Contemporary artist and native Southerner Vivian Liddell interviews women on art & the South. Bringing together women of all sorts to talk about their inspirations and definitions of art, and how these individual opinions reflect our changing region.
32 - Jessica R. Smith
Peachy Keen met up with artist Jessica R. Smith at her home studio in Savannah, where she is a professor of fibers at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Smith is the is the co-author with Susan Falls of the recently released book Overshot: The Political Aesthetics of Woven Textiles from the Antebellum South and Beyond.
We talked about her childhood spent between Alaska and Pennsylvania, her family’s history in the Florida panhandle, and how a formative backpacking trip around the world with a friend led her to a deeper appreciation of the use of textiles to create narratives.
She explains how her artistic practice and research have evolved from an initial interest in painting and printmaking to a focus on performance and installations—starting with wallpaper and moving into fabrics. By playing as a designer and creating subtly subversive wallpapers that referenced historical designs (think 80s suburban angst meets Waverly prints) she became a designer—starting her own business and then licensing her designs to Studio Printworks.
We discuss how her 12-year-relationship with SCAD colleague and professor of anthropology Susan Falls has led to multiple collaborations, culminating in their current book project, Overshot. Smith gives us the lowdown on their research process as a team, and some of the surprising finds they made as they explored the history, presentation, context and materiality of woven “overshot” coverlets.
31 - Sonya Yong James
Peachy Keen met up with artist Sonya Yong James on the occasion of her massive installation “Phantom Threads” as part of the PROJECT exhibition curated by Scott Ingram at the Temporary Art Center in Atlanta. (Thanks to our podcasting friends from Brainfuzz Podcast for lending us the use of their swank dedicated podcasting room on site!)
We talked about our shared position as women/artists growing up in the 1970s/80s (shoulder pads did come up), her formative years in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and how she’s navigated labels as they pertain both to her art and her identity.
She explains how the Gwisin of Korean folklore are related to her PROJECT piece, her path to working with such diverse materials as bedsheets and horsehair after having been initially trained as a printmaker and gives us the lowdown on managing a thriving studio practice that involves everything from supervising assistants to fear-free scissor lift operation.
30 - Colleen Merrill
Peachy Keen met up with artist Colleen Merrill on day three of SECAC 2019 and got into the nitty gritty of the psychology behind her conference presentation titled Mirroring: Affirming the Self as Parent, Artist, and Academic—discussing both Rozsika Parker and Donald Winnicott’s theories. We note the lack of men at parenting-related SECAC sessions and the importance of having men in the room when discussing parenting and career roles.
But first, we talk about how she got sucked into the college town vortex of Lexington, Kentucky post grad school, seduced by its many charms—including the rich local craft community and cheap, easy access to an inspiring selection of found textiles. She paints a picture of how the local customs (like painted gourds for bird houses) have influenced her practice.
She describes how her time at Residency Unlimited in Brooklyn made her realize how immense and popular textiles have become in the contemporary art scene, and we debate the extent of fiber-based mediums’ integration into the sometimes off-putting world of fine art. We also discuss parenthood and its relationship to her practice as an artist and her career as an academic. As a professor at a community college, Merrill explains how her initial naivety of her school’s policies on student parents worked in her favor as she works to build a more inclusive and supportive learning environment for her students with young children.
Peachy Keen met up with artist Naomi Falk in a boardroom at the Chattanoogan Hotel during the recent SECAC conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After briefly discussing some of the points that Falk made in her conference session on limits in the studio art classroom, we continued to talk about some of the challenges and joys of pushing students in our own classrooms, the long slog to a permanent teaching position in the arts, working collaboratively, and her experiences at artist residencies throughout the US and abroad.
Originally from Michigan, Falk currently lives and works in South Carolina. We discussed how geography has affected her art practice—from a heightened awareness of climate change living in an area affected by hurricanes and frequent flooding, to her use of indigo, an important crop in the state during the eighteenth century.
28 - Virginia Griswold
Peachy Keen visited the home studio of Nashville artist Virginia Griswold on a Sunday morning to chat about her life and work. Starting with the shocking revelation that Griswold was once sent away to an all-girls Catholic school for disciplinary issues and a little family history focusing on women artists, we quickly get into tackling her broad-based postsecondary education.
We discuss Griswold’s early focus on a variety of craft-related media and the related feminist overtones, her five years as a studio technician and instructor at Urban Glass in Brooklyn and her eventual choice to take a more conceptual direction in her work by attending graduate school at Alfred University’s Sculpture/Dimensional Studies program before getting into her current body of work.
Sitting in her studio at a table of works in progress, we explore a variety of topics related to her materials, techniques and themes including combining fiber and ceramics, dyeing using native plants, and postpartem anxiety and the body. If you’re looking to get schooled on a wide variety of three-dimensional materials and techniques, this is your episode.
Peachy Keen snuck into a defunct color darkroom turned soundproof editing booth at the Lamar Dodd School of Art photo department the weekend before classes started back at the University of Georgia to chat with Athens, Georgia artist, Brittainy Lauback.
In addition to photo geek stuff like printing and camera equipment, we talked about the ebb and flow of her photography career and the interesting (wrangler!) and not so interesting (pricing analyst) interim jobs that kept her afloat before she landed in academia.
There’s a little bit of girl talk (some of it which gets meta) as we lament the fall of the telephone for actual talking, discuss the self-help books that inspired Lauback’s previous body of work, and try not to get distracted by the “strong eyes” in her profile gif.
What do David Foster Wallace, male nudity in cabanas and widows in mourning have to do with her current exhibition of photos shot aboard a cruise ship? Listen in to find out.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Exactly what I needed
I love this podcast. Vivian talks with the artists about their work in a substantive way that connects not only to the deeper questions they address in their work, but also with an eye towards what it is like to be a female artist in the South. Vivian is not afraid to ask difficult questions and she does so with sincerity and openness. Every interview has resonated with me in a personal, surprising way. Being a female artist in the South can feel pretty isolating - this podcast has helped me see that I am not alone.
I really enjoy Peachy Keen Pod. It’s exactly what I wanted and needed; Even in today’s decentralized and connected digital world, there is still a lot of focus on a few big cities in the art world. Peachy’s focus on Southern Artist is a breath of fresh air and spotlights a lot of interesting artist and their work. Nearly every episode puts me on to something or someone new. Love this podcast. And I also love the host’s way of hosting, its very obvious that she spends time in a classroom as a lecturer and that influence comes through her podcast.