Conceived for the 40th anniversary exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, the installation reflects on our dynamic and tangled attachments for the things we collect, individually and institutionally.

Where has your work been headed more recently?

I have been focused on the garden as an ephemeral collection. In gardens, interconnected systems grow and reproduce. Hybrids flourish. Seasons reign, briefly. Gardens are marked by time. Various cycles of life move at different speeds. Interdependent systems multiply, bloom, grow, intertwine, and die. Qualities of the garden run parallel to the nature of photography: spaces defined by interactions of the scientific, the accidental, and the temporal.

My great-grandmother photographed her garden through the seasons and throughout her lifetime. I have been photographing in my tiny backyard garden, in my mother’s amazing garden in Florida, and botanical gardens near each of our homes.

In my recent work, botanical life is drawn in the illusory space of photographic representation, or drawn with scissors. Cut forms interweave, encircle, and hang; trail in ribbon-like shreds; and become wild ornamental outgrowths. Bold leaf shapes and twisting spirals of color entwine, dangle, cluster and creep in makeshift gardens. Hothouse grow lights create plays of intensely colored light and shadow while a household oscillating fan keeps these botanical entanglements actively swaying with life.

Photographic paper has become the sculptural material through which I continue exploring physical and perceptual relationships. Visual oscillations between form and image reflect on the sensory shifts between photographic depiction and physical encounter. My work is driven by the transformative potential between image and material, and by generative and cumulative strategies of making.

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?

My studio is a first floor apartment and I live on the second floor with my husband and our two cats. My husband makes ceramic whiskey jugs on the weekends and they line the staircase that connects my studio and my home. Since I began working in this space, I have noticed my domestic environment influences my work in unexpected ways.

Wild fast growing vines creep about the garage out back, slink through the yard and climb all around our house. Last summer I began pulling out thickly twining morning glories, plucking the heart shaped leaves and rolling them up into large tumbleweeds to dry out before bringing them into the studio. My grandmother’s dining room table is my primary work table and I am surrounded by huge tangles of cut and woven photographic pieces in various states of progress that dangle down from the ceiling.

I allow everyday objects from my home studio to become integrated into the structure of my sculptures. Surrounded by suspended, propped, and perched objects, I consider perceptions of weight: the weight of things, the weight of images, the weight of representations, and the emotional ties interlaced throughout.

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

Lately I have been making repeat visits to Provoke: Photography between Protest and Performance, 1960 - 1975 at the Art Institute of Chicago. I am particularly drawn to Jiro Takamatsu’s Photograph of Photograph, a series of fifty black and white images. Takamatsu arranged family photos around his home and hired a photographer to take pictures of the photos in situ from angles that would capture light bouncing off the surface. And I keep thinking about this line from the wall label: ‘Personal memory, like external reality, looks difficult to grasp with precision.’ I inherited thousands of my great-grandmother’s photographs and I have felt encouraged to view them at odd angles to explore their many possibilities.

William Henry Fox Talbot’s ‘Honeysuckle’, c. 1844 is always in my nearby thoughts. Geoffrey Batchen wrote: “Talbot crowds his camera into this bush of flowering honeysuckle, resulting in a remarkably three-dimensional picture. Looking at this image, we feel as though we too are peering into these branches, our field of vision totally filled by its light-dappled petals and stems. The photograph is at once realist and abstract, and thus points to the paradoxical aspect of photographic vision that many future practitioners would also learn to exploit.” It is the greatest excuse to use my camera to see things, to become sensitive to the act of looking.

During an artist residency at the German porcelain factory Meissen Manufactory, Arlene Shechet made plaster reproductions of original factory molds. She then produced a variety of cast, hand-painted porcelain forms and her molds of molds took form for such exhibitions as ‘Meissen Recast’ and ‘All in One’. I learned about Arlene Shechet’s process and 20 months of research at the Meissen factory during an artist lecture she gave at SAIC and then I visited one iteration of this project at the Frick Collection for her installation ‘Porcelain, No Simple Matter: Arlene Shechet and the Arnhold Collection’. Her engagement with the mutability of material, history, and the vernacular captivates my imagination.

I keep dipping back into Kirsty Bell’s The Artist’s House: from Workplace to Artwork. In it Katharina Grosse describes the moment she decided to spray her bedroom in Dusseldorf with paint. ‘I sprayed it as I had left it, and left everything as it was.’ Grosse often speaks of the event as a turning point in her work, though there is only photo documentation of this watershed moment. I’ve heard Katharina Grosse speak in lectures about how she discovered narrative through this action. In Kirsty Bell’s interview Katharina says, “This is the most private place where you find different connections to things. You lie, you are in a kind of image space, imagination is like another realm. Thinking and pictorial space are very close to one another, whereas this materialization of our life is far away from thought.”

How do you go about naming your work?

As I work, I jot down fragmentary, evolving impressions of what I am making. From these sketches titles are altered much like a collage, in a way similar to William S. Burroughs cut-up techniques. The names also mirror the iterative ways material is used in my installations.  My Hothouse works, for example, are installations that have material overlap as well as related names, but are radically re-imagined for each exhibition context.

Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

I’m working on an artist book that is a reimagined version of my installation Collecting Within. The publication is designed to act like a collection itself, comprised of 150 accordion books of varying lengths, stacked within an origami-like cube. Each copy varies slightly in the collection it contains. Included in the book are creative text pieces by Lisa Stone, Curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection and Eve Kalugin, Shapiro Graduate Fellow. The work also features a pamphlet-bound essay by Alison Grant, Assistant Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.

The photographs in the book depict observations of Roger Brown’s things, photo historical images, the collections that ornament the shelves and stairs of my own home, and installation views of related works I have made. In Collecting Within, the iterations of my process are placed together in a non-hierarchical way and in a manner offering a new series of picture relationships with each encounter. This artist book pays homage to his lifelong accumulation, and to the many wandering pathways through it. My own travels through the Roger Brown Study Collection allowed me to experience the collection itself as a wild assemblage: it is a collage that is activated as the viewer’s body passes through it.

aimeebeaubien.com

All images courtesy of the artist
Published date: 5/4/17

Hothouse flipside at Submissive Exhibitions, The Mission

Submissive Exhibitions is pleased to announce the opening for Aimée Beaubien's solo exhibition Hothouse flipside.

In Hothouse flipside, bold leaf shapes and twisting ribbons of color entwine, dangle, cluster and creep in a makeshift basement garden. Botanical life is drawn in the illusory space of photographic representation, or drawn with scissors. My photographs are cut into colorful shapes that interweave, encircle, and hang; trail in ribbon-like shreds; and become wild ornamental outgrowths. Visual oscillations between form and image reflect on the perceptual shifts between photographic depiction and physical encounter.

Gardens are marked by time. Various cycles of life move at different speeds. Interdependent systems multiply, bloom, grow, intertwine, and die. My subterranean garden is constructed through processes of translation, revision, cutting and reassembling, reflecting the temporal complexity of the garden, and of the photographic encounter.

From a visit with INSIDE\WITHIN's Kate Sierzputowski and Ashleigh Dye

Our conversation trailed through the studio and into garden with INSIDE\WITHIN's Kate Sierzputowski and Ashleigh Dye. Thank you both for continuing to provide such great insight into the workspaces and processes of artists connected to Chicago.

Aimée Beaubien’s Woven Imagery

Collecting images like objects, Aimee slices her photographic documentation into pieces that are then woven into large three-dimensional forms. These works, which often hang collectively from the ceiling, are filled with information and bits of data from friends, family, and strangers’ personal collections. By intricately collaging the photographs Aimee allows personal histories to align with those from collected sources, using photographs taken at places such as the Roger Brown Study Collection and Museum of Contemporary Photography.

INSIDE\WITHIN

Aimée Beaubien’s Woven Imagery

Collecting images like objects, Aimee slices her photographic documentation into pieces that are then woven into large three-dimensional forms. These works, which often hang collectively from the ceiling, are filled with information and bits of data from friends, family, and strangers’ personal collections. By intricately collaging the photographs Aimee allows personal histories to align with those from collected sources, using photographs taken at places such as the Roger Brown Study Collection and Museum of Contemporary Photography.

I\W: Could you talk a bit about your source imagery for your collages? Are they typically photographs that you take yourself?
AB: Approximately 99 percent of the images I use in my collages are photographs I take myself. From time to time however I do incorporate some images that my great grandmother made. She made photographs every day of her life, and I inherited her archive, which dates all the way back to 1910. She had this collage on her fridge while I was growing up as a kid that has subconsciously influenced every single artistic move that I have made in my practice. Every once in awhile I will rephotograph her pieces, or just include originals in my installations. She was my primary influence, and was the first to teach me about collage. I keep returning to her work because it was such a potent part of my visual vocabulary as a child.

I\W: How did your residency at the Roger Brown Study Collection influence your practice?
Well, this particular installation that I have in my house was compiled from images I took within the collection. I spent an entire year moving in and out of the collection in both of his homes in Lincoln Park and New Buffalo, Michigan. Brown and his partner were really ambitious collectors, and collected everything from popular culture to really amazing outsider art. He also had all sorts of indigenous crafts from all over the world. His tastes were wild and all over the place. It has been fun for me to consider how his personal collection informed the decisions he made in his own production, how my personal collection informs what I do, and then how most artists implicitly collect, even the ones that consider themselves minimalists.

I\W: Was this the experience that inspired your piece at the Museum of Contemporary Photography for their 40th anniversary exhibition?
I wanted that installation to look like a cabinet of wonder and to be thick with material. That was my experience being in Roger’s space. There is just work that covers the space from floor to ceiling. It is all so overwhelming and exciting and dense. I really tried to capture that feeling or that intensity. The piece was an iteration of what is currently in my home but much, much larger. The final installed work was 11 feet tall, 9 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. I condensed it for this space when it returned to my studio, but here is where I really worked it out before it was installed in order to get a sense of how much material I needed.

I\W: How did you incorporate your own collection into the installation to mirror Roger Brown’s?
Well, the museum exhibition was specifically about highlighting and celebrating 40 years of their own collection, so when they invited me to do this site-specific piece, I just started thinking about what aspects of the history of photography were most important to me. I always go back to William Henry Fox Talbot and these photographs he took of his personal collection. Also, my work was installed in the museum’s stairwell which was important for me because of the separation my stairwell in my home provides. It is a link and divide between my studio space and my living space with my husband. Our stairwell is covered with my husband’s whiskey jugs, so everything came together when I started to think of these vessel forms I walk past daily on my staircase in relationship to the vessels in Talbot’s still lifes. I then began connecting them to my images of Roger Brown’s collection and started considering my photographs as these vessels of memory. So I began cutting silhouettes of vessels into photographs.

I\W: You are layering diverse histories within your collage, including your own. However each of the works ends up being so bright and joyful. Is that an intention in your installations, or is that just what your eye is drawn to when photographing the world?
I manipulate the color within my photographs. I tend to gravitate towards bright color palettes, but I’m also pushing my works towards them as well through digital manipulation. A lot of that has to do with these colors I am discovering in my great grandmother’s work, especially as the works age. They have a really warm past. When I first worked in photography I was working in the dark room. I was drawn to color and would apply it to the monochromatic work, but I didn’t really know how to incorporate it fully. When I made the transition to digital I went crazy and I remain super interested in experimenting with color.

I\W: Can you talk about your process when creating your 3D collaged forms? How did your work move from 2D to 3D?
Some of the 3D work came out of a project I created at DEMO Project in Springfield, IL, which I consider my very first site-specific installation. While preparing for the exhibition I was noticing how my domestic studio environment was influencing the decisions I was making in my work, and I was excited about having a house as an actual site for the exhibition. For that show I created this huge pile of furniture and then built a giant beanstalk. It looked as if it was growing and overtaking everything, which was based on some things that were happening in my backyard. I had let some vines get out of control because I was interested in watching their woven patterns and observing how they overtook other plant life. I was also reading JG Ballard’s post-apocalyptic novel The Drowned World that he wrote in the 1960’s. I was excited about the chaos of a domestic space being overtaken by this natural form. That prompted this whole weaving of the image thing, which started last summer.

I\W: Why did you decide to weave the images together?
Right before the exhibition at DEMO Project I had visited Santa Fe, NM. I went to a gallery recommended by a friend that had these amazing baskets and I asked if I could photograph them. I spent hours doing this, but couldn’t figure out what to do with these photographs. I decided to just cut them apart and weave them back together into basic basket forms. I am really confused about how to visually understand the way digital information is captured and converted into 1’s and 0’s and then turned back into an image again. For me, my woven images are weird metaphors for these digital processes I don’t seem to fully understand. I am physically pulling the images apart and then putting them back together again.

I\W: Why do you choose to leave untouched photographic moments in your work alongside the more sculptural pieces?
One thing that is interesting to me is how frequently people who are active viewers of collage automatically leap to the conclusion that it is appropriated imagery. I totally get that based on the history of collage and the way that I often photograph other people’s artwork, so there is definitely a nod to appropriation, but they are still my photographs, and they still are radically different from what the original source image may have been. I thought about experimenting with this idea of potentially reintroducing more whole moments from my photographs. I don’t really know what this is yet. It is a newer impulse that I feel is an outgrowth of this satisfaction in making the vessel forms. I think I am trying to figure out if I would be comfortable making a rectilinear photograph which I have not done for a very long time. Or is it more exciting for me to cut forms out of my rectilinear photographs? How much can I cut away? When do you recognize the form as a photograph? When is it just material? For me there is so much meaning in the making of these things. I think that it is a really charged visual experience to make them, but to also view them and experience them.

I\W: Now that you have been making the sculptural forms with your photographs, does this influence how you capture the original image?
Totally. I think that is why I play so much with shallow depth of field. I think about an out of focus area more as fabric. I think everything really shifted for me when I did a residency in Austria and it happened to coincide with the Venice Biennale. I decided to spend a week there photographing. I thought I would just make photographs as documentation of exhibitions to share with my students, and then I noticed I was taking photographs in really weird ways. I wasn’t documenting the shows. I was really interested in the intersections between the contemporary art and then this really robust decorative palace. It was such an incongruous and exciting meet-up for me. I decided that this could be material to make work from. I started photographing things differently because I was already anticipating cutting them up.

 

 

Gusts in the Hothouse

Gusts in the Hothouse, 2016

THE COLLECTION | Where Art Meets Fashion | Fashion Outlets of Chicago | Rosemont, IL

All of the photographs contained within Gusts in the Hothouse were taken in my garden, my mother’s garden, and public gardens near my home in Chicago and my parent’s home in Florida. Lately I have been reflecting on gardens as places where taxonomies and aesthetics intersect with unpredictable elements: as spaces defined by interactions of order, disorder, and temporality. My recent work has been focused on gardens as collections that are ephemeral, evolutionary, and seasonal. In gardens, interconnected systems grow and reproduce. Hybrids flourish. Gardens are portrayals of time. They are marked by seasonality; by various internal cycles of life moving at different speeds: interdependent systems blooming, growing, intertwining, and dying. They represent a kind of inertia toward disorder: our post-apocalyptic visions always feature cities overgrown, being consumed again by nature. I use the garden as a framework to explore the complex attachments formed, individually and institutionally, for what we collect: the tangible and the intangible.

study for Gusts in the Hothouse

Gusts in the Hothouse, 2016
photographs, paracord, grow lights, oscillating fan

Aimée Beaubien’s photographic practice takes shape in inventive forms. Responses to color, pattern, space, structure, time and place are translated from her printed photographs into sculptural interventions. Gusts in the Hothouse meditates on the garden as a space defined by interactions of order, disorder, and temporality. Gardens are collections and conveyors of time from the evolutionary to the ephemeral. They are marked by seasonality; by various internal cycles of life moving at different speeds. Interdependent systems multiply, bloom, grow, intertwine, and die. Gardens are nature gathered together; immaculately tended or grown wild; public space or private refuge. These botanical entanglements provoke a series of experiential shifts between visual representation and physical encounter: leaning, shooting, bedded, staked, staying. Drooping, reclining, pitched, and placed. Sloping, jutting, braced. Holding, heaped. Planted and spread.