Cover Artist interview with Mae Aur

Eye of the Storm, wood, paint, 240” x 156” x 3"

Eye of the Storm, wood, paint, 240” x 156” x 3″

Interview By Sara Estes

Mae Aur is an artist living and working in Memphis, TN. Her painting, Give Her Space Give Her Time, appeared on the cover of Number:86.

Much of your work blurs the line between 2-D and 3-D. How do you describe your art in your own words?

I can’t paint and I can’t draw, but I can cut out shapes and mold forms. Basically, I’m a sculptor trying to make paintings.

What’s your background? Hometown, work life, education, etc.

My dad’s from Brazil and my mom’s British. Take those two cultures, toss them in Memphis, TN and you’ll have some rambunctious, freethinking, and very passionate weirdos. I’m talking about my siblings of course, I came out totally normal.

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Q+A with Issue 85 Cover Artist Kelly Hider


Kelly Hider, Birthday, 26″ x 24″

Girl/Power Triangle (featured on the cover of No. 85) harkens back to a series you did in 2011 which sprung entirely from a cache of one family’s photographs you’d found in an antique store. You augmented them — adding painted shadows, sequins and/or picture frames, in a way seems coded somehow. Looking back on the series now, can you read a language in those marks? Why a shadow here, a sequin there? 

You’re referring to my MFA Thesis work, Bury Me in the Garden. A general answer is that the visual language used to manipulate the images becomes a way for me to embellish the already cryptic narrative the photos lay out. The shadows exist to create a tangible measure of foreshadowing. I would study this box of discarded photographs multiple times, and while instances of a blissful domestic life were all accounted for — weddings, family vacations, birthdays, etc.— I was unable to discern the events that led to the photos being abandoned. A death or divorce are reasonable guesses, but I will never know for sure. I asked the woman who owned the antique store if she knew any history about the photos and how she acquired them, and she didn’t have an answer or didn’t want to disclose. Lacking any clues within the photos, the India-ink-painted-shadows become the nondescript foreboding elements; like the shadow of a monster creeping up behind a figure in cartoon, only when they turn their head the shadow vanishes. The viewer is able to see the shadows, but the figures in the pieces can’t foresee their own destiny, like how one can clearly understand an issue better with hindsight.

While the sequins sometimes take the form of shadows or ghosts, they visually counter the dated quality of the yellowed, 1980s photos, and bring the scenes back to life in a way. Resurrecting them, albeit in a sort of pathetic, class-aware way. They are cheap, plastic rhinestones and used sparsely. I think of them as bandaids — a quick fix. It is not nearly the level of embellishment apparent in, say, Mickalene Thomas’s portraits.

Kelly Hider, from the Bury Me in the Garden series

Kelly Hider, from the Bury Me in the Garden series

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Art Either Is or Is Not (Powerful)

What is or is not art is ineffable


No. 85  The Power of Art - Clare Torina, Untitled (after Jim Shaw), 12 x 12 x 60 inches, cardboard, paper, polyester, and pigments, 2016

Clare Torina, Untitled (after Jim Shaw), 12 x 12 x 60 inches, cardboard, paper, polyester, and pigments, 2016

You sit back and let the following images emerge like still frames in a nature-themed screensaver: the Pyramids at Giza. Bernini’s St. Teresa. The ceiling view of the Sistine Chapel. A wall Basquiat painted in the 1980s. Andy Warhol’s shoes. Trojan horse. Venus of Willendorf. A romantic painting of Ophelia. A photo of an orchestra conductor from behind, his arms outstretched. Over-muscled gods and goddesses in master drawings. Picasso’s blue period, when he painted sad people with long toes. The Gardens at (fill in the blank.)

Now you listen as the voice of a narrator plays in tandem with the images. The voice of the narrator is like those on pseudoscience History Channel shows about the Knights Templar. The voice says: “This is art. Art has inspired man since time immaterial. Before written language, there was art. Art has inspired some of the best and worst acts of men. We revere our artists like few other cultural figures. But what is art? What makes our brains recognize art as art?”

At this point, you turn your attention away. You get up and go to the fridge for the leftovers. You see a fridge magnet that you have had for years. It is a plastic mold in the shape of the state of Tennessee, with script reading “The Volunteer State” scrawled across it in golden letters. “Is this art?” you ask out loud. Your partner, who is sitting on the couch reading a book about Henry Kissinger, responds, “Are you high?” and turns back to her book.

At the museum, there are a lot of paintings of white people from European history. These are the paintings on which the museum stakes its reputation. In the cold galleries, a docent leads a tour for a church group. An outspoken older man contradicts the docent at every opportunity. He asks why the museum has changed its historical annotations from the traditional “B.C.” to the secular “B.C.E.” The docent demurs. Some people drift towards the gift shop (the gift shop is a huge relief to most museum-goers, myself included.) Museum security follows at a steady gait behind the rest of the group, asking people not to take pictures with their iPhone. continue reading »

Blind Field Shuttle: City Shapes as a Language of Division

Carmen Papalia, Blind Field Shuttle, 2015, guided walking tours. Photo credit Mitchel Oliver.

Carmen Papalia, Blind Field Shuttle, 2015, guided walking tours. Photo credit Mitchel Oliver.

Part I: Papalia’s Blind Field Shuttle

“Language is like a road. It cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.” —Rebecca Solnit

The art and business worlds alike are increasingly focused on works that are described as “collaborative.” The word evokes a sense of community, cooperation, strength in numbers, and togetherness. Indeed, the practice of working together in this way is perhaps key to the betterment of our world. What follows, however, is a counter-conversation; a reflection upon what happens when interaction and collaboration, the commonplace varieties that occur daily on the sidewalk and in the public sphere, are done passively and thus miss the mark of togetherness. This train of thought was initiated by an experience I had while working closely with artist Carmen Papalia, who conducted many guided walking tours as a part of a practice he calls Blind Field Shuttle, which he most recently enacted at Elsewhere Museum. The walk lead us through a variety of public spaces, an environment that allows for a fascinating conflation of both collaboration and isolation.

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Tri-Nation Collaboration or How I Spent my Bolivian Vacation

Mary Jo Karimnia on organizing her show at Blanco in La Paz, Bolivia

Luise and Lisa work on Biergarten, 2015, 5' x 7', mixed media, photo credit: Mary Jo Karimnia

Luise and Lisa work on Biergarten, 2015, 5′ x 7′, mixed media, photo credit: Mary Jo Karimnia

Luise, blonde head tilted to the left, and Lisa, brighter blonde head tilted to the right, each held an oil pastel and filled in the numbered sections of an image of a dress from their native country of Germany. They had been in Bolivia for about three weeks, having traveled there for a three-month student exchange and joined a community collaboration I initiated there.

In June 2015 I was invited to show my work at a contemporary art gallery in La Paz called Blanco run by artists Keiko Gonzalez, Erika Ewel and Roxana Hartmann. Blanco is a large space that is broken down into a main gallery with two-story walls and several smaller, connected spaces. I planned to take some work that would easily fit in a suitcase and produce more work there. I have observed a number of similarities between the Memphis and Bolivian art scenes and wanted to cultivate a relationship. Since I had a large space to fill, I thought I might try to initiate a collaborative group project to help meet this objective. I was able to take the same approach I use at my job at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, an art space that often involves community participation and collaborative interactions, to network and meet people in Bolivia. continue reading »