Hometown/ Current town:
Born in Maldonado Uruguay, live and work in Philadelphia PA.
Bio: An Uruguayan American artist based in Philadelphia, A.V. Rankin has exhibited extensively and received various awards. A.V. holds an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a BA in art history from Temple University. Her work resides in international, public, corporate and private collections.
Upcoming projects: Woodmere Museum 76th Annual Exhibition.
Founder of BrobDinGnag, a curatorial program featuring international curators and artists with a focus on diversity, nondualism, and decolonization.
Describe your work.
I make drawings, paintings and sculptures about travel and cartography, based on scientific reference material. Recently I have been studying star maps and images captured using powerful telescopes and other mediating technologies such as subatomic particle collider readouts. These images are transmuted into art that explores the phenomenological sense of being in and of the universe.
What are you currently working on?
Fleshplanet collages, particle dispersion drawings, solar powered starlights, a large star map of Mexico in mid-winter, and a temperature-delta world map.
What materials do you work with?
Materials define my artwork. A beautifully executed graphite drawing on a luscious piece of paper has an incomparable purity, for example. A magazine collage comes with lots of aesthetic baggage that is wrapped up in feminism, consumerism, 20th century aesthetics, idealization and objectification. I use whatever material best suits the work that I am undertaking. From exquisite oil paints with the finest pigments or laser-etched acrylic, to sidewalk salt to actual soil, my materials convey a significant portion of the messages coded in my art.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Exercise is a key ingredient to keeping me productive. I run outside (slowly and not very far), do stiff yoga, row to nowhere in my basement when the weather is not good for running, lift kettlebells, dumbbells, and kick/box a heavy bag. When I feel down, it’s time to sweat for a while.
I also love food and plants. Harvests from my herb garden make up a lot of the spices in my cooking, with the occasional onion, carrot, tomato and pepper in the summer.
In terms of my studio practice, the most important part is just showing up. If I am there, I am working. No exceptions.
What’s been happening in your life?
Since my big maps are big (8 feet wide by 8, 10, up to 16 feet long), having a good-sized studio space to work on them is really important. The last four years have been a roller coaster in terms of work space, with a studio building’s roof collapse, another studio building being sold off to developers et cetera. A year ago, I landed at Viking Mill Studios, upstairs from Little Berlin, and have found the space and the people to be quite lovely and nurturing. A slightly larger, brighter space in the same building just came open, and I moved into it last week. So I am happily working on this interview in my big bright studio that can hold 4 of my large paintings at a time. Huzzah!
What’s next for you?
Curation has always been very important to me, as it is often curators that bring artists into the public light, and help us explain in words what we are sharing as images. I have been lucky to spend time as a resident artist in Italy, Greece, Mexico and Ecuador, and met some wonderful ‘art people’ during my travels. Now that I have a good space to work from, I will be inviting some international curators and artists to come share their work in Philadelphia. Using my art space as a base of operations, we will bring some of the incredible artwork being made all over the world that deals with similar issues as what I see being exhibited in Philadelphia/New York, while approaching these subjects from different viewpoints. The curators that I am inviting over the next year share an appreciation for diversity, nondualism, and the need to de-colonize the way we think about ourselves, our bodies and our environment.
Some folks to look forward to: Alien Architect and Rebecca Martell from Lilliput in Mexico, curator Gabriela Marquez from Chile, and Black Lesbian Fishermen from Greece.
Describe your current state of mind.
I am living perpetually somewhere between hope and despair. Focusing on the big picture has made me acutely aware of how tenuous our primacy in this tiny speck of space-dust called Earth is. It takes courage to accept our world as it is, without the magical thinking that distorts the religious, or ideological single-mindedness that drives the righteous. I am grateful that my place in this world right now allows me to wake up each morning to do work that I am passionate and excited about, and go to sleep at night next to my beloved Rufus.
What’s inspiring you?
Everything all the time.
Do you have any other exhibits coming up/ past exhibits you’d like to mention?
Coming up next locally, I have a large world map with the south at the top, titled El Sur, in the Woodmere Museum 76th Annual exhibit.
My next solo show away is at The Loin in San Francisco – it’s going to be my first time showing nothing but fleshplanets. We are thinking of calling it Fleshplanetarium. We are also working on getting some fleshplanets into a gallery in Santiago de Chile.
I recently had my first big solo exhibition in Philadelphia at James Oliver Gallery. It was such an incredible experience. Hundreds of people came to the opening, gallery talk and closing receptions. The crowd was so diverse and engaged. There were college students and professors, collectors, curators, basically everyone that I have ever wanted to come check out my work. Much of the artwork sold, including the biggest painting I have ever made, called DNA Machine, which is 16 feet tall by 8 feet wide. JOG’s team is made up of some of the coolest, kindest, most generous people I have ever met. They made me feel so welcome in my adoptive city of Philadelphia.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
The physical sense of being and of the universe. The simultaneous insignificance and all -encompassing importance of our time here on earth.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an artist?
I am a short brown woman with an easy smile, so being taken seriously comes at great effort.
When I was younger, I was often infantilized and dismissed as a girl that would get married, have a bunch of kids, and stop making art, not necessarily in that order. Now that I am older, I can feel the clock ticking until I become an invisible old lady that ‘makes pretty pictures to pass the time’ until death, one thinks….
Well, fuck both those stupid stereotypes.
I am a serious artist, committed to my craft, who deserves a place in the contemporary art world.
How has the meaning of your work changed over time?
This is a tough question. I think mostly the meaning hasn’t changed, but the delivery has. Instead of giving so many answers, my current work is asking more questions.
What is your dream project?
I dream of being artist in residence at NASA, SPACEX, Fermi Lab, CERN or Lockheed Martin. I want to hang out with scientists in labs and translate the work they are doing into hand made, human art that is poetic and approachable by non-scientists, yet still accurate and truthful.
Are you involved with any organizations?
I teach classes at Warren County Community College and the Main Line Art Center. Also, I am sometimes a guest critic at the Carver Center Institute for Arts and Technology.
Recently, The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy invited me to join the Philadelphia Cultural Advisory Council, which is a big honor.
Do you regularly collaborate with other artists?
What are a few favorite spots in your area?
I love Tattooed Moms, The Random Tea Room, La Peg, L’Etage, and other places that engage the arts and culture without being formal institutions.
Favorite artists and why? People in your field whom you most admire:
Anne Hamilton and Vija Celmins are the two living artists of most influence at this moment. Hamilton because of the straightforward yet subtle symbolism, physicality and humanity present in her work. Celmins because she approaches similar subjects as I do, and in such an exquisitely brutal way – the sky, the ocean, mimicry through process. Another is Anselm Kiefer, whose scale and materiality made a strong impression on me a few years ago. I think about creating objects with similar abandon and passion, and giving myself up to art in the way they do.
Favorite authors, fiction: Neal Stephenson, Octavia Butler, Aldous Huxley
Favorite comic strips/ comic books/ graphic novels? Sandman
What are you listening to these days? A lot of South American music by women – Ana Tijoux, Bomba Estereo, Mala Rodriguez, Las Camionas. Also, there is this amazing CD called ‘A Guide to the Birdsong of South America’ that I just keep playing on repeat….
What was the last show (music) you attended?
I went to a STARWOOD concert last night. Those robots from the future are such amazing performers!
What was the last exhibit you attended?
The latest exhibition that had a deep impact on my practice was Tom Sachs’s Space Program: Europa at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
Later this afternoon, I am headed to the Recycled Artists in Residence for The Quiet Circus: River Charette 2.
What was the first piece of artwork you bought/ do you buy a lot of artwork?
I do have a growing collection of contemporary artwork.
Currently I am paying off a piece by Carolyn Garay and just commissioned a secret gift for my significant other.
Is any of your work political?
This question has been coming up a lot recently, and for good reason.
Although I have never viewed my work as political, because I prefer to let each viewer interpret my images in their own way, much of the subject matter I deal with is now implicated in politics. For example, I make drawings and paintings based on scientific images, using data from the Hubble Space telescope, or Fermi Lab’s bubble chamber readouts. Science is viewed with suspicion and even antipathy by this administration, so my work could also be seen as being in opposition. My world maps and fleshplanets deal with the idea of the global human family, which is out of fashion in much of the country at this time.
So while my belief is that the arts and sciences are fields that should remain above politics, being an unbiased artist or scientist is a political stance in itself during these troubled times.
Your website(s): www.avrankin.com