Today we are pleased to feature Xanthe Miller as our Authors Talk series contributor. While being interviewed by Stephanie Welch, Xanthe touches on many aspects of her work including the social issues they speak to and her own personal relationship to art. We get an inside look at her artistic process and intent in creating pieces of art that will “endure long after we’re gone.”
Xanthe uses recycled materials to construct her work, which started when she began to see the objects as “pieces of little, tiny cities” and decided to build those cities herself. She is particularly concerned with migrant life and is “drawn to issues of environmental justice” because of her own experience and background in the American Southwest, which led her to use a lot of Southwestern artistic motifs in her work. In attempting to portray the various ideas and themes she wishes to address with her art, she notes that they typically “start with a color, or sometimes two colors, and the relationship they could have with each other.” The process seems to start so simply and, yet it becomes something so much more complex and powerful.
Xanthe comments that “art always felt unapproachable” to her, but she began creating her pieces as a way to “interact more deeply” with the desert environment that surrounded her. Her story and experience truly speak to the natural inclination of the artistic mind and to how art is more than what it seems, often commenting on the current social and political climate of our culture.
Today we are pleased to feature Beata Wehr as our Authors Talk series contributor. She takes the time to discuss how she arrived at her current artistic style and what she wished to accomplish in creating and sharing her unique artist’s books and boxes, some of which are featured in Superstition Review.
Beata discusses how her artistic style has changed over time to include artist’s books and mixed media work which she sees as a “container for my ideas,” providing more opportunities than a singularly visual art form such as a painting. She also notes that her art is like “an allusion to a narrative” which the viewer may interpret themselves and this helps her achieve her artistic goal of “recording the passage of time” with her work.
Now living in Tuscon, Arizona, Beata is originally from Poland and develops her art by drawing on her unique life experiences as an immigrant. She describes her thought process and some particular choices that went into creating some of her pieces as they were made as a response to “the disturbing spread of nationalism and xenophobia.” This sentiment is then combined with a desire to demonstrate a “hopefully harmonious and yet ambiguous opposition between nature and culture” through her art. She also notes that she is “attracted to the beauty and mystery of found objects,” which speaks to the heart of her artistic work and style.
Today, we are pleased to feature author Elaine Parks as our Authors Talk series contributor. Elaine discusses both her inspirational sources and how she creates her sculptures. She draws on the quiet desert surrounding her Nevada home and, as she wanders, uses the connection she feels to nature and the past to inform her artistic choices. By this method, sculpture becomes the language by which she translates her experience.
She asks that the viewer “reads her work as an artifact” as she contemplates both the history illustrated through nature and her personal experiences. In considering the past tenants of the region, she remarks that “the vastness of this country both day and night must be the same” and that connection to history is resonant in her art. Using “earth objects” to represent these feelings, she chooses “each thing for a reason that is aesthetic, textural and resonant in some specific way,” though the meaning of her work lies beyond the material. She thoughtfully considers the enormity of night sky and the various constellations we see in it as a representation of humanity that may help us consider how “for all our human activity, we’re just tiny specks,” part of something “impossibly large.”
Today we are pleased to feature author Joe Bardin as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, Joe discusses the process of envisioning and writing his essay “Trenton into Time.”
Joe reflects how he first realized “that there was an essay to write” during a conversation with his housemates, where he “started talking about this period of my life…And I realized… that the things I was recounting were, in some sense, remarkable.” He affirms that “I think there’s a kind of epiphany that some writers experience, when at different points we realize that… our experience matters, that it has some kind of meaning or substance,” and states that, “That’s what got me going onto ‘Trenton into Time.'”
“We all sort of live ‘on top’ of these stories and experiences that have happened to us,” Joe declares. “We may remember or not remember [them] clearly, or consider or not consider [them] important, but underneath lie these moments in time that are part of who we are.” He calls the exploration of such moments “a kind of archaeology,” stating that “the person we are now is like the city built on top of a hill that’s full of relics of the past.” He emphasizes that “there’s something very intimate about remembering… and making some kind of sense of it now.”
You can read Joe’s essay, “Trenton into Time,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
Today we are pleased to feature author John Milas as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, John discusses his short story “Tide Roll Away,” and emphasizes the theme of the “humanity of people who wear uniforms.”
John states that “We live in a society in which we are taught to dehumanize the uniformed, regardless of our place on the political spectrum.” Whether it’s the uniformed police, members of the military, or even “the teenager behind the cash register at a fast-food franchise,” John emphasizes that we are taught to use uniforms as a way to “dehumanize and exploit” those who wear them, and to only see such individuals “as part of a larger group.”
John muses on the idea if we, as members of society, “ever interrogate the specific, detailed reasons that an individual may have for wearing [their] uniform.” Eventually, he finds that “we spend more time jumping to conclusions than we do exercising our ability…to empathize with individuals, or our imperative as artists to do so.” He concludes by quoting “fellow veteran writer” Ulf Pike, who says that “I can’t tell anybody else what they should be writing about in terms of war or the military…My responsibility is to myself, that I write from a genuine conviction…to find traction and friction and move forward.”
You can read John’s story, “Tide Roll Away,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
Today we are pleased to feature poet John-Michael Bloomquist as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, John-Michael discusses how living in Poland for the past year and a half has “influenced my understanding of poetry in general, as well as given me some perspective on a question…what is the soul of American poetry?”
While John-Michael admits that he “doesn’t think he knows the answer to this question,” or that “the answer is necessarily important,” he affirms that “the question is always worth thinking about.” From his recent experience of reading several works of Polish poetry, he concludes that, “I don’t think I can say what the soul of Polish poetry is, but I can say that it has really affected my soul”, and that “by immersing myself in the poetry and trying to learn some of the language…I have been able to feel more comfortable with the question, ‘What is the soul of American poetry?’ and what it means for me.”
Based on his experiences in Poland, and the high value that Polish society in general places on poetry as the “salt of language,” as William Butler Yeats puts it, John-Michael emphasizes that “Right now, in the age of the Internet…and these politically tumultuous times that we are living in, it is really important to write poetry that speaks to the soul and to the private life that we share and that connects us to our history; poetry that makes us loyal to the truth, not only of ourselves but to the world around us.”He concludes by saying that “I have felt a heightened sense of awareness that [these themes of] morality, loyalty to truth and history… and valuing the private life over the life of the state have brought me a lot of peace and joy.”
You can read two poems by John-Michael: “The Prodigal’s Return,” and “Vajra of the Octopus,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
Today we are pleased to feature artist Louise Fisher as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, Louise discusses the creation of her video performance “A Letter I Long and Dread to Close,” as well as her own artistic journey.
Louise begins by describing her childhood in rural Iowa, where, as she states, “the tallgrass prairie was my first art teacher.” Eventually, she declares, “my curiosity and ambition drove me… to find a community who could relate to my strange creative impulse.” In search of this creative community, she is currently pursuing her MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University, where she says that “my work is very tied to the experience of ‘place.'” Speaking on the concept of “place,” she states that, “I knew a desert metropolis was the complete opposite of my upbringing, so I wanted to challenge myself and see how my work would change.”
“A Letter I Long and Dread to Close” is, in Louise’s words, “a perfect example of…this concern with the past and the process of deterioration.” Inspired by a poem titled “Toward the Solstice,” by Adrienne Rich, the video was “informed by an interest in domestic history, and how our lived spaces can hold impressions of inhabitants.” It was filmed in a house that Louise’s mother “grew up playing in, standing next to the house that I grew up in,” and was a “site-specific response” to how “aspects of the home are often ignored” in historical narratives. In filming the video, Louise states that her first impulse was to “peel the wallpaper away and investigate what was there; to see how deep the time went, like an archaeological dig.”
You can watch Louise’s video, “A Letter I Long and Dread to Close,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.