Q & A with artist Travis Rice
Your exhibition is titled “Contamination.” Should we be afraid?
A - I had been thinking about a title and had come across the 1980 Italian Sci-Fi film “Contamination” on You Tube. I sort of fell in love with the corniness of it and it just seemed to fit as a good title.
Some themes from the film actually carried over too. The film is about green eggs taking over of the world and you actually have some green egg forms attaching themselves to structures in your show.
Yes. I didn’t necessarily pull that from the movie though. It was more just the whole Sci-Fi aspect was the attraction. A lot of that - and I only watch TV in my garage when I work - so I was watching a lot of Alfred Hitchcock Hour and retro sci-fi . So it just fit its way into the show, based on what I was watching while I was working.
The show also has a theme of bacteriology and germ profiling. Are these personal phobias?
A - I think the name, Contamination, implies that it deals with things that could cause phobias. Especially in the pastel drawings, when I look at the images of bacteria and mold and how they grow, there is a structure to that growth, and recreating that structure is kind of how I started modeling my work and what it evolved from.
Q - Some of the paintings in the show were inspired by the structure of sneeze, no?
A - It was not necessarily a sneeze but that was one of the things I looked at. I was interested in several physical phenomena - a sneeze, a spasm, a cough. How do you freeze that and diagram it? What does it look like, and feel like? That’s how those paintings evolved. Each one of those is based on a moment in the development of a sneeze, or a spasm , etc. The are frozen moments, diagrams that are meant to be very different from the pastel drawings.
Q - Calling this show multi-media understates its complexity. There are bowling balls, computer screens, lasers, neon, greenhouses and printed films that cover them, black lights and fluorescent paint. The show to a large degree was constructed with easily found objects, or easily purchased items from brand name box stores. Tell us about that.
A - I am mostly a price shopper. I tend to find things before I know how I can use them, or even if I can use them. The three greenhouses in this show were so discounted that it seemed that Menards didn’t know how to get rid of them. The balls in the show were $1.99 at Walgreens. The digital frames were a post Christmas clearance special at Best Buy. I purchased all this stuff with no idea what to do with it. When Moberg Gallery gave me this show and all this space to use, I began thinking how I could incorporate it all into the show. I had these things. How do I corrupt them? How do I transform it? How do I take them some place unexpected? Can I keep an overall composition that is appealing to me? I always create some basic rules. Like with the digital frames, I determined they could not just hang on the wall and they could not just sit on the floor. They had to become something, part of something three dimensional. That’s how that piece grew into being what it was. It went through a lot of different stages into becoming what it is now.
How much is media the message here?
A - I wanted visitors who come to this show to become part of the exhibit. That’s what the lasers are for. They are a moving kinetic thing and I really love that aspect. They touch the visitor and make him part of the show. They also play into the title Contamination, they take over your body without your being aware.
The film on the greenhouses evolved through research. I was planning to create my own wallpaper so the visitor could peer through it and look into the greenhouse and see confrontational images, maybe of guns being pointed at them. Then I found this manufacturer in San Diego who can print images on film that light can penetrate. So it fills up with light. That meant it worked on both the outside and the inside of the greenhouse and I loved that. It seemed like it better fit the idea of the full composition.
The black lights, what can I say? I’d like to say this was an idea I had from the beginning but I don’t really ever think my work evolves that way. I liked the notion of putting a peep hole in the greenhouse so that visitors have the idea they are discovering something. I’d love to do a gallery show where there is just one peep hole and everyone has to look through the peep hole to see the show. I first planned to have the peep hole look onto some tubes but they reflected badly. I went looking around for artifacts that could illuminate a composition, but that appealed to me as a composition. I found some that did that and they fit the theme.
Shredded paper is a trademark in your shows, no?
A - Yeah, it took forever to find the paper shredder that shredded the way I wanted. Most of them just sort of create confetti. I wanted something that emulated the lines I draw in the pastels, longer strands. Paper roots everything for me, gives it a color feel and sets everything.
The neon’s roll in this show is what?
A - My background is in design, I love drafting. I wanted the line work that you see in the pastels to be a focus. I went looking for a way to make it three dimensional, to give it a glow for emphasis. I took the basic line drawings in the pastel drawings, blew them up, made diagrams of them and had neon sculptures made from those. Again, with no idea how I would incorporate them into something else. I actually did that a year ago, before I planned this show.
What’s next for Travis Rice?
A - Hmmm. Mostly more of the same but hopefully it continues to grow. The model is already growing. I broke the model into three pieces because my computer can’t handle the one I have now. I add to it searching for compositions that I haven’t seen before or that I find familiar but seems in synch with my model. I like that, something not purely from my head but not coming from anywhere else either. It’s purely organic coming out of my head. I like to work that way. I took me quite awhile to accept that that’s ok. That it can be better without making complete sense.
The show has so much going on that I want to ask, what does your studio look like?
A - Ha. I just tried to clean it on Sunday because it had become un-navigable. It was so out of hand. I have a wife and she doesn’t understand fully why I keep certain things. I have an entire attic full of shredded paper. I have all these shelves filled with galvanized wire. I have lots of bowling balls, in case I want to incorporate even more of them than you see here. It’s a disaster but at least now I have created a path so I can start a new painting. A sort of order in the chaos.