Sky Pape, a New York City-based artist, participates in the Artists Interview Artists Project. Below Sky responds to another artist's five questions (Douglas Witmer from Philadelphia). In order to participate, Sky had to provide me with five questions for some other artist to answer. The assigning of questions to artists is completely random. If you're an artist and interested in participating, let me know.
1. What do you see as the boundaries of your art practice? Is there a way it begins and ends in your life?
Both internal and external limits can hold my work in check. In the dark, I bump up against many walls, of doubt, distraction, technical dilemmas, and financial pressures, but if I keep feeling my way along, eventually there’s a way through. Sometimes it’s as simple as an open door, sometimes it takes a sledgehammer, sometimes the only way out is digging a tunnel with a spoon. It helps if you have some light on the situation.
On a daily basis, the practice of art is continuous because all experiences, including dreams, potentially fuel the work. Each action has its effect. This began for me without fanfare: I was in diapers and someone put a drawing implement in my chubby fist. If it had been a spatula, things might have turned out differently. (“If only I had known!” my mother will lament.) Naturally, it will end when I become disabled or die, but I’m counting on seeing and doing and discovering a few more things between now and then. I still haven’t learned how to dance.
2. What is your biggest challenge personally as it pertains to making your work?
Who wouldn’t wish for someone to take care of all the drudge-work? Someone to take my place in the black hole of tedious responsibilities involved with trying to safely shepherd work from the studio into the outside world. Any volunteers? I’m pretty sure you can get college credit for this sort of work. Good karma points at the very least. There are many kinds of help that could make things easier, but seriously, fear is the biggest obstacle. The challenge is to weather the periods that come, and will come again, when I worry I might never have another good idea, or I look at the work and it feels foreign to me, or I feel the sting of criticism or rejection, or the deadline of mortality. The challenge is in meeting this test of endurance, affirming the commitment to continue, and having enough left over to have some kind of life too.
3. What is your ideal ratio of "theory" to "practice?"
Theory, consisting of explanatory statements, accepted principles, and methods of analysis, is by definition something separate and after the process of making art. As a viewer, theory may enhance my understanding of a work of art and illuminate art history. It becomes relevant after the fact, and is also closely tied to public acceptance and approval, which also come after the fact and don’t relate to the making of good art. In the studio, theory invites preconceptions to masquerade as ideas and impedes the openness, vulnerability, and uncertainty necessary to engage wholly and honestly with the work as it develops.
4. Imagine yourself as one branch in a "family tree" of artists. Who makes up other branches?
Who is part of the trunk? Does a notion of a tradition matter?
Carved into the trunk is the name of the ancestor who first drew an animal on a cave wall or in the dirt. It might be interesting to take the exploration in the other direction and ask, “Who are the roots?”
Art history, like any history, imparts a sense of continuity, of context, of family, of belonging to something. This history, however, has its greatest impact on me as a viewer of art, not a maker. I may be moved by work from long ago and far away, but my work is bound by my experiences, tied to the here and now. I can’t go back and be the person I was or make the work I was making in my own past of a few years ago, any more than I could be Leonardo. I can’t follow the same life path of any artist before me, but their stories serve as encouragement: one way or another, art is somehow doable.
The notion of tradition is comforting, but it implies habit, routine, conformity, and again, social acceptance. Tradition can be like a loose framework or a prison. It’s not impossible to build upon it, but it won’t always welcome innovation and change. You can get them resoled and polished, but someone else’s old shoes might never be comfortable to walk in.
5. Do you aspire for your work to meet a need and, if so, do you have a name for that need?
My work needs to be the best that I can make it. Acting as a mirror, it shows me things I wouldn’t readily see about myself. It helps me process information about the world around me, and serves as both outlet and buffer for my emotions. Through it, I am able to probe, ask questions, find some answers, articulate ideas, and in turn, it leads me forward by asking more questions. Making it nourishes my ongoing desire to learn something about being.
Juno Doran (questions by James W. Bailey)
Josh Feldman (questions by Joseph Barbaccia)
Lisa Stephenson (questions by Whitney Lynn)
Joseph Barbaccia (questions by Josh Feldman)
James W. Bailey (questions by Matt Hollis)
Matt Hollis (questions by Juno Doran)
Carol Es (questions by James Leonard)
Alexandra Silverthorne (questions by Ami Lahoff)
Christine Buckton Tillman (questions by Carol Es)
Douglas Witmer (questions by Alexandra Silverthorne)