The MAKING IT series is a new blog department intended to give readers an inside look into artistic practices; a peak into the processes, concepts, methods of how things come together for artists, programs and operations. In this installment, I join Minneapolis artist Stefanie Motta in her studio within the U of M’s West Regis building, to chat about her work and her contribution to the CSA: Community Supported Art program, which shareholders will be able to pick up this coming Saturday at Lunalux in conjunction with the city-wide event Northern Spark.
Artists participating in the CSA program applywith a series of work samples, a resume and a proposal to create 50 works of art specifically for CSA shares. When considering proposals, the CSA panel selects work for its quality, feasibility, and it’s consideration for scaling to the unique distribution model of the program.
Knowing that artists are creating work specific to the program, we wanted to extend the introduction to their larger practice – we know that shareholders will love these unique object and want to share more about these talented individuals, what the rest of their work looks like, what influences their work, do they have studios, who are they, where can I find more of their work? We home these blog posts will leave a trail of breadcrumbs to more amazing MN artwork. Over the next couple of months leading up to the final pick up party, I will visit each participating artist in their studio to share more about what they do and where you can find them.
Stefanie greeted me into her workspace (coincidentally a studio she shares with fellow CSA artist Andy Mattern! Small world, Minneapolis, small world all the time!) and we began to discuss a tidy stack of large prints neatly positioned on a flat-file in the center of the studio. Motta shares that these are from an earlier body of work developed in her hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts, in which she takes her family as her subject. Motta tells me she comes from a tight-knit family – and her work often projects this closeness, a relationship that the camera often builds with its subject is exemplified in Motta’s care for framing her family.
Taken with a 4×5 camera, the content and constitution of these works bring to mind the family-as-subject as visited by contemporary photographers Chris Verene or local photographer Carrie Thompson. In closer examination, something seems off, but it’s not the uncanny posturing of her subjects. Rather, Motta’s hand plays a role in the stagecraft of each photo. The artist leverages her background in theater, creating ‘sets’ and ‘props’ within the production of each piece. But not to the extent of Jeff Wall, where images are hyper-staged, immaculate and grandiose; Motta takes everyday objects and items on hand to augment the ‘set’ of each image, often relying on domestic items like fabric and accessories. We see her donning a wig to match her Grandmother’s posterior silhouette or arranging a miniature township in snow on her mother’s head. Motta’s use of fiction and props continues into more meditative studies created in the Twin Cities, in absence of her beloved subject matter. In these works, Motta begins to examine herself through interventions with the opacity, illusion, light-fastness, pattern and materiality through swaths of textiles that are teeter between being familiar and abstract.
Motta speaks about her practice, noting that while family and “the criticality of home” are central to her work, that she began infusing her practice with her extracurricular activities, including spirituality, meditation, and self-help. Motta strides these interests without being entirely ‘New-Agey;’ while her interest in spirituality and meditation is authentic, she maintains a sense of humor for this subject matter, creating compelling multi-media pieces including Tao te Sing, in which she positions a karaoke monitor and live mic amidst rustling party-streamers and confronts the participant with streaming text prompts for the Tao te Ching. An added level of spiritual humor is revealed when the vacant installation sits in silence.
Motta often inserts herself into her own work as subject, taking on a performative role. In her video/performative piece How To, Motta acts out deadpan versions of the ‘how to’ variety of DIY as seen in howcast or demonstrated in countless youtube videos. We see her tipping over chairs in the U of M lounge demonstrating ‘How to make money’ sequenced appropriately with ‘How to tip stuff over’ featuring still footage of the same arrangement of chairs, a gesture of Motta’s sense of humor.
As with earlier work, which is structured around the vignette of her family, Motta continues to use her theatrical vocabulary to create a series staging and characterizing the Major and Minor Arcanas of the Tarot using household props, interventions on fabric and symbolism through everyday-materials. For the CSA program, lucky shareholders will receive a special edition of this photo series printed as a deck of tarot cards! And, as fate would have it, Stefanie will be performing tarot readings at the Soap Factory from 5 – 7 pm, prior to the pick up, in part with Hedge Magic, with Projects by Jess Hirsch and David Hamlow.
We welcome you to join us, Stefanie and fellow CSA artists at the first Pick Up Party this coming Saturday!
Time: 8:00 – 11:00 p.m.
Location: Lunalux Studios
1618 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
Collaborative team of photographer Louisa Podlich (http://louisamarionphotography.com/) and writer Christian Dahlager (http://dahlager.tumblr.com/)
Photographer Stefanie Motta (http://stefaniemotta.com/)
Letterpress artist Jenni Undis (http://www.lunalux.com/)
For more information about Stefanie, please visit her website at: http://stefaniemotta.com/home.html