Christa Mares & Scot Proctor
Catalog interview by Amanda Douberley:
Christa Mares and Scot Proctor are both MFA students in Ceramics at UT-Austin. We had the following conversation early in June, when they had just begun work on their collaboration for Making it Together.
Amanda Douberley: During our conversation yesterday, Scot mentioned that it is proving difficult to transition between his own work and the collaboration. Are the simultaneous processes of “making it alone” and “making it together” feeding into the collaboration? Is working with each other pushing your individual work in new directions?
Scot Proctor: It is difficult shifting between my own work and the collaboration. I try to invest myself mentally as much as I can into a specific idea, and I try to focus completely on that. It almost seems as if I have been allowing myself only half the thought in each direction and coming to a standstill. Though difficult, however, it has already been a positive experience. Christa gives me lots of fresh ideas for my own work, and, through watching her, I have approached my work in a different way or have tried things I hadn’t tried before.
Christa Mares: Working together is also a refreshing and exciting change for me. I feel in the moments when I’m indecisive or struggling with an idea, Scot is there to bounce ideas off of, or there are moments we both can just sit and stare and not know what to do. I find this to be the same when we are working on our own art. From the beginning, it seems we have always had some kind of dialogue.
AD: It sounds like this collaboration is an extension of the conversations you two have every day since your work spaces in the ceramics lab are right next to each other. Did you have any specific expectations for how the collaboration would work? Are you working on the installation at the same time, or does one make a move and the other react, sort of like a game?
SP: I didn’t have any specific expectations for how the collaboration would work. I’m still not sure how it works! We started off with a basic idea of what the piece would look like and what issues we were interested in. Then we found a common ground. The piece has evolved since the original idea and that’s great. I think this is a good opportunity to rely on intuition and react to the moves of the other person. Christa and I have different studio hours so often I come into the studio and find what she has done to the piece. I enjoy the surprise.
CM: We may discuss a specific part one day to narrow down the possibilities of completing it just so things won’t become too chaotic. Other parts or details of the project are very open and happen as we go along. AD: In your recent individual work, each of you has explored the home as a place charged with memories and, particularly in Scot’s case, as an unattainable ideal. The installation you two are building seems very much like a stage, and, in this sense, it connects with your individual practice in different ways: Scot has experimented with performance, which has an obvious relationship with the theatrical; Christa’s recent lace covered, object-laden crib references the dollhouse, a kind of stage for children to direct their dolls in different roles. At the same time, the installation is a huge departure for each of you. Christa’s work tends towards the miniature, whereas this installation is very large; Scot works with relatively clean and simple forms, but you two are covering everything in sight with decorative crochet-work and foam wrappers. This installation goes to extremes in other ways as well: showing both inside and outside of the house; softening hard elements and floating heavy ones, mixing 2-D and 3-D modes of representation, and incorporating pre-fab and hand-crafted elements. In combination, this intermingling of opposites has a fantastic, or even surreal, effect. Has this project encouraged each of you to go to extremes, perhaps perversely in opposition to your preferred way of making things? How does fantasy function for you both within this installation and within suburbia, which you seem to be referencing?
SP: Rather than this piece taking me to the extreme opposite of what I have been doing, I think the collaboration allows me to do things I previously could not have done on my own. I have always made the massive and the heavy, and Christa often works small and delicate. I think that dichotomy will prove to make this a successful piece.
CM: We discussed having a very fantastical kind of feel to the installation. I think we were in agreement that specific objects were almost destined to look or to be positioned in such a way. I don’t think it means anything specifically, but rather it references more of a fantasy of what a house and the objects of that home could possible be like. When I envision “our house,” it’s never still. Things are constantly moving and changing. Whether it makes any sense or not, I think it’s okay because for me, change can be confusing. It’s like everything is in the middle of change and doesn’t quite know where to go.
SP: The idea of fantasy is huge in my thinking about this piece. I imagine just that, a fantastical surreal world that only lives within our heads. As far as the connection between suburbia and fantasy, I don’t know. Living in Michigan amongst all of the woods makes me think lawn animals are a natural way to try and escape city life. I long for the return to the woods and keep this idea with me with every work I create. AD: The installation is extremely dramatic and artificial, but at the same time there is a level of earnestness and sincerity, which is one aspect of kitsch. Do you think these notions motivate people who actually decorate their yards in this way? Is kitsch just an ironic gesture, or does it have a serious or heartfelt side that you’re exploiting and/or exploring?
CM: Kitsch is certainly an element in creating our project, though I feel it is more of a heartfelt gesture just because it is something that I tend to gravitate towards. An object in the yard such as a lawn ornament can be very classy or cheesy depending on where it is or what it is. Driving by perhaps a modest home, I almost expect to see a plastic or ceramic animal sitting on the porch or lawn. For those million dollar homes, it is almost guaranteed to see the owner embellishing their yard with bronze animals or even people. I see our attempt at creating “our house” as a way to try and replay our experiences of the home and/or create what we think we’d like it to be. So, we are in both ways exploring and exploiting different aspects and/or ideas of a home.