Q&A: Evelyn Rydz

Detail from Drifing Islands #3, 2009 | Pencil, Color Pencil, and Acrylic on 2 Sheets of Duralar, 21 x 32 inches

Featured in editions #68 and #86 of New American Paintings, Evelyn Rydz makes work that draws equally from her surroundings and her own imagination. Featured as a finalist for the 2010 James and Audrey Foster Prize at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), which opens to the public today, Rydz spoke to us this week about which of her works will be exhibited in the show, how she works in the studio, and what informs her art-making practice.   —Evan J. Garza

EJG: Tell me a little about the work you'll be exhibiting in the Foster Prize show.
There will be a selection of drawings from two related bodies of work that are inspired by my coastal visits. Over the last few years, I’ve been making regular visits to coastlines and documenting objects that wash ashore. The first group of drawings is called Castaways and they map out items the sea has rejected, just as I’ve found them. The second group, Drifting Islands, creates places where they exist together. So, Castaways really documents things that I’ve tried to draw exactly as I’ve found them, and Drifting Islands is much more invented from things I’ve seen. I’m really interested in these objects and the stories they tell of relocation, transformation, and all the events that might have made them castaways in these foreign landscapes. There will be about nine or ten of the Castaways and two of the Islands.

084523, 2010 | Pencil and Color Pencil on Duralar, 11 x 14 inches

EJG: What exactly informs the compositions for the Drifting Islands pieces? Because I would imagine that those would require more imagination on your part.
They’re all based on these things that I’ve found. All of my work begins with photographs, so I photograph these objects in different landscapes that have undergone some really significant change or that seem to be in a process of transformation. I’m really inspired by a lot of landscapes I see and work from that.

I take my photographs and then reorganize them in Photoshop. So, often there are different perspectives, different locations, there are things close up and far away, but they kind of start to exist simultaneously in this one landscape. It’s like there’s this one place where they exist together and they’re joined by them all being things that have maybe been lost or abandoned or things that have possibly been transformed at sea. The organization and composition is mostly made in Photoshop, and that’s a big part of the drawing process for me. It’s almost like collaging in organizing and laying it out, and I go through many versions. And then I make the drawings from the Photoshop collages.

Beer Can with Algae and Shells, 2010 | Pencil and Color Pencil on Duralar, 11 x 14 inches

EJG: How do these bodies of work relate to the work you made previously?
I think all the work is connected and each body of work leads to the next. I think the biggest connection is I’m really looking at things that have undergone significant change—things that are in some process of transformation, things that have relocated—and trying to look carefully at how those things adapt to new environments. It’s different in every body of work.

In this case I’m looking at—for example, one of the pieces I have is this beer can I found at Revere Beach. I love this can, it’s amazing. All crunched up and rusted and it had these cracks in it and algae growing on it and barnacles. I’m really interested in how something gets altered or transformed, in this case having been out at sea, but also how it gets camouflaged in this new landscape. That’s a little bit different in this work, but continues with this theme of looking at adaptation and relocation and landscapes undergoing change.

Rusted Spray Can, 2010 | Pencil and Color Pencil on Duralar, 11 x 14 inches

EJG: Is this idea of the alteration of things something that persists outside your art-making practice?
Yeah, I think in many ways it does. Each generation in my family, at least for the last three generations, has come from different countries. I’m really interested in how—and I think in the work it exists more as a metaphor—how people accumulate experiences of a place and how they become really marked by a landscape. How they adapt and move and relocate, and how they collect experiences and memories of places as they move. So yeah, I think in some ways there’s a real connection to that.

EJG: On the subject of collecting experiences, tell me about your experience being nominated as a finalist for the Foster Prize.
It’s been so exciting for me, I’m so excited to be a part of that show. This was my second time being nominated. And I submitted work that I’m really excited about because it’s work that I’ve been really invested in for the last two years and haven’t shown, so I’m very excited about that. When I got the call from Randi Hopkins, the curator, to tell me I was going to be in the show, she left a message and I had to listen to it a few times to make sure I heard her correctly. I feel really honored to be a part of the show and to exhibit at the ICA. I think it’s a really great group of artists. I couldn’t be more excited about it.

And there’s a nice connection too because the ICA is on the water. I love its location, especially since I’ve been looking at coasts, specifically at Boston coastlines. So, the fact that it’s right on the water, I think, is a great connection to my work.

The 2010 James and Audrey Foster Prize is on view from September 22 through January 17, 2011 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA). Evelyn Rydz will be featured in a public talk at the ICA on Sunday, November 21, with Associate Curator Randi Hopkins and fellow finalists Eirik Johnson and Rebecca Meyers.


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