Mary Shindell Studio Visit: March 28, 2014
I haven’t been to Mary’s studio in a while, so I arrange for a visit. Mary has two spaces, her home space and her shared warehouse space. She has been drawing, so this takes place in her home studio where things are clean and climate controlled. Before I greet Mary, I first need to greet Zsa Zsa, who has a very big grin on her face.
In Mary’s studio I check out some of the things she keeps on hand. Like myself, Mary is a big studio nester. It functions as a cocoon of creativity, and the work space is littered with objects, past works, sketches, images, and art supplies.
Many things are familiar, but there is always evidence of fresh activity. Today I see that some of the furniture is moved and there is a large in-progress drawing filling her drawing table.
I recognize that this is one of her satellite drawings, the title referring to the straight down perspective. But this drawing literally makes use of satellite imagery of the Estrella Mountains. Chosen because they are local, but also for how great they look from above. This imagery is being combined with hand mapped moon drawings that pre-date satellites and are available for public use. The drawing becomes an unconventional landscape where the land and the moon are collapsed into each other.
One of the first things I notice is that Mary is using symmetry in this drawing. This is a great reminder of how far back our relationship goes. I was fortunate to see Mary’s impressive 1978 MFA show at Arizona State University, where a number of the drawings were symmetrical. Here is a drawing from that general body of work.
The symmetry she is using now is for the purpose of segmenting the drawing in modular units. This could have been done in the computer, where a section could be drawn and then easily flipped or rotated to create matching modular parts. But Mary does not want the sections to be so exact; she is looking for the subtle energy that will be created by the slight variation that hand drawing creates. Where this drawing will end up is still open-ended. After the hand drawing is completed, it will be scanned and worked in the computer. Where it will undergo steps with the idea of continuation. Where maybe there won’t be an exact end, just pauses. This is an influence of working on the computer where visual information in the layers of past pieces is easily used to start new pieces. Here the process will stay contained within one piece.
But Mary is playing with one more element of variation in this work. Along with the natural variation of hand drawing she is introducing the hand of another artist. Mary is drawing one side, and her studio assistant, Pere, is drawing the other. In their close working relationship, they are playing off each other as they make subtle decisions as to what to emphasize and how to draw from the sources. In some areas Mary has taken the lead, but in other areas Pere has worked ahead and Mary responds accordingly. The differences in their two hands isn’t immediately obvious, but does add a subtle discordancy to a drawing that a viewer would assume was drawn by one person. As the first phase of what will become a multistep digital drawing, this is just a path to something else. It will be an artwork that plays with the differences between pencil drawing and digital drawing. Mary doesn’t know exactly where this is taking her, but does know that it will become her January show at Five15 Arts Gallery, Phoenix. Opening reception will be January 2nd, 2015.