whenever i sit down to write to you about my latest q&a, my dear friends, all i really want to do is gush. each week i just want to get all shouty and tell you how excited i am! but i can't do that every q&a, not only does it smack of pollyannaism, it's just kind of boring. it's hard to keep it low though when you have kanye thumpin in the background as well... but peeps, this week i am excited to post my q&q w/ saelee oh!
i've loved saelee's work for years now. her delicate papercuts and fairytale like paintings always make me feel warm and happy. saelee's aesthetic has a sensibility that as a girl of the craft and diy movement i get, intuitively as well as visually. of the many things i admire about saelee's work is her ability to have a sweet, feminine aesthetic yet still remain strong in appearance. this sort of attitude comes over loud and clear in the following q&a. saelee addresses the use of craft, her take on modern femininity and the coveted name "pearl" in the oh household among other topics. i hope you enjoy this q&a as much as i did!
your work has a dream like quality to me, almost fairy tale-esque. can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations?
i like the idea of being able to make tangible dreams. lately l’ve been finding inspiration in: romanticism, idealism, headaches and heartaches, reading everything: fiction, non-fiction, memoirs and biographies, libraries, puns, metaphors, traveling to places I’ve never been before, discoveries of new species, the design of nature and how everything is interconnected, relationships, decorative arts, folk art, high-brow art, gut feelings, past memories, nostalgia, weather, vagabonds and wanderers.
i guess you could say that all my artwork together makes up some kind of loose narrative. i create settings and characters.
my dad used to be a carpenter and has always worked with wood even after he quit his hard wood floor business. growing up and seeing him make things made me want to make things too. he made a playhouse in the backyard, a rocking horse for me, has built multiple additions to the house and is a master re-modeler. he still helps me with constructing a lot of my projects. he has the skills to be able to build something even better than noah’s ark. we’re a good father daughter team. my mom is crafty too. she says that my sisters and i got our artistic talent from her but, she doesn’t really make anything. i know what she means though. i’m nothing without my family.
i found a whole bunch of brown wax paper bags in the women’s bathroom stall trashcan. they’re meant for tossing tampons. i really liked the color and translucency of the bags, so i grabbed a bunch and wanted to make something to go inside of it. paper cut outs would let the light show through in some parts and i started exploring drawing with an x-acto knife and cutting away positive and negative space.
over time, i’ve made ones that are over 4 feet wide all cut from a single sheet of paper. i’ve made some with slight dimensions too so that the shadows are part of the piece. i think about lace and delicacy and fragility. i like the flatness of paper and all of its subtle textures and properties. i love paper. i want to make a paper burrito and eat it everyday. i love the different smells of paper too. the process of paper cutting is also more of a meditative exercise for me than painting or drawing with graphite or ink.
i like to sew for fun and i just taught myself. i wish i was better. learning how to make clothes from a pattern (and/or...finding the bravery to pull off wearing something quirky that I made...) is on my long term list of things to do. it’s harder for me to make stuff where i have to follow a specific steps and do everything in order. i really admire people that can make their own clothes. maybe one day i’ll make a cocktail dress with a matching set of place mats.
i learned how to knit but i was horrible at it and it stressed me out. i made a few lumpy scarves. i want to try to learn how to crochet, whittle wood and needle felt. i used to make handmade paper. oh, and i like to dry flowers and leaves in the microwave. does that count as crafty?
kara walker is the obvious person that comes to mind when it comes to paper cutting. nikki mcclure also pretty much exclusively works with paper cutting i think. lately, i’ve been admiring ceramics. i always go to the american folk art museum when I visit NY. Everything there is really inspiring.
there’s way too many to name and i admire different, contradicting things about different people and/or their work. there’s all of my close friends...and then there’s people i've never met, both alive and passed away. i guess to give a little less of a cop out answer, i’ll say that i always admire people whose work doesn’t easily fit into one category.
women are expected to be and also naturally so many paradoxical things at once. thanks to the feminist movement, we have a lot more freedom, independence and many things to be grateful for but, there’s still more room for progression and i want to help contribute. i don’t want to suppress my feminine instincts in order to be accepted as a serious artist. to be able to make artwork with an obviously feminine aesthetic is very empowering to me and all women. i don’t think girly-ness should be considered to be weak or less of anything in any way. things can be delicate but still strong.
of course. i believed in a lot of things when i was younger. i remember looking out into foggy oceans and imagining the thrill of being the first person to spot a mermaid in the distance. my sisters, cousins and I would play in the pool and pretend to be mermaids. we’d swim with our ankles crossed and let our hair float around in black curls around our heads, underwater. we’d fight over who got dibs on the name “pearl” and we’d reenact that scene in disney’s the little mermaid where ariel rises above a rock and water splashes behind her like giant angel wings. we tried to perfect that splash. i think we just wanted to feel pretty.
yes! i’m very excited about an upcoming stop motion animation project with stephanie hutin of the echo park animation laboratory. i’m their first official artist in residency and the plan is to use real 16 mm film and spend a full month or two to make a minute or so of magical-ness. the process will be very experimental, open ended and loose and so we’ll see what ends up as the result. doing anything for the first time is always the most exciting. i can tell already that stephanie is ok with not having any concrete plans or strict guidelines and I’m loving that freedom.
i would love to be working on a book. i think that sort of counts as a different medium. and ceramics, which i mentioned earlier. i also want to get back into printmaking and i always admire people who recycle in clever ways. i guess i’m most consistently drawn to mediums where it looks obvious that the human hand was there but, i want to always embrace new technology and be open to trying new things.
buenos aires is the best! i’d highly recommend it to anyone curious about visiting. i wish i was still there right now. i really needed to get away by myself to clear my head for a while and get some space and perspective and so my trip was supposed to be healing and growing time. i think anyplace on the globe where i was an obvious outsider would have been just as influential to the work i was making while i was there.
since i freelance, i can work from anywhere theoretically, so why not go live someplace i’ve never been to before? everything sort of filters slowly when it comes to making drawings and paintings though. the work made during that trip was more about my state of mind at the time rather than trying to document all the typical tourist attractions of buenos aires like tango, dulce de leche and steak. but, i have a fondness for argentina now and appreciate many things about their culture which i hope to incorporate into my own lifestyle and thus my future work.
it’s my third solo show and a new body of work with themes of transitions, travel, love, vagueness and confusion. it’s all works on paper, mostly drawing based. it had both the largest drawing/painting I’ve ever done in my life (60 x 105 inches) and the largest sculpture that I’ve ever made too (5 feet 4 inch wide wooden suitcase diorama that my dad helped me build... my height is 5’4”.) it’s up from May 17th – June 14th 2008. please come see it!
your shop lemonade maid is currently closed & reopening this month. can you tell us about some of the products we'll see?
jill bliss and i are already working on our fourth collaborative calendar for 2009 to be released at the end of this year! i’ll also have some new prints and products. it’s been a while since i’ve produced those sorts of things. i run the shop as a side project so things aren’t set on a strict seasonal schedule.
i’m trying to decide when and where i want to settle down. actually, i don’t ever want to settle down. there’s forecasts for a lot more travel plans so... all of my projects are designed around being portable and easily transportable. that’s why a book project would be perfect for me right now. i want to stop time and never grow old.