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"Plethora" Collaboration @ Soapbox, New York City

Interview with “Plethora” Collaboration. Here’s a glimpse at Linnea’s inner world and a few of the things that influenced her as an artist.

By Bonnie K. Norlander

Is it fair for me to cite an author? Truth be told, there simply haven’t been any significant female visual artists who have had formative impact on my work or the way that I think. Why this might be is another (vast and sometimes sad) topic… perhaps for another day. And so, the question you pose brings to mind a young, somewhat cavalier Lit professor, who, slapped a fresh copy of “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” on desk and told me that Annie Dillard would teach me how to see.

No painting, drawing or design professor ever opened my eyes as wide as that softcover book did. The next four years certainly were valuable, but the double-edged sword of wonder – in all it’s terror and irresistible attraction – was driven deep by Annie Dillard.

I owe her a great debt for helping to slay my sentiment and narcissism, which, I would argue, the truly great artists have done. To be able to do so for other artists is the work of genius – genius that is generous, whose work forms a legacy.

I believe that Pilgrim at Tinker Creek qualifies as such. In my life at least.

My uncle made furniture occasionally, and when my siblings and I were still young, he made unique bunk beds for us that were designed like Swedish built-in beds – in other words, they were like cozy rooms, personal nooks with shelves, hooks for hanging things and crannies for the things children hide. Best of all, every surface was incised with wood-burnt landscapes; rivers, mountains, forests all stylishly scarred into the walls of my personal cave.

Many nights I fell to sleep pondering the peculiarity of picture-making, how a tree once alive can bear the funerary image of its once vital state. Of course, no child has the words yet to articulate these strange states of being, but I remember how the quiet moments before sleep allowed me to feel the finer texture of life, till, after deep sleep, the hurly-burly of play-ground enthusiasms swallowed my six year old attention span once again.

[I’d like to be] so many things! That, I suspect, is exactly why I am an artist.

I would probably have enjoyed singing more or being musically focused; I love history; anthropology and sociology are my amateur hobbies; design is natural to me; I come from a family where architects appear periodically and I certainly share that fascination; science is great fun, though I am most attracted to it’s fringes; biology mesmerizes me.

All of these things are too much for any single life time. There is nothing for it, I simply had to be an artist – an element, perhaps the only element, in society that is granted permission for cross-cultural, cross-discipline osmosis.

Collaboration has been a bit of a revelation in my studio practice, so I am already planning other ‘Plethora-like’ projects for next year. The remainder of the year has a few shows in it as well, mostly around LA, where I work.

If resources or realism were not a limit, I would make drawings with clouds.
Just think about that for a moment….

PLETHORA is a collaborative performance work by three female artists: New York-based performance artist Lia Chavez; and Los Angeles-based painter Linnea Spransy and sculptor Maggie Hazen. ”During the course of Plethora, vacant space will become a complex installation art piece via small repetitions, endurance performance and hidden activity.” The cumulative exhibit is on view August 15- 30, at Soapbox Gallery in Brooklyn.

Plethora brings together the presence of three complex women and their artistic production. Throughout the duration of the exhibit objects will be added, illustrations will grow, and all three artists will spend significant time within the white cube and interior gallery space. Mingled together, the result of intertwined efforts is something akin to a fairy-tale pop-up book, a battle ground, and a kind of vigil.

I was so honored, this week, by the opportunity to glimpse their physical (and thoughtful) processes.

Like many women, their paths have been informed by the presence (and absence) of other women. Their models range from canonical artists, teachers, authors, philosophers, and bold political figures. Lia, Linnea, and Maggie have developed distinct practices through personal moments of curiosity, creative prowess, and through collaborative interactivity, such as Plethora.

The Kansas City Collection Catalog

Interview from the Kansas City Collection Catalogue 2012-2013

By Elizabeth Kirsch

Linnea Spransy’s paintings are on a mission all their own. Layered ribbons of paint and dense microbial patterns across her canvases, evoking deep time and inexplicable quests. In some works, skeins of color droop over dark crevices as if waiting to be sucked into a black hole.
One of Spransy’s fiercest paintings, Widget, is quite minimal but is conceptually true to her artistic concerns. Composed of a Moebius strip of wicked looking blades floating in a space of heavenly pink space, it alludes to the ancient paradox “Concordia oppositorum,” or the agreement of opposites such as love, hate; black, white; yin, yang. In her art, Spransy seeks a state of non duty as she simultaneously celebrates various pathways. This chronic tension explains the dynamism that underscores her entire oeuvre.

Since childhood, Spransy has studied intensely what she calls “two very robust bodies of knowledge,” science and religion. Art has allowed her a segue between these different systems.

The oldest of five, Spransy grew up in Oregon with her family who were members of the Jesus People movement. Her father was a musician and played with the first Christian rock band. She rode on a tour bus with her family, musicians and tutor to various towns where protesters invariably gathered, denouncing the mix of rock and roll with Christianity. “By the time I was eleven,” she recalls, “I was living a whole-hearted lifestyle around art.”

Her family settled in Winsconsin, and Spransy was home schooled while also working with artists in her studios. By 13 she was “fully trained in anatomy” and creating sophisticated figure drawings. She received a full scholarship to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and subsequently the prestigious MFA program at Yale.

Between Spransy’s first and second year at Yale, her art changed, literally overnight. “I experienced a spiritual transformation,” she says, “a recognition of why we make art; it was a moment of honesty… I wanted to fo something that would make my heart race.” Her skill at figuration was obvious, but “it was no longer challenging me. I wasn’t being forced to invent something.”

Spransy began exclusively exploring abstraction. As free-wheeling, unanticipated and deliberately jittery as her paintings became, they were a; constructed using “rules”.

“Every piece I make,” Spransy asserts, “is a manifestation of a pre-determined scheme –a system of small limits with a clear beginning and end… I write out a recipe composed of what I call modules [a combination of number and letter forms]; it’s very time-consuming. The only total freedom I allow myself is with the color choices. The system and I will make something, but there is also a high level of uncertainty.”
Ultimately, Spransy believes, her rules reinforce the notion of free will. “In the midst of so much certainty, can I still find a surprise? There is always,” she notes, “consistent astonishment at the end.”

The San Antonio CURRENT

Linnea Gabriella Spransy’s generative art

By Scott Andrews

Raised in the Midwest in a multilingual family speaking English, Swedish, and German, Linnea Gabriella Spransy received her MFA at Yale University School of Art, and now lives and works in Los Angeles. Her lush, densely layered, abstract paintings seem to hint at organic forms; their intricate ribboned gyres and swirls recall a plethora of art memories that course from the surface design of Asian ceramics to the decorative flourishes of Gustav Klimt. Yet, they are embodied by the obsession with the machine that has motivated artists such as Marcel Duchamp and contemporary creators of anime transformer robots. Spransy, who is currently exhibiting a solo show of recent work at Hausmann Millworks, spoke about her own delight in mechanics with the Current last week from her home in California.

Your paintings contain layers of very complex patterns. Where do the shapes come from?
I use what I call “basic modules,” which are almost like letter forms: really simple shapes that are flexible enough to build on top of each other, but recognizable enough to be discrete units. I’m the one who delineates the rules and programs that I follow, but they are built so incrementally, that it kind of takes on a life of its own. … It’s a lot of fun because it becomes a way of generating surprises for myself. I sort of problem-solve myself out of that whole kind of intuitional, or emotive, kind of art-making that is not particularly interesting to me — it’s a quagmire, anyway. I make work differently than that.

Is there an aspect of chance in the work?
There are quite a few moments when I’m not sure if we are going to have something to look at in the end. There is a lot of risk.

You are using rules and programs to make decisions, but there seems to be something biologic about the way the pieces unfold.
The general principle is taking cues from how life behaves in the natural world. What it is attempting to do is occupy all the negative space, over, and over. … What I tend to think is that numbers of small units become complex, like ants or schools of fish. Simply stated, that is the whole project.

The rhythms in your composition are so lyrical…
There is a lot of musicality in my work. I am one of the few visual artists in my family — they are mostly musicians, architects, and engineers. … When you layer enough scores and instruments on top of each other, there is this appearance of something really lush. The combination of movement and layering can completely sweep you away and sound entirely other. But when you break it down, there is every sort of logic in the world behind it.

The thing I love about music composition is that there are so many structures to keep in mind — scales, harmonies, and the like, that one can become thoroughly distracted from one’s creative intent. And when a new musical work appears, it’s sort of like: “You’ve got to be kidding, where did that come from?”
Yes, it’s this miraculous sort of hoodwink that occurs. I don’t know, but I think we are conditioned, prone to it. Experience is something transporting the miraculous through simplicity, but we don’t realize that it is simple. I would say that that is my tactic, something that I have been mesmerized by.

Click here to see more of Linnea Gabriela Spransy’s art.

Linnea Gabriela Spransy
Free, by appointment
Hausmann Millworks
925 W Russell
(210) 884-6390
Through January 30
> Email Scott Andrews


Check out the photos on my flickr account from the opening.