Quick Draw Artist Interview #20: Meichen Waxer

Quick Draw Artist Interviews area series of interviews conducted by Otino Corsano using Facebook's IM Chat feature. Spontaneous conversations with international artists are recorded and documented specifically for publication on this blog.

Quick: counter. Random triggers. Toni Only; Rita Letendre; Kosso Eloul; Dora Hunt. But they only pushed the detonators. I wired everything. I just shot them on film and my hassy doesn't have a timer. Micheline Beauchaumin and Albie Frank in Japan. They are uploading now. Draw: art about art.


Meichen Waxer is a Toronto based artist, yet she has spent time living in Montreal and in Paris during the Summer Creative Residency 2010 at Parsons Paris as overseen by Charlotte Moth. Waxer has always been fascinated with ideas of fantasy, constructed histories and turn of the century melancholy. Elements of female craft and body are interwoven into her interdisciplinary practice juxtaposing photography, textile-based sculpture and painting. Meichen explores processes finely incorporating anxiety, obsession and occupation. She graduated from OCAD in 2007 with a major in photography, receiving The Faculty and Friends of Photography Award. Waxer is a recipient of the Toronto Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant and has exhibited nationally and internationally.



Meichen Waxer

Chat Conversation Start

Today

Otino
10:14pm
ready now?

Meichen
10:14pm
sure.


Otino
10:14pm
really?
it might take up to an hour.
you cool?

Meichen
10:15pm
if you are.
I'm sleepy but could probably do it.


Otino
10:15pm
Alright.
Let me get set up.

Meichen
10:15pm
over chat?


Otino
10:15pm
yeah.
type it out right here.

Meichen
10:16pm
okay.


Otino
10:19pm
Thanks for taking the time to speak to me about your work Meichen.

Meichen
10:20pm
no problem!


Otino
10:20pm
It seems as if you are just starting to make some serious in roads professionally,
yet the work has been developing for quite some time.

Meichen
10:24pm
I think you are right. 
I am focusing on how to best channel my practice.


Otino
10:26pm
You seem confident in working within what seems to be a very autobiographically determined set of criteria for your personalized aesthetics - true?
Unlike other artists I find it difficult to separate Meichen from your work.


Meichen
10:27pm
true.
I am very fascinated with what it means to author your own story, your identity.

Otino
10:29pm
Before we talk about specifics works I think it may be helpful if you provide a brief overview of these personalized elements and possibly describe their origins: Victorian decor, embroidery and domestic arts, and the other earthly delights appearing throughout your practice...


Meichen
10:31pm
Well, I grew up in a Victorian-era home my parents decorated true to the time period. 
I was surrounded by the stuff. 



Although my true love of the Victorian time period stems from their social codes of behavior and how these notions played out at the same time the whole world was changing.
The domestic arts are closely tied to my love of busy work and the need to imprint oneself.


Otino
10:34pm
Are there specific philosophies or key concepts from this antique era directly or at least theoretically driving your production?


Meichen
10:35pm
In particular, I would say Victorian social mores - the way in which people were expected behave at the time.  What was private vs. public as well as the regimented rules for mourning one’s death.


Otino
10:36pm
Maybe a discussion of particular works will help bring out these concepts in a more pragmatic way...


"feet" was an outdoor installation created for for Nuit Blanche Devereaux II.
How was Nuit Blanche Devereaux II different from the annual Nuit Blanche event?

Meichen
10:40pm
Nuit Blanche Devereaux is run by Alison Peacock and Victoria Cheong and was actually held in the summer one afternoon in High Park.
It was a one-day event ofpredominately consisting of female performances and installations.


The project "feet" was a stylistic departure in many ways from my other work. Nevertheless, the construction of the work was still a laborious process of crocheting rope with my fingers. 


Otino
10:43pm
How long did it take to knit the rope with your digits?


Meichen
10:44pm
If I remember correctly, I made 6 balls of rope - each taking about 6 hours to create.  What I definitely remember was sore fingers!


Otino
10:47pm
The single question emerging for me after viewing the installation documentation photos was regarding the significance of the very specific patterning accentuating the edges of the work using rectangular formations.


Meichen
10:47pm
the shape was based on the first line in the shri yantra.
the first three lines are to represent the sections of the lower body - or that is one theory.


Otino
10:50pm
Thus the title: "feet" – and along a walking path.
And yet you used your fingers almost exclusively to produce the work.
Was this an attempt to unify the forces of energy in the upper and lower body for art synergy?

Meichen
10:51pm
That's a nice take on the work!
In approaching this piece I was looking at drawing a line between meditative/introspective practices and plain old passing time and busy work.


Otino
10:53pm
You use synthetic hair of ten in your work as sewing material.
Speaking of "busy work" your needlework seems quite labor-intensive.
How is this theme of mastery of detail developed in both "quarter mourning" and "half mourning"?



Meichen
10:54pm
I have a love of labor-intensive practices!
In 'quarter mourning' and 'half mourning' my primary concern was the idea the presented surface and all the 'residue' or reality that is confined. 


Otino
10:58pm
Do you mean you wish to juxtapose the completed beauty of the refined surface with the dangling remains of the unused materials?


Meichen
10:59pm
yes

Otino
11:00pm
Still, there are some unanswered questions here...

Meichen
11:01pm
ask away!


Otino
11:02pm
First, why is alabor-intensive approach critical to your works?
Surely you wouldn’t be as enthused to dust your home with a Q-tip as art?

Meichen
11:02pm
not unless the dust could be spun into gold!


Otino
11:04pm
Are you spinning synthetic hair into new meaning or simply inserting value into your work via hyper-production?


Meichen
11:04pm
I'm taking a break from the hair!
I am currently working on a video project where I examine duration and sustained action.


Otino
11:05pm
I don't think you answered my question.
How are labor-intensive practices integral to your intentions for the work?


Meichen
11:07pm
For the majority of my work I would say it is vital. 
It is how I imprint myself into the project.


Otino
11:08pm
Why can your artistic signature or presence be fused with the work through an economy of means?
Sorry for pressing the one point; yet I am sincerely invested in discovering what drives labor-intensive practices:
Is it habit? Nervousness? An unconscious drive?

Meichen
11:10pm
Well, I would say that there is a lot of anxiety in my work.
Perhaps a compulsion for repetition.


Otino
11:11pm
So this brings us back to the autobiographical element infused in your practice.
Do you employ time-consuming processes to inscribe "value" into the work - or to secure a sense of "awe" from the viewer?

Meichen
11:13pm
History over value. 
Value in time not money.

Otino
11:13pm
"studies for a project to be started" is my favorite work.
I imagine it as a project with procrastination as its subject.

Meichen
11:14pm
my nets!


Otino
11:14pm
They look like bikini bottoms.


Meichen
11:14pm
They were created in-between embroidering hair - when my fingers were sore.

Otino
11:15pm
Are you trying to catch new ideas for future projects with these art nets?


Meichen
11:16pm
That's a nice thought. 
In Paris, knee deep in hair, I realized I needed to step back from the material because I felt like it was beginning to define my art. 
These watercolours were my first break from the hair!


Otino
11:17pm
Nice.
Refreshing and free.
Departure always helps a practice.


Meichen
11:17pm
at least stepping back!


Otino
11:18pm
The "fortress" series seems to be your seminal work.
I see Suzy Lake pre-Sherman in these staged bio-moments.


Meichen
11:19pm
Thank you. 
I really love "fortress" – the series is very dear to my heart.


Otino
11:21pm
Describe it in a corpuscle.


Meichen
11:25pm
This is from artist statement of the work: 

“The mass of hair acts as asource of simultaneous distress and comfort, this is in relation to the security in the construction of self-image, even in its most destructive capacity. By seemingly having control of ones image, a calm in storm can be achieved, familiarity in a presence or presentation of the self. In each image the relationship to the hair varies slightly, it is the changes in presence and awareness in these images that allow me to speak to the subtleties ofexperiencing my body in space and flux of size and health.”

In brief the work is about anxiety and melancholy.


Otino
11:27pm
Is there a specific moment in your history where hair took on impressionable significance?
I feel an autobiographic source here.


Meichen
11:29pm
hair falls out when you are ill.

“fortress” is autobiographical in nature, yet I don't believe the specifics of my history are important to understand the work.


Otino
11:30pm
You are current working on a new video work
I saw the test for it.


You rub your thumb from your forehead - down the length of your nose, over your lips to the bottom of your chin - at least fifty times in repetition.
By the end it looks like you have carved a roadway of red soreness down your face.


Is this makeup or the real results of your repeated actions?

Meichen
11:32pm
it was lipstick


Otino
11:32pm
good.


Meichen
11:32pm
This work is based on avery tender exchange between my Bubbie and I where she ran her finger from the bridge of my nose to my chin and said, "We are the same".


Otino
11:33pm
Is "Bubbie" your Grandmother?


Meichen
11:33pm
yes


Otino
11:33pm
What is the future piece called?
How will it differ from the test?

Meichen
11:33pm
I don't have a title yet, perhaps "We are the same".
It will be an hour in length.


Otino
11:34pm
Your other video works are really fun and beautiful.
I'm impressed with the simplicity of light effects in "gemini".


video

Alternatively "gale” has all the detail and mood we have grown to understand.



Meichen
11:36pm
I think they are both light hearted, though “gale” does have a bit of a darker side. 
The music is composed and performed by me as well.

Otino
11:37pm
I noticed the personalized tracks - wonderfully enriched.


I refuse to talk about drawings of people with antlers only because I interviewed Andrew Pommier a decade ago on the subject.


Meichen
11:38pm
That's alright.
They are old anyways.


Otino
11:40pm
It appears you have already established a very unique approach allowing for age and refinement - or at least growth to progress your course in a very general sense beyond mere follicles.


Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Meichen.

Meichen
11:41pm
Thank you! It was a pleasure!

Otino
11:41pm
Keep us informed on new advancements.


Meichen
11:41pm
I will for sure!

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