CHERITH LUNDIN - A POCKET OF TIME
Tell us a little about yourself!
C: I grew up in Germany, but my family is originally from Minnesota. After completing German high school, I came back to the US for college. I attended Wheaton College, and then got an MFA degree at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. After quite a few stops in between, I am now back at Wheaton, where I teach painting, drawing, and printmaking.
What drew you to pursue a career in the arts?
C: I have always been a drawer, and from the beginning, visual engagement with the world has been important to my every day. Making something unexpected with paint or charcoal is simply part of a meaningful day for me, so I don’t know that I ever thought I would do anything else but art!
Share with us a little about the early stages of your career--what did you find/have you found challenging?
C: I went to graduate school after only taking one year off from undergrad, so I felt very young, and was keenly aware of how much I had to learn. After completing my MFA, my first priority was to sustain and develop my studio practice, so a job seemed secondary. I started teaching adjunct part time, which was great, but also tiring, because I was always on the look-out for the next semester’s work. Ten years later, when my son was born, health insurance and a bit of stability all of a sudden seemed a good thing, so then followed several years of trying to land a full-time job. All that experience has had a lot of positives, though. I learned how foundational my own practice is for all that I do, and I learned the necessity of supporting it with time, resources, and artistic communities.
How do you balance your role as an educator with your own practice?
C: The space of the classroom has come to be as important to me as the space of my studio—what incredible freedom to be able to spend three hours contemplating something as obscure as line quality, for example, and to discover together with others that it might actually matter. Being allowed into someone else’s learning process is an incredible privilege, and the classroom is one of the places that convinces me that art really does matter.
It takes energy and time to teach, and it can be difficult to prioritize my work in the studio when things get busy. But if I don’t, the teaching seems to lose meaning as well. The regularity and commitment I’ve established over the years with my studio practice are what keep things in balance when life gets crazy!
Your portfolio includes drawing, sculpture, installation, painting, photography, mixed media--could you share about why you choose to work in the media you do?
C: I think of myself as a painter, but at any given moment, chances are that I am working in multiple media. I am fascinated by the way that different materials open up different possibilities. I find that shifting between media shakes up my thinking in good ways and keeps me asking questions. Photography is an important source for my work—a means of taking notes, really—but sometimes it also feels right for the final output. A few years ago, I returned to charcoal drawing—a first love—and the mark-making I was exploring there has found its way into the paintings on view in this exhibition. My explorations of light through paint at times make their way off the canvas and onto gallery walls. Spray paint is a fantastic medium for playing with subtleties of color. Tape is invaluable to spray painting straight lines, but also a great drawing tool in its own right. And so, one medium seems to organically lead to another…
How has your work/approach evolved over time?
C: Even though my use of materials, and with that the visual qualities of my work, often change, the themes in my work have been pretty consistent. I’m interested in how light alters space; in the idea of a view; in passageways and thresholds; in awakening perception through shifting perspectives; in the viewer’s relationship to the picture plane; and in how to address the passage of time in something as flat and two-dimensional as a painting. Because I have lived in many places, I have used my studio practices as a way of grounding myself—of examining my new “here”, as opposed to “there”… I love reading novels, but I’ve always felt that my work is closer to poetry than narrative—that what I am after is as much in the gaps and spaces between than even in the work itself.
Tell us about the creation of A Pocket of Time.
C: The impetus for this work was actually the 1920 Gallery space itself with its odd, angled, welcoming wall. As I was thinking about what to show in the space, I was finishing up the edges of a painting of an angled wall with a window (A Pocket of Time #1). I thought how interesting it would be to put that painting on an angled wall (would it feel more illusionistic? what would happen as you walked by?). And then, what if I gave each wall in the gallery its own window/painting and through repetition and slight shifts in perspective and cropping played with our sense of where we were and what we were supposed to be looking at anyway?
The paintings are all of the same tree, seen through the second-floor windows of the printmaking studio at Wheaton College. But perhaps more accurately, the paintings are about the play of light on these windows, and about when it does and does not reveal the tree. I am intrigued that the tree can be both near and far, present and absent, familiar and unbidden.
The exhibition title references a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, who is a favorite of mine. In this poem, she describes the ending of an Edenic period of suspended time. In its own way, this group of paintings simultaneously creates a new space and time within the gallery, while alluding to its passing on the shifting window panes.
Your work makes boredom seem impossible--it constantly re-examines, shifts perspectives and changes the viewers perceptions. Do you ever encounter “writers block?” How do you overcome it?
C: I have had sixteen different studios since grad school, and I learned very quickly to always be working on multiple things at once in different stages of development, so as to never be confronted by an empty studio. It is amazing how a blank wall can undermine you’re sense of momentum! So, I intentionally have piles of ideas, things that are just started, things that are well underway, and things that I need to sit with all happening at the same time in my studio.
My sketchbooks are also really important to my practice. I don’t do that much actual drawing in them—they consist mostly of notes and small sketches—but they have been an incredibly important record of my thoughts and development over the years. If I’m unsure of where to head, I often find the answer by flipping through them. Last year I started numbering them so that I could go back and more easily find things I’m looking for, and I just started #21.
That being said, I think my work actually starts in something akin to boredom—in the small incidents of light and shadow, color and form that I start to notice and delight in when I let my mind wander. So, allowing for times of silence and aimlessness are key to my practice. The moment when my mind empties but my eyes get snagged on a flash of sunlight, for example, is often all it takes to get my hands itching to see how I might represent, or re-present, it.
Cherith Lundin grew up in Germany. She received an MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a BA from Wheaton College. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including the Chicago Artists Coalition; Soap Factory, MN; Redux Contemporary Art, SC; Midwest Center for Photography, KS; South Bend Museum of Art, IN; Fitchburg Art Museum, MA; and Galeriehaus Nord in Nürnberg, Germany. Lundin has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, including grants from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Center for Contemporary Art, and Indiana Arts Commission. She has taught painting and drawing, curated exhibitions, and directed galleries at colleges throughout the United States. She currently lives and works in Chicago.
Her exhibit, A Pocket of Time, will remain on display in 1920 Gallery until September 28.