Paola Cabal is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as a recipient of the prestigious Richard H. Driehaus Award for emerging artists, among numerous others. When she isn’t developing work in her own practice she is considering space with (f)utility Projects, a 3 person collaborative including Christopher Grieshaber & Michael Genge.
Kristina: What kind of artist do you consider yourself?
Paola: I was trained as a painter/drawer and I consider my site specific installation work to be an extension of that same kind of observational practice. One of my rules is that I can’t invent things. The things in the pieces I make in my own practice have to already exist and I just amplifying them in some way. I think there are people who are really good at inventing things from their imaginations and coming up with forms that are compelling from their imaginations, but I dont think about myself as an inventor. I think about myself as a responder.
K: Can you tell me more about this piece?
P: Yes, that’s my friend Shira Avni, standing in my MFA thesis piece which was titled “Here Tomorrow”. 2003. It was the first sunlight piece.
K: Which is a series now?
P: Yes. I’ve worked a lot more with sunlight since then: falling on floors and walls. Light pretending to come into a space except it doesnt really, falling on other peoples artwork, and falling on people themselves.
K: I was going to ask about light as a source of inspiration because of these pieces. Although, they might be the opposite of light falling, and perhaps more about light revealing?
P: I don’t quite know where I’m going with those except that since working with the collaborative I’ve been searching for ways to make the light more material. Hence floating on walls, and some pieces I started in mexico, also on paper, that are very about the paper as material. Light isn’t a thing and yet it has weight and impact like a thing with volume that occupies space would have. I’ve always been a little mystified/made hungry by that contradiction as moving towards material is just more of a way to make light more thing like and less ephemeral. I have a problem with ephemerality. I don’t like for things to change, or I am okay with change but I don’t like change that changes very fast, practically moment to moment or second to second like babies and children do or like sunlight does. I find rapid change unsettling. So I’m trying to make things stay. Sunlight is the thing I am trying to make stay, but it’s also a stand in for all the things that don’t stay and I wish would.
K: You are working on a piece now for a show in May?
P: Yes. In a way, “Annalemma” is a really old piece in the sense that I have had the idea at least since 2005 and I’ve just been waiting for a good venue to make it in. So, this will be a site specific spray-painted piece on two walls at the HairPin Art Center where I am mapping the shapes the sunlight makes on these walls at about 7:15 AM every two weeks, all year long.
K: You’ve been keeping track for a while?
P: I’ve been keeping track since the beginning of February.
K: I’m sort of in love with this notion, and actually the stacking nature of it. Stacking information to form a whole piece is not unlike the stacking you’ve been doing to make your other peices. I think that was more literal stacking to make a more literal picture, but still similar. Have you considered that a commonality in your work?
P: Stacking? Hmm.
P: When I think about stacking I think about my friend Rosy Keyser Winterer, who I went to grad school with and who now shows with Peter Blum, a chelsea gallerist. In grad school Rosy was making these delicious visceral paintings of stacks. That’s where my literal brain goes when I think of stacking. Or Dianna Frid. Definite Stacker. Epecially in her sculptural work. I could get behind that I’m a “layerer,” but I don’t think about myself as a stacker. However, I could see maybe becoming a stacker in some future point. I don’t think I’m necessarily into layering as a visual device or a language, it’s more like the layering that happens in my work is a by product of what all I want to see presented at once.
K: Relative to time?
P: Yes. I want to see *all* of the the sun that comes into a space at once. All the sun from one day (I’ve done three of those), and now all of the sun that comes in over the course of the year at a particular time (the next piece).
K: And when you work with Chris and Mike, do you think you shift focus?
P: Our de facto rules in the collaborative have to do with us amplifying some visual aspect of the spaces we work in, so in the sense that we dont invent things, its still the same focus. The difference is that with the collaborative we dont always talk to light; there are a lot of different things we might be interested in talking to that are not specifically about light.
K: But you build a space within a space, that isn’t actually a space?
P: Yes, but the parameters for whatever illusory space we might be building are still riffing on something that was already happening in the space to begin with. Happening in the *real* space, or *actual* space I should qualify.