Cammie Staros

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What Is My Work About? 

My sculptures engage relationships between objects, bodies and language. I consider how physical experience affects representation in both linguistic structure and material presence. My works might elicit a visceral response to perceived fragility or question the conventions of display. I work primarily with non-verbal frameworks, including measurement, knotting patterns and, currently, Greek figure vases.I paint my hand-built sculptures of Grecian pots with historically accurate materials in somewhat less-than-accurate (and not-so-representational) motifs. Together with arm-shaped brackets, brass rods and venetian blinds, these ceramics are posed in pseudo-figurative tableaux. There are Surrealist transubstantiations and Dadaist twists as well as plays on more classical tropes. By transferring the figurative content from explicit painted depiction to implicit of the vase itself, I compare the dynamics of looking at bodies and their art historical stand-ins.

 

Artist Statement

I explore the social conventions of meaning making. I am as deeply invested in the bend of an object to interpretation as to an artist’s touch. I think that objects, like words, gain emphasis and meaning through proximity, association, resemblance and repetition. Raised by a linguist and language-game enthusiast, I have nevertheless always tended towards visual representation, and my interest and humor grew out of probing the object as language to make visual puns, 3-D double entendres and my own semiotic logics.

Much of my practice takes as a starting point a visual system of communication, such as measurement, semaphores or, at present, Athenian Figure Vases. I was originally drawn to these Greek artifacts because of their namesake figures. They are rendered in a lexicon of dress and position as legible as any language. On my pots, however, I all but eliminate human representations. In place of narrative tableaux, I paint these culturally coded pieces with the eyes that traditionally adorn, and anthropomorphize, many of the early artifacts and with framing patterns ranging from Grecian to Abstract. In this way, the ceramics themselves become figures and faces, revealing and concealing the bodies they invoke in both their classical references and their formal ones. They allude to the history of man-made objects, the history of depicting man on objects, and the history of poetic analogies of objects as men, or, more often, as women.

Wanting to make sculptures of pots rather than throw utile ones, I hand build the ceramic shapes for this series, often forming them upside down (as in “Cornered”) or boring them through (as in “Kappa”). I am skewering these forms on brass rods, balancing them on arm-shaped brackets and threading them into venetian blinds. The somewhat veiled and seemingly precarious display adds to the tease of figurative content and reminds viewers of their own bodies in shared space. “Tipless Topless (Endless Column),” at almost ten feet of stacked ceramics, demands a wide birth of stray elbows while seeming to make eye contact with anyone looking. The blinds in other pieces partially conceal ceramic “bodies,” exposing a voyeuristic curiosity that gives an air of peep shows and Peeping Toms. By returning the gaze of the viewer, the works compare ways art and bodies are looking and being looked at.

Along with the very visible art historical allusions to antiquities, my work also references the Modernist preoccupation with the same classical tropes. The twisting arms in “Ess” and “Cornered” have a decidedly Dadaist sense of humor. “Reclining Nude” and “Tipless Topless (Endless Column),” quote established motifs and iconic pieces of Western Art History. The painting on both pieces adds to a kind of hall of mirrors of references: Greek artifacts through Modernism through the lens of contemporary art. As the codes of Modernism, like those of Antiquity long before, become shrouded in ever-more-distant history, they reveal themselves as representational systems with which we can play. By treating the folded historical allusions equally, this work underscores the cyclical and self-referential nature of art history, and history more broadly.

In other works I play with measurement as the language with which we compare the physical world to both standardized and individualized ideas of our selves. In Measuring One Hand Against the Other, for example, one line of brass rods cut to all the Imperial measurements, however uncommon, that relate to the body (a foot, digit, finger, inch, palm, hand, shaftment, span, cubit, ell, and fathom) diverges from a second line reflecting the corresponding measurements of my own petite frame. In “Floor Piece,” I shift the familiar scale of a common building material—a square foot tile of parquet flooring—into a 10-by-10 foot mahogany sculpture. “The Shadow of the Object” is a bolt of industrial felt into which I cut those measurements known as “the body metric” which, in their idealized form, fit into perfect ratios. The piece slumps and sags, and it is in the contrast of this sloppy weight to the geometric incisions that the piece gains a little mystery. I reify these standards and stoppages, these vocabularies with which we describe the world around us, in order to point to the places where our own subjective experiences affect and are affected by those same systems.

I am engaged with the relationship between public expression and private experience. I use culturally significant images, materials and systems in ways that complicate their most common interpretation to highlight the social effort of making order and finding understanding. I am less interested in conveying a singular meaning than in pointing to ways that meaning is made. This leads to a plurality of representations and a layering of secondary and tertiary reads. In indulging the impulse to anthropomorphize objects, attractions to symmetry and the use of bodily metaphors, I attempt to understand and bring attention to the ways our physical experience affects communication. My work emphasizes the role of two (or more) bodies in any exchange of meaning.

 

CV

EDUCATION

2011                 MFA in Art, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA

2006                 BA with Honors in Art and Semiotics, Brown University, Providence, RI

 

 SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2015
Not yet titled, project room at François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Not yet titled, A Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2012
“Carried on Both Sides,” curated by Jack Heard and Ryan McGuffin, Six & Six, Los Angeles, CA

2011
“Rule of Thumb,” Lime and Mint Galleries, Valencia, CA

2010
“Chickasawah,” Lime Gallery, Valencia, CA

2006
“Pet Zeppelins: Love Weapons,” List Center for the Arts, Providence, RI

2005
“Super Neutral,” List Center for the Arts, Providence, RI
“Digital,” List Center for the Arts, Providence, RI

 

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2014
“The Riso Book: Los Angeles,” show as book, curated and published by COLPA Press, Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, Los Angeles, CA
“One Night Black and White,” curated by Rachelle Rojany, PØST, Los Angeles, CA

2012
“Alptraum,” curated by Jay Stuckey, Metro, Manila, Quezon City, Philippines, Goethe Institute Johannesburg, South Africa, The Company, Los Angeles, Deutscher Künstlerbund Projektraum, Berlin, Cell Project Space, London, Transformer, Washington DC

2011
“Jessica Dickinson, Oscar Murillo, Cammie Staros and Phil Wagner,” Mihai Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
“Greater Los Angeles MFA 2011 show,” California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA
“House Show,” curated by Blake Besharian, Los Angeles, CA
“Shortcuts and Pitfalls,” curated by Keaton Macon, PØST, Los Angeles, CA
“Intimacies,” curated by Alex Sagade and Eve Fowler, The Farley Building, Los Angeles, CA

2010                 “
Greater Los Angeles MFA 2010 show,” California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, CA
“Diversions,” Elysian Park Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA

2009
“The May Show,” curated by Chris Lipomi, Los Angeles, CA

2007
“Black Means Go,” Knox’s Fort, Los Angeles, CA

2006
“Zeros To Heroes,” Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, Providence, RI

2005
“A Tube of Titanium White,” List Center for the Arts, Providence, RI

 

CURATATORIAL PROJECTS

2014-Ongoing
“Permanently Closed,” rotating exhibitions in a 3’x10’ light box located at 955 Chung King Rd.
Current exhibition: “David Kasprzak: The Evening was At Once Intimate and Infinite.”

2008
“New Weave,” siteLA, Los Angeles, CA
“Noise,” siteLA, Los Angeles, CA

 

RESIDENCIES

2013
Headlands Center for the Arts Residency

2012
Anderson Ranch Residency

 

PRIZES AND AWARDS

2012
Anderson Ranch Award

2011
Dean’s Award, California Institute of the Arts

2010
National Society of Arts and Letters Scholarship

2009
Dean’s Award, California Institute of the Arts

2006
William and Alethe Weston Fine Arts Award

  

PUBLICATIONS/ PRESS

2015
“In the Round”, solo book project with COLPA press to debut at the Los Angeles Book Fair

2014
“The Riso Book: Los Angeles,” show as book based on the 1968 “The Xerox Book,” COLPA press

2011
Artweek.LA, “Jessica Dickinson, Oscar Murillo, Cammie Staros and Phil Wagner,” September, 2011
Coagula Art Journal, LA Artworld Openings, July 8-10
“Intimacies” catalogue
“Greater LA MFA 2011” catalogue

2010
“Greater LA MFA 2010” catalogue

2007
“Is That All There Is To Fire?” High Energy Constructs, Los Angeles, CA (author)