JSN: Andréa, you are an internationally renowned American artist with exhibitions at The Saint Louis Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri; The Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad in Saint Petersburg, Russia; the Ca'D'Oro Gallery in New York City; and the Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis, Missouri. You are also Professor of Sculpture in Indiana University’s School of Art, Architecture, and Design. Tell us a bit about your past, where you grew-up, and what brought you here to Bloomington.
I'm a Chicago person, through and through—born and raised there. Both of my parents were as well. I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for my undergraduate art education. In an earlier life, I was going to be a musician. I wanted to either be a classical or jazz musician- preferably both — so I've been aware of the excellence of an IU education since I was a kid. My father (the jazz musician) always wanted me to attend the IU Jacobs School of Music.
I ended up getting my MFA at Alfred University’s School of Art and Design in New York in 1997 and then a PhD in the Literary, Musical, and Visual Thought Program from the European Graduate School in Sass-Fee, Switzerland in 2009. But, after graduate school a lot of things really began for me as a young artist right here at IU. 1000 Kisses, an exhibition I worked on with graduatestudents as the Artist in Residence at the Grunwald Gallery, was the beginning of a body of work that centered on engagement with communities. The project became the cornerstone for a body of work that I continue to be involved with. Also, while at IU, I had the opportunity to teach for the first time since graduate school. As a consequence, I had an epiphany about wanting to teach.
I have an enormous interest in Russia and the Russian art world historically, and I spend my summers and breaks in Russia working on a variety of projects, large and small. The Russian and East European Institute and a hoped-for synergy with it were very important in my decision to come to IU.
Why sculpture? Was it something you fell into, a life-long passion, or something in between?
I was one of those kids you remember from school who was always drawing — drawing on the break, drawing in class. Since I didn't become a musician, I was probably always destined to go to art school. Sculpture grew out of my desire to push the two-dimensional things I was understanding through drawing into a larger experiential event in the world — to create the dimensionality that we experience every day within an artwork. The two-dimensional thing wasn't fulfilling a certain reality that I had in my mind. I wanted a larger scope and, in a sense, I wanted to move the language of contemporary art forward. The place that I chose to do this was sculpture.
Mirrors show up quite a lot in your work. What is it about reflection that attracts you? Should we all be doing more or less of it?
What attracts me about reflection is its economy of means. It reaches you on a formal level, it reaches us metaphorically, and it can also reach us on a visceral level, i.e. inducing feelings of vertigo, or feelings of falling. So, as a medium, reflective material has a lot of power within an economy of means and material and I think that is the attraction for me. It allows me to place the viewer within the work, so that the questions and feelings inherent in reflectivity are activated.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on now? Are there any large-scale “dream-projects” you would like to work on in the near (or far) future?
For a number of years now I’ve been working on a multimedia museum exhibition about the Siege of Leningrad — Radio Leningrad (Forget Your Past). The Siege was a little-known event in World War II during which more than 1 million people, mostly women and children, died. The tragedy is beyond understanding, but out of that tragedy and during its course, certain events took place involving the human spirit and human creativity that are unprecedented in history. My focus is really on those acts of creative defiance, particularly Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, rather than the overwhelming tragedy that was the Siege.
Following this interview, Professor Stanislav and Dean Losow held an art performance entitled “Reflect – Space” in Moscow on October 6-9 in connection with Space Week, a Russian event that commemorates the launching of sputnik, the first human-made object to be sent into space. More on the performance can be found at: www.andreastanislav.com/reflect.