In Her Own Words:
Interviews in Excellence with Artist Taylor Hanigosky
1. How did you arrive at your current art practice? Was there a pivotal moment that got you there?
I think of my current art practice as a process of exploring the relationships and interactions between raw materials and the body. Deepening these relationships and learning how my understanding of one material can inform my experience with another has become somewhat spiritual for me. It is always rooted in the tactile nature of the materials I work with and the physicality of my own body. Over time, I began listening to my yearning for tactile experiences of creativity , and this is what has brought me—and keeps bringing me—to my art practice. When I first moved to Washington state from Ohio about four years ago, I became transfixed by the water-shaped stones that would tumble at the edges of the Puget Sound. I would collect pocketfuls of the smooth quartz and basalt and jasper rocks and bring them home to my apartment where I would arrange them into groupings and study their curves for hours. It was a form of meditation, and I began to hear their stories. For a time, I was drawing them, painting them and photographing them, grasping at straws for a way to translate what they were teaching me. It wasn’t until I started just manipulating the rocks themselves—into sculptures and installations—that the pieces started coming together for me. Standing on the back of these explorations, I moved from Seattle to a farm on the Olympic Peninsula where I began working closely with wool from sheep. I think I had a similar intuitive connection to this soft, warm, lanolin-coated material, as I did when I was first walking along unfamiliar beaches. I realized that my relationship with rock was not isolated, and that I could leverage it as a tool to connect to other materials too. It all felt very interrelated to me, and I am just still sort of soaking in this soup.
2. What does an ideal studio day look like for you?
I often don’t work in a studio. Sometimes my studio is a remote and rocky beach. Sometimes it is a hay field where I am surrounded by the familiar sounds and smells of sheep. Sometimes it is a tiny and cluttered table inside the 12 ft camper trailer where I currently live. I try to be as flexible as I can with where and how I make work, often finding that the variety of spaces in which I create imprint themselves upon my process—and maybe my work even imprints upon them. What is ideal in my life is having the time to do the work. My activities shift with the seasons. I am scattered and chaotic, and I open too many cans of worms at the same time. There’s also aways the pressure to make money, which for me isn’t always related to my art. So I find myself seeking balance in time. An ideal day of creativity is when I feel a certain spaciousness around me. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when I feel it.
3. What is your favorite piece that you have made and why?
I shy away from “favorites” because I think my perception and understanding of my work (and any artwork for that matter) is always shifting. At the moment, however, a work that I have been spending a lot of time understanding and re-understanding, is an on-going series of installations titled Field. Currently, the work consists of a flat plane of suspended white quartzite rocks that the viewer can lie beneath and touch. The first public iteration of the work was hung from fishing line above a queen-sized bed at The Vestibule in Seattle, Washington. Now, I am re imagining the work to be installed outdoors and making use of a scrap material available to me—sheep intestines that I turn into a type of string to replace the fishing line. I dream of Field floating where it can interact with the elements and allow viewers to see rock and sky in the same field of view, from below.
This work resonates with me so much because of how necessarily slow it is. I find solace in long processes that are meditative, tactile, and repetitive. The time involved in creating this installation helps me to better relate to—in my own human way—a much deeper, geologic understanding of time. And also, to relate to my understanding of being human on this earth.
I have been walking the beaches of the Puget Sound for nearly two years gathering smooth, white stones. Each stone is then impacted with a hammer drill and diamond-tipped hole saw to bore a hole all the way through it. Piercing hundreds of rocks with a loud, aggressive, and abrasive tool is something that really contrasts the rest of this quiet and subtle work. I had so much frustration around using this tool when I first began. It felt like such a huge obstacle to what I wanted the end result to be and feel like. However, this challenge is really forcing me to confront some complicated human behaviors. For example, as I am grinding this incredibly hard quartzite rock into dust in less than 10 minutes, I am constantly thinking about the ease and compulsion my culture—that is white, European, and christian— has had throughout history to control and tame the wildness of this earth. I think we often hold onto things that make us feel strong, certain, stable, and secure. Perhaps these very biologically innate emotions are what have led us in the direction of industrialized and orderly civilization. We want to be in control because that feels safe. Personally and artistically, the process of creating Field has put me right in front of these and other difficult questions. I think this energy is strongly influencing the work. From the beginning, my installation work balancing and suspending rock set out to offer a perspective of rock as fragile, liminal, and unstable. When I lie beneath Field, I am overwhelmed by feelings of vulnerability, humility and surrender. I hope to continue creating work that makes me feel this way.
4. What process do you go through in preparing for a work that you are about to make?
I think a lot of my work results from this back and forth conversation I have with the material. I usually interact with it in the beginning without any real idea of where we will go together. It’s very playful and spontaneous. I might crush a rock into pigment and paint lines on a tree, collect everything the color yellow that I can see on the ground, or pick and peel apart the stem of a nettle plant. Once there has been this exploratory period, I do find myself pondering how I can manipulate the material. I’ll make sketches, write short-form poems, or just carry that material with me for weeks until I know what I want to make with it. Eventually the piece sort of creates itself. But I think it is through creating a relationship with the material that this can happen at all. I am very open to the fact that it is a collaboration.
5. What inspires you in the world outside of your work and studio? Why?
I think art—and being an artist—is really just a way of seeing the world. I see art and people making art absolutely everywhere. I am inspired by passionate people, by thinking of how rocks move over time, by vulnerable conversations, by trees who tell stories and water who carries energy, by sensuality.
Relic, The Vestibule, Seattle 2019
Sea Rites, Northwind Art Center, Port Townsend 2019
The Harvest, Bridge Productions, Seattle 2018
The Veil, Bridge Productions--Seattle, 2018
Fragile and Upheld, The Vestibule--Seattle, 2018
time is a landscape, Corridor festival--Seattle, 2018
rock drawings, Victrola--Seattle, 2017
new sketches, Cortona--Seattle 2017
i went to scratch my forehead, BASE experimental arts + space--Seattle, 2017
Celestial Gestures, Coral--Seattle, 2017
The Door to the Invisible Must Be Made Visible, Mount Analogue--Seattle, 2016
On Paper Cravings:
“How to be a Rock Centerfold”
Find them HERE!
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