Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Adrienne Vetter (UM)

Camper Video, 2008

My name is Adrienne Vetter, and I am currently a grad student at the University of Michigan. I grew up in the state of Wyoming in a very rural setting, small town. I guess a lot of my work is about exploring representations of rural culture and the American west and trying to challenge stereotypes of that.

I guess I believe, in terms of medium, the medium should match the content of whatever it is I’m trying to get across. So if I’m working in cast metals, then it should relate to the idea that I’m trying to get across. Or if I’m doing a giant inflatable sculpture, it’s about inflated value in terms of the content. It means I work in a lot of different media all the time.

I went to the University of Wyoming for my undergraduate education. It was a pretty traditional program in terms of providing me with a background in drawing and painting and printmaking and object making, in a pretty traditional sense. I guess I never take anything for granted in terms of how visual imagery or an object can communicate. Since coming to the University of Michigan, I’ve changed quite a bit in thinking about how time-based media, such as audio or video and interactive technology, can really influence my content. My work today is also really influenced by literary sources, like creative non-fiction, authors like Annie Proulx or Dorothy Allison, writing about the South and social class issues. If my work can visually communicate people’s individual stories in the same way as a good novel can, then I’m pretty happy with that.

Before I went to school, I think I had a really narrow conception of what an artist was and limited to painting and drawing, and big bronze cowboys –which has a lot to do with where I grew up! So when I started, I pretty much thought that I was going to work in two-dimensions, in drawing and painting, and portraiture, and life drawing. One of the huge shifts that happened was that I had a mentor who was a female sculpture professor in my undergraduate institution. Since she was new to the program, she brought a lot of new ideas and sort of revamped the program. Started doing iron casting out in the sculpture yard and really transformed my ideas about even what I could do as a female artist. Got me over my fear of power tools. Made me realize that a lot of the way that I work has to do with working with my hands and that comes from being from this strongly working class family.

Thinking about coming from a two-dimensional surface on the wall that people just look at, to an object that comes off the wall and interacts with the viewer in that same physical space, was a totally different way of thinking for me. I think I’ve always been concerned with art that engages somebody physically and emotionally at the same time. Three-dimensional sculpture, and then getting into installation, where it’s sculpture that envelopes the person looking at it, like their entire body in the environment, seems to be much more effective in terms of communicating the way that I’d like to communicate. It was a huge shift. And then coming here with the idea of even using interactive technology and then time-based, where somebody’s experiencing the content in the moment versus looking at a static object, was really important for me.

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