Travis Childers was born in Nashville, TN and basically grew up out in the country, an experience that later had much influence on his work. He received his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and his BFA from Austin Peay State University. He has shown widely both nationally and internationally in such venues as Benrimon Gallery and RARE Gallery in New York City and locally at the Curator’s Office and Katzen Art Museum.
Childers says about his work:
“I’ve always used my art as a way to try to understand the world around me, as well as to confront the things that keep me up at night. Over the years I’ve explored a variety of subjects ranging from political issues to the states of our bodies. And although I still explore a variety of issues, lately I’ve been drawn to environmental concerns and our relationship with nature. It always amazes me how human beings are a part of the natural world but also seem so very far from it. It’s a subject that’s very close to my heart since I grew up out in the country on a farm in Tennessee. This experience when I was young instilled in me an incredible respect not only for the beauty of nature but also the inter-workings of it, even if those inter-workings can seem cruel at times. It worries me the detrimental effect we have had on the natural world, and not just the usual suspects, such as big company polluters but each of us as individuals. Our everyday lives and gestures impact nature greatly: what we choose to eat, drive, our jobs and the simple materials we use every day to complete the endless task required of us to maintain our society. All these thoughts and concerns have led my sculptural processes to focus on a series of work that use everyday materials to remind of us our connection and impact to nature.
One example of this is the pieces called Stumps. With this piece I took number two pencils and made them into tree stumps, referencing the action that required a tree to eventually become a pencil. The tree as a pencil is further decimated by the user sharpening to use. The simple gestures we do to use nature to our own will and make it a disposable commodity.
There is a humorous and absurd approach I like to use when producing my work. I like the absurd and unexpected juxtapositions of materials and forms. It might be because I see so much of the world as absurd and I’m always questioning the things I see around me. My inspiration comes from office supply stores and grocery stores instead of art supply stores, and the mundane activities of our lives. Unfortunately for most of us, the mundane is what dictates our everyday existence, and I find endless inspiration in that.”
Karen Fitzgerald is an artist based in Alexandria, Virginia who exhibits frequently throughout the US. In 2016, she was selected to take part in the Artists Studios US residency program, along with being awarded Sotheby’s Open-Call Artist Prize from the Athenaeum. Fitzgerald’s work was also chosen for inclusion in the permanent collection of the Purdue Galleries and profiled in “40 Years of Art and Community,” highlighting associate artists at the Torpedo Factory, where her most recent public art project, For We Rise Against the Wind, will be on view until January 29, 2018.
Fitzgerald says about her work:
“I create art out of common, everyday things. From discarded clothing to junk mail, I’m motivated by the context of a material— its original purpose and place in our lives as well as the many hands and ideas involved in its creation. I “make paint” by breaking these materials down, seeking out color and shape, and putting them back together again in ways that celebrate what we value and why it matters. It’s sustainable in practice but, more importantly, fueled by a fascination of the elements we most cherish and wish to preserve in ourselves, each other, and the world around us.
I started out studying physics and wanting to become a professor. After teaching high school math and science in a slum outside Nairobi, Kenya, I returned to the States knowing that the knowledge I shared in my classes had very little to do with the aspects of my students’ lives I cared about most–poverty, health, and their general quality of life. I decided to finish my degree in writing, believing it the best means of making a difference, but words, like formulas and equations, didn’t help me understand these things better or participate in the kind of meaningful conversations I craved.
While I made art of all kinds growing up, it became much more than play when I started working with recycled materials. What does our stuff say about us and the ways we move around in the world? How do we decide what, even who (i.e., my African students), is important and gets our attention? My passion involves playing with things others throw away and making art that asks more questions than it answers. I found my means of participating in a dialogue that connects us all.”