Editor's note: This interview with Dawn Kramlich is presented as part of a content partnership with InLiquid.
Where do you live and work?
My neighborhood is technically a suburb northeast of Philly, but I have lived in so many different parts of the city since 2009 that I generally consider all of Philadelphia to be my stomping ground. I particularly enjoyed living in the Fishtown area, as well as the Graduate Hospital section, but I am now able to have my art studio as an entire room within my apartment -- it's ideal!
What is your discipline?
The concept of discipline could be taken two ways: the particular medium I use or "discipline" of art that I work in, or that which drives me to discipline myself to work on my art.
In terms of the former, I primarily work in the realm of installation art, but I often make sculpture and occasionally return to painting to exercise my eye for layering.
The internal discipline that drives me to create is the notion that one function of art (of the many) is to communicate. One of the most basic human necessities is the need to understand and be understood -- the need to make sense of experiences, share them and share our understanding of them -- and art uncovers tendencies of the human condition (those few things which we all inherently share by our very nature as humans) in ways that no other discipline can.
Connecting humans to other humans through shared tangible experiences within a culture that increasingly blurs the line between human and gadget is one interest that serves as my internal discipline to get to work. This is why I'm so geared toward installation work now. I guess you could call me a new-wave humanist in a culture that often embraces the post-human.
What training/arts education have you had?
I began as an Art and English double major at Muhlenberg College
, with concentrations in painting and creative writing (specifically poetry) respectively. This combination of literature and art is clearly what led me to my current practice of text-based installation art. My roots as a passionate painter and poet led me toward graduate school, which provided me with the academic setting in which I thrive, and offered me the opportunity to discover a way to conflate my text and images into one body of work. I attended Moore College of Art & Design
, and graduated with an MFA in Studio Art in August of 2013.
What are you currently working on?
The work that I am most excited at the moment is installation-based. My ideas are growing in terms of scale, and I increasingly find that my conceptual approach lends itself to immersive experiences. Think Ann Hamilton's use of space meets Lesley Dill and Jaume Plensa's use of text as sculptural components. My work caters to the subjective, as well as the nature of language (language is a shape-shifter, and each consecutive viewer's perception molds it anew), and begs the viewer to contemplate my given repeating phrases against their own personal, historical palimpsest of experiences in inter-personal communication.
My current body of work is in conversation with the ways in which we utilize language in our current cultural milieu, which is very driven by computer-mediated communication and instant gratification. Computer-mediated communication tends to change the ways in which we associate with language and associate with others through language. Because of this, I am getting more and more interested in incorporating projected light (and therefore shadows) into my installations in order to establish a changing environment that serves as the mental space of a contemporary computer-mediated communicator. Stay tuned to see how it manifests!
Describe your methods.
I have devised a process that combines methods of displaying the artist's hand in the work with methods of utilizing technology to replace the human mark -- much like the nature of computer-mediated communication. When communicating via text online or through phone text messages, the other individual's presence is assumed, not seen or known. We have evidence of it, but the gadget is its filter.
In my artistic process, I begin with a phrase. This phrase is typically something that has been spoken to me or about me, or a combination of words which remind me of a very specific experience. I then take a sheet of paper and draw the words onto it, repeating the phrase while uncovering different iterations and arrangements of the words to establish ambiguity. This ambiguity is key -- it allows an access point for viewers, and provides each of them with the opportunity to exercise their agency to establish a narrative or hypothesis of the phrase based upon the way that their subjective arranges the words and relates to them.
I then use an Exacto knife to cut out the words (each word as a unit, not each letter), and am left with what I call a "text-shell." I then scan this text-shell into the computer but I never edit it. I turn it into a vector file and then use a laser-cutting machine to replicate the work of my hand in a thicker material. The resulting laser-cut copies are then used as sculptural components that comprise a sculpture or installation which encompasses the viewer in language -- and asks them to question their own relationship with and use of language in today's society.
What have you been up to most recently?
I just installed a piece at Montgomery County Community College
, a floor piece that I have been very excited about showing. In the studio, I have been focusing on small sculptural works while applying for grants to fund the creation of one of my large-scale, immersive installation concepts.
In the meantime, there are always phrases that I am jotting down to help me refresh my ideas and think about new pieces. I have also been teaching at two campuses and learning from my students while they learn from me!
What's next up for you?
Hopefully a grant-funded large-scale installation, a fellowship, or a public art commission. We'll see what pans out first! Please check my website for updates.
Why do you make art other than out of necessity?
I touched on this before in reference to my internal discipline, however, another reason that I create my work is my fascination with the limits of language, and the differences between the language of the visual and the language of the verbal. These two systems have immense similarities, as well as critical differences, and I feel as though I have only begun to scratch the surface. But that is not a negative thing -- it excites me that I have only begun to scratch the surface! That means that there is an endless amount of possibilities, and this unpredictability with creation is a part of why I am driven to make art.
As humans, we are in a constant state of becoming, so why would my art be any different? My process of making art is a reflection of this natural human tendency.
What do you wish people will see or get out of your work?
When using the widespread methods of text-based computer-mediated communication, the tendency to value quantity and instant gratification over quality and details. This often causes a slippage of language, resulting in fragmented vagueness that caters to miscommunication. The interstices of meaning are lost or ignored. I ask my viewers to question this lack of detail and search my text to come to understand that ambiguity causes an array of variations of one narrative. My personal narrative which caused me to arrive at a particular phrase in a particular work of art is not important in the end, rather, it is about my pointing out that slippery language results in a variety of unique interpretations.
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