Back to the Front, Towels and various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, metal chain.91 x 29 x 33", 2007
Brian Sherwin: Tamara, tell us about your educational background. Where did you study art?
Tamara Kostianovsky: I studied painting in Argentina -where I grew up- and later got an MFA in the United States at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
BS: Tamara, tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?
TK: I realized early on that I wanted to be an artist. My father is a doctor who used to exchange professional treatment for paintings with a small group of artists. At a very young age, I was exposed to studio visits which absolutely mesmerized me. I grew up surrounded by paintings and in contact with professional artists. As I teenager, I decided that I wanted to pursue art professionally.
Abnegation, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 53½ x 49 x 27", 2007
BS: How would you say that your work has advanced since that time?
TK: More than anything, it was my experience of immigration to this country that made me reflect on what I wanted to say with my art. Once in the States, I went through what can be called an identity crises. Overnight, the context that used to define who I was suddenly disappeared. Also in the States, I became familiar with many art movements that I wasn't aware of before: the Feminist Art Movement and Arte Povera were major influences in my work.
BS: With that said, is there anything else you would like to tell us about your background in regards to how your art has evolved?
TK: A few months after my arrival to the United States in 2000, the Argentinean economy collapsed. This fact had an enormous influence in my life because I was planning to live for that first year in the States with some money that was coming from Argentina, but all of a sudden, those resources were not available. By then, I couldn't afford rent, let alone art supplies! My compulsion to create began utilizing those things that I had at hand. I worked with hair for a few years and more recently, I have been working with the clothes I had brought from Argentina. The material choice was born out of necessity but overtime it became a political statement to reuse domestic items to make artwork with instead of engaging in the consumerist system.
Unearthed, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 74 x 26 x 17'', 2007
BS: Tamara, can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?
TK: I usually have a vision of what I want my work to be about or look like. The rest is just submerging myself in a process that tries to transform that vision into something physical. It's hard for me to know when a work is finished. I'm a very anxious person and always feel that the work is done before it actually is. So I let my work sit around for a few weeks after I think it is finished and then go back to it and work on the areas that don't satisfy me.
BS: Aside from what you've already mentioned... how does current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?
TK: Recently, I have been interested in understanding how we processviolence culturally. The Unearthed series investigates more directlyour relationship to violent images. I am interested in speaking aboutviolence because it seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time: we are all familiar with the idea of war and crime, but ouremotional connection to violence is detached from its actual aftermath. I do not think that we would be at war if most people werefamiliar with the images of bodies dismembered after a bomb explodes.I don't think people would engage in violent acts if we were allcloser to the image of a knife slicing somebody's throat.
I've been using images of cows instead of those of people because Iwant to moderate the shock to avoid having the viewer be repulsed bythe imagery in the work. In this sense, a large part of my approachinvolves making violence appear aesthetic. I use beauty as a means topull the viewer into the work. By representing images of violence thatare censored out of our collective consciousness, I intend to connectpeople with the everyday reality of violence, hoping that new stepswill be taken to avoid it.
Second Skin, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 60 x 29 x 12", 2007
BS: Tamara, tell us more about the philosophy behind your art...
TK: With this new series, my intent is to confront the audience with the real nature of violence, offering a context for reflecting about its uses and effects, for evaluating the vulnerability of our physical existences.
BS: Can you go into further detail about how the medium(s) that you use help to express your message?
TK: Speaking about violence without being confronted with the physical aspect of it crates a sense of disconnectedness, making violence appear abstract. Alternatively, I create sculptures using clothes or domestic items that most of us are familiar with. In using these materials for the creation of mutilated or dismembered bodies, I am attempting to connect the violent imagery that I am working with in conjunction to the sensitivity, the domesticity, and the desire that we experience with our clothing.
Motherland, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 67 x 28 x 15", 2007
BS: Tamara, what is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music?
TK: I listen to the radio while I work, which eases the lonely part of making art. I like to work for long stretches of time, so about 3 times a week I am able to work for 9 or more hours in the studio without having other stuff interfering with my process. I like working with natural light so I start the day early and work until it's dark.
BS: What are you working on at this time?
TK: I'm working on another piece of this series and I'm also investigating making sculptures with real beef.
BS: Tamara, do you have an upcoming exhibit? Where can our readers view your work?
TK: I have two sculptures in the S-Files 007, El Museo del Barrio's 5th Biennial in New York. The exhibition will be up until January. My earlier work can be found at www.tamarakostianovsky.com.
Detail of Unearthed
BS: Tamara, the internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how have sites like myartspace.com empowered you as an artist?
TK: My experience with the site has been wonderful because it brought my work closer to a community or art people who have very positively received my work.
BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
TK: I hope my work can translate some issues of our time into a visual experience that is moving and can enable us to reflect on our everyday choices.
Take care, Stay true,