Category Archives: Van Stiefel

SEEPAGES: Conversation with the Artists

On opening weekend of our Seepages exhibit, curator Caroline Lathan-Stiefel and participating artists Van Stiefel and John Otte elucidated their ideas behind the exhibit. Quite insightful, we thought we would share with you some of the highlights.

Over the last 10 years, the concept of seepage has been an integral part of artist and curator Caroline Lathan-Stiefel’s work. For her, “seepage” implies a system breakdown, as well as “a flow that breaks up a clog.” The exhibit Seepages is a collaborative project by a group of artists whose works can be seen as a response to inhabiting and navigating contemporary urban and suburban environments. This group installation explores the idea that urban, suburban, and natural realms are not separate entities, but rather permeable, fluid spaces that connect and seep into each other.

To illustrate how seepage has been part of her artistic trajectory, Caroline shows pictures of an earlier project Roam, for which she made small, outdoor installations around her suburban home. Other earlier projects she discussed included the creation of an outdoor installation attached to a scarred tree in her backyard, which had lost its limbs in a storm.

Caroline stands next to Thomas Vance’s Niwaki sculptures that reference the cloud-like pruned trees in Japanese suburban gardens. For Caroline, the Niwaki sculptures relate to the concept of “suburban” seepage, while also conjuring up the unsettling feeling that arises when humans attempt to control nature.

For Van Stiefel, sound is extremely pertinent to the seepages concept because “…we have eyelids not earlids!” His sound installation consists of eight tracks comprised of natural sounds mixed with synthetic sounds. The computer then creates uncontrolled melodies from these sounds. Married to Caroline, Van Stiefel has created “field recordings” of sounds around their suburban home ranging from the sound of ice melting in their gutters to mixing the sounds of birds chirping in the early morning and evening.

 Artist John Otte reflects upon the art-making process as one that is cathartic: For Otte, artists create their art in the midst of considerable “destructive, ugly and frightening stuff”.” Making art serves as a “…way to make it better and inhabitable and somehow get us through the day.” In reference to the exhibition space for the installation, Otte remarks that whitespace itself is reflective of seepages, since it too is a “hybrid place – there’s already a lot of seepages in here.”

Ward Davenny and Kate Stewart stand in front of their collaborative mixed-media painting “Smoke Drawing.” Inspired by Ward’s enthusiasm for chasing storms, he and Kate thought of seepages as smoke or a storm cloud brewing. With this in mind, they decided to take a torch and smoke the canvas.

Snapshots of the opening reception for Seepages

Crowd in front of “Hinterland,” a group installation by Caroline Lathan-Stiefel (fabric sculpture), John Otte (brick wall collage & video), and Van Stiefel (sound).

Caroline’s dad, “Dr. Bob” Lathan, listening to Van Stiefel’s sound recording, Solaris.
A viewer in front of Thomas Vance’s Tumble (acrylic, ink, & sculptamold on cardboard).
Critic and writer Jonathan Lerner taking in Caroline’s Roam (red 1).
Arden Bendler Browning’s Blindspots (gouache and flashe on Tyvek).
Seepages is currently on view in the gallery until July 31st. We hope to see you soon!
Participating Artists: Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Van Stiefel, Arden Bendler Browning, Thomas Vance, John Otte, Kate Stewart and Ward Davenny.

"Seepages" curated by Caroline Lathan-Stiefel

On June 25th, our next exhibit Seepages will open. Curated by Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Seepages is a collaborative project by artists whose works are a response to inhabiting and navigating contemporary urban and suburban environments. Their work explores the idea that urban, suburban, and natural realms are not separate entities, but rather permeable, fluid spaces that connect and seep into each other.

Participating Artists: Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Arden Bendler Browning, Van Stiefel, Thomas Vance, John Otte, Kate Stewart & Ward Davenny.

Exhibit Dates: June 25-July 31
Opening Reception: Friday, June 25 | 7 – 10 
Conversation with the Artists: Saturday, June 26th @ 3pm

 Made of textiles, crafts, and recyclables, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel’s sculptural installations reference both man-made and natural elements. Allusions to architectural forms, chain link fences, plumbing fixtures, fungi, and stalactites cover, divide, encircle, and fill the spaces in which they are situated.  For her sculptural installation Hinterland, Caroline collaborated with her husband Van Stiefel, who has created an accompanying sound installation. Mixed with musical elements and computer-generated sound, Van Stiefel’s sound installations consist of processed recordings made in and around their Pennsylvanian home. 

“Ambient sounds recorded in and around our suburban home (birds, ice melting, neighbors grilling, distant motors) are blended with real time audio processing of the original recordings in eight channels. The computer shifts the various sounds among eight car speakers placed within the sculpture, exploring realistic/illusionistic representations of space.” (Van Stiefel)

Thomas Vance, “Untitled”, pencil/colored pencil on graph paper, 15 5/16″ x 9 3/16″, 2010.

 

Arden Bendler Browning’s daily travels through Philadelphia’s “dichotomous landscape” strongly inform her multi-perspective images, which include both small drawings on paper and wall-sized paintings on tyvek.

Arden Bendler Browning, “Rubble”, drawing on paper, 15″ x 22″, 2009.


John Otte’s finely textured mixed media paintings and collages suggest devastated abstract landscapes that are both elegiac and highly-charged.

John Otte, “Sugar & Shit”, collage, 11″ x 17″, 2009.

Kate Stewart’s paintings explore notions of shelter and escape in response to both real and contrived man-made catastrophes and natural disasters.

Kate Stewart, “Lawncare Vortex”,
acrylic & mica powder on paper,
24″ x 18″, 2010.

For Seepages, Kate Stewart has also collaborated with artist Ward Davenny to create a large-scale painting utilizing paint and soot. (Image Left: Davenny in action “smoking” the canvas.)

Ward Davenny, “Reclaimed Landfill”, charcoal on paper, 12.5″ x 16.5″, 2010.