Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ten Minutes with the Young Creative Rob Kaiser-Schatzlein


This past week Ochre Ghost Gallery hosted a show called Black and White featuring the work of a number of young local photographers here in Duluth. One of the artists I met at the opening was Rob Kaiser-Schatzlein with whom I had an engaging conversation. A recent grad of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, his studies have included painting, drawing and printmaking.

The "Artist Statement" which accompanies his online gallery begins like this:

It is never just one thing; there is no answer. My work is a demonstration, the evidence of an intentional process. The subject of my artwork could pertain to anything, but this certainly does not mean it pertains to everything. Meaning is a bound infinity, like the hypothetical space between the number 1 and the number 2. Simply put: I’ll make the object, we’ll make the idea.

I was confident that were i to interview him, it would make for an interesting conversation. Here's how it unfolded.

Ed Newman: When did you first take an interest in art? Who were your early influences?
Rob K-S: I first got serious about art in the second semester of college. I took a painting class that taught me more about drawing in the first hour than I had in any other class or school. I also met my friend Jennie Lennick at that same time and she showed me what it meant to be serious about art. Anything previous to that was things that cumulatively prepared me for a more focused path and specific trajectory, but I don't really count that stuff.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences in recent years?
Rob K-S: I am generally influenced by the artist I have purposefully or accidentally ended up researching a lot. I think that once you have immersed yourself with enough information about something you can't help but love it, and then in turn be influenced by it. The way I see it, it's a little like intellectually Stockholm Syndrome. For example, I was never that into Willem de Kooning's work until I read his biography by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swanson. Now I love de Kooning, and often get caught up thinking about small sections of his life for days. Same thing goes for looking at work. I have looked at so much of Sigmar Polke's work in reproduction, museums, and online that I cannot help but fold it into my everyday life at this point.

When it comes to other people and more specifically artists, I am influenced by specific working practices. Daniel Coffeen runs a blog called The Empathic Umph that I really enjoy. He produces a ton of writing, and is often riffing on one idea over the course of many essays. His work ethic for something that has no financial or socially defined goals is impressive. I am always curious about what a certain person possesses inside of them to create lots of work.

EN: In what ways are art professors similar and dissimilar from other professors you've studied under?
Ron K-S: While the university has remained relatively unchanged since its inception, art professors have always been a little off. For the most part, they are a breed of people who craved some kind of freedom and somewhere along the way ended up teaching. Some love the job, and others clearly don't. But I am sure that happens in every college as well. Art seems to be one of the few fields where the research element of being a professor never required the professor to have the facilities of an institution. At least that is my opinion. Artists can practice at home sometimes, when Biologists rarely have that opportunity. I suppose in this way, all of the professors from other departments seem to have been destined for their jobs and it is a perfect fit for their more academic interests.

EN: You mention in your artist statement that you have an unbound curiosity about things. From whence does this curiosity arise, and where will it take you?
Rob K-S: What I hope is that that curiosity forces me to keep working for my whole life; not becoming boring and apathetic can hopefully be abated by curiosity. But I can't tell you where it comes from. I guess I should qualify this last statement by saying that I don't think it is a mystical force. I just don't find it too important for myself to figure out the mechanisms of curiosity, it's too metaphysical. Maybe a specific question about a specific thing that I have a specific curiosity in could be investigated. I only have experienced a form of obsessive curiosity multiple times in myself so I feel somewhat justified saying it exists in me.

EN: What's the meaning behind your series titled The Rules Keep Changing?
Rob K-S: I guess I just kept thinking that while I was making the work. It was applicable and I truly believe it. I do believe in rules, firmly so.
But I also believe that life requires us to engage with rules, so we can weed out the unfair ones and proliferate the productive ones. When I draw, I am constantly bumping up against my own self-imposed set of rules. I often don't even know why they exist. For instance, I always think "I have to center it" and if not that "It should be symmetrical" and if not that "it should have equal dimensions" and if not that "it should look clean and not dirty" and so on. What happened with that series was that every time I caught myself imposing a rule, I would augment it. I didn't want to destroy the rule or do the opposite of the rule, but instead change it so there would be a new rule. That kind of thinking is good for me because it demands an engagement with the work, but doesn't force me to do anything that will slow me down. I like working quickly and also want the rules to keep changing so I have to create new strategies all the time. This kind of engagement is fun!

There has been a misdirected debate in contemporary culture about who we are fighting and where this fight is supposed to happen. I think that this very ambiguous question is exactly the problem. The only concrete thing that we consistently and concretely relate to is ourselves, and thus begins to be the site for potential change. If you continue to change the rules about how your body works in the world, you can become many people with many different potential trajectories. This is an exciting thought for me.

EN: What is the role of art in our 21st century culture? Is there anyone today whose influence is such that in forty years their work will be worth the millions of dollars that Warhol and Picasso pieces obtain today from collectors?
Rob K-S: I think it is a pretty common sentiment that we need to start being good to our neighbors. Or at least the people who are both physically and metaphysically close to us. I believe these people are the ones I can actually make an impact on. And this doesn't mean they are the ones I am making the work for, just that they are more important to me or at least are of great consequence. I think that the world needs people who care, and on a basic level that is it. I want to be one of those people and hopefully demonstrate that in my community. I don't think people can learn much without seeing it play out or immediately experience it themselves. Which is not to say I'm into some kind of "Bring The War Home" Weather Underground thing. But I think any field has the potential to affect the world, Art just happens to be the one I like and can do the most efficiently. I don't think Art is very unique.

EN: Any other comments you want to make on the "art scene"?
Rob K-S: I don't feel like I know anything about an art scene primarily because I live in Duluth, Minnesota. I just feel that I don't ever want to become bitter and jaded about the whole thing as many hundreds of people have. I will do my best to avoid that, which I think means staying as self-involved as possible for as long as feasible.

You can see more of Rob's art and ideas at www.RobKS.com
Check out Rob's blog at this URL.

CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

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