zoë wyner – april 9 2016

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EF – So, tell me who you are and what you want to talk about, and then we can go from there.

ZW – Well, I’m Zoë…I have a hard time defining myself as an artist because I’ve dabbled in so many different things over time. Right now, I’m in this art education program with other artists, who are really confident in one particular medium for the most part. Most of them are very 2-D focused. It’s been interesting to me trying to figure out what it means to me to be an artist, and feeling as though pursuing teaching art is valid after seeing what my peers are doing. So that’s sort of where I’m at as an artist right now.

I definitely identify as a musician over a visual artist, even though I’ve been working in clay since I was nine, on and off, and I’ve been doing fiber work since I was four – I learned how to knit when I was four, which I think is probably the nerdiest fact about me.

I WISH that I learned how to knit when I was four.

It was awesome.

In terms of the art that I create now, it’s primarily 3-D. I’ve recently been exploring printmaking for the first time; in school I did some intaglio, which was really fun. But I guess I’m primarily a ceramic artist.

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A lot of the stuff I have around my house was made by my grandmother. She was an art teacher, and was the same person who taught me how to knit when I was really little. I feel like she is a big part of why I am interested in so many different media – she was very skilled in a lot of different things and I would spend time in her classroom. Every single vacation week we had in our public school, I would go to the private school where she taught and either hang out or help out in her classroom.

What are some of the things that she made?

This is one of her paintings. She lived on the Cape during the summer, so it’s very Cape Cod. It’s not totally my aesthetic, but I love the colors. She passed away just over a year ago, So I’ve been trying more and more to surround myself with things she’s made.

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The music world that I’m specifically a part of, so much of the aesthetic is this grimy, basement-y aesthetic, which doesn’t necessarily fit in with the direction I take my art. And I LOVE playing basement shows, it’s something I really enjoy. And I enjoy that aesthetic, too. But I feel like being an artist for me is totally separate from what I do musically, and playing music at this point is such a huge part of my identity, and what I am doing with most of my time. So it’s just interesting to compare that with the way that I think about myself as an artist.

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Having you come to our house is cool because building a space filled with things that I find interesting or that have a certain feel to them is very important to me. So a lot of my art is made with that in mind – the space that it will occupy. This is a recent bottle that I made, specifically for myself. I have a really hard time making work and selling it…I posted yesterday on Facebook about selling my art, it took a lot for me to feel comfortable doing that.

Did people respond to it?

Yeah, which was great. I now have three commissions, which is awesome, very exciting. But it definitely feels pretty alien.

As another person who also can’t pick a thing I like to do, I feel like I get to a point with certain things where I’m like, I can’t do this for fun anymore, it’s just work, especially when I am selling things or getting commissions.

I got to that point with ceramics for sure, although I’ve since gotten out of it. I think part of what has helped has been teaching ceramics, because then I want to create things. A lot of my students are creating really incredible work that I’m super excited about and then I’m like, “oh I want to make things again too.” So I’ve been enjoying it for the first time in a while. Before having access to the studio in the museum school in the fall, it had been a couple years since I had like thrown anything.

I guess for me, it’s hard to talk about process with ceramics. I can show you the print that was the hardest for me to make.

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So you just started printmaking?

I took a class last fall. My grad program required everyone to take three studio art classes, which actually kind of made me want to go and get my MFA, but I can’t justify that ever. So I took an intro to print class. I had done relief before – just, like, lino cuts – but it was really nice to get to explore a bunch of different techniques. Obviously, the one I fell totally in love with is the one you can’t do at home ever, which is intaglio…

This is it in three different stages. That’s the final one with multiple tones.

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I don’t know anything about printmaking, so…

Intaglio is one of the oldest forms of printmaking, a type of etching using acid baths, which is not something you can necessarily have in your apartment or home. You have to have a space you can go to.

What you do is you etch your design into the plate. So all of the lines that you see here are carved in, and all of the different tones – all the shadows – that’s all done by spraying the whole plate with aquatint, which is a chemical that reacts with the acid. So the longer it stays in the acid, the darker it gets.

I really liked intaglio, and lithography as well, but intaglio is nice because for me, I have such a hard time with 2-D work. But the process involved in creating it made it feel closer to something three-dimensional, which was really nice.

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This one is relief, which is a woodblock carving.

Again, I’m really stumped by 2-D work. And so in order to explore the process, I decided to just choose one subject, so most of the prints that I did were chairs.

I totally get that.

With relief you get a lot of this “noise”, which appeals to me. Left over, in between the chairs, it felt like they were disintegrating into this pile.

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I’ve done silversmithing for a while, and this is the piece I’m happiest with. It’s a hollow ring, which was super challenging to make.

Yeah, I’ve never made anything hollow.

It was not easy.

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I like to think that even though all of my work is slightly different, because it’s all in different media, that there’s some thread that runs through it. Like, I hope that it there is some sort of aesthetic where you can tell that I’m the maker of the work. I think part of that, for me, is the idea of creating a space with all of the things that I have hoarded over the years and that have meaning to me is sort of creating a “piece” unto itself, y’know? Like, everything here interacts in a certain way and all the things I surround myself with sort of “fit” together. In some ways, I feel like probably the best way to get a feel for where I am coming from as a visual artist is to view all of my work together in my cluttered home – things interact, and it provides context.

Zoë Wyner is an artist and a musician. She plays in Half Sour and is an organizer of Ladyfest Boston. She was photographed in her home in Cambridge, MA, on April 9, 2016.