Artists are unique people with unique obsessions. This must be what makes their work so interesting. Take Jonathan Brilliant and Karin Olah of Redux’s current Past Presence exhibit for example: He claims to be transfixed by the coffee cup, while she has professed her love for the art of quilt-making.
At the last of Redux’s Artist Talks series on Thursday night, Brilliant and Olah each took time to share stories about their process as artists and the inspiration that fuels their work. Both artists accompanied their lecture with quirky, and at times bizarre slide shows and videos, that are nothing short of expected from the minds of creative eccentrics.
Brilliant became fascinated by the coffee cup during his pre-studio times spent sketching at café tables in Starbucks. After watching customers flock in day after day to get their much-beloved cappuccinos and soy lattes, Brilliant redefined the coffee cup as a fetish object. Since this pivotal moment of changed perspective, Brilliant created incredible installations using everything from coffee cups to stirrers to sugar packets. His current installation at Redux was an attempt to create the “ultimate fetish object” by placing vibrating dildos in coffee cups and attaching them to motion sensors, causing the cups to vibrate when an observer passes by. His next project is traveling across the country on his “Have Sticks Will Travel Tour” where he will be visiting various galleries to build massive, suspended sculptures from coffee stirrer sticks (like his recent installation at City Gallery). Since his career has taken off, Brilliant has been able to order his stirrers directly from the manufacturer, but still will “on occasion liberate materials from Starbucks.”
Karin Olah began her presentation by giving a brief history of quilt-making complete with pictures. She became fascinated with the art growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania near Amish communities, where quilt making is one of the only creative outlets for women. After a brief stint working for a textile studio in New York City, Olah eventually moved to Charleston, where she began working with fabrics on paper. She “took the principles of quilt-making and fused them with painting.” Her work has since evolved into a series of beautifully intricate pieces using various forms of fabric, including men’s business shirts from the '70s (thanks to Olah’s father), charcoal, thread, and other materials. Her exhibit at Redux is like a garden of fabric growing against a wall, composed of flowerbox-like canvases with floral inspired shapes, and stems, which run onto the gallery walls. With their flowing collages of shapes and colors, Olah views her work as a “further collaboration onto the history of quilt-making.”
Redux’s Artist Talks helped bridge that gap between the observer and the artist — a gap we often find ourselves expressing verbally with, “now how the hell did they think of that?” After an hour inside the minds of Brilliant and Olah, one begins to understand the way they think, and views their work with a whole new weight of meaning, as if you can see their artistic process unfolding within the work itself.