This is 5 Questions. Each week, we send five questions to an artist featured in Under the Radar, our weekly email highlighting the best art on the ArtSlant network. This week we seek answers from Krista Svalbonas.
What are you trying to communicate with your work?
I have a longstanding interest in architecture, particularly urban environments. My past work has dealt with low-income housing complexes; modernist architectural ideals, drawing from Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Soviet architecture; and the phenomenology of space. I am fascinated by the language of spatial relationships and by the effect of architectural form and structure on the psychology of the human environment. My cultural background as an ethnically Latvian/Lithuanian artist informs this interest. My parents spent eight years after the end of World War II in displaced-person camps in Germany before they were allowed to emigrate to the United States. My work explores architecture’s relationship to cultural identity, social hierarchy, and psychological space.
Migrator 8, 2016, UV print on dibond on MDF, 9 x 9 x 4.5 inches
What is an artist’s responsibility?
To keep making work! I’ve probably seen a few too many friends stop making work. Artists are makers: we need to produce something, even if the world might not ever see it. I think an artist's responsibility is to ignore all the rejections, the financial balancing act, the bad relationships, the failed ideas, and just keep making work. Whenever I get that “what am I doing?” moment—and it happens more often than not—I’ll watch this stunning read of one of Sol LeWitt’s letters to Eva Hesse and remember I need to JUST DO!
Show us the greatest thing you ever made (art or not)?
Hanau 1, Layered laser-cut pigment prints, 2018, 14 x 21 inches, Unique
This is really hard for me to answer, probably because as an artist I’m never completely satisfied with anything I make. I think we all have nagging feelings of “what if I did this, or I should’ve tried that.” I also tend to be fond of whatever I am dedicating my practice to at the moment, and that can vary widely, from painting to installation to photography. Currently, I’m working on a series called “Displacement” which captures the traces of former WWII displaced person camps, combining past and present in a series of laser-cut images on photographic paper. Using my documentation of the camps, I am laser-cutting plea letters the refugees were sending from the photographs. My family’s displacement, which I am re-imagining and restoring in this body of work, is part of a long history of uprooted peoples for whom the idea of “home” is contingent, in flux, without permanent definition, and undermined by political agendas beyond their control. I’m really proud of this series. It’s the first time I’ve mined deep and personal into my family’s story, which is connected to the first largest refugee crisis, a history that is little known today.
Tell us about a work you want to make but never will:
I’m obsessed with large-scale sculpture. Rachel Whiteread and Gordon Matta Clark are some of my heroes. I have this dream of making gigantic work like that, but deep in my heart I know I probably never will.
Migrator 10, 2016, UV print on dibond on MDF, 7 x 9.5 x 4 inches
Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?
—The ArtSlant Team
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(Image at top: Eichstatt 1, 2018, Layered laser-cut pigment prints, 14 x 21 inches)