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Travess Smalley

Can you quickly introduce yourself?

My name is Travess Smalley. I am an artist living and working in New York City. 

Can you tell us a little more about your work, how you’ve evolved from photography, to collages, to digital print, to object and sculpture, how experimenting and using various mediums is important for you?

My art practice is a continual experimentation across mediums. My projects start out as undefined experiments that slowly take the form of images, videos, websites, or objects. Often I will make multiple versions of an experiment and pick the best one later. I enjoy the creative flow between mediums. I move through photography, sculpture, and computer graphics in a given studio session. 

Let’s talk about your book Capture Physical Presence *, what is the concept and technique used behind the work and how was it important to self publish it?

Capture Physical Presence is a book of collages that document the summer months of 2011 in my studio. I was working a lot with computer graphic printouts and various papers to make collages that I would scan back in to the computer. I was exploring color and learning how to create new textures. With a lot of the work from the book I was trying to create new dot patterns and new pixel patterns that have never been seen before. I want people to look at the images and be unsure about their origin. The book is about the blurring of digital and physical edges.

Self-publishing was more a matter of circumstance than choice. It wasn’t important that I publish the book myself. It was important to get these collages out in a printed form. I am very pleased with the finished product even though there were only 50 copies made. Luckily this year NP Contemporary Arts, a project space in downtown Manhattan, released a second edition. I’m thrilled that more people will be able to own the collages.

*from where was taken the artwork we printed for Etudes N°1 collection

The book deals mostly with collages and digital prints? What do you feel when you see your artwork printed on fabric more specifically as a shirt?

I think the transition of my work from flat image to wearable textile is beautiful. I think my involvement with color and composition has a large overlap with what’s happening in textiles. I’ve always been influenced by the tenets of textile design even though I could never follow them without losing interest. Textiles are a way of giving three dimensional life to images, like some sort of optical sculpture puzzle.

You live and work in Jersey city, what is specific there and what do you like and hate about it? 

It’s dull in a really good way. It’s in the shadow of Manhattan’s Financial District. My housing is cheap and my studio is much larger, better stocked, cheaper, and less crowded than my old loft in Bushwick. The streets are quiet. I have some amazing Sichuan food a block away. Great tacos, too. That being said, when people ask where I live and work I usually just say New York City. I’m a bit tired of explaining Jersey City, geographically, to the unfamiliar haha.

You usually use abstracts tools such as new media, internet, scans, retouching… when i came to your studio you were actually making concrete things with your own hands, where do you position yourself between these different tools?

My digital studio practice is the yen, the physical studio practice is the yang. Basically the tools are everywhere and I am the conduit. I find that my work is freshest when I am moving between fields and mediums on a regular basis. My vases inform my photoshop files and vice versa. 

What can you tell us about the combination of flowers and vases?

Yeah. I have been making vases for a few years now. They have been a way for me to explore painting and sculptural forms. I spent years exploring drawing and how I related to it. Now I’m trying to understand how to create three dimensional objects.

If the word color was a sound or a noise or a song, what would it sound like?

I think color is analogous to sound. There are as many shades and hues as there are noises and melodies. But, if I had to give the word “color” a sound it would be “Crazy On You” by Heart. 

What are you working on now, what’s next?

In October: A solo presentation at Envoy Enterprises, a two person exhibition with Laura Aldridge at SWG3 in Glasgow and group shows at Favorite Goods in LA and Cell Project Space in London. I currently have works up in manhattan at two galleries. I debuted some new dual layer acrylic prints at Pablo’s Birthday as part of “Bright Lights After Armageddon” curated by Mark Brown. I also have some photographs being exhibited at Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery in the Lower East Side.

Conversation with Travess Smalley, New Jersey, July 2012. Photography by Études Studio.