Benefit v.14 celebrates the art in everything on February 8, highlighting the culinary excellence of J. Scott Catering, Tim Bellew Food, and Birchtree Catering. This week, we’re featuring the taste of texture by spotlighting artists who dabble in wood, clay, metal, and more for the best in tactile treats.
Dawn Kramlich, a former InLiquid intern and Moore graduate, is a sculptor-poet breaking text free from its paperback bindings. The word-weaver discusses her piece on display at Benefit v.14, as well as plans for a future large-scale installation.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Sure! That’s a really broad question haha! I graduated in August of last year with my MFA from Moore College of Art & Design, and have been stitching together part time jobs to make for a very fulfilling and intriguing career thus far! It has been a quite exciting path, and I am both honored and happy to say that I’m teaching as an adjunct drawing professor this semester for a college in Allentown! In terms of my actual art, though, I have always been interested in both painting and poetry, and I think it is those two loves that have always battled for my attention. Thus, I have formulated an artistic practice that melds them together – as a “wordsmith” of sorts – by carefully selecting a text and using each word as a sculptural component. I think that most of my work maintains a somewhat painterly quality because that’s where my roots emerged, even though I mostly do sculptures and installations now, and my text selection is always influenced by my poetic explorations (both reading and writing poetry!).
You were an InLiquid intern last year – what did you take away from that experience?
I honestly took away so many things – it’s difficult to pinpoint just one! I always respected the work of those who run non-profits, but I do to an even greater extent now that I’ve truly seen what all goes into it behind the scenes! I think the most inspiring aspect of the internship was seeing – first hand – how various organizations working together truly create the fabric of a city. It seems to me that InLiquid has a very significant influence on the city of Philadelphia, and does an excellent job of finding creative ways to meld art with other causes that also enrich peoples’ lives – and often educate people at the same time! I gained a deeper understanding of the extent to which insight into the city (and the cultural components that affect it) is necessary to creatively and strategically conceive events that will reach the greatest number of people at once through their relevance and communicated ideas. After all, one of the major functions of art is communication – in any sense of the term.
How did your time at Moore help you redefine your path as an artist?
Having completed the MFA program at Moore, I have been able to process and reflect on the experience a bit so far. While the entire duration of my time there was very influential to the growth of my work, it was the required (not that anyone is complaining!) Summer Artist Residency in The Burren, Ireland that moulded me the most. I would absolutely not be where I am with my work had it not been for that residency. Immediately before going to Ireland, I finally came to the difficult realization that painting was not functioning for my conceptual approach. So, I challenged myself, grabbed the proverbial “bull by the horns”, and told myself that I wasn’t allowed to bring any supplies to Ireland, and certainly wasn’t allowed to paint while being there. Paradoxically, creating this restriction for myself actually opened up every possibility and allowed me to freely explore the strict conceptual approach that I was so set on conveying in some form. It was this exploration of medium that led me to sculpture and installation. It was nice to reach the point where I felt that my aesthetic and conceptual approaches were fusing together.
You describe yourself as a wordsmith, cleaving together sculpture and poetry. How do these two art forms merge together and enable you to tell a story?
I do describe myself as functioning in that way with my work, and I think that a very ingrained link between forging (in both senses of the term: to make/create something, as well as to imitate) and writing is important to understanding my work. The viewer must forge – make or imitate – in order to create meaning. By this I mean that, due to the shape-shifting nature of words, each new reader/viewer will read different tones/inflection and implications into the text than what the writer intended. The writer’s uniquely intended meaning can never be recreated because no two people have had the exact same history of experiences of this world. Thus, the viewer/reader is either making their own meaning or attempting to imitate the writer’s meaning through the text. Due to this nature of text, my work is less about telling a story and more about posing something to the viewer in an ambiguous manner that allows their subjective to formulate their own meaning based on their experience of my chosen text in tandem with their own history of past experiences. By using text sculpturally, I am able to marry the specific words with an aesthetic form, quality, and density that gives the text another layer of meaning or possible implications. The ambiguity is key, and ultimately brings the work to function as communicating about communication. Perhaps viewers will even walk away from my work contemplating the way that they utilize, manipulate, and experience language on a daily basis.
If you could choose one book that’s been the most influential in your understanding of language as an art form, which would it be and why?
SO MANY!! I can’t choose just one, but I can definitely say that books of poetry have influenced my work the most. After all, any good poet uses language as an art form. I’ll narrow it down to two: “Songs of Innocence and Experience” by William Blake, for his brilliantly and eloquently complicated relationships of text and image, and “Cascade Experiment” a selection of poems by Alice Fulton, for her impeccable manner of tying down philosophical ideas to rich concrete images.
Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
I have recently been focusing my energy on applying for artist grants instead of pursuing exhibitions, so I don’t have any in the immediate future. I am starting to think much bigger in scale, so I am hoping to find some funding for an extensive installation project that’s been brewing in my mind for the past couple of months!
Tell me about the piece you’ve donated to the Benefit.
I often make work that communicates about miscommunication, and this is one of those such instances. In “Usual Caveats Apply”, I use precise, delicate methods of stitching (with metallic thread) together the words “I”, “you” and “me” to convey the fragility of dialogue when emotion is involved. Sometimes, all communication in a vehement display of emotion turns into what may as well be a jumbled blob of illegible intentions. It is in these moments that words don’t seem to properly serve us or measure up — they are simultaneously very freeing and extremely limiting. In every one of my pieces, a specific dialogic memory of a personal experience serves as the impetus, and then the work evolves out of that experience into a new form as I employ editing and text-specificity to encourage ambiguity.
What are you looking forward to most about the event?
I’m looking forward to surrounding myself with Philadelphia’s artistic energy! It’s always nice to be in a room full of artists and art appreciators, and I can’t stress enough the extent to which conversations surrounding art energize my studio practice. Then again, of course they do – I’m such a word person! haha
Bid on Dawn Kramlich’s work in advance on Bidpal, or join us at Benefit v.14 on Saturday, February 8.