4/7/2016 – Interior Life with Sally Schluter Tardella
Artist: Sally Schluter Tardella
SST – White wine, grilled salmon salad, coffee (black)
SRS – Apple-ginger soda, egg, cheese, Tasso ham, jalapeno breakfast sandwich, coffee (black)
There is a vibrant relationship between women and spaces. I have always marveled at the prototypical “bachelor pad” – it sometimes seems like once men have their giant speakers set up and a bare mattress on the floor, they are ready to call a place home. I rarely see women living under these conditions; even in cases of limited means or temporary accommodations, there seems to be a drive to project into the surrounding space and create an environment that fosters identity and reflects it back, in some way. I understand that I am genderalizing a bit here, but nyah, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.
I think creative women in particular have an opportunity to expand on the usual domestic terrain, with studio spaces (the coveted “A Room of One’s Own” as Virginia Woolf puts it). Among the things that interested me during my conversation with Sally Schluter Tardella is her detailed dissection of spaces – literal space as a reflection of inner space. Sally subscribes to the mind/memory palace technique of developing recall and placing things within her interior landscape; this seems to have combined with artist Louise Bourgeois‘s writing and thinking about women and working/home-spaces (after her husband’s death in 1973, she turned their entire NYC townhouse into an artist studio). You can see Sally developing this line of thinking with the series Rooms, which creates these beautifully painted abstract floor plans on irregular canvases – they really speak to a kind of astral projection (which Sally achieves through vivid flying dreams) that positions the viewer somehow floating above the space as well as within it. In using architecture to address issues of memory, I could not help but think about John Miller’s lecture on Mike Kelley’s Educational Complex, which I attended at the MOCAD just a week before sitting down with Sally. Again, there is a palpable gender divide in the execution of similar thinking around architectural space – Kelley’s piece is obsessive, bare white, almost clinical, despite being a jumble of memory-buildings. Sally’s work is vibrantly colorful, high contrast, loose shapes, emotional.
But this work is water under the bridge for her; Sally has gotten down to even more detailed views since Rooms. There are several Wardrobe series, inspired in part by Bachelard’s musings on “The Poetics of Space” – his allegation being that the wardrobe (a sort of outmoded piece of furniture in this modern era) is the most revelatory place, a deeply intimate portrait of its owner. Sally agrees with this view, often assigning her drawing/painting students to make studies of drawers or closet spaces as a gateway to thinking about composition and information within an image. When I think of wardrobe, I think of it more as an aspirational space – here are all the things I might dress up to be – but perhaps this betrays my roots as a costume designer. I am always thinking about the right outfit to match the occasion (which you would really never think, if you see the way I end up dressing most of the time).
Even more recently, Sally has gone into the superstructure, creating a series of books – initially just ways of compiling and process ideas in real time. We had a great discussion about the importance of efficiency within the scope of limited resources, materials, or time, and how these books were at first just a tool for capturing ideas and process, but have evolved to be objects in their own right. Now Sally will focus on a particular aspect of home architecture – she is particularly obsessed with plumbing, and the human bodily correlations suggested by this waste- and water-moving system – and iterate meditative studies on particular aspects of the hardware (Faucet, Ballcock, Wet Vent) in book form, or sometimes 3D sculptures. We talked about new technologies, and the right moment to apply them – after a lot of initial interest in 3D printers, Sally has found that they are not the most efficient way to construct her plumbing studies (and she is really all about efficiency).
I greatly enjoyed this conversation on working process, mental strategizing, the relationship between physical and mental space, techniques for inspiration and discipline – Sally really has a lot of concrete suggestions to offer, and I suspect her students at Oakland University are much the better for them. Looking forward to future talks and future examination of the knick-knacks and odd corners of her mind palace!