Tamarind releases eight new lithographs by artist-duo SCUBA, Sandra Wang and Crockett Bodelson. Tamarind Director Diana Gaston asked the duo a couple of questions about their experience and work at Tamarind.
Diana: Printmaking is such a collaborative process, which seems like a natural extension of your approach as a collaborative duo. How did your practice play out at Tamarind?
Crockett: When someone gives the kids the keys to the candy shop, at some point they have to start learning to make the candy. We had to really slow down our art-making process once we realized that, as litho novices, we were unfamiliar with the physical properties of the drawing tools and the stone. You also give up more control in a larger group, especially if your collaborators understand the process a lot more than you do. With a new collaboration, I try to figure out my strengths and my role. The objects stitched to the prints felt natural to me. I was encouraged to make them after seeing past Tamarind prints with sculptural elements. Once we decided to include the objects, I felt like I was finally finding my place in the collaborative process. I can only say that I wish I had more time at Tamarind, but I also appreciate how this residency provided a much needed art retreat during a challenging year in New York where we had so little time for art.
Sandra: We were honored to have the opportunity to work with Valpuri (Remling, Tamarind Master Printer) and Candice (Corgan, Apprentice Printer) and to immerse ourselves in lithography for the first time. They were so patient with us. They guided us through the process and they also understood that we needed some solo time to experiment with the tools. But we had to push ourselves out of the experimental phase. To do so, we developed a collaborative collage process for churning out compositions. We also decided to make collaboration the subject matter of our prints. We thought sports and games were apt ways of expressing a range of relationship dynamics through dramatic body language. Our idea for Now Serving references our small paintings of “collectives,” groups of characters, limbs entangled, coexisting in fluctuating states of stability and unity. The Wrestlers (now titled, Passing Over) portray more personal dynamics. They were fun to illustrate because we were working with a bunch of cut out paper figures. Together, we decided which pair told a unique story. Jump is interesting because the figures are more inscrutable. You’re not sure if their raised arms are celebratory, or a cry for help over their impossible endeavor to play a monumental game of jump rope. Whatever they are, we’re rooting for them.
Diana: There is a wonderful shot of the two of you in the workshop, at work on the same lithographic stone. How did the drawing process work for you two--are you completing the work together in real time? or do you each have your areas of specialization?
Sandra: We discovered that the best method for us was to take turns drawing on the stone. We also had a general plan for what we would lay down during each turn. For The Wrestlers and Now Serving, I drew the bodies and Crockett drew the faces; we both had a hand in their fashion. Our approach to painting is more improvisational: we work on the same piece, but we often allow the narrative to unfold as we respond to each other’s imagery, like in the style of an exquisite corpse. This is the first time either of us had worked on a lithographic stone so we took more time planning out our composition and imagery. That being said, we did have spontaneous moments, like when Crockett made the beach ball for the tumbleweed of people in our first print Now Serving. Their situation looked so dire before they got the ball. The beach ball added playfulness without taking away the tension. The rest of the prints continued the sports theme. Allowing something that small to recontextualize this series of work indicates our trust in each other’s creative input. We let the other take us in different directions. We don’t debate every detail. That’s the benefit of having worked together for 8 years!
Diana: Tell me about the transition you experienced as working artists, moving from San Francisco to Santa Fe. Did your work as a collective take shape once you relocated to New Mexico? Were there aspects of living and working in New Mexico that either challenged or shifted your approach?
Crockett: Our first move to New Mexico in 2011 felt risky. We left so many friends, our collector base, and an influential art community for the dry, high mountain landscape. But we soon discovered that moving to a smaller place gave us more opportunities to make an impact in our local community. In San Francisco, we collaborated on art and exhibitions, but we never dreamed of running an art space. Directing an art space in Santa Fe, curating, and managing studios for others presented new challenges, the main one being constant administrative work. But these new roles helped us realize that we wanted to work with more people and be in the position of supporting other artists. When we moved from Santa Fe to New York in 2014, we thought we would want to run a space in Brooklyn. But New York is saturated with art and we felt less motivated to start our own space. So we moved back to Santa Fe in 2015 with the perspective that we would rather live in a place where we can make more things happen. It really feels great to be back.
Diana: How do you see the Meow Wolf project in the larger context of your work?
Sandra: The House of Eternal Return is an amazing collective feat. It is the sum of their talents and ambition, and a testament to how well they work together. They’re like a big family. We jumped on board their project when we moved back in November 2015 because we knew this was a special opportunity to contribute to a project on this scale. When we returned, we could feel that they had reinvigorated the art scene that we left behind over a year ago. What’s also admirable about Meow Wolf is that they’re using their success to create jobs and projects that fairly compensate the artists. I’m currently working on a mural with other Meow Wolf artists and Crockett has been playing his new musical project Snake Chama on the weekends at Meow Wolf. In some ways, they operate in a similar way as we do, on a much larger scale. I think that our collaborative strategies are often architectural. We think about how we can designate space for individual expression. Most of our larger works are constructions made of many smaller units, like our sculpture Inside the Outside. Meow Wolf’s The Due Return was a big ship that housed many individual artist nooks. We also like the social aspect of collaborating. Making art for a living is a struggle, and it helps to have a buddy system for inspiration and support. The more people the better. Ultimately, SCUBA will always be a collective of two, but it’s no longer the only way we make art.
Diana: Your work has such a a wonderful performative aspect to it--can you talk a bit about how this public, playful aspect of your work contributes to your art making?
Crockett: We both really like people, and sometimes this is hard to accept because working alone in a studio is how many artists have their breakthrough moments. You can’t predict how a project will play out in public or with an audience. There will always be some mysterious outcome. When you get to witness some of this mystery, I’m not sure if it helps me understand the work more, but it always keeps me coming back.