Interview with Stevie Lee Tanner

Stevie Lee Tanner is a current MFA candidate at the University of Delaware. She grew up in Oberlin, Ohio and received her BFA from Myers School of art at the University of Akron, Ohio. Stevie is a lover of wildlife, the outdoors, and baby animals of all kinds. She currently resides in Delaware with her Husband and fellow artist, along with their two cats and four hermit crabs.

43885 State Route 18 Wellington Ohio

Stevie Lee Tanner, 43885 State Route 18 Wellington Ohio, 2016, Collagraph

 

LR: Will you briefly describe your process? You can pick a specific piece or your overall process.

S: To start, I use mostly traditional processes, like painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, a little bit of sculpture. Within printmaking, I’ve been using collagraphs, a printmaking process that is an intaglio process, but it’s done using cardboard or matte board instead of copper plates.

LR: Where do these images come from and how do you choose what images to include in your prints?

S: I source the images from street view in Google Earth and they’re all images of places I know. When I’m on Google Earth, I’ll pick an area that’s within the county that I’m from, which is Lorain County, then I’ll start navigating around the streets and I’ll select certain areas that are interesting, sometimes I’ll select an area with significance.

LR: So, it sounds like you have a method to making your prints, within that process, are there any surprises you come across?

S: Printmaking is nothing but surprises. I can have a general idea of what the image is going to look like, but I really don’t know until it’s printed and then it can be printed a million different ways. Part of it is knowing the technique well and part of it is being okay with things turning out differently; being okay with experimentation and being a perfectionist and not a perfectionist at the same time.

LR: So, you accept that there’s chance involved or that you’re not going to know what is going to happen?

S: Definitely. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen, you can end up with incredible looking things that you couldn’t have painted. That’s the part that drew me to printmaking. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen, you can invent new processes and turn those happy accidents into a learned technique.

LR: Do you feel like your work is gendered in any way?

S: I’ve been told so. That’s a hard question. I wish my work wasn’t. I was just looking at my landscapes and wondering if a viewer would see my work differently if they didn’t know they were made by a woman. The landscapes that I’m making right now are a little less gendered than my work has been in the past. I’ve used a lot of subject matter that has been associated with femininity, like flowers, wildlife, birds, nests, and domestic imagery. When I was working with that subject matter, it was very common for people to reference femininity. I guess it depends. Maybe for women my work it isn’t gendered, but for men it could be easier to point out what looks more “girly.”

LR: What do you think makes your landscapes less gendered than other series you’ve made?

S: In this specific series, I tried really hard to have them equally detached and equally personal. I tried to make some of them detached as well as very precious. I’m interested in things being aesthetically pleasing, almost to the point of being decorative. Especially with complimentary colors. So, you do see that come in some of the prints, but there are others where there’s not as much color variation and it’s a very straight forward image from Google Earth. If it retains that “generic-ness,” I think that it makes my work less gendered. Not that I agree with this, but it seems that the more personal the imagery, the more female it is.

43709 Oberlin Elyria Road Oberlin Ohio

Stevie Lee Tanner, 43709 Oberlin Elyria Road Oberlin Ohio, 2016, Collagraph

“A lot of the female printmakers I look at may never be taken seriously in certain galleries in New York because of their subject matter. But, at that same gallery, they could have floral paintings done by a male. I feel like – what else are we supposed to do? As women, we’re put in a hard place with that.”

LR: I’m interested in what you said about embracing versus repelling the idea of gender in art. “Femaleness” being something to be celebrated and talked about. But, then in some ways, that puts artists in a niche and can take them out of what is considered “serious art.”

S: I really love Kiki Smith, but in my opinion, I feel like she puts a hard edge or roughness on her work. I wonder if she would fit in with the boys or the “big shots” if she didn’t put that edge on her work. It’s almost like, in order to be canonized in a certain way, you have to have an edge. A lot of the female printmakers I look at may never be taken seriously in certain galleries in New York because of their subject matter. But, at that same gallery, they could have floral paintings done by a male. I feel like – what else are we supposed to do? I don’t want to reduce myself to being all about flowers and nature, because I’m more than that, but I’m not going to deny that I enjoy the aesthetics of that imagery. I’m not going to hide from that because I’m a girl and that’s stereotypical. I feel like, as women, we’re put in a hard place with that.

1012 Mechanic Street Grafton Ohio

Stevie Lee Tanner, 1012 Mechanic Street Grafton Ohio, 2016, Collagraph

To view more of Stevie’s work, check out: https://stevieleetanner.carbonmade.com/

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