Artist/Sculptor Judith G. Klausner speaks with Opinion8ed2

Judith G. Klausner

Opinion8ed2:  So much of your work investigates the world at tiny scales that are not often examined or exploited in the art world.  On your website (jgklausner.com) you talk about a kind of epiphany following the reactions by some to your insect sculptures:

I first began working with insects in 2005, and was startled by the strong reactions of disgust I received. It struck me as tragic that our cultural phobia could blind us so effectively to such exquisite delicacy. From there I became interested in examining what other small beauty was lost to us through prejudice or oversight.

I can recall even your earliest works at quite a young age included fantastic details in exceptionally tiny sculpted figures, often posed in complex scenes…so I suspect that you have always had an appreciation for the “small beauty” that is overlooked.  Can you identify any creative art or literary influences that might have encouraged you to seek the “exquisite delicacy” that is lost on most of us?

Triumph: The moth & light are one.

Judith:  As children, we have all lived in a world that was primarily scaled for people much larger than ourselves. Maybe it’s the novel power in the turnaround of being the giants, or maybe it’s a total embracing of smallness. Either way, miniatures seem to hold a particular fascination for children. I used to spend hours imagining I was only a few inches tall, exploring the topographies of rumpled blankets and stacks of records, their nooks turning to caverns and hideouts. I loved “The Borrowers” and “The Littles,” though whether that inspired my love for small things or was inspired by it feels chicken-and-egg to me now.  I had a dollhouse that I loved that was filled with items in mis-matched scales.

Opinion8ed2:  Good point…I guess the concept of relative scale is universal and we can all remember staring at ants scurrying about, oblivious to our gaze while fantasizing about being ants in someone else’s universe.  And I like your analogy: your work takes us on a virtual tour inside that doll house of mismatched scales from your childhood.  But from a practical standpoint working in the world of the small, I imagine that you probably need to adapt, improvise or invent special tools to assist you in your work.  Does that challenge add to the enjoyment of the creative process or merely represent an obstacle that must be overcome? Can you describe some of the more unusual tools you’ve used to create your pieces?

Judith's oreo carving tool

Judith:  It’s true that I have yet to find an art supply store that stocks “Oreo cream carvers” or “toast needles.” Because of this, I have learned to be resourceful with common household objects. An old co-worker teased me that I did everything with a pin, which isn’t so far from the truth. Flat-head sewing pins and toothpicks are probably my most common tools of choice – they’re remarkably versatile.

Honestly, I am often frustrated by having to adapt makeshift equipment. I am an impatient person at heart, and I want to get to the creating!

Opinion8ed2:  In addition to the unique aspect of scale, much of your work explores the use of novel materials – actually common materials that are novel for applications in art and sculpture.  Insects, nail clippings, baby teeth, Oreo cookies, toast and Chex cereals to name a few you’ve used of late are not the usual stuff you expect to see at the art gallery.  You mentioned the classic chicken and egg problem in a different context but it reminds me that sometimes songwriters get asked, “Which comes first:  the music or the lyrics?”…can you tell us a little bit about the process of selecting the materials you choose for specific projects and how you came to select them?

Queen of Hearts

Judith:   Generally the first idea with a new kind of material is a strike of inspiration (in the case of insects, it was a dead cicada stuck in the kitchen window screen combined with a college sculpture assignment about juxtaposition; with packaged food, it was a bad pun in my head about “Kraft” and “craft”.) After that, I use the category as a prompt for future brainstorming. I try to walk the thin line of creating a cohesive collection of work while not boxing myself into a corner. It can be a difficult balance to keep!

Opinion8ed2:  Regardless of talent, it is quite a challenge to earn a living as an artist and I know you’ve had your share of day jobs to make ends meet.  I’m really pleased to see you getting more and more attention for your work and that you are beginning to reap some financial rewards by making available for sale photos of some of your pieces.  Have you considered making some of the originals themselves available for purchase?  Have you been approached by Nabisco or Chex to use your work to advertise their products?  Have you considered taking on commissions for personalized Oreo cameos?

Cereal Sampler

Judith:   Thank you! I do intend to make some of the originals available for sale (I’ve had some inquiries in that direction), right now I’m working on methods of preserving the work without compromising the surface textures too much.

I’ve had a couple of requests for personalized Oreos, but I’m hesitant to pursue that direction, as I think it would compromise the conceptual integrity of the series. The only Oreo portrait I’ve done is of my mom, from whom I get a much of my feminism in addition to much of my critical thinking about my more traditionally “feminine” characteristics.

I haven’t been approached yet by Nabisco or Ralston-Purina, but if they get in touch I’d be willing to chat!

Opinion8ed2:  As your work becomes increasingly well-known, instead of chastising their children for playing with their food, I can imagine parents will be saying, Stop eating the artwork!

Bread Embroidery

Judith:   I hope that that’s the case! It would be wonderful to think that my work might help encourage parents to encourage their kids’ creativity the way my parents did.

Opinion8ed2:  Can you tell us about any of your new projects?

Judith:   Right now I’m working on a stained glass panel made with gummy candies. I’m pretty happy with how it’s coming out so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it finished and up on the site within the next month or so.

Opinion8ed2:  Mmmmm, Looking forward to seeing that!  Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us –

Judith:   Thank you!

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You can hear Judith talking about her work in a recent radio interview by Robin Young on NPR’s Here and Now Judith Klausner interviewed on NPR Here and Now.

Published in: on January 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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