A couple of weeks ago we released the first installment of Germinate. Karen Azarnia graciously let us into her studio and gave us an insight on curating Radiance at Woman Made Gallery and her own artwork. She mentioned the upcoming show for the artist in-residence, Paola Cabal at Riverside Art Center, where, like in Radiance, light would be the muse. Here is a little conversation with Paola about Crescent, the culmination of her residence at RAC.
A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Paola Cabal has lived in Chicago since 2001. Trained in observational realism, Cabal continues to implement responsive looking in her increasingly diverse practice, which includes site-specific installation, collaborative work, and more recently curating and writing in addition to her ongoing engagement with more traditional drawing media. Alongside her own art-making, Paola Cabal is an active member of the three-person collaborative (ƒ)utility projects and an educator at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and DePaul University.
Paola normally creates site specific installations tracking the transitions of daylight. For Crescent, at RAC , Cabal spent the night of 7.31 to 8.1 tracking the passing of the “blue moon” light through the gallery windows as it played with the architecture of the gallery. The end result: a series of shapes on both walls and floors that trick you into believing there is light coming into the room from multiple light sources. In actuality, all you are seeing are lightly painted ghosts of the light that used to be, making us think about the passage of time and fleeting moments.
“The not knowing and then the coming to an idea (the moonlight was a gift, I had no idea it would come into the space that way), and then working like mad to make that happen.”
DG: Is there anything you’d like to share about your process?
PC: Sure, there’s something that’s been on my mind since I had a conversation with Diane Simpson, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since: I had no idea what I was going to do at the Freeark Gallery before beginning my residency there. I had no idea. And lest that should sound cavalier or overconfident, let me also say that it stressed me out. I completed a residency at Ragdale in which I was thinking about this show; I got as far as building a scale model of the gallery space, but I *still* didn’t know what I was making.
So, I’m talking about the show with Diane Simpson and she is asking me what I plan to do, and I confess to her that I don’t know. Diane being Diane, and brilliant and sweet, she says “Oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with something great. I have total confidence in you… The thing about the way you work,” she remarked, “Is that you’re kind of inventing it from scratch each time. I don’t know how you do it.,” she said. “It would stress me out so much.”
DG: Yup. Site specific work is terrifying but super rewarding.
PC: I don’t know if it had occurred to me until that conversation though, that most people don’t work that way, that for most artists artistic production involves the creation of a series of discrete objects which are then placed in conversation with one another for a show, rather than dauntingly improvised and immediately responsive reactions to a specific place.
DG: Most site specific work is very responsive. You can plan up to a certain point but most of the time you have to get familiar with the space, listen to what it needs, and embrace whatever happens as you’re working. And when you are done, you feel like a rockstar.
PC: Rock star though, I mean, I wish! Something I think I do share with more traditional makers is the feeling of profound ambivalence that follows after I’ve made anything. As a site specific artist whose work only gets manifest, as such, in the form of a public exhibition, my work can almost be considered a series of public experiments. So I finish, usually sleep deprived, and I mean, I *hope* it’s ok? I think it’s good? Your friends who show up to your exhibition opening are not going to be like “Damn P, Y U make such crappy crap?” I mean, I do thankfully have one or two friends who would give me the straight dope, but for the most part everyone is going to smile and be gracious and wonderful, you know? So that’s little indication whether I’ve made something worth looking at.
Instead, I have to overcome my ambivalence by going back to my own show again and again, kind of making peace with what I would have liked to get to but didn’t, what I did get to but would have liked to do better, until the whole thing either holds up, finally, or collapses under the weight of my continued scrutiny.
I’m marginally better now but what this used to mean is that I would be the worlds’ worst self promoter. My ambivalence would run so deep and continuous and daunting that I wouldn’t even tell people I had a show up. And then like maybe a week before it would close, having finally wrestled myself into a position of affinity or agreement with what I’d made, *then* I’d tell some people that it was there.
In the Sculpture Garden, (ƒ)utility projects (a collaborative comprised of Paola Cabal, Michael Genge, and Chris Grieshaber), have a site specific installation where they merged the garden with the gallery, by incorporating walls, the surrounding trees, and natural night.
Crescent runs through October 3rd.
32 E Quincy St, Riverside, Illinois 60546