Interview with Janina Anderson, ECCO Museum Artist in Residence

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Meaning Structures (installation photo), 2014. Digital prints on vinyl and paper, sand, wire armature. ECCO Museum of Contemporary Art. Cadiz, Spain.

Janina Anderson is an artist and designer working in Washington, D.C. From 2012-2013, Janina worked as an intern for the Textile Arts Center’s Cycle 4 AIR program. Her work has been shown in Cadiz, Spain; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Eugene, Oregon; and Los Angeles, California. For more images of her work, and information about buying prints, visit her website.

1.Meaning Structures

Meaning Structures, 2014. Cut oil painting, yarn, cotton fibers, found flowers, varnish, oil paint, wire.

Can you briefly describe your recent residency experience?

I spent two months on the top floor of the ECCO Museum in Cadiz, Spain. I worked with the Linea de Costa studio with amazing and incredibly talented people from all over the world.

Cadiz is the oldest city in Spain, and one of the oldest in Europe, and the place where all trade came through the Americas. Before Columbus, Europeans thought of Cadiz as the edge of the world. I could never really understand that old world idea about ships falling off the edge of the earth, but in this place I could see it with my own eyes. The sky met the sea and then everything blurred into infinity. Endless and surreal, it was like a Catherine Opie photo outside my window. It was an incredibly inspiring place to think and work.

2.Blue Mask

Meaning Structures (Blue Mask), 2014. Yarn, jersey, found plants, wire.

Can you speak a bit about the series you completed during the course of your residency?

I was really inspired by my environment. I came in with a very specific proposal to execute, but I threw it out pretty much as I saw the view from the studio. The sense of the unknown, and the vastness of possibilities was so palpable to me there, I had to address it.

The series explores the anxieties of the unknown, the decision-making process and its affect on personal identity. I wove a series of masks using local plants and fiber materials, photographing them on a model, covering her eyes, and using what was the end of the known world for thousands of years as a backdrop.

3.Yellow Mask

Meaning Structures (Yellow Mask), 2014. Cut and woven oil on canvas, yarn, wire.

I was thinking about transitional periods in life, when there is so much going on within yourself you can’t see three feet in front of you and then when you finally do, you’re met with a cast empty space that you have to fill with yourself, somehow. This can be very isolating and paralyzing, but also exciting.

4.Pink Mask

Meaning Structures (Pink Mask), 2014. Jersey, wire.

How did you use textile art/fiber art principles in the completion of this work?

I wanted to make the work as personal and relatable as possible for viewers. There is something about fiber art that is just so great about making those connections with an audience. I think that because of our daily experience with cloth and its connection to the body, we have a really intimate knowledge of textiles. This is a huge tool for me, and I believe it makes my ideas a lot more accessible so that the audience can put themselves in the work and have an intimate experience with the pieces.

I used a frame loom to create the masks. Unlike the experience of working on a floor loom, I was able to make a lot of quick observations, integrating different materials and creating lots of interesting irregularities and textures within the patterns. Additionally, because I was trying to talk about indecision, and anxiety in these pieces, the obsessive labor of weaving gives the masks an energy they otherwise couldn’t have had.

5.Greenmask

Meaning Structures (Green Mask), 2014. Cut and woven oil on canvas, yarn, wire.

How important was the residency for the development of your work?

Residencies are invaluable to artists. This was my first residency I participated in, however I had experienced this kind of environment as an intern for the AIR program at TAC. I got to see how much the Cycle 4 artists were able to grow and produce in 2012 – 13. I’ve been eager to create work in a residency every since, and the experience was one of the most rewarding in my artistic career. I can honestly say that this fall I completed some of my best and most focused work to date. In short, if you can do a residency, you should probably do a residency.

6.RedMask

Meaning Structures (Red Mask), 2014. Cut and woven oil on canvas, yarn, wire.

What lessons did you learn during the residency/through the completion of this series?

Sometimes bad work is bad work. Most of the time, though, its just part of the process. Artists need to give themselves space to think through their fingers. I spent a couple of weeks collaging hundreds of photos I’d taken in Cádiz, as a way to understand the aesthetics and culture of my new environment. I knew that the collages weren’t going to end up in my portfolio or in any kind of show, but I also felt I had to work through them, even though I kind of hated them a lot of the time.

I also learned a new strategy for research. When I wasn’t working I tried to read as much as I could. Always balancing art theory, with texts from other disciplines. I read a book of essays on humor in contemporary art and a lot of psych journals about how the brain deals with decision-making. This kept me in a place where my mind was always working through the issues my work was. It kept me focused.

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Terrace at Linea de Costa Studios, ECCO Museum. Cadiz, Spain.

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