interviewed by Julia Friend | Visual Processes | Fall 2017
Julia Friend: So what have you been working on?
Camille Klein: Right now, I’ve been working on painting a lot as a conscious move into that medium. I haven’t done a lot of painting in the past, but these two pieces are definitely me getting into the headspace of using paint, whereas normally, I use a lot of different materials.
JF: [Your past work is] very three-dimensional, so why the move towards two-dimensional?
CK: I don’t know—these two, I like them lying next to the other and viewed as a textile piece—I have ideas that aren’t just flat. This one [car] is actually a sculpture—it has this rounded belly here… So it’s two-sided, and I want it to stand as a show piece on the ground rather than a wall so it can be [seen in] 360 [degrees]. So this is really more of a sculpture. It’s filled with salt, actually. I don’t know how to predict this, but it’s starting to oxidize.
JF: How did you come up with that?
CK: Well, I made the canvas first, and it was honestly just because I had too much canvas… so it doubled over [and I thought] well, I’ll just make a bag. And then I was interested in experimenting with the bag thing, and I didn’t know whether to fill it first, and then have the paint be in conversation with the texture, or add texture to this more established narrative going on. Which is what I preferred. So as I was painting it, I liked the idea of salt. It has campy connotations, like salting—like salting the road. But also salt is a preservative, which I was interested in when thinking about trying to preserve that object.
JF: So it has a lot of valences to it. How does that fit into your other painting or what else you’re working on?
CK: The approach is the same in its surface quality and cartoony aspects. That I do more in sketchbooks—I haven’t actually painted with such recognizable symbols [before]. They’re connected because I’m doing this exploration through shapes—that’s kind of the way my practice works: starting from one shape, and building that outward, and once I have this one idea, so many more come. […] But all these things realize ideas of protection, and weaponry, and this idea of time which I’ve been thinking about a lot more lately.
JF: You’ve made comments about [producing work that is more engaged with material than personal identity.] What does this mean for you when you’re creating?
CK: That’s something that’s been shifting back and forth. But definitely when I first started making art in high school, I [created] from a very personal place, and it was sort of like a diary process—where I was exploring, but it always had to come back to me and trying to represent an experience of mine. Then that became really hard, and I also thought that it [was] pretty stupid. I started thinking more about material—and like, everyone is interested in material so that’s not a new thing. But it just kind of freed me to think about what was happening in this blank territory where I’m just using my own body and the things I have at hand to build a narrative separate from myself. That helped a lot, and then when I have been interested in using more personal meanings or symbols, I’m weaving that into a general approach.
JF: So these are very narrative pieces, too?
CK: Yeah. I think they’re kind of soupy though. […] It sucks because I have a clipboard, and I’m like, hiding it and watching people try to figure it out, and I don’t want to do that. But I also do like having a secret, and it’s interesting for me to have the audience make their own interpretation. But I am interested in merging those two more. I think that one of my issues right now is trying to be less esoteric. There’s a value in creating all these [unsolved meanings] but then you get buried too deep. […] It’s a process of keeping my clipboard, but opening it a little bit. And that’s in form, too—I’m trying to create more open forms, and have more trailing ideas.
JF: Trailing ideas?
CK: Yeah—maybe not having a solution, not necessarily striving for a finished body of work. But I do think of these things as from collections; they definitely are made with the other one in mind. A year ago, I started a lot with notions of protection and the body as an agent of the world, and how to arm yourself against whatever [is] external. So that’s when I got into weapon imagery, and I also got into the literal idea of covering, covering materials in other materials, and I made a sleeping bag and other tents—forms of protection. Then that moved into spaces with protection, and last semester i talked about enclosed space a lot—not necessarily in-body space, but physical space. And then, that was really proven with a cross symbol, definitely as an origin of foundation; it became what everything was built upon. And then the cross symbol mutates into this axis on a circle, and then I got into spirals this summer, and so that shape took a spiral shape. Now I’m interested in time, and armor and… it all comes together.
JF: Sounds very fluid.
CK: Yeah. It’s definitely fluid, but it’s also aggravating that […] I can’t capture these feelings necessarily [because] they’re relying on the abstract.
JF: [With all of these different elements], do you have a sense of how they’re pieced together?
CK: That’s the most intuitive part for me I’d say. That’s like… the best part.