Works on LPP
★ MEET N‘ GREET ★
Jess Wheaton interviews Michelle Blade.
JW: Hi Michelle, how are you today?
MB: I’m doing really well today, thanks.
JW: What’s a typical day in the life of Michelle Blade entail?
MB: It’s been a big mixture lately of getting ready for my solo show at Triple Base, and getting my new gallery together. So lots of coffee, painting, reading, emailing, building, administrative stuff, and errand-running, balanced against visits to the ocean and adventures with my dog Shine.
JW: I know that your new space Sight School in Oakland is the manifestation of your desire "to reveal connections between art and life." Can you explain Sight School to us, as well as what it’s becoming and how it’s affecting you?
MB: Sight School grew out of a desire to carve out a niche, as well as construct a bridge within the communities I am involved with. My aim is to promote and assist artists, allowing the space to serve as an experimental platform. I want Sight School to encourage dialogue, site-specific installations, and cross-disciplinary collaborations, and to create an open and encouraging community. I’m also planning an ongoing schedule of events featuring salon style discussions, lectures, film screenings, educational workshops, live podcasts, group walks, and communal meals that happen simultaneously with the exhibitions.
JW: I’m definitely excited to move a block away from the nexus of all that activity. What other experiences have you had or facilitated in the different art communities you have partaken in? As far as I know you’ve lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco before your current resting place of Oakland.
MB: The Bay Area has a great communal and collaborative nature that I’ve found inspiring and encouraging. Over the past four years I’ve lived here, I’ve organized community-based projects, lived and worked within a commune, helped to form a local collective, curated a show based on artists who (like myself) have socially engaged practices, and most recently opened Sight School. In the next year I am really looking forward to working in Los Angeles again, as well as New York and Berlin. 2010 is about reaching out and working within new and multiple communities.
JW: Your solo show at Triple Base Gallery in San Francisco is going up between the time I’m typing this to you, and the time this interview will appear on the internet. What does its title Blow as Deep as You Want to Blow refer to?
MB: The title of the show is from Jack Kerouac’s Belief and Technique for Modern Prose. I really enjoyed the statement when I first read it, and the longer it sat with me the more levels of interpretation I began to see within it. Before I knew I was going to title my show Blow As Deep As You Want to Blow, I was making a graphite text piece that reads just that. The drawing ended up being an important piece, especially within the context of the other works. It immediately brought them into question with where their truth laid, and I enjoyed that. I think it can be easy to dismiss or assume much of my work is based solely on responding to the positive, but so much of it is also centered by disillusionment, and the importance and potential of adverse experiences. There are so many benefits in failing; I guess that’s why I felt the title was key.
JW: I believe this particular exhibition is geared towards making meaning, which you have set out to do through creating painted forms and symbols that encompass layers of understanding, and depicting famous literary works, ancient textile patterns, and locations of discovery and mysticism. Can you please elaborate on this?
MB: While I was working on this show I thought a lot about experiencing and using painting as a tool for understanding. I had just finished reading the Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer, which is an anthropological, comparative study of mythology and religion. The book creates ties between these cultural phenomena and documents so many early ways mankind attempted to understand, control and position themselves within the natural world. Early practices of magic felt somehow similar to how I put so much faith into art making as a way of life. My installations and paintings began to slowly grow out from there, becoming mirrors to where I saw this overlap being represented in history, philosophy, science and the arts.
JW: I’m also wondering at what point, in a greater sense, do you currently find yourself in your art-making exploration? Is painting still the best way to act upon your interests?
MB: I’m not sure there is a way with art making, but I am definitely interested in exploring and experimenting with different forms. Painting is really important to me, though. The tangible magic and alchemy you can witness while making a painting really gets me over and over. Then again, each kind of art form I’ve worked within holds that magic and potential.
JW: Agreed. And lastly, what are you most stoked about right now?
MB: So many things! Being part of cultivating a public that cares and is engaged, the construction of a space of that will inspire conversation and ideas, personal geography, being a curator, music, Mt. Shasta, the spring…
JW: Thanks for talking with me Michelle! Now that the pink blossoms have shown up, there really does seem to be so much to look forwards to.
Michelle Blade is a visual and conceptual artist living and working in the Bay Area.
She holds a BA from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles and an MFA from the California College of the Arts. Her work has been featured at Triple Base, Jack Hanley, and David Cunningham Projects, San Francisco; the San Jose ICA, Carl Berg Gallery and Broad Art Center, Los Angeles; Space 1026, Philadelphia; Union Gallery, London; V1 Gallery, Copenhagen; and the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stüttgart. She is a 2007 recipient of the Murphy-Cadogan Fellowship.
In the winter of 2009, Michelle opened Sight School, an alternative space dedicated to encouraging the dialogue around the connections between art and life.