Posts By: Angee

Spudnik’s End-of-Year Donation Emporium

Printmaking is a historical art form that has long been a tool for self-expression and addressing social concerns. At Spudnik, we maintain the democratic roots of the artform with everyone from the print curious to nationally recognized printmakers can connect and thrive within our studios.

Our studio offers some of the most accessible printmaking resources in the city of Chicago and even across the country. From our ongoing Open Studio program to our 8-month Studio Fellowship, we provide an affordable, inclusive, and comprehensive support for artists at every step of their engagement with printmaking.

Despite the hurdles of 2020, we’ve continued to support our community:

  • We doubled our open studio hours to allow safe access to our facilities.

  • We resumed our Fellowship as a hybrid program, and expanded each cohort to now support six artists.

  • After months of planning, our studio is undergoing major renovations to (among other things) better allow social distancing.

  • Our organization embarked on a 3-month organizational culture project with Groundswell Alliance–a critical initial step in our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.

  • Despite receiving tremendous support from our community (both individuals, foundations, and government grants), we are currently losing about $150 per day.

  • We project a $55,000 deficit in 2021, primarily due to in-person group classes remaining suspended.

What will your donation support?

You get to decide! Our end-of-year store allows you to choose where we’ll invest your donation and offers clarity on where our 2021 budget needs a boost.

Please help us enter the new year poised to continue supporting artists in our community!

Donate Today

Private Studio Available February 1, 2021: Printshop South

Housed within a 3,000 square foot shared workspace and community printshop, our private studios are ideal for active printmakers, as well as book artists and artists who work with a variety of 2-D media or small scale 3-D media.

Status:

Available February 1, 2021.

Rent:

$385/month includes 24-hour access to Printshop equipment, ongoing membership, and general supplies.

Amenities:

7 x 15 feet
8 foot walls, high ceilings
Locking door
Includes A/C, heat, internet, utilities
Hardwood floors

Email info@spudnikpress.org with questions or to schedule a time to see the studio.

Application Process

E-mail info@spudnikpress.org to schedule a visit or request an application. There is no application fee. Applications are reviewed in the order they are received. Applications serve the purpose of varifying income and ensuring that there is a good fit between the artist, our studio, and our community. Once an application is accepted, a one-month fully-refundable security deposit secures the studio for the artist.

Interested in 24-hour access but don’t need a private studio? Learn about Keyholder Access.

Private Studio Available December 1: Printshop North

Housed within a 3,000 square foot shared workspace and community printshop, our private studios are ideal for active printmakers, as well as book artists, and artists who work with a variety of 2-D media or small scale 3-D media.

Status:

Available December 1, 2020.

Rent:

$425/month includes 24-hour access to Printshop equipment and general supplies.

Amenities:

8 x 15 feet
8 foot walls, high ceilings
Locking door
Includes A/C, heat, internet, utilities
Hardwood floors

Email angee@spudnikpress.org with questions or to schedule a time to see the studio.

Interested in 24-hour access but don’t need a private studio? Learn about Keyholder Access.

Art Documentation Day

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
@ Spudnik Press Cooperative 

$20 for Spudnik Press Members
Register Online

Sign up for a 45-minute photo shoot in the Spudnik Press Annex. We’ll have our light kit, tripod, and DSLR camera set up and ready to go. Using our camera tethered to Lightroom Classic, we’ll help document your artwork, provide light editing (color balance, lens correction, cropping, etc.) and send you home with your digital portfolio ready for your next residency proposal, grant application, or the big website overhaul you’ve been putting off.

The quantity of artwork we’ll be able to document will vary based on the complexity of the project, and how much variation there is between each artwork. We are best suited to photograph:

  • 2-D work that can be laid flat and shot from above
  • Zines, comics, and artist books
  • Unframed work
  • Work that does not need to be installed or hung on the wall to document

Participants will leave with 10+ high-quality .tiff files (3000+ pixels wide).Please bring your own USB drive.

Registration Details:

Advanced registration is required by Wednesday, December 9. Space is limited to ten artists. Staff will notify artists of what time slot they have been assigned by Thursday, December 10. Please contact staff if you would like to request a specific time slot. If you are not a member and wish to participate in this member opportunity, please join or renew your membership.

COVID-19 Precautions:

Please review our COVID-19 studio procedures before arriving. Staff will sanitize surfaces in between sessions.

Winter 2021 Studio Fellowship: Call for Applications

Deadline to Apply: November 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

The Spudnik Press Cooperative Studio Fellowship is an intensive eight-month program that provides emerging artists opportunities to develop the artistic and professional skills needed to build a successful career in the arts. Key program components work in conjunction to provide mentorship, technical training, meaningful interactions with art professionals, public programming experience, and leadership opportunities. These key program components consist of the following:

  • Access to professional printmaking facilities
  • Weekly seminars addressing various elements of professional practices
  • Leadership experience through regularly monitoring Open Studio sessions.
  • Presentation opportunities through culminating public projects.

Furthermore, as ambassadors of Spudnik Press Cooperative, Fellows play an important role in ensuring our members and studio users have a welcoming experience at our shop and also help us grow our community. The contributions Fellows make to our day-to-day operations are invaluable and help shape the future of our facilities.


COVID-19 Modifications

The fellowship program will follow our COVID-19 Policies & Procedures, and will have both in person and virtual elements:

Virtual (via Zoom):

  • Studio Fellowship interviews
  • Public speaking experience: “Crossing Of the Fellows” artist talks
  • Weekly Professional Development seminar sessions
  • Part 1: Studio Access Trainings

In person:

  • Part 2: Studio Access Trainings
  • 24 hour access to all facilities
  • Open Studio monitoring responsibilities

TBD:

  • Additional Assistance Opportunities: With many programs suspended, there are limited opportunities to gain additional assistance in areas such as youth programming and teaching. While opportunities will be made available whenever possible, this portion of the Fellowship will be optional at this point in time.
  • Public Programming: Designed and presented by fellows towards the end of the fellowship period.

In the case that the studio is required to close, in person activities will be suspended, and the fellowship period may be reevaluated. 


Eligibility

The Studio Fellowship program best supports:

  • Emerging artists, and artists at transitional points in their career.
  • Artists with substantial printmaking experience, such that they are able to perform all monitoring duties.
  • Artists whose current art practice requires access to printmaking facilities.
  • Artists who already have a dedicated and regular studio practice.
  • Artists who are able to commit about 8 hours a week to the fellowship program in addition to maintaining their art practice.
  • Artists whose goal is to produce art a primary component of their career.
  • Artists seeking opportunities to meet Chicago-based arts professionals.
  • Artists interested in building meaningful connections with a creative community.

Please review our Fellowship Information Packet to learn more about:

  • Program Overview & Components
  • Fellowship Timeline
  • Open Studio Monitoring
  • Professional Development Seminar
  • Additional Assistant Opportunities

To Apply:

Please thoroughly review the Fellowship Information Packet. Complete the Online Fellowship Application Form no later than Sunday, November 15, 2020. You will need to have the following ready to submit:

  • Letter of interest addressing the following:
    • Why is now a good time for your career and development as an artist to be part of this program?
    • What goals would you like to accomplish through the fellowship? How do you plan to achieve them?
    • How do you see the Fellowship and the resources at Spudnik contributing to your project?
    • What is your training in printmaking processes and previous exposure to print facilities?
    • What will you bring to the program?
  • Project Statement: Outline and expound upon the project you are hoping to work on during the course of this Fellowship. 300 words max.
  • Resume or CV
  • Bio: 100 word max
  • Three References
  • 7-10 Images
  • Confirmation that we will receive a letter of recommendation by the application deadline. This can come from someone also listed as a reference

Important Dates

Deadline to Apply: Sunday, November 15, 2020
Fellowship Period: January 1, 2021 – August 31, 2021
Required Weekly Commitments:

  • Professional Development Seminars:  Most Wednesdays from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Individual Monitor Shifts: One of the following 4.25-hour per shift per week:
    • Mondays 5:45 – 10:00 p.m.
    • Thursdays 5:45 – 10:00 p.m.
    • Saturdays 9:45 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    • Saturdays 1:45 – 6:00 p.m.

Any inquiries regarding our Studio Fellowship can be directed to Jess Christy, jess@spudnikpress.org.

Skill Share Night #1

Thursday, November 19, 2020
6:00 p.m. via Zoom
Free for Spudnik Press Members

Featuring:

  • Elizabeth Burke-Dain | Geometric Line Drawings / Warm-Up Drawing

  • Don Widmer | Bookbinding: Basic 3-hole pamphlet + classy variations

  • Angee Lennard | Round Table Discussion: Maintaining our Practice in 2020

Every other month, members are invited to share a skill, process, or technique with their fellow members. Designed as a way to instigate organic “peer to peer” support among members, Skill Share events provide a platform for members to connect with each others creative practice. Demonstration are casual and conversational.

Presentations will take place in the first hour. Members are welcome to continue the conversation at the end of the official program.

Registration Details:

Please RSVP by emailing angee@spudnikpress.org. A link to a zoom meeting with be emailed the week of the event. If you are not a member and wish to participate in this member opportunity, please join or renew your membership.

Art Hustle: Marketing & Communications for Artists

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
6:00 – 8:00 p.m. via Zoom

Free for Current Spudnik Press members
$15 for the General Public
Register Online

As artists we spend so much time creating our work and honing our crafts. But what comes next? How do you get the word out to people who will support you, and get them excited about your practice?

Now more than ever, artists need skills, tools, and support for the ongoing Art Hustle that is our professional practice. Created for artists by artists, this online Zoom workshop will take you through the fundamentals of self-promotion and communications, whether you’re generally trying to build your career or make quick money on a super specific project. From newsletters and press releases, to social media takeovers and handling sales, we will cover many different ways to show people what you do and (most importantly) how and why they should support you! You will get personalized feedback from peers about your current online presence, and leave with a plan for very manageable projects tailored to your own needs.

About the Facilitators

Julia Arredondo is an artist entrepreneur who is heavily influenced by the family-based businesses she grew up around. Specializing in bootstrapping small businesses, Julia has started up two independent publishing entities (Vice Versa Press / Curandera Press), launched a live sales media channel (QTVC Live!) and recently concluded a cooperative social media outlet (COVIDtv). Julia believes that business and marketing involve incredibly creative problem solving. She is an advocate for entrepreneurship as class representation in the fine art world. 

For more than a decade, Anders Zanichkowsky has been raising money and rallying support for nonprofits and community groups. Anders has also done the same for their own artistic practice, using cheap or free tools adapted from their career in nonprofit development and communications. One of their favorite things to do for their community is teach these skills to other artists so we all feel confident, optimistic, and authentic when we put ourselves out there and invite people to support us.


Registration Details:

The event is free for members. Members can register by sending an email to anders@spudnikpress.org. Everyone else can register online. A zoom link will be sent to participants the day of the event.

Spudnik Press is Hiring: 2 Open Positions

Spudnik Press Cooperative is excited to announce two open positions:

Marketing Lead
Administrative Assistant

Both of these roles are part time positions (16-20 hours per week), with flexible hours and a blend of in-person and remote work.

The ideal candidate will be familiar with printmaking processes in order to better serve our community and will enjoy working collaboratively. Staff are expected to bring passion and integrity to their work while enjoying the community of creative artists, makers, students, and teachers that contribute to Spudnik Press.

Benefits include paid time off, some paid holidays, and unfettered studio access. Artists are encouraged to apply.

To apply, please send e-mail with cover letter and resume to angee@spudnikpress.org. Applications will be reviewed as they are received.

Spudnik Press Cooperative does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.

Updated Studio Protocols & Procedures

Effective immediately, we have updated our COVID-19 Studio Policies & Procedures to better ensure the health and safety of our community, including all visitors as well as our staff, teaching artists, and monitors.

The most substantial change is that we are now requiring all visitors to sign a waiver confirming that they agree to maintain all our protocol. This changes and all these guidelines are created with your safety in mind, and we ask for your support in maintaining them.

Overview of Changes:

  • We are requiring that everyone using communal studio space agree to all our protocol by signing a COVID-19 waiver. Waivers are available in person at the entrance to the printshop.
  • We are anticipating to resume small group classes. Enrollment will be capped at or below the studio capacity.
  • We have clarified the maximum number of staff, teaching artists, and monitors allowed on site, in addition to the number of guests or visitors. A maximum of 7 people, regardless of their role, are allowed on site at a time.
  • When possible, doors and windows will remain open.
  • Eating will only be allowed within a designated eating area.
  • We have clarified when people should stay at home to more closely follow CDC recommendations.
  • We have made more prominent that we are temporarily waiving cancellation fees for people who are exhibiting any COVID-related symptoms as long as people and are in communication with staff prior to their reservation.
  • We are now requesting that visitors self-report to staff if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 to allow us to help ensure the safety of others.
  • We have clarified how we will respond, should a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the studio.

Review all Covid-19 Studio Policies & Procedures

Please direct all questions related to our Covid-19 related safety precautions, please email Angee Lennard, Executive Director at angee@spudnikpress.org.

Member Interview Series: Dan Landgren

Dan Landgren is a multidisciplinary designer, artist, and printmaker based in Chicago. He received his BFA in Graphic Design from DePaul University in 2018. His work explores visual communication typically involving themes like technology, science fiction, and motion. He currently works as a motion + graphic designer and has worked for artists such as: Danny Cole, Portugal The Man, and Cherry Glazerr. He is also a recent Spudnik fellow.

Dan was interviewed by Emma Sielaff as a part of her Summer 2020 Internship at Spudnik Press Cooperative. Emma is an multidisciplinary artist, specializing in illustration, papermaking, design, and zine making. She recently graduated with a BFA in New Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Emma Sielaff (ES): What / who is the biggest influence on your work?

Dan Landgren (DL): I really like science fiction and the classic 60s, 70s and 80s sci-fi art, like the really out there book covers by Phil K. Dick. Those are super inspiring and the stories themselves are really interesting. I love dystopian futuristic stuff. Books in general give me a ton of inspiration and inform the work that I do in any given time as well as design theory and design history like Bauhaus and constructivism. I think that’s where I found my first real interest with visuals and design. What I’m into in any given moment is what I make prints about. 

ES: What does your process look like? 

DL: My process usually starts by me writing down a list of words I’m interested in or want to be reminded of. I’ll write down descriptive words of the emotion I want to convey within the work I’m creating. I’ve been reading a lot of Octavia Butler. Just reading one of her stories, I immediately feel super creative. I’ll write down words I don’t know or emotions that I’m feeling; stuff like that. This really helps me get ideas.

I love grids in general. I think layout is always a good place to start in terms of figuring out a print. I’m super drawn to the imagery of grids themselves, I think there’s something nice to them because it takes the pressure off of deciding where you’re going to put something. It gives more purpose to your visuals when you actively think about where it’s being placed and its relationship to other things on this grid. 

So usually my process starts by thinking about what I want to do and things I want to convey and then just kind of figuring out the visuals. 

Root Rectangle Bookmark, Screenprint, 2019

Root Rectangle Bookmark, Screenprint, 2019

ES: I love the animation you did for the Kaytranada track. When you hear something, what is your process like for making it come alive visually? What does that process look like for you to take your vision and create it?

DL: That project was actually a class project to animate a piece of music for my cinema 4D class, which made it a little more structured in how I thought about the work. . I love Kaytranada and I thought that beat (Despite the Weather by Kaytranda) was super interesting because it’s multi-layered. There are different instruments playing at the same time and they’re not necessarily totally in sync. I started thinking about different ways I could visualize each of the instruments I was hearing. I tried to think of a good way to visually express the timing of, say, a drum hit. I tried thinking about how visuals could move well with the sync of the music. 

ES: In your bio, you say that experimentation is a big influence on your work. What does experimentation look like or mean to you?

DL: My experimentation comes from my freshman year at the University of Arizona for architecture. The whole theme of the foundation year was iteration and change. We learned to build on ideas that we had and make them stronger by playing around with them. My foundation architecture teacher really pushed that type of thinking and it had a really big impact on how I create things. For any given project, we would have to give 10 or 20 different variations and have reasoning behind them. It made me appreciate the possibilities of experimentation. Changing even small things has a cascading effect on the work. 

Iteration also creates a feeling of never being finished with work. A big thing for me is that I always come back to projects and try to make them better because I think there is no reason for you to put something on the shelf and say it’s done. There are always improvements to be made and that’s kinda ingrained with experimentation. It’s all a matter of wanting to see where a piece goes–not necessarily doing it to make a final product, but doing it to see what happens. There is nothing wrong with circling back.

ES: What do you do for fun and how does it influence your creative process? 

DL: I’ve been going on a lot of bike rides lately. I really like playing soccer with my friends. We’ve been doing that weekly which is a really nice release.

Printmaking started as and is still a huge creative release for me. I started screen printing about a year ago. I was feeling really burnt out from my job, I hated what I was doing, and hated animation. It’s somewhat of a shitty realization. I was like “damn… I thought I liked this a bit more.” I just was not feeling like myself and I needed a change. A former fellow, Lisa Armstrong, had the fellowship when I was feeling like this. She does the coolest work. She’s been a huge inspiration for me. Seeing her succeed and make a ton of work during her fellowship made me appreciate printed media. Before I started screen printing a lot, I was only making digital work, animation, and all computer based stuff. After a while you just burn out.

Neon Genesis, Screenprint, 2019

ES: For a lot of artists, including myself, my work is a reflection of myself and my experiences. How does your “being” flow into what you make?

DL: I’m not necessarily reserved but I’m also not a very strongly opinionated person. So I feel like I try to blend in more than anything. My work pays homage to the people and things that I really love. I guess me inserting myself into my art is me first copying something I really like and then I can create it in my own style. I feel like my style in general is honestly really inconsistent. I do a lot of different random things because I get bored easily.

ES: A lot of your work seems to be either print or video based. When creating, what pushes you to use one format over the other?

DL: That’s tough. I would say usually all of my ideas start as still frame images. From there, if I can see a path of movement, I might be more inclined to make it an animation. I think more than anything, it’s figuring out the image itself: the still frame. Honestly, it’s something I struggle with in my day job. It’s really fast-paced and I need to churn out daily. While working, I had a really big revelation about my creative process.  When given an assignment, as much as I want to have a fully fleshed finished product, I realized I can’t start there. I have to break down my ideas to the most simple thing and just go from there to see what I get.

ES: I’m super impressed with your work on the “Daddi” Video + Coachella animations you made in collaboration with Danny Cole.  How do you go about taking ideas from 2D to 3D thinking and what were those projects like for you?

DL: Danny Cole actually found my artwork through reddit, specifically the Kaytranada video. He messaged me saying “This is so cool. I need to do some visuals for Coachella. Would you be interested?” At first I was skeptical, but we had an initial call and I was like “Oh woah! He’s actually serious.” From there, he wanted to make sure that I could do what he was asking. The scope of the project was 30 – 40 animated loops. I got the job after making a test animation. From there, I knew I couldn’t do 40 animations by myself so I recruited some friends to make it possible.  

In terms of idea creation, it was a mixture of a lot of things. Danny knew exactly what he wanted for some loops, but for others he would ask me for feedback. It was a back and forth process working to figure it out.

For the Cherry Glazer video, it was a bit more work. Me and the guys that I worked with for the Coachella animations did some rough 3D storyboards and then did a similar back and forth with Danny to see where his head was at and if our vision was matching his vision. From there we picked and chose what worked and built it up. 

It was really just a super lucky opportunity; kind of the right place at the right time. I just happened to post the week that he was looking for animators. 

Still from Portugal the Man’s Coachella background 

Still from Portugal the Man’s Coachella background

ES: What is the biggest challenge you face when making work?

DL: Usually, the biggest creative challenges I have are time-related. If I’m super stressed out and feel like I don’t have enough time to do something, I’ll kind of shut down and freak out. It’s a matter of managing that stress and feelings of inadequacy. Every creative has imposter syndrome, feeling that they don’t belong, and I feel that all the time. 

Screen Printing is really more than anything for personal enjoyment. It’s largely a creative outlet for me to actually have agency to do whatever I want. Whereas my full time job is the complete opposite. I have no freedom and basically am just told what to do. 

ES: What is your current job?

DL: I work at a small business design consultancy that uses design thinking methodology applied to business structure. It’s basically therapy for big business.  I’m essentially a UX designer but less digitally focused and more person-to-person based. We work with a lot of big health care companies and consumer packaged good (CPG) companies. We do sprint workshops, identify problem areas and identify ways to move forward with companies and I help with visual components, like animations or videography. It’s a really small company so I’m constantly wearing different hats; doing different things. Before COVID, any given day could be random. I could film an event or run sessions. It’s cool but it’s also draining. 

ES: How has your style changed over time? Especially since graduating school, how has your practice changed? 

DL: I think I’ve grown a lot more into my own personal style. I feel better about the direction that my work takes. Since graduating, I’ve definitely gained more confidence in my work. A big issue I had in school was that I really couldn’t understand what an office type job would be like. I was always over romanticising the freedoms. I had a really big reality check when I got my first job. I feel like what’s changed the most is that I’ve kind of just grown up. 

Blue Drive Split Fountain (Collaboration w/ Tyler Schatz), Screenprint, 2020

Blue Drive Split Fountain (Collaboration w/ Tyler Schatz), Screenprint, 2020

ES: Does your job have any impact on your personal work?

DL: It does have a lot of impact. A big part of my process is learning and constantly growing and if I’m not doing that then I feel really stagnant. Having a full time job in the animation field is really helpful at times but at times it’s really stressful and makes me question if I really like doing what I’m doing or if I’m just telling myself I like it. I think there’s a lot of goods and bads but the experience has been overall positive. 

Before this full time job, I really was “head in the clouds” all throughout school and I had really not grasped reality. 

ES: When you were a kid, what was your “dream” job? How does what you’re doing now compare to that?

DL:  I remember being in 6th grade and for class we had to pretend we were adults, find an apartment, and make a budget. It was a really cool idea. I forgot everything about the assignment but I do remember wanting to be a newspaper comic artist at the time. It’s some connection to what I’m doing now with animation.

ES: What do you want to explore more in your own practice? What do you want to keep pushing towards?

DL: My big dream is to print big. I’ve never printed anything bigger than 11 x 17 so I would love to print something cataclysmically huge. I’m trying to go through and review a wide variety of sci-fi books. A big goal is to be more well read, not just sci-fi. Reading is valuable and makes you a more interesting person. I’ve been reading this book called a Primer of Visual Literacy, and it’s super interesting. It’s about visual communication as a language and how we should be treating visual communication the same way that we treat language and writing. It has the same capabilities and the same complexities. 

ES: Do you have any current projects in the works?

DL: Lately, I’ve been super interested in optical illusions and visual math. I took an online animation class three months ago about geometry and math and how they are related to animation. Ever since then I’ve been super interested in math’s relation to visual layout.  Last week I got super interested in obstacle illusions and gestalt theory mainly because this book I’m reading. I don’t want to say this and read this article in a month and not have done this but I want to do some optical illusion prints. I have a few in the works, so stay tuned.

Please Take Our Audience Survey

To better understand who we serve, and to ultimately be able to provide better support to our community, we are asking people who have participated in Spudnik Press programs over the past year to tell us about yourself as an artist, maker, or patron.

This survey is an important component of our strategic goals towards Audience Development and Artist Support. By better knowing who we are serving, who’s taking classes, printing in the studio, attending events, and relying on our services, we can develop responsive programs that are accessible and approachable to all who wish to join our programs.

All questions on this survey are completely anonymous, and any question may be skipped. We will use this information to better understand the community we serve, so we appreciate you telling us as much as you can.

As a thank you, we are giving away a $50 Visa Gift Card! Once you submit your survey, you will have a chance to enter the drawing using a separate form.

Take our Audience Survey

Member Interview Series: Yasaman Moussavi

Yasaman Moussavi holds an MFA with two emphases on Painting and Printmaking from Texas Tech University, where she explored and developed her skills in papermaking, printmaking, and installation art. She also holds an MA in Art Studies from Tehran University and a BFA in Painting. In her art practice, she explores the socio-cultural in-betweenness as a capacity and disposition to participate in meaning-making across cultures and languages. For her, transitional spaces are the performative embodiment of spatial mapping and in-betweenness. Her works have been displayed in many national and international solo and group exhibitions. She has been a member of the Spudnik Press Exhibition Committee since 2017. She is a co-founder of Didaar Art Collective, a Chicago-based Iranian art community. Yasaman currently lives and works in Chicago. 

Yasaman was interviewed by Aidan Ciuperca as part of his Spring 2020 Internship at Spudnik Press Cooperative. Aidan is a printmaker pursuing his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Aidan Ciuperca (AC): How would you describe your practice to someone who has never seen your work before?

Yasaman (Yasi) Moussavi (YM): I’m interested in concepts of space and place, and how these two things convey a common kind of experience. Place can be defined as where we physically live and where we find security, but space is more of a subjective kind of experience about sensation and desire. For instance, in my recent work Intervals, I explore creating the sense of space through architecture and linguistic structure. My goal was to make sense of the feelings we have when we are in a place and allow it to be experienced through a tactile material like paper. This is a subject matter that’s not tangible, so the materiality is important in order to make sense of those feelings. 

AC: What led you to working with printmaking and papermaking?

YM: When you think about traveling through places, you are in between two different locations. The important part of that experience is not where you start or where you want to end up. It’s how you move through the space, what you are experiencing, and all the steps you take. Printmaking and papermaking both have those technical and psychological qualities, which is why I started using them. When I studied in Tehran, Iran, the education was focused on the academic study of figurative painting and drawing, but when I traveled to the United States, everything changed. I started to think about the ways the material I work with can be important in the process, and in the creation of the material.

Intervals by Yasaman Moussavi

Intervals Installation at the Beverly Arts Center

AC: How does your work with printmaking and papermaking connect to installation? 

YM: The shift in my work from 2D to 3D is tied to the way my life changed when I moved. I initially moved to Lubbock, Texas in 2012 to get my MFA at Texas Tech University, but in 2014, I returned to Iran for six weeks before coming back to continue my education. I went to see the traditional architecture in Isfahan, where my dad is from. There is a mosque there that I visited many times as a child called Sheikh Lotfolah. It has a narrow hallway with windows that bring light into the space. As you walk through that hallway, all of a sudden you see that a bigger space opens up to you. When I experienced that transition, I felt like there was something more than just the patterns, the colors, and all the interesting details of Islamic art. It’s not about that anymore. For me, it was about something bigger than myself, something that I experienced by moving through that space. That was the moment that I felt like painting just wasn’t something that could share that experience with my audience. In the same year, I was lucky enough to experience another architectural space: James Turrell’s Breathing Light at LACMA. I went into the space and there was nothing there but light. In that moment, I experienced a feeling similar to what I discovered at the mosque. These two different kinds of architectural spaces and places got me thinking about creating something that’s not just about the visual work, but about that experience. 

Shadow Facing the Light Installation at Texas Tech University

I ended up making my first installation piece called Shadow Facing the Light as part of my thesis for my MFA. For about a year I was drawing and painting on big sheets of paper, about 6 feet to 8 feet tall. In the installation, I played with the effects of light on engraved plexiglass and copper plates to build the space. When you asked about how my work changed and how I transitioned from painting to installation-based work, it was because I started to think about what I’m experiencing right now and how I want to share it with my audiences. 

As for my relationship to printmaking, I started to explore the process more during my MFA. During my last year I was making drypoints on wood and thinking about the process of the work. I started working on wood because, at that time, I was thinking about the effects of nature and its networks. As I created those drypoints, I started to think that I wanted to use the plates as a work of art because all the steps in printmaking are also part of the work. So, I started to print from the plates and then use them in my installation. I would cut them, shape them, and color them to create a new space. The Passengers Series, created from my wood drypoints, is all about the process of the work, nature, and how I can make use of the cliché of printmaking, the blocks, as a work of art. 

Passengers Installation

AC: What part of your work do you find most fulfilling?

YM: The most important and fulfilling part of the work for me is when I am creating and developing the work. It’s that process of thinking, producing, and critiquing yourself that is really enjoyable for me. Because sometimes I’ll discover something in my work that wasn’t intentional, and it surprises me! For instance, last year when I started to work on the Interval Series, I was making large papers at Spudnik. I wanted to build big sheets, but it was really hard sharing the space with other people, not having the studio for yourself. As I started to grow, I started to consider how I should handle this situation and discovered something new about the process of the work. I was thinking about the central courtyard architecture of the 17th-18th century in Iran and the family house in Isfahan. But when I started to make them, I faced challenges with the space that I was working in. It even changed the way that I was thinking about the place in space. 

The other important part is when you see your work, as you visualize it, in the gallery space. That is really, really enjoyable for me especially because I don’t have a studio right now, and as an installation artist, it’s very hard. I have a corner in my house where I work, and if you come to my house, you’ll see that that corner is just covered in nails. I have been making small maquettes of my work and then nailing it to the wall. I think that it’s hard for me to experience and explore the space in the smaller version, but it works.

AC: The way you’ve been working in this corner of your house brings up the issue of how artists have had to adapt to making work at home because of the pandemic. I was wondering if there were any skills or hobbies that you’ve been working on.

YM: The corner has been getting too crowded because of the pandemic, because before that I went to Spudnik and I made work there. But now during the pandemic I haven’t had that chance, so I started to work with the paper and stories that I already have. I’m working on a series of small squares made from scraps of my handmade paper. As each day passes, I take one of those papers, pin it to the wall, and another one, and another one. They’re getting really thick and they’re getting really big. 

I also started to read more in my own language: short stories and my great grandparent’s diary. When the pandemic started, each week I would read two short stories with a group of colleagues. I started to use them in my work: the sentences, the words, what they mean. I started to analyze how I can use them, how the structure of the language can relate to the structure of the work that I’ve created. I started to ask questions and explore Farsi and English and how language creates a sense of communication. In a pandemic especially, you don’t have the kind of social connection that you find physically in an environment. You experience it differently in virtual spaces like Zoom and also in writing, like texting your friends or writing for yourself. We are exploring and experiencing an era that is making history. All of these things for sure have influenced me and my work. At the same time, it’s really hard to think and work, so for me all of these are sketches and questions. 

“Constructing space through words, sentences and written forms” work in progress from Instagram

AC: Yeah– like the work on your Instagram!

YM: Yes! Let me explain the process of the work. I’ll read a story, short stories or even my own journal or my grand grandparent’s diary. All of those stories are interesting, but sometimes I’ll just have a feeling with a word or sentence. I’ll think about it more, about the letters, about the meaning of that word, about its different meanings in other languages. It’s all about the communication, how you communicate through words, how the words and sentences work for me and what the difference is between visual images and text. Working with text, especially text that other people are not familiar with, is really, really risky because people might just pay attention to the aesthetic beauty of it. I used Farsi text because it is my first language, therefore I have a deeper understanding of it in comparison to English. Through the process of my work, I analyze the words by deconstructing them, breaking them down into pieces, and then putting them on different supports. Sometimes the support is handmade paper made out of hundreds of pieces of scrap paper, sometimes it is the wall, sometimes it is a handmade book, or sometimes it is the printing block itself. For me using language is a form of research. 

“Exploring the sense of space and place through architectonic and linguistics structures” from Instagram

AC: Didaar is a Chicago-based Irainian arts collective. How has being a part of that community influenced your work?

YM: The aim of Didaar, meaning meet-up in Farsi, is to create communication and cooperation between Iranian artists and those active in the field of Iranian arts. Relying on the exchange of experience with and reflection on modern and contemporary art, Didaar’s goal is to help with professional development, both in art theory and practice, by promoting art-related discussion and criticism. On the last Sunday of each month, we have a lecture and discussion series. Currently, we have had four sessions in which we focused on the concept of trauma in contemporary art. We started to discover and explore this concept when the pandemic started in March. This series is continuing through November. You can find the details on Didaar’s website.

AC: Outside of the pandemic, what kind of work happens at Didaar? Is it a studio space? Is it more of an artist social space? 

YM: We started Didaar in my friend’s studio and from there, we started to critique the works of artists. After that, we started to grow and think about what we wanted to discuss and explore together. For instance, we talked about art and business, art and social media, along with many concepts and questions about contemporary art. We had a really big event last year in partnership with the MCA, in which we celebrated the life of a well known director, Abbas Kiarostami. For that event, we curated the work of Abbas Kiarostami’s students and screened three of his pieces. That was a really big milestone for our group. The MCA was really supportive of the Iranian community and we have started to work together more. Other than that, we create platforms for Iranian artists, like with our recent open call. We just finished accepting work with a focus on drawing and printmaking. We asked participants to submit their work and we challenged them to explore space, what space means for them, and how they explore that concept through two-dimensional techniques. The exhibition is going to be in April 2021, with a local gallery in Chicago, Oliva Gallery in West town. It was great to see the work of Iranian artists here in the United States, here in Chicago. This will be the first chapter of this exhibition and we’re going to have more chapters in the future. Another part of the work at Didaar is the discussion sessions we host on Instagram, which are in Farsi, interviews with the artists and curators, and so on and so forth. We also have a website, which has created a platform for art historians and people who want to write about art share their articles and ideas. 

AC: I think we got to everything. The only thing that I wanted to ask more about because of personal interest was your book series Seed Stories.

YM: Seed Stories was something I made at Spudnik during my residency. When I moved to Chicago, I lost the community I had in Texas. It felt like another immigration, but something that really helped me find myself was nature. It made me think about nature as a source of my work and I started to create the book series as a component of my exhibition Roots. The thing that influenced my decision to work with stories of life and death specifically was losing my grandmother. She was the person who taught me about traditional literature in Iran and she also had a really green thumb. In my Seed Stories series – one is an accordion book and the other one is made from kenaf and handmade paper – all of the images are related to the concept of origins, creation and the cycle of life and death. These works are really small, and I enjoyed making that space and the work was so intimate for me. Those very private and intimate moments are experienced by the audience as they pass through the pages and feel the tactility of the paper and the smell of the paper. It was a different way of creating space on a much more personal level. 

Seed Stories – made at Spudnik with kenaf and handmade paper

Copies of Yasaman’s accordion book Seed can be purchased through Spudnik for $10.00.

Keep up with Yasaman on Instagram @yasi_moussavi and check out her website. More information about events and discussions at Didaar Art Collective can be found on their website and on Instagram @didaarartcollective.